I thought it would be interesting to taste this wine while the Peay La Bruma was still fresh in my mind. Cep is the second, more affordable label to Peay, and its Sonoma Coast Syrah uses some of the same fruit that doesn’t quite make the cut for its higher end wines.
I’m always a little suspicious about second labels. It’s hard to justify drinking something that the wine-makers consider second best. It makes you wonder why it didn’t make the cut. Is it flawed? Do the wine-makers not like it for some reason? Twenty bucks is still a lot to pay for wine. But, if I can find something good for around that price, I’m pretty excited. (I’m even more excited if it’s $10 or $15, which is why I almost bought a case of the Casaeda.)
I do get some of that plum and pepper on the nose mixed in with a some high gravel notes that I’m tempted to call minerality but won’t because it’s an elusive term. There’s also that same smoked meat mid-palate that I got in La Bruma and there’s definitely an elegance here that is similar to the more expensive Syrah. It’s also only 13.5% alcohol, which makes it simply delicious on the mid-palate while the finish still has some nice acidity and gravel flavors. The major difference I think are the aromatics. The Cep Syrah is slightly less interesting aromatically. I would also say that the Cep also seems a little richer, rounder, juicier, and more approachable whereas the La Bruma was more angular and needed more time to open up, the reward for which was substantially higher. The Cep might have a little more oak on it, which rounds out the wine but dims the flavors a little.
The Cep actually reminds me a little of a Beaujolais Village because it’s more fruity and drinkable than its big brother. It’s a weeknight wine. Yet, it’s a wine that gives you a sense of what Syrah can do at cool climates for a more affordable price. It leaves me wishing that La Bruma was $20 and that I could recommend that everyone try it to get to know what real Syrah should taste like.
The truth is that this wine is second best to La Bruma and maybe I don’t want it any other way — if it was better than Peay’s estate Syrah then I’d also have a beef for having paid twice that amount for La Bruma. This wine is good and I’m going to get some more of it. Probably a lot more. But I can’t help thinking that its not quite representative of what these Syrahs can really do. Suffice to say, I’m still looking for the $20 cool-climate Syrah that is really representative of what the grape is capable of in California. When that day comes, I’m going to buy a lot of it.