One of the best things about the wine business is the people. From the winemakers to the importers to the shopkeeps, wine generally attracts gregarious, life-loving folk. After you’ve been in the business for a while (or been an avid drinker) you learn to read not the just the front label, but the back label of the bottle. You know that if this guy imported it or if this other guy is distributing it, then it’s probably pretty good. Sometimes you don’t ever even meet the winemaker, but you learn to love him through the passion of the people who sell his wines. You see in their eyes that they love him and they pass this love to you. I have never met Yves Cuilleron, but I feel like I have, because I’ve met Neal Rosenthal and the people that push his wines.

When I first moved from New York to L.A., I was a bit miffed by the wine scene. Sure, California wines are great and all, but there is a whole world of wine out there that shouldn’t be ignored. I worked in a wine shop and found it a bit hard to relate with the wine tastes of many of the staff. Sure, the French guy and I agreed, but everyone else was just so keen on selling the domestic stuff. There was one person with whom I shared a passion for the obscure European bottles. He was also a music lover and we would often stand across the racks from each other, discussing some album he’d been listening to. His love for wine was infectious, and he would pass this love on to the customers.

He would have loved this wine, and probably did, as he had a great appreciation for Rhone wines. Yves Cuilleron is no slouch; he is known as one of the best producers of Coindreu (Viognier) in France. He also makes quite an impressive array of Syrahs as Cuilleron is based in the Northern Rhone where Viognier and Syrah are the only grapes grown. Syrah is said to have originated in this area, and it is certainly at its most primal in this jagged, rugged landscape. The 2008 Yves Cuilleron Syrah, is a dark, tannic, animalistic red. The wine takes a while to open up and then reveals a bouquet that is a sort of floral violet with a hint of sugar plums. On the palate it is a meaty, smoky wine, with underlying notes of blackberry. The finish is big and peppery, as should always be expected and desired from a Syrah. This is a wine to drink with steak, or other charred, grilled meats. It’s also a great wine to toast a wonderful person, and a fellow wine and music lover.