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Pick My Next Bottle – 2007 Syrah Showdown

The November installment of Pick My Next Bottle focuses on some of the very best domestic Syrah producers. As I mentioned in the first installment, the purpose of this series is to provide insight into specific wines or producers you may currently have in your cellar. The winning bottle will be opened this weekend and a Bottle Note will be published the following week.

The producers I chose make some of the very best examples of domestic Syrah:

  • Saxum – Saxum Vineyards is focused on producing Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre based blends from the Templeton Gap/Willow Creek area of Paso Robles. The winery was founded in 2000 by Justin Smith and the 07 James Berry Vineyard was the Wine Spectator Wine of the Year.
  • Lillian – Maggie Harrison was assistant winemaker to Manfred Krankl of Sine Qua Non for eight years before moving to Oregon to take over the wine making position at Antica Terra. Lillian, founded in 2004, represents Maggie’s personal project and reflects everything that she learned during her time at Sine Qua Non.
  • Cayuse – Cayuse was founded in 1997 by Christophe Baron, a native of France who grew up in family of winemakers in Champagne. Baron studied viticulture in Burgundy and Champagne, and had ambitions to make Pinot Noir in Oregon. However, on a visit to Walla Walla he found property that he believed would be perfect for growing grapes, and purchased the land.

The Contenders

  • 2007 Saxum Booker Vineyard – The inky/purple-hued 2007 Booker Vineyard (95% Syrah and 5% Grenache) boasts a floral-dominated bouquet with camphor, blackberry, roasted meat, and espresso scents in the background. The density, flavor intensity, richness, full-bodied power, elegance, and freshness are all hallmarks of this special vintage in the Central Coast. This wine should drink well for 10-12+ years. 99 points from the Wine Advocate.
  • 2007 Lillian – Opaque purple. A kaleidoscopic bouquet evokes black raspberry, cola, incense and olive tapenade, with a sexy floral quality that gains power with aeration. Lush, palate-staining dark berry preserve flavors are complemented by exotic spice and violet pastille qualities and are lifted by zesty minerality. Gains weight with air but retains its energy, finishing spicy, smoky and with outstanding persistence. 94 points from Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar.
  • 2007 Cayuse Armada – The 2007 Syrah Armada Vineyard (100%) was aged in Rostaing puncheons, one of them new, for 30 months. Aromatically, it is the most brooding and Cote-Rotie-like of these Syrahs with notes of smoke, meat, game, garrigue, lavender, and blueberry. The most tightly wound of the Syrahs, it is the one that will most profit from several years of cellaring. It should offer prime drinking from 2014 to 2027. 98 points from the Wine Advocate.

Which 2007 Syrah should I open?

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Thanks for voting! I’d love to see a comment below on why you picked one bottle over another.

Also, let me know if you have any suggestions for the Decemberinstallment of Pick My Next Bottle.

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The Week in Zinfandel (11/17/14)

Welcome to the latest installment of The Week in Zinfandel. If I missed your post or story please send me a link and I will be sure to include it next week. Cheers!

Cliff’s Wine Picks reviewed the 2007 Ridge Geyserville and 2009 Turley Zinfandel Tofanelli Vineyard.

Central Coast Critic writes A Very Impressive Zinfandel.

Enobytes reviews the 2011 McCay Faith Lot 13 Zinfandel.

George Yatchisin writes Zinfandel, The Only American Wine Grape.

MyWinePal writes Two Renwood Zinfandels for You to Try.

Nova Cadamatre writes Winemaker 2 Winemaker: Conversation with Joel Peterson.

Thrillist writes What Your Favorite Wine Says About You.

Talk-A-Vino writes My Zinfandel Day Experiences.

Zinfandel Chronicles writes Zinfandel of the Month – 2012 ACORN Zinfandel Alegria Vineyards.

Lastly, Zinfandel Advocates and Producers announced The 2015 Zinfandel Experience.

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2009 Westerhold Family Vineyards Syrah Bennett Valley – Bottle Notes

John and Sharon Westerhold moved to Sonoma County from Los Angeles in 2006 with the dream of farming their own vineyard and making wine from their own grapes. The property is located in Bennett Valley with 3 acres of Pinot Noir and a small amount of Syrah. The winemaker at Westerhold Family Vineyards has been Russell Bevan since the inaugural 2007 Syrah vintage. Russell also makes his own wine at Bevan Cellars and recently agreed to make wines for Chase Cellars.

The wine is black in color and checks in at 14.3% ABV. Powerful nose of blueberries, smoked meat and coffee beans. Rich, polished and nicely balanced. Cherries, blueberries, pepper, cinnamon, iron and bacon on the palate. Exceptionally long finish. Super cool climate Syrah. Drink over the next 5-7 years.

My rating: 92 points.

The wine is $42 at the winery and is currently available. Given recent high scores at Bevan Cellars from the Wine Advocate I suspect demand for the Westerhold wines will increase in the years to come. Act accordingly.

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2011 Rasa Chardonnay Dream Deferred – Bottle Notes

Rasa Vineyards is a relatively new winery located in Walla Walla, Washington. Founded in 2007 by brothers Pinto and Billo Naravane, Rasa specializes in Syrah-based wines but has also released Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, Chardonnay, Petite Verdot, Grenache and Mourvedre. There is also a second label known as PB Wines. Pinto is the Managing Partner, while Billo is the Winemaker.

Lightly straw colored. 13.5% ABV. Lemon oil, minerals and pears on the nose. Lush mouthfeel with decent acidity. Peaches, lychee fruit and green apples on the palate. The first Chardonnay from Rasa. Good but not great. Drink over the next several years. Tough price point at $45.

My rating: 89 points.

Rasa is open by appointment. They are also open on Walla Walla Spring Release weekend and Cayuse release weekend. The wines are available via the website, and the mailing list is still open. Rasa is one of the up and coming stars in Washington – don’t miss out.

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2004 Dehlinger Syrah Goldridge Vineyard – Bottle Notes

Dehlinger Winery is located in the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County and was founded in 1975 by Tom and Carole Dehlinger. Eva Dehlinger took over winemaking duties in 2007. Known for their Pinot Noir, Dehlinger also makes Chardonnay, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah.

The grapes for Dehlinger Wines are largely grown on the Estate Vineyard in the Russian River Valley. The initial vines were planted in 1975 and followed by subsequent plantings through 1989.

Opaque purple in color. 14.6% ABV. Young nose of blue fruits, iodine and pepper. Rich and full bodied with medium acidity. Great texture and mouthfeel. Tons of lush blueberry and raspberry fruit on the palate. Blood, meat and chocolate on an exceptionally long finish. This wine is 10 years young. Drink over the next 3-5 years.

My rating: 93 points.

Dehlinger Winery has a great reputation among wine connoisseurs. Wine writers have consistently given strong reviews while praising the winery for its uniqueness, quality, consistency and value. About 75% of their wine is sold via the mailing list. Amazing wines that are well worth the search.

I wrote about Dehlinger previously in the Zinfandel Chronicles Power Rankings.

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Zinfandel of the Month – 2012 ACORN Zinfandel Alegria Vineyards

Zinfandel of the Month is a regular feature on Zinfandel Chronicles. Keep in mind that although the Zinfandel of the Month might be an older bottle, the current vintage will be one you can find at retail or via the mailing list.

The November Zinfandel of the Month is the 2012 ACORN Zinfandel Heritage Vines Allegria Vineyards.

Bill and Betsy Nachbaur purchased Alegria Vineyard in 1990. Situated in the Russian River Valley, Alegría Vineyards has 26 acres planted with Zinfandel, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese, Dolcetto, Petite Sirah, Alicante Bouschet, and many lesser-known varieties. The oldest part of the vineyard dates back to the 1890’s.

For the first many years Bill farmed the vineyard and the grapes were sold. ACORN Winery was founded in 1994 and the first release was a Sangiovese in 1996. Clay Mauritson is the consulting winemaker.

The 2012 Heritage Vines Zinfandel is actually a blend of 17 different varieties. 78% Zinfandel, 13% Alicante Bouschet and 7% Petite Sirah. The remaining 2% of the field blend is comprised of 14 varieties.

The wine is purple in color. 14.5% ABV. Brambly red fruits, spices and plums on the nose. Full bodied with healthy acidity. Rich, plush and juicy. Strawberry, raspberry compote, pepper and vanilla on the palate. Terrific Zinfandel that is right in my wheelhouse. Drink over the next 2-4 years.

My rating: 92 points.

$45 at the winery and select retail in just a few states.

ACORN Winery is open for sales and tasting by appointment only. I look forward to visiting on my next trip to the Russian River Valley.

This review was based on a sample provided by the winery.

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The Week in Zinfandel (11/10/14)

Welcome to the latest installment of The Week in Zinfandel. If I missed your post or story please send me a link and I will be sure to include it next week. Cheers!

The Napa Wine Project writes about Mike & Molly Hendry.

W. Blake Gray writes Lodi Winemakers Strip Back Their Zinfandel.

Tuscan Vines interviews Dry Creek Vineyard Winemaker Tim Bell.

St. Cloud Times writes Local Wine Pick: 2012 Easton Amador County Zinfandel.

Toledo Wines and Vines reviews the 2009 Clos LaChance Estate Zinfandel Central Coast.

Zinfandel Advocates and Producers promotes National Zinfandel Day.

Lastly, Zinfandel Advocates and Producers announced The 2015 Zinfandel Experience.

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2012 Grgich Hills Estate Chardonnay – Bottle Notes

Grgich Hills Estate, in Rutherford, in the Napa Valley, was founded in 1977 by Mike Grgich. Grgich earned fame in 1976 when the Chardonnay he produced as winemaker at Chateau Montelena won first prize among white wines at the now famous Paris Wine Tasting. The estate has 366 acres of vineyards in American Canyon, Carneros, Yountville, Rutherford and Calistoga and is still best known for its Chardonnays, which consistently earn accolades from wine critics. Grgich also makes Fume Blanc, Zinfandel, Merlot, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon and dessert wines.

Shimmering gold in color. 13.5% ABV. Vanilla, lemon curd and pears on the nose. Rich and creamy with nice balance and acidity. Lemon oil, peach, green apple and creme brulee on the palate. The wine finishes strong. Drink over the next 3-5 years although there is a track record here for longer aging if you are so inclined.

My rating: 91 points.

$42 at the winery and retail.

Grgich Hills is one of Napa’s iconic wineries. Consider stopping by when you next visit Napa Valley.

This review was based on sample provided by the winery.

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Force Majeure Fall 2014 Release Party

Previously known as Grand Rêve, Force Majeure was founded in 2004 by Paul McBride. Force Majeure pairs some of Washington’s highly acclaimed winemakers with fruit from one of Washington’s highly acclaimed vineyards, Ciel du Cheval. The winemakers contributing to the Collaboration Series is a Who’s Who of Washington winemakers including Ben Smith, Carolyn Lakewold, Chris Gorman, James Mantone, Mark McNeilly, Mike McMorran and Ross Mickel.

Force Majeure recently announced the hiring of Todd Alexander, formerly of Bryant Family Vineyards, as the winemaker for the Force Majeure Estate wines.

Force Majeure does two release parties per year. The release party this past Saturday was noteworthy as it marked the debut of Force Majeure’s new winery. The winery, located near the Woodinville Warehouse District, is a huge step up from the previous facility. Concrete tanks, barrel storage and space for winemaker dinners were just a few of the highlights.

The following wines were poured at the release party:

  • 2011 Collaboration Series I
  • 2011 Collaboration Series III
  • 2011 Collaboration Series V
  • 2010 Collaboration Series Ptera
  • 2012 Collaboration Series Grenache

The wines are all rich, dense, extracted and hedonistic. I was too busy catching up with friends to take detailed notes. That being said, the wines were all exceptional. The best wine was the CS III followed closely by the CS V and CS I. Forece Majeure continues to make big strides with their Cabernet based wines. The Grenache has huge upside but is painfully young. The Ptera is well made but was outclassed by the others.  If you need scores, I would say 92 on the low end with the CS III in the 95-96 point range.

Paul McBride told me the plan is to move towards 75% Estate wines with just a few Collaboration Series wines per year, as mailing list only.

Exciting times at Force Majeure!

Force Majeure warrants your attention and (as I write this) the winery is still accepting names for their mailing list.

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2009 Sojourn Pinot Noir Rodgers Creek Vineyard – Bottle Notes

Sojourn Cellars was founded in 2001 by Craig Haserot and Erich Bradley. The winery specializes in Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and recently added a Chardonnay to the lineup. Their fruit is sourced from some of California’s finest vineyards.

Rodgers Creek Vineyard is situated between Sonoma and Petaluma. It sits at 300 feet above sea level with almost perfect western exposure.

Crimson in color. 14.3% ABV. Great nose of clove, red fruits, mushrooms and earth. Medium body and more acidity than I am accustomed to from Sojourn. Rich and spicy. Black cherry, strawberry, cranberry and mineral on the palate. Exceptional finish. The best Sojoun Pinot Noir in recent memory. Drink over the next 3-5 years.

My rating: 93 points.

Current vintages are available via the Sojourn mailing list and website. The 2012 was priced at $48 per bottle.

Definitely consider a visit to the Sojourn tasting parlor on your next visit to Sonoma. They do a one-of-a-kind sit down tasting where you will have the opportunity to sample many of their highly acclaimed wines. My wife and I have had the good fortune to spend some quality time with Craig and Ziggy (his dog with a talent for sniffing out TCA).

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