Santa Ynez Valley
In California, syrah is usually a fruit driven wine and critics of the style find it one dimensional and a little too sweet. This special bottling from John Sebastiano vineyard has a lot more in common with wines from the northern Rhone Valley of France—there syrah is exotic, peppery, and marked by savory and earthy characteristics. The great examples are impressive enough to work as a cocktail, but so balanced they drink wonderfully with hearty foods.
John Sebastiano Vineyard produced its first crop in 2010. Located on the eastern edge of Santa Rita Hills, the grower planted Pinot Noir within the appellation, while syrah and grenache were established just outside the demarcation line, thus this wine is labeled Santa Barbara County. Steep hills, close planted vines, and relentless sea breezes and fog make Sebastiano an extreme spot to grow late ripening varieties—in cool 2011 harvest occurred in November.
After finding the 2010 wines interesting we were excited to experiment more with the vineyard in 2011 so we made several lots of wine. The most interesting was this one, a syrah made with a high percentage of whole clusters in the ferment. The stems from these whole clusters gave the wine tannin and a spirit-y, peppery herbal quality that was aggressively in the forefront when the wine was young. I have to say that it wasn’t until the summer of 2013 that I finally realized how good this wine was. Evidently the vineyard character at Sebastiano is so strong that with time in the barrel the wine achieved an admirable balance between fruit and spice.
After 30+ years of making wine I would like to be able to say that this wine was an effort from a clear intention and expected result, but no, experimentation and blundering blind luck exposed me to a new way of making syrah from this fabulous site.
Blend: 100% Syrah | Alc: 14.0% | Vinification: 11% New French Oak | Barrel Aging: 22 Months | Total Production: 68 cases
Antonio Galloni’s Vinous
“The 2011 Syrah John Sebastiano Vineyard Special Bottling was vinified with 70% whole clusters and spent about eight months more in barrel than the straight 2011 John Sebastiano Syrah. Crushed flowers, anise, mint, tobacco and red berries meld together in a deep, resonant wine endowed with terrific depth and nuance. There is a lot to like here, but the 2011 needs a little more time in bottle for its explosive personality to emerge fully.” – AG 95 Points
Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate
“Even more impressive, the 2011 Syrah John Sebastiano Vineyard Special Bottling is a dead-ringer for classy Cote Rotie. Loaded with raspberry, white pepper, game, flowers and olive tapenade-styled aromas and flavors, this beauty hits the palate with medium-bodied richness, integrated acidity and a seamless, classy feel that carries all the way through the finish. It’s not a blockbuster, but excels on its balance, purity and complexity. It will have a decade of overall longevity.” – JD 93 Points
Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar
“(made with 50% whole clusters and a longer fermentation than for the regular John Sebastiano Vineyard bottling): Opaque ruby. Heady mineral- and smoke-accented aromas of blueberry, cherry compote, violet and Indian spices, with a peppery quality building in the glass. Palate-staining black and blue fruit flavors pick up notes of allspice, olive and licorice as the wine opens in the glass. Powerful but lithe and focused, finishing with excellent clarity and sneaky, harmonious tannins that provide gentle grip.” – JR 94 Points