Thursday, June 26, 2014

2010 Big Basin Estate Syrahs

Since 2002 Bradley Brown has been producing excellent estate Syrah; intense wines that deserve - nay, demand - cellaring. As the vines have aged and other Rhone varieties have been planted the range has expanded.  The latest release features two siblings that are very different from each other.

2010 Big Basin Old Corral Syrah 

The 2010 Old Corral is a dark, brooding wine featuring 13% Grenache and 1% Viognier. There's a deeply rich nose; lots of dark fruit - plum and blueberry, with herbal tones. Lots of young tannins back up a nice fruit core. It's almost painfully young at this stage; needs at least 3-5 years cellaring and will reward more. Highly recommended.

2010 Rattlesnake Rock Syrah

Blending just 11% Grenache into the Syrah somehow gives a lighter wine than the Old Corral. The nose is floral, almost soapy; it comes across more like a white wine than a red. Where the Old Corral showed black fruits the Rattlesnake Rock leans towards the red; more cherry than plum, with smoky, meaty notes and great structure.  Again. this is a wine you shouldn't plan to touch for a while. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

2012 Cinnabar Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains

Since the sale of the old vineyards off Highway 9 to Mount Eden, George Troquato has been sourcing fruit from all over the state, particularly Paso Robles and Monterey. However he still produces a couple of wines from local fruit - a Pinot Noir from Lester Family Vineyard, and a rather nice Chardonnay.

The fruit for the 2012 Chardonnay was sourced from two small vineyards high above  Los Gatos; the 40 year old Wright’s Station Vineyard - - and the nearby 25 year old single acre Skyland Vineyard on Skyland Ridge.

A fairly typical Santa Cruz Mountains style of Chardonnay; citrus and tropical fruits on the nose; plush apple, lemon and vanilla on the palate. There's French oak but it's not excessive.

$38 at the winery tasting room in Saratoga.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

2010 Martella Syrah, Camel Hill Vineyard


Michael Martella has been making wine in the Santa Cruz Mountains for over 40 years as former head winemaker at Thomas Fogarty, and since 1999 under his own label from purchased fruit. I'll confess that in the past I haven't been the greatest fan of his label; I've found his "Hammer" Syrah to be aptly named and not really to my taste.

So I was pleasantly surprised by this latest Syrah from the Camel Hill Vineyard in Los Gatos, which displays finesse rather than raw power. The nose is lovely, showing black fruit and leather; on the palate there are gorgeous fruit flavours backed by good acidity and tannin. Recommended.

Monday, June 23, 2014

2011 Big Basin Pinot Noir, Lester Family Vineyard


The Lester Family Vineyard is located in Corralitos, towards the southern end of the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA, at an elevation of around 500 feet. The vineyard is planted to seven different clones of Pinot Noir; primarily Dijon clones 667, 777 and 115, but also Mount Eden, Wadenswil, Mariafeld and Jackson. Since 2002 the fruit has been used by several local wineries and has produced a variety of structured, age-worthy wines.

2011 was a tough vintage; a cool summer that also had rain in June and October. While this was bad news for late ripening grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, the cooler weather didn't affect Pinot Noir quite so badly; so while it's by no means a classic vintage, good wines can be made even in bad years - and this is one of the finest 2011s that I've tasted.

The nose is beautiful and expressive; floral with plenty of savoury cherry. On the palate it's long and smooth, with fine tannins; a lovely complex interplay of fruit, herb and meaty flavours. Overall I think this is one of the best wines I've had from the Lester Family vineyard. Highly recommended.