Posts Tagged ‘syrah’
I recently took a trip to South Africa, and as wine lovers are apt to do, I filled my suitcase with wine sleeves so that I could bring a taste of Africa back with me. Of course, as wine lovers are also apt to do, there was more wine purchased than wine sleeves brought and I had to wrap a few bottles in towels…
I am back! Finally catching up after Eighteen days in Europe – Denmark, Portugal, and the balance in France – with glorious tastings in Chablis and the Northern Rhone, where Syrah is the red grape of choice (and AOC law.)
For those of you still snickering over Syrah, cracking pneumonia jokes etc – move on. Syrah’s Darwinist down phase is over - Moscato or some other ‘varietal great white hope’ is next.
In truth, this ‘market correction’ was needed. Way too much bad syrah was being made, as well as planted in wrong places everywhere.
People and places that had no business being in Syrah are gone. Good riddance. The strong have survived. Incredible syrahs, especially from cool climate are in
high demand, and increasing in price, from small, talented, cult producers.
Pining For The Northern Rhone
I spent a week in the Northern Rhone, with 12 deep, technical tastings, my glass graced with some of the Rockstars of the Northern Rhone: Gangloff, Faury, Allemand, to name a few.
My first week back, as a sanity check, I popped open a bottle from Randall Grahm, the US veteran Rhone Ranger. How would his modest priced Rhone – Syrah offering fare?
(PS – Randall – they love you over there.)
At 13.5% alcohol, Mostly/all Neutral oak (thats my guess), solid acid/pH numbers, and most importantly, great flavor profile, Bonny Doon delivers the CA syrah goods at an every day price point.
- To The Eye: inky deep purple, reminiscent of Cornas, no light shall pass!
- On The Nose: Smoked meat, black olive tapenade, modest black fruits.
- In The Mouth: Well balanced. Dark black fruit, bacon notes, savory notes, good texture and soft tannins.
This is a rock solid syrah. BDV “Doon’ Members get this at a meager $21. Thats Syrah you can enjoy on a weeknight and feel great about.
This wine is officially sold out and the tasting room is selling the new 2010, but there is some online to buy
and its in some retail channels still. Grab some now! (I just re-ordered.)
Notes from Randall:
I don’t usually wholesale plagiarize a wine makers notes – but no one says it like Randall. How can you not love this man’s words?!
“La syrah,” the French say—syrah is deeply and elementally feminine—is perfumed elegance. Enchanting and capitvating rather than overpowering, it disarms by its strangeness. Like Borge’s Zahir, syrah makes an indelible impression. One will wander the world till the end of one’s days, its sublime, haunting fragrance gradually displacing all thoughts and memories, including the knowledge of one’s own name.
Oh those Europeans and European-styled wines! Initially very closed when you first meet them. Air (and time) lures them out of their protective cocoon.
Our ’09 Syrah “Le Pousseur” is named for an alchemist and trickster, but is withal an incredibly accessible wine, great by the glass but also a felicitous partner to all manner of roasted meats, poultry, game, wild mushrooms, and well aged cheeses.
Wine Geek Info:
- Varietal Blend: 100% syrah
- Appellation: Central Coast
- Vineyards: 56% Alamo Creek, 32% Bien Nacido, 12% Chequera
- Alcohol by Volume: 13.5%
- TA: 0.58 g/L
- pH: 3.73
- Serving Temp: 55-60ºF
- Cellaring: 5+ years from release (May 2012)
- Production: 1200 cases
The Northern Rhone is my favorite wine region in France, I have been enjoying tasting through its regions prior to my upcoming trip there.
This is the land of cool climate Syrah, of which Côte-Rôtie is the most well known.
The first night quic
kly sampling this was pleasant, but didn’t have that ‘ooh’ factor I want in a $60 Côte-Rôtie. Fortunately the second night, it improved.
I can’t agree with the comments on CellarTracker from a year ago of too much oak or new world style. But its a year later it could have integrated some. If anything the wine was a bit simple
prior to some air. And at 12.5% alc not over done or over ripe.
Its still young (obviously) and improves with aeration, and will do so bottle aging.
It was also more aromatic night two. Also
interesting as I changed to a larger Riedel stem, more oak was prevalent on the nose.
- To The Eye: Dark purple color, unfiltered.
- On The Nose: (Varied greatly by stemware bowl size – tried 3 different size Riedels.) Violets, White pepper, smoked meat.
- On The Palate: Black fruits, olive notes, meaty notes; a finish of mocha, with some structure, and a good finish.
Imported by Kermit Lynch. Not a value buy at $60, but a fair price for Cote Rotie. I’d cellar if purchased.
Yes, reviews and tasting notes are back! With the 2012 harvest behind me, its time to get back to sharing tasting notes. (Note that even when I don’t post regularly here, you
can still regularly find my notes on Cellartracker.
Rhoning With Ridg
I was in love with this Syrah when I had it earlier this year, and am in love again now, wish I had bought a case instead of 2 bottles. It is sold out, I have to admit. This release is a hit each year, and doesn’t last long. The 2007 is available now, and I intend to taste and buy a few this weekend.
Generally my Syrah palate leans towards cool climate Syrah, that have a different flavor profile, are leaner, and lower in alcohol, but the Ridge is an example that Syrah from warmer regions like Dry Creek can still be (very) appealing to those with cool climate biased palates.
This Syrah is bolstered I believe, in part, because it hs 8% Viognier, co-fermented, Cote Rotie style.
Tasting Notes: 2006 Ridge Lytton Estate Syrah, Dry Creek Valley
- To The Eye: A deep inky purple
- On The Nose: wonderful aromatics; notes of blueberry & violets, supporting stronger notes of black fruit, dried fruit, many layers.
- In The Mouth: Layered dark fruit, with both silky texture and structure. Great acidity that integrates beautifully. Black fruit and smoked meat on the front palate, silky red fruit mid palate, and then and incredible lingering finish that is full of fruit and acid, that slowly fades off the tongue over 30-60 seconds.
At 14.4% alcohol, it is modest, and balanced. Typical of Ridge, this wine has a decade + of aging potential, but is highly enjoyable now.
A gem of a wine, that any wine lover can find something to appreciate, and fairly priced at 34 dollars. 92 points
It was enough to make my finally buckle and join the Ridge Wine club.
Taste Rhones in New York Next Week, Hurricane Sandy Fundraiser
If you are in New York, next Wednesday you can taste Ridge, and 30 other Rhone Ranger producers at City Winery New York. The Rhone Rangers will be making donations to the Red Cross relief effort. See details at: What Hurricane? Rhone Rangers Ride to NYC Nov 7th – Details, Relief Efforts, Promo Code & Ticket Contest #RRNY
My first Syrah
from Vice Versa, and sadly maybe the last for awhile, as they have stopped producing this Russian River Syrah.
The wine is a perfect Napa meets Sonoma crossover – its cool climate RRV Syrah, matched with a Napa Cab maker of finesse, which is Vice Versa’s ‘core’ program. Long corks, heavy elegant Burgundy glass, it’s certainly Napa grade packaging and marketing.
When I popped the cork and poured it into the glass, I suspected I would
like this unfined, unfiltered beast that appeared to be be dark, brooding, and promising.
Buy our Wines
Tasting Notes: 2007 Vice Versa Syrah Ulises Valdez Vineyard, Russian River Valley
- To The Eye: Impenetrable to light, inky black purple.
- On The Nose: Layered nose of smoked meat, blackberry, leather, mocha, and a subtle note of earth.
- In The Mouth: A beefier Syrah, with the body to support the balanced 15% alc, as well as acidity. Modest oak has had time to integrate into the wine, and provide sweeter tannins, that combine with dark black fruits, pepper to make a Syrah with backbone, but isn’t a fruit bomb.
Bigger red wine drinkers, not looking for “Shiraz” will love this. But don’t wait, must call the winery to purchase, and its the last of its kind. Contact the winery and see if you can get some of the <50 cases left.
Best served with grilled lean meats like fillet, lamb, or perhaps game. 91 Points. Media Sample
Syrah is an interesting varietal that I believe is emerging from
its dark period. Darwinistically most of the “weak” or the trend chasers who followed the inane idea that Syrah was the next craze have gone on to do other things, and serious growers a
nd producers are now left.
So much Syrah has been replanted or budded over, I expect over the next few years we will see a shortage, and Syrah prices regain lost price footing. This is not an industry to chase trends, especially for red wines, I wonder how many learned their lesson?
At the end of April is the unparalleled Rhone immersion, in Paso Robles: Hospice du Rhone, “the World’s Largest International Celebration of Rhone Variety Wines.” Syrah of this caliber and profile will be one of the wine styles I will be seeking out and reporting back on.
Cool Climate vs Warm Syrah
As I have written before, one of Syrah’s “problems” with consumer identity is that it produces two very different wines, when grown in warm climates like Dry Creek Valley, versus cool climates like Russian River or Sonoma Coast.
Warm climate Syrah has more lush fruit, berry flavors, is usually higher in alcohol and tends to be popular with the average wine consumer. Cool climate Syrah is leaner, lower in alcohol, with notes of white pepper, olive, minerality – and is generally more appreciated by the more serious aficionados. Many wine consumers and even wine makers will observe their palate change and evolve over years, often to the leaner cool climate style. There is nothing wrong with either of course, but consumers buying Syrah should pay close attention to where its from.
Certainly in France, the focus for the most lauded Syrah comes from Northern Rhone, cooler Côte-Rôtie region, where most Syrah is under 14% alcohol and balanced. I was quite amazed and pleased to hear from several vintners in Châteauneuf-du-Pape during my recent trip there, that they don’t like a lot of Syrah in their blends as they don’t like what it does
in the Southern Rhone, and were slowly supplanting Mourvedre, which does very well in the heat there and ripens more slowly.
Thank heavens for the big Rhone Rangers tasting last Sunday (and Social Media). It’s ironic that Petrichor is quite nearby, and that Margaret Foley and I are Facebook friends, but had never met. She was kind enough to give me a bottle.
When I went to the website and learned their winemaker was Duncan Meyers of cult producer Arnot Roberts, I knew I was in trouble.
Arnot Roberts produces wines of amazing balance and restraint, that I wish I could afford to consume daily.
Wine Review: 2009 Petrichor Les Trois Syrah, Sonoma County
I will cut to the chase and say this is simply a stunning Syrah, one of my new favorites. There wasn’t a lot of vinifcation information on the website, but I could glean that only a 140 cases of this gem produced, a blend of 86% syrah, 14% Grenache.
I feel confident much if not all of the fruit is cool climate, but since it says “Sonoma County” that means its been sourced from a variety of places that don’t have enough percentage to name an AVA, like Russian River Valley, or Sonoma Coast. Or perhaps they just preferred not too. They do have their own vineyard of 8,000 Syrah and Grenache vines, but its unclear when it was planted or what percent is in the wine. Any use of oak in this beyond neutral, seems minimal, and certainly complimentary.
To The Eye: The color is a deep purple, impenetrable to light, without tech sheets, I feel comfortable guessing unfined and unfiltered knowing the heritage of the winemaker .
One The Nose: A wonderful blend of earth, smokey meat, olive brine, red fruit and raspberry, hint of ocean salinity.
In the Mouth: Incredible. The aroma profile carries with saline and mineral notes that dance intermingled with white pepper, red & black fruit. Great supple structure that is elegant and soft, not over bearing, jammy, or puckering. Acidity that lingers and lifts up the wine. I’ll trade acid for tannins any day.
This wine proves again the benefits of cool climate, acidity, minimal-no new oak, in making wines that express themselves naturally.
Recommendation: I don’t lightly recommend a wine that approaches $50 but this is the real McCoy. Break open the piggy bank.
If you want to impress a true wine aficionado (and I don’t mean some Parker/Spectator score chaser who thinks Oak is the bomb) – buy this for a gift or bring to a dinner.
94 points. $48 – online.
Guest Post by Fred Swan
This weekend’s events look a little sparse on the surface. But one little line item portends barrels of adventure. Hundreds of barrels. Full of wine. canadian viagra
tle=”The 34th Annual Wine Road Barrel Tasting in Northern Sonoma” href=”http://www.wineroad.com/events/barrel_tasting/3#tabs-5″ target=”_blank”>The 34th Annual Wine Road Barrel Tasting in Northern Sonoma.
There have already been excellent articles on this site about the barrel tasting. I don’t want to repeat what has been said. But, the list of more than 120+ wineries makes it hard to know where to start. So, I’ll offer a couple of itineraries for you to consider:
(Editorial note by William, for those of you who listened to me on KRSO tonight and are looking for the Tips & Ticket Contest, see Monday’s Post Here: Wine Road Barrel Tasting – The Premier Wine Buying Event of The Season. Learn, Share and Win Tickets! (4 winners!) )
Route 1: Get it While You Can — Wineries Open This Weekend Only
Saturday, focus on wineries west of Hwy 101. I might start at Moshin. Their Sauvignon Blanc will ease you into tasting. Follow it up with vineyard-designate Pinot Noir and Zinfandel.
Next, head up Westside Road to De La Montanya. They have five different wines for you to sample, starting with Pinot Noir and closing with a late harvest Sauvignon Blanc. The dessert wine will lead nicely into lunch. You did pack a lunch, right?
Head north on Westside Drive as it turns into West Dry Creek. Pull in at Quivira. Eat your lunch near their biodynamic gardens. Then enjoy their Mourvedre and Petite Sirah.
From Quivra continue on to A. Rafanelli Winery which will be pouring 2010 Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon. Their wines are always very good. And they age well.
On the second day do an eastern route. Rodney Strong will have a tasty assortment. Chalk Hill Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir and Dry Creek Zinfandel.
From there, go to Stryker Sonoma. See how the Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from their estate differs from the Dry Creek wines you tried on Saturday. The’ll also pour Merlot.
Stay on the Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon path by going to Trentadue. They’ll let you try their reserve, the La Storia Cabernet Sauvignon. The La Storia Zinfandel and La Storia Cuvee 32 blend will also be available.
For a taste of a completely different Cabernet Sauvignon AVA, head back across Hwy 101 to Ridge Vineyards. They’ve got a barrel of 2011 Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon from the Santa Cruz Mountains. (Ridge is open the 2nd weekend too, but why wait?)
Route 2: Que Syrah — There’s more to Sonoma than Chard, Zin, Pinot and Cab
Formulate an itinerary from among these excellent Syrah producers:
Joseph Swan (Forestville) will be pouring not one but three vineyard-designate Syrah. Give them a try and see how the terroir of the different vineyards shows through in the wines. The winery will also have Zin, Tannat and more.
Vintoteca in Santa Rosa will be featuring six different wineries. Among the wines will be Olson Ogden’s Dry Creek Syrah. Before you dive into that though, try the Pinot Noirs from Bjornstadt and Baker Lane.
Krutz Family Cellars (Santa Rosa) Cabernet Sauvignon from the Stagecoach Vineyards of Napa Valley was one of Wine Enthusiast’s Top 100 Wines for 2011. They’re opening a barrel of Syrah from that same vineyard, which excels with that variety.
Lauterbach Cellars (Windsor) has acclaimed Syrah fruit, but makes wine in tiny quantities. This is your chance to try some. They’ll have the 2009 Syrah, but will start you off with Pinot Noir and their Syrah Rosé.
Red Car (Sebastopol) is un-bunging their Estate Syrah. But first, enjoy Heaven & Earth and their estate Pinot Noir.
Dutton Estate Winery will be pouring My Father’s Syrah. …I didn’t even know my dad had Syrah! I’m sure it will be good though. They’ve also got Pinot and Chardonnay on tap wine thief.
Six Sigma Ranch Pro & Amateur Pruning Competition —Lower Lake: March 3, 10:00am – noon
Learn pruning from the pros and try your hand at it, too!
Cab Release Weekend at Velo Vino — St. Helena: March 3 – 4, 11:00am – 6:00pm
A special Vertical tasting of our 2006, 2007 and 2008 kit’s killer cab.
Charles Krug Winery Celebrates Charles Krug’s 187th Birthday — St. Helena: March 3, 6:00pm – 9:30pm
Imagine the light the birthday candles will put out! There’ll be appetizers and three-course wine dinner.
34th Annual Wine Road Barrel Tasting – Northern Sonoma: March 2 – 4, 11:00am – 4:00pm
144 wineries open their doors this weekend, many will be offering futures. Advance ticket sales are over, but you can buy tickets at the door.
Inspiration Vineyards Winemaker Dinner — Santa Rosa: March 2, 6:30pm – 9:30pm
There are still a few seats available for this dinner and the menu looks great!
Music at Vino di Amore Tasting Lounge — Cloverdale: March 2, 7:00pm – 9:30pm
Unwind after work, or barrel tasting, to rock and reggae played by Oscar Caleron.
Hanzell Vineyards Winemaker Dinner at Santé — Sonoma: March 8, 6:30pm
Join Hanzell winemaker Michael McNeill for a delicious four-course dinner paired with past and current vintages of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
A Quick Plug:
The Wine Advocate will soon be releasing Antonio Galloni’s report on Sonoma County Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. You can learn more about him and what he looks for wines by reading my in-depth interview with him. It’s being published in daily doses this week at NorCalWine.com.
Enjoy your weekend!
Syrah: one of my favorite red varietals. Syrah has been through some rough times the last few years; overhyped, over production, and economic hard times collided for this poor varietal, before it ever took off in the US, other than the over ripe Kangaroo stuff.
For the consumer, that has meant some excellent value Syrah’s are available. This phenonomenon won’t last for long. As syrah goes through a supply and demand cycle, and as growers and vintners shrink or end syrah programs, in the next few years I predict you will see a shortage, and price increases. Enjoy lower prices and stock up while you can.
Syrah, as I have shared many times, is almost like two varietals, cool climate and warm. It does well in each, but produces two very different wines. My personal favorite is the more elegant, higher acidity, food driven cool climate. Sonoma Coast and Russian River Valley reign as the land of Pinot Noir, but some exceptional Syrah comes from these regions.
Special Reader Offer:
Last week when I reviewed the Von Holt 2009 Pinot Noir – Russian River Valley Von Holt offered readers, no strings attached, or kickbacks extended, to offer readers to have shipping included with their order of any of their 4 wines. Use code
at checkout. They have now extended this to this Friday, Dec 9th.
This also includes their amazing 2009 Suacci Vineyard Pinot Noir which Chronicle wine writer Jon Bonne’ just picked as one of the top 100 wines of the year – and having tasted it, I agree.
Review: Von Holt 2008 Hoppe-Kelly Vineyard Syrah
A blend of two clones 877 and Alban. The vines are terraced into a very steep hillside, allowing for excellent drainage and struggle in the very shallow, rocky soils.
To The Eye: Inky dark purple. Almost impenetrable to light.
On The Nose: Nose of violets, blueberry, and a hint of olive
In The Mouth: Black fruit, blueberry, and spice, Not as austere as some cool climate Syrahs can be, apparently the elevation allows it to ripen a bit more. This is a Sunday night by the fire wine, or over a roast dinner. It has some layers without being overly complex, and can be simply just enjoyed. Tannins are soft and well integrated. 2008 can be young for Syrah, this wine is ready to drink and enjoy now.
Recommendation: Approachable and affordable – this may be my new house Syrah. For $20 you can enjoy it and not break the bank. It will please a variety of wine lovers old and new, and pair well with a broad spectrum of foods. Buy and drink now. It will cellar for a few years as well.
Purchase: Online $20 (media sample)
Wine Geek Notes:
- Harvest Date September 27, 2008
- 50% whole cluster
- TA 5.8
- pH 3.9
- Bottling Date August 24, 2010
- Alcohol 14.2%
- 75 cases made
Take a pristine, gorgeous day with spectacular vistas in the Dry Creek Valley of Sonoma County, California. Combine it with a wide range of wine varietals and styles. Add generous portions of thoughtfully paired foods. Mix it up with music and friends – blues, salsa and even zydeco – and you have the makings of a weekend that brings together all of my favorite things. And, all the wineries have specials, case discounts, and in some cases $1 case shipping – a big saving for travelers. One of the best things about this wine event is the active involvement of the vintners, winemakers, vineyard managers, owners, and family members in serving the foods, pouring the wines, and mingling freely with the guests to share their perspectives on the wines.
This was Passport to Dry Creek 2011. Here are some highlights:
Dutcher Crossing: Coconut Prawn Cones with Mango Chili Sauce paired with 2009 Dry Creek Sauvignon Blanc. The taste is unique on this SB made with 9% Viognier, 7% Semillion, and 1% Roussane. It was well chilled and paired nicely with the prawns.
I found a hidden surprise in the tasting room: 2006 Dutcher Dry Creek Port, fortified with brandy and made from 40% Cabernet and 60% Syrah, all grown on the estate. The port was dark and chocolat-ey. Extra points for pairing it with Frozen Chocolate Whoppie Pies – two pieces of soft Oreo crust wrapped around a dollop of frozen chocolate ice cream. Yummy.
Sbragia Family: 2008 Gamble Family Ranch Chardonnay (grapes from Napa), paired with bean and pasta soup with Pancetta. I prefer unoaked, and this Chardonnay is made with oak. But it’s subtle oak flavors — without the buttery mouth feel and syrupy texture of so many over-done Chardonnays — made it highly drinkable.
Besides the wine, food, and hospitality, location is the highlight of Sbragia. The winery is a stunning building perched on a ridge opening to views all the way to Marin. By the time I got there the temperatures were in the high 70s, and live music from the terrace was filtering out over the property. Sbragias’ good wine and kitchen make this a must-stop for future tasting days. Now that summer weather is here, check the website for regularly scheduled music dates. An added bonus when you’re there: In the Italian tradition, Sbragia shares recipes from their kitchen. I took home a “Skewered Herb Crusted Pork Loin with Dried Fig Sauce,” recipe card from the tasting room – can’t wait to try this.
Unti Vineyards: Unti sells about 50% of their 60 acres worth of grapes to other wine-makers. I’ve had wine made with Unti grapes, but this was my first visit and first taste of their wines. The Grenache wines were the highlight for me. Two: a 2010 Rose of 75% Grenache and 25% Mourvedre that was a lovely peach color, ultra-dry, 13.5% alcohol wine. Chilled, it’s a perfect lunchtime wine. And the 2007 Grenache itself was my favorite red wine of the day. Paired with a blues vocalist and tortilla nacho plate with melted cheese from Nicasio Valley Cheese Company. Thumbs-up.
Mazzocco. I couldn’t pass up the Cuban music and food theme at this wonderful winery location. Orchestra Borenquen and Zinfandel? Yes! The pairing was Flank Steak with Chimichuri and Saffron Prawns. It was the best food of the day. In addition to other varietals, Mazzocco makes vineyard-designate Zinfandels from 9 ranches in the region. They were barrel-tasting 4 of their 2010 Zinfandels for Passport. I favored the Stone Ranch Vineyard – their only Alexander Valley Zinfandel. Tasting right from the barrel, the wine was soft, fruity and naturally balanced. The Stone Ranch 2009 was sold out; but there were good discounts available on futures.
The Mazzocco property was beautifully laid-out for the event. The orchestra was shielded by a gigantic sunshade. Flank steak was cooked to order, perfuming the air. A Cigar Loft stood slightly away from the center, completing the Cuba theme.
Seghesio Family. Seghesio went to town with a “Big Easy” theme. I loved the Cajun Barbequed ribs as served up by Pete Seghesio. They were meaty and succulent and went well with some of the featured Italian varietals such as a tobacco-ey 2008 Alexander Valley Sangiovese and a Zinfandel – Petite Sirah blend called “San Lorenzo.”
The Big Easy backdrop was the sounds of Andre Thierry and Zydeco Magic. A local bay area group, Andre Thierry’s accordion brings his music heritage from southwest Louisiana together with an R&B sensibility to create upbeat and highly danceable music. If there had been a dance floor at Seghesio you would have seen some zydeco dancing too. As it was, the shaded venue on a warm afternoon was perfect … Mardi Gras beads handed out at the door and a glitter tattoo station completed the theme. That and the fresh beignets at the end of the tasting line.
A. Rafanelli. It’s always special to taste the limited production, handcrafted wines of the Rafanelli family. Even more special to visit this historic homestead winery, which is open by appointment only. And on Passport weekend the Rafanelli’s went “all-out.” I spoke to a number of people who return here each year for Passport. The 2008 Rafanelli Zinfandel and 2008 Rafanelli Cabernet – both of Dry Creek Estate-grown grapes – were pouring.
With this there were 5 food stations with 3 dishes each. Five stations! Fried artichoke hearts with Parmesan sauce, steak marinated and cooked in heaps of fresh rosemary, roasted red potatoes to name a few of the small bites offered each guest. The final station is two tables of chocolates. Two tables! The interplay of chocolate, Zin and Cab was sublime. Back outside the sounds of a traditional Italian trio with accordion and vocals set a festive mood.
Mounts Family. The short drive up to Mounts was worthwhile. The new 2010 Estate “Pink” Syrah (a light rose’) and delicate yet well-structured 2008 Estate Malbec were standouts, as was the shaded belly-dancing pavilion in the middle of a benchland vineyard just above the Dry Creek Valley floor. Middle-Eastern foods and a mini-cupcake of ginger capped with incredible syrah frosting completed the experience.
Quivira. A biodynamic winery and farm, Quivira served the only Sauvignon Blancs of the day. Both from the same vineyard and vintage but made in two different styles. One produced in pure stainless and the other in neutral oak with new acacia barrels and a hint of Viognier. I surprised myself by liking the acacia-fermented taste. Both wines were crisp and refreshing on the warm afternoon, and paired with small savory bites to enhance. My friend Sheri found her favorite wine of the day – a GSM+ red blend at Quivera. Called Elusive, the wine is 34% Syrah, 32% Grenache, 28% Mourvedre, 6% Petite Sirah. Quivera was also pouring a Mourvedre made from locally grown grapes; unusual because it is made without blending – it’s 100% Mourvedre. Mushrooms and blueberries delighted us in this wine.
Passalacqua. This is a charming winery hidden in plain sight across the road from Dry Creek Vineyards. I loved the gardens and vistas from their back deck, and their 2007 Sangiovese. This is a well-balanced Dry Creek Sangio with a highly satisfying tannic finish on it. Paired with flatbread pizza and Chocolate mousse gelato.
Amista Vineyards. I wasn’t hungry but I couldn’t pass up the Truffle Mac-n-Cheese with Arugula at Amista. It set off the Amista Syrah wines so nicely that I joined the wine club and brought some home. As a wine-club member I had access to the 2007 Syrah and a Sparkling Syrah that is not sold to the public. And soon a new Rockpile Cabernet will be available to members only. I’d been eyeing the Amista wines, their club and cooking events for some time. With the club benefits and entry-level membership, the time was right. We ended our tasting on a jolly note with proprietor and vintner Mike. A must-visit anytime you roll down Dry Creek Road.
(Note from William – special thanks to Katherine for covering this event, and doing a great write up so quickly. I had previously accepted a Media invite to Hospice du Rhone in Paso Robles, so she attended and covered.)
It’s countdown time to this weekends amazing San Francisco Rhone Rangers weekend, where I will spend Saturday and Sunday immersed in Rhone seminars, tastings, and elbow to elbow with over 100 Rhone wine producers. In honor of that, I chose my wine of the week to be a classic Rhone style wine. Rock Wren is a new producer just launching, whom you can taste at the Saturday night winemakers dinner and walk around tasting, and the Sunday Grand Tasting.
Rock Wren is the dream come to fruition of Dennis and Sandi Demonico. Their family business was among other things chocolate. Dennis was the General Manager (and chocolate maker) of Ghiradelli, prior to it being acquired by Quaker, and eventually Lindt. Sandi describes him as the true Willy Wonka, giving tours in a cape and handing out samples.
Looking beyond that venture, Dennis pondered what was next. He and Sandi had always been a big fan of wine, with a vision of living in Napa with a vineyard and making wine, but unable to afford the prices of Napa, and looked elsewhere in the Bay area for many years. Out driving one day, Dennis accidentally took a wrong turn and ended up in Green Valley (Solano County, not the Russian River Valley AVA.) A local told him about a 38 acre parcel, formerly a cherry orchard farm wiped out from blight and laying fallow. So excited, he called Sandi, a school teacher in the middle of class, and insisted she drive right then and there from the East Bay. The rest is history. (You can read more about the property and plantings here. )
Dennis had extensively toured and tasted the Northern Rhone Valley, using that knowledge to guide him on the clone selection and rootstock for the Syrah Over 3 years he took every class in enology and viticulture the Napa Valey college offered. He plamted 3 blocks of Syrah and in 2005 was winning medals in competitions. It was time to create an official label.
Sitting under an oak tree on the property, a Rock Wren landed on his wrist. If that wasn’t odd enough, it hopped up onto his shoulder, looked him in the eye, and then flew away. Dennis had his label.
Wine Review – 2007 Rock Wren Solano County, Green Valley Syrah
Dennis learned much about the nuance of the palate making chocolate for many years, and of syrah as a fan of many great US Syrah pioneers, and Rhone producers. The Syrah is designed to be elegant, approachable, and balanced. You can read about his wine making techniques here.
On the Nose: Modest blackberry, hints of spice, cocoa, smoked meat.
In the Mouth: Layered for the enthusiast, but very approachable for the non geek consumer. Opens on the front palate with dark fruit, washes over the mid palate with elegant balanced fruit and medium density weight and mouthfeel. Finishes with excellent acidity and soft tannins. A pleasure to drink alone, not always common for Syrah, and designed to pair wonderfully with a broader array of foods than you may expect from California Syrah.
Rating: Outstanding. 91 points.
Recommendation: Buy. Drinks very well now. Will improve with age.
Wine Geek Info:
- Harvest Date – Sept 4-27
- Brix at Harvest – 23-25.4
- Production – 309 cases
- Oak – 100% French, 25% new, 32 months in barrel
- Bottled – August 2010