2017 Piedrasassi, Mourvèdre, Harrison Clarke Vineyard, Ballard Canyon AVA, Santa Ynez Valley.
The beautifully crafted, firmly structured and deeply flavored 2017 Harrison Clarke Vineyard Mourvèdre is really coming into its own, giving a performance that would do Domaine Tempier Bandol(s) proud with power and old world charm, making me glad that I had tucked this bottle away for some extra aging. The full bodied palate here reveals dark berry, plum, candied cherry and earthy and tangy red currant fruits, along with dried lavender, espresso, sandalwood, anise, mountain herbs, loam, leather and grilled orange accents. Sasha Moorman, famous for his winemaking at Sandhi wines for Raj Parr and now Evening Land in Oregon, founded his Piedrasassi in Lompoc back in 2003 and focused his program on cool climate Syrah, with this one 100% Mourvèdre bottling and a unique Vin Santo (dessert wine made from Sangiovese). The Syrahs are legendary here at Piedrasassi, from Moorman’s PS to his old vine Bien Nacido version, these offerings could fool you into believing they were from Cornas or old school Côte Rotie, they remind me of the Auguste Clape wines, which seemingly were the inspiration here. Moorman likes early picks to keep natural alcohol down and this meaty and chewy Mourvèdre saw an elevage for over a year in used big 500L barrels to limit the wine’s exposure to oxygen and to minimize the influence of oak.

Winemaker Sashi Moorman under his personal Piedrasassi label, makes some of California’s best Syrah wines, which are styled in a true Northern Rhone way with loads of whole bunches and stem inclusion, leading to meaty, pure and powerful versions of the grape, especially with this old vine Bien Nacido Syrah, but with time they become more beautiful in aromatic quality and elegant in nature, while still blessed by Jamet like character with loads of savory personality. Moorman, who has worked with the legends of the Santa Barbara region and become one of the area leading lights, crafts absolutely fabulous Syrah and Mourvedre wines at his Piedrasassi winery that are usually raw, taut and varietal precise, employing traditional techniques with whole bunches, native yeast fermentation in cement vats and aged in mostly used French oak casks. Moorman, who was the long time director of winemaking at Stolpman, where he made some outstanding Syrahs, has found his touch with Mourvèdre, as this brilliant effort shows, even in an uneven year that had some unfortunate heat issues during the later part of the growing season, but luckily this grape held up nicely, even retaining a core of energy and acidity. The Harrison Clarke Vineyard, which is situated in the Purisima Hills, in the heart of the Santa Ynez Valley, just north of Santa Barbara, not far from Los Olivos. Sadly, this Mourvèdre is not part of Moorman’s most recent collection, so finding it is going to be tough, but as I’ve said, I highly recommend getting on the Piedrasassi mailing list and get some of Syrah.
($49 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

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