10 blind syrahs (2 SQNs, Lillian, Bone Rock, Carlisle, Alban, Jaffurs, Lewis)

Last night, the Lewin Group (8 of us, mainly from the South Bay, although the founder, David Lewin, lives about 40 miles away) got together at Petro’s in Manhattan Beach for an evening of sophisticated Greek food (no flaming saganaki) and elite syrahs, served double blind to all but our host. Our host, David Rauch (fka Smokey, nom de guerre—The Little One), did a superlative job coordinating the wine choices and the menu.

And a special call-out needs to go Petro’s and our server, Michelle (who has worked other dinners with my other group and knows the drill). Petro’s is one of the few places in the South Bay for good high end food (the stalwart Chez Melange is another) and being adjacent to Cougar Central (the Shade Hotel) and three blocks from the beach, sitting out of their patio, watching the eye candy walk by and drinking great wines on a Summer evening is about as good as it gets. Other than a pedestrian bun on the hybrid lamb/cow burger (they must gone across the street to Von’s since Von’s was running a $0.69 special for hamburger buns with a Von’s Club Card and $20 of purchases), everything was done perfectly, from the first course of fried calamari and grilled octopus with red and yellow beets, to the hybrid lamb/cow burger (imagine what a hybrid lamb/cow must look like), to the final wine course of feta crusted rack of lamb with a side of delicious moussaka. Great job.

We started with two non-blind whites for the calamari/octopus—the 2007 JJ Christoffel UW spaetlese and the 2007 Domaine Weinbach Gewurtz. Even though the Weinbach is their entry level gewurtz, I enjoyed it much more than the Chrisoffel, which started out a bit spritzy and seemed almost dull compared to the richness of the Weinbach. The Weinbach did not have the nth degree of complexity like many of the Gewurtz’s that I was fortunate enough to taste at an Eastside Wine Group dinner at Yujean Kang’s at the end of June, but with its beautiful honeyed nose and richness, it was a winner.

With the burger came the first six blind syrahs:

Wine # 1—medium density, smooth on both the palate and the finish with no heat, good complexity; the best drinking wine of the flight initially, but after more time in the glass it seemed to lose something. Lewis 2002 Napa

Wine #2—much thicker than Wine #1, with more tannins, but similar dark berry flavors; a little rough on the finish, needs more time, seemed to improve throughout the night but still never fully integrated even at the end of the dinner. SQN Raven

Wine #3—immediately apparent to me that this was a Carlisle, as it had the telltale Carlisle flavor profile of effusive dark berry flavors; because it seemed slightly over-ripe, I would have guessed the 2003 Judge Unfiltered; a little heat on the finish; improved a bit throughout the evening and probably could use a few hours in a decanter. Carlisle 2004 Pelkan

Wine #4—because of the bricking, I knew that it had to be either my second “mystery” (as in even our host didn’t know what it was) or David Lewin’s old French syrah (how did I know that David Lewin was going to bring an old French wine to a double blind tasting? Because I know David Lewin, just as I expected the world’s largest Carlisle consumer to bring a Carlisle); the wine was bitter, thin and devoid of fruit. Unfortunately, it was my “mystery” wine, which a few years ago was quite nice. I guess that those years have not been kind. Dehlinger 1998 Estate syrah

Wine #5—this wine just never stood out, there was very ripe dark fruit, a little heat on the short finish and while it was likely enjoyable on its own, it couldn’t hold up against the better wines in this flight—it was fairly simple and monolithic at least at this stage in its development. Saxum 2006 Bone Rock (I have had better bottles of both this and the other 2006 Saxums)

Wine #6—the hardest wine to critique; at first, it was dominated by licorice flavors and a slightly bitter, short finish (although no heat), but this wine (as well as one wine in the next flight) benefited the most from air and by the end of the dinner, the finish had lengthened and smoothed out and the fruit flavors began to bloom. Lillian 2005 (based on my experience with this one, this one still needs a ton of time in the decanter to show its stuff).

Ranking this flight was difficult—from the initial tastes, I ranked the wines in the following order: Lewis, Raven, Pelkan, Lillian, Bone Rock, Dehlinger (with a large gap between wines 6 and 5); after more time, I ranked the wines in the following order: Lillian, Raven, Pelkan, Lewis, Bone Rock, Dehlinger

With the rack of lamb and the moussaka, came the final four syrahs; as good as the first flight was, this next one was a knockout.

Wine #1—this was an OMG moment—dark as night, thick mouth coating density, perfect balance of rich fruit; few wines are drinking as well as this one. SQN Just for the Love of It (this is the third time that I have had JFTLOI and it has never been better—now I fully understand and agree with the Parker rating.

Wine #2—in a normal dinner, in a normal flight, this would have been WOTF. Rich dark fruit, but smooth and balanced. Nothing over the top about it. Alban 2005 Reva (unlike some Albans, there was no reduction on this one, but I had decanted it for a couple of hours)

Wine #3—with my dud Dehlinger out of the way, this had to be Lewin’s old Frenchie. Some bricking, very equestrian nose, pretty balanced but with muted fruit, not a bad wine but really out of place at a tasting such as this one and thus had no chance. Rayas 1988 Fonsalette CdR Cuvee Syrah

Wine #4—I assumed that this was the Reva, in that it was very similar to Wine #2, but it seemed just slightly over-ripe and had a tad of heat on the finish, but this was a wine that really improved in the glass and the over-ripe fruit and the heat seemed to integrate into a delicious balanced wine. Jaffurs 2005 Upslope

Ranking of this flight presented its own challenges. While my first and fourth wines were clear, the order of the Alban and the Jaffurs was more difficult as the Jaffurs continued to improve throughout the night and by the end of the night was the equal to the Alban, I am going to rank them JFTLOI, Alban/Jaffurs tie, Fonsalette.

WOTNs—in an ocean of great wines, this one was easy. JFTLOI was one of the better wines that I have had, followed by the superb Alban 2005 Reva and Jaffurs 2005 Upslope with the Lillian 2005 making a strong finish.

Nice lineup! Thanks for the notes.

Speaking of your Saxum experiences, do you think any of the 2006 Saxums are ready?

Pretty cool that you had this event since the SLONYC #1 tomorrow night will be featuring two of the same wines (the second place tie), although not the same vintage for the Upslope.

Mike P: 2005 Alban Reva -CONFIRMED
Dan H: 2007 Carlisle Papa’s Block -CONFIRMED
Brent C: 2005 Ambullneo Syrah Howling-CONFIRMED
Jonathan D: 2004 Scholium Scheria -CONFIRMED
Dan P: 2005 Charles Smith The Skull-CONFIRMED
Steve E: 2004 Jaffurs Upslope-CONFIRMED
Julius L: 2005 PAX Walker Vine Hill-CONFIRMED
Kevin P: 2002 Cayuse Cailloux Vineyard Walla Walla -CONFIRMED

Based on your notes, an afternoon double decant might be in order for the 2004 Upslope.

Nice timely notes!
yes Steve, decant is in order…

I suggest decanting the Alban at least an hour or two. As far as the Carlisle Papa’s, Mike Officer is going to get mad at you for infanticide–I cannot imagine that this one will not need at least several hours in the decanter to show much of anything.

BTW our Jaffurs Upslope was the 2005 , not the 2004.

Totally understood.