“Dark like a blackberry jam, rich like a raspberry chocolate tart and spicy like pepper.” 

 

Like many seasoned sippers with discriminating tastes, Daniel J. Bryant has a palate that can distinguish every property and ingredient in a wine. But it never occurred to this Northern California red wine disciple, who was especially enamored with the soothing syrah, to ever break off and make his own wine. That changed when the corporate executive met “The Dean of Wine Makers,” Mack McDonald, in the picturesque hills above San Francisco. Bryant took in the sight of this large amiable man with the overalls and straw hat who had even more knowledge about the properties of wine than Bryant did.

It wasn’t long before Bryant graduated from sideline aficionado to actual wine creator with the Running Tigers Wine that he operates with his wife, Alex, aka ‘The Boss.” In 2004, Bryant produced his first vintage Dry Creek Valley Syrah.

“We wanted to make something with boldness,” Bryant said through a clear and bold baritone voice. “It had the fruit somewhat of a zin [zinfandel], it had the pepper of a cab [cabernet] but true to the syrah. What my tasting notes tell me that it’s like biting into a dark plum — a dark, dark plum — with a hint of vanilla, a sip of smoke, and a [pinch] of the white pepper. So while it has pepper, it doesn’t have that black pepper kick. It’s that subtle, smooth, graceful pepper.”

And because Running Tigers is his own, Bryant will decide what foods he will pair with his wine:

“You can have this with beef, you can have it with spices, anything with a kick to it,” he says. “We’ve done it with the blackened shrimp with the peppers. In fact, the peppers that you taste will come up with the wine with something spicy.”

Daniel Bryant explains how he made his Running Tigers Wine as his friend and mentor, Mack McDonald, listens behind him.

In fact, Bryant’s menu choices are quite expansive:

“So from gumbo, to lasanga, to fish even. Some people say you shouldn’t drink red wine with fish. Well, I drink red wine with anything I want, ’cause I’m going to drink what I want.”

The wine label name was inspired from his favorite exotic animal, the tiger.

“If you know anything about tigers, their stripes on their bodies are their fingerprints. If you look at a tiger, they all look the same. I want to make something that was true to syrah but something that had its own fingerprints, that was very distinctive. Tigers are bold, they’re big, but they’re graceful. So I wanted you to have something big, bold and graceful. It’s different than your traditional syrahs. Some syrahs are very light. I’m a big red wine drinker. I like a red wine to take over my mouth when I drink it.”

Bryant produces up to 300 cases annually. Running Tigers is now in the top five wine restaurants in Sacramento, as well as restaurants in San Francisco like Chico Redding. In the future, the Bryants plan to sell a white wine with notes of “fruit that carries through like a honeydew melon.”

Retailing at $32 a bottle, Running Tigers can be purchased outside of California by logging on to the website, www.runningtigerswine.com.

terry shropshire