Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cellarmistress Tastes Live--From Paso Robles

Yes! Once again I am "Tasting Live", this time from Paso Robles, California. Fresh off the event, which took place last night live on Twitter, I along with seven other wine bloggers had the opportunity to sample five Syrahs (three from the Paso Robles area and two from the Rhône region of France) courtesy of our sponsors, @tastelive and the Hospice du Rhône (@HdR2010). As those of you who follow me know, I am a novice to Syrah, so when this opportunity came up, I jumped fast! I learned Syrahs can range from "Rich fruit bombs to funky, barnyard-like and earthy!"

Founded in 1991, the Hospice Du Rhône is a non-profit business league dedicated to representing and embodying the spirit of Rhône varieties and the producers of these wines. They are based in Paso Robles, California and hold an annual event to celebrate! I was excited to learn that there are twenty-two (count 'em) Rhône varieties, including many I've never heard of. Today we will discuss one of the many: Syrah--a highly colored, aromatic varietal with firm structure and the Syrahs I sampled last night run the gamut when it comes to different flavors. In this segment, I will discuss the three California Syrahs tasted. (Stay tuned for a possible future segment on the French Syrahs we sampled.)

The first of the three was the 2007 Tercero Larner Vineyard Syrah from the Santa Ynez Valley, (just north of Santa Barbara-Ballard Canyon in Los Olivos). Winemaker Larry Schaffer was on hand to answer any questions we may have had. I asked him the significance of the winery name and he mentioned it meant "3". There were a lot of threes in his life, therefore he chose an appropriate name. The Syrah was meaty! It had a terrific, nose and a huge midpalate--very juicy, bursting with berries--- jammy and very spicy and just a little funk. I would've liked a slightly longer finish and this is possibly because of how young it was. Bottled recently, it didn't have enough bottle time to evolve. I would love to try it again in a year or so, meaning it's great to drink now but save a few bottles. It does come with a screwcap instead of a cork but I don't find that a deterrant. I think this wine will age beautifully for many years to come. Definitely worth seeking out. This wine is available on their website for $28.00. Please take the time to seek out this beauty!

The next wine was the 2006 Ortman Family Vineyards Syrah Paso Robles. I was stopped dead in my tracks with this one. My friend Jennifer (and she will kill me for saying this!) has coined a new phrase for this wine: "Oh Oh Oh Ortman!!" Be proud of this wine, Matt! We're so excited and we just can't hide it! This wine was unbelievable! Under $25! Smooth and velvety, it was classy, beautiful, and elegant. Nearly perfect from start to finish. Dark fruits and violets. Long, lingering finish. By the time I was ready to ask questions, the system was moving a bit slow so I just kept enjoying it! Hailing from Brave Oak Vineyard in the Paso Robles-area, the vineyard yields small, but intensely flavored grapes and it shows! One taste of this wine and you will be hooked! I will be screaming, "I want my Ortman Syrah" for many moons to come! Please contact for this wine. It is not available on their online store, but you can purchase their previous ('05) vintage for $22.

The third wine we sampled was the 2006 JC Cellars Syrah Haley's Reserve Rockpile Vineyard from the Rockpile appellation. The Rockpile Appellation is actually not anywhere near Paso Robles, but in northern California in Sonoma County north of Healdsburg-- known for big yielding, high alcohol rugged Zinfandels. This Syrah is high alcohol-15.5%. It has the elegance of a velvety Syrah but is a bit rough and rugged. Very meaty and earthy. Lots of blackberry and bramble. Absolutely huge. It recently received huge accolades from the Wine Spectator clocking in at a noteworthy 95 points (from James Laube). Concentrated, layered and lovely. Jeff Cohn, the winemaker, spent several years at Rosenblum Cellars before venturing out on his own. Anyone who enjoys Rosenblum's big fruit-bomb wines will find some memories in this wonderful Syrah! $60.00 at 351 cases made.

After these three came the French wines from the Rhône region. But I'm saving that for another time. (Awwwww!) Sorry folks, but please go out and discover these for yourself. For me, it's been more of an education--an enjoyable one! Thanks to Craig Drollett and TasteLive, Hospice du Rhône, Larry Schaffer of Tercero Wines, Matt Ortman of Ortman Family Vineyards and Jeff Cohn of JC Cellars for being great hosts! I look forward to future tastings and possibly future visits to Paso Robles!

1 comment:

  1. Just started becoming a Syrah fan this year. Tasted some real nice Finger Lakes Syrah that I believe may be the best yet. Would really like to try the Ortman, sounds great. Your description of the JC Cellars makes it sound more like the full bodied Aussie Shiraz that were not my style. Nice reviews!