When one thinks of the hip winemakers of CA, the image of Ryan Sherman doesn’t automatically come to mind. To be clear, Ryan is no Matthew Rorick or Abe Schoener, he has no visible tattoos or scarves but Ryan is doing some hip stuff. His label, Fields Family Wines, where he works with owner Russ Fields, is making Syrah in a Zinfandel-centric appellation and it’s damn good.
Ryan showing off the 2014 Rosé (which is also really crisp and delicious by the way).
Centered in the Mokelumne River Valley, in the deep sand and somewhat cooler climate, Fields Family Wines is a small estate that’s mostly planted to Syrah. Originally, winery owner Russ Fields wanted to pull out the Syrah grapes and plant Zinfandel, but Ryan, who had developed a love for Syrah at wine dinners in his early profession as a pharmaceutical rep, made it his goal to convince Russ that good Syrah could be made from the grapes. Russ is now convinced.
The tasting line up for the Lodi trip. Below are notes for the 2012 Syrah. The 2013 was still in barrel.
There’s a pleasant funkiness and interest to this wine that belies its warm climate roots. It’s also surprisingly fresh on the palate with a bright finish and a mouth-filling texture. Zero oak is coming through on the nose and it has a pretty floral aroma mixed with salty plum and ripe blackberry. This is Syrah as it should be. It’s not a cool-climate area but Ryan is achieving cool-climate character with this wine.
Ryan thinks a low frequency in racking helps preserve a freshness in the wines. He also picks earlier than his counterparts and uses very little new oak. He’s moving towards using even larger puncheons to minimize the wine’s exposure to oak for future vintages.
Ryan’s experimenting with these big oak puncheons or foudres.
On my recent visit, I got to try the 2013 in barrel and I’m excited by the elegance and floral quality of that Syrah. Keep your eye out for some whole cluster Syrah from Ryan in the future and he’s even got an orange wine that I didn’t get a chance to try. Fields Family Wines are still in their early days and Ryan’s open mind and willingness to experiment only bodes well for the future. This is definitely a winery to watch for me.
Who knows, given these wines, we might be seeing Ryan dressing like Abe in a cravat soon?