2021 Cattleya Wines, Syrah “The Initiation” Soberanes Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands.
The Cattleya “The Initiation” Soberanes Vineyard Syrah is without question one of California’s greatest wines and this 2021 edition maybe the best yet from the hugely talented Bibiana González Rave-Pisoni, who has crafted a masterpiece of a wine with wild and sensual personality, eclipsing some of legendary wines of the Northern Rhone where this wine got its inspiration! Few wines can match this wine’s exotic beauty, complexity, intensity and sultry pleasure on the palate, it delivers all of your Syrah desires in one fabulous package of heady floral aromatics, feral earthiness, hedonistic fruit concentration with an almost sexual tension between opulence and savory elements. The youthful and robust palate shows a full bodied attack of blackberry, blueberry, damson plum and cherry fruits, backed up with cracked peppercorns, crushed violets, graphite, cedary toasty oak, dried herbs, tarry licorice, mocha and cured meat accents. I tried Cattleya’s “The Reward” Pisoni Syrah made from a unique old clone (Serine) along side, and while both are thrilling wines, this wine goes the extra mile in all areas and will aged well, that I’m totally convinced of and I hope I get a chance to re-visit it in 5 to 10 years. There’s a purity and class here that is highly appealing, but also some partial whole cluster edginess and pop here that adds to that thrill. Bibiana gave this purple/black hued Soberanes Syrah a 10 day cold soak and a slow maceration and primary fermentation lasting about three weeks with gentle punch downs and pump overs daily until it was dry, then it was pressed to French oak, 67% new, where it matured for 16 months. The Initiation, Bibiana says, marks the true beginning of a quest, one she took, to Côte-Rôtie, home to some of the world’s most exquisite Syrahs, was where she worked her very first harvests and made her first wines. Now her goal with her Pisoni family vines is to create a Syrah of great beauty and finesse that shows this terroir, but honors where she’s been. The Soberanes Vineyard, on decomposed granite and sandy loams, in the Santa Lucia Highlands captures the essence of the region with its cool Pacific Ocean breezes and chilly nights allowing for long hang time for the grapes, giving deep ripe flavors and a lift of natural acidity.

Bibiana González Rave-Pisoni is an unlikely master of vine, coming from Colombia, a country almost without any grape vines, but, in her childhood she says, a few sips occasionally stolen from her father’s wine glass were enough to inspire an all-consuming dream—to become a winemaker and as soon as she could she packed her bags a went to France! While in France she quickly took to winemaking like a duck to water, ultimately earning a BTS degree in Viticulture and Enology from Cognac, which was followed by a degree in Enology from the University of Bordeaux, she adds, graduating with honors. After which she was well on her way to stardom, working the sheer granite slopes of Côte-Rôtie at Domaine Stéphane Ogier, then she helped at Domaine Clusel-Roch, before returning to Bordeaux and the famed estates of Château Haut-Brion and La Mission Haut-Brion. If this sounds amazing for a young Colombian winemaker, it was only the beginning of her incredible journey which has seen her excel in Burgundy, Alsace, Cognac and even in South Africa before turning her attention to California, where she is one of the state’s absolute best winemakers. While in California she met and married another rising star winemaker, Jeff Pisoni of the famous Pisoni Estate in the Santa Lucia Highlands and the two have become an awesome team, producing wines together under their Shared Notes label. In 2011 Bibiana’s Cattleya label was born and by 2014 she had become winemaker of the year, focused almost exclusively of Syrah vines at the Pisoni’s Soberanes Vineyard, though she had at that time helped Pahlmeyer’s Wayfarer become a world class producer of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The Soberanes Vineyard, planted last among the Pisoni crus, has proven to be one of the top sites in the highlands and while I love the Chardonnay and Pinot from here, I truly believe Syrah, which is mainly Alban (Cote-Rotie) clone, is the best grape here. The Orchid or Cattleya is Colombia’s national flower, hence the name for Bibiana’s solo project, which includes her heroic Syrahs as well as her regional bottlings of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, plus her Alma de Cattleya line of outstanding value offerings of Pinot, Chard, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet. If you’ve some how missed Bibiana’s wines, now is a great time to discover these great wines and I highly recommend joining her mailing list, as these are exceptionally limited offerings, especially her Syrahs like this one that is totally mind blowing!
($70 Est.) 98 Points, grapelive

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