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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 California Rhones - December 3, 2008


We tasted last night (12/3/08) Some California Rhones:

  1. Carlisle TwoAcres RW (15.9%; 85% Mourvedre, 7% PS, 4% Syrah, 4% Carignane+Valdepenas/
    0% AlicanteBouchet; 215 cs; Drk: '08-'17) 2005
    : Med.dark color; veryperfumed/plummy/
    licorice/black cherry/RCCola slight mineral/WWII beacon light toasty/oak pungent/complex nose; tart very spicy/very rich/plummy/Mourv light licorice/pungent light toasty/oak bit tannic complex flavor; very long/lingering bit alcoholic plummy/spicy/Mourv rather tannic light toasty/oak fairly complex finish; needs more age but a lovely blend w/ lots of perfume & aromatics; distinctly Carlisle w/ no Rhonish character
    that I can fathom. $36.00
  2. Carlisle TwoAcres/RRV (14.8%; Planted: 1910; 75% Mourvedre, 10% PS, 5% Syrah, 8% Carignane, 2% AlicanteBouschet; 185 cs; U/U; Drk: 2009-2018) 2006: Dark color; very strong plummy/pungent/licorice/spicy light toasty/pungent/oak bit closed nose; tart rather lean/angular/tannic strong plummy/licorice/Mourv some peppery/spicy tight/closed flavor; very long rather hard/tight/tannic strong plummy/Mourv light licorice/pungent finish; rather hard & tight and a bit closed but speaks strongly of old vine Mourv; way too young & needs age; don't try for another 2-3 yrs. $36.00
  3. Saracina Atrea OldSoulRed MendoCnty (15.2%; www.Saracina.com;Zin/Syrah/Malbec/PS) 2004:
    Dark color; strong spicy/earthy/dusty slight black cherry/tomatoey interesting nose; tart somewhat hard/tannic black cherry/tomatoey/spicy Zin-like somewhat dusty/earthy old vine flavor; med.long rather hard/tannic black cherry/spicy somewhat dusty/earthy finish; resembles old-vine Carignane. $26.00
  4. A Donkey&Goat Calif RW three Thirteen (14.4%; 38% Syrah/BrosseauVnyd/Chalone,34% Mourvedre, 28% Grenache Fenaughty/Wylie/Lightner/Girard vnyds/ElDoradoCnty; 308 cs) 2006: Med.dark color; beautiful/fragrant alpine strawberry/strawberry/Grenache very perfumed slight garrigue/ earthy complex nose; soft very lush spicy/alpine strawberry/Grenache slight garrigue lovely flavor; med.long soft/smooth/balanced/polished very perfumed/strawberry/Grenache light blackberry/Syrah slight
    earthy/garrigue finish w/modest tannins; a really lovely blend that has lots of Grenache aromatics; drinkable now and the next few yrs. $37.00
  5. Robert&Stephana Rousset AC: Crozes-Hermitage (12.5%; MeBaD) 2004: Med.color; slight brett/ horsecollar slight smokey/pungent light roasted/blackberry/Syrah bit simple/slightly NorthernRhonish nose; tart some roasted/NR/smokey/pungent light Syrah/blackberry some bretty/horsecollar flavor; med.short tart light roasted/NR some blackberry/Syrah finish w/ light tannins; pleasant enough C-H w/ some Rhone character but a bit of brett distracts. $25.00
  6. OjaiVnyd SBC Syrah (14.5%; www.OjaiVineyard.com) 2006: Very dark color; very strong spicy/
    blackberry/Syrah light pungent/toasty/oak rather spicy/peppery lovely Syrah nose; tart very spicy/ blackberry/Syrah quite cracked black pepper light toasty/oak bit tannic flavor; very long tart very blackberry/spicy/Syrah cracked black pepper finish w/ some tannins; needs a yr or two and should easily go out ten. A steal at $23.00
  7. OjaiVnyd SBC Syrah PresidioVnyd (14.5%; Organic/BioDynamic) 2005: Black color; very intense
    boysenberry/blackberry/Syrah beautiful roasted/Rhonish/cracked black pepper bit earthy complex spectacular nose; soft/lush/rich/mouthfilling blackberry/boysenberry/Syrah some cracked pepper light toasty/smokey/oak rather tannic flavor; very long cracked black pepper/blackberry/boysenberry/Syrah some Rhonish/roasted fairly tannic finish; needs 3-5 yrs and should go out 15-20 yrs; a stunning cold-climate Syrah that seems more Melville than the Melville. Fairly priced at $41.00
  8. OjaiVnyd StaRitaHills Syrah MellvilleVnyd (14.5%) 2005: Black color; intense licorice/blackberry/Syrah some peppery/Rhonish light toasty/oak complex beautiful cold-climate Syrah nose; tart/lean/wiry intense licorice/blackberry/Syrah spicy/peppery bit toasty/oak somewhat tannic flavor; very long/lingering intense
    pungent/licorice/blackberry/Syrah some peppery/spicy/Rhonish/roasted bit toasty/oak rather hard/tannic
    finish; badly needs age; big Syrah fruit but an underlying hardness that needs age to soften; terrific cold-
    climate Syrah. Good value at $37.00
  9. Jaffurs SBC Syrah (15.5%) 2007: Very dark/black color; slightly funky at first, clearing to very intense blackberry/boysenberry/Syrah/framboise/ripe/huge fruit light toasty/oak nose; soft very lush intense blackberry/boysenberry/Syrah/framboise huge fruit light toasty/oak slight tannic flavor; very long intense
    blackberry/boysenberry/Syrah light toasty/oak finish w/ some tannins; imminently gulpable but should age; almost Oz-like in style; great value at $24.00
  10. Laraine Syrah GerberVnyd/SierraFoothills/CalaverasCnty (15.5%; 15 mo in FrenchOak;
    www.GerberVineyards.com) 2004
    : Very dark color; some earthy/dusty blackberry/Syrah/framboise/ cherryHeering rather toasty/oak rather perfumed nose; soft bit hard/tannic/rustic strong blackberry/Syrah fairly strong toasty/smokey/oak flavor; med.long toasty/oak blackberry/Syrah/framboise perfumed fairly tannic bit earthy/dusty finish; needs several yrs; a rather rough/rustic Syrah much like some of the ElDorado Syrahs; good value at $22.00
  11. ClendenenFamilyVnyds SantaBarbaraCnty 90% Syrah/10% Viognier Rancho LaCuna (12.5%;
    Organically Grown Estate Grapes) 2004
    : Med.dark color; beautiful/fragrant minty/menthol/
    eucalyptus rather blackberry/Syrah fairly toasty/Burgundian/oak very attractive nose; very tart/lean/taut very spicy/blackberry/Syrah some menthol/eucalyptus rather pencilly/toasty/oak/Burgundian flavor; bit tannic/hard/lean/tight/sinewy blackberry/Syrah rather Burgundian/toasty/oak somewhat herbal/menthol/eucalyptus finish w/fair tannins; needs 2-6 yrs; tastes like an underripe Syrah made by a Pinot producer; very interesting rendition of Syrah that might develop into something pretty interesting. $35.00

And the usual pontifications from the BloodyPulpit:

1. Twackers: This is, of course, from the ancient vnyd that was left to rot until Mike took responsibility for its maintainence. I've always had a soft spot in my heart for Twackers from my first taste of the Mondeuse from a barrel of this Ho-made wine in Mike's garage, yrs ago. It's always an interesting blend that usually speaks well of the MrMourvedre in it. I should take a walk thru the vnyd w/ Mike sometime as I've never seen it. Interestingly, it has 2 Syrah vines in it. You wonder how in the heck they got across the pond and into a RRV vnyd.
2. Saracina: This is the wnry owned by John Fetzer and wife Patty Rock. The wine reminded me mostly of some of the old-vine Carignanes I've had w/ it's rough/rustic character. It showed a lot of earthy/dusty character that, yrs ago, was regarded as a pejorative. Now that terroir is a fashionable thing, I guess it's now a positive.
3. Rousset C-H: A pleasant enough C-H, but just that. What was interesting about the wine was the cork. It was a champfered cork w/ a silicone layer on each end.....designed to keep out TCA contamination I later found out.
4. Ojai: A simply stunning trio from AdamTolmach. The SBC Syrah is one of the best Syrah values I've seen this year. Maybe Adam's best SBC Syrah yet. The Presidio is a new Syrah for Ojai. This biodynamic vnyd is located just on the outer/northwestern edge of the SRH AVA, nearby the Purisima Mission. Probably more cold-climate than any vnyd in the SRH itself. A stunning Syrah and one of Adam's best ever. The Melville is from their estate property there in the SRH. They tore out part of the Syrah planting (for Pinot) when their Verna'sVnyd came on-line some yrs ago. Adam and Melville are now the only one taking Syrah from the estate vnyd. The first btl of the Melville I opened was badly corked but, fortunately, my personal stash was right nearby and a btl
stepped into the breach. As usual, the Ojai customer service is the best around and Fabien replaced it immediately, no questions asked. The Ojai Syrahs are some of the greatest Syrahs being produced in Calif and, when you look at the plethora of $100+ NapaVlly Syrahs, they remain great values.
5. Jaffurs '07: This is the 4'th or 5'th btl I've had from my stash. An early release for Jaffurs SBC Syrah. Because it has such huge fruit, I describe it has Oz-like in character, which some folks dispute. It is very drinkable now. But underneath all that fruit, I think it has the structure to take it out 4-8 yrs. DaveYates tells me that it came in at higher acids and less alcohol than their previous two yrs SBC Syrahs. Terrific value.
6. Laraine: Never had their wines before, but would like to try some other ones. This was a kinda blocky/rustic Syrah but unusual and interesting. The couple, David & Laraine Gerber, are apparently famous Hollywood/TV folks. Couldn't tell it by me since I haven't watched TV in yrs (well....I did watch the SpellingBee channel several yrs ago when I was stuck in a Hays, Kansas motel one night). CalaverasCnty is a region that don't get much respect. I should visit it sometime. I've tasted a few that moderately impressed me and think it has the potential to make as great a wines as ElDoradoCnty and NevadaCnty. Would love to see SteveEdmunds doing something with Calaveras grapes.
7. Clendenen Syrah: This is JimClendenen/AuBonClimate's venture into the Rhone field, made
from grapes from his own estate. There must be a grove of eucalyptus trees nearby. The
minty/menthol character was there but not objectionable. Assuming the 12.5% is correct,
this must be Jim's counterpoint to the high-alcohol Syrahs that characterize most of SBC Syrahs. The wine was a bit on the lean/mean/green side and maybe there is something to be said for harvesting grappes that have achieved physiological ripeness.


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