2017 Piedrasassi, Syrah, Patterson & Sebastiano Vineyards, Sta. Rita Hills.
The wildly feral and savory 2017 Sta. Rita Hills Syrah from Sashi Moorman at Piedrasassi is one of California’s best and unique cool climate (Northern Rhone Style) versions with loads of whole cluster and stem inclusion intensity with deep fruit density, it shows dark berry pie filling, plum, creme de cassis and blueberry as well as vivid violets, tar, licorice, minty herbs and peppercorns along with an earthy and meaty shadow throughout on the medium to full bodied palate. This is a wine that will transport you to the legendary wines of Auguste Clape and Thierry Allemand, giving the same rustic thrill those Cornas wine deliver with a California twist of ripe warmth and a different set of soil influences here that inform you that this wine is from here, but still terroir driven and giving a sense of mineral character and with a touch of chalky stone, making for real Syrah enthusiasts treasure. Sashi has become one of the state’s most admired winemakers over the years, especially his work for Stolpman Vineyards and collaboration with Raj Parr at Sandhi and the Domaine de la Cote, as well as, now, the wines at Oregon’s premier Evening Land Vineyards and his own efforts here at Piedrasassi, where he specializes in Syrah, like this one, plus a little Mourvedre and even his own take on Vin Santo. I have been following the Piedrasassi wines for a long time and love the whole bunches and low intervention style here, these wines are some of the finest examples of Central Coast Syrahs available, especially the Rim Rock Rock Vineyard from the Arroyo Grande AVA and Bien Nacido Vineyard, Santa Maria, as well as the Santa Barbera County PS (entry level) Syrah, one of the best values around, and this one from the SRH’s Patterson & Sebastiano Vineyards.

The Piedrasassi wines embrace Syrah’s more funky and edgy side with all that entails, these are not crowd pleasing bottlings, unless like me you have lots of geeky friends of course then they are a huge hit with hints of camphor, robust stemmy notes and some raw tannins coming out of the squat (short) bottle, that was inspired by the shape you see in Giusto Occhipinti’s COS winery in Sicily’s Vittoria region. Moorman used tried and true old world techniques in the cellar with the use of indigenous or wild yeats, the heavy use of whole cluster and low sulphur in his fermentations that come naturally or spontaneously. Sashi, who loves cement vats for primary ferments, uses mainly large used French oak barrels raising his own offerings like this one. The grapes that go into his Piedrasassi are from mostly holistic or sustainably grown vines and with ultra careful sorting, both in the vineyard and back in the winery, with this 2017 being a blend of 80% from the Sebastiano Vineyard and 20% from the Patterson Vineyard, which Sashi has been using only for a couple of vintages now, but one that he thinks has great potential, lying on a cool north-facing slope of the Santa Rosa Hills, just above the famous Sine Qua Non’s estate vineyard. The highly regarded Sebastiano site was planted back in 2007 on clay based loam over limestone soils, with these Syrah vines, as Sashi notes, exposed to relentless Pacific winds that give the wines their aggressive nature and good acidity. The 2017 vintage finished with a heat wave and you’d expect it to be more fruit forward, but you’d be wrong here with this Sta. Rita Hills Syrah, which is much more briar laced, spicy, with loads of Umami and crushed rock along with zesty cinnamon and a touch of beef tartar. It would be well advised to decant this vintage and be sure to enjoy it with robust cuisine that allows the prettiness and purity of the fruit to come out, drink this impressive wine over the next decade.
($50 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

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