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California Syrah

Syrah is a noble grape variety that can produce some serious, long-lived wines. Dark and full bodied, the wine’s typical aroma and flavor descriptors include blackberry, cassis, black pepper, bacon and smoke.

Through DNA testing, Syrah was revealed to be a cross of a black variety, Dureza, and a white variety, Mondeuse—both with origins in France’s Rhône Valley region. The grape is also known as Sirah, and in Australia and South Africa, it is called Shiraz. It should not be confused with Petite Sirah, which is a different grape variety.

Growers planted the first Syrah acreage in California in the late 19th century, but phylloxera destroyed most of the early vines in the 1890s. Vines were replanted, but substantial acreage did not appear in California until the 1990s. Most of the state’s Syrah acreage is located in San Luis Obispo County, San Joaquin County and Madera. The Rhone Rangers, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization dedicated to popularizing American Rhône varietal wines, has helped bring attention to wines made with Syrah.

Top 10 California Counties for Syrah Acreage, 2019
County Total Acres
San Luis Obispo 2,191
San Joaquin 1,567
Madera 1,552
Sonoma 1,407
Monterey 1,203
Fresno 1,335
Santa Barbara 1,269
Sacramento 927
Napa 759
Mendocino 588
Other 2,660
State Total 15,458
Source: California Agricultural Statistics Service
California Syrah Grape Crush Tonnage
Year Tons Crushed
2019 82,846
2018 94,329
2017 100,836
2016 108,355
2015 93,260
2014 114,298
2013 132,538
2012 132,486
2011 109,423
2010 127,630
2009 133,003
2008 102,231
2007 126,945
2006 118,241
2005 147,312
2004 101,249
2003 110,249
2002 101,538
2001 89,144
2000 72,787
1999 44,099
1998 22,017
1997 9,983
1996 5,099
1995 3,444
1994 2,570
1993 1,975
1992 1,191
1991 865
1990 586
Source: California Agricultural Statistics Service