2021 Cattleya, Syrah “The Reward” Pisoni Estate Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands.
Tasted from magnum, the latest from Cattleya is a beauty with deep complexity and with a thrilling profile that captures the best of California and Northern Rhone quality, in a 100% Syrah that is next level stuff. This gorgeous and rare “The Reward” Santa Lucia Highlands Syrah by the hugely talented Bibiana González-Rave-Pisoni, wife of Jeff Pisoni comes from the Pisoni Family Ranch Vineyard and a special set of just 80 vines planted in 2015 from her own suitcase cuttings. Still obviously youthful and a bit shy, this 2021 “The Reward” looks set for legendary stars with tremendous potential already showing through on the full bodied and opulent palate that includes classic Syrah flavors highlighted by black currant, boysenberry, damson plum and cherry fruits along with earthy spices, peppercorns, sandalwood This tiny plot of Bibiana’s selection massale set on the property’s granite based sandy loams is hand farmed by Mark Pisoni and his crew with great care put in to deliver only the best grapes to the cellar. The latest offering from Cattleya, this “The Reward” Syrah is already sold out in 750ml bottlings, but there’s a few magnums and that is what I tasted it from at the recent SLH Sun, Wind & Wine event, which was the first I’ve heard of this special version of Syrah! Being a huge fan of Bibiana’s wines, as well as a usually well informed local to the goings ons this was a fabulous surprise and one I felt blessed to have tasted. Along with this and her current Soberanes Syrah, González also showed two library wines, both from Pisoni’s Soberanes Vineyard, mainly planted to Alban (Cote-Rotie) clone, one from 2012, which was just starting to show secondary and tertiary elements, polished black fruits and smoky/graphite mineral tones, and her 2016, which was actually my absolute favorite at this stage with incredible deep fruit and stunning length! So while this “The Reward” will be very difficult to find, I suggest grabbing the Soberanes, it will not disappoint in any way!

Winemaker Bibiana González-Rave-Pisoni tells the story of this remarkable wine this way, saying at the end of your quest, the Reward awaits, explaining that this new wine, was created from cuttings she carried over from France herself. Now after nearly a decade of nurturing these vines, which are ancient selection of Syrah clones, believed to be mainly the Serine clone, she is finally seeing the fruits of her labor bear the reward. Continuing she says that these unique vines produce very small bunches of jewel-like Syrah that yield an intense wine, but with exquisite finesse, as this 2021 shows to perfection. Bibiana, who as noted here in prior reviews, has an impressive resume, including stints at Chateau Lafite-Rothschild and at Ogier in Cote-Rotie, where she got hooked on Syrah and gained insight on how to make her own version when came to the states and especially after she got her hands on the Pisoni’s Soberanes Vineyard fruit. For this micro bottling, only about 15 cases released, González hand sorted each cluster, giving the grapes a 10 day cold soak and fermented the wine in a 132 gallon French oak puncheon with twice daily hand punch downs to extract color, aromas and tannin. Everything was done at cool (controlled) temperatures to maintain precision and purity in the wine, which was fed to barrel by gravity flow only and then allowed to mature, going through malos, in a neutral small French barrel for close to 16 months before being bottled unfined and unfiltered. At the Santa Lucia Highlands Sun, Wind & Wine tasting event, Cattleya showed off the wines of the region to spectacular effect and proves Syrah is well suited to this cool coastal terroir, which honesty can eclipse Pinot Noir here, especially these wines, as well as those made by Bibiana’s husband Jeff Pisoni under his family’s Lucia label, Morgan’s Double L Estate Syrah, Roar’s Rosella’s and Garys’ Syrah bottlings, to name a few exceptional and exciting examples. There is no question, Syrah does great here in the Santa Lucia Highlands, and there’s no question that these Cattleya wines are some of the best in California!
($N/A) 96 Points, grapelive

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