Not since 2002 have we had such a small harvest, and although the vintage gave us fabulous wine quality there wasn’t sufficient quantity to produce a “Santa Barbara County” Syrah blend in 2011. So our substitute is a “California” blend of 75% Syrah from Roll Ranch, our local Ventura County vineyard planted below the distinctive bluffs of Topa Topa mountain and 25% Syrah from the new cool John Sebastiano Vineyard, located on the eastern edge of the Santa Rita Hills appellation. Although somewhat reminiscent of past syrah blends that have mixed fruity warm climate grapes with peppery, spicy cool climate fruit, this wine bears the distinction of being made with over 40% whole clusters and that gives it a whole new spin. Whole cluster fermentation contributes a certain bright fruitiness to wines and at the same time accentuates the spiciness of syrah. This young wine is precocious and delicious; it is aromatically complex, savory tasting, and finishes with gentle, lip smacking tannins.
A little more about this wine: When you buy a “California” appellation wine it often is made from factory farmed fruit from the Central Valley–but this wine is different–it’s from two celebrated vineyards in our area. We have made a number of highly regarded wines from Roll Ranch since our first crop in 1995, and in 2010 we took over the farming to further focus on producing the best possible fruit. Whole cluster fermentation hadn’t been part of what we did with Roll in the past, but the fruits’ natural acidity made it an excellent candidate for this ancient technique of winemaking. John Sebastiano vineyard is a new venture that was planted on hillsides straddling the eastern border of the Santa Rita Hills appellation of Santa Barbara County. It is a very windy site and is producing unbelievably good syrah and grenache for us. It is so distinctive that even at only 25% it transforms this “California Syrah” into something utterly special.
Blend: 100% Syrah | Vineyards: 75% Roll Ranch, 25% John Sebastiano | Alc: 13.5% | Vinification: 10% New French Oak | Barrel Aging: 18 Months | Total Production: 494 cases
Antonio Galloni’s Vinous
“Bright purple. Vibrant dark berry and cherry scents are complicated by hints of smoky bacon and fresh violet, with a note of black pepper adding spiciness. Fleshy blackcurrant and bitter cherry flavors pick up dark chocolate and licorice nuances with air, along with a touch of candied licorice. Dusty tannins come on late but are quickly absorbed by the fruit, which carries nicely through the finish. ” -JR 90 Points