Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Terroir-Driven Mendocino Syrah

2004 Bink Wines Syrah Hawks Butte Vineyard

Yup, another Mendocino County syrah. I can't get enough of them. Considering the silly name and the purple label with the cat on it, you might think this is a cheap-ass critter wine. No way. This wine comes from a really interesting area of Mendocino called the Yorkville Highlands. I've driven through there a couple of times on my way from the inland Potter Valley to the Mendocino coast, and it is a remarkably beautiful region full of hills, rocks and redwoods. This vineyard, Hawks Butte, is a rocky slope located  35 miles inland from the coast at an elevation of 1,200 feet.  The warm days, cool nights and high elevation can produce syrahs that are as elegant as they are powerful.

This wine is an earthy purple color in the glass with just a bit of cloudiness. The aromas start off with dark berries, dried leaves and a distinct note of red meat. With air, the wine develops a lovely crushed red cherry aroma, but that meatiness continues throughout. On the palate, the tannins have smoothed out with eight years of age, but still provide structure. Medium acid and juicy fruit combine with a hint of mocha .

I like this wine at this point in its evolution, even though most of these were probably consumed within a few years of release. The fruit has softened and some secondary flavors have developed that are really delicious: dried cranberries, leather, and just a hint of green olive and radish. Toast accents the finish, but doesn't overwhelm the palate by any means. I believe this wine only saw a little bit of oak, which is nice because it lets the purity of flavors show through.

This Hawkes Butte syrah is clearly California, but it takes inspiration from the syrah of the Northern Rhone Valley. In my opinion it does a good job of demonstrating the terroir of Hawks Butte Vineyard syrah.

90 pts IJB

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