Wine Blogging Wednesday #30: New World Syrah.
My inaugural contribution to Wine Blogging Wednesday is an extension of the entries on global warming’s effect on California wine regions that I’ve posted over the last few days. You can read the first two entries here and here. For this WBW, our instructions from Tim Elliott at Winecast, this WBW’s host, were to select a New World syrah/shiraz, so I’ve picked a syrah from a cool-climate vineyard to see if there’s anything different about it from the other Santa Barbara County syrah I’ve tried, most of which have come from Santa Ynez or Santa Maria. I have a vague memory of trying a 2003 Kenneth-Crawford Syrah at a tasting about a year ago, but nothing I can recollect. Maybe that’s a bad sign, but it’s far more likely to be simply the byproduct of my misfiring brain.
2004 Kenneth-Crawford Syrah Lafond Vineyard
Kenneth-Crawford is a sourcing project from the duo of Kenneth Gummere, formerly of Lafond, and Mark Crawford Horvath, formerly of Babcock. It seems like there are a lot of these partnership projects in Santa Barbara these days – Brewer-Clifton, Barrel 27 (McPrice Myers and Russell From), etc. This bottle comes from the Lafond vineyard, which is in the southeast corner of the Santa Rita Hills AVA.
This wine is a dark purple-tinged ruby, not the most opaque syrah in the world but a dark and alluring color nonetheless. I threw it into a carafe (not literally, but there’s a visual) to let it breathe for a bit, but even after a few minutes it was developing a potent bouquet of tart berries, bacon fat, and something a little gamey. Very nice, and it only improved from there. After about an hour, I poured myself a glass. At first it took a moment to establish itself, but then the flavors started to come through: blackberries, graphite, a bit of herbs and spices, and a rich earthiness. The earthiness reminded me of some of the wines I’ve tried from the Languedoc, and it made me wonder for a moment if there was a touch of grenache in this wine, but no. There’s tannins here, too, that could probably use a year or two to settle down completely, and a good amount of acidity – more than I’ve tasted in most Central Coast syrahs. It’s a very structured wine in comparison to many of its Santa Ynez brethren. As time went on, the flavors began to build and coalesce, although it never felt too big, and the acidity always kept it in check. While I haven’t tasted enough California syrah to state definitively that this wine epitomizes cool-climate syrah, I feel that I could point out the characteristics that differentiate it – its structure and earth notes, mainly – relatively easily.
I bought it for about $35, making it one of the more expensive syrahs I’ve ever acquired. Considering the price and the amount of time I think this wine needs before it really starts hitting its stride, I don’t know if I’ll seek out another bottle. (I would like to try Lafond Winery’s estate syrah, if I can find a bottle in LA.) But as my first recognized foray into Californian cool-climate syrah, this was a very nice wine, and one that went well with the lamb braised in milk and roasted root vegetables that I made that night. (This WBW probably made lamb prices at local meat markets jump a little, eh?) I look forward to trying other Santa Rita Hills wines, including those from the Melville and Sanford vineyards, and I urge you to check these wines out too, as it’s impossible to say how much longer the conditions that allowed them to thrive will be around.