Anaba has a little tasting room that perhaps you’ve seen sandwiched into a little spot in Sonoma where 121 and 116 meet. It’s a small tasting room and has a decidedly more down-to-earth feel than many of Sonoma’s bigger more corporate-looking locations. It’s had a Rhone focus for a while, although on my last trip its was also tasting Chardonnay and Pinot, and they do a good job with those varieties, but it’s really their Rhone varieties that pique my interest.
Anaba is not a natural winery, in fact, I can tell by the smoothness and richness of its wines that they are probably more manipulated than many of the wines that I’ve written about for this blog. But man, is the Syrah good. It’s got this meaty/bacon-y aroma couched in dark chocolaty blackberry fruit. That may sound like an anomaly for the wines I’ve been tasting and liking for this blog but for some reason I’m feeling this one. I think it’s because it’s a throwback to the wines that got me into Syrah when I had an inexperienced palate. It reminds me of the early Qupes and Andrew Murrays that I used to drink by the liquid ton.
It’s not a sweet wine though. It’s just rich and doesn’t have a whole lot of energy or verve on the mid-palate. But what it does have is some great fresh acidity on the finish and I think that’s what keeps me coming back to drink more. This is a nostalgic wine for me, one that reminds me of the wines I drank that gave hints of the aromatic possibilities of Syrah but weren’t too much of an acidic punch on my uneducated palate. It simply smells and tastes delicious and that slight back-end acidity makes me want to keep lifting my glass.
Unfortunately for me and for the rest of you cool-climate Syrah fans, (yes, all four of you), I received an email from the winemaker for Anaba, Jennifer Marion, in which she explained that she is no longer working with fruit from Las Madres vineyard. Instead, she’s switched her focus to another vineyard in the Mayacamas mountains called Bismark. Marion says that she’s excited about the fruit from Bismark because it gives similar phenolics as Las Madres but also ripens more consistently since it is above the fogline. Although she loves the fruit from Las Madres she just worries too much each year wondering if the fruit will reach optimal ripeness.
I’m saddened by the loss of the Las Madres vineyard from the Anaba portfolio. Yet, I understand that from a business perspective vineyards with a lot of vintage variation can be a harder sell. Marion said that if she could choose, regardless of money and consistency, she would choose to “roll the dice” with Las Madres because of its amazing aromatics. A quick internet search showed that quite a few other wineries are making a Las Madres Syrah, and I’ll definitely be searching these out in order to taste more fruit from the Las Madres vineyard, especially from the cooler 2010 and 2011 vintages.
I wish that the wine industry were strong enough at the moment to support wineries that occasionally had wines that in some years didn’t quite reach “full ripeness”, and simply needed a few years in the bottle to eliminate some of those greener, less ripe aromas. Much of what is being written about California right now is that there is a shift in styles back to a more restrained style. I know that that is definitely true in some cases but I wonder if that impact is seen in the larger customer base that most wineries must cater to. Vintage variation in much of the world is a common and expected outcome of making an agricultural product such as wine. Yet, in California where most vintages are consistently ripe, it’s possible that consumers have become spoiled in expecting such consistency. It’s that consistency that brings talented winemakers to California but it also can hinder winemakers who otherwise might love to take a chance on grapes that might not get ripe every year. I wish that it was more feasible for wineries in California to “roll the dice” every once in a while to really show that wine, just like weather, is a product of the earth.