California Syrah

Syrah is a noble grape variety that can produce some serious, long-lived red wines. The usual aroma and flavor descriptors include blackberry, cassis, black pepper, smoke, as well as dry, dark and tannic.

The Syrah Grape

Through DNA testing, Syrah has shown to be a cross of a black variety, Dureza, and a white variety, Mondeuse, both with origins in France’s Rhône region and earlier fabled origins in the Middle East. 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 altogether a different grape variety, identified more recently as Durif through DNA testing.

Although Syrah acreage has existed in California for some time, such as the pre-Prohibition plantings in Mendocino County, substantial plantings have occurred in the 1990s. Today, as of 2016, the most acreage is in San Luis Obispo County with 2,346 acres, followed by San Joaquin County, 1,852 acres, and Sonoma County, 1,691 acres. Syrah’s grape crush of 108,355 tons in 2016 accounted for 2.6 percent of the total state winegrape crush.

Top 10 California Counties for Syrah Acreage, 2016

County 2016 Total Acres
San Luis Obispo 2,346
San Joaquin 1,852
Sonoma 1,691
Madera 1,562
Monterey 1,426
Fresno 1,352
Santa Barbara 1,307
Sacramento 1,014
Napa 890
Mendocino 658
Other 3063
STATE TOTAL 17,161

Source: California Agricultural Statistics Service

California Syrah Grape Crush Tonnage

Year Tons Crushed
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.