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NorCal Wine Blog

Chardonnay and Botrytis

Typically when we think of botrytis, it’s with respect to Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon or Chenin Blanc. When "noble rot" comes together with those grapes, the result can be some of the world’s very best dessert wines, including Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese, Sauternes and Quarts de Chaume. Chardonnay is less vulnerable to botrytis than those varieties, but it’s not impervious.

I spied noble rot hiding in scattered Chardonnay bunches while touring some vineyards just before harvest began this year. Fortunately, botrytized Chardonnay provides attractive flavors. And, since the amount of affected grapes in any one block or vineyard is typically quite low, the bunches with botrytis can be fermented with unaffected grapes and the resulting wine will still be dry and very much a typical Chardonnay. Some winemakers appreciate the added complexity botrytis provides. Others instruct pickers to leave afflicted bunches on the vine or simply remove them or  specific berries during sorting.

 Botrytis-on-Chardonnay-3
Botrytis on a Chardonnay bunch about two weeks before harvest.  Photo: Fred Swan, August 2013

Botrytis-on-Chardonnay-closeup
A magnification of the same botrytized Chardonnay bunch. Photo: Fred Swan, August 2013

While botrytized grapes make their way into both dry Chardonnay and traditional sparkling wines, some vintners do produce late-harvest Chardonnay dessert wines. The ones I’ve tried were quite sweet and full-bodied but retained plenty of acidity. Flavors included ripe apple, peach, nectarine, pineapple and spice, plus botrytis’ own signature notes. The most recent bottles I enjoyed were from Sonoma Coast Vineyards. I highly recommend those, but they’re not on the standard list of available wines so you’ll need to contact the winery for availability.

 

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2013 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

Brand Building in the Wine Business, It Ain’t Easy

A brand is a set of expectations. We think of McDonalds and Coca-Cola as brands, but those are just the names. The golden arches and red can with white script are the brands’ symbols. The real brands are the collected expectations those names and symbols represent. Whether you like the products or not, you know exactly what a Big Mac is, how McDonalds french fries differ from those of Wendy’s and can tell the difference between Coke and Pepsi in a blind tasting.

320px-McDonalds Times SquareMcDonalds and Coca-Cola are strong brands not because we recognize the name but because we know what they stand for. Decades of advertising and your personal experience with their extremely consistent products have almost literally etched their products into your brain. How many wine brands can you say that about?

Building a brand is difficult and expensive. It requires uniformity of products, seemingly endless repetition of messaging and many, many personal experiences with the product by each target consumer. This presents serious challenges for the wine industry.

The first problem is that the quality and character of wine is subject to change from year to year because of weather, harvest dates, increasing vine age, circumstances during fermentation and numerous other factors. Compounding that lack of constancy is the fact that wine changes as it ages in bottle. Consumers may drink it any time from the date of release to many years later. And then there’s the way serving temperature affects a wine. The only wineries that can achieve anything like the product consistency of a McDonalds or a Coca-Cola are those that produce at very high volume and don’t mind using additives—or at least blending multiple vintages as in Champagne— to build wine to a relatively simple and specific flavor profile.

Another issue is that fine wines often have complicated, multi-part names. In one hand we hold a McDonalds Big Mac sandwich. In the other we clutch a 2011 Wind Gap Chardonnay James Berry Vineyard Paso Robles. Which is easier to understand? The Big Mac is, or was, a cute but generic name. Today we know it to be just one thing, a two-patty, three-bun burger with cheese, shredded lettuce and special sauce.

wind gap bottleshot whiteBut the wine’s name is full of variables. You can tell Wind Gap is the winery name and you may be aware they make small-production wines of individual character and high-quality.

Next we see “Chardonnay.” Okay, that’s easy. Most wine lovers know that Chardonnay is a white wine. Experienced sippers will know that Chardonnay is a dry wine... except when it’s a little bit sweet.

What else do we know about Chardonnay?

  • Chardonnay smells and tastes like lemon or green apple or yellow apple or pear or peach of varying degrees of ripeness. And it can have accents of chalk or limestone, lemon curd or cheese rind, baking spice or flowers...
  • Chardonnay is fermented with native or commercial yeast
  • Chardonnay undergoes malolactic fermentation making it round and buttery or partial malolactic fermentation making it a little crisp, a little smooth and not very buttery or no malolactic fermentation keeping it very crisp and medium-bodied.
  • Chardonnay is fermented in oak, stainless steel or, very rarely, concrete.
  • Chardonnay is aged in new oak, probably French, or aged in neutral oak or it’s not aged at all.

So far so good? We also know 2011 was the vintage and have heard it was a cool year. But then the grapes came from Paso Robles which we know to be warm. So that means...? And wait, isn’t Paso Robles best-known for Cabernet Sauvignon? No worries! It’s from the James Berry Vineyard which is kind of famous. Um... for Syrah.

Please allow me a brief aside. Lately it’s been fashionable to bash tasting notes and call them unnecessary. If, after simply reading the name of this wine— that was made from America’s most popular grape by a famous, small winery from a vineyard that has produced 100-point wines in an AVA that’s one of the United States’ best-known—you can honestly say you know what that wine is like, then you’ve either tasted the wine before or your name is Larry Stone. For everyone else, here’s my tasting note which is way better than nothing.

2011 Wind Gap Chardonnay James Berry Vineyard Paso Robles
The grapes came from the vineyard’s last remaining block of Chardonnay (own-rooted, 50-year old vines of Wente clone). The juice was fermented with native yeast in concrete and stainless steel tanks, then aged 12 months in neutral French oak barrels. The wine is medium to medium-plus in body with matching acidity and light-grained texture. The nose is controlled but expressive, the palate even more forthcoming. Aromas and flavors of yellow apple are embellished with notes of baking spice, apple blossom and dusty soil. Highly Recommended.

So, back to branding. The complexity of wine makes it very difficult. That is true whether we’re talking about a single bottle of wine, a winery producing many different wines or even a growing region.

If you’re trying to build recognition for an AVA, you have to educate consumers on it’s character. That character is determined at minimum by its climate, topography, soils and principal varieties, plus the quality and style of its wineries. There is also a danger that the region will be overshadowed by individual producers or the grape varieties.

French wines are labeled by region rather than variety. That’s great at building awareness for the region, perhaps too good. I can’t tell you how many Americans I meet who think Burgundy is a grape variety.

Here in California we tend to label varietally. I’m convinced this straightforward approach helps the average consumer. It doesn’t help regions though. As with the wine above, our eyes go first to the winery and then to the grape. People often stop reading at that point, especially if the producer is recognized and the variety something common like Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc.

So how do you go about building the brand for a region? Next week I’ll tell you about one winery’s attempt to do exactly that. It’s a cool, if quixotic, project.

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2013 NorCal Wine. Photo of McDonalds in Times Square by Sallicio. McDonalds and the golden arches are registered trademarks of McDonalds. All rights reserved.

The New Minerality: An Evolution in California Wine

Minerality is not a hallmark of California wines, nor New World wines in general. When expert tasters find overt minerality in a wine they are trying to identify blind, they narrow their focus to Europe. But, more and more, I’m perceiving minerality in California wines. Why is that?

First, here’s what I mean by “minerality.” It’s a flavor decidedly unlike fruit, spice or wood. The taste may be of salt water, chalk, gravel or metal. It can be a little bitter. It might smell like chalk dust, wet rocks, etc. Minerality of this nature is more common in white wines than red.

Where does minerality in wine come from? That’s a hotly debated topic. Though some people believe it to be true, we can be quite certain wine does not taste chalky because a whole bunch of chalky soil is dissolved, sucked up through vines’ roots and captured in the grapes. The mineral content of a soil does impact a wine’s flavors, but that’s because differing levels of potassium, magnesium, sulfur, calcium, iron and other minerals effect the way a vine grows and how the berries ripen. Grapes do contain trace amounts of various minerals but not enough iron, for example, to make a wine taste ferrous. If chalky soil ever makes its wine taste like chalk, it’s because dust stirred up in the vineyard by vehicles and wind can settle on the grapes and find its way into the fermentation tank.

Why do European wines generally taste more like mineral? Europe has limestone and slate, but so do we. France has Chardonnay, we have Chardonnay. Italian tractors probably don’t kick up any more dust than ours do.

I suspect the molecules that create a sense of minerality exist in many wines from both regions, but their aromas and flavors are subtle, easily overwhelmed by stronger ones. Ripe fruit, sweetness, high alcohol, strong spice, oak and oak-derived flavors can be much more potent. Relative strength aside, sweetness and fruit also work to balance bitter flavors. It’s also possible that a few of the flavors call mineral are actually signatures of a certain state of ripeness that disappear when grapes hang longer or get more sun.

White wines tend to have less strongly flavored fruit and oak than reds, hence minerality is more often detected in white wine. European vineyards usually don’t ripen as fully as those here and their table wines usually have less decadent fruit, residual sugar, alcohol and oak than their Californian counterparts.

But California wineries are increasingly producing lean, site-driven wines. Winemakers seek out interesting cool-climate vineyards or simply pick at lower brix because the riper fruit gets the less distinctive it is. Heavy use of new oak, especially in white wines, is declining too. That’s partly because oak masks terroir but also because French oak barrels have gotten extremely expensive.

Neutral oak and concrete tanks are fashionable now. Both expose more minerality than stainless steel. Oak and concrete allow some oxygen transfer thus preserving less dynamic, fresh fruit than air-tight stainless tanks.

The relative lack of minerality in Californian wine used to be ascribed to a variety of factors that didn’t make a lot of sense but, barring evidence to the contrary, were hard to dismiss: general superiority of European vines and vineyards, deeper roots, lack of irrigation (even if their sites get more rain than ours), more characterful earth, etc. Now it appears we’ve had minerality all along. It was just hidden beneath layers of more obvious flavors.

Here’s a handful of the California wines I’ve tasted recently that clearly express minerality.

Happy-Canyon-White

2012 Jolie Laide Pinot Gris
Aromas of flowers, pear and subtle nectarine. Medium-plus body and lightly textured in the mouth. Flavors of lime, mineral, pear and green apple. Highly Recommended

2012 La Montagne Pinot Blanc Sierra Madre Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley
Lemon-lime, mineral, green apple, delicate flowers and a hint of white grapes on the nose and palate. Medium-bodied, lightly textured and slightly mouthwatering. Highly Recommended.

2011 Goodland Happy Canyon White (Sauvignon Blanc)
Aromas of lime, grapefruit, mineral and spice carrying through to the palate which also includes tart stonefruit and green apple. Medium-bodied with fine-grained texture and a lengthy finish of citrusy minerality. Highly Recommended.

2010 Thomas Fogarty Estate Chardonnay Langley Hill Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains
Flavors and aromas of smokey mineral, yellow apple, pear, cinnamon and other brown spices. Medium+ body and plenty of acidity. Somewhat savory and salty on the palate, especially throughout the long finish. Very Highly Recommended.

2012 Two Shepherds Grenache Blanc Saarloos Vineyard, Santa Ynez
Focused notes of white flowers, tangy stonefruit and spice lead into a juicy palate with medium-plus body. There’s a light texture, fine and powdery, plus persistent saline minerality. Highly Recommended.

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2013 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

Eight Good Books about California Wine

September is California Wine Month here in the golden state. It’s our annual reminder to do more than just enjoy a few glasses. We think about the significance of the wine industry locally, nationally and globally. We consider new trends, the latest sales and crush statistics, etc.

California Wine Month is also a good time to brush up on our knowledge regarding California wine. Like a nearby tourist attraction you’ve never actually visited yourself, it’s easy to take our local product, its producers and its growing regions for granted. They surround us, their ubiquity breeding nonchalance. Many Californian lovers of wine spend more time learning about the vineyards of France or Italy than those close to home.

So let’s crack a book this month or resolve to take a class. Here are eight of the many books on California wine I recommend.

American Wine: The Ultimate Companion to the Wines and Wineries of the United States by Jancis Robinson and Linda Murphy
Sonoma County-resident Linda Murphy, formerly wine editor for the San Francisco Chronicle, did the vast majority of research and writing for this invaluable resource. It’s billed as a book on American wine and is certainly that. However, 128 of its 279 pages of text, maps and photos are devoted to California. Books focused on individual regions in California will have more depth, but the breadth and meaty overviews make this one well worth the money.

A Companion to California Wine: An Encyclopedia of Wine and Winemaking from the Mission Period to the Present by Charles L. Sullivan
Sullivan’s encyclopedia is one of my favorite resources and the California wine book to which I most frequently turn for answers. If you want an amusing little challenge, try to think of people, wineries and vineyards that are important in California wine history but not found in this book. It’s not easy. 

The Finest Wines of California: A Regional Guide to the Best Producers and Their Wines (The World's Finest Wines) by Stephen Brook
There is always controversy with books such as these. Why is this producer included and not that one? Some people have complained that Screaming Eagle is not covered. I’m sure other people think the omission appropriate. Nonetheless Brook, a contributing editor at Decanter Magazine since 1996, does chronicle many very important California wineries. The final pages of the book provide excellent synopses, up to half a page each, of every California vintage from 1990 through 2009. As a both a writer and a collector of California wine I refer to it often.

The Wines of California (Faber Books on Wine) by Stephen Brook
This book was originally published in 1999 and there have been some updates. I like the original though, because it’s a snapshot of history—what California wines were like then and how they were perceived. Included in the 685 pages are profiles of 630 wineries, plus vineyards that were significant at that time, and more. Comparing those descriptions to the present day highlights the evolution of California wine. I find that both enlightening and useful. And, since you can get a used paperback (the book is out of print) for as little as 21 cents plus shipping, it’s an inexpensive pleasure.

New Classic Winemakers of California: Conversations with Steve Heimoff by Steve Heimoff
Heimoff spoke with a good number of important winemakers and published the transcripts. He’s divided the book into three sections based on which decade a winemaker came onto the scene: 1970’s, 1980’s or 1990’s. The style is casual and, of course, conversational. The reader will get to know the winemakers in a way that’s not normally possible without speaking to them in person. Having done so myself with many of these folks, I can tell you that their personalities, speech patterns, etc. are authentically represented. I can see and hear them speaking while I read the words.

A Vineyard in Napa by Doug Shafer, Andy Demsky and Danny Meyer
This is a personal account of the founding and development of Shafer Vineyards in Napa Valley's Stags Leap District. Shafer came to the valley as a high schooler in the 1970’s when his father moved the family from Chicago to get into the wine business. It’s a story about the growth of a premier winery, but also the growth of the industry and the evolution of Napa Valley.

Zin: The History And Mystery Of Zinfandel by David Darlington
This book was originally published as Angels’ Visits in 1991. Our knowledge about the genetic origin of Zinfandel has since grown and superseded that element of Darlington’s book. Wineries have come and gone too. Young winemakers have become... seasoned winemakers. Yet Zin is still an engaging read with interesting background on iconic wineries such as Ridge and Ravenswood. Enjoy it like you would old home movies.

Zinfandel: A History of a Grape and Its Wine (California Studies in Food and Culture) by Charles L. Sullivan
Charles Sullivan is a serious historian. His in-depth research leads to a less page-turny book than Zin but one that is rich with accurate and sometimes surprising detail. Here you’ll find the truth about Zinfandel’s origins, the role played by Agoston Haraszthy and more.

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2013 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

North Coast Rhone Rangers Build Momentum with Second Tasting

The Rhone Rangers North Coast Chapter is fairly new as an active group. The tasting they held on Tuesday was just their second. Despite that, the event was thoughtfully organized, a pleasure to attend and included a number of excellent wines.

It’s a little surprising to me that there hasn’t been an active chapter of Rhone Rangers until recently. Napa Valley, Sonoma County and Mendocino County all have excellent sites for growing Rhone-variety grapes. Some of California’s best come from those areas. Of course mindshare for varieties such as Syrah, Grenache, Viognier and Grenache Blanc, not to mention Marsanne, is still much lower than that of Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay or even Sauvignon Blanc. Which makes it all the more important for this to group thrive.

Tuesday’s North Coast Rhone Rangers tasting was held at the Napa Valley Museum in Yountville. The museum was an excellent venue—clean, quiet, temperature-controlled, easy to get to and just the right size. The fresh white walls and attractive art also brought an elegance usually missing for group tastings. That said, I hope that the group outgrows the facility soon.

Fifteen wineries poured at this tasting, a respectable number and a manageable size for attendees. I’d love to see three times that many producers participate. There are more than enough quality producers to make that an achievable goal. However, the chapter only has 34 members at present and just six from Napa. Come on, Napa...

The majority of the producers at this tasting were small. Of the wines poured, about 45, only five had case volumes above 500. Quite a few are below 200.

The tasting also confirmed a trend toward leaner, less syrupy Rhone-variety wines in northern California. Of all the wines poured, only one exceeded 15% alcohol and that just barely at 15.1%. More than half of the wines offered come in below 14% alcohol.

NorthCoast2
Map: Rhone Rangers North Coast Chapter

 Wines to Covet

I own way too much wine. This is only a problem in that I try very hard not to acquire any more these days. And sometimes I taste wines that I really, really want to buy. Here are the three wines that most made me regret having put myself on double-secret wine-buying probation.

William Allen made just half a barrel of the 2012 Two Shepherds Marsanne Russian River Valley. That’s very sad because it’s an absolutely beautiful wine. The people, probably club members, who get some are going to be very happy and I hope they are able to share with friends (or wine writers). The wine is floral but in a subtle, pretty way. There are hibiscus, peach blossom, marzipan and mineral on the nose and palate. Medium-plus body with satiny texture and a lengthy finish make it elegant yet satisfying in the mouth. $35, Highly Recommended+

My "rosé of the day award" goes to the 2012 Cornerstone Corallina Syrah Rosé Napa Valley, Stepping Stone. It’s flat out delicious. The generous aromas and flavors include guava, peach, strawberry and melon. It has medium-plus body and a silky glycerine feel in the mouth that literally made me come back for more. $20, Highly Recommended.

The red wine which most tempted me to feign temporary amnesia while whipping out a credit card was the 2007 Ridge Petite Sirah Dynamite Hill, Spring Mountain. Though a 2007, this is a current release for Ridge because... Petite Sirah. And, though a Spring Mountain Petite Sirah, it has ample acidity and just 13.7% alcohol because... Ridge. It was dark ruby in my glass with powerful aromas of black cherry, spice, tobacco and cedar. Whole berry fermentation and a few years of bottle age have resulted in moderate tannins with a lightly chalky texture and a Petite Sirah that can be enjoyed with our without food. $32, Highly Recommended.

Wineries to Watch

Kale Wines is the personal project of winemaker Kale Anderson and his wife, Ranko. Kale’s main gig is director of winemaking at Pahlmeyer Winery. Previously he worked at Cliff Lede and Terra Valentine and he interned at Colgin Estate. Ranko poured two wines on Tuesday. The 2009 and 2010 (just released) Syrah Alder Springs Vineyard, Spirit Rock. Both were very nice with excellent intensity and cool-climate Syrah typicity. [BTW, Kale is a Hawaiian moniker (Ka-le). He wasn’t named for the leafy green, so lettuce not hear any jokes about that.]

Petrichor is a great word. It refers to that aroma created by the first rain after a long dry spell. I love that smell and I was fond of the Petrichor Vineyards wines as well. They are small production (173 cases in 2010, 250 in 2011) blends of Syrah and Grenache made by Duncan Meyers of Arnot Roberts winery. The fruit comes from the Jim and Margaret Foley's estate vineyard, north of Santa Rosa. I tasted three vintages on Tuesday, each was unique and all were very good—balanced and attractively savory.

Highly Recommended Wines (and Recommended+), alphabetically by producer

2011 Cornerstone Cellars Napa Valley Syrah, Stepping Stone, $35
Flavors and aromas of black cherry, leather, black pepper, dry herb, cocoa and earth. Engaging and complex with moderate fine-grained tannins and the ability to improve for 5+ years in bottle.

2012 Cornerstone Cellars Corallina Syrah Rosé Napa Valley, Stepping Stone - see Wines to Covet above.

2010 Donelan Syrah Kobler Family Vineyard, Green Valley of Russian River Valley, $45
Lean but satisfying with savory complexity: black pepper, dark flowers, dried herb and blackberry. Medium-plus body and tannins of fine powder and chalk but—refreshingly—just 12.8% alcohol.

2010 Donelan Syrah Walker Vine Hill, Russian River Valley, $45
Yin to the Donelan Kobler Family’s yang. Ripe cherry richness, brown spice and leather reined in by moderate tannins of fine powder.

2009 Kale Syrah Alder Springs Vineyard-Spirit Rock, Mendocino County, $40
Loads of black fruit, especially black cherry, on the nose along with a grind of black pepper. Black cherry, pepper and cocoa nib on the palate of medium-plus body. Concentrated and lengthy.

2010 Kale Syrah Alder Springs Vineyard Spirit Rock, Mendocino County, $45
Cooler than 2009, the 2010 vintage tends to emphasize savory over sweet. The 2010 Kale Syrah leads with earth, leather and black pepper but there’s a backdrop of black fruit and spice. Just released this month, the wine rates Recommended+ now but a little time in bottle should bring even more goodness.

2009 Meyer Family Cellars Syrah Yorkville Highlands, $28
Game meat, sweet herb, red plum, red rope and oak are the aromas and flavors in this full-bodied wine with moderate alcohol (13.70%). Good length.

2009 Meyer Family Cellars Syrah Reserve “High Ground,” $40
The deluxe edition of Meyer’s Syrah is both darker and more savory. Earth, leather, black pepper and ripe dark fruit are mated with moderate tannins of fine powder.

2009 Petrichor Estate Les Trois Sonoma, $48
Okay, “Les Trois” is mildly confusing as this is a blend of just two grapes, Syrah and Grenache. Perhaps it refers to the triad of flavor, acidity and texture, because this wine’s got that covered. Petrichor’s inaugural release is juicy and medium-plus in body with tangy dark fruit, dry herb and spice. The tannins are moderate with the mouthfeel of fine powder and talc.

2010 Petrichor Estate Les Trois Sonoma, $48
Earthy dark fruit, spice, licorice and dry herb. Medium-plus, light-grained tannins suggest this wine has room to grow. Give it a year or two.

2011 Petrichor Estate Les Trois Sonoma, $TBD
There was some hesitation in pouring this fine for me as it’s at least eight months from release. They need not have worried though. It’s quite good, full of earthiness, spice, garrigue and black pepper. Something to look forward to.

2007 Ridge Petite Sirah Dynamite Hill Spring Mountain, $32 — see Wines to Covet above

2009 Ridge Syrah Grenache Dry Creek Valley, $32
A 50-50 blend with flavors of cherry, plum, oak and spice. Moderate tannins of light grain and talc. Try it with some tender, meaty ribs. (Recommended+)

2011 Stark Grenache Blanc Santa Ynez AVA (Saarloos Vineyard)
Some people buy Stark wines because they’re fans of the (rapdily dwindling) clan on Game of Thrones, or of Ironman. That’s cute, but the wines can stand on their own. Gentle aromas of pear, lime and white flowers. Medium+ body and a little juicy. (Recommended+)

2012 Two Shepherds Grenache Blanc Saarloos Vineyard, Santa Ynez, $35
Grenache Blanc essentially launched this brand and William Allen continues to set the bar for that variety. Focused notes of white flowers, tangy stonefruit and spice lead into a juicy palate with medium-plus body. There’s a light texture, fine and powdery, plus persistent saline minerality.

2012 Two Shepherds Marsanne Russian River Valley, $32 — see Wines to Covet above

2011 Two Shepherds Syrah Saralee’s Vineyard, Russian River Valley, $35
Syrah from the cool side: black pepper, dark cherries and garrigue. Body and tannins are medium to medium-plus with a fine, powdery texture.

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2013 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

Rhone