Domaine Durand 2012 Saint Joseph Les Coteaux and Domaine Durand 2012 Prémices Cornas: Recommended

Domaine Durand has been around since 1996 when two brothers teamed up to take over their father’s estate. Their St. Joseph comes from steep vineyards near the village of Chateaubourg. All the grapes are de-stemmed and macerate in concrete vats for a length of time decided by the quality of the vintage. Most of the wines are made with native yeasts and are aged for about a year in large oak casks and a smaller percentage aged in concrete. The Domaine is made up of two brothers: Eric and Joel. Most of their Cornas plantings (at least for the Prémices) are from the late 1990s, with a few dating back to 1994. Eric and Joel make their Syrah in a style that is meant to drink young, due to the fact that they are working with younger vines.

Durand st. joseph

2012 Domaine Durand Saint Joseph $30

Perfumed honeysuckle/rose/violet nose with hints of pepper and gravel. Pure, balanced, fresh on the mid palate with sweet plum, black pepper and good lift but not overly tannic on the finish. This is what St. Joseph should be, food friendly and not too in your face with the tannins. Just pure pleasure to drink but with enough complexity and energy to make it interesting. And the price isn’t bad either.

Durand Cornas

2012 Prémices Cornas $30

This wine was surprisingly open and full with beautiful sweet floral aromas. It also has that salted plum aroma that I can’t get enough of in cool-climate Syrah. There isn’t much savory on the nose but the fruit aromas are fresh smelling. I was also surprised by the richness on the palate and even got a hint of heat on the back end, with some rich oak mixed in. Not as tannic as I would have expected for a young Cornas. It’s a very enticing wine but perhaps a little too open and rich for my palate. I have to admit the bottle went pretty quickly though, so it’s hard to find anything to seriously complain about. I let this hang out on the counter overnight and it had more savory elements and the acidity seemed higher than the night before. It might be a good indication of where the wine is heading. It’s hard to conceive that a Cornas could be available for this modest price and I can only imagine it’s because the Cornas vines they are using are relatively young (for Cornas) so they aren’t charging the same that an older vine expert like Clape is. They also make the wine in a style that emphasizes fruit and is meant to drink young.

These are great wines that don’t break the bank. As I mentioned, these are not the rustic, classic styles of Northern Rhone Syrah that I generally like the most but they are delicious, fun wines to drink and more than accessible even at their young age.

Thanks again to my indispensable copy of John Livingston-Learmonth’s exhaustive text, The Wines of the Northern Rhone for helping me with this post.

Wine Blog Awards 2015


I’ve been nominated as a finalist for a Wine Blog Award in the category of Single Subject Wine Blog! For those of you who follow this space, I’d appreciate it if you’d head over to this survey and vote for me. It feels great to be recognized for what’s now over three years of blog posts about the variety that I love so much. Thanks so much and thanks for being a loyal reader all these years. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading these posts as much as I’ve enjoyed writing about the best cool-climate Syrah from around the world.

Here’s the survey link:

Thanks again!



Three Vintages of Halcón Alturas Syrah: Highly Recommended Cool-climate CA Syrah

halcon bottles

I’d been holding on to a 2011 Halcón Alturas Syrah while waiting to find a time to meet up with Paul Gordon, the owner, and when I was able to find a 2012, I decided to do a post on the different vintages. Paul and I met up and I was also able to taste the recently released 2013.

The 2011 really impressed me right out of the gate. There’s intriguing fig, pepper, brambly blackberry, cranberry aromas and something on the edge of herbal. This is a delicious-smelling wine, it just keeps you coming back for more. And it delivers on the palate too, good structure and energy on the mid-palate. Almost like biting into a fresh piece of fruit. The tannins on the finish are present but they’re approachable.

This wine reminds me a lot of the impressive 2009 Halcón Alturas I had, but I think I even like it more. It’s just a beautifully enticing, and delicious Syrah.

The 2012 is equally as pleasing, perhaps a bit more open and full but it still has a savory element, this time it reminds me of mushroom soup, and those enticing fruit aromas are there too with possibly a little more oak coming through at the moment.

Halcón Alturas’s 2013 wine is also delicious if not more than a little different in its aroma and textural character. This is the first year that the Halcón has used about 1/3 whole cluster on their Syrah and it’s given the wine a structure and ageability that may not have been there in its previous iterations. With vine age they’ve finally felt that they’ve started to get the first real lignification(maturation) of the stems which allowed them to consider using whole cluster.

With that structure and mouth feel comes a little bit of a downside in that the 2013 at the moment that I tasted it was less expressive and open than the other wines. I got a peppery spiciness mixed in with some brambly-bright blackberry and plum but the wine seemed a little reticent. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a spectacular wine, while not totally complete at the moment, that will develop into something even better with a little more age.

Of the wines so far, the 2011 version is probably my favorite but the 2012 and the 2009 are close seconds. I have a feeling that the 2013 will develop into something brilliant and I look forward to that progression.

I think there’s something special about Syrah grown in the Yorkville Highlands, it seems to be the perfect combination of cool and warm climate that produces Syrah with intensely aromatic qualities and full, round mid-palates. In my opinion,  are really making the wine with the right recipe, unfined, unfiltered, a little bit of new oak from large puncheons and, at least in the 2013, just the right amount of stem inclusion.

paul and jackie halcon

Paul and Jackie talking about whole cluster inclusion on the 2013. 

Paul Gordon and Jackie Bracey are the masterminds behind Halcón and the ones who decided to plant Syrah in such an unlikely place. Scott Shapley is the winemaker at the Roar facility which is situated in a rather mammoth warehouse in the Dogpatch neighborhood of San Francisco. Paul and Jackie have ideas to eventually move up to their vineyard in the next few years and will eventually take over the winemaking themselves.

The vineyard itself lies in the western edge of the Yorkville Highlands Wine Region which begins west of Cloverdale on the way to the Anderson Valley. Most of the wine in the area is, somewhat strangely, planted to Bordeaux varieties but it’s a spot where Syrah really shines, especially at the higher, sunnier (read: above the fog line) elevations. And at 2500 feet this is one of the higher elevation vineyards in all of California.

It’s a special place and one that deserves more attention for Syrah. I was lucky to be able to get a sense of how the wines are progressing through the vintages as the vineyard matures and I think I can say, without any reservation, that good things lie on the horizon for Halcón Vineyards and I’ll be there waiting for the next glass.

2011 Sol Rouge Syrah

Sol Rouge Syrah
My wife is the adventurous one.  I’m kind of the home body.  But, it was her birthday so after a delicious lunch at La Mar Cebicheria in San Francisco, when I mentioned that there were a few wineries out on Treasure Island I could see that gleam in her eye.  Yes, I knew we’d be stuck in traffic on the way home and I had planned on having a glass of wine in the back yard but traffic be damned, I decided to give in to adventure. My son was of course on board because, hey, there’s got to be some treasure on Treasure Island right?
The winery there that I’d heard of the most  was La Vie because they make a Las Madres Syrah.  Right away I was surprised by how much wine has become a part of what Treasure Island markets to tourists.  As you come off the exit and down the hill you’re greeted with a huge sign from Winery SF painted onto a warehouse facade.
The real surprise of the visit was Sol Rouge. I hadn’t heard of the winery but, after tasting the delicious wines at Vie, we took a chance and stopped next door at Sol Rouge.  I say chance, because I hate tasting at wineries that aren’t any good.  If they have Syrah, it’s always awkward when the pourers ask me what I think and I have to try to say something nice.  Thankfully that wasn’t the case at Sol Rouge, not by a long shot.  I took a bottle of Syrah home and enjoyed it immensely.
The 2011 Sol Rouge Syrah does have a little of that primary fruit California thing but it’s also really elegant and lithe on the palate.  On the nose, there’s plum, aromas of mushroom and good minerality and energy with just a touch of oak.  I get a bit of a savory, almost soy saucy aroma too.  That savoriness carries over to the mid palate and makes for a delicious wine that keeps you salivating for another glass. Beautiful acidity to match and a not-too hot-finish.  This is good stuff.  I’m so glad I gave in to a little unplanned adventure and stopped by Treasure Island and Sol Rouge.
Bryan Kane does the winemaking at Sol Rouge and this particular day his assistant winemaker Marc Ventre was pouring the wines.  Bryan is the mastermind behind a lot of the Treasure Island Wineries, both Winery SF and Vie are his projects.
The fruit from Sol Rouge comes from a steeply-sloped estate in the Red Hills appellation in Lake County that Bryan owns.  It’s all planted with a high-density protocol that Bryan believes minimizes grape cluster production on each vine, therefore concentrating flavors.
The 2011 Syrah was vinified in a hands-off style and aged in 20% new oak.
I enjoyed the other wines I tasted at Sol Rouge also, they have a mostly Rhone focus which is right up my alley.  They also sell wine by the glass and there’s even a bocce court.  It’s definitely a place we’ll head back to if the weather ever warms up again here in the Bay Area.

2013 Waxwing Santa Cruz Mountains Lester Family Vineyard Syrah

2013 Lester family Syrah better

The Lester Family Syrah is one of the more interesting cool-climate Syrahs I’ve encountered for this blog. I know it well, I’ve been helping out at Scott Sisemore’s little winery in San Carlos, CA for a couple of years now.

The 2012 Waxwing has an unmistakable aroma of green peppercorn on the nose which has made it something of a niche wine. I have the sense that it’s a wine that will integrate more over time so I’ve got a few bottles put away for safe-keeping. For the moment though, if you’re not a fan of green peppercorn, the Syrah can be seen as a tad too exotic.

With the 2013 vintage, for whatever reason, there’s less of that green peppercorn. It’s there but it’s couched in bitter chocolate and brambly black berry aromas. There are aromas of meat, too, and an intriguing bit of iodine in the background. The palate is full but light with a bit of a dusty, tobacco-y finish and the tannins are, right now, surprisingly approachable for a 2013 Syrah. This is good stuff and speaks to the potential of the Lester Family Vineyard to produce Syrah not just for wine geeks who like to #keepsyrahweird, but also for those just looking for a balanced and intriguing wine.

Scott has recently moved out of a shared winery space into a smaller dedicated warehouse for his winery and has by necessity adopted more of an old world method for making his wine. There simply isn’t room for the larger equipment he used when he shared space and costs with other winemakers. All the wines are now crushed by foot and they’re all 100% whole cluster. To me, all this makes for compelling wines.

The Lester Family Vineyard is located just behind the town of Corralitos south of Santa Cruz. The area has become known for Pinot but, as is the case with many of the cooler-climate growing areas in California, there’s great Syrah to be had there too. The vineyard is influenced by fog due to its proximity to the coast. It’s managed by the ubiquitous Prudy Foxx who looks after many vineyards in that area with meticulous care.

When Scott first relocated to the peninsula from Sonoma County, he kept many vineyard connections with that area but he’s gone through a bit of a shift living down here and has moved towards more vineyards in the Santa Cruz and farther south in Arroyo Seco and the Santa Lucia Highlands. I’m excited about this southward progression because I think there’s great potential for wine with a cool-climate bent along the coastal hills south of the Bay Area.

Lester Family Syrah bears this out. It has a distinct aroma profile, vintage after vintage, that makes it one of the more fascinating New World Syrahs I’ve ever tried.

2015 Las Madres Winemakers Luncheon

Early in April, on a gorgeous Sonoma, day I had the pleasure of attending a very special wine luncheon in the Carneros area of Sonoma. Every year vineyard owners John Painter and Jean Gadiot host a unique event at their Las Madres vineyard. I know the area well. My mother is manager of a ranch in Carneros, a ranch where I had worked for summers and weekends all through high school, college and even after college when I was between jobs. But it wasn’t until I actually plugged in the address to Google that I realized how close to the house this vineyard actually was. As the crow flies, the vineyard was probably only a couple of miles from the back end of the ranch’s property. I could have hopped the fence and walked over in about the same time it took me to drive. You can’t actually see the vineyard from the ranch so at least I have that excuse for not knowing that one of the Carneros most famous Syrah vineyards was basically in my own backyard.

Las Madres is a small vineyard that consists of two separate block. One is planted with the 300 clone (also known as the Hulda block) and sits a little lower in elevation and a tad more protected from the afternoon wind. The other is the 174 (Esther) clone and is planted on a hillside making it a little more exposed. Some of the winemakers make wine from one of the specific blocks but most take a blend of the two. Interestingly, there are two picking dates for the vineyard. One late and one early. In 2014 the difference between these two dates was only about a week because of some impending rain that threatened the later pick. John believes that managing lots of different picking dates from different wineries is simply too much to handle so signing up for taking fruit at Las Madres means that you have to leave a little bit of individual control up to the collective power of the group.

I first heard about Las Madres after I tasted a very impressive Syrah from Anaba Winery in Sonoma a few years back. The wine had a meaty, savory component that I completely fell in love with. Anaba unfortunately no longer takes fruit from Las Madres but the wine sure whet my appetite for more Las Madres Syrah.

The annual luncheon that John and Jean host is unique because all of the winemakers are invited to talk about the wines they’ve made for the current vintage. We started the brunch off with a little meet and greet and an impressive rosé from Belharra wines. Made from a batch of Las Madres Syrah that was picked earlier than the Syrah for red wine, it was a mouthwatering introduction to the vineyard. Beautiful, light pink color with savory watermelon on the nose and very crisp mid-palate with a bright finish, it was everything I like about rosé.

We got down to business with the twelve Syrahs on the table.

las madres tasting

The work at hand.

Here they are in alphabetical order, they are all 2014 Syrahs. I’m not really reviewing the wines, as they haven’t actually been bottled yet, but rather giving a snapshot of how they are tasting at the moment. As I said, my general impression of all the wines was positive.

This wine was the wine of the tasting for me (although, as I mentioned, I was impressed across the board), it had a floral element and more of a red fruit profile than some of the other wines and had a brightness and an elegance to it that I really enjoyed. I was surprised to learn later that the wine is around 15% ABV. Another example of how alcohol percentage is just a number, other elements must be giving the wine a sense of balance.

Benevolent Neglect
This wine was made with very little intervention, 100% whole cluster made in one t-bin, this wine was meant as a little side project to see what whole cluster brings to the signature of the vineyard. At 12.8% alcohol, I was surprised at how much weight the wine had on the midpalate, A beautiful wine, with lots of litheness to it.

The Campesino tended to the darker side of Syrah with some blackberry and black olive character. Good grip on the finish, a little more tannin. This wine had about 25% whole cluster.

Eric Kent
Eric Kent winery has been making wine from Las Madres since 2010. They’ve gone through a progression of using less and less new oak to let , as Kent put it, the signature of the vineyard shine through. This wine also seemed balanced despite a higher ABV of 14.4%. I have to say it was a tad closed down at the tasting but I did get some savory and meaty notes coming through, which I believe will develop over time.

Guerilla Vino
Guerilla is the home wine making project of ex-Gundlach Bundschu winemaker, Lance Cutler. He makes the wine basically for himself and some family members. This was a bit riper wine than some of the others but still possessing good Syrah character.

Jazz Cellars
The Jazz wine also tended to a riper profile with more of a milk-chocolatey thing going on in the nose.

Lois Rae
Mark Finver’s winery used 50% whole cluster, Esther block. 3-4% co-fermented with Viognier. 1/3 new oak. A very balanced Syrah with a lot of aromatic intensity, elegant and beautiful. I kept coming back to this one.

Both the Myriad and the Quivet are separate brands from Mike Smith that he differentiates by making wines from the different Las Madres vineyard blocks. The Myriad is from a distinct block of the vineyard. A floral element was present on both these wines.

This wine is made from the other block of the vineyard. A lower alcohol wine than many at 12.8% ABV this wine was also floral. Both wines had an energy to them that I responded to.

Another elegant Las Madres Syrah, about 30% whole cluster. Vie is a winery on Treasure Island. The wine was made by Todd Seaver but presented to us at the tasting by winery partner Bryan Kane.

100 Legs
This is a new project from a neighbor of John and Jean’s, Wanda Mae Lombardi. It’s made with more Viognier than the others, it’s a lighter style of Syrah that Wanda wanted to be more food-friendly. I think she succeeded.

The last wine, poured after the tasting, due to the late arrival of the owner of the project, Jamie Watson, was also delicious. Made by Macario Montoya of Campesino in a completely hands off style, it was balanced and expressive on the nose.

las madres winemakers

The winemakers: Kent Humphrey of Eric Kent; Matt Nagy of Benevolent Neglect; Anne Fogerty of Belharra; Lance Cutler of Guerilla Vino; Bryan Kane of Vie Winery; Winery Owners, John Painter and Jean Gadiot; Wanda Mae Lombardi of 100 Legs; Mike Smith of Myriad and Quivet; Macario Montoya of Campesino; Vineyard Manager Armando Ceja

It was a pleasure to taste these wines and the fact that there wasn’t a stinker in the bunch not only speaks to the talent of the winemakers, but also the care that the vineyard owners and the vineyard manager, Armando Ceja, put into the vineyard. What was most interesting to me was that many of my preconceived notions of what I like (lower alcohol, whole cluster) were challenged. I found myself responding well to most of the wines regardless of their alcohol level and whether or not they had stem inclusion. And I guess that’s the takeaway from the tasting. Las Madres fruit can be made in different styles but in the end, the signature of a balanced, yet rich Syrah, with pure fruit expression and savory qualities almost always emerges.

Woodshed Rhones Dinner: Guest Post from the Venerable Tom Hill


Tom’s undoubtedly schooling me in the history of Rhone varieties in the U.S.

At the 2014 Rhone Rangers event I had the pleasure of meeting Tom Hill. Tom is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to Rhone wines in the United States. He was there tasting the first Syrah planted in 1973 (a wine bad enough, he says, to set the Rhone movement back ten years) and he’s been there through the years tasting the best Rhone wines that California has had to offer through the years. He’s been helping Patrick Comiskey with his book on the American Rhone movement . Tom has been a great supporter of the blog and also introduced me to some of the most prolific and best Rhone producers in California. But, by far, the best thing that’s happened to me because I’ve met Tom has been my invitation to a special dinner that he put together with Steve Edmunds of Edmunds St. John Wines and Bob Lindquist of Qupe.

Unfortunately, a few days before the dinner, as luck would have it, I got the stomach flu. After three days of not eating, I decided, that come hell or high water I was going to this dinner. I couldn’t pass up the chance, not only to try the special wines that Steve and Bob were bringing but also to meet Bob and Steve and also the other wine writers and aficionados who were invited. So that’s how it played out. I convinced myself that I was feeling better, put on a nice shirt and headed over to the east bay to attend what turned out to be the best wine event I’ve ever been to. Now, I did take some notes on the wines which I’ll include later but for this post I thought that it would be interesting to let Tom take the lead on this post. He put together his tasting notes and I think his preamble sets the tone and gives the background in a way that only he could. So, what follows are Tom’s words (slightly edited) on this dinner. I’ll give some of my thoughts at the end.


Tom’s words:
Thurs (3/26) WoodShed Rhones

Over the last few years, both SteveEdmunds and BobLindquist have been taken to the “woodshed” by Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, for the decline in quality of their wines from their earliest efforts (twice in the case of Bob, first by Parker, then by Dunnuck). This is, of course, complete baloney. With their grape sources nailed down and the increasing maturity of their vineyards, they are making the best wines of their career.

I suspect they were both sent to the woodshed because their wines are not big/flashy/extracted upon release and it’s only after some time in bottle that they start to realize their glories, mostly from the inherent balance they both possess. Unless you’ve followed their wines closely over the years, this is a trait that Parker & Dunnuck are clueless about.

I’ve ribbed both Bob & Steve, over the last few years, about what a neat woodshed they hang out in and there are a lot of people who would love to hang there with them. So, I suggested to Bob and Steve that it might be nice to organize a special dinner at Bay Wolf restaurant in Oakland just afore Rhone Rangers, centered around some of their wines from their libraries. They both agreed that that would be a grand idea and would love to do it. Steve thought we should have T-Shirts printed up that stated on the back “Parker can kiss my a$$”. I thought T-Shirts with two old gents peering out a cracked door of a Woodshed, wine bottles littering the surrounding ground, giving the finger to Parker off in the distance, would be neat. Alas, the T-shirts never got done. But we assembled a fine list of real RhoneHeads:

Bob Lindquist/Qupe
Steve Edmunds/Edmunds St Johns
Ken Zinns/Harrington Winery
Patrick Comiskey/Wines & Spirits magazine
Luke Sykora/Wines & Spirits magazine
Cyrus Limon/Cold-Climate Syrah blogger
Louisa Lindquist/ Verdad
Marlene Raderman/rep for Qupe/Verdad
Alan Rath/Bay area wine geek
Brian Goehery/ Wines On Piedmont shop owner
Larry Schaffer/Tercero Winery
Doug Wilson/Los Alamos wine group
Kevin Clancey/former rep for Edmunds St. John
Michael Wild/ Baywolf Restaurant
Tom Hill

The wines were served in pairs. Many of the Qupes were from magnums. Before we tried the wines, Bob & Steve would say a few words about their making. After we tried the wines, Steve would get up and read the Parker review (kindly provided him by Patrick Comiskey) and its score. There would then be this wave of derisive laughter that’d sweep over the table at Parker’s obviously clueless screed.

So…onto the wines:

1. Edmunds St. John Heart of Gold (Vermentino/GrenacheBlanc; 11.7%) 2014: Light gold color; very fragrant/perfumed/honeysuckle/Rouss/flowery/peach blossom slight stony/chalky nose; fairly tart bright/flowery/pear/Viog slight stony/earthy lovely flavor; a bit leaner & food friendly and not as ripe/blowsy as some previous versions but the same lovely aromatics.
2. Qupe Roussanne Bien Nacido Hillside 2011: color; deep Rouss/honeysuckle/honeyed/floral slight stony light toasty oak quite perfumed nose; somewhat tart rich/structured Rouss/honeysuckle/pear light stony/mineral very light pencilly/oak; quite a good Rouss but I think this is going to be quite a profound wine down the road w/ 10 yrs of age or more; one of California’s greatest Roussannes being made.
3. Edmunds St. John Los Robles Viejos Rozet Vineyard/ Paso Robles (Viognier/Roussanne/Marsanne) 2003: color; bit nutty/toasted hazelnuts/honeyed/waxy/figgy fully mature beautiful complex oldRhone nose; lightly tart smooth/velvety lightly nutty/toasted hazelnuts/earthy/spicy bit waxy/beeswax very complex/nuanced/elegant flavor. In its youth, this was a rather simple/pleasant enough white Rhone blend that spoke mostly of flowery Viognier. I was surprised by how beautifully it had developed into a lovely old Rhone. No signs of oxidation.
4. Qupe Marsanne Los Olivos Vineyard 1993: color; beautiful nutty/toasted hazelnuts/honeyed bit smokey/pencilly light stony/mineral quite complex w/ slight oxidative notes; tart stoney/mineral some nutty/toasted hazelnuts/honeyed smokey/earthy slight oxidized bit metallic/tangy very complex flavor; a great example of what a profound/complex wine the Qupe Marsanne can evolve to. On one bottle, the cork plopped into the bottle as Bob started to extract it. The other bottle, with a sound cork, was a bit fresher and didn’t show any oxidative notes whatsoever.

5. Edmunds St. John Rocks & Gravel 2005: Medium dark color w/ little bricking; very Rhonish/CdP-like some earthy/loamy light Grenache/strawberry/plummy/licorice some smokey/pencilly quite complex/Rhonish nose; soft/balanced light strawberry/Grenache/plummy fairly pencilly/smokey bit earthy/loamy/dusty/licorice flavor w/ light/gentle tannins; probably nearing its peak I would guess; a fully mature complex Rhone red. I find the R&G on release an understated/simple/not very dramatic red. But I’m always surprised how, w/ some age, they can rise up and bite you on the a$$ by how good they’ve evolved. This was another good example.

6. Qupe Syrah Bien Nacido Hillside 1998: Dark color w/ no bricking at all; classic mature Qupe smokey/pencilly/pungent/coffee some blackberry/Syrah/blueberry very complex beautiful nose; slightly tart/metallic very smokey/tobacco/pencilly/coffee/Rhonish some blackberry/Syrah/very spicy very complex flavor w/ light/smooth/velvety tannins; lots of pungent/smokey/Rhonish character and a classic example of a mature Qupe Syrah; should go out another 6-10 yrs I would guess.
7. Edmunds St. John Syrah Wylie-Fenaughty 2005: Dark color w/ slight bricking; Dark color w/ slight bricking; beautiful licorice/pungent/graphite/mineral/earthy strong plummy/blackberry/blueberry/Syrah complex perfumed nose; lightly tart slight earthy/mushroomy/truffly/ElDorado some licorice/pungent/graphite strong blackberry/Syrah/blueberry/plummy velvety/smooth textured complex flavor w/ some smooth/ripe tannins; a lovely Syrah that’s probably nearing maturity and shows some of that mushroomy/earthy El Dorado terroir.
8. Qupe/Edmunds St. John Syrah Auction blend 1995: Very dark color w/ no bricking; slight bretty/horsecollar/Rhonish rather blackberry/Syrah/blueberry/licorice slight funky/Rhonish complex nose; lightly tart bit bretty/leathery some blueberry/blackberry/Syrah/licorice some coffee/roasted/old Rhonish flavor w/ light/sharp tannins; a noticeable bret component that gave it a bit of Southern Rhone character. A special 50/50 blend of one barrel each that Steve&Bob did for the CentralCoastWineFestival auction.
9. Edmunds St. John BassettiVnyd/PasoRobles 2005: Black color w/ no bricking; beautiful cold-climate/black pepper/spicy intense blackberry/boysenberry/Syrah/licorice some smokey/Rhonish/espresso/roasted complex nose; rather tart very rich/mouth-filling black pepper/cold-climate intense blackberry/boysenberry/Syrah/spicy bit herbal/thyme structured some complex flavor w/ ample/smooth/ripe tannins; amazing youthful and sure to go another 10 years at least; my easy favorite of the Edmunds St. John.
10. Qupe Syrah Bien Nacido Hillside 1993: Dark color w/ no bricking; classic mature Qupe Syrah smokey/roasted/gamey/smoked meats pungent/espresso light blackberry/Syrah very complex aromatic nose; fairly tart/bit metallic very smokey/pencilly/roasted/roasted meats/gamey slight peppery/licorice some blackberry/Syrah/blueberry rather Rhonish/espresso/pungent very complex classic mature Qupe Syrah flavor w/ smooth/gentle tannins; as good as a Qupe Syrah can get and showing no signs of age at 22 yrs old; a beautiful Syrah that they would die to make on the HermitageHill.

11. Edmunds St. John Zinfandel Story Vineyard/Shenandoah Valley 1994: Dark color with slight bricking; some blackberry/Zin/Amador briary some earthy/loamy bit smokey/oak old Amador Zin/cedary/pencilly lovely complex nose; slightly tart light smokey/oak some Amador blackberry/briary/Zin rather pencilly/cedary light earthy/dusty smooth/gentle complex flavor w/ light/smooth tannins; probably a bit beyond its peak but holding up amazingly well for a 20 yr old Zin; probably just going to fade quietly away into the night. This wine obviously didn’t fit the theme of Wood Shed Rhones. Steve wanted to show it because Parker’s review thoroughly trashed this wine and he gave it a 74 or 75. What a laugher.
12. Qupe Marsanne Doux Sawyer-Lindquist Vineyard/Edna Valley 2012: At this point, I just decided to sit back and enjoy this dessert wine. It was intensely grapey/peachy and much like an Italian passito like a Caluso Erbaluce Passito. No evidence of botrytis that I could find. Bob only rarely makes a dessert wine, but when he does, they’re outstanding. His and Jim Clendenen’s ThumbsUp Riesling was one of my classics.
A Wee Bloody Pulpit:

This was one of the most special wine events I have ever attended. It was great to listen to Steve & Bob share their stories and their wines. There was much spirited and informative discussion the length of the table. A finer group of people could not be found.

Across the board, all the wines showed extremely well. There were no wines that I felt were getting a bit creaky w/ age. They will all probably just quietly fade into the sunset and never really fall apart.

Many California Syrahs, especially those made in a big/massive/extracted style, just keep “lasting” in the bottle…but don’t really show much evolution or develop much complexity (are you listening John Alban??).

What is special about the wines of Bob & Steve is that they are ones that do develop complexity and nuance w/ age. I think it’s probably because of the balanced way the wines are constructed. Alas, it’s a lesson that’ll probably never be understood in Monktown.

Many thanks to both Steve & Bob for generously sharing these bottles from their archives. It was a most special treat. And a special thanks to Michael Wild for fashioning a menu at Bay Wolf that allowed these wines to really shine. And much thanks to all those who attended this event and contributed many insightful questions & comments. We will, hopefully, repeat this event again in a few years afore a RR.


The men of the hour.  Steve Edmunds, Tom Hill, and Bob Lindquist

So there you have it, I especially love Tom’s dismissive tone when it comes to Parker. One thing that many of us have learned over a time being involved with wine is that the age of the over-arching omnipotent critic is thankfully a thing of the past. Wine was always too complex and multi-dimensional for one voice to command it.

It’s been a pleasure to get to know Tom and I especially love his open mind. I, too was most impressed with the wines.

Here are some of my thoughts on the wines:

The wines, were all tasting great, with two exceptions. The first being that, as Tom mentioned, one of the bottles of the 1993 Qupe Marsanne was a bit oxidized because of a compromised cork but it did give the wine a rather intriguing nuttiness that the other bottle didn’t have as much of. The other exception was that the Qupe/ Edmunds Auction wine was too bretty for my tastes.

I loved the mature Zinfandel too, a wine that Steve told us Parker had given a score in the seventies.  It was a beautiful wine, elegant and refined after all these years.

If I had to pick a wine of the night it would have to be the 1993 Bien Nacido from magnum. This wine was an elegant beauty, almost like a savory meal with notes of bright fruit to add complexity. What a wine. One of those wines that you feel privileged to have gotten the chance to taste.

It was a special night. One that makes all those moments where sometimes I feel like this blog is a lone voice yelling into the wilderness, totally worth it.