Wine Tasting Chronicles – Blind Syrah May 31st, 2021

Today’s theme was Syrah, a grape which has historically been a personal favorite of mine but currently one which I find myself buying and consuming less of each year. I cannot pinpoint the reason but the escalating prices of Northern Rhone wines, the lack of interesting Syrah based wines available in Florida compared to other grape varieties, and the cliché phrase of “my palate is evolving” are all contributing factors. Nonetheless, I was ecstatic to take part of todays tasting and get the opportunity to taste a lineup of Syrah wines blind. The rules were simple, bring 100% Syrah wines with the only exception being wines co-fermented with Viognier. Overall, the wines were great and typical of the grape and regions they originated from. The textbook regions of Saint Joseph and Barossa were well represented, and it still amazes me how evidently different the wines produced are even while using the same grape. There was one oddball region thrown in, but it stood up very well against the other wines. Below are the wines in order that we tasted blind.

1.      Bodegas Vegalfaro, Pago de Los Balagueses Vino de Pago 2016 – Starting off the tasting with a unique Syrah from the Spanish region Utiel-Requena. Los Balagueses is a “grand cru” vineyard classified as a Vino de Pago. Medium ruby in color with faint blackberry, fig, violet, and cedar notes. Medium + bodied with medium+ acid (later revealed vineyard is high altitude) and 14.5% alcohol. Moderately ripe fruit, lightly oaked and well-integrated, I called it New World but restrained. Surprised to see Spain on the reveal but happy as I knew we were in for a good lineup. We discussed how niche this type of wine was and how we would sell it. Consensus was to hand sell it at a Spanish restaurant as a value driven but high-quality option for those wanting to explore outside of Rioja and Ribero del Duero. Average USD $30

2.      Julien Cecillon, Saint Joseph Babylone 2016 – Medium ruby in color with lifted floral notes of violet, ripe black cherry intermixed with tarter less ripe blackberry, and black olive. Medium + body with medium acidity and 13.5% alcohol. This wine screamed out cool climate but not specifically Rhone. I called Central Coast due to the ripeness of the fruit and lack of earthiness in the wine. Average USD $40

3.      Rotie Cellars, Northern Blend 2016 – 95% Syrah and 5% Viognier which you can automatically detect from the lifted aroma intensity and dark color. Initially, I thought this was a bit reductive which Syrah is prone to but after tasting the wine I realized this wine came from the Rocks District of Milton Freewater and this was classic “Rock’s funk”. Black pepper, smoked meats, and dried black fruit. Full bodied and stemmy tannins, I suspect a significant portion of wine saw whole cluster fermentation. The weight, intensity, high alcohol, and ripeness were indicative of New World and the “Rock’s funk” placed us correctly in Washington. Average USD $55

4.      Qupe “Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard”, Sonnie’s Syrah 2011 – I had trouble with this wine as I didn’t pick up too much except black pepper and tannin. It felt like all the primary fruit had faded away and nothing tertiary developed. The rest of the group found more in this wine than me and enjoyed it. I was disappointed to see the reveal as this is a special single vineyard bottling from a top tier Central Coast producer. Average USD $54

5.      Domaine Monier ”Terre Balance” Saint Joseph 2013 – I brought this wine in magnum and it showed well. This cuvee is made from 33yr old biodynamically farmed vines planted on granite soils from a 1.11 ha vineyard. Violet, faint black cherry, black olive, savory, with a streak of minerality. 13% alcohol with medium+ acidity and a medium body. 2013 was very cool in Saint Joseph and I was worried this would show too lean but the brash acidity calmed down after air time and the body picked up weight. Majority of the group called it Saint Joseph as it was pretty textbook. Average USD $50

6.      Cristom, Estate Syrah Eola-Amity Hills 2009 – Unfortunately corked ☹

7.      Mollydooker, Velvet Glove Shiraz 2017 – Opaque purple in color with intense notes of chocolate, mocha, cedar, and black pepper. Main takeaway was the out of balance alcohol registering at 16.5%!!! I can’t wrap my head around this wine and I don’t see the market for it. At almost $200 USD a bottle I do not anticipate many buyers. Makes sense as this was gifted to the person who brought it. Like all the following wines this was easily called Aussie Shiraz by the entire group. Average USD $197

8.      Torbreck “The Factor” 2016 – Opaque purple in color with dark plum, blackberry, dark chocolate, and coffee notes. Very concentrated and intense fruit profile with supple fleshy tannins. Much better example of Aussie Shiraz than the Velvet Glove but the high alcohol still remains distracting at 15%. Average USD $92

9.      Torbreck ‘The Descendant” 2013– Opaque purple with more floral notes than the previous wine. Makes sense due to about 8% viognier being co-fermented… Purple flowers such as violet and lavender, jammy blackberry and a lot of pepper. No interesting tertiary flavor developments but you can tell as this wine matured it shed its baby fat and the oak, tannin, and alcohol (15.5%) have integrated nicely. Average USD $109

10.   Mollydooker “Miss Molly” 2017 Sparkling Shiraz – It’s not everyday you see a sparkling Shiraz and after this wine I see why… This is gimmicky at its best. Notes of chocolate whey protein powder on the nose. Prunes, chocolate, and alcohol (15%) on the palate. Average USD $30

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