Bright cluster of wine and food stories, in a high-value newspaper wine section, highlights a fine, distinctive 2006 syrah

When I came back to the US from several years based in Europe — where I had learned a good deal about French wine from the wine steward at the French Club in St. James’s, London — I wound up in Sonoma County, home of world class wines, now home to my palate. I began a commercial intelligence letter for the wine and food industries, The Fearless Taster.

A wonderful resource appeared in my mailbox every day. It was, and still is, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, which has a nicely-rounded, skillfully-produced wine section each week [ ]. The July 8, 2009 edition is a good example. Mark it as a favorite.

This morning a Santa Rosa Airport Health Club member approached the club cafe table next to mine. “May I look at the PD?” she asked. “My husband’s winery is featured today.”

Thus I learned something about Phil Staehle’s Enkidu 2006 Odyssey Russian River Valley syrah, $34. It got a nearly-perfect rating from the paper’s tasting panel: “A tasty syrah with great compexity. Aromas and flavors of violet, blueberry and cracked black pepper. Lush texture. Spicy finish.”

Food and wine writer Michele Anna Jordan praised the wine, suggesting some great food ideas. Because she identified “deeper flavors of olives, sweet white nectarines and a bit of bacon” beneath rich, juicy fruit, violets and roses, Jordan conjured up an image of rare duck breast with blueberry chutney and a simple mozzarella salad.

She then added “dishes with anchovies, slowly cooked mushrooms, buffalo and venison, and smoked duck.” That certainly got my juices flowing! But I haven’t tasted the wine yet. I simply share what a fine wine country newspaper says about a syrah that sounds like a real syrah.