Monday, June 15, 2015

Celebrating California Syrah

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

The Rhone Rangers are here in the District for a big shindig this week, and I can’t wait. The grand tasting offers up a chance to taste some 80 Rhone-inspired wines from 20-plus producers. To get the celebration started early, this week we’re looking at a bunch of California Syrahs. 

I was very impressed with this whole lot (which includes wines from the 2009-2012 vintages). For my palate, the earthy, pepper, spicy Syrahs from Baker Lane took the cake, but I thoroughly enjoyed sipping all of these. 

The wines were received as trade samples and tasted single blind. 

2011 Tolosa Winery Syrah Estate - California, Central Coast, Edna Valley
SRP: $32
Bright purple colored. Smooth and focused aromas, blackberries and black cherries, fresh roses and violets, just the right amount of pepper and black olive. Fine but firm tannins, and the acid adds a whole lot of freshness to this wine. Mouthfilling but somehow sleek and easy to drink at the same time. I absolutely love the black olive and barbecue sauce notes, which match well with the blackberry and wild cherry fruit. Bright fruit but good amounts of earth, olive and bacon. (88 points)

2011 Tolosa Winery Syrah 1772 Edna Ranch - California, Central Coast, Edna Valley
SRP: $60
Medium purple color. Nose shows darker fruit (black cherries, dark currants, some red currant as well), laced with notes of cedar, cola and vanilla. Dusty tannins of medium strength, medium acid, a full mouthfeel. The fruit is rich and juicy (black cherries and currants, some red cherries), some cedar elements, along with complex notes of cocoa powder, anise, black pepper sauce, some root beer lingers onto the finish. A bold style, but shows restraint and freshness as well. Seems like it could use a year or two to unwind. (89 points)

2012 Wrath Syrah San Saba Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Monterey
SRP: $39
Medium purple color. Bold and plummy on the nose, some blackberries and black cherries mixed in, backed up by wet soil, tobacco leaf, black pepper and some coconut and root beer. Fleshy and forward on the palate, moderate tannins with a dusty feel, some medium-low acid. Flavors of black cherries, dark currants and juicy blackberries, the fruit is rich but shows a tart, crunchy appeal. Notes of loam, pepper, rainy day and tobacco mix with richer notes of toasted coconut, sweet teriyaki glaze and cedar shavings. Long, full, yet not overpowering. Could open up a lot over the next three or four years, or give it a good, long decant to coax out the nuances. All Syrah, 50% new French oak. (91 points)

2012 Clayhouse Vineyard Syrah - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
SRP: $14
Deep ruby colored. Aromas of red cherries and black cherries, raspberries, mixed in with cola, root beer, violets and smoke. Bright on the palate with fine tannins and an easy-drinking approach. Red cherries and juicy blackberries, ripe and jammy but not overblown. I get other complex notes of cola and sweet plum cake mixing with elements of black olive, tobacco and tropical forest notes. Impressive value, ready to drink now. 86% Syrah, 12% Petite Sirah and 2% Viognier.
(87 points)

2012 Clayhouse Syrah Estate Red Cedar Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
SRP: $35
Deep ruby colored. Bold nose of blackberry jam, blueberry, dark plums, scorched earth, intense with incense sticks and smoke. Bold and chewy on the palate with medium-firm tannins, medium-low acid. The plum and black cherry fruit tastes juicy and fresh but shows a slightly roasted aspect. Vanilla and cola mix together with blueberry jam and mocha, slight tones of olive and iron linger long on the creamy finish. A big, plush wine that could probably use two years to settle down, or a long decant and a steak. 92% Syrah, 6% Petite Sirah and 2% Viognier. (88 points)

2012 KITÁ Syrah Camp 4 Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley
SRP: $60
Light purple color. Vibrant and bold on the nose. I get black cherries, currant jam, menthol, sweet cedar, violets, black pepper. Rich texture, medium-low acid, fleshy but quite firm tannins. Black currants, black cherries, some plum fruit, mixed together with menthol, eucalyptus, cedar, cherry cola, roasted coffee, black pepper. Chewy and long on the finish. Delicious, no doubt, but quite bold, perhaps it could use some time. Rich but the wine maintains this element of mystique that I find really attractive. All Syrah, aged 18 months in 30% new French oak. (90 points)

Northern Rhone spice and pepper meets Sonoma Coast juicy fruit, the result is delicious
2009 Baker Lane Syrah Estate Vineyard - California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
SRP: $45
Dark ruby colored. I love the aromatics here: the tart blueberry and black cherry fruit is intertwined with cracked pepper, red sprinkle pepper, barbecue spice rub and grilled steak smells. Medium-bodied, moderate tannins and acid balance each other out nicely. The fruit is tangy but fully ripe (blackberries, blueberries, black cherries), again those elements come out on the palate and take center stage: black pepper, beef jerky, spice rub and crispy bacon. The fruit is pure Sonoma Coast goodness, but this could be mistaken for a Northern Rhone Syrah. Long finish with notes of coffee and iron. Complex, delicious, beautiful stuff. 13.6% alcohol, this is co-fermented with 4% Viognier and aged 17 months in 20% new barrels. (93 points) 

2010 Baker Lane Syrah Estate Vineyard - California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
SRP: $45
Medium-dark ruby colored. Smells of black and red currants, some tart blueberries, more violets but also some subtle pepper and spice elements. Juicy and ripe with grippy tannins and medium acid. Jammy but smooth on the fruit (blackberries, blueberries and dark currants). I really like the accents of cracked pepper, red pepper, soy glaze and bacon fat. Juicy, forward fruit but love the spicy complexity of this wine. Hints of mineral, coffee and iron as well. Plenty of time to let those complexities evolve, the wine has a lot of stuffing. 13% alcohol, this is co-fermented with 4% Viognier and aged 17 months in 20% new barrels. (92 points)

2012 Baker Lane Syrah Sonoma Coast Cuvée - California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
SRP: $30
Dark ruby. Lush and exotic on the nose, the blackberry and dark plum fruit mixes with violets, rose potpourri, bay leaf, cracked pepper and roasted coffee. Firm tannins, moderate acid, the wine is big but balanced and could be elegant with time in the cellar. Tart blueberries, black cherries and blackberries, the fruit is dusted with all sorts of spices (black pepper, dried red pepper, oregano, soy sauce). Notes of loam, violets, iron and roasted coffee as well. Tons of stuff going on here, but this needs two to four years to show its true potential. 2% Viognier in here, this spends 17 months in 10% new oak. (92 points)

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