1. Boheme: These are just released wines from Kurt Beitler up inOccidental. He is the nephew of ChuckWagner/Caymus. He manages the Caymus SonomaCoast Pinot vnyd on TaylorLane, out to the west of (Nuclear-Free Zone) Sebastapol, pretty near the Pacific. It's an
interesting vnyd that's up on the pergola system, a la that found in Trentino, one of the very few in Calif. Just west of the Caymus TaylorLane vnyd is Vincent Rago's TaylorRidge vnyd where the Chard and Pinot were sourced from. And then further west down TaylorLane is Al Rago's Que Syrah vnyd. The Marsh vnyd is in the same locale, just one ridge to the north of TaylorLane. Pete Marsh sold the vnyd after '05, so Kurt will no longer be getting those grapes. All these vnyds are in the extreme SonomaCoast, very cool area.
Al Rago & I go waaay back, to the Summer of '67 when I worked in the ReactorPhysics Division of ArgonneNatlLab. His QueSyrah vnyd is truly one of the great Syrah vnyds in Calif. Ehren Jordan made some terrific Syrahs from those grapes in the late '90's, early '00's. The '98 Failla-Jordan QueSyrah Syrah is one of the greatest Syrah wines I've had from Calif.
A yr ago last March, afore RhoneRangers, I tasted the Syrah from barrel w/ Al & Kurt up at Caymus. I liked the various samples I tried there quite a lot and knew the wine was pretty good. Little did I know how good the finished wine would be. I was expecting to like these Boheme wines a lot. I was not expecting them to be this spectacular, though. Across the board, some of the best first-release wines I've ever had.
I'm not much of a Chard fan. This TaylorRidge was one of the best Calif Chards I've had in some yrs. It reminded me of the '75 LongVnyd Chard that MikeBernstein made, back when MtVeeder Wnry was a name to be reckoned with. And some of those early LongVnyd Chards that ZelmaLong made there in the late '70's. They all had almost an essence of Chard character in their intensity; floral aromatics that almost made you think of Muscat in its intensity. Not seen the likes of such from Calif to those in some time. The two Pinots were also outstanding, but starkly different for being so closely co-located. Here, there are so many other SonomaCoast Pinots that are so spectacular out there that Kurt's didn't stand out as much in my mind. The lovely/delicate aromatics of the Marsh reminded me much of Eric Sussman's Radio-Coteau Pinots in style.
The Taylor Ridge Pinot was bigger/deeper and reminded me more of some RRV or Swan Pinots. But they are, I think, as fine as any of these SonomaCoast Pinots around. I slightly preferred
the Marsh because of its wonderful perfume. The two Syrahs I thought pretty stunning examples of Calif Syrah; both pretty distinctive/characteristic of their respective terroir. The QueSyrah vnyd Syrah is one of the best new Calif Syrahs I've had this year. My guess it'll be as good as any EhrenJordan made from these grapes.
Don't think I'm smart enough to characterize Kurt's winemaking style. Given the Caymus connection, I was expecting a $hitload (Kansas colloquialism for "a lot") of new oak. In all the 5 wines, they amount of oak was waaaay in the background. He did a great job of letting the grape source speak for themselves. Definitely, a wnry to keep your eyes upon in the future.
2. Greta-Plan: I had asked Susan to try to track down a Swiss Syrah I'd heard some good
things about; whilst she was visiting a friend in Basel. She went to the Paul Ullrich
wine shop and this is what they immediately recommended. I thought it was a bit on the
bretty side in the nose, but there were a lot of good/cold-climate Syrah characeristics
in there that I liked quite a lot. It reminded my of a Val d'Aosta Syrah I had several yrs ago from DarrellCorti under the LesCretes label; very black pepper/cold-climate Syrah in character.
3. Alcina/Gabrielli: GregP had indicated to me that he was not totally pleased w/ the Gabrelli Syrah grapes in '04. So I had pretty low expectations of the wine. I was pleasantly suprised, however. Though not up there w/ the best of Greg's wines I've had (this was the first Syrah), I thought it was a good/solid 4-square Syrah that showed some of that tomato sauce character I sometimes get in Mendocino reds. I understand this is his last Gabrielli wine. If TJ's has this wine at <$20, it's a steal at that.
4. Babcock Syrahs: BryanBabcock has probably making some of the best wines in his life over
the last few yrs. I can hardly wait now to try his Cabs, from an area that gets no respect
for Cabernets. His standard black-label is a good/tasty/solid SBC Syrah. These two TerroirExclusives Club Syrahs are about as good as it gets for SBC Syrah. The N&C is
particularly terrific and a great expression of cold-climate/SRH Syrah.
5. EdStJ/Bassetti: This is always the favorite of my EdStJ Syrahs and this one certainly didn't disappoint. Loaded w/ cold-climate Syrah character; it also has a lot of high-toned notes that you don't often get in Syrah. It's got the acidity & structure for long aging. With Steve's 60'th BD coming up in a month, it may very well outlive him (but certainly not me, though). To my mind, Steve's Bassetti is the best of the 4 Bassetti's produced from these grapes. Alas, this '05 will be the last Bassetti Steve makes.
6. Syrah pricing: Though all these Syrahs were somewhat pricey, I certainly didn't feel they
were out of line and will be going back to the well to buy some more of these. I had the opportunity to taste the Darioush Syrah (forget vintage) that is priced at $80 here in NM ystrday. When I tried it, I just shook my head in wonderment. All of these Syrahs, at nearly half the price, blew that one away. And you don't have to go big $$'s to get great Syrah in Calif. Several of the EdStJ are below $20. The Jaffurs SBC and the Ojai SBC Syrahs are in the low $20's and great-drinking Calif Syrahs. The Qupe single vnyd Syrahs are in the upper $20's and about as fine of an example of Calif Syrah as you can find. Dozens of such examples abound. Too much good drinking out there.