Harold’s Reserve (Red Blend) by TKC Vineyards, Plymouth, CA

Tonight’s Occasion: Harold’s Reserve (66% Syrah, 33% Zinfandel) by TKC Vineyards, Plymouth, CA

Dark opaque color. Crisp intense nose with lots of dry plum and blackberry. Swirling unlocks a burst of sweet dark cherries, red vines licorice and a hint of soft oak vanilla. A touch of dry dusty granite lingers in the distant background. Good sense of place.

A bright, fresh, crisp attack greets the palate. Moderate acidity creates good tension up front. This is quickly followed by thin, crisp and firm tannins, which add great structure. A crisp oak vanilla adds more dimension to a very structured body, further enhancing dry fruit expression. Body quickly dissipates, leaving behind tart blackberries, bitter cola and a slightly dusty dry tannic grip. A gentle spice punctuates the whole experience.

This very small boutique winemaker has been making little gems for over 40 years. Not far off Shenandoah road in Plymouth, Amador, you’ve likely driven by many times and missed it. This past weekend I was only tickled to stumble upon it and even better, Karina the winemaker was pouring our tasting just outside the cellar. I liked every one of her wines. They were all well built, balanced, and fairly dry, especially for this region. She has a very mature style. Have you tried TKC wines yet? What’s your favorite? Let me know in the comments below.

2016 Syrah by William Church, Yakima Valley, Washington

Tonight’s Occasion: 2016 Syrah (Red Willow Vineyard) by William Church and Tinte Cellars, Yakima Valley, WA

Dark inky color. Thick intense nose greets with wet slate gravel, ripe plum and blackberries. A bright sweet citrus lingers in the background sort of like Meyer lemon. Very pretty nose. Swirling vigorously intensifies the whole experience. As it opens up, a faint anise makes an appearance in the distant background.

Body greets with a bright acidity. This quickly transitions to a thick, slightly creamy body. It is fairly dry. Tannins are surprisingly restrained, providing just enough structure without dominating the experience. That wet, gravel carries over alongside slightly ripe plum and blackberry. A subtle burst of oak further softens the edges. A bold spice heat emerges towards the back marking the transition to finish characterized by black currant, a moderate dusty tannic grip and spice tingle. After an hour the anise dominates. Wet gravel develops an unmistakable old wet wood leather and hints of tobacco so faint you’d likely miss it.

I just love how Syrah can be so gentle in this region. This winemaker has done a fantastic job with this one. It is far more interesting than a Syrah should be. A pleasant, multi dimensional, interesting interpretation of this otherwise monolithic varietal. I picked this up at Tinte Cellars (@tintecellars) while exploring the Woodinville outside Seattle. Now I understand why I absolutely had to bring it back with me.

Nicely done folks!

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2011 Syrah (Monarch Mine) by Terre Rouge Easton Wines

Tonight’s Occasion: 2011 Syrah (Monarch Mine Vineyard, Sierra Foothills) by Terre Rouge * Easton Wines, Plymouth CA

Dark semi opaque color. Looks unfiltered. Out of the bottle nose is warm and weighted. This wine is all terroir up front. Reminds me of Beaujolais Gamay or Loire Cab Franc in its expression. Big leather up front with unmistakable wet wood and dusty granite. This wine asserts its origins with a keen sense of place. Within minutes it’s full identity reveals itself in the form of a rich, creamy anise. An unmistakable hallmark expression of the Sierra Foothills. Just beautiful. As it settles, ripe dark cherries, sweet berries and plum reveal themselves with hints of herbs I can’t pinpoint, a sort of eucalyptus.

There is no attack. You are greeted by a long, wide and fairly deep body from start to finish. Dry dusty tannins provide a thick chassis upon which a well integrated melange of leathery notes, dark plum, blackberries and hints of mushroom slowly play. As it finally transitions to finish, the stage clears, leaving black currants and anise and warm gentle spice. The palate is rendered slightly dry and tingling with spice and the chest warms.

There are many reasons why Terre Rouge * Easton was our first inaugural Winemaker of the Year for 2019. This bottle reminds me of all of them. A fine example of what is possible in this region, California and the world at large with a relentless commitment to the art form and excellence. I am just tickled every time I open one of these wines.

Nicely done Bill, Jane and the entire crew at Terre Rouge Easton Wines!

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2017 The Red (Root 49) by Naggiar Vineyards

Tonight’s occasion: 2017 The Red (Root 49) by Naggiar Vineyards, Sierra Foothills, California

Composition: 32% Syrah, 32% Tempranillo, 27% Malbec, 9% Grenache.

Out of the bottle the nose is filled with a dusty Cedarwood with a hint of redwood. This subsides a little but remains prominent throughout. It’s oak underpinnings is revealed ever so slightly while it eventually turns to black licorice as it opens up. I expect this from a terroir driven wine of this region however not as a primary note. Ripe plums and dark cherries take a secondary stage. An almost oily granite minerality lingers in the back. Another distant floral note eludes me. Interesting.

Body greets with a dash of acidity. Ripe plums, cherries, berries blue and straw quickly usher the palate in followed by a dash of oak. This immediately sets a fuller, more tamed stage. Slightly thin, crisp tannins provides good structure and balance while remaining largely in the shadows. Body as a slightly whispy mouth feel. Interesting, considering how massive this wine is otherwise. At 14.7% ABV this very well balanced and restrained. Transition to finish starts with dry tannins and a gentle but intense spice heat moving to the front. The duel is quick, as both quickly settle for a truce, leaving the lips parched shut and tingling.

This wine was made in the Vineyards. The winemaker shows great stewardship of their transformation. The hallmark of a great winemaker.

Nicely done Naggiar!

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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2013 Syrah (Les Cotes de L’ouest) by Terre Rouge

Tonight’s occasion: 2013 Syrah (Les Cotes de L’ouest) by Terre Rouge * Easton Wines, Plymouth, California.

Dark rich intense color. Nose is restrained with gentle notes of plum, dark berries and hint of sweet cherry. Terroir is tastefully expressed through subtle wet sandy leather. Once opened up, a hint of mushrooms emerges when swirled.

Body is balanced from front to back, attack to finish. Mild acidity opens up the palate which is quickly filled in with plums, dark cherries and the faintest hint of dried apricot all wrapped in massive, heavy tannin. A seamless transition to finish characterized by an ever tightening tannic grip resulting in parched lips sealed shut with a spicy tingle.

Terre Rouge is our 2019 Winemaker Of The Year. This is their flagship wine, intended to introduce the wider consumer audience to their exquisite small batch wines. It is a head scratcher of a wine because it stands head and shoulders above most reserve Syrah I’ve had. It presents an incredible value at a mind boggling price point. It embodies what a classic California Syrah is all about. I keep a case on hand as a baseline comparison whenever reviewing a Syrah and I can say many Syrah have fallen to this humble wine. Well done Bill, Jane and the entire Terre Rouge Easton Team! 🍷😁👌🏽

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2014 Estate GSP by Loxton

Tonight’s occasion: 2014 Estate GSP (Grenache, Syrah, Petite Syrah) by Loxton, Sonoma County, California.

Dark rich color. Thick, warm, full nose, full of caramel, sweet cherry and plum and hint of slightly mineral terroir. Body has good structure and even greater balance. Not as fruit forward as the nose would suggest. Terroir is carried through into the body. A little berry, and plum. A very full, weighted mouthfeel from start to finish. Slightly creamy tannins take over the transition to a slightly tart plum finish. A slightly dry tannin lingers on the palate. Moments later a hint spice warms deep further down inside the chest. This is an interesting trick I haven’t seen before. Usually spice is expressed in the body or finish. This one seems to have a delayed effect.

This is a well built wine. I think it is showing really well right now and should be enjoyed over the next 3-5yrs. The benifits of the blending process really show here. I will surely be adding newer vintages to my cellar and following them.

I highly recommend visiting this Aussie for an authentic taste of what Sonoma has to offer. -Nicely done Mr Loxton! 🍷😁👌🏽

2008 Syrah (Sentinel Oak) by Terre Rouge

Tonight’s occasion: 2008 Syrah (Sentinel Oak Vineyards) by Terre Rouge * Easton Wines, Plymouth, CA.

Deep inky color. Rich nose with lots of plum, blackberry and a hint of caramel on the back. Big, beautiful and bold structured body with great balance. That plum and blackberry carries through into the body accompanied by a little acidity. Massive finish dominates the palate as those big tannins roar to life and demand your attention. This is a fantastic wine. A well built wine that punches above it’s weight. The winemakers’s tireless attention to detail, commitment to excellence without compromise and decades of practice in the art and science of wine making really shows here.

This wine is just now becoming approachable in my opinion and has easily another decade of expression ahead of it. At 11+ years old, it is nowhere near its peak expression.

Well done Terre Rouge * Easton! 😁🍷🍷🍷

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1999 Syrah (Sentinel Oak) by Terre Rouge

Tonight’s occasion: 1999 Syrah (Sentinel Oak Vineyard) by Terre Rouge * Easton Wines of Shenandoah Valley, California.

It has an elusive nose with a hint of oaky chocolate, maybe a little plum.

Once opened it almost vanishes. Body has a mature late stage balance with a hint of acidity that gently and patiently segues into the finish which is introduced by a very brief bite of spice before riding into the sunset with a final gentle wave of mild tannic grip. This wine is ripe and has been ripe for a while.

After 20 years of patiently waiting, it came right out of the bottle ready with the posture of an old sage. It needs no decanting. It is absolutely beautiful. I cannot say enough about a winemaker whose craft shows so well after so long. A bottle like this is a distinct honor, privilege and true occasion. Where were you in 1999? Now imagine where this winemaker was at the same time.

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Reserve: 2014 Syrah by Dierberg

Tonight’s occasion is a 2014 Syrah by Dierberg Star Lane Vinyard.

I posted a while back about my visit last year here. I wanted to try something special tonight so I reached for the Santa Barbara region in my cellar. Any mildly savvy palate should be able to identify the terrior in the nose alone. Very nice and rich. It prompted visuals of the vigneron (the one who tends to the vines) and contemplated all he/she put into those vines for the terrior to be so pronounced in the nose alone. A great, buttery, well balanced body (especially for a 14.2% ABV wine) a testament to the winemaker’s skill and craft. The finish is not as massive as your average California Syrah, but still has that signature tannic grip albeit restrained for a Syrah.

This region is most known for it’s amazing Pinot Noir, so it’s always a treat to see what Syrah – a typically big bold wine – would taste like. I like what they’ve done with this Syrah. Great job!

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