Bien Nacido is one of the most famous vineyards in the Santa Maria Valley of California. It’s mostly planted with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay but some of the oldest blocks are Syrah. The “X block” is a small block of the Estrella clone planted in 1973 along with the other original plantings on the vineyard. The Bien Nacido Syrahs that I’ve had have been characterized by lots of floral aromas (even without any Viognier) and a big and full mid-palate. They lean towards a cooler climate style but with the full mid-palate of a warmer style. When made in a relatively restrained style they can be balanced and savory. That’s what I was hoping for in Bonny Doon’s 2009 X-Block Syrah at 13.3% abv and that’s what I got, at least after I let it breathe for a while.
The Bonny Doon Alamo Creek taught me that Randall Graham’s Syrahs are better left on the counter with the cork in for a night to let their secondary savory aromas develop. The first quick glass was big, fruity and blueberry-y and rather one note but after a night out on the counter the wine was singing.
The X-block had lots of floral aromas, cranberry, cigar box, black olive paste, and a touch of something that reminded me of celery soup (not a bad thing and added some character). The same flavors carry over to the mid-palate with a touch of a savory, almost umami sensation that reminds me of soy sauce. The mid-palate is full, with a nice lift of fresh cherry acidity on the finish and a good amount of tannin but not out of control. It’s a great wine, there’s a touch of oak but it’s well integrated.
Randall Graham espouses a hands-off style for his Syrahs and this was no exception. The wine was fermented with natural yeast and aged in French Oak barrels. At $50 this isn’t exactly a bargain buy but it is a fantastic expression of what the Bien Nacido vineyard Syrah can be.