On first opening, this wine was seriously pungent. As I poured it into my decanter (otherwise known as an old glass pitcher) I could smell the deep plum and sour cherry aromas. On my first couple of sips the finish was a little harsh, but full of rich fruit and a little anise/licorice flavor. Man. I can tell this might be the best one yet, it has a richer mouthfeel than the other wines I’ve tried, but it just seems really pure.
There was also a meaty sort of characteristic on the mid-palate. I want to say bacon or beef or something like that. This is good stuff, it’s dry but it doesn’t suck all the air out of your palate. It’s bright but has some dark-earthy characteristics too. It’s another cool-climate Syrah with that perfect balance of brawniness and elegance.
I let it breathe for a bit and revisited. After about an hour this wine was even smoother, and I can see why people love this wine — it’s smooth and has an amazing “delicious factor” (thank you Gary Vaynerchuk) but its also got a lot of complexity and savory qualities that drive wine geeks to extreme adoration. It’s the perfect combination.
After letting this wine sit on the counter for a day, it’s still vibrant and rich with fruit. I’m getting some black cherry aromas now. The mid-palate still hums with smoke and meat flavors. It still has some tannic bite on the finish so I think this wine is definitely age-able, and, in fact, the Peays recommend cellaring this wine for five years or so. Although I do agree that this wine could go for a while in the cellar, it is approachable now, it’s not as if you have to wait to drink it, although I’m looking forward to how it tastes in five years, and I have one in my cellar for that purpose.
Of course, there’s a price to pay for this quality of wine. The Peay winery really does farm on the edge of the grape’s ability to ripen and some years when it’s been a particularly cool summer, their grapes simply don’t ripen and they have to skip the vintage. Who does that in California? Very few wineries. It does happen in France, but not in California, in the land of sunshine. Somehow the Peays (and for that matter, many other cool-climate Syrah producers) are finding places in California that are literally on the edge.
In their latest newsletter, Andy Peay explained, “We decided to farm on the edge with an awareness of the risks. But, being here enables us to make wines from ripe fruit that nevertheless result in a harmonious balance of flavor, alcohol and acidity. Wines that speak of a place.” These guys are really pushing the envelope but the wines are their reward for their audacity. I haven’t paid this much for wine except for very few instances but I have to say it’s a treat to drink it and I hope you search it out also. Although it’s not a wine that’s priced at an introductory level, its balance makes it a great introduction to cool-climate characteristics without being too rustic. It’s simply harmonious.
This wine was $47 (I’ve paid this much for a wine very few times) and I had to join the Peay Vineyards mailing list to get it.