My favorite of the Donelan lineup because it is decidedly their most cool-climate Syrah. In a lower elevation vineyard in the Russian River Green Valley area the fog tends to keep the grapes from getting too ripe. Viognier is harvested early and kept fresh with dry ice until the Syrah is ready and then co-fermented. The wine is stored in neutral oak barrels to keep with the Northern Rhone theme. It’s a floral/meaty/smoky/umami wine that accentuates the savory side of Syrah. In a blind tasting it would be hard to pick this wine out as a California Syrah. 96 pts.
Donelan has been predominately a Syrah house for many years but they also have some delicious Pinots and Chardonnays. At a recent tasting at the winery I especially enjoyed the Tripp’s Block Perli vineyard Pinot and the Genevieve’s Block Chardonnay. I generally don’t like Chardonnay but this one had an enjoyable bracing acidity.
As far as the other Syrah, I enjoyed the Cuveé Keltie which is a nice middle ground for those that like a balanced California Syrah styled wine. Not too ripe, and not too savory. Donelan’s benchmark wine is the Obsidian Vineyard Syrah from a, now mostly destroyed by fire, vineyard in Knight’s Valley. It’s a well made wine for those that like the big, ripe, in-your-face iteration of Syrah. The vineyard is being replanted with Syrah so this wine will be off-line for a few years. I only took quick tasting notes on those wines so I won’t score them here.
As Donelan replants their flagship vineyard they also welcome in new winemaker, David Philbin. Philbin has been working with Pinot and Syrah at Relic Wine Cellars in Napa. Every since the Pax/Donelan break-up, Donelan has become a breeding ground for young talented winemakers. Tyler Thomas and Joe Nielsen have moved on to other projects but I’m hopeful that Donelan Winery will continue the tradition of letting their diverse vineyards dictate the wines they produce.