This has been a strange month here at the Limón household, first the fridge broke and then the new one that we got never got cold which turned into a saga with Maytag and Home Depot, then the garage door broke into pieces, the cable went out, and now we’re having technology problems. Lately it’s felt like the house is coming down around us. Lucky for us the wine I’ve opened for the blog this month has been stellar and this is another wine that, unlike the rest of the stuff in the house, simply works.
Drew Wines has been on my radar as one of the small California wineries that craft transcendent wine. Back when I was into Anderson Valley Pinot (full confession, I still love the stuff) I was happy to learn that Drew was setting up a tasting room in Philo and had opened a new site of operation and home base in Elk. As I developed more of a palate for Syrah I was excited to learn that Drew’s winemaker, Jason Drew, was also interested in Syrah and had been making Syrahs from the Mendocino Ridge appellation which lies along the coastal areas west of the Anderson Valley. These are not exactly cheap wines but they are really well made and have a vibrancy and energy to them that you don’t often get in Syrahs from warmer climes. Again, although Pinots from this area sell in the $40 and above range, the Syrahs sell for the $20 to $40 range.
Jason Drew got his start at St. Supery Winery as an intern, then worked at Carmenet Winery in Sonoma from 1992-1995. He then went on to work at Navarro winery in Anderson Valley as vineyard manager. Drew decided that he needed a more formal education in wine and headed to Australia to get his enology degree at the University of Adelaide. After finishing his degree he returned to the states to take a job in the Santa Rita Hills at Babcock Cellars as assistant winemaker. He began his own label in 2000 and with a strong belief that Pinot was the wine with which he could make a living, he moved the winery up to the Mendocino Ridge AVA near the town of Elk in 2003. The move north gave Drew and his family the chance to be close to what they considered some of the best Pinot fruit in California. Also believing that cool-climate Syrah in California can be grown hand in hand with Pinot, and perhaps as a nod to his days in Australia, he was interested in seeing what he could do with that variety.
The Perli Potato Patch Syrah has beautiful gravel and dark plum (almost prune) or salty plum aromas. There are also strawberry aromas on the nose. The fruit is bright and elegant. The palate on this wine is sweet, savory, and full all at the same time, with a nice acidic lift on the finish. The tannins are not sharp but rather sweet. It’s a beautiful wine, with an underlying earthiness that gives the fruit some contrast. It’s very balanced and complete.
As I mentioned there is also a verve to the wine that makes it seem to dance on the palate. This is one of those difficult-to-explain characteristics that I’ve found with well-made cool-climate Syrahs – there is sort of an energy on the palate. I haven’t quite parsed out if it’s due to the minerality or the acidity but the wine doesn’t just sit heavily on your tongue, it’s light and almost wild on the palate, just like an acidic Pinot or white wine would be.
Interestingly, this wine is from the same vineyard as the Donkey and Goat 2009 Perli Syrah. Even though the wines were made in different styles (one more modern and the other in a natural style), they are very similar wines. This similarity must speak to the characteristics of this vineyard and it will be interesting to keep comparing them in subsequent vintages.
This is a fabulous wine and I’m so happy that even though Drew Wines mostly makes Pinots, they’ve continued to make Syrah and it continues to be delicious. I hope you’ll seek them out as a great example of cool-climate Syrah in California.
Thanks to Prince of Pinot for his audio interview with Jason Drew.