2016 Jolie-Laide, Syrah, North Coast.
The exceptional 2016 North Coast Syrah by Jolie-Laide shows pretty northern Rhone detailing with crushed violets and bright blue fruits leading the way on the medium bodied palate. Scott Schultz, former wine director under Chef Thomas Keller at Napa Valley’s famed Bouchon, makes Jolie-Laide, one of California’s new wave of natural inspired wines is a one-man operation based in a Sebastopol, he crafts only around 500 cases of wine a year. He named his winery Jolie-Laide, which translates loosely to “Pretty-Ugly” borrowing this French term of endearment, that is used to describe something that is unconventionally beautiful that perfectly describes Schultz’s fun offerings, especially this North Coast Syrah. Scott also works with Pax Mahle, Megan and Ryan Glaab at Ryme Cellars, and as well as formerly helping the guys out at Arnot-Roberts, all of which fits nicely with his own winemaking philosophy and do handcrafted small lots from mostly organic and or sustainable vineyard sites. Schultz is a minimalist in the cellar with a light touch, known for his juicy and quaffable wines and low SO2, as well as championing lesser used varietals like Gamay, Melon, Trousseau Gris, Trousseau Noir and Valdiguie.
This 2016 Jolie-Laide North Coast Syrah is a blend of two Yorkville Highlands vineyard sites, the rugged high elevation Halcon Vineyard, owned by Paul Gordon, one of California’s most dramatic sites that produces some off the state’s best Syrah, planted to Hermitage clone and the almost equally compelling Hawks Butte Vineyard which sits at 1200 ft. elevation with rocky, south facing slopes. According to Schultz he crushed the grapes by foot and fermented 100% whole cluster, with nothing more than gentle punchdowns throughout. He then pressed to old, neutral French oak barriques for just less than a year to preserve vibrancy and to highlight the fresh details in this lovely Syrah. This 2016 is layered and sharply focused with boysenberry, marionberry, plum and black cherry fruits along with fig paste, leather, black olive, peppercorns as well as crushed violet, light cassis, anise and embers. I was highly impressed with the texture, length and vitality in this Jolie-Laide North Coast Syrah, even after leaving the bottle open, without a cork all night, it thrilled the palate and never lost a beat, I only wish I had more as this small production wine is a tough get. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get the 2017 vintage Syrah, which is all Halcon Vineyard, which is the current release, and I’ll be checking out their other wines as well.
($30 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive