2021 Carlisle Winery, Syrah, Papa’s Block, Russian River Valley AVA, Sonoma County.
Brilliant purple/violet and darkly opaque in the glass, the 2021 Carlisle Papa’s Block Syrah is powerful and lively in the glass with a core of opulent black and blue fruits, snappy spices, crushed violets, graphite and sandalwood leading the way on the full bodied, but energetic palate, making for a bold and delicious expression of California Syrah that is highly entertaining and rewarding. With swirls and air you get the full picture, with boysenberry, damson plum, berry coulis, blueberry and fig fruits coming through in seamless fashion along with a nice contrasting savory element, showing some black olive, feral meaty notes and umami, as well as hints of anise, vanilla and lingering cassis. Most people gravitate to Carlisle’s famous Zinfandels, but I’ve always really admired winemaker Mike Officer’s Syrah and this one is just awesome, it will thrill almost every Syrah fan and will age well to, such is the structure and balance. This impressive and gripping effort will provide lots of pleasure in the coming years, especially with with hearty cuisine choices, like lamb chops, wild mushroom dishes, country style meat stews and or steaks. People that know Carlisle, will probably know their exotic Northern Rhône inspired Santa Lucia Highlands Syrah bottlings from the Rosella’s and Sierra Mar vineyards, which I am a huge fan of, but this one is a rarity with only 489 cases made.
Mike Officer’s Carlisle Winery, based in Sonoma County, focuses on old-vine, vineyard designated Zinfandels mostly, as well as red Rhône varieties, including Syrah, as seen here, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Petite Sirah. Officer also produce three white wines, two of which, as he says, are blends from historic, old-vine vineyards plus Sonoma County’s first ever Grüner Veltliner, which is already a geeky treat. Carlisle, while widely admired for the Zinfandels, which are right up there with the best in the state, does a fabulous set of Syrah offerings, with this Papa’s Block holding a special place in the lineup, named after Mike’s dad, who is called Papa by the grandkids, and planted to Officer’s favorite Syrah clone, 470, that obviously does great here in the cooler side of the Russian River Valley and on its Huichica Loam soils, which give luxurious depth, complexity and richness to the wine. This vintage saw a bit more whole cluster and stem inclusion with close to 30% while bunches and it got 24 days on the skins for full extraction during maceration and fermentation, after which the wine was pressed to exclusively French oak barrels. The Papa’s Block, which was 100% Syrah, was aged over a year in the wood, with about 20% new used and the wine was bottled unfined and unfiltered. While it is hard not wanting to open this beauty now, I suggest some patience, as I would bet it will get even better with another 3 to 5 years in bottle. Carlisle is at the top of their game and the 2021 vintage, with slightly lower natural alcohols really is fantastic with classic fruit density and the bonus of absolute clarity and finesse!
($48 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive