Wine Talk

Snooth User: outthere

Focusing on Cool Climate Syrah

Original post by outthere, Dec 17, 2012.

I was going to put this in the Whatcha Drinking Tonight thread. But since there was some Syrah talk going on I thought I'd start a new thread on Cool Climate Syrah.

Tonight I'm visiting a wine I haven't had in since May and wanted to see how it is progressing. It comes from high up atop the Yorkville Highlands in the Anderson Valley  which is in Mendocino County to the NW of Sonoma along the California Coast. Actually the Halcon vineyard is in the coastal range but a good hour drive, 30 minutes down the hill to the highway and 30 minutes west, from the Pacific. It s a unique spot sitting at an elevation of approx 2500' above sea level planted in in a rare soil type based on fractured shale, mica-schist and quartz rich rock. It erodes into a low vigor soil, the same kind that garner fame to Cote Rotie in the Northern Rhone. The heritage bud wood was chosen from select sites in Hermitage and Cote Rotie. It is densely panted forcing the vines to drive their roots deep for nutrients and water. The resulting fruit ripens on lower sugars.

It is one of the highest elevation vineyards in California and is picked in late October just before the first rains hit.

It's an extremely lean site where the temps are buffered by the sea breeze and altitude. The fruit ends up highly mineral, low ph, yet intensely flavored, dark purple and tart.

Tonight I opened a 2009 Halcon Alturas, a wine that will require a major amount of air to open up so initial notes won be very telling. I really like opening young wines and following their progression over the course of multiple days of tasting. The journey is fun for me. Halcon is extremely appealing to me due to its northern Rhone roots and major QPR. Having been to this vineyard I don't know how they manage to keep the price at a mere $20/bottle considering the work it takes just to get the fruit from the farm to the winery. Big kudos to Paul and Valerie Gordon for being so consumer friendly.


The color is deep dark royal purple. The nose has a touch of bread dough with savory blueberry and dried flowers. More to come on subsequent posts.

Feel free to continue this thread with your own versions of cool climate Syrah.




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Reply by EMark, Jan 30, 2013.

I've been incommunicado for the last few weeks and am getting caught up on several things.  I can, however, rotate OT's pics pretty easily.

Very interesting that the problem appears on PCs, but not on iPhones.  I wonder if it is also OK on Macs and iPads.


Reply by outthere, Apr 22, 2013.

New vintage, new explorations. I had the opportunity to attend a winemakers lunch at Las Madres Vineyard in the Carneros region of Sonoma County last week. Las Madres is a cool climate Syrah vineyard planted on 8 acres to two blocks of different clones. 2013 will mark the 11 harvest and 13th leaf. Being a couple miles north of San Francisco Bay it receives the coastal marine influence like clockwork each day. Some years the weather is so cold that they have a hard time ripening (2011), while other years they have more heat than they bargained for (2004). But as a rule Las Madres is perfectly located in a dip in the rolling hills between the Bay and the southern tip of the Mayacamas Range.

Hulda Block is planted to clone 300 and Esther Block is planted to clone 178. Both are  Dijon clones with the cuttings coming directly from Hermitage France. Meticulously farmed, the fruit is sold to 8 different vintners at present. Mostly small lot bottlings that you won't see on store shelves it is generally only available through the winery mailing list. Wines made with Las Madres fruit exhibit a lot of green and black olive notes and that is a signature of this vineyard.

Hulda is planted in a swail through a gentle sloping valley.


...and Esther is planted on a sloping hillside.


Hulda on the left, Esther on the right. What a beautiful location this is and a wonderful backdrop to our lunch.


I attended this event last year and we had barrel samples from 8 different wineries. This year, due to scheduling conflicts and a couple illnesses we only had 4 wineries involved but with multiple samples poured.

Lois Rae is a new label. Winemaker Mark Finver has been making wine with Las Mads fruit for 4 years now but 2011 was his first commercial vintage and is due to be released within the next 6 months or so.  If you are wondering where the name Lois Rae came from they are the middle names of Marks two daughters. Apsara is also a new label which has had 2 commercial releases thus far. Winemaker Robin Akhurst is the assistant winemaker for Mike Smith at Myriad and Quivet Cellars. His renditions of this vineyard are oustanding. Mike Smith has made a name for himself with his incredible Napa Valley Cabernets under the Myriad and Quivet labels. He received a 97pt score from the Wine Advocate for his 2007 Beckstoffer Dr Crane Cabernet which is the highest score ever received by any wine produces from this iconic vineyard. Mike made Syrah from La Madres when he worked for Nicholson Ranch in the early 2000's working alongside Thomas Rivers Brown who is one of the most sought after winemakers in Napa. He has been producing Las Madres sourced Syrah since 2006.

On this day we had 6 barrel samples to try.


#1 Lois Rae - 30% Whole Cluster fermented 3-4% Viognier co-ferment. 1/3 new oak - red and blue fruit, rich nose, black pepper, violet and Viognier aromatics 50-50 Esther/Hulda Remond barrel
 #2 - Whole cluster 60-40 Esther/Hulda. Native yeast, black olive and pepper nose, palate a bit closed. Medium firm tannins.
Apsara #1 - 50% whole cluster fermented from yeast from Crozes Hermitage. Unfiltered 50% new Remond barrels. Crazy aromatics of green and black olive, soy sauce and cured meat. Palate was blue a red fruited with nice acid, pepper and some bacon. Finished lean and mean. I spent an awful lot of time going back to this wine.
Apsara 2 foot stomped by Robins wife Anita, native yeast, hand punchdown, vineyard representative, dark black and blue fruited, big rich palate, smoke, meaty, pepper, stems, moderate tannins.
Myriad - new barrels - Esther whole cluster, natural ml, commercial yeast. Great nose, coffee, toast, stems, celery, green streak on the palate which makes it very interesting.
Quivet - Big fruit - Hulda - Black fruit, dusty fitm tannins, kinda closed nose. Needed more air but samples were pulled to set the table for lunch.
After the barrel samples we tasted through a number of past Las Madres vintages while enjoying some killer Gouda brought in from Amsterdam.
02 Las Madres  - Very ripe, fruity and fresh for 11 year old garage wine. John said it had almost no sulphur added, 13ppm I think he said or was it 3ppm, but the fruit held up very nicely.
04 Las Madres - Brutal growing year, with over a dozen straight days in triple digit temps.  Wine was no worse for wear.  Lovely fruit, feminine soft palate in comparison to the 02. Very easy drinking.
06 Nicholson Ranch - Somehow this one got lost during conversation and I didn't take a note. Damn.
10 Apsara - Black olive, red fruit, meat smoke, soft palate, tart and dusty finish. 
11 Quivet Hulda - I don't know if this ever got opened. It was next to the 06 Nicholson and I missed it as well but really wanted to take a look as it really struck a chord with me when I tasted it right after bottling. Double damn! I'm kicking myself for passing over this one.
11 Myriad Sugarloaf - The only Napa Valley wine in attendance. Vineyard Mgr Armando Ceja took a taste of both the Esther and the Sugarloaf outside and spent a lot of time with them. Black and blue fruit, linear palate, citrus spritz up front, black pepper, cocoa, charred beef and minerality. Balanced acid moderate tannins.
10 Lois Rae - 100% whole cluster Esther, black olive nose, soft up front with more black olive palate. Settled down a bit from last years taste. It will interesting what Mark does with his two renditions of Las Madres in 12. If and how he blends.
11 Myriad Esther Block - Black and blue berries, violets and red meat nose, full round chewy palate with more flowers, smoky meat. Only working on a couple hours of air but showing great.
Then they called us in for lunch and what a lunch it was! Braised Lamb Shanks with Polenta and seasonal greens.
As things were winding down John pulled another Nicholson from his cellar. 
05 Nicholson Ranch - 60% whole cluster huge green and black olive nose , extremely aromatic, great spice and pepper laced tart red black fruit palate. Tart savory finish with firm tannins.  I remember trying this last year and wishing I could spend more time with it. I savored the opportunity today. Really fun bottle. The nose reminded me of the 11 Quivet Hulda that I loved but missed. 
John said its a wine the consumers didn't bond with but makes winemakers perk up and say, wow whats this?
Pretty epic Wednesday if I may say so myself. Great cool climate wines and great  people.
So much wine, so little time.
Reply by EMark, Apr 22, 2013.

I don't know if Edna Valley is a "cool climate"--I'd guess that it was about 12-15 miles from the ocean--but, coincidentally, I happen to be sipping on a Tolosa Syrah (2009). We visited Tolosa in December and of the half-dozen wines we bought this was the best.  Medium bodied--initial palate sensation is fruity (cherries) "sweetness," but that yields quickly to acid tartness that I love.  Not an ageworthy wine, but emminently drinkable.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Apr 22, 2013.

Emark, I'd like to try that Tolosa next to a St. Joseph and one of Steve Law's Maclarens. 

Reply by EMark, Apr 23, 2013.

WIsh I had another one.  I just realized that in the last year or so I have been very pleased with some Edna Valley Syrahs that I have had from Wolff and Chamisal (Domaine Alfred).  Maybe I should pay more attention to that area.


Reply by JonDerry, Apr 23, 2013.

Awesome tasting OT...haven't yet had anything from Las Madres yet but am looking forward to trying some.

Reply by outthere, Apr 23, 2013.

JD, we seriously need to get together for some heavy drinking.

Reply by edwilley3, Apr 26, 2013.

OT, are you trying to make some of us here in the middle of the country reach into our cavernous stashes of ammo and off ourselves? These pictures make me want to take a very very long trip out to California.

Oh well....the Chateauneuf I quaffed tonight kept me from throwing in the towel. I was, however, eyeing some Chapelle Hermitage. ;)

Reply by outthere, Apr 26, 2013.

Think of it more as a public service announcement. You're welcome to come out here anytime though. Leave the ammo at home ;)

Reply by zufrieden, Apr 26, 2013.

Keep that focus, Outthere.  Unless, of course, you must have the fare of South Australia.  I exclude the sourthern Rhone.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Apr 27, 2013.

EdWilley, I second OT's invitation.  And his admonition.  And applaud your sense of humor. 

We do put up with a lot of other stuff to live here.  Traffic, housing prices, and, for those of us lucky enough to be making a good living, surprisingly high marginal tax rates.  Just for a few.  But it's pretty great to be able to be in wine country in so little time or, if you are OT, to be in it all the time.  I also think for a wine drinker, it tops just about anywhere because we can drink our own wines but also have surprisingly good access to wines from elsewhere.  If only I could get someone to carry a few of the slightly less famous Italian wines in some volume, things would be perfect.  As it is, I have no complaints. 

Reply by outthere, Feb 6, 2014.

Had to rehash this thread when I opened this wine tonight. I've been doing my darndest to keep my hands off of it but alas the rain is falling, Winter has finally arrived in California and I am on a Syrah kick.

This on the heels of a 2008 Copain Brosseau Vyd Syrah we finished last night that was tame in comparison. Those of you paying close attention to this thread will notice that this is the mine I missed out on at the Las Madres Lunch back in April. What a great deal of personality this Quivet has. Fruit from vines grown from cuttings of clone 300 from Crozes-Hermitage. The olive, flower petal, smoky cured meat and blueberry/blackberry fruit on the nose is mesmerizing. Weighty but wonderfully textured mouth of smoky dark fruits, bustling acid and a little whole cluster grip on the backside. Man what a great bottle of Syrah.

Fox, perhaps we will be sampling the '13s from barrel when you come up in a week or so. What a treat!


Reply by dmcker, Mar 22, 2014.

I'll bump this thread, too.

JD et al., Australian wine was never out for the count. Just in the minds of deadline-facing winebloggers. Not talking about critter wines, but those that people who care were making all the while...

Reply by outthere, Mar 6, 2017.

Time for another bump. This thread started with the Halcon Vineyard and tonight I'm going back there with a different producer. I started buying wines from Wilde Farm with their first release but this is the first Syrah I've opened. True to its Northern Rhone clone roots this vineyard delivers.

Halcon yesterday

Today its violets, blueberries, black olive, bacon and white pepper. And that's just the nose! Wow. The flavors are under control as is the alcohol at 12.6. Really enjoying this and will follow it tonight and tomorrow.

Reply by amour, Mar 6, 2017.


Reply by GregT, Mar 7, 2017.

Cool bump OT. Somehow I missed this thread before. Some of the best Syrah I've had comes from Austria, Hungary, and the colder places in CA. And of course I love Halcon. Even Pic St Loup, when you get the wines directly off the Mediterranean coast, very much like the far west of Sonoma. Too bad they didn't plant Syrah all over Burgundy - can you imagine the fantastic wines we'd be having today!

Reply by dmcker, Mar 7, 2017.

Greg, ROFLMAO, you really are on a mission to rid the world of PN... 


Reply by JonDerry, Mar 7, 2017.

Wowsers at that pic of Halcon. Sounds like a really nice Syrah, too. I can't remember the last time I've opened a Syrah...good thing we have CT.

Reply by rckr1951, Mar 7, 2017.

Syrah is one of two favorite grapes.  Wish, at times, I still lived in Ca.

Reply by outthere, Mar 8, 2017.

2014 Wilde Farm Wines Syrah Halcon Vineyard - USA, California, North Coast, Yorkville Highlands 

Bought this on Berserker Day and just got around to picking it up on Monday. Of course I had to open a bottle for scientific purposes.
This wine marks the 5th winemaker I have tasted on this vineyard. Pax has his Wind Gap-esque touch on this wine. A scant 12.6abv.
Violets, blueberries, black olive, bacon and white pepper... and that's just the nose! In the mouth it is tart and lean blueberry and under-ripe blackberry. Tannins are firm and built up over the course of two evenings. Very nice job on this one. Enjoyable now and should continue that way for the next ten years.
Posted from CellarTracker

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