2016 Andrew Murray Vineyards, Syrah “Roasted Slope” Santa Barbara County.
The awesome 2016 Roasted Slope, named in honor and respect for Cote-Rotie, is made from selection of co-fermented Syrah and Viognier, coming from all from three vineyard blocks along Alisos Canyon Road being as well, as I understand is, a barrel selection taken from Watch Hill and Alisos. This deep and spectacular stuff is showing fantastic right now and it, the Roasted Slope, hails a great return to Murray’s lineup, since he hasn’t made it since 2005. Andrew, when he started, was a fresh faced kid that returned to California from internships in both France and Australia with a dream to do an epic Viognier, in fact that was his whole focus in the early days, but in a freak accident he was suddenly the owner of a vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley that was mistakenly planted to Syrah instead of Viognier! After a few years of waiting for his young vines to mature enough to crop, he was taken by surprise when his grapes started to go through veraison, at first he though maybe it was just a few plants, but fate had other ideas and most of the parcel ended up Syrah, so he made the wine that the vineyard gave him and the rest is history as this wine, which he called Roasted Slope went on to be a cult legend and one of the most prized Syrah based wines in America, right up there with John Alban, Ojai, SQN and Qupe at the time. 25 plus years later this wine again is up there with the new world’s best and it thrills on the palate with impressive and ultra dark fruits, beautiful spicy notes, hints of smoke and embers and a glorious floral perfume and lingering kirsch finish. This is a wine that is packed with flavor and sublime density, but still light on it’s feet and stylish with boysenberry, black plum, creme de cassis, peppercorns, minty anise, violets, sweet cedar and toasted vanilla all showing in an ever changing series of joys with enough savory tones to keep things interesting from start to finish.
In recent years, I have rediscovered my love for Murray’s wines, from his Cinsault Rose, his Tous Les Jours or basic Syrah, the Cotes du Rhone style Esperance, to his exceptional single vineyard, Stolpman Vineyard Syrah and Watch Hill Vineyard Syrah, that has become his signature achievement, but I am so happy the Roasted Slope is back, as it was always a favorite of mine, and it joins a growing list of must have Syrah(s) each year, including Sashi Moorman’s Piedrasassi, Pax, Drew and Halcon’s Alturas. Andrew Murray, who has a bachelor’s degree in viticulture and enology from UC Davis, has evolved as a winemaker and has refined his techniques over the more than two decades he’s been making wine in the Santa Ynez Valley and these last few vintages have really hit the sweet spot, these are nuanced and textured wines with lovely freshness and vitality even though they are warmly ripe and full of California hedonistic density, he is also committed to the principles of sustainable, organic, and biodynamic vineyard farming which is evident in his wines. Murray’s winery is a blend of the old and new, a blend of the classic and the modern, with as he puts it, beautiful French oak barrels and glimmering stainless steel tanks, he uses mostly traditional Burgundian shaped bottles and reliable screwtop closures for his wines, like Randal Grahm at Bonny Doon. As to the wine that first got him excited, his Viognier, well he makes a pretty tasty version still, and while sometimes overlooked these days, his whites are lovely, especially his Grenache Blanc and Rousanne led Esperance Blanc, and of which are great values too. This 2016 Roasted Slope is now sold out at the winery sadly, but still around a few retail shelves, be sure to keep an eye out for it, it’s worth the chase!
($45 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive