I've written more than my fair share about Syrah, and how it's so different depending on all the factors that come into play when making a wine. Terroir -- that combination of man, land, and weather -- is something that Syrah excels at expressing, which is why I never tire of tasting Syrah, particularly Syrah like this.
The Owen Roe Ex Umbris Syrah is absolutely packed with fruit and yet it remains fresh and bright, with impressive mineral and herbal tones adding considerably complexity. While this is great today, I bet it'll be even more impressive after a year or three in the cellar.
Alta Maria Chardonnay Santa Maria Valley 2008, $25
OK, I'm the guy who says he doesn't like Chardonnay, but I'm not the incorrigible guy who's saying that. Truth is, I do like some Chardonnay and from California the wines from Santa Barbara Country seem to hit my sweet spot.
This Alta Maria Chardonnay from the Santa Maria Valley combines some salty mineral tones with pure ripe fruit with such class and purity that I was frankly taken aback when I first tried it. Love this Chardonnay. Yes, I said that and it's in print!
Andrew Rich Syrah "Les Vignes En Face" 2006, $35
Not to beat the Syrah horse to death, but, like I said, I really like Syrah and this was one of the best of the year. It's easy to see where many wines are headed in their youth but Syrah tends to zig when you think it's going to zag. A fruity wine may end up turning into a savory, meaty mess of deliciousness, and it may not, but my money is on this wine absolutely blossoming with some time in the cellar, though it's already a great bottle if you can stand the formidable tannins.
I love those tannins, and these tannins, and have no problem with this wine today, though I am excited to see where time will take it. Will it zig or will it zag?
Torii Mor "Deux Verres" Reserve Pinot Noir 2008, $35
Oregon Pinot has really been on fire these past few years and the last two vintages, 2007 and 2008, have proven to be a dynamite set for learning about the terroir of various vineyards and how each winemaker handles that terroir.
2007 has been called a wine drinker's vintage as the wines tend to the elegant, complex side of things and lack the power that 2008 provides.
This Torii Mor Pinot has that rich fruit yet remains expressive and elegant. The best of both worlds and a fine example of Oregon Pinot.
Emblem Oso Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, $45
I like my California Cabernets to smell like Cabernet and feel like wine. Yes, I get it, it's hot in Napa Valley, so I shouldn't be looking for Bordeaux. And the truth is I'm not, but something less than a blueberry/vanilla milkshake would be appreciated.
The Emblem Oso Cabernet might disappoint some folks. It's big, but not that big, fruity, but not that fruity, and has aromas reminiscent of herbs and tomato leaf -- oh, the horror!
In short, it's about as good a California Cabernet as I've had this year, and comes in a not inexpensive yet totally reasonable $40 or so per bottle.
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Top 12 West Coast Wines of the Year
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