The Landmark Kivelstadt Vineyard Syrah Sonoma Valley 2010 ABV 14.4% $40

This is an area for cool climate Syrah that definitely was not on my radar until John Bonne’s article in the SF chronicle about Sonoma Coast Syrahs (this wine is formerly known as the Steel Plow Syrah).  I know Sonoma Mountain well actually, having childhood friends who live up there but I didn’t have any idea that it could be a place for cool-climate Syrah.  Turns out it’s a great place for Syrah.  The cooler climate from the elevation gives the Syrah exactly what it needs to stay in its sweet spot and not get overly rich and extracted.  And Landmark’s winemaker Greg Stach is able to keep it elegant.

On the nose the wine exudes cherry and salted plum with hints of baking spices. It’s an elegant nose, hinting at how elegant and concise the wine is on the palate.  This is a wine with few “flaws”.  It’s expertly made, it’s smooth, delicious and has good acidity on the back end.  And although it’s true to Syrah as a variety, perhaps it’s a little boring. I think what I’m trying to say is that the wine lacks some of the rustic texture that I’ve come to love in cool-climate Syrah.  It’s expertly made but maybe a tad too manipulated?

Landmark is a winery that’s been around for a long time and they’ve grown into a big player in the wine tourism department.  Although located in Kenwood, when I made a recent visit to their tasting room I felt that I might have taken a wrong turn and ended up in Napa.  Don’t get me wrong — it’s a beautiful place, but as has happened with the majority of wineries in the Napa/Sonoma/Kenwood/Healdsburg area, sometimes it’s hard to find the wines through the myriad of differently colored sweaters in the gift shop.  That being said, I admire Landmark’s seemingly recent Rhone focus: they also make a stellar Grenache.  Despite the Rhone focus they seem to have built their reputation on Chardonnay and I have to admit the cooler-climate less-new-oak version I tasted even had me re-thinking my normal Chardonnay aversion.

This is a wine that shows a lot of what I like in cool-climate Syrah, it’s varietally correct and it’s delicious.  The only thing I would like to see is a little more texture in the wine to bring it up to the level of some of the other wines that I’ve tasted for this blog.  To be honest, I’m not exactly sure whether that means the use of native yeasts or throwing in some whole cluster during fermentation or using less filtering but the wine needed a bit more complexity.  The balance of fruit and savory was there but it simply lacked a bit of depth.  I look forward to trying other Syrahs from Sonoma Mountain to see how other wineries handle this same fruit.  It definitely seems like an up-and-coming area for Syrah in Northern California.


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