Red Car is a great California winery that doesn’t get nearly the attention that it should. I admit it flew under the radar for me for a while and it might have something to do with a name that for me suggests a less than premium label. But this is premium wine. Having tried Red Car at a the West of West wine event I was immediately convinced that this was a winery I needed to get to know better. In fact, these are some of the best Syrahs and Pinots from the Sonoma Coast that I’ve ever tasted and that says a lot considering there’s a growing cadre of serious contenders.
My wife and I made the trip up to Red Car on our way to Anderson Valley about a month ago. The tasting room is a fun place, with a style that evokes urban hipness as opposed to country kitsch.
The 2010 Fort Ross Seaview Syrah: Wow, this is a great wine. On the nose I get savory components of olive tapenade and bitter chocolate, there’s also an umami element that makes me think of soy sauce. There are some fruit aromas of fresh blackberry combined with an earthiness that carries over onto a bright midpalate that evokes less than ripe fruit. The finish isn’t too tannic but has some good acidity. If you’ve been reading my blog for bit, you already know that this is my type of wine. I had this blind at the Syrah tasting at the WOW event and was blown away there also. I had pegged it then as a wine from St. Joseph because of that bright acidity and lack of harsh tannin.
The Cuvee 22 is definitely a bigger style of Syrah but not too big. At 13.9 % alcohol it’s still squarely in the cool-climate camp, at least for California. There’s a little less fresh fruit on the nose and it leans more towards a blackberry blueberry compote. Not jammy by any means, just a tad more ripe. I get some licorice and tobacco mixed in with that fruit. Just like the Seaview, this Syrah is light on the tannins. It’s got great acidity but is drinkable now. Almost too drinkable; it’s making it difficult for me to save some to taste tomorrow.
It says a lot when a winery can do two Syrahs that are so stylistically different and so damn good. Both of these wines are balanced for their style of wine. One is more on the brighter cooler climate style, the other a little more brawny style but both with nice balance.
Red Car’s winemaker Carroll Kemp is an old hand at Syrah having made it over ten years ago as his first foray into winemaking when he lived in Southern California. Back then, he made (and appreciated) a bigger, more extracted version of the grape but as his palate developed it began to draw him closer to the cooler climate vineyards of north western Sonoma County.