Syrah Vines

2007 Syrah, Bennett Valley, Sonoma County, CA

Syrah suffers from an acute case of identity crisis in California. Endless stipulation on the part of producers and the press as to why this has developed has yet to really address what is really the problem- too much California Syrah is generic red wine at best. Over-ripe,over-oaked and over-worked, the poor grape has really never had a chance here.

Despite this, winemakers throughout the world are fascinated and entranced by Syrah - myself being no different. The key, as is always the case, lies in the vineyard.

Bennett Valley has some of the more complex soils in the North Coast. The confluence of Bennett Mountain, Sonoma Mountain and Taylor Mountain is a rock-hounds paradise. Cobble, loam and rock are strewn throughout the top and sub-soils in a melange of craggy goodness. These soils limit vigor, focusing the plants energy and limiting berry size and increasing skin thickness. This valley is greatly affected by the cooling influence of the Pacific Ocean. This ensures moderate temperatures during crucial periods of maturation; heat spikes around harvest have ruined more grapes than we like to admit in California. We are able to get riper flavors, with higher acidity at lower sugars than many other parts ofthe north coast.

Harvest occured in mid-October. I left 50% of the fruit as whole clusters and de-stemmed the other half. The thick skins and small berries made sampling or punching down near impossible. We resorted to pigeage, jumping in the fermentor and giving the grapes a foot stomping.The pigeage released some juice, allowing a medium for the native yeast to build up and take hold. The ensuing fermentation was long and on the cooler side, reaching a high of 85 degrees. In mid-November I basket pressed the wine to 7 French oak barrels, only one of which was new.Undergoing malolactic fermentation in barrel, the wine rested in barrel for nearly three years (2-3 times longer than most California Syrah)with only two barrels being racked off their gross lees (one was broken down for topping wine). No SO2 was added to the wine for 2 years and then only a homeopathic amount. In August of 2010 the wine was assembled in tank for the first time, had another tiny dose of SO2, and bottled un-fined and unfiltered.

The 2007 Precedent Syrah, Bennett Valley was sourced entirely from grapes grown at the Grey Stack, previously known as Dry Stack, Vineyard.While there are ample amounts of cassis and black currant fruit, this wine really delves into the savory and spicy side of Syrah. The extra time in barrel has allowed for perfect integration of flavors and brought a real sense of harmony to the wine. The aging curve should be interesting to follow; my best guess is a peak in another 5-7 years.

14.2% abv

140 cases produced