This is my second vintage of this wine and suffice to say that Arnot-Roberts continues to be a stand out and generate some major interest in the Bay Area. Although not exactly cult status, I’d have to say that along with Bedrock, Anthill Farms, Wind Gap Wines, and maybe you could throw Peay in there, these are definitely wineries that are making Syrah in the coolest-climate sites in California. This is Syrah on the edge.
Day 1: This wine smells much more like a French Syrah than the majority of wines I’ve tried for this blog. It’s something about that gravelly brightness (yes, I’m consciously trying to avoid the minerality word here) and lack of any aromas of oak that set it apart and put it squarely into the French camp. It’s also got some unbelievable acidity that is almost overwhelming on first opening. It’s a wine that needs to calm down a bit. It’s got a lot of savory elements too, some green olive aromas with almost some brininess on the finish that I like but might be a little much for many. I’d definitely plan on decanting this wine or giving it a day on the counter after opening. I’m going to do the latter.
Day 2: Some of that acidity has definitely calmed down a bit on the North Coast Syrah and the mid-palate while still lean has fleshed out a bit. I’m getting more fruit on the nose this time too: raspberry and strawberry still mixed in with those gravel aromas. Also a little hint of orange rind. On the finish, that brininess has gone away completely and I’m left with a nice silky transition from the mid-palate to the close. Word to the wise and lesson learned: This wine needs to relax after the first opening, let it breathe, it will mellow a bit and make it that much more delicious. BE PATIENT.
The North Coast Syrah may be as cool-climate as it gets in California. At 11.9% alcohol, I think it’s the lowest alcohol Syrah I’ve had from California. The ’09 was 13% and I thought that was low but I’ve heard it said that many winemakers are afraid of picking their grapes too early because of the pervasive idea that the wines won’t reach phenolic ripeness (their full potential of complexity and aroma). The other fear I’ve heard is that the wines won’t develop a full and rich mid-palate. Well, this is one of the most aromatically complex wines I’ve had and its mid-palate, while not rich, is definitely full and textured.
This is definitely a wine to seek out and the nice thing about Syrah is that even though this is a small winery with almost cult status, the wine should be available in some retail markets. If you find a bottle, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with a California wine that is decidedly un-Californian. And in this case, that’s cause for celebration.