This 2011 Wind Gap is now in the running for my favorite cool-climate California Syrah. It has beautiful, elegant fruit aromas of plum and raspberry but there’s so much savory going on also. It’s a wine with undertones of tobacco, black pepper, and black olive tapenade but it’s also so fun to drink. It’s the perfect combination of complexity and ease. The mid palate is just so fresh and there’s not much tannin on the finish, a very flexible and food friendly Syrah.
For those of you who don’t know much about Wind Gap, there’s a lot to tell, most of it has been told over and over again on the internets and much of it is related to the story of the collapse of Pax Wine Cellars and the subsequent birth of Donelan Family Wines and Wind Gap. If you are looking for more information on these subjects, check out a recent Levi Dalton podcast in which Pax Mahle puts a lot of questions to rest. A recent Wine Searcher article also fans the flames of controversy a bit and is a good read (even if it may not be the complete story).
The most significant news lately, in my opinion, is that Pax is re-launching Pax Wine Cellars and thus opening a new chapter in what promises to be a venue for more Syrah. The lower alcohol wines of the Wind Gap portfolio will stay where they are but Pax will move some of his fuller-bodied Syrahs back over to his eponymous label in what seems to be an attempt to corner both sides of the Syrah (warmer versus cooler) dichotomy.
I’ll probably be mostly sticking with the Wind Gap label but I’ll be intrigued by some of the forthcoming Pax wines such as the Griffin’s Lair and, of course, his Alder Springs—which only has Syrah because Mahle convinced the grower to plant some many years ago. I don’t think the alcohol levels will be huge with these wines but they will be fuller, bigger styles of Syrah (as they always have been) and the resurrection of the label will give Pax a chance to express that bigger style in a way that he has perhaps not felt comfortable doing under the Wind Gap label.
I remain more interested in the Wind Gap versions of Syrah because of their ease of drinking and their complex aromatics. They are also more versatile on the table than the bigger Syrahs that beg for steak or barbecue and this 2011 is no exception. Definitely one of the better Syrahs that I have tried so far this year.