2016 Lucia by Pisoni Family, Syrah, Susan’s Hill – Pisoni Estate, Santa Lucia Highlands.
Coming from the famous Pisoni Vineyard the Susan’s Hill Syrah is a deeply color and powerful northern Rhone style wine with dense black and blue fruit, meaty earthiness, smoke and floral elements all vying for attention on the chewy full bodied palate, it is a striking effort that is just starting to unwind with age. Classic layers of boysenberry, damson plum, creme de cassis and blueberry unfold accented by anise, cracked pepper, camphor, sage and violets. The Pisoni family says the Syrah is a reflection of the terroir, with the vines set on east-facing, high elevation slopes of estate, where rugged, granite based soils, with sand and loam, are influenced by cool coastal breezes to create a wine of precision and concentration. The Susan’s Hill site, named for Gary’s sister Susan, is a special block within Pisoni Vineyards that was planted in 2001 and it is perched on a rocky outcropping that crowns one of the vineyard’s highest ridges. Its peak is exposed to the elements and buffeted by heavy winds. The coarse, rocky soils ensure that the vines are extremely stressed and low yielding, resulting in wines that are inky and very intense, as this wine shows. While known for the Pinot(s), Pisoni Syrahs are in many vintages as good if not better!

The Susan’s Hill Syrah is all from older parcels of hand-picked and sorted grapes that are fermented with native yeast and aged in carefully selected French oak barrels, in this case large casks, all at winemaker Jeff Pisoni’s state-of-the-art winemaking facility near Santa Rosa, which uses gravity flow as part of a custom design, that Pisoni conceived to merge the estate vineyards and winery. This as Jeff adds, affords him the complete control of the farming, which is handled by his brother Mark along with his dad, the infamous Gary Pisoni and winemaking process to produce small production hand crafted wines of outstanding quality, as this Syrah shows. The Syrah, which typically sees close to 80% whole cluster, depending on the vintage, and 100% native yeast fermentation with an extended maceration then gets gently pressed to all new French oak foudres where it ages close to 22 months before bottling. This 2016 is tannic and crunchy, but as mentioned is starting to open up and reveal its true ripeness and complexity, gaining a harmonious texture and more pretty in detail, it especially turns on the charm with robust cuisine and protein rich dishes. This vintage has plenty of stuffing and should keep getting better over the next 3 to 5 years, and it is far better than was originally thought for the region, especially the Syrah wines.
($60 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

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