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.