TNs: SQN, Clavel, Ringland, La Turque, La Chapelle, Kaester, Glaetzer, Sanguis, Westerhold, Araujo..

Our dinner group met again at Petit Valentien Restaurant with a high end Syrah based theme. One made the comment that Syrah probably has more stylistic differences than any other varietal and I wholeheartedly agree. Tonight`s wines exemplified that to the max.

After a corked 04` Marcassin Zio Tony Ranch Chardonnay, we had the following 11 wines all brown bagged:

1997 CHRIS RINGLAND- RANDALL`S HILL BAROSSA VALLEY- after a lot of oaky, coconut, the nose moved into nice plumy, grapey notes with more to follow including wild black and blue berries; this full bodied wine reminded me of the better end of the Rosemount line in fruit character, but went well beyond the quality; major serious juice and eventually the WOTN for the group.

1998 DOMAINE CLAVEL LA COPA SANTA MEJANELLE LANGUEDOK- massive and intense, it overwhelms some of the Brettiness; this is packed with licorice coated black fruit and a hint of cranberry; it`s spicy and bacony and marches to a different drummer and stands on its own as an interesting, vivacious wine that gets your attention in a good way.

1997 GUIGAL LA TURQUE COTE ROTIE- love this from the get go, its got that wonderful spice and pepper nose mindful of one of the serious players of N. Rhone and it turns out to be such; wonderfully balanced with lots of complexity and depth along with the hoped for long finish; still fresh and vibrant fruitiness with some bacon bits sprinkled on top; actually my WOTN, with the 97 Ringland #2.

1999 JABOULET LA CHAPELLE- the nose suggested a winner and it did not lie; this was loaded with chocolate, coffee and spices after a really smoked bacon nose; it was certainly young and vivacious, but not yet evolved and finished very astringent; this is the 2nd bottle Ive had of this recently and not nearly as good as the first one; bottle variation? Ive got more on the way and will find out.

Since there was some left in the bottle, I pumped it up and drank it 2 nights later with these added notes: much better and still not what the first bottle gave; more fruit forward, greater length and less tannic finish; lesson learned= this needs to be decanted for hours prior to serving.

2010 CARLISLE PAPAS BLOCK RRV- the nose is replete with some talc and sandalwood along with some intense black and blue fruit carrying on into the mid palate; more like a Cab than Syrah to me, it reminded me of the Hourglass Blueline Cab from 2 weeks ago; I have to think theres a fair amount of new oak here and in its youth, its not yet balanced and integrated; this wine needs time and it will shine; I later learned its price and it`s an amazing QPR deal.

2002 ARAUJO EISELE - Ive only had a few Syrah from this producer and for me they have not shown well as was the case with this one; it was hot and unbalanced, laced with coconut and smoked plums and very discombobulated; Ill stay with their Cabs and Sauvignon Blancs, thank you.

2007 SQN LABELS- 89% Syrah, 7% Grenache, 4% Viognier- after revealing the bottle, I would have expected much more; the nose was muted, the ripe fruit was cloaked in coffee grounds and it just underperformed IMHO; I did not go back for 2nds, but wonder if the previous wine jaded this experience.

2003 KAESLER OLD BASTARD BAROSSA- a pretty big statement with good fruit and lots of complexity; there`s a lot happening here and it promises to hang around and mature into something even more pleasing.

2008 WESTERHOLD BENNET VALLEY SANTA ROSA- dark, inky and teeth staining black purple, this youngster is ripe and ready from the inviting nose thought the long finish; there`s lots to like here; the fruit is sweet, not to a fault, and pleasant; enjoyable now and should be for years to come.

2001 BEN GLAETZER AMON RA BAROSSA- this unfiltered wine never got to a place of pleasure for me; the nose was muted, the fruit was dissipated and there was some funk that permeated throughout; I understand this at one time was a fine wine; not on this eve.

2006 SANGUIS AS THE CROW FLIES- heres another reminder of the Hourglass Blueline Cab alluded to with the Carlisle earlier; oak laden nose followed by gobs of black cheery and blueberry, but unlike the HG, the fruit here is on the sweet side and graced with some violets, chocolate and tobacco notes; another example of another style of Syrah; Id lose the ID the varietal game.

2000 DISZNOKO TOKAJI, ASUZ 6 PUTTYNOS – from North Hungary, this is marvelous dessert wine; thick and oily, sweet apricots and peaches galore; a special treat and some of the best rot I`ve had in a while.


One of the two best dry red wines I’ve had is Ringland 1998. I wish he didn’t name his lower end wines Ringland also. It’s nice to see one of his higher end wines evaluated without prejudice. The price has gone beyond my comfort level though.

George, I agree with your comments on both the naming of his wines and the price. This occasion gave me the opportunity to taste a few I do not normally buy.

Wasn’t the Randall Hill label a reflection of the fact that he felt the wine wasn’t up to what was back then called Three Rivers quality, essentially making it Ringland’s “second” wine? I thought I had heard that somewhere.

Yes. I could be wrong but I think there was a 1995 Randalls as well as a 1995 Three Rivers but in 1997 there was only the Randalls. Since Grateful Palate got a hold of him (although I think he is back on his own now), I doubt there will ever be a vintage without a Ringland again.

I cannot find a picture of the label, but I thought (from distant memory) that the Randall’s Hill didn’t use either the Three Rivers name or the Ringland name on the label… I know it has always been referenced as Ringland but is it on the label as the “brand” or maybe does the fine print on the back just say that he made the wine?

Robert, Ive never been disappointed in a La La, even from the 02 vintage. The 97` La Turque has many more years to shine.