TN: Syrah blind tasting

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Alan Rath
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TN: Syrah blind tasting

#1 Post by Alan Rath » July 11th, 2019, 4:25 pm

Had the pleasure of joining a group east bay friends I haven't seen for a while to blind taste a bunch of Syrahs. Always interesting and educational to taste blind.

Flight 1

A) Lovely nose with hints of spice, crushed berries/rocks, then beautiful deep violet/boysenberry fruit, mouthwatering acidity, good fine structure. Outstanding, has to be a quality French wine. 2016 Halcon Syrah “Elevacion”

B) Slight rubber note on the nose, nice mainstream dark red fruit, high acidity, good structure, seems young. Nice wine. 2006 Novy RRV Parson’s Vineyard.

C) Light dusty spice nose, medium ripe, some oak? Quite intense, almost a bit too much. 2014 Waxwing Lester Family Vyds SCM.

D) Some ripeness showing on the nose, fairly ripe palate though not syrupy, dense, oak? OK. 2012 Zepaltas Rosellas.

Flight 2

A) Quite dark deep violet color; deep, dark fruit, well structured, first hit is intense, you think this is going to be a ripe wine, but quickly turns more violet and savory, mid palate is a bit lacking, then the tannins clamp down and just grip your mouth. Thankfully missing most of the dead rat fur that permeates previous vintages I’ve had of this wine, though there are signs here as well. So structured, can it survive to turn into something drinkable? Too much, too structured, undrinkable at the moment. 2015 Levet Cote Rotie Chavaroche.

B) Medium body, showing some browning, has some age; pleasant nose with some notes of age, then nice, moderately resolved medium dark red fruit, good balance. Quality California Syrah with 10-15 years of age. If this bottle is representative, drinking well, but drink up. 2005 Edmunds St. John Syrah Wylie-Fenaughty.

C) Strong oak nose, decent medium dark red fruit, good acidity, but oak, oak, oak. 2015 John Duval Shiraz “Entity”.

D) Bit of oak on the nose, OK fruit, shows typicity of dark red Syrah fruit, but no particular complexity or interest, and oak dominates. D’Arenberg Shiraz “The Footbolt”.

Flight 3

A) Medium red fruit, strong acidity, some nice savory/olive complexity, fine structure. Very nice. 2013 Gilles Robin Crozes-Hermitage Cuvée Albéric Bouvet

B) Color shows some age, fairly strong appearance of oak on the nose, ripe fruit, prune notes, oak, high acidity, bit OTH, not pleasant. Oh my, 2002 Saxum Syrah Bone Rock.

C) Light nose, nice medium dark red fruit, solid, tasty, though a bit one dimensional. 2003 Peay Syrah Estate.

D) Light oak on the nose? Fairly big and ripe, but not syrupy or overdone, decent balance, grapefruit notes, slight prune note. 2010 Carlisle Syrah Papa’s Block.

Flight 4

A) On first pour this is a bit one dimensional, a little ripe, though there is decent depth of fruit. Some air brings out more depth and structure, gains complexity. Knowing this wine, pop-n-pour is not a good way to evaluate. Improves significantly later in the evening. 2014 Lagier Meredith Syrah.

B) Hint of pickle on the nose, grapefruit pith, not a lot of fruit here, turns bitter and a bit overly tannic on the finish. 2017 (?) Harrington Syrah McEvoy Ranch.

A few comments: I continued sampling the wines later in the evening, adding some thoughts to my notes to more fully represent the wines as they opened with air (I had double decanted my two wines earlier in the day, the Gilles-Robin and Peay, but I think most of the others were opened at the venue).

Halcon continues to impress. The latest evolution of whole cluster inclusion is taking the wines to a new level. I was convinced the Elevacion was a French wine, possibly the Gilles Robin I brought. But after reveal, it was clear that the Halcon was even better than that wine. WOTN for me and a number of other tasters.
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Re: TN: Syrah blind tasting

#2 Post by Brian Tuite » July 11th, 2019, 4:35 pm

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Re: TN: Syrah blind tasting

#3 Post by Todd F r e n c h » July 11th, 2019, 4:42 pm

YES on Halcon - so often mistaken for a good French Syrah, and I'm victim to its allure as well. That's why I bought some on BerserkerDay, and while I'm trying to let it sit and age, now I want to crack a bottle tonight with pasta!
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Re: TN: Syrah blind tasting

#4 Post by larry schaffer » July 11th, 2019, 4:51 pm

Really interesting notes - and with this variety especially, time open either in the bottle or glass is usually your friend :-)

Did everyone double decant before the tasting? If not, that's just another variable to throw in there, right?

Interesting notes on the Saxum - one would think the oak would be 'integrated' after 15 years or so in barrel, right? I'm sure that surprised most of the table.

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Re: TN: Syrah blind tasting

#5 Post by Michael Martin » July 11th, 2019, 5:05 pm

Fun notes. Wish we had more like this where impressions are first, then the reveal.

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Re: TN: Syrah blind tasting

#6 Post by Brian G r a f s t r o m » July 11th, 2019, 6:35 pm

Nice notes. Thanks for posting!
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Re: TN: Syrah blind tasting

#7 Post by John Morris » July 11th, 2019, 7:41 pm

Thanks, Alan. Really interesting notes.

A couple of comments:
Alan Rath wrote:
July 11th, 2019, 4:25 pm
A) Quite dark deep violet color; deep, dark fruit, well structured, first hit is intense, you think this is going to be a ripe wine, but quickly turns more violet and savory, mid palate is a bit lacking, then the tannins clamp down and just grip your mouth. Thankfully missing most of the dead rat fur that permeates previous vintages I’ve had of this wine, though there are signs here as well. So structured, can it survive to turn into something drinkable? Too much, too structured, undrinkable at the moment. 2015 Levet Cote Rotie Chavaroche.
I hadn't been keen on Levet until a friend served the remains (maybe 2/3 of a bottle) of the 2010 in 2016 that had been open three days. Wowsers! What a wine. I bought a bunch. I posted on a bottle of the '10 that I opened recently, which was just beginning to show its stuff. I'm a convert to Levet, but I think they do need time and/or a long decant, so I can imagine a '15 not showing that well if it had been more or less popped and poured.
Alan Rath wrote:
July 11th, 2019, 4:25 pm
B) Medium body, showing some browning, has some age; pleasant nose with some notes of age, then nice, moderately resolved medium dark red fruit, good balance. Quality California Syrah with 10-15 years of age. If this bottle is representative, drinking well, but drink up. 2005 Edmunds St. John Syrah Wylie-Fenaughty.
Surprising that an ESJ would have crested at that age. But his Parmalee and Bassetti '05s were pretty fruit forward and early maturing, in my experience. Not sure if that has any relevance to a wine from the Sierra Foothills, but those did seem somewhat atypical.
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Re: TN: Syrah blind tasting

#8 Post by Ed Steinway » July 11th, 2019, 7:48 pm

Nice notes, Alan. I need to try some of the Halcon wines. I will definitely be looking for some next year during BerserkerDay!

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Re: TN: Syrah blind tasting

#9 Post by Alan Rath » July 11th, 2019, 7:53 pm

Ed, highly recommended. You should have dropped in to try some wines!
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Re: TN: Syrah blind tasting

#10 Post by Ed Steinway » July 11th, 2019, 7:57 pm

Alan Rath wrote:
Ed, highly recommended. You should have dropped in to try some wines!
I didn't want to crash the venue! The tasting was at a golf/social club a few blocks from where we live, and I saw Alan in the parking lot and met Paul. I was on my way to a yoga class so I was a little under-dressed for the occasion! I hope the venue worked out for you! Cheers.

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Re: TN: Syrah blind tasting

#11 Post by John Glas » July 11th, 2019, 8:31 pm

Based on your notes did you like many of these wines?

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Re: TN: Syrah blind tasting

#12 Post by GregT » July 11th, 2019, 11:01 pm

I was on my way to a yoga class so I was a little under-dressed for the occasion!
Yoga class? In tights?

Eeeeek!

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Re: TN: Syrah blind tasting

#13 Post by Ed Steinway » July 12th, 2019, 4:17 am

Greg T wrote:
Yoga class? In tights?

Eeeeek!
Ah, no. T-shirt and gym shorts. Tights are not required for yoga where I practice. [cheers.gif]

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Re: TN: Syrah blind tasting

#14 Post by Greg K » July 12th, 2019, 4:36 am

Thanks for the notes Alan. Not surprised at the Levet note. I like Levet, but the 15 Chavaroche is in a stage right now that is best describe as “not fun to drink”. We had some last year.
On the other hand, a 98 opened a few weeks ago was easily one of the wines of the night in a really good lineup (Chave, Jamet, Allemand). I don’t think they show well young at all.
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Re: TN: Syrah blind tasting

#15 Post by D@vid Bu3ker » July 12th, 2019, 4:40 am

John Morris wrote:
July 11th, 2019, 7:41 pm
Alan Rath wrote:
July 11th, 2019, 4:25 pm
B) Medium body, showing some browning, has some age; pleasant nose with some notes of age, then nice, moderately resolved medium dark red fruit, good balance. Quality California Syrah with 10-15 years of age. If this bottle is representative, drinking well, but drink up. 2005 Edmunds St. John Syrah Wylie-Fenaughty.
Surprising that an ESJ would have crested at that age. But his Parmalee and Bassetti '05s were pretty fruit forward and early maturing, in my experience. Not sure if that has any relevance to a wine from the Sierra Foothills, but those did seem somewhat atypical.
I have been opening some 2005 ESJ Syrahs, and this bottle is not typical. I had the same wine in mid-June, and it was not at all peaked or even showing real age.
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Re: TN: Syrah blind tasting

#16 Post by Markus S » July 12th, 2019, 10:12 am

Alan Rath wrote:
July 11th, 2019, 4:25 pm
...Thankfully missing most of the dead rat fur that permeates previous vintages I’ve had of this wine, ...
'Rat fur' similar to mouse droppings? Sounds natty to me. [barf1.gif]
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Re: TN: Syrah blind tasting

#17 Post by Mike Grammer » July 12th, 2019, 12:14 pm

Great to have these notes, Alan, thanks for posting. Loved how you took us through your immediate impressions this way. Halcon--maybe some of it is the vineyard? The Myriad Halcon Syrah is one of my favourite of all Mike's wines.

I have left Crozes for way too long---I need to get back to explore some of what it can offer. We've all talked about how Cornas and even Cote Rotie have skyrocketed in price. Gotta get into Crozes and some St. Joseph.

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Re: TN: Syrah blind tasting

#18 Post by Dave McCloskey » July 12th, 2019, 12:30 pm

Sorry to hear about the 2015 Levet Cote Rotie Chavaroche, as I have some of that in my cellar. Perhaps it will improve with age, as I'm not big on Au de Rat! ;-)

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Re: TN: Syrah blind tasting

#19 Post by Greg K » July 12th, 2019, 12:54 pm

Dave McCloskey wrote:
July 12th, 2019, 12:30 pm
Sorry to hear about the 2015 Levet Cote Rotie Chavaroche, as I have some of that in my cellar. Perhaps it will improve with age, as I'm not big on Au de Rat! ;-)
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Re: TN: Syrah blind tasting

#20 Post by Gordon Fitz » July 12th, 2019, 2:42 pm

I find it amazing that anyone would consider popping and pouring a young (15) Levet a good thing! Top of the list on how to get a wine to show poorly. [head-bang.gif]

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Re: TN: Syrah blind tasting

#21 Post by Greg K » July 12th, 2019, 3:13 pm

Gordon Fitz wrote:
July 12th, 2019, 2:42 pm
I find it amazing that anyone would consider popping and pouring a young (15) Levet a good thing! Top of the list on how to get a wine to show poorly. [head-bang.gif]
I think some younger Levets show OK, but 15 especially is a tough vintage to open young.
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Re: TN: Syrah blind tasting

#22 Post by Alan Rath » July 12th, 2019, 3:29 pm

Gordon Fitz wrote:
July 12th, 2019, 2:42 pm
I find it amazing that anyone would consider popping and pouring a young (15) Levet a good thing! Top of the list on how to get a wine to show poorly. [head-bang.gif]
While I agree, you have to do it once to know for sure!
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Re: TN: Syrah blind tasting

#23 Post by Paul Gordon » July 12th, 2019, 3:39 pm

Gordon Fitz wrote:
July 12th, 2019, 2:42 pm
I find it amazing that anyone would consider popping and pouring a young (15) Levet a good thing! Top of the list on how to get a wine to show poorly. [head-bang.gif]
Gordon

I brought the Levet and double decanted the morning of the tasting. This is similar treatment used ahead of previous N. Rhone tastings.
I have enjoyed the Levet Chavaroche (bought '10 and '13 for instance) but the '15 is one tannic beast. I took the half finished bottle home and tasted the next day and it was even harder/tannic. I am sure it will develop well but seems to need another 20 years.

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Re: TN: Syrah blind tasting

#24 Post by Dave McCloskey » July 13th, 2019, 2:03 pm

It's my understanding 2015 was a warm weather vintage with near ideal conditions and nicely ripened fruit. Some of the 2015 N. Rhone's I've sampled are showing well, particularly with plenty of air time. That said, I'm going to sit on the rest of mine.

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Re: TN: Syrah blind tasting

#25 Post by Markus S » July 13th, 2019, 2:15 pm

Dave McCloskey wrote:
July 13th, 2019, 2:03 pm
It's my understanding 2015 was a warm weather vintage with near ideal conditions and nicely ripened fruit. Some of the 2015 N. Rhone's I've sampled are showing well, particularly with plenty of air time. That said, I'm going to sit on the rest of mine.
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Re: TN: Syrah blind tasting

#26 Post by Alan Rath » July 13th, 2019, 2:38 pm

Dave McCloskey wrote:
July 13th, 2019, 2:03 pm
It's my understanding 2015 was a warm weather vintage with near ideal conditions and nicely ripened fruit. Some of the 2015 N. Rhone's I've sampled are showing well, particularly with plenty of air time. That said, I'm going to sit on the rest of mine.
It is indeed a warmer, bigger vintage - as all Rhône vintages of this century divisible by 3 are. I much prefer the cooler, more classic, or even so-called “off” vintages, particularly 05, 10, 13, and 16.
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Re: TN: Syrah blind tasting

#27 Post by GregP » July 13th, 2019, 10:00 pm

Ed Steinway wrote:
July 11th, 2019, 7:57 pm
Alan Rath wrote:
Ed, highly recommended. You should have dropped in to try some wines!
I didn't want to crash the venue! The tasting was at a golf/social club a few blocks from where we live, and I saw Alan in the parking lot and met Paul. I was on my way to a yoga class so I was a little under-dressed for the occasion! I hope the venue worked out for you! Cheers.

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Re: TN: Syrah blind tasting

#28 Post by GregP » July 13th, 2019, 11:01 pm

Alan, during bottling day lunch break on Thursday and the usual brown bag guess game someone brought what turned out to be a 2012 La Sirena Syrah, pretty much a Saxum, on the nose, and palate. Just a reference point.

Tasting wise, I was disappointed with a few of them. Will make sure to tell everyone they should double decant if they feel the wines will benefit, something that was never really discussed before, nor pointed out. Most were popped right there and, as you said, some would definitely benefit, in hind sight.

All wines were served in exactly same bags, ramdomly split into flights of 4 (4 flights), sans foils and only tops of naked necks visible, to make this as fair as it gets.

Kudos to Paul, Halcon really showed well and easily WOTN, I think on all cards. Great vineyard location, management and cellar work. This was my 3rd time with the wine in the past year or so, and always shows well. And TBH, since I had the first 2 sans double decant, I think the wine would have still showed well, regardless. One of very few New World Syrah I enjoy. Very Old World in style and presence on palate. Highly recommended.

Kudos to Eric Lundblad as well, he wasn't afraid to bring a just bottled Ladd Cellars Tempranillo, a pleasant surprise to me. I picked up some very fine dusty tannins on the palate (in a good way to me), which dissolved by the end of the night when I re-tasted the wine. On the palate nice darker red fruits (for a change!) and balance, with nary an oak note, this should be really, really good upon release (have no idea when, ask Eric). Highly recommended. And a great starter before we dived in to Syrah (actually, a great palate cleanser after, for me, after too much oak in a number of Syrah bottles).

Levet. Don't know where to begin, having been drinking and tasting Rhones for over 20 years now, and not recalling one that offended me, some OK, some great. This was just hard on the palate, never mind that rat fur nose, and some very odd palate notes, and not in a good way. My usual take on young wines is that even when young they still show their stuffing to some extent at the least, and this one, no matter how I tried, even upon re-taste at the end of the tasting, I saw nothing that compelled me to say it will turn into something good, never even mind great. I'll try to find a bottle with 20+ years on it now, just want to see what it is I am missing in this particular wine.

Saxum, my bottle, and a disappointment, just not right on the nose and palate with a number of technical faults. Took the remains home and tasted next day, got worse.

Lagier-Meredith, I brought this one, and upon recollection I should have double decanted it, it definitely improved by the end. Overall, #3 for me.

Peay, expected more out of it, TBH, not complex enough for me, and not sure if its the year or not, but they usually do better. Not convinced double decant would have helped.

Aussies, nothing compelling in either, too much oak for me, despite buying/drinking plenty of them back in the '90s/early '00s. Even though d'Arenberg Dead Arm is still one of my faves, provided some age.

Edmunds St. John, really good wine in all respects, good fruit, good balance, pretty much par for the course, IMO. #2 wine of the night for me.
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Re: TN: Syrah blind tasting

#29 Post by Eric Lundblad » July 14th, 2019, 12:14 am

Nice tasting. My top wines were the Halcon, Levet and the ESJ. The Levet was 'difficult' to appreciate, but at the time it seemed to have the elements to show well in a million years or so :). The ESJ was showing extremely well. I disagree with the 'drink soon'assessment. My experience with ESJ's is this will continue to drink well and evolve for some time to come. As will the Halcon, which was top notch. Several others were very good, but not quite at the lever of those three that night.

Greg's Iskaranu wines/Pinots (tasted before hand) showed quite well...esp the 'Secret Clone' and the RRV. Nice job.
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