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Wine Over Time: Two Syrah from Olson Ogden

Wine Reviews
Written by Fred Swan
Tuesday, 20 October 2009 02:25

One of the pleasures in enjoying wine is seeing how a bottle changes over time. We usually think of this in the context of aging, buying several bottles of an age-worthy wine and trying one every year or so. However, a lot of wines change in interesting ways over the course of a just few hours as they aerate in your glass. One rarely sees any details on this in reviews of specific wines.

Reviews these days almost always provide you with a score these days. You’re also given a collection of adjectives that try to communicate the aromas, flavors and texture. In the majority of cases, these notes are based on quick tastes. Some reviewers taste as many as two hundred wines per day. How does this help you determine whether or not a wine will “come around” during dinner or die if decanted?

The most conscientious reviewers might taste a wine a second time on the following day. This gives the reviewer more time to think about the wine and the wine a chance to aerate. Plus, it’s a “safety check” that ensures the taster’s palate wasn’t “off” the first time. I’m sure that whenever you dine in a restaurant, you arrive a day in advance, taste the wine and then tell them to keep the open bottle so you can drink it tomorrow. No?

While these reviews are be helpful, they are incomplete. And they seem to ascribe consistency and predictability to wines that is not realistic. With that in mind, I will periodically do wine reviews in which I describe the wine as it is upon first opening but also increments of 15 minutes or so over a few hours (or more) as it sits in my glass. This essentially replicates the experience you might have with the wine during a leisurely dinner.


The first wines I’m reviewing in this fashion are the 2007 Olson Ogden Sonoma County/Napa County Syrah and the 2007 Olson Ogden Unti Vineyard Syrah. Except for rosés of Syrah and a few low-priced Australian Shiraz, my standard operating procedure with a newly released Syrah, regardless of region, is to put it in the cellar and forget about it for at least three years. Syrah can certainly be enjoyed younger than that but I believe it is usually better with some bottle age. So, while aeration/oxidation and anaerobic bottle aging are not at all the same, Syrah is certainly a better candidate for a “Wine Over Time” review than some other varietals. And, in this case, both bottles are review samples provided to me by the winery. Sitting on them for three years isn’t appropriate. Nor would such a delayed review be of much use to you. So let’s give them a try!

2007 Olson Ogden Sonoma County/Napa County Syrah

This wine sells for $28 and the label lists the alcohol at 14.8%.

6:40 PM I’ve poured the wine directly from the bottle into a Riedel Syrah glass and swirled it vigorously.

The color is dark ruby with a slightly lighter rim. It’s a clear (as opposed to cloudy) and leave thick legs on the side of the glass. It’s also very extracted and stains the sides of the glass.

The nose is clean and of about medium intensity. I get oak, spicy blackberry and black pepper.

In my mouth the wine has medium plus body and tannins with medium plus to high alcohol and medium acidity. The tannins seem to be mostly from oak, as they dominate the back of my palate. The wine has medium plus flavor intensity and a flavor of medium length. The primary flavor is juicy blackberry with a hint of coffee and espresso.

6:55 PM Retasting it now, the nose is moving to black cherry and the oak is receding.

The flavors are integrating and it’s hard to pick out individual items.

7:30 PM It now smells prettier with floral notes coming on. The flavor is still tight.

8:15 PM No change.

8:45 PM The black cherry aroma is back and there is still light wood.

Noon (day two) After the previous taste, I put a stopper in the bottle and left it on the counter overnight. The fill level was mid shoulder. Now, pouring some into a glass and checking the wine, it is just as it was when I left it at 8:45 the previous evening.

Noon (day three) Once again, I stoppered the bottle and left it. This time, I left it for a full day. The fill level was still above the shoulder. Now, the floral perfume aromas are back and there’s a ton of fruit on the palate

4PM (day four) After the same stoppering routine, clearly with a slightly lower fill level, I left the wine sit for an additional 28 hours. The wine is sporting a very fruity nose now with a bit of cedar in the background. There’s a lot of ripe, slightly leather cherry. There is still a strong floral aspect but it’s now reminiscent of week-old rose petals. The flavors are a bit tart while emphasizing canned plum and juicy prune. The wine still tastes a bit hot.

2007 Olson Ogden Unti Vineyard Syrah

This wine sells for $38 and the label lists the alcohol at 14.5%.

It appears exactly as its brother with a dark ruby core and a slightly lighter rim. It’s a clear, leaves thick legs on the side of the glass and stains the glass.

6:45 PM I’ve given this wine the same treatment as the other. The medium nose is clean with sweet oak, caramel, vanilla and candy-like dark fruit.

It’s a full bodied wine with medium plus to high alcohol. It seems slightly less tannic and more acidic than the other wine, but not by much in either case. It has generous flavor intensity and a medium plus finish. The flavors are blackberry, blackberry and blackberry.

6:55 PM The nose is receding now and the flavors are tightening up. I like the viscosity though.

7:30 PM The nose is starting to come back. It’s dark fruit and a dusty road. The flavor is also coming back but reamins tightly wound and hard to define. I do get spicy oak and blackberry with a lengthening finish.

8:15 PM No changes.

8:45 PM There’s more wood on the nose now with a quick whiff of caramel. The flavor is rich dark fruit. It’s a little tangy.

Noon (day two) This wine got the same stoppering treatment as its partner. No changes perceived.

Noon (day three) I’m getting more fruit on the nose now with less caramel.

4PM (day four) The wine still has a restrained dark fruit nose. The palate is more expressive though with a lot of dark cassis, blackberry and juicy prune plus a hint of plum. This wine also tastes a bit hot.

I think that these are both good wines and are priced appropriately for their region. For my personal taste, I’d like them to have come in with a bit less alcohol and extraction. That might have led to more delicacy and even greater complexity. However, they are both good representations of Syrah and the oak treatment was appropriate.

For me, the key selling point on the two county blend is the nose, especially the floral aspects. In contrast, the highlight of the Unti Vineyard wine is all of that rich black fruit on the palate.

Neither of these wines are timid and they will be best enjoyed with a meal. I’d like the first wine with roast lamb cooked rare with Middle Eastern spices and herbed couscous. If you’ve got a whole suckling pig cooking in the backyard, that’ll be just fine too. For the Until Vineyard wine, I’d go with something very rich, such as braised beef cheek or short rib. A grilled rib eye would also work, as would BBQ ribs (beef or pork but wet not dry), as long as the sauce isn’t too sweet or spicy.

Given how these wines presented out of the bottle and reacted to extended “countering,” I would absolutely let unopened bottles accrue two to three years of bottle age in an appropriately-cooled cellar before diving into them. If you prefer, or need, to drink them now, vigorous decanting is essential. I would want want to get to the “Day Four wine.”

About Olson Ogden:

The Russian River Valley-based Olson Ogden winery makes small lots of both appellation- and vineyard-specific Pinot Noir and Syrah. They focus carefully on vineyard selection and strive to make food-friendly wines. Winemaker Tim Olson worked for three years at Tonnellerie Nadalie, a French barrel company with offices in Calistoga. His in-depth experience there gives him a leg up on many winemakers when it comes to the selection and application of cooperage.

If you want to learn more about Olson Ogden, you can go to their website, friend them on Facebook, join their mailing list or read their TypePad blog.

This article is original to Copyright 2010 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

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1 Comment

John Ogden - Olson Ogden Wines

This has got to be the most helpful tasting note I have ever read.  To actually take the time and taste a wine over several days and at different points in the evening so you can really get a feel for what the wine is like...nice work!  Thanks for taking the time to review our (Olson Ogden Wines) wines!

Friday, October 30, 2009 - 05:32 PM