This wine floored us from the very first sip! Ancient Peaks sits in the Paso Robles appellation, 22 miles south of the city itself, and just 14 miles from the Pacific Ocean. Here, the surrounding peaks of the Santa Lucia Mountain Range act as a gateway between one region to the south that is exceedingly ocean-cooled, and another to the north that is much, much warmer (sometimes downright hot!). When the days heat up in the areas north and east of Margarita Vineyard, the air rises to create a vacuum that pulls marine breezes and fog inland over the peaks, and right through the vineyard. This means the fruit gets ripe, without any "off" flavors, yet the cooling afternoon breezes help the resulting wine to retain freshness and acidity.
The Renegade is a blend of 32% Syrah, 25% Zinfandel, 20% Malbec, 19% Petit Verdot, and 4% Petite Sirah, the wine is loaded with deep berry aromas that reveal accents of toasty oak, baking spice, cedar and tobacco. The texture is broad and velvety, offering concentrated flavors of boysenberry, blueberry, black cherry and cocoa that are powerfully framed by savory notes of bacon fat and pepper. Plush tannins and lengthy fruit converge into a smooth, seamless finish.
ROBERT PARKER'S WINE ADVOCATE 90 POINTS - "The 2016 Syrah Tous les Jours sports a medium to deep garnet-purple color and leaps from the glass with vibrant raspberry coulis, black cherry and red currant notes with touches of baking spices and roses. The medium to full-bodied palate fills the mouth with spices and red and black fruits, framed by plush, rounded tannins and finishing on a peppery note. This is so different from the previous vintage of this wine and nicely done too!"
The focus of this two person operation is on small lot, single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Chardonnay, as well as several other varieties uncommon in Northern Californian vineyards. Sites are carefully chosen and are generally on the cooler end of the spectrum for the planted varieties. Collaboration with dedicated and passionate growers is paramount in the farming of these sites.
Duncan and Nathan grew up around winemaking in the Napa Valley. Nathan is a second generation cooper and personally builds all of the French oak barrels that are utilized in the ageing of all Arnot-Roberts wines. Over the years Duncan has worked making wine in the Napa Valley in wineries like, Caymus, Groth, Acacia, Kongsgaard. Total production of Arnot-Roberts is around 2,000 cases per year with thirteen individual wines.
ANTONIO GALLONI 93 POINTS - "Duncan Arnot describes 2017 as a year with a longer growing season than 2016, which goes to show how different the growing season was in Sonoma relative to Napa Valley, which so often tends to dominate the discussion of California wines. In tasting, the 2017s here all show terrific energy and complexity. Moreover, the combination of intense summer heat and the cooler sites Arnot and Nathan Roberts favor, yielded a set of positively stunning wines. The 2017 Syrahs in particular are off the charts."
"The 2017 Syrah (Sonoma Coast) is a gorgeous wine and a huge overachiever in its peer group. Bright red cherry and plum fruit, rose petal, lavender and spice abound in this super-expressive, pliant Syrah. The purity of the flavors is simply remarkable. Medium in body, gracious and beautifully perfumed, the 2017 is a rock-star wine."
Born in Michoacan, Mexico, winemaker Edgar Torres has lived in the coastal town of Cambria, California since the age of 8. As it seems to happen to many people who live close to Paso Robles, he fell in love with wine and decided to make his livelihood in the wine business. Hey...can you blame him?!? He has worked with many of the superstars of the Central Coast, including Matt Garretson, Augie Hug and Alta Maria Vineyards. More recently, he has worked alongside one of our best friends, McPrice Myers over at Barrel 27 (what a mentor!), when Edgar isn't tinkering on his own wines.
Edgar makes wines that knock our socks off! The intensity of these wines are rivaled by few here in the United States and we suggest you check out what Edgar can do! El CabRhone is a play on words, as this is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (50%) and Rhone varietals (30% Grenache, 10% Syrah, and 10% Mourvedre). The wine offers a lovely blackberry and plum core which is surrounded by cinnamon and sweet applewood smoke notes, with orange-peel-candied-in-chocolate elements. Fine tannins and elegant acidity combine with the pure fruit and spices for a long, seamless finish. Only 145 cases were produced!
JEB DUNNUCK 96-98 POINTS - "Lastly, the 2017 Vertigo checks in as 63% Syrah, 30% Mourvedre, 4% Grenache, and the balance Petite Sirah that's still aging in 65% new French oak. One of the more voluptuous, sexy 2017s from Jenson, it boasts loads of black and blue fruits, ground pepper, and spring flower aromas and flavors. Deep, full-bodied, ultra-pure, and with a big finish, it's killer wine in the making."
JEB DUNNUCK 95-97 POINTS - "The purple-hued 2017 Fracture (100% Syrah aging in 65% new barrels) is another wine that shows a more fresh, elegant style, all while still packing rock star levels of fruit and texture. Cassis, vanilla bean, spice, and background oak notes all emerge from this full-bodied Syrah that has a clean, balanced texture, terrific mid-palate depth, and fabulous tannin quality. It's going to benefit from just short-term cellaring and cruise for a decade."
Brassfield's Volcano Ridge Vineyard is located on the steep slopes of an extinct cinder cone at 2,200 feet above sea level on the eastern end of High Valley. The pure volcanic soils are ideal for vine stress, restricting crop yields, and making wine that has both intensity and elegance.
A blend of 53% Malbec, 16% Syrah, 15% Zinfandel, 9% Petite Sirah, and 7% Mourvedre, .Syrah, Malbec, Mourvedre, and Petite Sirah, this wine is brimming with rich blackberry, raspberry, and plum notes. Ripe fruit reminiscent of blueberry pie is balanced by an underpinning of baking spices. The thick composition of this blend is complemented by a core of volcanic tannins and is drawn out to a lengthy finish by subtle minerality. Currently accessible, but age worthy for at least a decade.
After graduating from Cal Poly SLO, winemaker Denise Shurtleff worked at a local winery as a lab tech during harvest, and was quickly introduced to the intensity and passion associated with fine winemaking. She worked all aspects at the winery, learning how each and every part of the winemaking process affects the final wine. The sustainably-farmed Tempusquet Vineyard in Santa Maria produces grapes of intense quality, and Denise knows just the methods needed to get the vineyard's best into the bottle.
ANTONIO GALLONI 94 POINTS - "The 2015 Syrah Tepusquet Vineyard is the most impressive wine in the range today. Powerful, dense and explosive, the 2015 pulses with both energy. An exotic melange of inky dark fruit, creme de cassis, lavender, black pepper and spice builds as this striking wine shows off its pedigree."
While many 2017s were picked earlier than their 2016 counterparts, this was one of the few exceptions where Carlisle picked later, despite lower yields. Twenty percent of the fruit was not destemmed to add structure and aromatics. After a five-day cold soak, the wine was fermented with two yeast strains that emphasize varietal character and mouthfeel. Twenty-five days on the skin. Pressed to all French oak, 24% new, and bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Tasting Note: Dark purple-ruby. A floral top note provided by the whole cluster complements aromas of macerated blackberries and roasted meat. Medium-full to full-bodied. While whole cluster can often add additional tannin to a wine, here it seems to have made the wine smoother, more harmonious. With exceptional balance, this wine will have a wide window of enjoyment.
ANTONIO GALLONI 92-95 POINTS - "The 2017 Syrah Papa's Block is dense, powerful and explosive. Blackberry jam, lavender, spice, menthol and game infuse the 2017 with tremendous character. The 20% whole stems add aromatic nuance, but are not especially apparent. Inky and deep, yet also quite nuanced, the Papa's is wonderfully complete, not to mention one of the highlights in this vast range of 2017s from Carlisle and Mike Officer."
ROBERT PARKER'S WINE ADVOCATE 99 POINTS - "The 2007 Syrah Armada Vineyard is simultaneously one of the most youthful wines in this tasting and also the most complete, unfurling in the glass with a savory bouquet of black truffle, bitter chocolate, cassis and other dark fruits. On the palate, the wine is both more expansive and more incisive than the 2008, its lavish, textural attack segueing into a deep, stony and layered mid-palate. The finish is sapid, even saline and very long. Aged in demi-muids, one of which is new, the 2007 finished up with 14.2% alcohol."
ROBERT PARKER'S WINE ADVOCATE 98 POINTS - "The 2007 Syrah Cailloux Vineyard might be the greatest vintage from this vineyard to date, although I think the '06 and '10 will be longer-lived. Seeing 4-6% Viognier and around 50-60% stems during fermentation, it's a blockbuster effort that exudes notions of iron, dried blood, pepper, Asian spice and sweet red and black fruits. Full-bodied, supple and sexy on the palate, it has extraordinary purity, a layered, full mid-palate and beautiful depth and tannic structure that comes through on the finish. It's far from unapproachable today, and I'd happily drink it anytime over the coming decade or more."
ROBERT PARKER'S WINE ADVOCATE 98 POINTS - "A cult of personality seems to have developed in Washington over the past couple of years. Whenever the name Christophe is mentioned, everyone immediately knows of whom you are talking. The man himself, Christophe Baron continues to find new and interesting things to do. His latest vineyard project is well underway on hillsides not far from his present location. His estate, just on the Oregon side of the Walla Walla AVA, consists of five small but distinct vineyards (41 acres in total – with more on the way). Syrah and the Bordeaux varietals are the principal focus but some of the finest parcels of Tempranillo and Grenache grown in the USA are on this estate. Unfortunately, there will be no more varietally bottled Viognier which will now be used only as a blending grape. The vineyards are farmed biodynamically and much of the estate is planted on rootstock to prepare for the day when phylloxera works its way through Walla Walla. The wines are all fermented with indigenous yeasts and bottled unfined and unfiltered."
"The 2007 Syrah En Cerise Vineyard (100%) is a glass-coating opaque purple color. On the nose espresso, smoked meat, olives, and garrigue-like aromas offer much to contemplate. Intense, balanced, and subtly elegant, it boasts a finish that just won't quit. It delivers impressive immediate gratification, but those who can wait for 5-7 years will be well rewarded."
With the summer sun making (heat) waves and the June gloom hopefully gone, it's time to focus on refreshing wines for the warm season. Of course, we're leading with this amazing Rose from Washington State, part of a collaboration between Charles Smith (K Vintners, Charles Smith Wines) and Charles Bieler (Three Thieves, BIEL-ER Pere et Fils & Gotham Project). Made from 71% Syrah, 17% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Mourvedre, 4% Gre-nache, 2% Counoise and 1% Cinsault, the sum of these parts makes for a beautiful, thirst-quenching wine with great underlying acidity; in other words, the perfect wine to feature for July (and the stylized American flag label certainly is apropos!).
To ensure minimal color or tannin pick up from the moment the fruit is harvested until it arrives at the winery, they pick almost exclusively at night. Once in the winery, each tank is treated a little differently to ensure each has its own unique perspective so that when it's blended together they have the most complex and multi layered Rose they can. While utilizing a mix of different yeasts, they have been loving the depth and character that native fermentations are giving so over half are now native. The resulting wine has both cut and generosity, lift and energy, and we are loving it! As always, the balance between the acidity at the finish and the savory, citrus and tangy cherry are the dominant features.
The nose leads with lush fruits, watermelon, peach and mixed orchard fruit punch finishing with a touch of salinity, hints of apple and rose petal. The mouthfeel is lush and rich with beautiful sweet fruits dancing across the tongue. Watermelon, strawberry cream and white peach lead to plum punch and a touch of créme fraîche. Excellent acidity keeps the wine lively and uplifted on the palate. The finish is clean, rounded and refreshing-- reiterating sweet spring fruits that last and last. Stock up on this one for summer! Perfect for Independence Day par-ties and beyond.
ROBERT PARKER'S WINE ADVOCATE 98 POINTS - "These latest releases from Charles Smith check in at the top of the pyramid and are flat out incredible wines that I wish every reader could taste."
"A candidate for the wine of the vintage, the 2013 Syrah Royal City is as expansive, sexy and voluptuous as they get in the vintage, hands down. It's deep ruby/purple color is followed by incredible notes of wild herbs, lavender, gamey meats, olive paste and sweet dark berry fruits. Full-bodied, relatively forward and charming, it still packs a wealth of material and has building tannin, all suggesting it will drink nicely for 10-15 years."
A blend of 52% Syrah, 21% Grenache, 12% Petite Sirah, 8% Tannat, and 7% Mourvedre, the life of the party has just arrived and is setting up shop in your mouth. It's approachable, as all good party guests should be, with lively flavors of blackberries, cherries and strawberries to get things started. And this Paso red blend knows how to mingle, introducing milk chocolate, caramel and leather to all those beautiful fruits. It's going to be an interesting night.
Planted in 1999, Denner Vineyards is a winegrowing estate on the far western border of the Paso Robles AVA. Their 156 acres press up against the Santa Lucia Range, giving the site great diversity of elevation, aspect and soil. Previously dry farmed barley, the estate is nestled into the Templeton Gap, an East/West corridor where the marine layer can reach the inland valleys. As a result they receive large diurnal temperature swings without high moisture pressure, giving us a near perfect growing climate.
The 108 acres under vine are comprised of 19 different varieties in 26 unique blocks. Each block is farmed with painstaking attention to detail, allowing only for the best possible grapes to reach the winery. Aron Nevarez, their vineyard manager, is committed to environmentally friendly farming practices, using only sustainable inputs and minimal irrigation.
The "Dirt Worshipper" is a blend of 97% Syrah, 2% Roussanne, and 1% Viognier. An explosion of violets, black olives, plums, white pepper, and forest floor are a stunning introduction to this hedonistic beast. Flavors of seared ribeye, menthol, rolling tobacco, and blueberry dance around on the visceral palate. The mid-palate offers profound depth and power, but brightens as it evolves into a graceful and extraordinarily long finish.
Seven is Dragonette's Syrah-based blend, originally named for the seven exceptional cool climate vineyard sites from which it was comprised. They have refined their vineyard sources for this wine over the years, selecting precise blocks and clones to increase aromatic and flavor complexity, rather than sheer fruit power. The 2016 Seven is comprised of 89% Syrah, 10% Grenache and 1% Viognier. The wine is sourced from John Sebastiano Vineyard (54%) Stolpman Vineyard (30%), Kimsey (8%) and Spear (8%). The wine was aged in French oak barrels and puncheons (10% new) for 18 months before blending and bottling.
We are thrilled with the performance of this wine, as it is already beginning to show off explosive, complex aromatics (red, blue and black fruits, spices and meats), a rich, yet lifted palate, smooth texture and a scintillatingly long finish for such a young wine. We expect this wine to continue to develop over the coming years and to last for well over a decade. Limited. Only 575 cases produced.
JEB DUNNUCK 94 POINTS - "There are three Syrahs from Smith. His 2017 Syrah Wild Mountainside comes from a handful of sites in the Russian River and spent 15 months in a mix of one-third new French oak, 20% amphora, and the balance in used barrels. This rocking effort offers classic cool-climate notes of blue fruits, violets, ground pepper, and game. With medium to full body, beautiful tannins, and a seamless texture, it's going to keep for over a decade."
The Eric Kent Russian River Valley Syrah of the past few years has proudly grown into their newest vineyard-designated wine! Atoosa's Vineyard now brings its own distinctive expression of Syrah to the EK line-up. Located on the cool southern edge of the Russian River Valley, the superb fruit from this the late-ripening spot has been adding a vital element to their Kalen's and formed the core of their Russian River Valley Syrah since 2012. With the nexus of experience, true partnership with a great grower, and the excellent 2015 vintage, it's time to let Atoosa's shine all on its own.
Atoosa's is a pure expression of the mysterious, animal side of the grape. Loads of black fruit, with hints of pepper, flowers, tar and a touch of bramble from the whole-cluster fermentation. We hope you can cellar some to watch it evolve over the years and perhaps even the decades. If you must drink some sooner rather than later, give it a healthy decanting and pair it with some hearty fare, or enjoy an open bottle over several days to watch it unfold.
ANTONIO GALLONI 90 POINTS - "Fess Parker's 2017 Syrah (Santa Barbara County) is powerful and bold, with expressive savory and peppery notes that add striking shades of complexity. This is an especially rich, racy style. A touch of sweetness from American oak is a lovely accent to ripe dark cherry, plum, chocolate, licorice and grilled herb flavors."
This is an insane value from Curt Schalchlin; the owner and winemaker of SANS LIEGE. After several years learning from and working for some of the Central Coast's most sought-after producers, Curt decided to go his own way. The wines he puts under the Sans Liege label have received lofty praise from other winemakers and consumers, and his Groundwork label is on the way to becoming one of the better values in California's Central Coast!
For his Groundwork Syrah, Curt gets fruit from three phenomenal vineyards: White Hawk, Larner, Watch Hill, and Old Potrero. More often when you see single-vineyard wines from these properties, they will cost you $30-$45 per bottle. So you can already see what a value this wine is! Couple that with the fact that he ages the wine for 18 months in a mix of new and neutral French oak (again, something that you typically fine in pricier bottlings), and you will know why this is a knockout bargain!
The wine is redolent with grilled cherries, Swiss Tobacco, raspberry brambles, rare steak, grilled peaches, pumice, evergreen forest, strawberry hard candies, mocha, cherry cola, and hints of creosote (which Todd Johnston loves!).
Syrah is a perennial favorite at Halter Ranch, and their unique soil expresses a beautiful side of the grape varietal. This wine opens with aromas of blueberries and baking spices. The bright entry provides complex flavors of dried flowers, berry compote and a hint of earthiness, that leads to a long layered finish. This full-bodied wine will pair well with charcuterie and braised and grilled meats.
Hitching Post Wines are made by Frank Ostini, chef/owner of the Hitching Post II, and Gray Hartley, a former commercial fisherman. Starting in 1979 with one barrel in their garage, over the years they have made Hitching Post Wine at Au Bon Climat/Qupe, Central Coast Wine Services in Santa Maria, and now at the ultra-modern Terravant in Buellton. From humble beginnings to high tech, they continue to make traditional wines of balance and finesse that emphasis deep fruit, spice, and earthiness. Always focused on a wide selection of Pinot Noirs, Hartley and Ostini also make dry rose, Chardonnay, and other reds from Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Sangiovese.
ROBERT PARKER'S WINE ADVOCATE 98 POINTS - "The 2015 Syrah Sur Echalas Vineyard is just as striking as its Grenache sibling, unfurling with an equally complex nose of sweet cassis, beef blood, bitter cocoa, peony and violets, with notions of grilled meat and truffle emerging with time. On the palate, the wine is full-bodied and amazingly intense, with a deep and multidimensional core framed by remarkably satiny, layered tannins, concluding with a long, saline finish."
ROBERT PARKER'S WINE ADVOCATE 98 POINTS - "Of these three offerings from Horsepower, the 2015 Syrah The Tribe Vineyard will require the most time, as it's the most tight-knit at this early stage, slowly unwinding in the glass with savory aromas of raw cocoa, tapenade, nori and ripe blackberries. On the palate, it's full-bodied, deep and concentrated, with a rich chassis of satiny structuring tannins and a layered, umami-laden core of fruit. At 13.6% alcohol, it's also beautifully balanced."