This post first appeared on the award-winning daily wine blog Terroirist.
I never get tired of California interpretation of Rhone wines. Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre and blends with other lesser-known grapes, these wines have always intrigued me. And when it comes to California Rhone wines, the diversity of styles and blends has never been better. This report features a few deep and complex Syrahs as well as a handful of ever-quirky wines from Randall Graham.
These wines were received as trade samples and tasted single-blind.
2009 Aril Syrah Estate - California, Napa Valley, Atlas Peak
Bright ruby colored. On the nose, juicy red currants, black cherries, along with lavender, cola, dark chocolate and bourbon cask notes. On the palate, this is full of fruit and structure with medium tannins, shot through with solid acid. Red currants, cherries, plums, accented by cocoa powder, sweet spices, barbecue sauce, vanilla and caramel. Full, complex, gorgeous, lots of life ahead. Bold but juicy, with a long finish of coconut, grilled herbs and fig cookies. Aged 16 months in 20% new French oak. (92 points)
2010 Kieran Robinson Syrah Le Voyageur - California, Sonoma County, Bennett Valley
Dark ruby-purple color. Aromas are deep and dark, with blackberries, plum, roasted coffee, loamy soil, paved road and black olive. Firm but silky tannic structure, fresh acid, rich and tangy fruit (blackberry, black cherry, cassis). Lots of black olive, loam, campfire soot and roasted coffee flavors. Hints of BBQ sauce come out with time. Bold, but elegant and lovely, with an incredibly long finish. This beauty needs time or a really good decant. 12.9% alcohol. (92 points)
2012 Niner Wine Estates Syrah - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
Vibrant purple color. Blueberry pie, juicy blackberries, some underlying espresso and violets on the nose. Juicy and chewy on the palate, with a good balance between fine but solid tannins and some medium acid. Jammy blackberries and plums, juicy and full of fruit, but I also get some elements of teriyaki jerky, rhubarb and tilled soil. Bold but has a silky presence and a long finish with notes of flowers and black tea. Concentrated, perhaps a bit of time will help this open up, but it’s quite delicious right now. Aged for 18 months in 70% French, 20% Hungarian and 10% American oak. (89 points)
2012 Tablas Creek Patelin de Tablas - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
Clear cherry color. Smells of dark cherries, spicy herbs (oregano, pepper), a bit of jammy fruit but lots of earth and savory tones as well. Silky but rich on the palate with medium acid and fine tannins, combining to form a lip-smacking, chewy texture. Flavors of tart red cherries and juicy blackberries mixed with pipe tobacco, earth and soy notes. Could age in the near term, but this seems ready to go now. A blend of 53% Syrah, 27% Grenache, 18% Mourvedre and 2% Counoise. (89 points)
2012 Bonny Doon Vineyard Contra - California
A pretty rose-violet color. Fresh cherries and raspberries on the nose, along with lots of roses, potpourri, vermouth spices, some savory tones. Full, fine tannins, fresh acid, such delicious flavors. Red and sour cherries, raspberries, tangy and tart, but packed with sage, black pepper, anise and menthol. Long, pretty, complex. 56% Carignan, 17% Syrah, 15% Grenache, 11% Mourvedre and 1% Cinsault. A screaming value. (89 points)
2009 Bonny Doon Vineyard Le Cigare Volant en bonbonne Reserve - California
A kind of purple-cranberry color in the glass. Black cherries, cranberries on the nose, some complex spice tones, with black pepper, dried herbs, some earthy-mushroom accents. Very pretty on the nose. The palate is great: gritty tannins, crisp acid and tons of flavor. The fruit is dark and crunchy, like the skins of black cherries and plums, and I get all of these pepper, earth, menthol and pickle notes, maybe even some braised meat. Old world accents, but it’s got the grit of a California Rhone blend. I knew this batch of reds was from California, but this would be a great ringer in a Chateauneuf tasting. Impressed with this blend of 30% Syrah, 28% Grenache, 22% Mourvedre and 20% Cinsault. (92 points)
2009 Bonny Doon Vineyard Le Cigare Volant - California
Medium purple color. Interesting nose of black cherries, cranberry sauce, pepper, sweet herbs and a mushroom and soy note. Fleshy but firm tannins, tangy acid, quite balanced and pretty. The black cherry and tangy plum fruit shows a tart, fresh but bold approach at the same time. I love the soil, pickle, meat and pepper notes, which add all sorts of complexity. Lots of interwoven flavors, but it could use some time to unwind. Just a step down in complexity from the en bonbonne reserve, but this is a beautiful wine. 36% Syrah, 25% Grenache, 20% Mourvedre and 19% Cinsault. (91 points)
2013 Bonny Doon Vineyard Grenache Clos de Gilroy - California, Central Coast
Smells like purple Kool-Aid packets, Twizzlers, vanilla cola and rose petals. Light tannins, soft acid, a fresh and juicy mouthfeel that’s reminiscent of Beaujolais. Flavors of strawberry jam and cranberry sauce, and I get some pepper, rhubarb and green olive notes as well. A juicy, fun, fruit-packed blend of 75% Grenache, 17% Syrah and 8% Mourvedre. (87 points)
2012 Bonny Doon Vineyard Grenache Cuvée R Rancho Solo - California, Central Coast, Monterey County
Light purple color. Black and white pepper, rose potpourri and earthy aromas on top of tangy red fruit. On the palate, medium tannic structure, moderate acid, the red and black berry fruit tastes bold and sweet but also crunchy. This wine shows lots of earth, wet leaves and herbal undertones that make it really interesting to analyze, but it’s as straight-up drinkable and enjoyable as it is intriguing. Very impressive, seems good now but could do well with some near-term cellaring. (90 points)