Clendenen Family Vineyards 2005 Santa Barbara County Syrah Rancho La Cuna



I picked up the Clendenen Family Syrah at my local wine shop the other day, playing a hunch that Jim Clendenen’s penchant for making higher acid, lower alcohol pinots as winemaker for Au Bon Climat would translate well to Syrah.  The 13.5% alcohol was also a pretty good indicator that this would be a wine I’d enjoy. My hunch paid off.

On a recent un-planned family side trip during the holidays my wife and I were able to stop by Au Bon Climat to taste some of Clendenen’s flagship wines and also get to know a little about the Clendenen Family project.  We set up our 4-year-old son with his shows on the ipad and got to work.

In general I was pretty impressed with all of Clendenen’s wines although I found a few of the highest end wines to be too oaky and, ironically for me, too high in alcohol.  Some of the lower priced wines fell into the camp of wines that I enjoy more because they were aged in neutral oak and had lower levels of alcohol. The Clendenen Family project is meant to allow Jim Clendenen to explore other varietals beyond Au Bon Climat’s Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  The Clendenen Family wines are made in a fruit forward style that tends more towards balance and less oak treatment.  Right up my alley.

The 2005 Clendenen Syrah has aromas of meat and high-toned floral aromas of jasmine or honeysuckle.  There’s strawberry and blackberry  there also with black olive and licorice in the background.  The strawberry aromas carry through to the midpalate and there’s a nice backbone of acidity.  I would have loved to taste it when it was younger to see how it’s progressed because it’s pretty spectacular now.  This is a wine that one wouldn’t exactly mistake for an old world Syrah because of that sweet fruit but it’s impossible for me to count that against it because it’s just plain delicious.

This Syrah from the Los Alamos region of Santa Barbara comes from the La Cuna organically farmed vineyard.  It’s a cool-climate area and judicious picking and lower impact wine-making practices have produced a wine that makes me excited about the future of Syrah in California.

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