Ventura County, Upper Ojai
Syrah, of all the grapes I’ve worked with over 34 years, remains my biggest obsession and our flagship varietal at The Ojai Vineyard. That said, after many years it remains a misunderstood grape in California; many people aren’t sure whether to expect something jammy, thick and sweet or something peppery, savory and lively.
The cool, often foggy climate of northern Santa Barbara County turns out to be one of the most ideal places to grow Syrah anywhere outside of the northern Rhone Valley in France (which is where I take my cues with this grape). Here we have three valleys that run East-West and are open to the cold Pacific Ocean, so they feed brisk coastal breezes inland and Syrah ripens gradually. Instead of thick, jammy fruitiness that Syrah shows from warm vineyards, here you get that mysteriously earthy, exotic and spicy side of the varietal.
As has been for a few years, the backbone of this 2017 bottling is Syrah grown on steep wind-blasted slopes at John Sebastiano. This site provides loads of gamey, tobacco inflected flavor and tractor beam drinkability, with aromas that show incense smoke and pepper galore! For some textural power we blended in a bit of warmer-climate Syrah from Roll Ranch and a touch of Grenache, also from John Sebastiano. This blend offers a cross-section of everything I love about Syrah: great earthy fragrance, savory fruit, and a mid-weight feel that is quenching and delicious with a fine meal.
Vineyards/Blend: 23% Bien Nacido, 15% Roll Ranch Syrah, 41% John Sebastiano Syrah, 10% Grenache John Sebastiano,8% Syrah RW 3% Barbera Rich| Alc: 13.5% | Vinification: New French Oak | Barrel Aging: 10 Months | Total Production: 1341 cases