Waxwing 2010 Sonoma County Syrah 14.3% ABV $28

One of the coolest things for me about Waxwing Winery is that it’s located here on the Peninsula. Few wineries exist around here and it will be fun to get to know this place. It’s a small little building that strikes a different chord in the middle of all the industrial buildings of San Carlos. Waxwing Winery shares the space with another winery called Cuvee Cellars. At the moment the owner of the other winery is redoing the façade in the main building to make it look more like an actual winery — they’ve add tile and an arch, and in front they’ve planted a few grape vines in old oak barrels which contrast with the surrounding expanses of white concrete. Waxwing Winery is another example of the budding urban winery movement in the Bay Area of the last few years and it’s high time the Peninsula benefited.

Waxwing’s owner and winemaker, Scott Sisemore studied at UC Davis and began making wine at Ravenswood and Rosenblum many years ago. More recently he worked at Pellegrini Winery in the Russian River as associate winemaker. After years of his wife commuting from the north down to her bio-tech job here on the Peninsula, the couple decided it was time to move closer to his wife’s job as they were starting a family. So they packed up and moved all his experience to Belmont, California. Scott was able to spend more time with his newborn and decided to start Waxwing as a small lot winery dedicated to Pinot and Syrah from the Sonoma Coast.

Wineries here on the Peninsula are few and far between so it was great to see that Scott is really trying to develop a local winery, with events and tastings in San Carlos. Scott is also trying to develop a winery that matches the Peninsula’s family-centered culture and includes activities for kids when hosting tastings. I can’t believe I hadn’t heard of Waxwing Winery until Jon Bonne’s “Syrah on the Sonoma Coast” article but I’m so glad to have found it now.

The Waxwing Sonoma County Syrah is a blend of two thirds Syrah from the Sonoma Coast appellation Flocchini (Petaluma Gap) vineyard and one third Syrah that Scott purchased from Geyserville. In 2010, he picked a little earlier than normal and made the discovery that the wines simply didn’t have the backbone that he had hoped. He felt that the Geyserville fruit that a wine-maker friend had offered him would round out the wine nicely and he jumped at the chance to purchase the barrel. In order to make a more complete wine, he was forced to forgo the ability to call it Sonoma Coast.

The result is a wine that has some of the elements of a cool-climate Syrah with a core of juicy fruitiness provided by the Geyserville fruit. It doesn’t have the feral meaty aromas that I love so much in Syrah grown in cooler climes but it does have some stellar plum, blackberry, and floral aromas. There’s also a fair amount of gravel aromas and scents of that trademark cool-climate black olive.

On the palate, this Syrah is an elegant wine with nice minerality and acidic lift. The finish is not too tannic but it does have a little punch from the acidity. That same minerality on the mid-palate lingers on the finish. It’s simply a delicious wine with a light touch for Syrah. In some ways, the elegance reminds me of a Pinot and makes the wine a perfect match for light food.

As far as the winemaking process goes, Scott uses French Oak barrels that have been used for one year. He does about 10% to 15% whole cluster fermentation on the Flocchini fruit. The wine he purchased from Geyserville is aged in new oak but the oak isn’t too present for my palate.

In 2009, Sisemore made a Sonoma Coast wine exclusively from the Flocchini vineyard that was favorably reviewed in the Chronicle by Jon Bonné and I’m hoping to get a hold of a bottle soon to do a comparison between the two. It’s not quite the cool-climate style Syrah that I was hoping for but it still has a pretty elegance that many Syrahs don’t have and after talking to Scott, I’m convinced he made the right choice by adding the Geyserville fruit to this blend.

I’m looking forward trying more wines from Waxwing Winery, and I’ll definitely be bringing my three-year-old to their family-oriented tastings.

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