2017 Jolie-Laide Wines, Syrah, Halcon Vineyard, Yorkville Highlands, Mendocino County.
The 2017 Jolie-Laide Halcon Syrah is deep and very inky with intense Northern Rhone character that thrills the palate with classic Syrah highlights including boysenberry, cassis, graphite, game and earthy tones leading the way in this densely packed, but low alcohol wine. Winemaker Scott Schultz says that wine is amazing, and is one of the many great gifts Mother Nature has to offer us and that It possesses so many mysterious and inexplicable powers, I couldn’t agree more and his beautiful collection of latest releases, especially this one offers a bit of proof. Jolie-Laide is Schultz’s one-man operation based in a Sebastopol and while having gained a reputation for geeky cool wines in recent years, his Syrah is nothing but old school traditional and with loads of class and distinction with a clean and transparent profile. Scott moved to Napa from Chicago in 2007 with mostly fine dinning experience in the restaurant business on his resume which led him into a position at famous chef Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bistro in Napa’s Yountville, where he became head of their wine program and fell in love with California wines. He worked with Arnot-Roberts and Ryme Cellars, two modern new generation wineries, before joining Pax Mahle at Windgap and Pax Wine Cellars, where he still works. The 2017 has pretty aromatics which take a few minutes to reveal in the glass hiding behind the whole cluster expression and the layering is impressive with the cascade of dark fruits, wild herbs, crushed violets, spices and savory elements all trying together to make a great wine. My first experience with Schulz’s wines came a few years back and I was curious to follow up on his progress with these new wines and I’m happy to report they do not disappoint, in particular I recommend his red wine offerings, this one for sure, plus his Gamay, GSM and his Jura inspired blend, which I most recently reviewed here at grapelive.com.

One of my favorite vineyards in California and one of my favorites in Jolie-Laide’s lineup is, as noted above, this Halcon Vineyard Syrah with its pure and meaty northern Rhone character and thrilling whole cluster pop on the palate that reminds me of the great Cornas wines of Domaine Lionnet, Auguste Clap, Vincent Paris, Thierry Alemand and Guillaume Gilles, which is high praise! The mouth feel is excellent and air brings a richness of details, this 2017 is alive with flavor, gaining black cherry, damson plum and mure as it fully opens up. Scott Schulz, has lots of experience with Syrah after cutting his teeth with the famed Syrah expert Pax Mahle, so it is no surprise his version is of this exceptional quality, especially with the amazing grapes that come from Paul Gordon’s high elevation and schist soiled estate. The Halcon Vineyard high above the Yorkville Highlands is an extraordinary, rocky site at 2500 ft up in the Yorkville Highlands in Mendocino County, with its sky high elevation, cold coastal breezes, extremely low vigor soils and dense make it a very unique terroir. Schultz calls the vineyard’s personality that comes through in his example, an enigmatic style of Syrah mostly unknown in California. The dramatic conditions at Halcon, which in someways, as Gordon notes, are similar to Cote-Rotie constrict the sugar accumulation, meaning Schultz picks later but at a lower brix level, which explains the ripe fullness and low 12.6% natural alcohol as well as preserving a fresh natural acidity. The Jolie-Laide Halcon Syrah grapes were all crushed by foot trodding and fermented 100% whole cluster, with nothing more than gentle punch-downs throughout and indigenous yeasts. After primary fermentation the Syrah was pressed to old, neutral French oak barrique for a 10-month elevage, to capture, as Scott puts it, the delicate and expressive nature of the vines. This complex and succulent Syrah, which is delicious with an array of foods and cuisine option, especially lamb, pork and beef dishes, deserves your immediate attention and I strongly advise getting on the mailing list here!
($45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

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