2013 Big Basin Vineyards, Gabilan Mountains GSM, Rhone Red Blend, Monterey County.
Bradley Brown’s 2013 Big Basin Gabilan Mountains GSM, made from 49% Grenache, 27% Syrah and 24% Mourvedre is really drinking well right now and has really come together in what was in some cases an awkward vintage with some uneven or bumpy wines. This one has gained texture and the stemmy whole cluster personality of its youth is fading into a more lush and complex wine while keeping just enough tension and earthiness to thrill the full bodied palate showing bramble berry, black plum, baked cherry and sweet and tangy pomegranate fruits to go with a touch of camphor, crushed rock, cedar, pepper, dried flowers, minty herb/anise and creme de cassis. There are some chewy tannins still, but things gain poise with air adding some mocha and fleshiness, which comes out more with robust foods and while in the glass this dark purple/crimson wine reveals sticky lavender, a hint of violets and contrasting meaty or iron like flavors. The 2013 GSM is a sleeper year and I recommend it highly, though while not readily available, the 2014 and 2015 versions are maybe even better, plus Big Basin is just now putting out their new stuff and the 2016 and 2017 reds are well worth investing in as well as their very limited Provence style Rosé, from the same vineyards used in the Gabilan Mountains GSM. Last years Rosé was absolutely delicious and Bradley just sent me a note claiming the 2019 is looking to a solid rival, which he says is the best yet, and I am really looking forward to drinking a few. It is a great time to support your friends with small wineries and this Santa Cruz Mountains winery is one of the finest producers around, best known for Syrah, but with a super lineup of Pinot too, as well as Chardonnay and savvy blended wines.

Coming from the Gabilan Range, a mountainous area to the north of the Salinas Valley with a combination of de-composed granite and chalky limestone, its a area with remarkable potential for wine grapes with cooling influences from the Pacific Ocean and elevation, especially these Rhone varietals that mostly are sourced from the Coastview Vineyard, one of the regions hot spots. Big Basin has been using grapes from here since around the 2007 vintage and in particular he loves the Syrah from this site, citing that the climate and soils make for excellent expressive of this grape, which Brown has a touch for, as anyone who’s had his estate Rattlesnake Rock will attest to. With the GSM in 2013, Brown fermented both Syrah and Grenache lots with up to 100% whole cluster, while the Mourvedre looks to have had more de-stemming to tame the phenolics and ease off the stem crunch in this well portioned wine. After fermentation, Brown and his winemaking team pump out the fermented wine then very gently press what is left with a small basket press, typical in the southern Rhone, then a brief settling occurs then the wine is racked to French oak barrels where it remains on the light lees for close to 18 months, with each grape lots aging separately with low sulfur. Then after aging the wines get blended for each finished offerings, including this cuvee, and bottled without filtering. These non estate wines are wonderful values and are powerful wines with strong wills and personalities that have exciting aging potentials, it isn’t easy to find older vintages, but putting a few of the current releases away can bring intriguing rewards. As mentioned Big Basin is releasing a new set for Spring, so I suggest going to their website and get on the allocations list and or buy a few of ready to ship bottles.
($44 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

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