Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 25, 2020

2018 Lucia Vineyards by Pisoni, Syrah, Soberanes Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands.
The long cool growing season of 2018, great for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in the Santa Lucia Highlands, allowed for one of the best vintages in decades across the board with a vast array of great wines being made in the region, but Syrah did exceptionally well too, especially in the hands of the talented Jeff Pisoni, who’s gorgeously inky and perfumed Soberanes Syrah is one of the best wines of the vintage so with amazing complexity, purity of fruit and depth. The latest Syrah release from the Soberanes Vineyard, a joint venture between the Pisoni and Franscioni families, that is located higher up on the Santa Lucia Highlands Bench adjacent to the famous Garys’ Vineyard with rocky/loamy soils and the cool climate that the AVA is known for, highlights the quality of this site that is planted to 33 acres of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah. The profound Soberannes Syrah was hand crafted from carefully farmed lots with the grapes being mostly Alban clone, also known as a true Cote-Rotie selection, which thrives here and makes for a wine of tremendous character, style and sex appeal, in particular this 2018 with its striking dark opaque purple/black/garnet hue and its intriguing meaty note that this youthful wine delivers before a classic bounty of Syrah elements come alive in the glass with beautiful violets, peppercorns, blue and black fruit and a subtle smoky sweet oak accent. The full bodied palate is dense with blackberriy, boysenberry, currant jelly, plum and kirsch as well as black licorice, a hint of camphor or graphite, sage, lavender and faint bacon fat and this wine is perfectly dimensioned and its muscular power is masterfully graceful with acidity and polish tannins. This wine, like a growing number of top producers including Pax, Drew, Arnot-Roberts, Halcon and new comers Cody Rasmussen of Desire Lines Wine Co. and Samuel Louis Smith to name a few prove that Syrah in California can complete with, and in wines like this, surpass many elite Northern Rhone offerings are are some of California’s most compelling wines.

Jeff Pisoni has raised the bar with this vintage, and I hear the 2019s are going to be truly mind blowing as well, which confirms what I have been tasting so far, and his Northern Rhone inspired Soberannes Syrah, along with the soon to be released Lucia Garys’ Pinot, which I also got a chance to taste, are as close to perfection as it gets. It’s well know, that the Pisoni family, led by Jeff’s dad Gary Pisoni, are committed to quality, these are people with a deep and passionate love of wine and the region, they’ve really turned the Santa Lucia Highlands (the SLH) into one of world’s great wine-growing zones with their prized Estate Vineyard, the Garys’ Vineyard and this Soberanes being Grand Cru like sites, and insiders believe that Soberanes is just getting started and might turn out to be the place with the best potential going forward, and wines like this makes a strong case. For this 2018 Soberanes Syrah the younger Pisoni used 100% whole cluster and indigenous (native) yeast fermentation and just 20% new oak, all carefully picked French barrels that enhance the grapes true nature, while also adding a smooth mouth feel. This wine is outrageously delicious, with ripe fruit and savory tones, already, though I am certain it will only get better in the bottle and I think cellaring it for 5 to 10 years will bring a much more rewarding experience, to me, this will rival top Hermitage and Cote-Rotie, like Chapoutier’s Ermitage, Guigal’s Chateau d’Ampuis, Chave Hermitage and Jaboulet’s La Chapelle! I have been saying over the years that in some vintages, Syrah is actually the best wine in the SLH, in fact my own conversion in thinking when tasting through the Lucia, Roar and Novy (Siduri’s other label at the time) from the 2004 vintage, which all were made by Adam Lee, who consulted for Roar and Pisoni at the time, and since then they (Syrah) have only got better. This Lucia Soberanes Syrah is outstanding stuff, it may not get as much love as the Pinots, but it is wine that should not be missed, it is also a great wine to celebrate Pisoni’s twentieth anniversary vintage.
($60 Est.) 97 Points, grapelive