2017 Piedrasassi, Syrah “PS” Santa Barbara County.
Piedrasassi’s winemaker Sashi Moorman is one of California’s best and most influential winemakers, though still relatively unknown to the public, somewhat like Eric Baugher is at the famed Ridge Vineyards, after helping establish Stolpman in the mid nineties he is now the winemaker behind Raj Parr’s Sandhi, Domaine de la Cote and Oregon’s Evening Land wineries. Sashi’s personal label, Piedrasassi is dedicated to cool climate Syrah mostly, though he has started focusing on Mourvedre as well in recent vintages, and this “PS” is his shockingly good entry level wine, coming from Moorman’s vineyards sites that range from Ballard Canyon (Santa Ynez Valley) in the east to the Santa Rita Hills and Arroyo Grande in the west. Moorman, who was himself influenced by Syrah pioneers and mentors like Bob Lindquist of Qupe and Adam Tolmach of the Ojai Vineyard, had Andrew Murray as friendly completion, both being from about the same generation, the same area and also focused on Syrah, along with established Rhone superstars, John Alban of Alban Vineyards and the cult label Sine Quo Non by the eccentric Manfred Krankl, helped lift Syrah in the Santa Barbara region, making it some of the most sought after wine in the state. Taking his own path, his wines at Stolpman and with Piedrasassi seem more stem influenced and his own really take that to the next level with a nod to Cornas, like the wines of Thierry Allemand and old school Cote-Rotie like Domaine Jamet with low sulphur and whole-cluster fermentations plus the use of cement vats rather than flashy oak.
Moorman’s are extreme and intriguing examples of Syrah with old world winemaking, but with perfectly ripened California fruit, mostly from sandy soils and close to the ocean with wines that, as he puts it, are then raised in large, used barrels, and, finally, bottled without any fining or filtration. He believes that the wines, with stem inclusion, are more expressive and develop more aromatic complexity, they also have more savory tones, earthiness, tension and gain in purity with bottle age, with this PS version already being a wildly compelling Syrah showing liquid violets, Ollailieberry pie filling, black cherry, plum and blueberry fruits, Cinghiale bacon, peppercorns, loamy earth, minty herb and licorice. A touch of reductiveness gives a slight natural and funky whiff, but this go away after the first sip and this medium to full bodied wine. Syrah is seeing a robust moment in time with many fine options like this Piedrasassi PS offering an exceptional value, and it joins newer versions from Greg Brewer (Ex Post Facto), Drew Family, Halcon and Desire Lines Wine Co. to name a few as the new wave of Syrah producers that you’ll want to discover. This PS always sells out, it is not hard to see why, especially for the price, but also look for the Bien Nacido, the Patterson & Sebastiano Vineyards, and maybe the signature bottling Rim Rock Vineyard in Arroyo Grande, they are stunning wines! This vintage is a huge success for the PS and it is going to surprise a few people with its ability to age, at this price, get all you can and enjoy it with robust cuisine.
($25 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive