Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Syrah and the Sierra Foothills, Part 2

Image courtesy WineWithMe Blog
Celebrating SyrahDay, two special blogs about Syrah and the Sierra Foothills...   Read Part 1 (click here)

Syrah has a long history in the Sierra Foothills.

John MacCready of Sierra Vista Winery planted the first Syrah in the Sierra Foothills in 1979, and made his first syrah wine in 1982.

Mike Owen of
Crystal Basin Winery notes: ” We have been producing Syrah from the Sumu-Kaw vineyard since 1992 - 8 years before we were  a commercial winery.  There is now fruit from other vineyards included in the blend, but this vineyard has been the dominant element.  We recently heard from Paul Bush - owner of Madrona Vineyards - that they were considering pulling out the oldest block of Syrah on the Sumu-Kaw vineyard and replacing it with Malbec.  We told him that we'd take all the fruit from that block - it would be a true shame to see those vines get torn up."

Why were these Sierra Foothills winemakers attracted to syrah?
Barrels at Crystal Basin
“Syrah made properly - that is - made in a non-oaked, non-over extracted manner that allows the soil to speak through the berries and into the glass, is one of the most sublime wines that can be had, “ said Mike Owen. “Our original business plan was to make Syrah and Cabernet Franc.  Of course, we never stuck to that because other grapes were dangled in front of us and like Paris Hilton grabbing at shiny things, we couldn't resist.  We now make wines from 13 varieties of grapes.”
John MacCready is attracted to Syrah for a fundamental reason: “It tastes good.   I tried the wines of Cote Rotie and felt we have a similar climate to the Northern Rhone Valley, and we do.  I determined this doing research for my presentation at the International Colloquium on Rhone Wines held in 1990 in Napa.”

Whatever the reason you like syrah,
there's a special treat on Syrah Day for wine lovers near Sacramento – or those willing to drive there – to enjoy some excellent El Dorado County Syrah at a special tasting on the evening of Feburary 16.  And… it’s free.

Eight El Dorado county wineries -- Boeger Winery, Crystal Basin Cellars, David Girard Vineyards, Grace Patriot Wines, Lava Cap, Mount Aukum Winery, Shadow Ranch Vineyard, and Sierra Vista Vineyards & Winery – will pour from 5:30 -7:30 at the El Dorado Hills California Welcome Center.  For more information, go to the Facebook page (click here) or call 916-358-3700
Here are some of the wines you’ll enjoy at the SyrahDay tasting:

Mike Owen of Crystal Basin will be pouring two wines .  “Our 2009 Syrah that just won a Silver Medal at the SF Chronicle Wine Competition and our 2006 Syrah Port.  We are -sold out- of all of our previously produced Syrah wines. “
Crystal Basin made 311 cases of their 2009 Syrah El Dorado 'Reserve', using grapes sourced from BushBrothers Sumu-Kaw Vineyard, El Dorado County.  It’s been 18 months in neutral French and American barrels, 15.5% alcohol, and $22/bottle on the website.
Winemaker notes on 2009 Syrah:  Winemaker's Notes: The classic Northern Rhone wine grape is packed with rich ripe fruit and blackberry flavors with a touch of spiciness. We have a great history with this vineyard dating back to 1993. These grapes are potentially the most true to form for this vertical, exhibitions the traditional gamey flavors that tend to go well with lamb.
This wine exudes the character of the Rhone River Valley and has a hint of smokiness and soft tannins. This is a big Syrah with supple tannins that will go with most meat dishes. We almost always win medals (mostly Silvers) for this wine –no matter what competition we enter it into.
Our Syrah gets fermented with two different UC Davis yeast strains that distinctly complement each other. We wait until these are finished wines and then blend them at the second racking.
This wine will serve quite well up until 2015. Then it will serve better!!
Lava Cap, Placerville, will be pouring its 2009 estate syrah, from their west-facing sunshine-filled slope, planted 18 years ago. “It thrives there and we produce an estate bottled syrah as well as blend it in our Zinfandel blend called American River Red. Our winemaker Tom enjoys the rich structure of syrah and observes the varietal as ideal in blends. He is hand crafting a Grenache-Mourvedre-Syrah blend for future release, “ noted Beth Jones.   
Tom Jones produced 816 cases of the Lava Cap 2009 Estate Bottled El Dorado syrah, 14.7% alcohol, $21/bottle on the website.  Winemaker notes:  “Lava Cap’s syrah vineyard is located on a gentle, south facing slope. This location allows for extended hang-time which yields fully developed aroma, flavor and tannin resulting in wine of intensity and depth.  Dark cherry and plum provide mouth-filling intensity with a hint of carob and spice.  The flavors are as generous as they are complex, dark stone fruit and carob, woven with savory spice, white pepper and tannin.  Grilled and barbecued meats, pork and venison or a hunk of rustic bread and olive oil are great accompaniment to this wine."

John MacCready of Sierra Vista Winery, Placerville,  will be pouring his Fleur de Montagne(syrah based)  /Reserve Syrah, Red Rock Ridge Syrah.  “Over the years the Red Rock Ridge Syrah has been compared favorably to some of the best of Cote Rotie by those who have tasted fine Syrah from Cote Rotie,” said John, winemaker and owner.  Frankly, Sierra Vista’s Fleur de Montagne is one of my all-time favorite wines, so I am so pleased he is pouring it.  It’s a delicious rouge Chateauneuf-du-Pape style blend. $29/bottle on the website.

The Red Rock Ridge Syrah is Sierra Vista Winery’s flagship Syrah, and very reminiscent of a Cote Rotie. Winemaker’s Notes on the 2005:  “Deep purple in color with a wonderful bouquet of red berry and violets, the ripe, juicy raspberry and cherry flavors marry well with hints of oak and medium tannins. This wine will age nicely over the next 6 to 12 years, “ $32/bottle on the website.

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