The Pax 2004 Kobler Family Syrah was one of the best Syrah’s that I’ve tasted for this blog. It had an elegance to it that was only paralleled by the La Bruma Syrah from Peay. When I found the Pax, I didn’t know much about the history behind the winery and was saddened to learn about its demise. I wondered if anybody was still getting fruit from the Kobler vineyard and was delighted to find that not only was a winery making wine from Kobler but it was basically still Pax Wines but with a new winemaker and a new name, Donelan Family, which is the namesake of Pax Mahle’s ex-partner Joe Donelan. Pax’s current project is Wind Gap Wines, which I love, and I have to admit I was a little suspect as to whether Donelan would continue live up to the legacy that Pax had left behind.
Enter Tyler Thomas. He took over Donelan’s new project and quickly had to learn the ethos of Pax Wines. He tasted and tasted, making his way through different vintages and vineyards to get a sense of the wines and what to expect from them as they aged. In the end he decided that the ethos of Donelan should be to celebrate the diversity of its spectacular vineyard sources.
I have to admit that this diversity does mean that some of Donelan’s wines are a bit rich for me. The Obsidian, which is its flagship wine, is not my cup of tea because of its big, brawny, richness, but it’s a well-made example of a wine made from the fruit of that warmer vineyard.
The Kobler, on the other hand, is most emphatically my cup of tea. It’s a wine made from one of the cooler vineyard sites in the Russian River Valley. I opened the wine one night but I let it sit on the counter opened with the cork stuck back in after an unexpected allergy attack rendered me unable to smell. The next day the wine was singing and I was so glad that I had opened it and fortuitously had to leave it out.
At only 12.5% alcohol, this is an elegant Syrah. The nose has plum and strawberry aromas that are laced with flowers. It’s a Syrah that’s light on the palate with great acidity and smoothness. I know “balance” means a lot of different things to a lot of different people but this is a wine that for me is the epitome of balance–it’s smooth but has an energetic mid-palate that keeps you wanting to drink more. The finish is nice and dry and makes me think of how well it would pair with meat and dark sauces.
I didn’t detect as much of the black pepper and black olive that I did on the 2004 Kobler, but it’s possible that those flavors would develop as the wine aged in the bottle. There’s also less whole cluster on this wine (40%) than in previous vintages because Thomas was concerned about bringing out the fruit in such a cool year. That may also account for the wine having a tad fewer savory components than the ’04.
As a cool-climate Syrah lover, I’m thrilled that the transition between Pax and Donelan did not result in the Kobler Family vineyard source being laid to the wayside. This fruit is too good and it remains a great example of what can be done with Syrah in California’s cooler micro-climates. Sadly, the cool 2011 growing season and late rain made it impossible to harvest the grapes from this vineyard and there will be no wine made for that year. 2012, on the other hand, was a stellar vintage for all of California and I look forward to tasting what Thomas has done with this special vineyard for vintages to come.