“You never know what you’re going to get when you open the bottle,” explained Patrick Comiskey, addressing why consumer interest in Syrah has yet to peak. Comiskey, Wine & Spirits Senior Correspondent, along with Master Sommelier/Master of Wine Doug Frost, spoke at length regarding the infamous grape during the first day of the event Celebrate Walla Walla Valley Wine: The World of Syrah at both the morning kickoff talk and at the afternoon winemaker panel and wine tasting.

Doug Frost, Patrick Comiskey, and Heather Unwin at Celebrate Walla Walla’s 2017 kickoff

Syrah, as Mr. Comiskey explained, is full of contradictions. It’s leathery and lacey. It’s the tatt covered rock and roll chick you lusted after in high school. It has a certain intrigue, a wildness. A weirdness. In fact, just as he advocated during his presentation at the 2014 Celebrate Walla Walla, Mr. Comiskey still pleads, “Keep Syrah weird. Syrah has to let it’s freak flag fly.”

Nina Buty of Buty Winery explained that her attraction to Syrah comes from being blown away by how the wine is like a chameleon yet true to itself.

So why aren’t we drinking more Syrah? Perhaps the answer to increasing consumption of Washington State Syrah is to shed some light on how to pair this diverse wine with food. After all, Syrah can be wildly different based on where the vines are grown. It can be complex, and sometimes downright funky. It can offer a vast array of flavors including pepper, berries, olives, herbs, and even asphalt. So, when starting with a chameleon-like wine, how do you go about pairing it with food? Read on for tips and recipe suggestions.

As with all wine and food pairings, consider the wine’s intensity. The more intense it is, the more likely it can stand up to a robust cooking technique. Most Syrahs are big enough to pair with food that is grilled, smoked, or barbecued. So be sure to have some Syrah at your Memorial Day and 4th of July barbecues.

Take into account the alcohol in the wine. If it’s a big, hot beast be sure to stay away from spicy hot dishes. Alcohol amplifies the heat.

What flavors do you detect in the wine? Pair the wine with food using similar flavors. Or use a bridge ingredient such as currants, mustard, walnuts, or garlic.

Go Big or Go Home
Syrah can pair with the meatiest of meats, so go ahead and grill up some beef, lamb, or wild game.


Try the Cumin Beef Kebabs from Epicurious.

Grilled Bone In Ribeye anyone? This preparation from Saveur couldn’t be easier.

The recipe for Braised Moroccan Lamb Shanks from Anna at Snacking in the Kitchen is Syrah friendly.

For more lamb preparations check out the American Lamb site and the recipe for Finger Lickin’ Lamb Loin Chops with Romesco Sauce and Grilled Scallions by Andrea Slonecker.

What’s a barbecue without some ribs? Smitten Kitchen has a great recipe for Molly’s Dry-Rubbed Ribs.

Veg Out
If red meat isn’t on the menu, then simply grill up some vegetables.

For a full meal, here’s an ingenious recipe for Sheet Pan Ratatouille Served 3 Ways by Sylvia Fountaine on the Feasting at Home Blog.

Bring on Da Funk
Syrah from the Rocks District of Milton Freewater, a sub-Appellation of the Walla Walla Valley AVA, is known for its funk. Mr. Comiskey touched on how to pair the funk in Syrah with food indicating that if you’re using herbs you’re in the right ball park.

For an herbaceous dish, cook up One-Pan Roasted Chicken Thighs with Potatoes and Tarragon from Food52.

Saveur has you covered with a recipe for Steak with Herb Sauce.

There you have a number of ideas for pairing Syrah with food. Let your freak flag fly and uncork a bottle of Syrah to pair with your next dinner or barbecue. Keep Syrah weird and keep dinner interesting.

Nancy Croisier is an enthusiastic advocate for exploring the world of wine. She holds the prestigious designation of Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) from the Society of Wine Educators, and has graduated from the Northwest Wine Academy with expert training in wine and food pairing, and wine sales and marketing. She specializes in bringing wine brands and consumers together.