Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Big, Balanced Syrah




Having been a participant (read buyer) of the Wine Cask futures program for many years, I think I started buying the wines back in 98 or 99, it really is fascinating to see how the Santa Barbara and related viticultural areas have thrived and risen to world class levels in just a relatively few years. Brewer Clifton, Sea Smoke, Kaena, Curran to name a few have all passed through the WC futures book, which went from a Xerox of 30 wineries to an internet and printed booklet of double that number. Frankly, on the quality value front, the wines offered are top notch and each year there are dozens of discoveries available to try.

Behind the scenes as far as organization and realization is Doug Margerum, who works (owns? not sure) the Wine Cask, a fantastic retail shop and companion restaurant just off of State Street in Santa Barbara. Doug has to speak for himself but I suspect that being around wine for so long, then organizing a number of small growers and producers in the first few futures program spurred him to say why not try my hand at things. I ignored some of his early offerings, thinking that he had a kind of insider's path to the book and that his juice may not be really worthy, but for his role as overseer and such. To Doug's credit, his wines were priced very reasonably; ultimately I bit and bought some of his Sauvignon Blanc, which came in numbered bottles, something I thought was very cool. Though a bit rustic and grassy the Margerum SB from the 2002 vintage was well received by the guzzlers, and was priced right at about $15 a bottle.

Anyway, two years ago in the spring of 2005 I bought some of Margerum's 2004 Syrah (I'm pretty sure it was in the low $20 range or I wouldn't have bought it), which I received about a month ago. I don't have a lot of details about the production of this wine, when picked, barrel usage, case production, etc. I will guess and say that it was a late Oct. 2004 harvest, fermented stainless, 30% new French oak, 30% new American oak and 40% neutral wood, with about 20 months in barrel and another 3 0r 4 in bottle before release with maybe 200 cased produced but I could be way off. Here's the wine for you to consider.

The Margerum 2004 Syrah Alondra de los Prados Vineyards, Santa Ynez Valley (bottle number 00217), checks in at a whopping 15.9% alcohol. I expected a hot or at least smoldering wine, given the tendency of highly alcoholic Syrah's to not integrate so well, esp. when young. Not so here, this is truly delicious, balanced wine that has more CdP characteristics than the typical boomer Syrah from the southern California regions. Doug obviously knows what he is doing, the wine shows a high level of craftsmanship and a quality that's hard to find at twice the price.

Tasting Notes: Purple in the glass, nose of blackberry compote/jam, rich caramel, cedar and chocolate notes mid-palate, rustic earth tones and some base spices like pepper and bay leaf, mouthcoathing, integrated and voluptuous flavors with a very long sweet dark fruit finish. Evident tannins suggest a long life here which, I suspect, will mellow over time making this a fuller fruit bouquet and add more complexity and flavor distinctions.

Rating; Excellent and a superb value.

Cheers, Barrld

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