Big Basin Redwoods State Park is California's oldest State Park, with over 18,000 acres of old growth and recovering redwood forest. It's home to the largest continuous stand of ancient coast redwoods south of San Francisco.
A couple of miles down the road, on the delightfully named "Memory Lane", stands an old ranch property that had been established in the late 19th century. Grapes were grown there the 1960s, but 30 years later little remained of the vineyards except for a few odd vines and some hand split redwood stakes.
Bradley Brown saw the potential of the property. In 1998 he took over, named it Big Basin Vineyards and began resurrecting the old vineyards, planting Syrah. The first vintage was in 2002 and the winery quickly established a reputation for quality, consistently earning 90+ scores from critics including Wine Spectator and Wine Advocate. As well as the estate Syrah the winery sources Syrah from the Fairview Ranch in Santa Lucia Highlands and has recently begun sourcing Pinot Noir from a number of Santa Cruz Mountains vineyards. There are also more recent estate plantings of Grenache and Rousanne, as yet unreleased. The winery even has its own yoga studio, which is a first for me.
Last Saturday was the Spring Release event, held at the winery. To get there you take Route 9, which winds through the mountains until it reaches the town of Boulder Creek. Pausing only to put your watch back 100 years you turn right and head out a further 4 miles to Memory Lane. It's a surprisingly long drive from home; as a result I arrived late and missed out on several of the wines.
2008 Aura, Rose of Syrah
A lovely floral nose, with strawberry and lychee notes. Fruity, yet dry with a good finish.
2007 Branciforte Ridge Pinot Noir
Branciforte Ridge is also a source for Santa Cruz Mountains Vineyards, who make a big, earthy, spicy wine from it. The earth is less apparent here, perhaps due in part to the vintage. Great nose of mushrooms and black cherries, this is a rich, structured wine that needs time.
2007 Bald Mountain Pinot Noir
Bald Mountain is in the Ben Lomond AVA and is farmed by Ryan Beauregard. A bright, cherry nose leads into layers of sweet cherry fruit followed by a smoky finish.
2008 Alfaro Family Pinot Noir
A barrel sample, showing rich, concentrated strawberry and cherry fruit. The finish was disappointing at this stage, but it's early days yet.
2006 Sri Syrah
I didn't get the story on this; I suspect it's made from younger vines. A smoky nose with hints of blackcurrant and blueberry. On the palate it's rich and smooth; fruity with notes of white pepper and caramel. There's a dry, tannic finish.
2006 Fairview Ranch Syrah, Santa Lucia Highlands
Showing oak and tobacco on the nose, with some black fruit. Sweet, layered berry flavours and a long finish.
2006 Mandala Syrah
A blend of estate and Fairview Ranch fruit. I really liked the nose on this one. Hints of chinese five spice, sweet cherry and redcurrant jelly. On the palate it was nicely balanced; gamey and smoky, with good red fruit flavours and a medium length finish. Good structure. Overall this was my favourite of the wines I tasted.