Rhone reds are at their best when they don't have to be "fixed."

That's according to Randall Grahm, the founder of Bonny Doon Vineyard, a winery based in Santa Cruz.

"The more you have to manipulate wines, i.e. &‘fix' them, the less seamless they become," Grahm said. "One should strive to make wines in a way that respects the raw materials that one works with. Alice Waters has certainly taught us this about food; we should take the same lesson to heart about wine."

Grahm is the winemaker behind our wine-of-the-week winner — the Bonny Doon Vineyard's "Le Pousseur," 2011 Central Coast Syrah at $26.

It's a syrah with intensity, deep black fruit, sassy spice and bright acidity. It's a full-bodied syrah with ripe tannins and a seamless texture, a steal for the quality.

What the uninitiated don't know about syrah is its food-friendly appeal, Grahm said.

"Where it really shines is when it's paired with slightly fatty meats, especially lamb or ribs," Grahm said. "Proper syrah paired with anything that has been braised or spit-roasted will utterly set you free. You can pair it with a steak, but I think that the softer cuts of meat seem to work best."

Grahm said he began tinkering with old-vine grenache in 1982 and was encouraged because the wine smelled like raspberries.

"This encouraged me to persist with Rh?e grapes, and it has been a matter of intermittent positive reinforcement that has encouraged me to continue. Since then, I've learned an incredible amount — that syrah is in fact a cool-climate grape (nobody really knew that at the time), that grenache can also be grown in relatively cool sites if the season is long enough."

You can reach Wine Writer Peg Melnik at 521-5210 or peg.melnik@pressdemocrat.com.