2021 Union Sacré, Syrah “Virtuose” Slide Hill Vineyard, Edna Valley AVA, San Luis Obispo County.
The deep and dark fruited Virtuose Syrah by Union Sacré, who are well admired for their Alsatian styled whites, especially the dry set of Rieslings, is quite a surprise, coming from Edna Valley’s Slide Hill Vineyard it is a very Côte Rôtie in style with beautiful violets, toasty oak and opulent layers of blackberry, blueberry and plum fruits leading the way, along with classic cool climate black olives, subtle meaty elements, mineral tones, creme de cassis, salted licorice and raw peppercorns. At first, I found it easy and juicy with youthful acidity, supple tannins and low alcohol, but it gains a more structured nature with time in the glass and its true personality starts to reveal itself, interestingly this Syrah can be thrilling and drinkable now, but will certainly get much better with another few years of both age. There’s a lot to like here, especially the Northern Rhône character it shows and the richness of its California fruit and savory contrast that lingers behind the youthful expression on the surface, patience looks to have its rewards here. This wine, only about 150 or so cases made, shows off almost everything we Syrah lovers want in a wine and while not cheap, its certainly deserves following!
Union Sacré, A tiny micro winery owned by Philip Muzzy and French winemaker Xavier Arnaudin, from the Rhone, who formed in 2014, calls Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties home, and again as mentioned they are known for their Alsace styled whites, which I first tried with their 2016 “Fraulein” Riven Rock Vineyard Riesling. I was somewhat amazed to find out that for their Slide Hill Vineyard Virtuose Syrah, the Union Sacré pair went with 100% de-stemmed fruit and 100% new oak, almost in the mold of Guigal, rather than the more modern approach of whole cluster and large neutral casks, especially as I could have been easily fooled into believed they actually did the later, such is the subtle accents of the wood and the vibrant and lifted personality is here, impressive results. Winery explains the great care and attention it paid to this wine, with the 100% de-stemmed grapes seeing a cold soaked for 4 days, native yeast fermentation, with full pumpovers twice daily, to get total extraction and grab all the aromatics, until they pressed it to barrel. The Syrah saw battonnage daily for 5 months, then it was aged 10 months in the 100% new French Oak barrels, with 7 new Cadus and Sylvan barrels employed, all of which nicely compliment the vintage’s bounty of ripe fruit, great acidity and the lower to moderate alcohol. I can’t wait to try some of the new releases by Union Sacré, such was the positive impression this wine left on me, after tasting it blind in a Rhône tasting not too long ago.
($70 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive