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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 Syrahs From Our Heroes - August 4, 2008


In celebration of Brad & Maureen and Debbie tasting with us (9/3/08), I went to the archives
for Some Syrahs From Our Heroes:

  1. Havens Syrah Carneros (13.8%; HudsonVnyd) 1994: Dark color w/ slight bricking; very
    attractive spicy slight peppery some blackberry/Syrah/smokey/pungent/Rhonish nose; soft/
    smooth some bretty/horsecollar light earthy/toasty slight blackberry/Syrah some Rhonish/
    pungent flavor; long slightly dried-out/astringent light blackberry/Syrah some pungent/roasted/ Rhonish/peppery finish; a lovely fully-mature gentle Syrah about to slip over the edge but still pleasurable. $22.00
  2. Truchard Syrah Carneros/NapaVlly (13.2%) 1997:Med.color w/ some bricking; lovely smokey/
    pungent bit Rhonish/SouthernRhone some complex nose w/ light Syrah fruit; tart light bit citrusy/ smokey/pungent/orangey light Syrah smooth/gentle flavor; short light citrusy/smokey/ pungent very slight blackberry/Syrah finish w/ little tannins;a lovely mature slightly Rhonish red wine w/ very light Syrah character; smooth & gentle and a pleasure to drink. $16.00
  3. Neyers Syrah HudsonVnyd/NapaVlly (14.5%) 1998: Dark color w/ light bricking; slight wet
    wool/funky some smokey/charred/pungent slight Rhonish bit volatile rather strange but not altogether unpleasant nose; tart some astringent/dried-out smokey/pungent/charred slight stewed tomatoes slight Rhonish/roasted flavor; med. wet wood/wet wool/funky rathercharred/ pungent some dried-out/astringent finish; a rather strange wine that seems to be cracking up. $30.00
  4. Qupe Syrah CentralCoast (12.5%) 1995: Med.light color; light bit earthy/mushroomy more old Zin little Syrah bit tired nose; light bit tired/dried-out old Zin/cranberry slight mushroomy/earthy flavor; med.short old Zin mushroomy/earthy bit tired finish w/ little tannins; not much Syrah character and more like an old Zin. $14.00
  5. Qupe Syrah BienNacido HillsideEstate/SantaMariaVlly (EB; 13.5%) 1999: Med.color; attractive cranberry/blackberry/Syrah somewhat smokey/pungent/oak rather perfumed/ FrancoisFreres/oak nose; tart/citric cranberry/blackberry/Syrah light smokey/pungent/oak somewhat tight/lean very Qupe flavor; med.long tart/citric cranberry/blackberry/Syrah some pungent/smokey/ oak finish w/ some tannins; needs 2-6 yrs; seems rather tight & lean right now. $36.00
  6. EdmundsStJohn ParmeleeHillVnyd/SonomaVlly Syrah (14.2%) 1997: Med.color; lovely smokey/pungent/green walnut rather Rhonish/roasted slight funky/iodine some complex nose; tart/
    lean/wiry/tight spicy/peppery/Rhonish/roasted/green walnut/iodine interesting flavor; long tart/lean spicy/green walnut/Rhonish/roasted finish w/ some tannins; still needs more yrs of age; very interesting somewhat eccentric slightly Rhonish Syrah. $25.00
  7. EdmundsStJohn DurellVnyd/SonomaVlly Syrah (13.5%) P&B by Intuition&BlandLuck 1998: Dark color; beautiful/lovely very peppery/spicy/Rhonish/roasted some blackberry/Syrah complex
    nose; very tart/acid peppery/spicy bit blackberry/Syrah some Rhonish/roasted interesting flavor; long tart/lean/acid some peppery/spicy bit Rhonish/roasted light blackberry/Syrah finish w/ some tannins; can go a few more yrs. $25.00
  8. EdmundsStJohn FenaughtyVnyd/ElDoradoCnty Syrah (14.0%) 1997: Very dark color; deep/
    concentrated floral/blackberry/Syrah mushroomy/earthy/herbal/weedy almost Italianate bit
    licorice/pungent very interesting/complex nose; soft some earthy/mushroomy some blackberry/
    Syrah deep/concentrated/balanced some tannic flavor; very long earthy/mushroomy/ElDorado some blackberry/Syrah/spicy/peppery finish w/ some tannins; still young and needs age;
    maybe the best ElDorado Syrah I've tasted. $25.00
  9. Jaffurs Syrah ThompsonVnyd/SantaBarbaraCnty (13.9%) 1996: Dark color w/ slight bricking;
    some toasty/charred/pungent/burnt/oak very slight musty/TCA/corked spicy/peppery/Syrah/
    blackberry sweetish some complex nose; tart fairly rich/lush toasty/pungent/oak peppery/
    Syrah/blackberry flavor; med.long pungent/toasty/oak some blackberry/Syrah fairly tannic finish; slightly TCA-tainted nose but still pretty good Syrah; needs more age. $27.00
  10. TheOjaiVnyd Syrah ThompsonVnyd/SantaBarbaraCnty (14.5%) 1999: Very dark color; some herbal/green walnut light toasty/pungent licorice/blackberry/Syrah/boysenberry rather dusty/
    cocoa complex nose; very tart chalky/cocoa very pungent/licorice/blackberry/boysenberry/
    Syrah rather hard/tannic some toasty/oak/charred flavor; very long hard/tannic cocoa/
    licorice/blackberry/boysenberry/Syrah some charred/toasty/oak finish; still young & primary
    and needs 5-10 yrs yet; terrific big intense Syrah. $30.00
  11. TheOjaiVnyd Calif Syrah SpecialBttlg Lot E.H. RollRanch (8 brls; 15%) 1998: Very dark
    near black color; very intense blackberry/boysenberry/Syrah rather floral/violets/lilacs bit alcoholic almost Oz-like chocolaty/licorice/ripe nose; soft very big/rich/lush intense blackberry/boysenberry/ Syrah/framboise some toasty/charred/oak licorice flavor; very long soft/lush strongblackberry/ boysenberry/Syrah/framboise/very ripe bit alcoholic some charred/toasty/oak finish w/ light tannins; needs more age; very Oz-like in character. $55.00
  12. AlbanVnyd Seymour'sVnyd Syrah EdnaVlly (14.2%) 1999: Black color; very intense toasty/
    charred/Fr.oak intense boysenberry/blackberry/framboise/Syrah huge/lush ripe nose; tart huge/ rich/extracted intense boysenberry/blackberry/Syrah toasty/charred/oak structured flavor; very long very intense boysenberry/blackberry/Syrah/chocolaty/licorice charred/ toasty/oak/smokey/ pungent finish; needs many yrs, still a young pup; showing no signs of developed; terrific Syrah for its extraction & intensity. $80.00
  13. Carlisle SonomaCnty Syrah (15.8%; 125 cs) 1999: Black color; slight alcoholic/volatile some menthol very perfumed intense blackbery/boysenberry/Syrah slight charred/oak lovely intense nose; slight hot/alcoholic very intense boysenberry/blackberry/Syrah/licorice pungent/toasty/oak some charred/toasty/oak intense/extracted flavor; very long/lingering very intense blackberry/Syrah/ boysenberry slight toasty/oak bit licorice/chocolate/cocoa finish w/ ample tannins; still a youngster; needs much age; terrificCarlisle red. $39.00
  14. LesAphillanthes Mourvedre AC: Cotes du Rhone (MeBaD; 14.5%) 2003: Very dark color w/
    slight bricking; strong grapey/blackberry/plummy/licorice/boysenberry/Syrah-like some toasty/oak bit plummy/black cherry/perfumed nose; soft/ripe blackberry/boysenberry/ripe/ licorice/plummy/grapey some toasty/Fr.oak bit earthy/rough/rustic flavor; very long ripe/plummy/licorice/boysenberry some toasty/charred/oak finish w/some tannins; needs another yr or two.
  15. And we finished off with a Chocolate/Chipotle Cheesecake and:
    Jaffurs Syrah LateHrvst SantaBarbaraCnty (16.2%; ParadiseVnyd; 240 cs; SaH: 35%) 2005:
    Black saturated color; very intense grapey/late harvesty/boysenberry/framboise bit hot/
    alcoholic nose; fairly sweet very rich/lush/intense boysenberry/framboise/liquer some tannic flavor; very long very intense/grapey/boysenberry/chocolaty rather sweet finish w/ some tannins; huge late harvest wine; will be intereesting to see how this thing evolves. $28.50/hlf

And the usual stuff from TheBloodyPulpit:

1. Truchard: TonyTruchard was probably about the first one to plant Syrah in the Carneros, now one of the recognized great sources of cold-climate Syrah in Calif. His first was in the early '90's sometime. Somewhere after the first few vintages, they started to develop a bad brett problem in their Syrah and I gave up on them. This '97 showed no signs of brett. I need to start revisiting his Syrahs.
2. Qupe: The Qupe CC Syrah has long been one of my favorite cheepies. In the mid-'90's,
Bob started blending in a little old-vine Zin and Carignane to keep the cost manageable.
This is probably one of those early ones. It spoke little of Syrah and reminded me more of an old Zin than anything. Since the late '90's, the CC Syrah is indeed all CC, mostly from SantaBarbara and some from Paso, as I recall Bob telling me. I've followed the QupeSyrah from the very start, the '82 from EstrellaRiver grapes. They don't get a lot of buzz around here but they are, yr in and yr out one of the consistently fine Syrahs in Calif. It's not about power & extraction, but all about balance & complexity. And they age mighty fine, as well. Truly BobLindquist is one of Calif's great winemakers. I can hardly wait to try his Estate wines from the EdnaVlly, right across the road from JohnAlban. They'll be different as night & day.
3. EdStJohn: These were an interesting collection of Steve's Syrahs. I was struck by how much Rhonish character they showed. Some critics ridicule his efforts and assert that if you're
going to make Rhonish-style wines, you should be making them in the RhoneVlly. Sometimes
famed critics are wrong. I particularly liked the Fenaughty. It spoke strongly of ElDoradoCnty, yet also of Syrah w/ a rather Rhonish brogue and quite perfumed. The Durell I don't recall being so lean & acid. This used to be Steve's top Syrah, but they had to replant due to phylloxera and the grapes all go to K-J I believe. The Parmalee-Hill seemed to be in a rather weird state and couldn't decide if I really liked it or just was taken by its eccentricity. His latest P-H reminds me a lot of his early Durells. Anyway...one of my favorite Syrah producers...but what the heck would I know??
4. Ojai: I've followed Adam Tolmach's wines from the very start, the '82 from EstrellaRiver
grapes. He started making his wines in the old dairy barn on the LosAlamosVnyds property,
where MaryVigorossa (at 90+ yrs of age) was making the LosAlamos wines, as was BobLindquist and JimClendenen. I started sending him my notes and comments way back from the first. No response (BobLindquist refers to Adam as the anti-marketing winemaker). Same story for some 5-6 yrs thereafter. Finally a terse postcard showed up in the mail thanking me
for my comments on his wines. Holy cow...Adam's not a JacquesReynaud after all. I first
met Adam in the flesh & blood at a WineCask Futures tasting and arranged a visit to the
wnry in Ojai about a yr later. Its been a great run over the yrs as I've watched his two
boys grow up...neat kids they be. The RollRanch Syrah tends to be my least favorite of Adam's Syrahs. Ojai is a pretty warm growing area and the wines often seem to lack the structure of his other efforts. So I was surprised how much I liked this bttlg as I didn't think it
would age very well. The E.H stands for Estrella (clone) Hillside as I recall the story.
5. Alban: I've followed JohnAlban's wines from the very start when he first showed them at the Taste of Vail Festival. On release, they can sometimes be rather reduced and show a
stinky/sewer gas stench. But that usually goes away w/ a few yrs in the btl. Thank you
reductive chemistry for all you do for John's wines. One of the things I particularly like about John's wines (in addition to the intensity) is their high acidity, despite very ripe levels of sugar. Stunning wines they are.
6. Carlisle: I've followed MikeOfficer's wines from [b]before[/b] the very start..back when
he was a home winemaker in his garage. This Syrah was, to my recollection, his first Syrah.
Not sure the source of the grapes...probably Teldeschi. This wine seemed to be showing
the alcohol, but not unpleasantly so...there but it didn't burn. I like his Syrahs quite a lot..but they are a bit out of the mainstream of Calif Syrah to my taste. Though they speak of Syrah, they also speak a lot of Carlisle as well; that unique style Mike's wines all show. The are very big & ripe, but they have a structure that you don't often get in wines of that alcohol level. Not to everyone's taste, perhaps, but certainly to my taste they are.
7. Aphillanthes: This was Brad's mystery wine. Though I got some of the plummy/licorice
character I associate w/ Mourvedre; I though sure it was another very ripe Calif Syrah from
its style. Jeez...if they want to make CORE Mourvedre in France, they should make it in Calif I say.


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