I’ve been meaning to stop by Steve Law’s new tasting room in Sonoma for quite a while so, on a recent trip to Sonoma to visit my mom, I made it a priority.
I love to talk Syrah with Steve, he has first hand knowledge of the Northern Rhone having lived there for years for his work. He’s also committed to making Syrah in a restrained style that’s food friendly.
Steve’s at home and happy in his new tasting room right off the Sonoma Plaza.
Steve generally has a few lower alcohol styles of Syrah that are right in my wheelhouse but he also has a couple of bigger Syrahs from warmer sites. Even those are made in a restrained style.
Although I tasted all of Steve’s Syrahs that day I’ve decided to highlight my absolute favorite:
The Atoosa’s Vineyard Bennett Valley Syrah (ABV 12.7%)
If you’ve been following this blog, you know that I’ve made some recent forays into slightly bigger styles of Syrah. Although these have been delicious wines, with their full mid-palates and rich fruit, I must admit that I’ve been excited to write about a wine that is truly cool-climate. Well, I found one in the Atoosa’s.
I was a bit worried when I found out that Steve was no longer making one of the best California Syrahs that I’ve tasted, the Judge Family Syrah, but the Atoosa’s really fills the void. It has that same savory Northern Rhone character that the Judge has. I’d say this one tends a little less towards St. Joseph and a little more towards Cornas because it’s a more reserved and slightly more tannic version of Syrah (although it’s not really that tannic).
As many of you know, cool-climate Syrah isn’t the type of wine to reveal all its charms upon first opening. It’s reserved and needs some time to open. With some time in the glass it revealed beautiful aromas of sweet plum, pomegranate, black olive and tobacco. On the mid-palate the best way I can describe this wine is that it’s crunchy. There’s this sense of a crunchy pomegranate or a crunchy apple with a nice lift of acidity on the finish. There are some tannins on the finish too but they’re integrated and not harsh.
I LOVE this wine and I’m so glad that Steve found a good replacement for the Judge. If you love Syrah and you haven’t had any of Steve’s you owe it to yourself to search them out.
Steve’s other Syrahs are equally delicious, if not exactly my style. I’ll discuss them briefly from my tasting notes on the day of my visit:
The Syrah lineup.
The 2011 Samantha’s Vineyard (ABV 13.5%) is a Russian River hillside site. It’s a nice Syrah with a fuller mid-palate but still good acidity. I got some cigar box aromas on the nose along with a bit of eucalyptus. Nice lift on the finish.
The 2011 Drouthy Neighbors (ABV 13.5%) is Steve’s Syrah blend from his different vineyard sites, 50% Samantha’s, 33% Atoosa, and 17% Stagecoach. It has a good core of acidity and lots of blackberry aromas. Again, the low tannins and high acidity make it super food friendly.
The 2011 Stagecoach (ABV 14.2%) is Steve’s biggest Syrah. It sees some new oak (20%) and therefore has some vanilla aromas on the nose. There’s a gorgeous mouth feel to this wine but it’s definitely a more blue fruited style, a Syrah that kind of fits that stereotypical Syrah and barbecue ribs pairing.
Except for the Stagecoach, all of these Syrahs see only neutral oak and are made with a technique that Steve learned from his time in the Northern Rhone that uses a lower pressure on the bladder press to minimize tannic extraction and make a more elegant style of Syrah.
Whatever your preference, Steve has a Syrah for you.