||And all the usual boring stuff from the bloody pulpit:
Alban pricing: These three wines were ordered from John's 3-pak that were
offerred earlier in the year. Not sure what the shelf prices are,
but I suspect they are lower. Strange business when you pay more
to order the wine as a pre-release from the winery than you do off
the retail shelf.
The Alban Roussanne: This wine was pretty loaded w/ toasty oak and most
of the tasters thought it over-oaked. I think the jury is out on
this wine. It has an impressive intensity of Roussanne fruit and
a high acidity that I think will make the wine age into something pretty
spectacular. Because this wine has so much stuff going on in it; I strongly
recommend it be served at a cool room temperature, warmer than most
SQN Tarantella: Manfred & Elaine's white wines in the past have been
all about power and intensity and loaded w/ toasty Fr.oak. From the
color on pouring, I was expecting more of the same. Surprise, surprise.
The oak on this wine was quite restrained. Although no one varietal
character dominates, the wine is all about elegance and grace; a wine that
you just sort of are seduced by. Terrific stuff and seems out of
place in that huge/massive bottle.
Lodi Syrah: In the last few weeks, there has been some discussion on WCWN
about Syrah being planted in warm-climate areas and how it seems
to display much more varietal character there than a lot of other
varieties. This Rosenblum Lodi Syrah was a great example of that. The wine
was very ripe but tasted as if the acidity had been adjusted. But it showed
plenty of Syrah varietal character and only a touch of that earthy/mushroomy
character you get from Lodi wines. My expectations (based on the
price & origin) were rather low for this wine and I was quite
surprised at how tasty a wine it was. Much better than the R.H.Philips
EXP for a low-end Syrah. Another variety (besides Zin and Viognier)
that looks like a keeper in Lodi.
Qupe HillSide Reserve Syrah: I followed this wine from the very start.
Its always been my favorite of BobLindquist's wines. His Syrahs are
less about power and intensity and more about grace and complexity;
almost the Ridge of the Syrah world without the strong winemaking
style that dominates in the Ridges (the "Draper perfume" as George calls
it). The Hillside Syrah oft displays a rather unusual (for Calif)
green olive character that I associate w/ less than ripe Syrah in
the Rhone (Alain Graillot comes to mind) that often is thought a defect
in the wine. I feel it adds a certain level of complexity myself. Maybe
there IS something to that terroir thing!!
Novy Syrah: I've followed Adam Lee's (Siduri label for Pinot) Syrahs from
the very start. These two are a big step up over the '98; very impressive.
A had originally expected Adam's Syrahs to be a bit like the Dehlingers...
taste like a Syrah made by a Pinot producer. These two taste like
Syrahs made by a Syrah producer. Definitely one of the top Syrah producers
Carlisle Syrah: I've followed Mike Officer's wines from the very start;
back when they were Ho-Made in his garage. They were outstanding
wines then and have just continued to get better and better. This
Syrah is one incredible wine, about the purest expression of Syrah fruit
from Calif I've ever seen. Mike is an unabashed admirer of Aussie
Shiraz and, had he loaded it up w/ American oak, this would be a
dead-ringer for great Oz Shiraz. Thank God he didn't. One of the
things I like so much about his wines, including the Zins, are their structure.
Even though they are quite ripe, they have a structure (both tannins
and acids) to them that keeps them from being soft and flabby. A
great wine by a great winemaker. Alas, pretty much all sold out so
it'll be hard to find. Maybe the Liquor Barn in SantaRosa. Also Boulevard
Cafe in SanFrancisco and The Wine House there as well.
Stolpman Vineyard: I've been following the wines from this vnyd from the
very start that have been made by various winemakers. When the StolpmanVineyard
wines are tasted side-by-side with those from RollRanch and BienNacido
and Alisos Canyon, to name a few, the Stolpman versions always seemed
to be a bit lighter and less depth and less intensity than those other
ones. So, I've never labeled the Stolpman Vineyard as one of Calif
great Syrah vnyds.... until now. So it's now official.... Stolpman
is one of Calif great Syrah vnyds... based on this Ojai. This Syrah,
I think, is every bit up to the level of Adam's other Syrahs, Roll Ranch
and BienNacido. Maybe even better than the Bien Nacido. This Stolpman
Syrah had a very unusual spicy fragrance to it that I really loved.
Maybe Stolpman Syrah is not so much about power and intensity but more
about spiciness and grace? But it's a big/tough/tannic wine that needs
some age. It'll be interesting to taste Craig Jaffur's 2000 versions
side-by-side. In addition to selling his grapes to some of SantaBarbara's
best winemakers, he also makes wine under his own label. Alas, I've
never had the opportunity to buy or try those wines. But I'll look
harder for them now. They have a WebSite (www.stolpmanvineyards.com) but
it looks a bit out of date.
Ojai EH RollRanch Syrah: Whatta surprise this wine was. Big price, big
bottle, special label... I was expecting it to be just a more extracted,
bigger, richer, more powerful, more oaked, more everything of Adam's
RollRanch Syrah. It was not. It was a much more restrained Syrah. It had
that classic pungent spiciness that RollRanch Syrah always seems to display.
But it also had a more fragrant/perfumed/high-toned spicy character
to it that I seldom see in his usual RR Syrah. But no doubt about
it, it has the stuffing to age very well. Amazing Syrah.
Estrella Clone Syrah: The "EH" stands, as I recall, for Estrella Clone,
Hillside block. I suspect that it's that Estrella clone that gives
the wine it's lovely fragrance. I've had several opportunities to
taste Estrella clone Syrah alongside Durrel-clone and other-clone
Syrah. The Estrella one always seems to have a unique high-toned strawberry
fragrance to it that I find very attractive. I remember back in about
'78 (thats NINETEEN-78!!) when I made my first trip to PasoRobles
with the sole intention of tasting Gary Eberle's EstrellaRiver Syrah.
Whatta a revelation that was. I was quite taken by the beautiful strawberry
fragrance and spiciness the wine showed, much like some of the Jasmin
Cote-Roties I knew, and that was the first inkling that I had that
Calif was on the right track with Syrah. As they say, the rest is
Ojai Vineyards: I've followed Adam & Helen Tolmach's wines from the
very start, when they were made in this dumpy barn up in LosAlamos
(where Mary Vigoroso made Sam Hale's wines) with Bob Lindquist and
Jim Clendennen. His '82 Syrah (along with Bob's Qupe and Randal's Bonny
Doon) was the first really great Syrah made in Calif. I was sending
Adam my tasting notes for almost 10 yrs before I ever got a response
from him or actually met him in person. It's been fun watching the
evolution of Adam's wines. The first Syrahs were not particularly
big or extracted and had a lot of toasty/Burgundian-like oak to them. More
like great RedBurg than about Syrah. In the early '90's, his style
evolved into bigger, more extracted, more powerful kind of Syrahs;
some of the very best made in Calif. Yet all the various vnyd Syrahs
show the distinctivness and uniqueness of the grape source, and not all
about Ojai winemaking style. But they are some of the most powerful
and structured Syrahs made in Calif. THat's why the EH RollRanch
Syrah was such a surprise to me. Not about power and extraction, but more
about restraint and elegance. I hope Adam makes more of those kind of wines.
Often overlooked are the white wines Adam & Helen produce. Their Sauvignon
Blanc is one of my favorites. I don't care nor drink much Chardonnay;
Adam's I do. And his RollRanch Viognier is one of the best in Calif.
All marvelous wines.
Lagier-Meredith Syrah: I've followed Steve Lagier & Carole Meredith's
wines from the very start (OK.... the '98). The '98 was one of the
most impressive first-release Syrahs I've ever had. This '99 seems
a bit hard and closed right now, but I've no doubt that it'll evolve
into one of Calif's great Syrahs. It's going to be fun to watch the winery
as the vnyd develops more maturity. Truly one of Calif's great Syrah
Mt.Veeder Syrah: I've been mightly impressed by several of the Syrahs from
atop Mt.Veeder that I've had. The Paras Vineyard that's made by Jade
Mtn is terrific. As is this Lagier-Meredith Syrah. My recommendation
to all those folks up on Mt.Veeder would be to rip out all those
ugly ol' Cabernet and Merlot vines (but, please, leave the Zinfandel) and
put in Syrah, as well as Mourvedre and Grenache. Good riddance I
Alban Grenache: I've followed John Alban's wines from the very start. His
Grenache is truly world class and easily the best yet produced in
Calif. It's has fine as any I've had from both Oz and Priorat. He
sets the bar, and a high one it is. Grenache is truly a great grape.
I very much hope his wines inspire others in Calif to plant the right clones
and rise to the challenge of John's Grenache. It hasn't happened
yet, but it will.
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