2018 Eighteen Sixty One (GSM) by Skinner Vineyards

Tonight’s occasion: 2018 Eighteen Sixty One (GSM) by Skinner Vineyards, Fair Play CA

Deep intense semi-opaque color. Nose is a little shy out of the bottle with an unmistakable dusty old leather. Swirling vigorously unlocks a slightly heavy layer of dark cherries, cola, and blueberries. Leather turns from slight sawdust to wet wood. Distant hints of licorice could almost be missed. As it opens up, the cherry cola becomes more pronounced.

Body has almost no attack. It is balanced right down the line and greets the palate almost immediately with a soft plush light mouth feel. It brings a smile to my face because I know winemaker Adam Smith comes from an Oregon Pinot Noir background. The subtlety here bears an uncanny resemblance. Dark cherries are heavily restrained providing an unobtrusive structure. Minerality is subtle and has the effect of wetting the palate. Body is bone dry. If there is oak, I cannot detect it. I feel like I am tasting nothing but the grapes, the vines and the subtle parts of the terroir. Body and finish are almost one as wet an dry interplay on the palate, over a thin whispy cola.

Skinner for me has always been reference to the greater region. Adam’s style is precise, with clear vision and an unmistakable influence as a natural Pinot winemaker. For a region and Vineyard that easily makes some of the biggest boldest wines I know, this is a textbook exercise in restraint, balance and nuance. This wine demans focus and undivided attention of the intermediate to advanced palate.

Nicely done Adam and the entire crew at Skinner Vineyards!

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2013 Syrah by Skinner Vineyards, El Dorado, California

Tonight’s occasion: 2013 Syrah by Skinner Vineyards, El Dorado, California.

Dark opaque color. Popping the cork releases a bouquet of dark berries and herbal essence. Eucalyptus and mint comes to mind. As it settles, a heavy tart plum is accompanied by a touch of sweet cherry. Secondary leathery granite terroir quickly makes its presence known. Swirl vigorously and unlock a burst of star anise unmistakable with this greater region. It is particularly reminiscent of a sweet Absinthe and lingers in the background. I love this. As you swirl, the nose turns sweeter.

Heavy, viscous, dark plum dominates the body. Firm acidity and bold tannin go hand in hand. Neither yielding to the other. Body is bone dry. Woody, berry, and earth notes combine to create a soft slightly creamy overtone. One of my favorite Snobs, Guy (@wine.alchemy | FootHillsWino) best describes it as Bacon Fat. Massive, deep rooted, fine grained tannins permeate the entire experience. Transition to finish is fairly seamless as tart plums cede to a relentless dry, dusty tannic grip. Black currants and a smoldering heat are all that is left to see your palate off on its journey to its long dry finish in the desert.

Skinner makes some of the best Syrah in my cellar. I keep several cases of various vintages as reference wines. They serve as fine examples of mature, well built, wines from the Sierra Foothills. I highly recommend Skinner for the intermediate to advanced palate especially. This 2013 is just now coming of age and should show especially well over the next 5 years and beyond.

Well done Skinner!

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2019 Grenache Blanc by Skinner Vineyards

Tonight’s occasion: 2019 Grenache Blanc by Skinner Vineyards, El Dorado, California.

Clear light color. Out of the bottle a gentle burst of floral notes, a touch of honey. This slowly dissipates to suggestions of tart stone fruits and a slate-like minerality punctuated by a touch of leather and citrus notes. Swirl vigorously to unlock the whole experience all over again. Very cool!

Body is very nicely balanced retaining moderate acidity while presenting a smooth, creamy and rounded mouth feel. The winemaker struck a perfect balance here. Stone fruits pull forward as floral notes fall back. You could almost miss the faint mineral leather. Transition to finish is seamless, only briefly punctuated by subtle dry tannic grip and a touch of spice which leaves the lips tingling. At 12.8% ABV, the palate can really explore this nuanced wine without being overwhelmed or fatigued. I like that.

I have been tasting some amazing white wines this summer from this region. This Grenache Blanc exposes the palate to new levels of excellence. There has been a clear attention to detail and forethought put into this wine. It is showing well now and should further integrate nicely over the next few years. I’d get a few, have some now and save some for later. Very nicely done Skinner!

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2011 Syrah (El Dorado) by Skinner

Tonight’s occasion: 2011 Syrah (El Dorado) by Skinner Vineyards.

Deep rich color. Crisp nose greets you with lots of plum, a little cherry, subtle oak, and slight mineral. The heat and spice in this wine is more pronounced in the nose and diminishes through the rest of the experience. In the body, a subtle acidic attack is quickly overwhelmed by big buttery tannins giving it a noticeably chewy mouth feel. The finish takes an interesting turn with an abundance of wood as oak and vanilla turn into cedar with a hint of licorice.

One of the things that I like about this winemaker, is the wines are appropriately aged before release. They are not rushed to the glass. This way you can expect a quality, mature wine whenever you visit the winery. This vintage is almost 10yrs old. It is showing really well right now. I think this is what it was meant to be. It has just entered its peak and should be perfect any time over the next 4-5 years before its more nuanced characteristics start to fade. It is a great example of what is possible in this region. If you are looking to explore the most current frontier of California wine country, this is where I recommend you start. Well done Skinner!

Thanks to wine.com and their extensive library, you can now access most of the wines I review on here. You can use the link below to have Skinner wines delivered to your doorstep.

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