2020 Samuel Louis Smith, Syrah, Sans Soufre, Coastview Vineyard, Gabilan Mountains, Monterey County.
Just two barrels were made of this limited release Syrah from Samuel Louis Smith wines, it is a naturally inspired Northern Rhone style version that was made without any sulfites (SO2) added or as the French say Sans Soufre to promote freshness and purity, which this wine shows in the same manner as some famous Cornas wines do. Coming from the high elevation, hillside Coastview Vineyard, which has impressive slopes and a spectacular panoramic view to the sea, in the Gabilan Mountains, the grapes were hand picked and clusters carefully sorted to craft this beautiful Syrah. Wild notes of sage, wild flowers and flinty smoky stones accent the deep black and blue fruits on the full bodied palate in this vividly purple/garnet 100% Syrah bottling that is still youthfully tightly wound and intense, it needs a bit of time to come to life in the glass before it reveals its full range of flavors. After waking up this Sans Soufre pumps out a classic array of boysenberry, blueberry, kirsch and black currant fruits that impressively expands in the mouth as well as cracked pepper, briar, hints of violets, dried herbs, burnt embers or camphor, earthy tones, baking spices and a big umami crunch that provides a nice contrast to the ripe fruit density. There still plenty of tannic structure to be taken seriously and vigor to stand up to robust cuisine and has the potential to age exceptionally well, though without sulfur added, careful cellaring is recommended to achieve the best results with this rewarding Syrah. Made with whole bunches and native yeasts, this Syrah is very similar to August Clape’s Cotes du Rhone 100% Syrah bottling and not far off Thierry Allemand’s rare Sans Soufre version of his legendary Cornas, which is high praise in certain circles and it is meant as such!

The Coastview Vineyard, where Smith gets the Syrah grapes for this wine, is located on a ridge top about 2,300 feet up the Gabilan mountain range and is, as Sam adds, one of the most dramatic sites on the Central Coast with an incredible view and a unique terroir. This prime site has cooling influences from the Monterey Bay and warm exposures with thin soils of decomposed granite and limestone that drain well and put the best possible stress on the vines and encourages them to dig deep into the ancient rock. Coastview is farmed organically and is planted to quite a range of varietals, but stands out for their Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Grenache, all of which has proven to excel here, so I’m excited to see Sam Smith working with this fruit, especially as his 2019 Serine Sauvage Syrah was one of the best Syrah wines of the vintage and this one is fabulous as well. This vineyard has supplied grapes to produce some outstanding wines and it has a pedigree of merit, in particular I will note that Big Basin’s set oof wines from this site are absolutely stunning, and while they are known as Syrah specialists, their Chardonnay from Coastview is amazing, very Burgundy like, stuff that continues to be one of the best in California, even if it flies under the radar. Sam Smith, who is also the head winemaker at Monterey’s Morgan Winery, is one of the regions up and coming stars and his own label wines are some of the best around, I suggest to everyone to get on his mailing list and get his 2019s, these are thrilling wines, and as I have mentioned in my prior reviews, don’t miss Sam’s Pinots and Chards, especially his Spear Vineyard Chardonnay, this stuff is the real deal, as well as the Syrah offerings like this one and the noted Serine Sauvage.
($39 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

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