2021 Samuel Louis Smith, Syrah, Sandstone Terraces, Santa Cruz Mountains.
The Sandstone Terraces Syrah from Sam Smith is one of the best values in Syrah you’re going to find and especially this deeply saturated purple and complex 2021 version with its gorgeous aromatics and complexity of its flavors from ripe blue fruits to its savory crunch and delicate earthiness, this is an excellent cool climate, Northern Rhone stye wine that thrills the palate. Sam Smith, who’s the head winemaker at Monterey’s Morgan Winery, has been getting huge critical acclaim for both his latest Morgan efforts and these personal label wines and all of it is well deserved, he has an incredible touch with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah, a grape that he has studied for years and has perfected, as this wine and his other bottlings have shown, having made a few trips to the Rhone along the way. This 2021 starts with a wild flower and liquid violets perfume, a ripe array of boysenberry, briar spiced raspberry, damson plum, Italian cherry and tangy blueberry fruits in a medium to full bodied and youthfully lively palate that is accented by a blast of early and herbal stem excitement, white pepper, anise, dried rosemary, creme de cassis and subtle wood notes. This finely balanced wine, which comes in at only 12.8% alcohol, is full of ripe character and drinks with clarity and poise even now, but there good reason to believe there’s more to come with age. I’m inclined to gravitate to Syrah, but even so, this wine is a standout effort and joins some of my favorite producers, like Drew, Pax, Ojai, Jolie-Laide, Desire Lines and Andrew Murray to name a few that craft cool coastal examples of California Syrah.

Sam, who sourced this wine from three vineyards in this vintage, went with about 80% whole cluster and native yeast fermentation for his Sandstone Terraces Syrah which saw daily punch downs and a length maceration to create depth, structure and color intensity, that is clearly successful here and then the wine saw 10 months élévage, as Smith notes, in 38% second-fill and 62% neutral French oak barrels. Just 8 barrels were made of this unfined & unfiltered Syrah, resulting in the 193 cases produced, which was just released into the wild and is also available on Smith’s website. Smith chose to get fruit from mainly sandstone based soils, hence the name, this included as he explains, the organically farmed Nelson Vineyard (44%) that is located near the summit of the Santa Cruz Mountains, and not far from the famous Big Basin Vineyards, which has as put a focus on Syrah in the region. It sits up at 1700 ft with the vines growing in sandy loam and chunky sandstone, surrounded by redwoods and firs, it makes up the core of this vintage. Also, the Gali Vineyard (42%) plays a big part here, which is located in the Corralitos zone in the southern most part of the region. Smith says this Galli Vineyard is just about six miles from the ocean and is one of the coldest sites in his whole lineup. Going on he says this site is In the conversion sage to organics and the soils are clay loams, that are weathered from sandstone and shale, which Sam adds were formed on ancient submarine terraces. It should be noted too, that in 2021, this wine has some fruit from the Tondré in the SLH, which was just enough to provide a plumb sense of richness, which I think just about fills this Syrah out to near perfection, this wine is a do not miss for Syrah lovers.
($36 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

By admin