Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 31, 2018

2008 Arcadian, Syrah, Sleepy Hollow Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands -photo grapelive

2008 Arcadian, Syrah, Sleepy Hollow Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands.
Joe Davis was one of the first to realize the potential of Syrah in the Santa Lucia Highlands and crafted wonderful versions from the then owned Talbott Sleepy Hollow Vineyard, which sadly now does not exist as the Syrah block was ripped out during a transition period at Talbott making this wine maybe the very last of it’s kind. Davis, one of the Highlands pioneers when he worked as a winemaker at Monterey’s Morgan Winery under Dan Lee, created his own label Arcadian in the early nineties, focused on Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah all from the SLH, before moving south to the Santa Barbara and Santa Maria region and adding wines from there to his lineup. Davis was one of the first to utilize Gary Pisoni’s fruit and one of first to use Garys’ Vineyard too, so his wines were previews of the future when they came out, in fact as Talbott became more and more mainstream, his Arcadian versions of Sleepy Hollow became the best wines from this famed site on the western end of the SLH with it’s sandy loams and marine influenced climate. The Aracadian wines are made in classic or traditional style, Joe adds, his fermentation(s) occurs in small open-topped wooden vats, then the grapes are pigeaged (foot treaded) 3 to 5 times daily to further extract color, tannin and richness and then they are pressed when sugar levels reach 1 to 2. The wine completes malos (secondary fermentation) in barrel, with elevage in a combination of new and older  French oak, and bottled without fining and filtration. Davis also loves to cellar age his wines for many years before release, so while this Syrah is from the 2008 vintage, it is his current release! At a decade old this Sleepy Hollow Syrah from Arcadian has now a full sense of purpose and maturity, though still vivid and vibrantly alive with layers of earthy fruits, dried flowers, mocha and savory spices, it shows black cherry, blueberry, loganberry and a bit of stewed plum, which allowing for its age is right where it should be, but in fact with air it regroups its youth and expressive best adding boysenberry, cracked pepper, tarragon, lavender oil and a hint of violets along with some fig paste, leather, sassafras, pipe tobacco and barrel notes, not unlike old school Cote-Rotie wines. After almost an hour of air thing hit a perfect spot with this red and its tannins turn to silk and the mouth feel is more like a smooth Pinot Noir becoming a very elegant and polished example of central coast Syrah and a very likable wine. I personally don’t think there is too much more to come here, but it seems to be in a great place now, it could age another few years, Davis has done himself proud here, enjoy it now, this can be had through the Arcadian website. It’s fun to look back and look forward to what Monterey has been and where it is going, and with Syrah from the Santa Lucia Highlands, while Joe Davis was one of the early leaders here, we now have a great many of stunning versions like those from Jeff Pisoni at Pisoni Vineyards, his wife Bibiana who makes her Cattleya, Roar, Big Basin who made a version from KW Ranch, Wrath too, Morgan’s Double L Estate Vineyard by Sam Smith who is revitalizing Dan Lee’s Morgan, and especially Russell Joyce’s SLH Syrah from the Tondre Grapefield to name a few! it’s great to taste history in the glass, better yet when it is a dark garnet and purple, and clearly see the future ahead, which is looking great and very exciting.
($35 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive