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2007 JC Cellars Syrah Ventana Vineyards, Arroyo Seco

JC Cellars’ 2007 Ventana Vineyards Syrah was the clear winner in a recent blind, panel tasting of Northern California Syrah I conducted. It combines aromas and flavors of Northern Rhone Syrah with the texture and richness of California. It’s also a lot of wine for just $30.

The source vineyard is in southern Monterey County, just south of the Santa Lucia Highlands but toward the northern extent of the Arroyo Seco AVA. Extremely deep sandy soil — which you’ll see a lot of driving near the town of Monterey on Highway 1 — are not just well-drained but phylloxera resistant. As a result, the Syrah is actually own-rooted.

This Syrah is opaque in the glass with a ruby hue. Its nose is savory and intriguing: black and white pepper, seared game and bay leaf. The full body, rich with fruit and some weight from alcohol, is framed by very fine chalky tannins. Dark berries peek through a velvet curtain of spiced meat, garrigue, five spice and mineral which lasts and lasts. Enjoy it with rosemary and garlic lamb chops or a grilled rib eye. Highly Recommended+.

2007 JC Cellars Syrah Ventana Vineyards, Arroyo Seco
wines-07VENT-0.0.250Rating: Highly Recommended+
Drink: now - 2015
Closure: Cork
Production: 129 cases
Retail Price: $30.00

Winemaker: Jeff Cohn
Origin: Ventana Vineyards, Arroyo Seco AVA, Monterey County
Blend: 100% Syrah
Alcohol: 15%

Service Recommendations
Decanting: Not required
Temperature: 58º - 62º F
Food Pairings: Lamb chops, lamb shank, leg of lamb, lamb shoulder...

The wine above was purchased for review.

 

Note: JC Cellars is doing some rebranding. They are creating an umbrella brand called Jeff Cohn Wines. Beneath that, JC Cellars will continue as a sub-brand offering single-vineyard, varietal wines. An additional sub-brand called Smoke & Mirrors is being created to offer high-quality blends at attractive prices.

wines-10_Smoke__Mirrors_Label-0.0.250

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on Facebook

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2012 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

2009 Stepping Stone by Cornerstone Syrah Napa Valley

Cornerstone’s Stepping Stone label is intended to offer wines that are ready to drink upon release but don't compromise regional and varietal typicity. The 2009 Stepping Stone by Cornerstone Syrah does exactly that. The wine includes Grenache (10%) from Red Hills but is really a showcase for Carneros AVA Syrah. Those grapes come from a north-facing slope with shallow soils of clay and volcanic rock in the respected Truchard Vineyard. The facing adds emphasis to the already cool-climate of Carneros, Napa Valley’s chilliest AVA.

The Carneros AVA is the coolest in Napa Valley. Morning fog creeps in from San Pablo Bay, blanketing vineyards. In the late afternoon, cold winds rush across the water bringing grape temperatures down, occasionally even curtailing development of sugars for the day. Farther north, some growers drop fruit to maximize ripeness. In Carneros dropping fruit is often necessary to reach the minimum level of acceptable ripeness. That said, Carneros is not as frigid as some areas of the Sonoma Coast so, while this wine bears the obvious hallmarks of cool-climate Syrah, there is also richness to the fruit and the tannins are fully ripe.

The 2009 Stepping Stone by Cornerstone Syrah has medium-plus intensity of color with a ruby-purple hue. It offers aromas of black and white pepper, blackberry, purple flowers and a suggestion of meaty smoke. Flavors match the scents but feature more focused fruit and somewhat less pepper. The palate is silky with medium-plus body and very fine, powdery tannins of moderate intensity. There is excellent balance between tannins, fruit, alcohol and acidity — the latter being sufficient to provide a slightly juicy finish. Highly Recommended.

2009 Stepping Stone by Cornerstone Syrah Napa Valley
09_Stepping_Stone_Syrah_photoRating: Highly Recommended

Drink: Now through 2016
Bottling Date: June 2, 2011
Closure: Cork
Production: 398 cases
Retail Price: $25.00

Winemaker: Jeff Keene
Blend: 90% Truchard Vineyard (Carneros AVA) Syrah, 10% Red Hills AVA (Lake County) Grenache
Origin: Napa Valley
Fermentation: Long (3 -4 weeks) and cool (~80 degrees) with gentle cap management

Aging: 18 months in French oak, 100% new

Alcohol: 14.25%

Service Recommendations
Decanting: Not required but give it 15 minutes of air in your glass
Temperature: 61º F
Food Pairing:  Try filet mignon or a braised lamb shank.

The wine above was received from the winery for review.

If you like Rhone-variety wines, don’t miss the upcoming Hospice du Rhone on April 27 & 28. For a taste of HdR, take a look at these articles too:
Looking Forward to Hospice du Rhone 2012
10 Big Wine Events to Look Forward to in Early 2012

Recap of Hospice du Rhone 2011 - Day One
Recap of Hospice du Rhone 2011 - Day Two

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 2012 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

rhone rangers panel cool climate north facing slope at Truchard, even less sun, will drop fruit to compensate, shallow clay and volcanic rock, goal is to have a wine that drinks easily upon release foggy morning, windy afternoon, limited heat spikes lavender, violet, blackberry, black pepper due to area 09 consistent growing season, long Indian Summer, wind shuts the vines down, maintaining acidity long, cool 80 degrees fermentation for freshness and silky tannins, 3 -4 weeks, gentle cap management to not over-extract climate 18 mos barrel

2009 Fisher Vineyards Syrah Hidden Terrace Vineyard Sonoma County

Fisher Vineyards’ Hidden Terrace Vineyard is part of their Sonoma County estate which is located on Spring Mountain benchland off of St. Helena Road. The winery is a good half mile or so from the main road and this particular vineyard is “hidden” even farther back. However, if you visit the winery, you can’t help but see the steep and rounded hill on which Syrah is planted in widely-spaced terraces

Hidden-Terrace-Vineyard
The dome-shaped Hidden Terrace Vineyard at Fisher Vineyards in Sonoma County. The soil has an unusual volcanic composition.

terraces-at-Fisher
From the side, you can see the steepness that necessitates hand-farming despite the wide spacing.

view-from-Fisher-Hidden-Terrace
Turning left from that vantage point shows the vineyards altitude and clear, western exposure.

The 2009 Fisher Vineyards Syrah Hidden Terrace Vineyard has the spirit of a Northern Rhone red but it’s own, terroir-driven personality. The body is on the generous side of moderate, as are the ripe, pleasantly chalky tannins. There is briary blackberry on the nose and chewy black fruit on the palate. That aside, the wine is savory: black pepper, black olives, garrigue and dusty trail. The 2009 Fisher Syrah is very good now, but will be even better with a few years of bottle age. If you drink it now, decanting may unlock additional flavor but is certainly not required. This Syrah will be a versatile food wine, but goes down well on its own. Drink now through 2020. Highly Recommended.

2009 Fisher Vineyards Syrah Hidden Terrace Vineyard Sonoma County
2009-fisher-syrahRating: Highly Recommended
Drink: Now through 2020
Bottling Date: July, 2011

Closure: Cork
Production: 190 cases
Retail Price: $65, available direct through the mailing list

Winemaker: Whitney Fisher
Blend: 100% Syrah
Origin: Hidden Terrace Vineyard (estate), Sonoma County
Fermentation: whole berry fermentation in new French oak barrels and open top tanks, bottled unfiltered
Aging: 21 months on primary lees in French oak barrels, 50% new
Alcohol: 14.1%

The wine above was purchased for review.

If you like Rhone-variety wines, don’t miss the upcoming Hospice du Rhone on April 27 & 28. For a taste of HdR, take a look at these articles too:
Looking Forward to Hospice du Rhone 2012
10 Big Wine Events to Look Forward to in Early 2012

Recap of Hospice du Rhone 2011 - Day One
Recap of Hospice du Rhone 2011 - Day Two

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. Photos by Fred Swan. Copyright 2012 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

2008 Von Holt Syrah Old Lakeville Vineyard Sonoma Coast

The Old Lakeville Vineyard, named for the highway that borders it, is subject to two major cooling influences. Morning fog creeps in from the San Pablo Bay just one mile to the south. In the evening, ocean breezes sweep across the vineyard, coming through the Petaluma Gap and over the bay. The Old Lakeville Vineyard and it’s neighbor across the street, the Griffin’s Lair Vineyard, are well-located for the growing of Syrah with leanings toward that of the Northern Rhone.

In keeping with the wines of that region, the 2008 Von Holt Syrah Old Lakeville is on the savory side. There are aromas of blueberry and blackberry in the ruby-purple wine, but they are the opposite of jammy and easily matched by notes of black pepper, leather, clove and allspice. Wood provides a subtle backdrop. The palate is medium-plus in body and flavor intensity with moderate, integrated tannins. The flavors are less spicy than the bouquet. There are blackberry and black licorice with undertones of dark chocolate. The finish is generous. No decanting is required. Highly Recommended.

2008 Von Holt Syrah Old Lakeville Vineyard Sonoma Coast
VonHoltOldLkSyrahFrontRating: Highly Recommended

Drink: Now through 2016
Bottling Date: August 24, 2010

Closure: Cork
Production: 75 cases
Retail Price: $30.00

Note: When I contacted Von Holt for fact checking, they let me know that the wine is available via the Von Holt online store and offered free shipping on this particular wine to my readers for one week from today. Note that I’m not compensated in any way for wine sales of any sort. Use discount code: NORCALWINE

Winemaker: John Fones
Blend: Syrah
Origin: Old Lakeville Vineyard (aka Fredrick Ranch Vineyard), Sonoma Coast
Harvest Date: September 27, 2008
Fermentation: 80% whole cluster with native yeast

Aging: 21 months in French oak barrels, 33% new

Alcohol: 14.3%

 

I have also reviewed the 2009 Von Holt Pinot Noir Suacci Vineyard.

If you like Rhone wines, don’t miss the upcoming Hospice du Rhone on April 27 & 28. For a taste of HdR, take a look at these articles:
10 Big Wine Events to Look Forward to in Early 2012

Recap of Hospice du Rhone 2011 - Day One

Recap of Hospice du Rhone 2011 - Day Two

The wine above was provided for review.

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 2012 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

2010 Alpha Omega Syrah Krupp Brothers Vineyard Napa Valley

Alpha Omega first opened the doors of their hip yet inviting Rutherford tasting room in 2006. Located on Hwy 29, just across the street from Grgich Hills, it’s become a very popular stop for both the wine and the ambience. One of the benefits of stopping in is the ability to pick up some of their limited releases which aren’t available online or at retail.

Alpha Omega is primarily focused on Bordeaux varietal wines, including bold reds, dry Sauvignon Blanc and a late harvest dessert wine made in the style of Sauternes with both Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. The flagship wine is Alpha Omega Era, a Cabernet Sauvignon that includes small amounts of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.

The Alpha Omega winemaker is Jean Hoefliger. He is a native of Switzerland whose past posts include Chateau Lynch-Bages in Bordeax, Meerlust in South Africa and Newton Vineyard in Napa Valley. Michel Rolland serves as consulting winemaker. They favor native yeast fermentations in open top barrels and strive for bold yet complex wines with with silky, approachable tannins. The Alpha Omega Syrah is of that style

The grapes came from the Krupp Brothers Vineyard on Atlas Peak. It lies between Stagecoach Vineyard and Soda Canyon Road. Krupp Brothers Vineyard is the newest of the Krupps’ vineyards and features deep, lava rich soils. Don’t confuse it with Krupp Vineyard which is their oldest and coolest. That one is planted to early-ripening varieties such as Merlot and Tempranillo.

I provide all this background partially out of guilt. The wine I’m about to discuss is very good, and it’s sold out. It was a limited release, sent to club members and then sold at the tasting room while supplies lasted. That’s where I got my bottle. Alpha Omega plans to make the wine every year though. If the description sounds good, you can join the club to ensure access to the 2011 or hope there’s enough left for the tasting room.

The 2010 Alpha Omega Syrah is dark ruby-purple in the glass with come hither aromas of leather, blackberry, plum, black pepper and coffee. The wine is nearly full-bodied with very fine, lightly chalky tannins. There is enough acidity to balance both the tannins and the rich flavors of dark chocolate mousse, leathera and blackberry liqueur. The finish is long and juicy. This wine’s like a book you just can’t put down. Drink now through 2016. There’s no reason to decant. Highly Recommended.

2010 Alpha Omega Syrah Krupp Brothers Vineyard Napa Valley
AOBlockLogoRating: Highly Recommended

Drink: Now through 2016
Release Date: November, 2011
Closure: Cork
Production: 350 cases
Retail Price: $68.00 (currently sold out)

Winemaker: Jean Hoefliger
Blend: 100% Syrah
Origin: Krupp Brothers Vineyard, Atlas Peak, Napa Valley
Fermentation: Natural yeast fermentation, 20% in barrel
Aging: 10 months in French oak, 70% new, 30% one-year old

Alcohol: 14.1%

The wine above was purchased for review.

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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 2012 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.