1. DavisFamily: I was first attracted to their wines for their OldVine Zin, which I liked quite
a bit. I've also had several of their Pinots that I liked as well. This was my first experience
with their Syrah. Alas, TCA taint pretty much gutted the '06 version, which I sense was a bigger
and better Syrah than the '05. Alas, they are now out of the '06. Based on the '05, I did not
find it sufficiently compelling to bother revisiting their Syrahs, unless the '07 shows up on the
shelves here in NM. The Zin I will buy if it appears here again. And they also make an OliveOil
from the SierraFoothills that is absolutely first rate. From a 1906 planting up in Loma Rica, CA
just north of Sacramento, who also sell their oil under the SylverleafFarms label. __________________________
2. D&G: I've followed Tracey & Jared Brandt's wines from the very start, probably based on KenZinn's
shilling of them some time ago. When I first met them at RhoneRangers several yrs ago, I was quite
struck by their enthusiasm and passion for what they were doing. Plus they were sourcing fruit from
some of my favorite vnyds up in ElDoradoCnty. I've since visited them at their wnry in lower
Berkeley, afore RhoneRangers last March. It was my first time to taste thru their entire tableau at
one fell swoop. I was impressed.
I particularly liked the Chard, from the ChaloneBenchland. It reminded me much of the Chalone
Chards of many a year ago. It's a better Chalone Chard than the current Chalone Chards, a property
that has been underperforming for some time now.
The Tamarindo was a very strange wine. I suspect I had a bad btl. When I first poured it, from the
fridge at a fairly cold temperature, it was markedly cloudy. At first, I suspected it was fermenting
in the btl; but there was no fizz/CO2 to suggest that. When I went back to the wine two hrs later,
now at room temperature; the wine was perfectly clear now. Never done see'd that before. I assume
the cloudiness was simply a protein haze, that is usually addressed by bentonite fining. More puzzling
was the almost total lack of aroma and flavors. The Roussanne fruit in this wine was totally beaten
down. Since the wine was screw-capped, it wouldn't have been TCA that robbed it of its fruit. I recall
really liking this wine back in March at the wnry. So will retry it soon.
Of the reds, the 4/13 was one of the better Rhone blends I've had this year. Of the Syrahs, the
Recluse was the easy favorite, closely followed by the Fenaughty. Both as good as Syrah as you can
find in Calif. The Mendocino is, I believe, mostly McDowellVllyVnyd Syrah grapes. With a little
from the PerliVnyd, up in the AndersonVlly I believe.
Overall, I'm pretty impressed by what Tracey & Jared are doing. Followed them from the very start;
I have/I have. They have access to some very interesting and terrific vnyds. They, along with
SteveEdmunds, are showing the world that ElDoradoCnty can make great wines. But we already knew that.
Anyway, a wnry to keep your eyes on, if you've not already. If you like SteveEdmunds wines, I think
you'll also like the D&G ones.
3. McDowellVllyVnyds: This central old-vine block of McDowellVllyVnyds is probably the oldest Syrah vnyd
in Calif. It would be interesting to know how the heck Syrah wound up in the UkiahVlly.
When BillyCrawford first started making wine under the McDowellVllyVnyd label, he only made Petite
Syrah. And a rather good one it was. Back about 1979. They were selling much of their grapes to other
wineries, who seemed to prefer this old block from the GibsonRanch. One block was planted on its own
roots in 1919. Another block was planted on StGeorge rootstock in 1948. The 1919 block fell to
phylloxera and was replanted in 1984. Since then, they've planted some ENTAV clones as well.
Their first winemaker was GeorgeBursick. He realized in the early '80's that the GibsonRanch was
something very special. About this time, LucieMorton identified this old block as Syrah, rather than
PetiteSirah. Later work by CaroleMeredith identified it as mostly Syrah, w/ interplantings of
Peloursin, Duriff, and Aubun.
So, in the early '80's, McDVV started to identify their wine as Syrah rather than PetiteSirah, as
the Rhone movement in Calif was starting to attract some attention amongst the cognesenti. Those early
Syrahs resembled more PetiteSirah, but I have little reason to doubt their authenticity. But, by the
late '80's, McDVV eventually got it right and started to make some of the best Syrahs being made in
Calif. This was their glory days, to be sure.
Alas...something happened along the way. Don't know if BillyCrawford lost his passion for the biz,
or what. But the last 6-8-10 vintages of McDVV Syrahs have been pretty unremarkable. Not bad, and
fairly priced...but not nearly as great a Syrah as these old vines should be producing. So sad.
And over the last few yrs, he has been selling some of his Syrah to a few other producers, including
D&G. Their wines have struck me as much better than the McDVV versions, yet not at the level of
greatness one would expct from these old-vine Syrahs. Not sure what the problem is, but McDVV Syrah
seems to be underchieving these days.
4. ElDoradoCnty: This is an area that seems to get no respect. Yet, I feel, it can produce some wines
every bit as good as anyplace in Calif. John&Barbara MacCready started it all off when the put in
their first Syrah in '79. Of the first great Calif Syrahs made in '82 (Ojai/Qupe/BonnyDoon..all from
EstrellaRiver Syrah grapes, and SierraVista), it was the SierraVista Syrah that stood the test of time
the best. The Cedarville Syrahs continue that tradition with very good/solid Syrahs. But the Syrahs
from EdmundsStJohn and D&G are every bit as great as any being made in Calif.
ElDorado terroir has a distinct earthy/mushroomy/dusty character that seems to work very well
with Rhone varieties; less so with Zin and Cabernet. It gives the wines a bit of a (Southern) Rhone
character that I find very interesting.