Yesterday’s post was part one of my exploration of Syrah styles. The wines we talked about were decidedly New World, with big plush fruit flavors and tons of body. The wines we’re talking about today, show a different take on Syrah styled around a reserved Old World earthiness and composure. Both of the wines featured yesterday and today are well made, enjoyable examples of Syrah, but worlds apart in their interpretation of the varietal.
Wine #1: Cold Heaven 2004 “Second Sin” Syrah
Cold Heaven Cellars has to be one of the best kept secrets in Santa Barbara County. Pouring their wines out of an industrial building nowhere near the region’s famous vineyards, it’s extremely easy to miss them even when you’re looking for them, and probably near to impossible to accidentally stumble upon.
Not only are they a challenge to locate, their specialty wine is equally confusing to the uninitiated. That’s because Morgan Clendenen, the winemaker and founder, has chosen to devote herself almost exclusively to Viognier. Although this delicious white wine varietal has begun to increase in popularity and familiarity over recent years, to many it is an unknown grape from a place in France they’ve never heard of, with a name that’s hard to pronounce. All of these factors combine to make Cold Heaven a tough initial sale, but given the opportunity to show what these wines have to offer, they make it all worth the effort.
Cold Heaven’s Viognier is truly exceptional, and their offerings display a variety of unique terroir conditions from a number of different vineyards. I’ve wanted to talk about their Viogniers on the site for some time now, but that post will have to wait until another day. Today we’re talking about one of two distinct rarities I had the opportunity to try among their line, a seemingly out of place, and yet strangely appropriate Syrah (the other oddity in case you were wondering is an equally good Sauvignon Blanc.)
Although Syrah really isn’t the first wine that comes to my mind when I hear this winery’s name, Cold Heaven’s expertise in Viognier, another Rhone varietal, and their ability to craft their wines with a certain Old World connectivity and composure actually makes them the perfect candidates to take on a wine like Syrah. And I must say that the result is exactly what I had hoped it would be, all the elegance and integration of the Cold Heaven wines I know and love incorporated into a red wine.
The aroma is full of intense earthy tones, with manure, hay, and rich soil. Dark berry bush aromas balance against this at the wine’s core, with blackberries and raspberries showing through specifically with a spin in the glass. There is a very faint driftwood quality and just a hint of distant brush fire on the edges.
At first sip you immediately know that this is a nicely done wine. Deep, dark, forest berry tones, raw sugar, and a very dark, rich soil component, play with that same brush fire smoke detected on the nose. Black pepper, dried herbs, and dried forest berries show up toward, and into, the finish, giving an extra level of refined earthiness and a nice balance to the fruit. This is a pastoral wine, without the big jammy fruit of many New World Syrahs, and somewhat reminiscent of a Cotes du Rhone wine. It’s beautifully executed and very refined, easily…
Worth Trying. 91 points
Wine #2: Scott Cellars 2006 Santa Ynez Valley “Black Oak Vineyard” Syrah
Our next wine comes from a producer who I believe (by my experience with them) is nearly incapable of making anything but excellent wines. In addition to the Syrah we’re covering today, they also produce one of the creamiest, most beautifully balanced Pinot Gris you can find on the Central Coast, and a marvelously complex, fuller bodied Pinot Noir.
With a total production of under 1,000 cases, Scott Cellars focuses on quality over quantity. Like our first winery, the winemaker is also the founder, which I’ve found to be an almost definite assurance of quality.
This wine’s fruit comes from a single vineyard in Santa Ynez called Black Oak. Grown on only 10 acres of hillside, this vineyard’s fruit gives Scott Cellars just the material they need to craft a masterpiece.
The aroma is exciting, with very strong varietal identity and a complex layering of nuances. Charcoal and a grilled quality play off of a mix of wild cherry, vanilla bean, and black currant. A spin in the glass reveals very true tones of violets and red roses, with a combination of licorice, rubber, and just a hint of kitchen spices and sweet pipe tobacco. The nose on this wine alone nearly makes it worth trying.
It enters with sweet raspberry, and creamy tones of vanilla and violet. Toward the mid palate there is café au latte with raspberry syrup, with some interesting hints of pine, rubber, and black peppercorns. It ends with a touch of oak cask, blackberry preserves, and a nice woodsy, black stone and juniper quality. This is a beautifully executed wine, with exceptional smoothness, a velvety, full body, and gentle, pleasant and persistent tannins. Very nicely done and for the price, absolutely…
Worth Buying. 92 points.
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The Grapevine: What’s your all time favorite Syrah?