2017 Desire Lines Wine Co., Syrah, Shake Ridge Vineyard, Amador County, Sierra Foothills.
The Desire Lines Wine Co. has to be one of the best discoveries of the year for me and the two set of releases I’m followed have been utterly compelling and beautifully crafted wines that offer serious substance and incredible value, especially their Griffin’s Lair and (this) Shake Ridge Syrah(s), they are right up there with the best in California. Both Syrah bottlings are outrageously good, hard to chose a favorite between them, but the thrilling density and structure of the Shake Ridge is impossible to resist and this 2017, from a warmer vintage, is more powerful and deeper than the 2016, but interestingly it is less fruit forward, it is more gripping, savory and has more intensity or presence in the glass, intriguingly Cody Rasmussen credits the co-fermenting of just 2% Viognier with some of the resulting change, though I suspect the more whole cluster and what I’ve seen of the ’17’s (Syrah) is a more tight and firm expression, they seem to be taking their time to show off the fruit and bouquet, tending to unwind slowing, but WOW they are looking like awesome young wines with huge potential, as I feel will come here as well. The impressive nature in this Shake Ridge emerges with glorious detail after a layer of meaty and savory elements revealing black damson plum, boysenberry, black fig, kirsch, currant and blueberry compote fruit that when in full focus feels gorgeous and riveting with touches of exotic and really framed by the earth, spice and herbal edges with anise, cedar and lavender oil adding to the thrills as well as a hint of liquid violets. Even with the ripe tannins and fruit density there is a sense of elegance and vitality in this Shake Ridge Vineyard Syrah that really makes a statement about the terroir, management of the vines and the stylish (minimalistic) winemaking that Rasmussen employed, allowing it to showcase the vintage and it makes a clear statement of greatness through this wine. This wine is marked by a sense of place and its cool stony iron/mineral influenced fruit core and its dark purple inky color has a raw sex appeal, and the lingering pepper, licorice, subtle toasty oak and creme de cassis just re-enforces this wines charisma and its wow factor.
Cody Rasmussen, assistant winemaker at Morgan Twain-Peterson’s Bedrock Wine Company, is a breakout talent and these wines deserve lots of attention, especially this one, he notes that he fermented this Shake Ridge Syrah with 60% whole cluster and aged it for about 14 months in large-format 500L barrels, including a single new light-toast Taransaud barrel, which I have noticed really works well in Syrah and allows aromatic nuances to really shine through as well as giving a warm comforting vinous quality to the wine, which certainly shows up here, regardless of my own opinion on the wood. Cody adds that this vintage highlights Syrah’s more gamey/funky side and that it delivers it perfectly here, I think that is spot on, I find the granite, schist, Mariposa slate, greenstone, and marble as well as the chunks of quartz, that Rasmussen adds litter the rows at Shake Ridge, give this spot its Hermitage like pedigree and mineral rich character. The Shake Ridge vineyard is farmed by Ann Kraemer, a the cult like figure that has one of the best reputations in California for the quality the grapes here, along with her methods and understanding of the site, this is truly one of the state’s treasures. Kraemer, who has worked for many years as a vineyard manager and been a top consulting viticulturalist for the likes of Domaine Chandon, Swanson, Cain, Calera, Hobbs, and Shafer, and with this seriously awesome CV, you understand why there is a line at her door in this remote location in Amador for these Shake Ridge grapes, and Rasmussen does them justice here, even if patience needs to be shown. Desire Lines Wine Co. is a label to search out, and a list to join, like Halcon Vineyards in the Yorkville Highlands, this winery is making some fantastic stuff and the price for the quality is too good to miss. I can imagine this 2017 Shake Ridge, will its stuffing, aging really well, if you get this bottle, decanter it and have robust cuisine to enjoy its full array of pleasures, it is insanely good!
($36 Est.) 95-97 Points, grapelive