Dedication Syrah is a special wine from Larner Vineyards and Winery. It is a Syrah made in limited quantities only in special vintages when the Larner’s feel strongly that the wine is exceptional. Michael’s winemaking style is influenced by his time working in France and Italy. “Elevage” is very important to him. This is the french word meaning “to raise”. It refers to a wines adolescence, the time between fermentation and bottling, when the wine spends time in barrel. At Larner they put their Syrah in 30% new oak for 2 years. They also have a reserve which is put in 50% new oak for 3 years. If as they are tasting through the reserve, they find something that they feel is really special, they will age that in barrel for an additional year.
The 2010 was aged 4 years in 100% new oak and was limited to 1 barrel which is 20 cases. The label for each is special and is designed by Christina Larner, Michael’s wife who is an artist. Each is meant to capture a moment in time. 2010 saw the birth of Michael’s son and the label is a photo of Michael holding him, as an infant, Michael’s hands stained from harvest.
The 2011 label features a beautiful coastal oak in the Larner vineyard. Michael speaks of the 2011 vintage during the Santa Barbara Vintners Syrah Seminar. The vintage was panned in California due to excessive rain in Northern California, but contrary to popular belief this was not a bad vintage everywhere. The vintage in Ballard Canyon was cooler which adds a different expression to the wine than in a normal vintage and it was stunning. The 2011 is currently available in limited quantities on the Larner website.
Syrah in Ballard Canyon is special. They call it Syrah Territory. The Ballard Canyon AVA as a whole is dedicated to Syrah. Michael refers to it as the “Goldilocks Syndrome” not too hot, not too cold. Syrah in Happy Canyon, the AVA to the East is more fruit forward due to the the warmer temperatures. The Syrah from Sta. Rita Hills AVA, on the other hand expresses itself with more pepper and herbs due to the cooler climate. Ballard Canyon Syrah combines all of these elements creating a wine with a broad range of flavors and aromas. Growers, Winemakers and Vintners alike agree that this Canyon, while it is good with many Rhones, is best suited to Syrah.
While Ballard Canyon as a whole has proven to be similar enough to be an AVA, there still exist differences between the vineyards, allowing each to be unique even before winemaker intervention. The vineyards in the mid to upper part of Ballard Canyon have more limestone substrate, the lower vineyards like Larner have more chalk. This changes the way the roots capture moisture and nutrients. So there are differences between vineyards, and then within vineyards there are differences between blocks and even rows. The Dedication Syrahs come from the best barrels pulled from the best blocks at the Larner Vineyard and again only on years when the vintage truly speaks to them. These are precious bottles that capture a quintessential piece of a vintage.
Take a listen to Michael speaking about the 2010 Larner Dedication Syrah.