Wine Talk

Snooth User: JonDerry

Masters of Wine - Syrah Panel Tasting

Posted by JonDerry, Jun 20, 2016.

Had the good fortune to attend a Masters of Wine, Syrah Panel Tasting on Monday. I believe it was the last spot available for the seated tasting, consisting of 23 Syrah's from the main Syrah producing regions of the world. The tasting was held at the upstairs restaurant of the Wine House (famous retail shop and education facility) off of Cotner in Los Angeles. It was extremely educational, even if a bit rushed.

There were a couple of clear highlights of the seated tasting.

The first wine was a 2013 Marc Sorrel Hermitage. Really nice wine out of the blocks. Lovely fragrance on the nose, deep pitched dark red fruit with nice florals and pepper spice.

Good medium plus freshness to the fruit on the attack, the acidity doesn't overwhelm but is not shy. Has a piercing quality but also good finesse. Good medium weight and concentration. Hint of herbs and pepper toward the back. Graceful, medium finish not too powerful or tannic. I don't see the 2013 has been released yet, but may be worth adding a couple if the $60-70+ price of past vintages holds here.

2011 Guigal Cote Rotie - Chateau d'Ampuis - This was a surprise for me, and a real stand out for many. Reticent nose. Regal palate, green peppercorn is balanced with good freshness, richness without weight. Very showy and effortless, with good solid structure. There was definitely a buzz about this wine. Going price $90 - $190.


2006 Paul Jaboulet La Chapelle Hermitage

Vintage of '06 marks the year the ownership changed, said one of the panelists.

Almost a Bordeaux style nose, cedar, pencil shavings, showing clear secondary notes. 30-40% new oak.Nice concentration on entry, with just a hair of fresh oak peaking through on the mid palate. Excellent fruit profile is undeniable. Finishes full and graceful.


2010 Penfolds Grange

7% Cabernet blended in, all American oak

Beautiful nose. Bold, elegant, incredible, heady flavor. Unlike most of the Syrah's tasted, green notes are all but absent from this wine, as the fruit and structure acts closer to a Bordeaux, but it's truly something all its own. Heady, intoxicating finish sails on. First go with Grange lived up to its billing for me.


Then, after about an hour's intermission, there was a walk around tasting with many more wines, and no duplicates, which was nice, but daunting to try and taste as many as I could. Since no food was served other than a few crackers, and later donuts/desserts for the walk around tasting (Yes, I indulged toward the end!), I definitely suffered from both palate and stomach fatigue. 

Green peppercorn is a note that came across time and time again, especially in the French examples. This attribute, coupled with the energetic acidities of many of the wines did a number on my stomach lining! This was all perhaps further proof that Syrah does not excel as a cocktail wine, even the new world examples.

The new world didn't fair as well, though Ojai and Halcon Alturas showed best (in that order) and most traditional, with the Ojai seeming capable of going a distance in the cellar. Out of the more modern producers, Gramercy also struck a chord for having one foot in the new world, and one foot in the old. Wind Gap Nellesen disappointed (as did Betz), really thought I'd like that one but it seemed very green and though plenty of acid, kind of simple. Hawkes Butte pictured next to it was solid, plodding, forgettable in this context.

The Kershaw, pictured with the Gramercy was from South Africa and while a solid showing, kind of forgettable, though I noticed there was a buyer there who was very taken with it. 

2013 Kershaw Clonal Selection ElginAiming for subtle, precise style. One of the cooler areas in South Africa. A bit of spritz to the wine, green peppercorn, graphite. Round, even wine, not a ton of tension. 55% new French oak for 14 months. Holds the oak very well (there was a gasp in the crowd when it was revealed how much oak it saw - people are oak-a-phobes!) however medium complexity.

2013 Proper Estate (Rocks district of Milton-Freewater). Made by Sean Boyd of Rotie

Deep, dark fruit, showing some chocolate cover to the dark red fruits. Medium acid, but a higher aggressive in the liqueur/ alcohol (new sweet oak?) note. Finishes soft and gracefully.4.45 pH (once over 3.6, have an increased risk of re-fermenting, and Brett)


More pictures, notes to follow...but this Guillame Gilles is special stuff, but only if you like structure to the hilt. Think it wins for cellarworthiness/potential. I own a bottle of the 2010, and will look to pick up a few 2011's. The vintage 2011 impressed overall in N. Rhone counting the Guigal Cote Rotie and others.


Couple bigger, blousy Australian's. The 2012 Run Rig was listed at 15.5% Abv, but the 5% Viognier really distracted, adding a ton of creaminess. At least the alcohol was not as perceptible as the label would indicate, plenty of sweet oak as well. 

2014 Two Hands - Open knit, and simple.


The Rotie showed on point with the two Gramercy's. Solid wines, though I wouldn't go out of my way to acquire.


There was a small vertical of the Gilles Barge Cote Brune, I found the 2011 most appealing, and not just because of bottle age I would wager.


Oh, Hermitage. Both very nice, slight edge to the Tardieu


Bouncing around some more, out of the new world producers, I was surprised Betz was so large scaled and voloptuous. Not my style at all, and thought it lacked freshness and varietal character.


Thought I'd try another Santa Barbara Syrah, this was big and ripe and forgettable.


Why not try a Chilean? Well, I wouldn't recommend buying this one, but it was there and was a bit different, but forgettable. As was the Portugese offering.


One last takeaway, other than Syrah not being a great cocktail wine, is that I'm not sure it needs to age as long as other classic regions such as Burgundy, Bordeaux, definitely not Piedmont.


Reply by dvogler, Jun 20, 2016.

Lucky bugger!  Was that your first Grange?

Reply by dmcker, Jun 21, 2016.

Venue and occasion? Labels and vintages tasted? How much of each wine over how long a period of time?

Overall impressions you report not so far off from my personal historical sensibilities.

Reply by EMark, Jun 21, 2016.

This really sounds interesting, Jon.  I'm looking forward to your report.

Reply by Really Big Al, Jun 21, 2016.

I would enjoy seeing some pictures too.  Did you take any?

Reply by JonDerry, Jun 21, 2016.

Tons of pictures and notes.  Working on finding some time to post pictures and properly report.

There was a sit down guided (but rushed) tasting of 23 Syrah's in two hours.

Then a walk around tasting after a long intermission with about 50-60 wines available to taste. I have counted how many I tried at the walk around, but tried to be as efficient as possible. Probably around 25-30 give or take.


Reply by rckr1951, Jun 21, 2016.

I can believe the Grange stole the show.  You're blessed to have there and I wish we all could have joined - it did seem a little rushed, but we should all be so lucky as to be at a tasting where we are like that. 

Steaks and wild game for sure.


Reply by vin0vin0, Jun 21, 2016.

JD, sounds like an awesome tasting, we've really been enjoying syrah, just had an absolutely outstanding '09 Scherrer 'Sasha' the other night after the Roederer vertical.  Grange is definitely on my wishlist.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Jun 21, 2016.

Sounds really worthwhile.  What organization put this on? 

I do agree that green pepper is pretty common, both the vegetable (a sign of underripe fruit, often, but common in syrah and cabernet, the product of MIBP) and the spice (although white pepper or black pepper are more familiar).  Interesting and heartening that Cornas showed well, since you can still find some really good wines under $50 from there, not so much Cote Rotie or Hermitage, so I've tended to buy from there.  I like St. Joseph, but it's definitely leaner, and I don't hold it.  Crozes is so variable and mostly pretty middling. 

Be interested to see who all was represented ,and what you tasted.  Grange has gotten so crazy expensive that I doubt I'll ever try it.  Interestingly, it's from a variety of vineyards, which the maker claims gives it a more consistent profile.  I've been meaning to buy some of John Duval's wines, as he was the maker of Grange for many years, but priced his own wines much more reasonably. 

Reply by dmcker, Jun 21, 2016.

Grange is very good, without a doubt, and sometimes even worth the money. But it's hardly the be all and end all of syrah. It's a different beast, because of its 'terroir' ( ;-) ), its blend, and its New World style, even if a different one than what OT's drinking. I'm still sticking with the best Hermitage, Cote Rotie and Cornas (in that order) before it, if I'm forced to choose. Damned happy don't have to, though.

Still need to hear a lot more about the actual wines tasted, the vintages, the venue and setup, the opportunity to taste them over time, etc. Speed tasting, like speed dating, is hardly the best way to get a fuller picture.

Give us more context, JD. Credence can only be grudging without it.

Reply by JonDerry, Jun 22, 2016.

OP updated, some were quick and dirty, can post full text here later for those that want to read more. What a job!

Reply by dmcker, Jun 22, 2016.

Please do, if you're up to it!

Now you know half a day in the (former) life of GDP!  ;-(

Reply by outthere, Jun 22, 2016.

I can relate. Nice lineup JD. The breadth if the wines poured is amazing. Very envious.

Reply by GregT, Jun 25, 2016.

Grange is very good, without a doubt, and sometimes even worth the money. But it's hardly the be all and end all of syrah.

I have to agree with this. No way am I disparaging it, but when we've put it into blind tastings, it's frequently failed to live up to it's billing. In that way it's like Opus One in a sense - very good wine, even better reputation.

But it certainly does age well and it tastes good. Separate thread but I'm increasingly thinking that Syrah and Cab don't really blend well. In fact, the only ones I've had that are good are from Penfolds - the Bin 389 and Grange.

Cool tasting Jon. I thought about going.

OTOH, I do drink a hell of a lot of Syrah. Drinking one right now matter of fact, not as great as I wanted it to be - DeLille Cellars Doyenne Aix.

Reply by dmcker, Jun 25, 2016.

I've had so many nasty Cabernet-Shiraz blends, mostly from down under, that I'm very wary of them these days. I understand the history, even in France, but too many green, stemmy, gaggy, hot, listing-in-the-wrong-direction monstrosities have really been nothing but downers.

Reply by rckr1951, Jun 25, 2016.

GREGT - Have agree with you about the Bin 389 and Grange.  It's the same for me with Touriga Naccional and Cabernet blends - tried 'em don't like 'em very much at all.

I'd rather drink the Monastrell/ Cabby blends from Bodegas El Nido (Clio) and Bodegas Volver (Triga).

Reply by JonDerry, Jun 25, 2016.

Re: Cab/Syrah blends, do we agree that Washington is the biggest culprit here?

Have had some real nasty ones from WA State.

Reply by rckr1951, Jun 25, 2016.

JD - Agreed

Reply by dmcker, Jun 25, 2016.

Don't underestimate Australia's capacity for producing the truly execrable blend, either.

Reply by rckr1951, Jun 25, 2016.

I think they do some excellent GSMs.  Hewiston, d'Arenberg, Wira Wira, Pillar Box - the list goes on.

Reply by JonDerry, Jun 27, 2016.

As an aside, it was really cool to see Paul Gordon of Halcon link my report to his Facebook page, which got tons of views. I normally assume our reports/writings on Snooth don't leave Snooth but we've seen things get wired to Facebook from this board.

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