2018 Desire Lines Wine Co, Syrah, Griffin’s Lair Vineyard, Petaluma Gap, Sonoma County.
The 2018 Desire Lines Griffin’s Lair Syrah is taut and powerful, but delivers a wonderfully pure Syrah experience on the full bodied and meaty palate with an array of dark fruits, spiciness and feral notes with some violets, creme de cassis and tarry licorice, making for an impressive wine again from winemaker Cody Rasmussen and his tiny small lot label. This vintage needs food, and robust cuisine to give a good account for itself at this young stage, so be sure to prepare something hearty. I love this Syrah, and this vineyard, with this wine, Pax’s version and Luke Nio’s Filomena versions all being excellent, with Cody’s 2018 being one of the most exciting and with potential to get even better with age. The depth of flavors lean on blue and black fruits with blackberry, damson plum, blueberry and huckleberry being the core here with accents of forest floor, camphor, sanguine, tapenade and peppercorns in the background giving this deeply saturated purple/garnet wine loads of personality and rustic umami intensity. Rasmussen has proven himself equally as good with Riesling as he is with Syrah, his Cole Ranch Dry Riesling is one of the state’s best examples and he also does a fabulous Carignan based red, the Evangelho Old Vine Red Wine (95% Carignan & 5% Mourvèdre) and the exotic, wildly perfumey and hedonistic Shake Ridge Syrah from the Amador County in the Sierra Foothills, which is also a must for Syrah lovers.

As I’ve said since first trying these wines a few years back, Cody and Emily Rasmussen’s Desire Line Wine Co. is one of the most exciting new California labels to discover with a great set of new releases to chose from, especially this thrilling cool climate dark fruited Syrah from the famed Griffin’s Lair Vineyard in the Petaluma Gap AVA near Lakeville. Cody, the winemaker, who along with his childhood sweetheart Emily moved from Iowa to Sonoma in 2011 hit the ground running, starting as an harvest intern that fall and by next harvest he was drafted into the assistant winemaker’s position at Morgan Twain-Peterson’s Bedrock Wine Co., one of the state’s best small producers. For this Griffin’s Lair Syrah, Rasmussen fermented it with 50% whole cluster, with a submerged cap for the first half of fermentation, a little like the fabled Cote-Rotie by Domaine James is done, and then it was raised in neutral large format barrels, French puncheons, for 15 months before bottling without fining or filtration. He picks during a cooler window to preserve purity and freshness and I think this really paid off with the wine showing an inner energy, vibrant black and blue fruits as well as solid structures with a nice savory tone from the stems. There is good, fresh acidity to balance and contrast to the ripe density on the palate and this vintage looks structured for the long haul, best to decant or hold for another 3 or so years.The Griffin’s Lair Vineyard in the Petaluma Gap, set on gravel and clay loamy soils always gets those “Gap” breezes and cooling influences which allows deep ripe flavors, but with vivid detailing and the noted good acidity, making for wines with a northern Rhone character, but with California concentration and smooth tannins. Not much of these Desire Line Wine Co efforts get made, so it is best to get on their mailing list, Rasmussen is about to release a new set of wines, including an all new Bedrock Vineyard Mourvedre!
($42 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

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