Arnot-Roberts 2009 North Coast Syrah

Arnot-Roberts is a California rock star winery these days, and it seems to be consistently mentioned as a winery to watch.  I suspect that the only reason you can still get on their mailing list is either because of the slow economy or the fact that they aren’t primarily Pinot producers.  According to John Trinidad, of sfwine.wordpress.com (who coincidentally wrote another post about Arnot-Roberts recently),  this Syrah is made up of a combination of grapes from Alder Springs, Griffins Lair, and Hudson, and possibly Clary Ranch Vineyards which are all premier cool climate sights in California.

This wine smelled a little barnyard-stinky at first, which is not necessarily a bad thing.  Surprisingly, it opened up pretty quickly and the nose went into a mash-up of gravel, earth, cranberry, pomegranate and black pepper.

As this wine opened up I started to get a little more strawberry aromas, but continued to get that underlying earth and gravel aroma.  This stuff is flat out delicious.  The more I smelled this wine, the more aromas I was able to parse out.  Licorice and blueberries then started to appear. This plethora of aromas might have something to do with the fact that Arnot-Roberts uses whole-cluster fermentation, which as far as I can tell means they just dump the whole grape cluster (stems and all) into the fermentation vats which reportedly can give wines a more varied aroma profile.

But what really impresses me about this wine is how balanced it is.  With such low alcohol (13%), it’s just so smooth and drinkable on the mid-palate yet it still has a nice grip on the finish.  I had a ‘09 in early 2011 and it simply was not this drinkable, so I’m guessing it’s a good time to pop open an ’09 if you have any.  By saying this wine is drinkable, I don’t want to imply that it is fruity and sweet, it is decidedly not sweet and in fact, rather tart on the finish, it has a brightness and elegance that you just don’t find in most California Cabs and in most California Pinots for that matter.  This delicate elegance is what makes the Arnot-Roberts North Coast such a great example of cool-climate Syrah.  And its what makes me such a fan of Syrah grown in the right places.  I found this wine at Arlequin Wines in San Francisco for around $35.  Admittedly, not cheap, but such a great example of CA Syrah.

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