2014 Happy Canyon Star Lane Vineyard Syrah $40
This Syrah reveals itself as a warmer climate wine with a bit of reduction that blew off and evolved into a milk-chocolatey nose and aromas of stewed fruits and pie. It’s a big wine that gives a punch of alcohol on the finish. This is the type of Syrah meant for steak or bbq. 89 pts.
2014 Santa Maria Valley Dierberg Vineyard Syrah $65
As easy as it was to discern that the Happy Canyon was a warm climate Syrah it’s equally easy to tell that the Dierberg is firmly planted in the cool-climate camp. There are aromas of meat and fresh fruit and also a hint of reduction. It’s an elegant and fresh version of Syrah and it’s just my style. 94 pts.
After a storied stint at Donelan Wines in Sonoma, winemaker Tyler Thomas started at Dierberg Vineyards in 2013. He had become a bit of a Syrah-star in Sonoma and has since remade himself with mostly Pinot, Chardonnay, and Bordeaux varieties in Santa Barbara. But luckily for us Syrah-heads, both the estate vineyard at Dierberg and the Star Lane vineyard are planted with small amounts of Syrah. Just as at Donelan, with all its distinct Syrah vineyards, there’s a lot of contrast between these two Syrahs. The Happy Canyon is the more warm-climate style and, due to the coastal influence, the Dierberg estate more cool-climate.
The Happy Canyon Syrah was aged in barrel for 20 months with 10% New French Oak. The Dierberg Syrah is aged for 20 months with no new oak as Tyler feels that cool-climate Syrah and new oak are not a good match. This Syrah also has 5% Viognier added and some stem inclusion.
These wines were provided as samples for the purposes of review.
Fields Family Wines Estate Vineyard Lodi Syrah 2014
Cranberry and blackberry-pie nose with savory hints of cured meat and a touch of milk chocolate. The palate belies the nose in that it’s bright and almost citrussy with a pleasant touch of bitterness that evokes orange rind. 93 pts.
Fields Family Wines The Roasted Slope Lodi Syrah 2014
The Roasted Slope is all strawberry and salted plum on the nose, the palate also has good energy and lift that, like the estate wine, contrasts with the big-fruit nose. 92 pts.
The Roasted Slope, as its name implies, is an example of a Côte-Rôtie-style Syrah with about 9% Viognier mixed in with the estate Syrah fruit. The Viognier comes from Gill Creek Ranch right along the Mokelumne River. Ryan felt the Viognier added some acidity to the wine which would account for a slightly more energetic lift on the palate.
Both the wines are impressively “balanced” and I continue to be impressed with what Ryan Sherman is doing at Fields Family. Judicious picking times, and the absence of new oak, make the wines superior examples of Syrah. I wouldn’t exactly call the wines shy but Sherman keeps the fruit just restrained enough to make the wines food friendly and savory.
Two Shepherds 2013 Russian River Valley Saralee’s Vineyard Syrah
Recently released, this wine was aged in bottle at the winery to round it out a bit. It’s a wine that shows the elegant and lifted side of Syrah in the way it looks, smells, and tastes. Few other winemakers in California would even attempt to make a Syrah at 12.2 % ABV but William is not afraid to push the envelop on what’s considered ripe; he often boasts that some of his Rhone varieties are lighter in color than most California Pinot. This Syrah is no exception with its beautiful ruby red complexion. The nose is all herbal and earthy at first but with fresh red fruit aromas coming in to balance the savory aromas. There are some classic Syrah aromas of charcuterie there too. On the palate it’s super energetic and bright and needs to be consumed with salty food that will stand up to the rather bracing acidity. Although not for all Syrah lovers, those that follow this blog will enjoy this wine immensely. 92 pts.
Two Shepherds 2011 Russian River Valley Saralee’s Vineyard Syrah
I took the opportunity of writing about the 2013 to open a 2011 that I’ve been holding on to. This is a fuller version of Saralee’s Vineyard Syrah coming it at 13.5% ABV. When I first had this wine I was struck by how light and bright it was. It has really fleshed out after a few years in bottle and although I enjoyed it immensely then, it’s tasting perfectly now. More fruit forward than the ’13 but it has darker savory notes of dark olives and woodsmoke. The wine tends more blackberry than red fruit but with a core of minerality. It’s energetic on the palate but full, with good round tannin on the finish. 95 pts.
William Allen’s Two Shepherds Winery continues to make some of the most “out of the box” yet delicious reds in California and don’t even get me started on how much I love his energetic whites.