On a recent trip to the local brick-oven pizza place near my home in Queens, I needed something easy, smooth and red to wash down a weeknight meal. My wife and I ordered a shrimp and pesto pizza, with an appetizer of roasted artichoke drizzled with truffle oil. No lack of flavors in these choices. I quickly scanned the list, and my choice came down to a $22 bottle of red from one of movie director and California vintner Francis Ford Coppola's winemaking ventures.
This red was full-bodied, made mostly from Syrah, with 3 percent Viognier to round it out. With its plummy flavors, touches of mint and plenty of sweet spicy notes, it did the job in standing up to the powerful flavors of pesto, shrimp and artichoke. It got a bit smoky, and a touch raisiny on the finish; I probably wouldn't want to drink it without food, but it provided a good match for the evening's fare. I rated it 84 points, non-blind, and it retails for $11 a bottle.
A brief digression: While I like many Shirazes from Australia, where the name has traditionally been used for wines made from the Syrah grape, I disagree with non-Aussies using the name. I'd rather a wine rely on its quality rather than a marketing term to entice consumers—especially now that California has such a strong reputation for Syrah.
WineSpectator.com members: Read the original blind-tasting review for Francis Coppola Presents Shiraz California 2006 (83, $11).
• Plus, get our quick list of Easy Finds among California reds.