Monday, November 5, 2012

2004 Copain Syrah James Berry Vineyard - Wow!

Copain has long been one of my favorite producers in California. They craft regional blends and single vineyard bottlings of pinot noir and syrah from a wide variety of spots across the state. Most of my favorite Copain wines come from Mendocino County vineyards, like Hawke’s Butte, Eaglepoint Ranch and Wentzel, but I’ve been holding on to a single bottle of 2004 syrah from James Berry Vineyard for quite a while. Located in the Central Coast appellation of Paso Robles, James Berry Vineyard sits 10 miles from the Pacific Ocean at an average elevation of 1200 feet. The vineyard is known for producer big, bombastic bruiser red wines, made famous by producer Saxum, whose James Berry blends frequently receive gushing scores of 95-100 points.

I was a little wary of opening this bottle, even though it’s had eight years to rest, because Paso Robles wines tend to big a bit too extracted for my palate. Well, I should’ve known better than to doubt Copain, because the 2004 Copain Syrah James Berry Vineyard is an epic wine.

This is an incredibly dark syrah. It’s really compact right out of the bottle, and a few hours in the decanter helped coax out some more aromas. Plum cake, fig, tar and war paint aromas dominate. After three hours in the decanter it started to show a bit more olive and smoke aromas.

The James Berry Vineyard is home to some stellar syrah vines.
On the palate, this wine is definitely big, with a mouthfeel like glycerin and paint. Flavors of plum pits, blueberry pie, fruit cake, dark chocolate and toast combine in a dense, complex package. The tannins are fine-grained and provide significant backbone. Just enough acid to keep it going, but not nearly as much as I like. It evolved with air and time in the decanter to show some loam and charcoal flavors, which add complexity, and the mouthfeel smoothed out a bit. After three hours I started picking up some olive and brine flavors, and as a Northern Rhone syrah lover, I was very pleased. This syrah deserves to be taken seriously by any wine lover, because even though it’s steeped in this bombastic Paso Robles style, it’s elegant in its own way. What’s important to me in a Paso Robles wine is the purity of the flavors and at least some semblance of balance. Copain’s 2004 James Berry syrah has both. Overall, it’s absolutely delicious and complex as hell. I can’t believe I don’t have another bottle (or ten) to tuck away and drink over the next five or eight years because this wine will definitely last that long. It's up there with the best syrahs I’ve had all year.

95 points

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