2017 Halcon Vineyards, Syrah “Alturas” Estate, Yorkville Highlands.
The main estate bottling from Paul Gordon’s high elevation vineyard above the Yorkville Highlands in Mendocino County is his Alturas Syrah, which is one of the greatest wine values in California, especially this outstanding 2017 with it’s incredible depth of flavors and Northern Rhone style and low alcohol. The Halcón Syrah, which gets a long hang time in this ultra cool climate, was picked October 4th and co-fermented with about 3% Viognier. This dark purple/black opaque Alturas Syrah came from various parcels of the Halcón vineyard, which sits at close to 2, 500ft on schist and shale soils, and from predominately the Chave (Hermitage Clone) selections. Gordon, along with winemaking consultant Scott Shapely, a Monterey native, my hometown and head winemaker at Roar, went with a native yeast and partial whole-cluster fermentation, using close 50% with stems, matching 2016, and they, as Gordon notes, utilized (just) 10% new oak, again in the form of a single 500L French oak puncheon. Paul also adds, this was as mature Syrah fruit he’s ever had at just 22-22.5brix, and finished at 12.7% natural alcohol, making for an exciting and fresh wine of deep fruit complexity and spice. The Halcon Vineyard is one of the most unique and thrilling sites in California, planted mostly to Syrah, but with small area with Grenache, Mourvedre, Viognier and Marsanne as well.
This 2017 Alturas is vivid and full of stemmy intensity (Which makes the aromatics pop, heightens tension and gives fleshy textures) with blackberry, boysenberry, blueberry compote, black plum and kirsch fruits along with white pepper, black olives, anise and smoky embers all packed into a grippy medium full palate that has some firm, but smooth edged tannin and fine acidity. While the 2015 and 2016 had a touch more concentration and immediate richness, this one looks set to be even better. Paul Gordon tracks the daytime temperatures from his Halcon Vineyard to see how it compares to Ampuis, the town closest to the famed Cote-Rotie in France’s Northern Rhone and has found it to be cooler on his Mendocino County mountain top site and with a similar chart of highs and lows, which adds to the recognizable old world character in the Alturas. In fact those that covet Domaine Jamet, Rostaing, Louis Barruol’s negotiant bottlings and Bernard Levet Cote-Rotie(s) would likely be very impressed by what Gordon’s wines display in the glass, I myself have put them to the test in blind tastings over the last few vintages with amazing results for these reasonably priced Halcon wines. In California, to find wines in this league, you would have to say you’d put Halcon in the same league as Pax, Drew, Sashi Moorman (Piedrasassi), Lagier Meredith, Arnot-Roberts and Peay to name a few of my favorites, for style, uniqueness and quality. As I’ve mentioned in my past reviews, this is a list you should be on.
($32) 96 Points, grapelive