2018 Halcon Vineyards, Syrah “Elevacion” Estate Grown, Yorkville Highlands, Mendocino County.
Paul Gordon’s Halcon Vineyard, which sits at 2,500 feet up about the Anderson Valley on unique schist soils in Mendocino’s Yorkville Highlands, is one of the greatest Syrah sites in California and his wines are too, especially the two Syrah bottlings, the Cote-Rotie inspired Alturas Syrah and this unbelievably good Elevation, a micro bottling of 100% Syrah from a heritage clone. As noted by the winery, the Halcon estate, which has about 15 acres of vines, mainly tightly spaced Syrah on a steep sloping hillside, but with tiny amounts of Viognier, which is co-fermented into the Alturas Syrah, a la Cote-Rotie, as well as parcels of Mourvedre, Grenache Noir, along with some Roussanne and Marsanne, that now are being used to make a small lot white wine that will soon be released for the first time. Gordon had told me these 2018s were special wines from a long cool vintage that pushed this already cold climate site to the very edge, with conditions that allowed for deep complexity, from the long hang time, but the extreme late harvest and low sugar concentration made for some nervous days and nights waiting to get the grapes in. That said, these 2018s are spectacular and are what I consider profound offerings, in particular I am thrilled with this pure and exceptional Elevacion, a limited release that will only be made in the best of years, and I also highly recommend the Halcon Tierra Petite Sirah from purchased fruit coming from the terraces of the Theopolis Vineyard, Theodora Lee’s awesome vineyard that produces some of the most compelling Petite Syrah I’ve ever tasted. The Halcon Elevacion shows intense northern Rhone character, beautifully elegant, but with a edgy whole bunches profile that reminds me of the very best from Cornas, especially the fantastic wines of Thierry Allemand, G.Gilles, Auguste Clap and Vincent Paris’ 60 Granit, though Gordon says he was inspired by Cote-Rotie wines from around Ampuis, like Domaine Jamet and Bernard Levet, this wine certainly lives up to all this build up, with a fabulous and inviting opaque black and purple hue and a riveting bouquet of earthy dark berries, perfumed violets and bacon(y) meatiness that leads to a full bodied palate of blackberry, damson plum, creme de cassis, graphite, vibrant herbs from of the stem inclusion, a crunchy mineral note and a light sense of cedary wood, anise and a lingering echo of blueberry compote and the (crushed liquid) violet floral element. The wow factor is off the charts here, and sadly, there definitely is almost no way to put words down that truly give justice to the quality of this peppery and gripping Elevacion Syrah, it’s a wine that takes California Syrah to the next level, much the same way Cayuse, by Christophe Barron, in the Rocks district of Walla Walla in Washington State, did for that region in the early 2000s!
Paul and Jackie Gordon of Halcon Vineyards, who have had some serious help in their early years, with Wells Gutherie of Copain and Scott Shapely of Roar, more recntly, having played vital roles getting this label to the outstanding place it is, make wines that influenced by their deep love of the classic old world offerings, as mentioned, from the Northern Rhone, where they have travelled many times. Over the last few vintages, Paul Gordon, himself has guided the Halcon wines to bottle, he is, as he notes, committed to the most transparent possible expression of the Halcón Vineyards terroir. He will tell you, that he and his wife Jackie believes that wine is made, first and foremost, in the vineyard, and they follow a non-interventionist approach in the cellar, employs 100% natural yeast, partial to all whole cluster fermentation, with zero enzyme additions, there are no adjustments to alcohol or acids in the Halcon wines and the judicious use of new French oak, with this Elevacion Syrah seeing just about a year in a large neutral Puncheon, plus the wines get only a micro dose of sulphites or SO2, so the wines stay vivid and freshly focused. The 2018s have a nice sense of energy and good natural acidity with a slowly unfolding parade of flavors, which are set for long and very rewarding lives ahead, I can clearly see this Syrah getting even better and fuller over the next 5 to 10 years, patience will pay off with these new Halcon releases, especially this one. The structure and tannin of the Halcon Elevacion Syrah give this vintage an underlying power, much like the smooth feline tension of a leopard’s muscles and it should be paired with simply prepared and robust cuisine, it would be magic with rustic Lamb dishes and or prime rib, as well as hard cheeses and wild mushroom dishes. There is lots to admire about this wine and the current releases, and I am hearing that the upcoming 2019s are looking good too, and Paul thinks they will eclipse these awesome 2018s, which would be mightily impressive if so, but I am excited to find out and am eagerly awaiting to get my hands on them in the Spring. The cool temperatures here, which mimic those of Cote-Rotie over a growing season, give these grapes that long hang time, and the rocky – schist soils get the vines to dig deep and allows for enough stress to deliver expressive varietal character, and up at this site, there are crisp daytime breezes that provide refreshment for the vineyard throughout the year. Gordon adds, the finished alcohol is a modest 13.3%, making it remarkably well balanced, even at this early stage and this Elevacion is a standout to get while you can, it is absolutely beautiful, with a nice cut of savory stuff inside and it is wildly delicious, plus it is ridiculously reasonable in price, it could be the best red wine for the money in the new world!
($38 Est.) 97 Points, grapelive