2012 Arnot-Roberts Griffin’s Lair Vineyard Sonoma Coast Syrah

griffin's lair arnot roberts

There’s a soft spot in my heart for Arnot-Roberts, not quite to the level of Piedrasassi but I do love these guys. These were some of the first California Syrahs that made me realize how much I liked Syrah when it was done right. They make it from some classic California cool-climate vineyards like Clary Ranch, Griffins Lair, and the recently-acquired famed Que Syrah vineyard near Occidental. Their wines are not without controversy, they pick their fruit on the edge of ripeness and some would say the resulting wines are underripe and shortchange the gift of sunny climate that we have here in California.

I have found their Syrahs to be aromatically enticing, elegant, and perhaps a little light on the mid palate but that’s not anything that causes me any concern. I’d gladly exchange a little depth on the mid palate for an ethereal, elegant style of Syrah. I think their wines fit well into the pantheon of Syrah in California, someone has to be the counterpoint to the blocky, rich style that was so prevalent a few years ago.

Having said all that, the 2012 Griffin’s Lair isn’t missing anything on the mid palate. This is the first time I’ve tried their version of Griffin’s Lair and it has all that aromatic intensity of their other wines but this one matches it on the mid palate too. It’s an inky wine at 13.5%, one of the heftier wines that I’ve had from Arnot-Roberts. On first opening the nose has an earthy, almost dusty, gravelly aroma with some floral accents and fresh plum, black olives and blackberry. It’s a classic Syrah for me, and just plain delicious. Some of Arnot-Roberts’ other wines tend to take a little while to unfold in the glass. This one has a hedonistic quality that I think represents the vineyard well. It’s a fresh wine though, with a core of minerality that makes it unmistakably Arnot Roberts. I’d like to see how the wine ages too, I’d love to try it again in ten years.

Griffin’s Lair itself was planted in 2000 in the Lakeville Road area of the Petaluma Gap. It’s a site most defined by it’s cooling, drying winds, producing acidity in the fruit while also making them intensely flavored. It’s a sweet spot for Syrah and picking before the fruit is too ripe allows for the savory side of the variety to shine. This is one of the better representations of cool climate Syrah that I’ve had from this vineyard.

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Waxwing 2013 Sonoma Coast Flocchini Vineyard Syrah

 

2013 waxwing

Waxwing Wine Cellars is a little winery here on the Peninsula. I’ve written about them a few times and I’ve also been helping out at the winery a bit over the last few years. Obviously there’s a possible conflict of interest here but I assure you I wouldn’t write about these wines if they weren’t some of the most delicious and well made examples of the varieties that I’ve tasted. And I’m not alone in thinking this, Waxwing and its winemaker Scott Sisemore has gotten some good press for a small winery.  Here’s a couple of reviews from Jon Bonne, ex-wine writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. http://www.sfgate.com/wine/thirst/article/Is-pink-the-new-white-A-complicated-new-era-for-5501693.php and http://www.sfgate.com/food/article/Sonoma-Coast-is-a-sweet-spot-for-Syrah-3464992.php The latter is one of my favorites as it highlights the Sonoma Coast which really has become a sweet spot for Syrah in California.

Scott’s Flocchini Syrah is the first one that he ever made for his own winery. It’s peppery, menthol, earthy on the nose and all couched in blackberry and plum. This wine has all the aromas that make cool-climate Syrah different than your run-of-the-mill California Syrah or for that matter Cabernet or ripe pinot. On the palate the wine is full and finishes with a nice tannic punch that makes it beg for meat or rich cheese. I love this wine and it’s one of the first wines that Scott made that really piqued my interest.

The Flocchini vineyard is run by ex-dairy farmers Andrew and Patty Flocchini. It’s situated in the Petaluma gap right next to the famed Griffin’s Lair Syrah vineyard. Most of the Syrah there consists of the Noir clone which in Scott’s experience produces a rather tannic Syrah with lots of potential for aging. The wines are usually almost too-tannic on release but with a little time in bottle and a little air upon opening they are quite delicious.

Scott has made his latest two vintages with 100% whole cluster which gives the wines a level of complexity that really accents the cool-climate Syrah character. The wines see all neutral oak and are foot stomped and remain un-filtered and un-fined.