2018 Halcon Vineyard, Petite Sirah “Tierra” Theopolis Vineyard, Yorkville Highlands, Mendocino County.
Paul Gordon’s Halcon Tierra Petite Sirah maybe the greatest and most singular example of this grape in California, taking it to new unimagined heights in a no holds barred Northern Rhone style in the mold of some cult heros like Domaine Jamet of Cote-Rotie and Thierry Allemand of Cornas. I’ve been marveling at this wine for many years now, but this 2018 takes to the next level. The steeply terraced Theopolis Vineyard, set on stony schist, owned by Theodora Lee, in the Yorkville Highlands is fast becoming a Grand Cru site in this region and Gordon, who known for his own awesome high elevation site, where he makes a Syrah that is equally as profound, is hand crafting some of California’s most interesting wines, these are intense, low alcohol, long hang time offerings with whole bunch crunchiness and deep complex layers that rival anything produced anywhere. The 2018 is inky dark and remarkably poised, it delivers a sensual mouth feel and exceptional layering with crushed violets and impressive dark berry fruits leading the way with blackberry, blue plum and morello cherry along with shaved cinnamon, minty herbs, dried lavender, mocha, a touch of peppercorn and lingering creme de cassis. This vintage is less earthy/gamey than the Syrah bottlings giving the Petite Sirah a chance to separate itself and it really shines like a star, this deeply purple/black wine is seriously good, it gives this grape a whole new benchmark, the same way Turley’s legendary Hayne Vineyard did in the nineties. This new Tierra drinks to the senses, nicely perfumed, opulent in fruit density and while still highly wound and full of structural tannin, these prove to be supple and chocolatey when the wine is fully open and everything gets better with matching cuisine, especially flame grilled meat dishes and or short ribs. For me, when reflecting on the taste of this vintage, I got the same thrill I got (or get) when sipping on Chateau Pontet Canet, Ridge Monte Bello and or Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe and Guigal’s Chateau de Ampuis, this wine is big league pleasure, it is one of years best wines I’ve tried.
Gordon calls this 2018 his most powerful and monumental to date, the harvest was the latest on record with his pick date being October 27th, and yet the finishing natural alcohol was just 13.8%, but with amazing depth and concentration, this wine is nothing short of legendary! The high levels of tannin and acidity are masterfully managed here and the raw sex appeal on the full bodied palate is absolutely stunning, this Petite Sirah is riveting from start to finish. Petite Sirah has become, like Zinfandel a Californian grape and it has come along way from its humble beginnings in the Southwest of France, where it was an accidental crossing of Peloursin and Syrah at François Durif’s grapevine nursery. Later on it mistakenly made its way to California, where it lost its original name “Durif” and in, according to Patrick Comiskey’s great research, revealed in his awesome American Rhone book, stole the Petite Sirah name and went on to a huge, though unlikely success, due to the inky color and ability to be blended into red blends, and make for long aged single variety wines. Gordon, who has taken over all the winemaking duties at his Halcon label has proven very gifted in delivering wines of raw transparency and expressing his own interpretation in them, he is, as noted in my reviews, influenced by the classics in the Northern Rhone from Voge, Graillot, Jamet and Chave to Allemand, Clape and Rostaing. So with his Petite Sirah he chose again to use 50% whole cluster in the maceration and primary fermentation, which his does with indigenous yeasts and a low sulphur regiment with the wine getting hand pilage. After the Petite Sirah went dry and finished its primary it was pressed to well used or neutral French oak barrels to finish malos and aged close to 20 months before being bottled unfined and unfiltered. Halcon Vineyards collection, including the two Syrah estate bottlings, the GSM and Mourvedre, also estate grown are ridiculously great values, with world class quality, all are under $40, and the savvy Oppenlander Pinot should be on your radar, along with this near perfect and fantastic Petite Sirah, oh, and by the way it has potential to get even better and age for decades! Is there a better California red for the money?
($32 Est.) 98 Points, grapelive