Sweet potato fries are slightly sweet and starchy, chorizo is a bit spicy and tangy, cotija cheese is somewhat salty and fatty and cilantro is fresh and herbaceous. When you mix all of those characteristics in this month’s recipe, you get a delicious combination of flavors, textures and aromas. When you have so much diversity on your plate, you need a very multifaceted wine to be able to keep up with the food. Syrah is just such a wine.
Syrah is a very versatile wine which can showcase a wide range of characteristics depending on where, and how, the grapes are grown. Famously grown in the Rhone region of France, and very successfully transplanted to the New World in California and Australia (where it is known as “Shiraz”) this grape can blend very well with certain others and can also stand very nicely on its own. Typically exhibiting dark fruit flavors with a solid structure, ample acidity and moderate tannins, other components such as meatiness, spiciness, leather and stewed fruits can be found. Syrah which has been grown in cooler climates, like California’s Central Coast, the Sonoma Coast, the Petaluma Gap and New Zealand, typically shows a leanness and higher acidity than that which is grown in warmer climates. Jamminess, higher alcohol and more spicy traces are found in warmer areas, such as the Dry Creek Valley, the Sonoma Valley and much of the Australian wine country.
Both versions of Syrah should pair well with our sweet potato fries recipe, and it would be fun to try both a cool weather Syrah and a warm weather Syrah with this dish at the same time. Depending on the spiciness and fat content of your chorizo, you may find that one style enhances the meal more than the other. Others at your table might prefer the opposite Syrah and that’s just fine. In fact, this difference in tastes and preferences is part of the fun and allure of wine which can be even more interesting when you add foods to the discussion. My taste buds might really like a certain combination while yours favor another. As long as you are tasting high quality wines and foods, and discussing them, you are bound to have an enjoyable experience.
So grab a couple of different bottles of great local Syrah, whip up this quick and easy recipe for yourself and a couple of friends, then raise a glass and let the debate begin!
Jeff James is the founder and co-owner, with his wife Judy, of Stony Point Vineyard and James Family Cellars. Their Cotati vineyard and winery have consistently produced award-winning wines. Jeff can be reached at info@JamesFamilyCellars.com or www.JamesFamilyCellars.com