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by Tom Hill

A self-admitted wine geek, Tom lives in Northern New Mexico and works as a computational physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory doing numerical neutron transport & large scale code development. He has been tasting wines since 1971, participates locally with a couple of large tasting groups in his area, and is practically a fixture at most California wine festivals, such as the Hospice du Rhône, Rhône Rangers, and ZAP. Other interests: Tom is heavily into competitive sport fencing (foil & epee), biking, cooking, basketball, skiing, backpacking, mountain climbing.

Some New Calif Syrahs - December 13, 2006


We tried last night (12/13/06) some New Calif Syrahs :

  1. Eric | Kent WineCllrs Syrah SonomaCnty Kalen'sBigBoyBlend (15.9%;www.EricKentWines.com) KentHumphrey/ Winemaker 2004: Very dark color; deep raspberry/blackberry/Syrah big fruit slight spicy/peppery/chocolaty/ripe interesting nose; soft
    big/ripe/blackberry/Syrah/raspberry bit Oz/chocolaty some toasty/oak flavor; long bit tannic/bitey ripe/lush/blackberry/Syrah/raspberry light toasty/oak finish; needs several yrs; some Oz in character
    and juicy/raspberry/DryCreekVlly fruit; nicely done Syrah. $34.00
  2. Eric | Kent WineCllrs Syrah DryStackVnyd/BennettVlly (15.1%) 2004: Near black color; deep
    blackberry/boysenberry/Syrah some roasted/toasty/oak quite spicy/peppery nose; tart some
    tannic spicy/peppery/blackberry/boysenberry/Syrah bit dusty/roasted/mocha flavor; long
    ripe/blackberry/boysenberry/Syrah spicy/peppery/roasted some toasty/pungent/oak finish w/some tannins; needs 2-5 yrs; bit more depth & structure & interest than Kalen's. $34.00
  3. MalmCllrs Syrah DunnsdenVnyd/RussianRvrVlly (14.4%) JohnLynch/Grower 2004: Med.dark color; strong juicy/raspberry/blackberry/Syrah slight herbal/spicy light vanilla/oak nose; soft ripe/juicy/blackberry/boysenberry/Syrah light vanilla/toasty/oak/ZagNut flavor; med.short juicy/ raspberry/Syrah light vanilla/oak/pencilly finish w/ light tannins; a pleasant bit simple Syrah at a fair price. $22.00
  4. Holdredge Syrah LoversLaneVnyd/RussianRvrVlly (EG; 14.6%; www.Holdredge.com) 2003: Very dark/black color; big/ripe/juicy blackberry/Syrah quite spicy/cracked black pepper rather complex nose; soft very spicy/cracked pepper juicy/ripe/blackberry/Syrah light toasty/oak/pungent
    fairly smooth/polished/balanced flavor; med.long spicy/cracked black pepper light roasted/ mocha/slight Rhonish ripe/blackberry/Syrah light toasty/oak finish w/light tannins; a smooth/svelte/polished/balanced Syrah w/ a very attractive cracked black pepper character;
    lovely Syrah at an attractive price. $25.00
  5. SonomaCoastVnyds SonomaCoast Syrah ClaryRanch&HummingbirdHillVnyd (395 cs; TA: 0.669; 14.56%; www.SonomaCoastVineyards.com) Anthony Austin 2003: First btl
    badly/badly corked, nuthin' but TCA. Backup btl: Very dark/black color; very minerally/dusty/terroir-driven bit pungent/smokey/gunpowder some blackberry/Syrah/cracked black pepper some toasty/
    charred/oak complex nose; very tart very spicy/cracked pepper some blackberry/cold-climate
    Syrah minerally/pungent/bit roasted rather tannic flavor; very tart big/hard/tannic very
    minerally/pungent some blackberry/Syrah/cracked pepper some toasty/charred/oak; needs much
    age and will probably go 20 yrs. Stunning if young Syrah. $45.00
  6. Alesia Syrah SonomaCoast (14.2%; www.RhysVineyards.com) Woodside 2003: Black color;
    beautiful coffee/mocha/espresso some toasty/charred/smokey/oak lovely spicy/peppery/blackberry/ Syrah some minerally/complex nose; tart very peppery/mocha/espresso/roasted strong/ intense blackberry/Syrah/spicy/cracked black pepper some toasty/pungent/oak complex flavor; very long rather tart/tannic very mocha/espresso/roasted/Rhonish intense peppery/blackberry/ Syrah structured/tannic finish; built for the long haul; beautiful cold-climate/Rhonish Syrah. $39.00
  7. Carlisle RussianRvrVlly TwoAcres RW (15.5%; Vines planted in 1910; 87% Mourvedre, 9% PS, 3% Valdepenas, 1% AlicanteBouschet; 185 cs) 2004: Med.dark color; beautiful plummy/black cherry/kirsch/chocolaty dusty/old vines/complex slight toasty/oak
    very spicy/fragrant nose; tart plummy/black cherry/kirsch/Mourvedre dusty/complex
    perfumed/spicy some toasty/oak flavor; long some tannic very plummy/kirsch/black cherry complex/dusty bit toasty/oak finish; lovely plummy/kirsch character; needs several yrs. $35.50
  8. Carlisle DryCreekVlly Syrah (15.8%; 280 cs; TeldeschiRanch) 2004: Black color; intense
    blackberry/spicy/Syrah/raspberry some mocha/peppery/chocolaty some toasty/oak nose; tart
    rather tannic very strong blackberry/boysenberry/chocolaty/Syrah/bright raspberry/DCV some toasty/pungent bit minty/menthol flavor; very long somewhat tannic ripe/blackberry/ boysenberry/ Syarh/raspberry/chocolaty light toasty/menthol/oak finish; a lovely ripe classic Carlisle Syrah that needs 2-7 yrs. $33.50
  9. Schneider Syrah HermitageClones Estate NorthFork of LongIsland (13.1%; 8 brls) 2004: Med. dark color; rather strange dusty/earthy bit plastic/hybridy somewhat toasty/charred/oak
    bit Horton/SouthAfrica/coarse low fruit nose; tart/lean/hard bit metallic very dusty/earthy/terroir-driven bit plastic/hybridy some toasty/charred/oak low fruit flavor; med.long dusty/earthy/ terroir-driven rather hard/tannic/metallic finish; rather strange wine w/ not a lot of Syrah character some like the coarse/SouthAfrica/SouthAmerica Syrahs; not an unpleasant Syrah but strange and not to everyone's taste. $25.00
  10. Failla Syrah EstateVnyd/SonomaCoast (14.5%; www.FaillaWines.com) 2004: Black color; very intense blackberry/Syrah peppery/dusty/cracked black pepper/cold-climate some roasted/
    espresso very perfumed/fragrant/almost Pinotish some toasty/charred/smokey/oak complex nose; very tart/tannic/hard very cracked pepper/cold-climate/spicy intense dusty/blackberry/
    Syrah some charred/toasty/roasted/oak big structure flavor; very long/lingering cracked pepper/
    blackberry/Syrah hard/tannic/acid some roasted/espresso/charred/oak finish; good oak and intense
    cold-climate Syrah fruit w/ ample acids and tannins; needs 5-15 yrs; a stunning Syrah. $60.00
  11. Carlisle BennettVlly Syrah JudgeFamilyVnyd (15.9%; 330 cs) 2004: Black color; huge boysenberry/blackberry/Syrah strong toasty/oak/smokey some peppery/walnuts rather complex nose w/ huge fruit; huge/intense blueberry/blackberry/boysenberry/Syrah strong toasty/Fr.oak tart rather spicy/peppery/walnutty rich/extracted flavor; very long huge/extracted intense/mouthfilling/ blackberry/boysenberry/Syrah peppery rather tannic finish; needs 2-?? yrs; loads of tannin and extract but huge/huge fruit; good acids and structure for the long haul. $37.00
  12. Carlisle Knight'sVlly Syrah PelkanRanch (15.5%; 135 cs) 2004: Black color; huge fruit very ripe/blackberry/boysenberry/Syrah chocolaty/Oz-like spicy/dusty some vanilla/oak nose; soft/ripe/lush very intense blackberry/boysenberry/Syrah vanilla/oak some tannic flavor; very long/intense/lush boysenberry/blackberry/Syrah rather tannic/extracted vanilla/oak finish; huge fruit and more ripeness and a bit less structure than Judge; needs 2-?? yrs; amazing Syrah. $37.00
  13. Carlisle SonomaCnty Alicante Bouschet (15.6%; 50%/50% MontalfiRanch planted in 1926,
    RossiRanch planted in 1910; one barrel) 2004
    : Blacker than black color, very strong dusty/ earthy bit plummy/boysenberry slight funky bit shy nose; big hard/tannic earthy/dusty old vines some boysenberry/blueberry/plummy fruit some toasty/pungent/oak flavor; med.long huge/ extracted/tannic some boysenberry/blueberry/plummy some pungent/oak finish; a huge
    black extracted wine; needs age hard to tell where it'll go; not a whole lot of bright fruit but very
    good rendition of Alicante. $31.00
  14. EberleWnry FrahlichVnyd/PasoRobles Syrah (13.3%) 1993: Med.dark color w/ slight browning; rather earthy/dusty low fruit slight herbal/vegetal/gunflint very pencilly/oak/smokey slight Syrah nose; soft somewhat dried-out/tannic slight metallic/herbal rather pencilly/oak some bretty flavor; med. short soft dried-out/tannic pencilly/oak finish; getting pretty grey around the edges but not yet unpleasant; has seen its better days. Blair's mystery wine.
  15. J.L.Chave MonCouer Cotes du Rhone 1999: Med.dark color; intense ripe/chocolaty/boysenberry/ Syrah some coffee/mocha/roasted chocolaty/BarBQue sauce complex nose; tart bit dried out/tannic some vanilla/oak almost Oz-like some chocolaty/roasted/cocoa/mocha slight blackberry/Syrah flavor; med.long dsomewhat dried-out/tannic/hard mocha/coffee/chocolaty some boysenberry/Syrah finish; rathe Oz-like in character; terrific nose but starting to crack up a bit on the palate; drink
    up. Kevin's mystery wine.
  16. Carlisle SonomaCnty Syrah (15.8%; 125 cs) 1999: Very dark color; very minerally/dusty strong
    blackberry/Syrah toasty/oak bit minty/menthol very perfumed/fragrant some complex nose; big/hard/tannic very strong/blackberry/Syrah/DrPepper/root beer quite spicy/perfumed some toasty/oak flavor; very long hard/tannic/structured strong blackberry/Syrah/DrPepper/RCCola some toasty/oak bit complex finish w/ ample tannins; not showing a whole lot of development yet; still needs more age but not showing signs of drying out and losing fruit; terrific/young Syrah. Larry's
    mystery wine.

And the usual musings from the BloodyPulpit:

1. 1. Eric|Kent Wines: These were my first experience with the Eric|Kent wines. Not sure where the Eric comes from, but the Kent is Kent Humphrey, winemaker. I was favorably impressed with the wines and hope to try his other wines. Kent is sourcing much of his grapes from the BennettVlly, a growing area that is becomming more and more highly regarded as some pretty special fruit comes out of there. A winery to watch I think.
2. SonomaCoastVnyds: This is a new operation by John Drady and Tony Austin, founding winemaker at FirestoneWnry, focusing on wines made from the extreme SonomaCoast grapes. I was mightly impressed by their SauvBlanc. This one is even more impressive. Very minerally/ terroir-driven, lots of acidity yet not that green character you often get in acidic wines, not a
whole lot of juicy Syrah fruit. With this acid and tannins, it has the structure to probably age
10-20 yrs. Definitely a wnry to watch.

Tony doesn't seem to get a lot of credit for some of the first really good SantaBarbara wines
he made at Firestone. Most people focused on the Tschelitcheff connection to Firestone. But I thought he made some pretty remarkable wines on his watch there. And from the two data points I have thus far, he's making the best wines he ever has in his life now.
3. Calif Syrah: I've followed 'em from the very start...the Phelps '74. This tasting had a whole slew of newcomers that I'd not yet tried. I was, by and large, pretty impressed with all of them. Over the yrs I've followed Syrah, my goal was to try about every one that came down the pike. Alas, with the proliferation of Calif Syrah wines, that's becomming more & more
impossible. Even though there are a few Syrahs that have broken the $100 barrier, fortunately, there are some truly great/world-class Syrahs out there at very attractive prices. You can buy world-class Calif Syrahs from $10.50 to $40-$50 that'll knock the socks off those $100-$300 Calif Cabs. Sho 'nuff glad I abandoned the Cabernet paradigm yrs ago!!
4. Schneider: About the first LonGisland Syrahs I've had. Think they have much more potential for their Viogniers back there than Syrah; wildly extrapolating in the classic LosAlamos tradition from a single data point. I find in a lot of EastCoast red wines a plastic
character that is similar to what you get when you stick your head inside a new 36-gallon trash can at the hardware store. Usually I find that character in the French hybrid wines, but also in some vinifera. I was getting a bit of that in this Schneider, just enough to make it a bit distracting. Like many of the LonGisland reds I tried a year ago back there, this one had a lot of earthy/dusty character and lacking in that Calif juicy fruit; rather terroir-driven. Maybe too much of that terroir thing is not so good.
5. Holdredge: This was my first wine from John Holdredge to try. I was impressed; pretty classic Russian RvrVlly Syrah w/ lots of cracked pepper character. I'm now eager to try John's other wines.
6. Alesia: This is the label RhysVnyds uses from non-SantaCruzMtn fruit they purchase. I had tasted it last year at HdR and was mightly impressed with it. It's a stunning cold-climate Syrah that delivers all it promised back then and even more. Very reasonably priced.
7. Carlisle: Not much I can say about Mike's Syrahs that I've not said before. Simply amazing wines. Though they have high alcohol, they carry it well, there's no hot/alcoholic character to my palate, and none of the overripe/jammy/raisened character you'd expect. Of the two single-vnyd Syrahs, I somewhat preferred the Judge for its higher acidity and structure. Both are as fine a Syrah as you can find from Calif.
8. Carlisle Alicante: The number of outstanding Alicante Bouschets I've had can be counted on one finger; some of the Ridges from Pagani Ranch. Now w/ Mike's version, I gotta go up to two fingers. Alicante's most redeeming feature is it's color; coming from the juice as it's a tenturier variety. Supposedly the anthocynanins in Alicante are not that stable and the wines tend to lose their black color fairly rapidly. The Alicante wines tend to have a paucity of fruit and tend to be very coarse and clumsey.

Although Mike's Alicante didn't have nearly the fruit of the Syrahs, it was not nearly as fruit-dumb as most I've had. It was a very interesting wine and it'll be interesting to see how it
(my only btl) ages. But just because it's black as the ace of spades, doesn't mean it'll live


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