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Drinks: Syrahs hit the mark for bracing winters

Que sera, syrah.

Syrah, the great red grape of the Rhône Valley, has homes around the world, especially in California. And it yields rich, sometimes bracing wintertime wines.

The 2007 J. Lohr Estates South Ridge Syrah ($15) from Paso Robles is a satisfying, food-friendly production. So's the straightforward, easygoing 2008 Hahn Estates Central Coast Syrah ($14). Both are good with burgers and steaks.

There's plenty of berry and plum in the 2007 Michael-David Sixth Sense Syrah ($16), a slightly peppery wine from Lodi, in a sharp, new bottling.

The 2008 Beckmen Vineyards Estate Syrah ($25) has depth and style, complexity and ripe fruit: a very expressive wine from a syrah devotee in the Santa Ynez Valley.

Smoky, full and extracted, you imagine Davy Crockett himself would have savored the 2006 JC Cellars Fess Parker's Vineyard Syrah ($30), a Santa Barbara winner loaded with black and red fruit.

From Napa Valley comes the stirring, Rhône-like 2006 Clif Family Winery Gary's Improv Syrah ($35), with hints of plum and vanilla, pepper and black currant.

And, if you're ready to invest in a big, berry-full, intense version: the concentrated, minerally 2006 JC Cellars Rockpile Vineyard "Haley's Reserve" Syrah ($60) - a serious syrah.


Long Island's Brew of the Week

A bit of Düsseldorf reaches the local brews menu via the Southampton Publick House Altbier. Malty, smooth and very German, it's a delicate, refreshing, copper-hued brown ale. A six-pack is about $9.

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