California Syrah can be many things, bold, juicy, hot, chewy, muscular, austere, fruit forward, we've all seen the terminology in various reviews and assessments. Napa appears to be in Syrah heaven of late, with vintages from 1999-2003 all receiving oohs and aahs (along with many 90+ scores) from the pundits. Frankly I have a hard time distinguishing much finesse or structure amidst any of the alcoholic fruit bombs that pose as California Syrah, just as I honestly haven't been able to get my arms around Shiraz from down under, and find most of the Australian versions of this varietal nearly undrinkable after a half glass.
Red Car Wine Co. got my attention years ago with its debut wine in what would become Red Car's Trolley Series, in memory of the red cars on the Pacific Electric Railway than transvered over 1,100 miles of the city from 1901 to 1961. While eye catching labels are often inversely proportional to high quality, Red Car belies that stricture and offers interesting stories, artwork or both on all of its wines, while making some pretty good juice too. It now has a newsletter for its mailing list folks called the Red Car Almanac, which is quite creative, takes a lot of effort and is well appreciated. While I have a lot of Red Car wine (in relatively small quantities) I rarely took it to the guzzler parties and such because the wines, especially the Syrahs, can be very dense and a touch unapproachable out of the bottle. Now that my "collection" has aged and softened up a bit I think it's time to share the wealth.
So I opened a bottle of Red Car California Syrah, Red Wind 2004, which says 16% alcohol on the bottle but the website says 15%. The 100% Syrah grapes are sources from Napa, Somona, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties (not sure where the wine is made and how they kept the grapes from deteriorating during travels to the winery) and the wine uses 81% new French oak--I guess the other 19% is old French oak but the website doesn't say. The wine was barrel aged for 10 months and is unfined, unfiltered and is black purple in color.
Tasting Notes: Plums, black cherry and currants on the nose, complex and chewy mid-palate, with notes of black licorice and tar, a bit hot, smoky/charcoal, earthy, dark fruit finish with persistent tannins. Seems to have a good bit of life in it. While I could not finish off a bottle of it in one evening the wine seems to have shaken an early muddle and now well structured and achieving a bit more balance than when previously tasted.