Monthly Archives: July 2021

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 21, 2021

2019 Sandlands Vineyards, Cinsault, Lodi, California.
The latest 2019 Cinsault from Tegan Passalacqua is wonderfully textural and fresh with lovely aromatics, it shows fine detail and layers of smooth red fruits and drinks as silken as a Pinot Noir, this is impressive stuff. This Cinsault, one of the Chateauneuf du Pape grapes and a minor player in the Bandol Rosé and Reds, shines on the medium bodied palate with bright spiced raspberry, cherry, plum, pomegranate and tangy/freshy red peach fruits along with a touch of whole bunches/carbonic like creamy roundness along with dried herbs, peony floral notes, a light bit of sandalwood and a faint earthy stony savoriness. The Bechthold Vineyard, as Tegan Passalacqua notes, was originally planted back in 1886, this Cinsault vineyard is the oldest of its kind in the country—perhaps even beyond. The vines are gnarly, head-trained and planted on their own roots dry-farmed in deep, sandy soils., making for a distinct California wine that is terroir driven and always delicious. This 2019 Cinsault is a beautiful ruby color and easy to quaff, it is a lighter style red wine that drinks drinks with more presence in the glass than expected, especially for a wine with a mere 12.3% alcohol, providing lots of smiles, and while super now, it should be even more compelling in 3 to 5 years too.

Sandlands Vineyards, the personal project of Tegan, who is the head winemaker and vineyard manager at the famed Turley Cellars, and his Olivia is a must follow label, especially for those that want to taste California wine history. Their line-up of wines, as they note, includes some the forgotten classic California varieties, like this Cinsault, but also includes the Mission grape, Carignane, Mataro, Chenin Blanc, Grenache and Zinfandel field blends from old vine vineyards. These wines come primarily from vines grown in decomposed granitic sand soils from regions and vineyards that have been family farmed for many generations, as the Passalacqua’s add, but have remained the outliers of California viticulture. These, in some cases are historic, sustainable or organic, and are primarily head-trained, dry-farmed and own rooted. The vineyards, like the Bechthold Vineyard, used in this wine, they work with, which take you back to California’s roots of exploration, wonder, and hard work, all of which shows through in the Sandlands lineup. This Cinsault, which is at its best when served slightly chilled, was made in old school tradition with whole cluster and native yeast fermentation with gentle hand crafted care and was raised in well seasoned used French oak barrels. There’s a lot to love and admire here in the fairly priced Sandlands small lot collection and I highly recommend getting on the list, especially as Tegan is about to release some new stuff soon!
($28 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 20, 2021

2019 Etheric Wine Workshop by Grochau Cellars, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The all natural Etheric Wine Workshop Pinot is electrically vivid in hue, it is surprisingly a deep magenta/purple and ruby in the glass and it drinks best with a good chill on it, making it sublime with Summer weather and easy to enjoy with a mix of earthy blue and red fruits, mineral notes, a touch of herbal (stems?) elements, opening to fresh cherries, blueberry/cranberry and blood orange. While tangy and juicy, it also shows a round carbonic like textural quality, much like a Gamay in style, it is delicious stuff from John Grochau, who makes an excellent set of Willamette Valley Pinots, as well as some other interesting things like Melon de Bourgogne, Albarino, Gamay and his unique Glou-Glou inspired natural Convivial carbonic wines, including a Barbera and Tempranillo, as well as a sparkling Riesling. The ex professional cyclist turned winemaker, Grochau, says this wine was made with minimal intervention, but lovingly intentional and adds that it needs to be served chill AF!

This 2019 Grochau Cellars Etheric Wine Workshop Willamette Valley Pinot Noir was fermented with all native yeasts and with whole bunches with exceptionally low sulfur and a short aging period to allow for absolute purity of form. The 2019 vintage shows a ripe fruit profile, but finished with a nice low 12.8% natural alcohol and zippy acidity to keep things vibrant and make for a more refreshing and transparent wine. Additionally, Grochau used 80% concrete vat, 20% French neutral oak barrels for the elevage, which lasted close to just 4 1/2 months then quickly bottled unfined and unfiltered. John calls this his ode to natural wines, but crafted with attention to detail and a focus on quality, this 2019 delivers on the palate and while authentic or raw, there is a lot of beautiful details that come through as well. Light violet florals mixed with a touch of leather adds to the pleasure here and it should be noted that some quality vineyard sites were used to make this wine, including the Zenith Vineyard, the Red-Wettle Vineyard and the Ribbon Springs Vineyard, all of which adds to the complexity in a no pretense Pinot!
($20 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 19, 2021

2018 Drew Family Wines, Pinot Noir, Wendling Vineyard, Anderson Valley.
Winemaker Jason Drew, who is at the top of his game and one of California’s best Pinot Noir producers, considers the Wendling Vineyard one of a handful of “Grand Cru” sites in the Anderson Valley, and tasting his 2018 version is enough to convince me of just how right he is, this is an exceptional bottling and a thrilling wine of complexity, energy and beautiful from start to finish. I’ve been saying for years, that Drew is right at the top when it comes to cool climate Pinot and every year he continues to blow me away with the quality of his wines, especially his Fog Eater, Morning Dew Ranch, the Estate Selections and this outstanding Wendling Vineyard. The vintage, which was cool and mild with a late pick, is just starting to reveal its greatest and depth, gaining dark fruit intensity with every sip, but with racy acidity and a subtle floral bouquet shyly unfolding, this wine is just beginning its journey into greatness with the potential to really evolve to legendary status in another 5 to 7 years. The palate is a Burgundy lovers jam with glorious vibrancy and transparency showing elegant layers of black cherry, earthy plum, tangy huckleberry, blood orange and currant fruits along with a mix of spice, herbs, tea leaf and a light smoky wood note from the well judge use of classic French oak barriques. This Wendling is a daily deep in color Pinot with a dark garnet hue in the glass and is excitingly lengthy on the aftertaste, plus while proving some youthful grip and savoriness, it flows with silken grace and has, after opening up, an incredible mouth feel, this stunning stuff, that should be excellent with a range of foods from grilled or blackened salmon to seared duck breast in cherry reduction.

The Wendling Vineyard Pinot Noir saw 100% native yeast along with close to 45% whole cluster fermentation with the usual daily hand punch downs and long maceration period before going to barrel to age. Jason only gravity racked this wine twice and is extremely gentle throughout the process and the elevage lasted about 11 months in the barrel with 25% new French oak being used in this vintage, which as mentioned, is perfect in this 2018 edition. Sitting in the deepest end of the valley, in the most northwest part of the Anderson Valley, the Wendling Vineyard, which is just eleven or so years old now, is on a 450ft high slope with well draining rocky soils that include the Ornbaun, Wolfey and Bearwallow complexes.These hillside or mountain type soils are mainly weathered rock and have a base of sandstone, this Jason Drew says, along with the cooler coastal temperatures provides for low to moderate yields, giving a darker and intensely structured Pinot Noir with naturally low alcohols, as this wine at 13.3% clearly demonstrates, in the best possible way. Wendling is planted to several exciting suitcase Burgundy and Dijon clones, with Drew’s sections including an alleged DRC clone and a La Tache selection. Drew, who started his label in the early part of the mid 2000s down in Santa Barbara County after working with Bryan Babcock, has made his home in Anderson Valley and in the cooler western zone of Mendocino Ridge and has excelled here in this unique terroir, making some of the most compelling and authentic wines in the state, I highly recommend getting on his mailing list and exploring his whole lineup from Chardonnay to Syrah, and all the small lot Pinots! This Wendling looks to have an extended pleasure window and should drink well for more than a decade.
($70 ESt.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 18, 2021

2019 Arnot-Roberts, Syrah, Sonoma Coast.
One of my favorite wines from Duncan and Nathan at Arnot-Roberts is their gorgeous cool climate Sonoma Coast Syrah which slows loads of whole cluster and Northern Rhone character with a beautifully inviting dark purple hue in the glass, a layered medium bodied palate that features brambly spices, boysenberry, damson plum, black currant and bright kirsch notes as well as cracked peppercorn, olive tapenade, tar, licorice, mineral tones, camphor and a light cedary note. The crunchy herbs and umami adds dimension and the vintage’s natural acidity keeps everything riveting and crisply detailed, this year could easily be mistaken for an Alain Graillot Crozes-Hermitage-Hermitage or Domaine Jamet’s entry level Cotes-du-Rhone Syrah, which is, if you know me, high praise. This wine, even on day two is impeccably fresh and vibrant, gaining more floral aromatics and subtle earthiness, it is exceptional with food too, it truly is a great California version of this style Syrah, joining the likes of Ojai, Drew, Pax, Halcon, newcomers Desire Lines and Samuel Louis Smith, as well as Piedrasassi, to name a few. Arnot-Roberts has a fine collection of hand made wines, this one is not to be over looked, but I advise checking out their Trout Gulch Chardonnay, their Falanghina, their Touriga Nacional Rosé, one of the most sought out dry pink wines in California, and their fascinating Jura inspired Trousseau Noir.

The Arnot-Roberts Sonoma Coast Syrah comes from four unique sites, these include the Clary Ranch, where they also do a incredible cru single vineyard version, Que Syrah, Baker Lane and Solas vineyards, that as Duncan Meyers says, provide consistently distinct fruit that is loaded with intense character and concentration, which this 2019 shows to near perfection. Duncan goes on, adding that the long slow growing season near the edge of the continent allows for complete ripeness at lower than average sugar levels, resulting in a wine of deep color that has generous fruit character with an undercurrent of earth and spice, as well as having lovely balance and energy. The winery notes that for this wine, the vineyards are harvested and fermented separately using whole bunches without de-stemming, mainly native yeasts and upon completion of native primary fermentation the wines are basket pressed to a mix of neutral French oak barrels and concrete vats for an elevage that lasts about a year before the final blend is done and bottled. This Syrah, that is best served with simple meaty dishes, continues to way over deliver for the price and is one of the best values, especially since you can drink it young and not feel it should have stayed in the cellar long or with much pain in the wallet area!
($40 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 17, 2021

2020 Morgan Winery, Rosé of Pinot Noir, Double L Estate Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands.
The just released Double L Rosé maybe a one off wine and considering the fires that swept through the region in this vintage, it might be the best Pinot Noir you are going to find in this disastrous growing season, this one is fresh, delicate and a nice treat for Summer showing sour cherry, strawberry, rosewater, saline, mineral and a kiss of ruby grapefruit, very much in the style of Marsannay Rosé from Burgundy. A bit of swirling and air brings a nice texture to this pretty ultra pale example of pink Pinot from Morgan’s Dan Lee and his winemaker Sam Smith, who has really stamped his signature on the last two vintages, raising the quality dramatically here at this long time Monterey classic winery. It should be noted that Morgan also does a Tavel (Rhone) inspired Grenache Rosé as well, that wine is a yearly mainstay in the lineup, but this rarity is more subtle and less fruit forward, with this Double L Rosé of Pinot showing a more austere, serious or cool personality, both pinks will find a lot of fans. I was happily surprised to see this Pinot Rosé at Morgan’s tasting room, joining their exciting 2018 Double L Pinot Noir, which is one of their most compelling versions yet.

The organic and cool climate Double L Vineyard, in the northwest end of the Santa Lucia Highlands is one of the region’s Grand Cru sites, producing fantastic Pinot Noir and absolutely world class Chardonnay, along with small parcels of Riesling and Syrah, both of which have seen an incredible jump in quality in the 2018 and 2019 vintages under the guidance of Smith. Morgan’s latest releases are wonderfully expressive and complex wines, if you’ve not had them lately, you are missing some very special stuff. This brilliant and shiny new Pinot Rosé was crafted from slightly early picked and ultra carefully sorted clusters, as Morgan knew they weren’t going to be able to make any estate or SLH Pinots, they took extra care to find the best grapes possible to make this wine and did a direct pressing without any soaking of the skins in stainless steel tank before the wine was aged eight months in neutral French oak barrels. The Morgan Double L Rosé of Pinot Noir did not see malo-lactic, to keep its vitality, making it unexciting wine to enjoy as the Rosé season hots up. I hope this version is not just a one off, though I can’t imagine in a good year them using such great Pinot to make a Rosé, but fingers crossed, I recommend getting this while you can.
($30 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 16, 2021

2020 Storm Wines, Sauvignon Blanc, Presqu’ile Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley.
The bright and spicy Presqu’ile Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc from Storm Wines is wonderful fresh and unique with a profile that both delicious and excitingly distinct with a range of lemon/lime, lime blossom, melon and unripe peach along with some set stones, sliced jalapeño and spearmint. This light to medium bodied Sauvignon Blanc takes your palate on a thrill ride and is full of zesty intensity making it perfect with shrimp or fish tacos as well as goat dish dishes. As it opens this 2020 Presqu’ile Sauvignon Blanc gains a nice mouth feel and depth while retaining vibrant natural acidity and its crisp bone dry personality, lingering on nicely with classic gooseberry. It is quite additive and far removed from most Sauvignon Blancs in both the old world and here in California though obviously true to the varietal. Storm explains that the diverse soils and microclimates within Santa Barbara County, including the SantaYnez and Santa Maria valleys make it a region with endless possibilities, especially for Sauvignon Blanc, which was pioneered here by Fredrick Brander as far back as the late 1970s. I have really enjoyed the latest releases from Storm, especially the Gamay and the 2019 Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir, so I was excited to try this new Sauvignon Blanc and I recommend checking them out.

Ernst Storm, who founded Storm Wines in 2006, grew up in South Africa and completed his studies at Elsenburg Agricultural School, one of the most celebrated wine schools in the world and is located just outside the town of Stellenbosch in the Western Cape. After completing his final year, Ernst worked as a winemaker in the Stellenbosch region and also spent two harvests in the cooler Walker Bay region in South Africa, while consulting on a few smaller projects with his brother Hannes, who is making some exceptional Pinot Noir. But Ernst really fell in love with California and has worked throughout the state, finally settling in here in the mid 2000s. In recently years Ernst has gained a fine and deserved reputation for making elegantly balanced wines from Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. Santa Barbara County has a Mediterranean climate that in a way shares many similarities with that of the Western Cape, in his native South Africa, giving him an even more of a connection and feeling of home. The Presqu’ile Vineyard is located on the Solomon Hills on the Southern edge of the Santa Maria Valley and cooled by Pacific Ocean breezes, this Ernst says, coupled with old marine floor soils makes this site perfect for growing cool climate and aromatic Sauvignon Blanc. For this 2020 vintage Storm employed a cool and quick fermentation and it was aged for 6 months on the lees in 100% Acacia wood that adds texture while retaining absolute purity. In the next few months, it will be good to have this Sauvignon Blanc around to quench the thirst on the warm days and evenings.
($35 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 15, 2021

2018 Domaine Moreau-Naudet, Chablis, White Burgundy, France.
Virginie Moreau, who has bravely carried on after the tragic death of her husband Stéphane in 2016, along with her winemaker have continued the excellence found at Moreau-Naudet and this gorgeous 2018 regular Chablis AOC bottling is a stunningly pure terroir driven wine of class, substance and detail with lovely mineral tones, classic lemon, green apple and peach fruits and incredible texture, this Chardonnay way over delivers for the price. Subtle aromatics, that highlight the wine’s stony nature, nice refreshing acidity and secondary elements that include saline, melon and hazelnut all contribute to the depth and pleasure in this vintage. This sublime pale straw colored Moreau-Naudet Chablis proved to be excellent as both an aperitif and main event wine with an array of cuisine from an appetizer of seared scallops to a primary tuna dish, it even got better and more rounded with air, but kept it’s fabulous crisp focus throughout.

The Chablis AOC, in the brilliant Moreau-Naudet lineup, is the only wine in their cellar that sees any new oak, with this cuvee providing the seasoning for those barrels which end up in the Premier Cru program after the first fill. Even so, as Moreau-Naudet’s importer Grand Cru Selections notes, it is always just a few new barrels that are being added to replace far older ones and actually only constitute a small percentage of the final blend, and of which you really cannot notice, especially in this 2018. The fermentation at Moreau-Naudet is always natural and spontaneous with indigenous yeasts, followed by a long maceration and elevage on lees, with a fantastic result in the wine’s textural quality and richness. The wine is usually aged for an average of 18 months depending on the vintage in a combination of stainless steel and 600-liter French oak barrels, with a majority of the Chablis AOC cuvee, typically two-thirds, sees just the stainless. There is a lot to admire at Moreau-Naudet and while the Premier Cru and Grand Cru are exceptional offering and highly sought after, I recommend not missing out on the regular Chablis bottling!
($40 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 14, 2021

2019 Sheldon Wines, Sparkling Graciano, Luc’s Vineyard, Fountaingrove AVA, Sonoma County.
The Sheldon Sparkling Graciano is a deeply dark and aromatic Brut style bubbly with a full body and a creamy lightly foamy mousse, this is an exotic and inky purple wine that has layers of blackberry, plum, cranberry and Italian cherry fruits along with racy spices, crushed flowers and a touch of savory elements as well as moderate tannins that hold this tasty stuff together. The Sheldon’s have been making various versions of sparklers over the last decade, usually doing something different each vintage with this dry Sparkling Graciano being a rare edition, coming after their Tempranillo Brut Rosé, and it is my favorite so far! Elegant and full flavored red sparkling wines are not too common, and especially when made from such a rare grape such as Graciano, a grape originally from the Rioja region in Spain. For this bubbly, the Sheldon’s used one of their barrels of Luc’s Vineyard Graciano as the base for this wine, it was picked at normal red wine ripeness and saw native yeast fermentation and a full maceration to extract its vivid pigment and depth of flavors. The 2019 Sparkling Graciano can be sipped and enjoyed as you would a red wine and with hearty cuisine or be a celebratory wine for toasting a special event, though best as a starter course wine with charcuterie and or antipasti.

This single barrel of red sparkling Graciano, winemaker Dylan Sheldon says, was created using, what he calls a Traditional Method technique, but with a pop top, like a Pet-Nat, while using an extraordinary non-traditional grape varietal. Lots of loving care went into making this hand made Rouge de Noirs style bubbly that shares more in common to Australia’s dry Sparkling Shiraz than any French fizz with only about 24 cases made, making it a very fun rarity that can be very addictive. This wine was sourced from the Luc’s Vineyard, located in the new Fountaingrove AVA, which sits in the hillsides between Healdsburg and the Chalk Hill appellation, it is an organically farmed small hand tended family vineyard. The Sheldon’s, who love Graciano, have been getting every grape gown here for many years now, and they produce some of the most compelling, ultra small lot and elegant wines I’ve tried from Sonoma County from this tiny volcanic soiled plot, including a stunning Grenache, a few different versions of Tempranillo, an aromatic Syrah and one of California’s best Graciano reds available, plus this tasty sparkling treasure! While some will think of this wine as a California Lambrusco, it is much more complex and more perfumed without any of the Italian rustic or gamey quality. It’s an awesome time to discover Sheldon’s collection of wines, especially now that they’ve just released a brand new 2020 Rioja style Luc’s Vineyard 50% Graciano and Tempranillo Dry Rosé or Rosado, which I can’t wait to get my hands on!
($30 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 13, 2021

2020 Martha Stoumen, Nero d’Avola Rosato, Benson Ranch, Mendocino County.
The latest Nero d’Avola Rosato by Martha Stoumen is crisply dry Rosé that is a heavenly refresher and its bright tanginess is a welcome relieve to these warm if not hot days and it has plenty of extract and substance to go with food as well. There is a glow to this vivid pink wine that is utterly compelling and inviting and steely palate unfolds with sharp details with zesty ruby citrus, wild unripe peach, cherry and strawberry fruits, a nice crunch of herbs, a touch of rosewater, spice notes, and salty wet rocks. Nero d’Avola, the classic Sicilian grape of the Vittoria region, where it is made as a solo varietal DOC wine, as well as being traditionally blended with Frappato. For her Nero d’Avola Rosato, Martha uses 100% whole clusters (stems intact) that see a foot tread and loaded into the press to macerate overnight before being pressed in the morning, allowing the extract of phenolics and pigment. The juice then is fermented naturally and aged in neutral tanks for 6 months, before being bottled unfined and unfiltered. This wine got better and better with every sip, and with the air and the warming the Rosato gained a presence and mouth feel in the glass, it met all my expectations and then some with juicy watermelon and tart rhubarb/cranapple adding an interest and playful side. There is a lot to love in the current set of Martha’s wines, with her Zinfandel, Carignane and signature Nero d’Avola red, being some of my favorites along with the Rosé bottlings and her new Vermentino.

Martha calls this wine her Vino di una notte… This, she says, translates to ‘one night wine’ and refers to the technique of crushing grapes and leaving them to macerate on skins (and in her case, with the stems as well) in their own juice overnight, adding color, texture, and complexity. Stoumen adds that she loves using this technique with the Nero d’Avola because it produces a wine that falls between rosé and a red wine, as she continues, it is zippy and bright like a rosé but textured and robust like a red wine. Stoumen racked the pressed juice off lees before fermentation began and then once again toward the end of fermentation, but there is still a touch of natural sediment in the bottle, which shouldn’t bother any fans of quality unfiltered wines. The farming at Benson Ranch also adds to the complexity of this wine, with all Dry farmed vines that are set on well drained gravelly loam soils, making for grape berries that are small due to water scarcity and have a higher skin to juice ratio, adding that intensity that shines in this Rasato. The Benson Ranch is located in Ukiah, Mendocino County on gentle hillsides and Stoumen sources her Nero d’Avola from these 14-year-old head trained, that are as mentioned, dry farmed and to organic principles, meaning everything is done without the use of pesticides, herbicides, and synthetic fungicides. Stoumen does make this wine every vintage, so when she does it is a rare and delicious treat, so I recommend not waiting around, this and her lees aged Nergoamaro Rosato are two of the most exciting Rosé offerings out there, don’t miss either, especially this one!
($35 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 12, 2021

2018 Desire Lines Wine Co, Syrah, Shake Ridge Ranch, Amador County, Sierra Foothills.
If you’ve not discovered Cody Rasmussen’s wines yet, you really should do your best to change that and especially his Desire Lines Wine Co Syrah bottlings from Griffin’s Lair and this awesome Shake Ridge Ranch Vineyard version, a wine that is uniquely Californian and full of terroir expression with an inky and sexy color, incredible energy and depth of dark fruits, these are some of the greatest values in the state. I first tried Rasmussen’s Shake Ridge Ranch Syrah with his 2016 release, and I was blown away, but this 2018 takes it too the next level, his diligence and a slight tweaking of the winemaking to better get a grip with this amazing vineyard site has really paid off here. For the 2018 vintage, Cody adjusted the use of whole cluster, plus adding a tiny amount of co-fermentted Viognier, a la Cote-Rotie, and the elevage, adding a touch of new wood, to get the best out of the site and you can see the glorious results in the glass with deep layering on the full bodied palate that shows blackberry, sweet plum, kirsch and blueberry compote fruits, plus creme de cassis, anise, sandalwood, dark florals, smoky mineral, brambly spices, light herbal notes and an underlying tannic backbone that feels muscular, but perfectly integrated. This is a wine that is just coming to life and it is absolutely brilliant, it especially gets rocking with food, in my case it went fabulous with marinated flank steaks and rosemary roasted potatoes and veggies as well as hard basque cheeses. This deep purple hued and powerfully structured 2018 saw the use of a large Taransaud barrel, which adds a luxurious toastiness to this already well polished and opulent effort, this wine has embraced its expressive nature without being over the top, it way over delivers for the price and is one of the bargains of the year so far.

Cody and Emily Rasmussen started their own micro-winery and label, Desire Lines Wine Co. with a small batch of Syrah in 2014 and now has a wonderful collection of dry Riesling, a Mourvedre, a Carignan based blend, a Cabernet Sauvignon and the mentioned Syrahs, which are the signature wines of the winery. Rasmussen, who is a winemaker at Morgan Twain-Peterson’s famous Bedrock Wine Company, has been searching out unique vineyard sites in California and this Shake Ridge Ranch Vineyard is truly a great location and is farmed by the Ann Kraemer, a pioneering legend in the Sierra Foothills, who is also a consulting viticulturalist for Domaine Chandon, Swanson, Cain, Calera, Paul Hobbs, and Shafer, to name a few and set on geological wonderland of soils with schist, Mariposa slate, greenstone, and marble, and as Rasmussen notes, within the vineyard rows at Shake Ridge there are big chunks of quartz that litter the ground. The Sierra Foothills has a warm climate, but here at this elevation sees a huge day to night swing with the vines getting a nice cool rest during the dark hours, helping retain natural acidity, which is evident here is this vintage. This vineyard is planted to classic Rhone Varietals and has become a mecca for winemakers with Rasmussen getting certain blocks of Syrah with two genetic clones going into his Shake Ridge Syrah, with a clonal split of Syrah Noir and clone 470, with this year’s wine seeing more of the Syrah Noir than in prior efforts, along with the small percentage of Viognier, which Cody says helps color and aromatics. Made with each parcel getting its own amount of whole cluster from 30-100% and all native yeasts, it got a cool and gentle maceration with a wet cap and daily hand punch-downs before pressing to a combination of one new 500L puncheon (making for about 30% new) and used French oak barrels for aging. There is a lot to admire here and this Shake Ridge Syrah looks like it has a long and gorgeous life ahead of it, as I said, this is a great time to get these wines.
($36 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive