Blind Tasting Syrah in Reno with Mom

You ever fly across the country just to conduct a wine tasting? Well now I can say I have. I jetted to Reno to lead my mother and about a dozen of her neighbors through an evening of blind tasting Syrah. Of course the main reason was to see my mom, duh, because I am a (pretty) good son (at times). This goes in the plus side on The Ledger of Life.

I picked out six wines, two from the west coast of the US and four bottles of international vino. Here’s the unveiled lineup:

Blind Tasting Syrah in Reno with Mom

Blind Tasting Syrah: The Wines Revealed

  1. Tenet Syrah 2016 The Pundit (Washington) $25
  2. Fess Parker Syrah 2014 (Santa Barbara County) $24
  3. Montes Alpha Syrah 2013 (Chile) $19
  4. Mollydooker Shiraz 2016 The Boxer (Australia) $21
  5. Nobles Rives Cave de Tain Syrah (France) $13
  6. Mullineux Syrah 2015 (Swartland, South Africa) $35

This is also the order the wines were poured. I thought about slotting the Mollydooker last because it would stick out so much with its juicy fruit and alcohol and oak, etc. But then I supposed it would be an interesting/jarring contrast to the more subtle wines following. Seems kinda counter-intuitive to have this fruit bomb detonate on your palate then follow it up with some chill juice, but we had a lot of food and took our time in between wines so no biggie. Wasn’t one of those tastings where you have six glasses in front of you and haul ass.

Post-Blind Tasting Syrah Thoughts

Tenet is a collaboration between Chateau Ste. Michelle in Washington, Costières de Nîmes winemaker Michel Gassier and enology consultant Philippe Cambie, who has a Châteauneuf-du-Pape HQ. The Pundit, a blend of 90% Syrah, 4% Grenache, 4% Mourvèdre, 2% Viognier (co-fermented with Syrah) was my second-favorite wine. Very elegant and balanced. Impressive.

The Fess Parker was deep, dark, and oaky. Monolithic. 15.5% ABV

The Montes had very appealing minty, eucalyptus notes, and was the oldest wine in the group at five years post-vintage. Kind of reminded me of Carménère, which is a little nutty. But none in there: 90% Syrah, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Viognier.

The Mollydooker. Holy cow, 16% ABV, some sweetness. I remember when these wines set the world on fire in the heady heyday of Aussie Shiraz. “GOBS OF FRUIT!”

Damn. I just realized I asked for the Nobles Rives Cave de Tain Crozes-Hermitage but got the plain ‘ol Syrah. Whoops. Not sure what the vintage was, either. Sorry! Well this was…meh. I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it. Snooze fest. This is a private label for Total Wine, BTW. Anyway, if you are looking to dip your toe into Syrah form the Northern Rhône get a bottle of Crozes-Hermitage. (And scrutinize the label rather than being oblivious me.)

My favorite wine was the Mullineux. It was pretty good when first cracked but really blossomed after a couple hours of air. Excellent stuff with a balance of fruit and other non-fruit stuff (earth, pepper, etc.) that I want from Syrah. Very little new oak here and a lot of large barrel usage for less wood influence on the wine.

In a tasting like this I also recommend going back and trying every wine again. After they’ve been open for a few hours you will be a witness to change. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.

Thanks to Mom, winemaster Keith, and everyone who stopped by the clubhouse to hang out, chat, learn, and drink wine.

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Get to Know Central Coast Syrah

Hello. Here’s the second episode of the podcast I’m hosting for Wine Enthusiast, What We’re Tasting. It’s a look into Central Coast Syrah. Now when you think of California wine, of course Napa and its iconic Cabernet get the lion’s share of praise. So it was great to speak with Matt Kettmann, who is a guru when it comes to the wines of the Central Coast.

What do we discuss? Whoa we cover a lot of ground

  • Natural wine (“Natty with Matty”)
  • The lighter side of Syrah
  • Chillable reds
  • Joyous wines
  • Tips for cellaring
  • The Santa Cruz Mountains
  • Matt’s all-time favorite bottle
  • Finally, garage drinking

Have a listen:

Syrah vineyard photo via Ballard Canyon AVA. BTW, the first wine we talk about is from this region within the Central Coast.

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Tin Barn Vineyards Syrah Vertical: The Power of Decanting

Tin Barn Vineyards Syrah Vertical: The Power of DecantingI was sent four bottles of Tin Barn Vineyards Syrah, specifically from the Coryelle Fields Vineyard on the Sonoma Coast, for my sampling pleasure. As it was an unreasonably (yes, I meant to say that…also, unseasonably) warm summer in Seattle, I waited until there was a bit of a chill in the air that would permit me to do these wines justice.

The Syrahs at my disposal were from the 2011, 2010, 2006, and 2003 vintages. They all changed quite dramatically after opening and really benefited from decanting. I did a double-decant on all four wines. Technique: Have your favorite glass receptacle at the ready. Pull the cork then turn the bottle upside down and glug straight into the decanter, with extreme prejudice. Then (carefully) pour the contents of the decanter back into the bottle. (Use a funnel if you’re not an incorrigible wine parlor trick show-off like me.) Voila, you have double-decanted. (Hero.)

Here are my thoughts on each bottle:

2011: Rich, sappy, spicy. Baking chocolate notes. The most full-throttle of the four, probably because it’s the youngest. (Sorta duh, but worth mentioning.)

2010: What a difference a year makes. More balanced and earthy. Quite lively!

2006: Boom. This wine has developed some wonderful secondary characteristics. Like a green olive wearing tiny leather chaps, just off its well-lathered horse. There’s also a nice amount of fruit on the finish of this Syrah for balance. It’s in a great spot. Classic aged Syrah, well-done. Possibly worth of a Clive Coates-ian “Very find indeed.” (Coates is a famous Master of Wine and Burgundy guru. And I’m fond of his very British use of “indeed”.)

2003: Minty. Still lots of freshness here. No signs of getting tired; I was surprised at how well this showed at 12 years past the vintage.

Tin Barn Vineyards Syrah Vertical: The Power of Decanting

It’s really cool to undertake a tasting exercise like this. It tickles my wine geek receptors something fierce. Though the ability of California Syrah to age was something I had never considered, tasting through four vintages from the same vineyard and winery provided vivid snapshots. And now I can put together a small mental album I’ll tuck away into the wine part of my mind for the next time I contemplate Sonoma Coast Syrahs.

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