2018 Drew Family Wines, Syrah, Valenti Ranch Vineyard, Mendocino Ridge.
Always a favorite of mine the Drew Valenti Ranch Syrah, is a beautiful and chiseled wine that is heavily influenced by its terroir, with the cold Ocean, the elevation and the gravelly loam and sedimentary soils giving this unique site its personality and soulful expression, with this 2018 version delivering a striking performance in the glass with a delicious array of classic Syrah flavors and whole cluster pop. The long and cool growing season of 2018 really makes this vintage a classic with super vivid and racy detail, it shows a complex range of dark fruit and savory elements on its medium bodied and lively palate with nicely flowing layers of briar laced vine picked blackberries, wild plum, tangy currant, blueberry and a bright kirsch note along with peppercorns, crushed violets, cinnamon, minty and tarry anise, a faint meatiness, plus a touch of coco, spring herbs and cedar. The color is wonderfully inviting with a dark garnet, almost opaque hue and purple edges and this wine’s youthful vitality makes it a compelling companion with many food options, with lamb and medium rare steak being ideal choices, though it was awesome with lasagna last night, and I can see it going great with spicy roast chicken and chickpeas or just with some Spanish sheep cheeses. As mentioned here, Jason Drew, the winemaker and vigneron at Drew in the western end of the Anderson Valley, is one of the best (in California) and his wines never fail to impress, these non flashy efforts are impeccably made and almost perfection in taste and feel with a wonderful play of energy, fruit, umami and textural pleasure, these wines should never be missed, especially this sublime Valenti Syrah.

The organic Valenti Ranch Vineyard sits just six miles from the Pacific Ocean on what Drew says is a mid elevation windswept east facing ridge, it is up at between 1,300 -1400 feet, which makes for a classic style cool climate Syrah. The winery notes that, the constant maritime winds coupled with thin marginal soils of oceanic sedimentary origins, lends itself to naturally lower yields and gives the grapes a greater intensity, depth and fruit (or flavor) development at lower sugar levels and allows for restrained alcohol and a vivid acidity, all which makes for a structured and very northern Rhone like wine. The Drew’s have been working with this vineyard for 13 years, and now do all of the farming here, which is planted to some exciting suitcase selections including an alleged Chave selection (Hermitage clone), along with parcels of Durell clone in this Syrah block. The Drew Valenti Syrah saw a 100% native Yeast and a 75% whole cluster fermentation, a cool maceration period to extract pigment and preserve those lovely aromatics, and was raised in all neutral French oak barrels that lasted about 15 months, with just two gentle gravity flow rackings and finished at just 13.2% natural alcohol. The winemaking here is studied and transparent, making for a Syrah of exceptional purity and crunchy details, Jason has mastered is art and craft, and while known for his Pinot Noirs, which are some of the best being made in California, his Syrah offerings are just as thrilling and prove, like Halcon, Pax and newcomers like Desire Lines Wines, as well as Adam Tolmach of Ojai Vineyards and Sashi Moorman of Piedrasassi, that the state can rival the best from Syrah’s spiritual home in the northern Rhone Valley. This Valenti Syrah is fantastic stuff, drinking great even now, but has a good long life ahead of it, I recommend grabbing some while you can!
($55 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

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