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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.

Eaglepoint Syrah Cage Match - March 24, 2010

Wednesday (3/24) EaglePoint Syrah Cage Match:

Casey Hartlip seems to like to use Susan's & my presence as an excuse to revisit some of his older wines. Several yrs before, he did his PetiteSirah Smackdown, comparing the PS's he made under the EaglePoint label with those made by others from his same EP grapes. This yr's event was titled the Eaglepoint Syrah Cage Match, pitting (sort-of) the Syrahs he's made under the EP label w/ some made by other producers from those  same grapes. This will be primarily WellsGuthrie's Copain EP Syrahs paired w/ the same vintages as Casey's.

Joining Lynne and Casey were Bob Swain, winemaker at ParducciCllrs and his wife, Kathleen; Heath Dolan (son of Paul Dolan; son of Lynne; Casey's stepson; and winemaker at Truett-Hurst in the DryCreekVlly) and his wife, Robin,  and their two neat little girls. The girls were truly impressed by my bright red spitoon. Further questions ensued. I finally explained that it was necessary because of the consequences of a small aircraft pilot trying to pee out the window of a flying plane. After some serious giggling, they wanted to know what happened to the passengers sitting down-wind/down-stream; at which point Casey intervened and guided us back to safer topics; being fully aware that I can be a baaaaad influence on impressionable young minds.

We started off with:

  1. EaglePoint Albarino WentzelVnyd/AndersonVlly 2009: Light yellow/near colorless; lovely floral/peach blossom aromatic slight stoney/minerally very perfumed nose; tart appley/melony/floral slight steely/minerally/ stoney slightly lean flavor; long steely/minerally/stoney very perfumed/appley/melony finish; a classic perfumed Albarino w/ that characteristic stoney undertone.

    Gathered around the meats from FattedCalf in the kitchen, we then dipped into the Syrahs:

  2. Copain Syrah EPVnyd (14.5%) 2000: Dark color; some blackberry/Syrah strong smokey/roasted/ Rhonish complex lovely nose; rather toasty/oak/smokey/pungent fairly Rhonish/roasted/coffee complex flavor; very long roasted/Rhonish/smokey some blackberry/Syrah rather charred/oak finish w/ light tannins; good complexity and lots of Rhonish/roasted character; ready to drink and should go a few more yrs.
  3. EaglePoint Syrah (13.9%) 2000: Med.dark color; strong blackberry/Syrah/spicy some pungent/smokey light vanilla/oak rather simpler but more fruit-driven nose; softer bit tannic bright blackberry/spicy/Syrah
    slight earthy light vanilla/oak flavor; long strong/spicy/blackberry/Syrah some vanilla/oak slight
    pungent/tarry/licorice bit tannic finish; not the complexity or the Rhonish character of the Copain but
    a more pure expression of EP Syrah fruit; maybe a bit younger than the Copain.
  4. Copain Syrah EPVnyd (14.4%) 2002: Dark color; strong blackberry/Syrah rather smokey/toasty/oak some roasted/Rhonish rather complex nose; tart rich/ripe/blackberry/Syrah rather smokey/oak quite roasted/ Rhonish flavor w/ some tannins; very long roasted/Rhonish stronger blackberry/Syrah finish w/ some tannins; still can use a yr or two of age.
  5. EaglePoint Syrah (14.3%) 2002: Med.dark color; bigger/brighter spicy/blackberry/Syrah bit licorice/ pungent some vanilla/oak nose; softer quite lush/ripe spicy/blackberry/Syrah light vanilla/oak bit simpler flavor; very long bit tannic bright/spicy/blackberry/Syrah slight earthy/pungent/licorice some vanilla/oak finish with modest tannins; still can use several yrs of age.
  6. Copain Syrah EPVnyd (14.1%) 2004: Dark color; very strong/roasted/Rhonish/smokey some blackberry/Syrah somewhat toasty/charred/oak nose; tart rather tannic/hard strong blackberry/Syrah less Rhonish/roasted flavor; big tannic/hard rather toasty/charred/oak slight roasted/Rhonish some blackberry/Syrah finish w/ ample tannins; clearly needs more age; very Rhonish on the nose but less so on the palate.
  7. EaglePoint Syrah (14.3%) 2004: Dark color; strong very spicy/blackberry/Syrah/big fruit bit licorice/
    pungent light vanilla/oak quite spicy nose; tart bright/blackberry/Syrah/boysenberry very spicy slight
    pungent/vanilla/oak bit tannic flavor; very long bit tannic/hard bright/spicy/blackberry/Syrah slight
    vanilla/oak bit chalky/tanic finish w/ fair tannins; needs another 2-5 yrs yet.
  8. Copain Syrah EPVnyd (14.5%) 2005: Med.dark color; strong blackberry/boysenberry/Syrah some smokey/toasty/ Fr.oak light roasted/Rhonish/coffee some complex nose; tart some roasted/smokey/ Rhonish strong blackberry/ Syrah rather tannic/hard flavor; med.long hard/tannic strong blackberry/ Syrah/boysenberry bit Rhonish/ smokey/roasted/coffee finish; more obvious EP Syrah fruit and less Rhonish/roasted character; more tannic than the EP'05 and needing more age yet.
  9. Eaglepoint Syrah (14.5%) 2005: Dark color; strong blackberry/Syrah/licorice/pungent bit smokey/ pungent/ tarry light vanilla/oak slight Rhonish nose; softer bit chalky/earthy fairly tannic strong blackberry/ Syrah light vanilla/oak slight pungent/Rhonish flavor; long some tannic/hard ripe/blackberry/ Syrah/spicy slight Rhonish/licorice/pungent some vanilla/oak finish; still needs 2-5 yrs of age; my (slight) favorite of Casey's Syrahs.
  10. Eaglepoint Srah (14.3%) 2006: Dark color; very strong blackberry/Syrah/quite spicy bit licorice/ pungent/ road tar light vanilla/oak nose; softer lush/blackberry/Syrah/very spicy/slight boysenberry light vanilla/ oak bit tannic flavor; long ripe/blackberry/Syrah light vanilla/oak very spicy/lush/round/smooth finish w/ light tannic bite; seems somewhat rounder & more approachable than the '05; probably the best expression of EP Syrah of the whole lot.
  11. Redline Syrah EPRanch/MendoCnty (15.2%) 2004: Very dark color; strong boysenberryblackberry/ Syrah big fruit almost Oz-like slight perfumed talc light toasty/oak nose; soft/ripe bit Oz-like strong boysenberry/ blackberry/Syrah light toasty/oak flavor; med.long boysenberry/Syrah/ blackberry big fruit finish w/ light tannins; has the EP terroir but made in a riper/almost Oz-like style; an EP Syrah made by a Paso producer if you will; pretty drinkable but should go on another 2-5 yrs.
  12. Stefania Syrah EPRanch/MendoCnty (14.5%) 2006: Very dark color; strong toasty/charred/Fr.oak strong RCCola/blackberry/Syrah fairly complex nose; rather hard/tannic strong toasty/charred/oak/ pungent spicy/ blackberry/Syrah/RCCola flavor; long spicy/cinammon/toasty/charred/Fr.oak somewhat tannic/hard blackberry/ Syrah finish; a rather rugged almost SCM/Cab-like rendition of EP Syrah.
  13. Fetzer LateHrvstReserve JohannisbergRiesling (8.1%; SaH: 48 Brix; RS: 21 Brix) 1988: Rather brown color; very intense botrytis/peachy/apricotty/fruit cocktail complex nose; very sweet very intense peachy/ botrytis/apricotty quite tart/high acid slight pencilly complex/old Riesling flavor; very long very sweet intense botrytis/peachy/apricotty very tart finish w/ some complexity; mostly botrytis but still going strong; no signs of oxidation.

And the usual made-up stuff from TheBloodyPulpit:

1. The contrast between the Copain and EP Syrahs was quite striking. Wells uses native yeast, 5 ton fermentors at a somewhat higher temperature, some whole-cluster, and aging in French oak. Casey ferments at a cooler temperature in 1-ton lots and ages in Am.oak.

So...do these Syrahs manifest/display a special EP terroir?? Beats heck out of me. I certainly found
some commonality in character in the Copain's and the EP's, but I'm not sure it would be described as the EP terroir. Certainly couldn't describe it; certainly couldn't come up w/ some glib words that would characterize the EP Syrah/terroir. Spose I could make up something, though.

The commonality of the EP Syrah in the Redline and the Stefania was much less obvious to me.
Clearly, the winemaking practiced on these grapes makes a big difference in the wines. I would say that the EP Syrahs were probably a purer, if simpler, expression of EP Syrah. I found Wells' expression of EP Syrah, with its definite Rhonish character, a more interesting expression of those grapes. The younger Copains seemed to be more expressive of EP Syrah, more akin to Casey's Syrahs, than the older ones.
2. Stefania: A new (to me) wnry located down in the SiliconVlly/Woodside. Owned by Stefania & Paul Romero. The one sample here seemed to have a fair amount of charred/toasty oak and more akin to SCM Cab than anything. I struggled to find any EP Syrah character in the wine. Nonetheless, I liked the wine quite a bit and thought it had the structure to age into something pretty interesting.
3. Redline: This is, of course, LarryRoberts expression of Casey's Syrah. And could see a bit more expression of EP terroir in this wine. It was also the ripest in character of these Syrahs, almost like a Mendo Syrah made by a Paso winemaker. I liked the wine quite a lot for its lush/ripe character.

After tasting thru all the Syrahs, we then adjourned to table for dinner, having made only a slight dent in the charcuterie spread. But nary a dent in our appetites. Simple salad and oven-roasted vegetables. Casey had brined a pork roast for a day in apple cider and then roasted it on the grill, wrapped in foil. It was a stunning piece of pork, raised by his brother. Very moist/succlent/juicy/ tender and packed w/ flavor; one of the best pork roasts I've had. A wonderful evening over great pig parts, great wine, and the most special of company...don't get no better than this.


[Additional Wine Reviews from Tom Hill]


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