A tale of two syrahs

2013 Descendants Liegeois Dupont Red Mountain Syrah from Hedges Family Estate and Bonny Doon 2013 Le Pousseur syrah, mostly from Bien Nacido with bbq, peas and roasted herbed potatoes

It’s no secret that I am a syrah lover. I love it’s wild side, it’s unpredictablility. Winemakers find it to be a malleable grape, one that can take off on tangents. Soil, climate and winemaking technique can affect this grape, making syrah from different regions dramatically different in the glass.

I listened to winemakers across the Santa Barbara region talk about their Syrah’s a few years ago. The difference in climate there can be a bit more dramatic than in other regions their size. The temperature increases by a degree each mile inland you go, making syrah grown in the Santa Rita Hills climatically different than that grown in Ballard Canyon or even further into Happy Canyon. We tasted these wines as they spoke with us about them and the differences were interesting to note.

Since then we have traveled further in California falling in love with the Rhônes at Tablas Creek, and discovering one of our favorite Rhône Rangers, Randall Grahm. We ventured further north into Washington and tasted syrah’s from Yakima Valley, including Red Mountain, which, while primarily known for Cabernet Sauvignon is turning out to be an exceptional place to grow syrah.

2013 Descendants Liegeois Dupont Red Mountain Syrah from Hedges Family Estate.

On a chili evening a while back, we pulled out a bottle of Syrah . This was the 2013 Descendants Liegeois Dupont Red Mountain Syrah from Hedges Family Estate.

2013 Descendants Liegeois Dupont Red Mountain Syrah

We had picked this bottle up when we visited Red Mountain this last year and spoke with Sarah Hedges Goedhart.

I posted about this wine on Instagram that evening…

The geeky bits…

These grapes are from their Les Grosses Vineyard on Red Mountain. Destemmed, partial crush, stainless steel fermenters…pressed to barrel, malo-lactic fermentation, racked off lees. Barrel aged 11 month in 40% new American and French Oak.

14.5% abv $29.00 srp

My notes

It opens with great Syrah funk that I adore! Earth smoke barnyard leather cocoa….my nose was in heaven! The fruit on the palate is blueberries, blackberries and figs, with dark cherries and chocolate and then a bit of lovely baking spice on the end.

Intense without being overpowering, we sipped this for a while (working on videos) before pairing (you’ll have to watch for the pairings)

Crushedgrapechron on Instagram January 15, 2020

At the time I promised to share the pairings. Well, as we started with the pairings, Michael got up, he came back with a bottle of 2013 Le Pousseur Syrah from Bonny Doon. There is a little sadness as I write this. I went to the website to check some of the production notes on this wine…they are gone. Bonny Doon, a legendary California winery helmed by Randall Grahm was sold to Lapis Luna Wines on January 1st. Randall will still be involved, but he will be able to spend more time focusing on his Popelouchum project in San Juan Bautista. (You should read about that, because it’s really fascinating)

None the less…on to the wine.

2013 Le Pousseur Syrah from Bonny Doon

2013 Le Pousseur Syrah from Bonny Doon

Here’s a snipet I found on the web about this wine

If the ’12 Pousseur bore an uncanny resemblance to Crozes Hermitage, our ’13 Syrah definitely shades slightly in the direction of a St. Joseph. With a (gulp) substantial (63%) percentage of Bien Nacido Syrah in the mix, we certainly recognize the contribution of the mostly coolish (global climate change adjusted) Santa Maria climate to the natural acidity and freshness of this wine, as well as to the correctness of varietal expression. Wild plums, blackberries, Griotte cherries and licorice (of course). The tannins are soft and supple, but the wine has so much persistence, there is every indication that it will greatly benefit from cellaring. But for now, the Pousseur will enormously benefit from decantation and the investment in large balloon Burgundy glasses. Excuse me, a lamb chop with a bit of a minty chimichurri is calling my name.

Winemaker notes from (from Randall Grahm) Wine.com

Let it be known that I am indeed a sucker for Bien Nacido. I have waxed poetic before about wines from this vineyard. Recently, I listened to a wonderful interview (from a while back) with Bob Lindquist about the planting of Syrah in this vineyard. (I highly recommend diving into the “I’ll drink to that” podcasts with Levi Dalton). The Bien Nacido Vineyard imparts something to a wine, the nose…I can put my nose in a glass and if it is from Bien Nacido I can tell. So..to begin I knew I was in love with this wine.

Pairings

  • 2013 Descendants Liegeois Dupont Red Mountain Syrah from Hedges Family Estate with gouda, bleu cheese, prosciutto and seaweed snacks
  • 2013 Descendants Liegeois Dupont Red Mountain Syrah from Hedges Family Estate and Bonny Doon 2013 Le Pousseur syrah, mostly from Bien Nacido with bbq, peas and roasted herbed potatoes

We paired these wines with bleu cheese, gouda, proscuitto and some dried seaweed snacks. Then we did a simple dinner of peas, potatoes in herbs de provençe and bbq beef. Why peas and seaweed? The umami in these pulls up the umami in the wine.

Comparing the two…

So the Le Pousseur gave me barn, wet hay, leather and smoke on the nose, followed by Eucalyptus and mint. Red and black fruits and barbeque spices. This wine as compared to the Red Mountain was more red fruit, less smoky. It was brighter and a little less brooding.

Both wines were delicious, but the differences were noticeable. While the both had barnyard, earth, smoke and leather, there were nuances between the two even in those notes. The Hedges gave me darker fruit; blackberries, blueberries, dried fig, dark cherries while the Bonny Doon was red and black currents, brighter fruit. The Hedges finished with notes of chocolate and baking spice, while the Bonny Doon pulled in notes of eucalyptus and mint and finished with bbq spices.

It’s something I love about syrah, the nuances. These were great wines that both checked in at under $30 a bottle. The Bonny Doon runs between $20 and $27, depending on where you pick it up. I recommend getting your hands on both of these bottles if you can. Try a side by side, like we did and share with us your thoughts!

Want more on Syrah?

Well we can help you out with that. Here are just a few of the other pieces we have done on this grape!

As always be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date on all of our posts.

Flash tour Central Coast Wine Country and Beyond – Day 5 – Santa Barbara County

Coast Oak Foxen Canyon road San Rafael Mountains Santa Barbara County

We are winding up our Flash Tour of the Central Coast and Beyond in Santa Barbara County.  This was our final day of fun, before we made the drive home to Vegas.  This final day allowed us a little less driving.

Day 5 Solvang, Santa Barbara County and Los Olivos

Solvang

Day 5 started with a stroll of the charming city of Solvang in the morning. The sun was out, the temperature was just right and it was the perfect way to start the day. Nestled in the middle of Santa Barbara County, Solvang feels like you have stepped into another world.  This historic Danish Village in the middle of California was founded by Danish-Americans in 1911.  Solvang translates to “sunny field” in Danish.  The town has embraced the Danish Architecture and the town is dotted with windmills.  The streets are enchanting and you can find aebleskivers (a Danish dessert that is like a donut hole) at many restaurants.  If you enjoy shopping or window shopping, you will be in heaven.  There is a store for everything here.  Walking the town you will find courtyards and corners to explore. Or you can rent a bicycle or a 4-wheeled surrey! They have an outdoor theatre, the Solvang Festival Theatre that runs productions throughout the summer.  Every Wednesday there is a Farmers Market in Solvang Park in the afternoons. There are great restaurants, wine tasting rooms and really, something for everyone.

Foxen Canyon to the Santa Maria Bench

We finished our walk and got in the car again to head up into Foxen Canyon.  With over 200 wineries, 6 AVAs, and over 21,000 acres of vineyards Santa Barbara County has quite a bit of area to explore.  We had limited time so we headed north from Solvang.  We took Ballard Canyon Road though the Ballard Canyon AVA which is known for it’s Syrah, and noticed that Larner Vineyard had netted for birds.  As the fruit starts to sweeten the birds like to feast so the green netting helps to keep them out and save the fruit.  At the top of the Canyon we stopped for another gorgeous view from above Saarloos & Sons beautiful Windmill Ranch Vineyard.

Foxen Canyon Road is a beautiful drive with the San Rafael Mountains on the right and views of Firestone, Curtis (where Andrew Murray has his winery) and Koehler Vineyards as you round the curve to meet with Zaca Station Road.  This is a perfect drive to get a sense of the sweeping area that Santa Barbara County covers.

We had some vines to visit at Riverbench to see how they were growing. Back in 2014 we watched as they planted a new front block.   Still in Santa Barbara County, this does take you into the Santa Maria AVA.  You can see below how much these vines have grown since we saw them as babies in 2014.

We continued into the Santa Maria AVA to see how Bien Nacido Vineyard was doing after the Alamo fire. The Whittier fire pulled much of the fire department away and vineyard staff worked very hard to keep the vines at Bien Nacido safe.  This is a revered vineyard and you will find it’s name on some of the best labels.  We met Chris Hammell their vineyard manager at a Syrah Seminar.  While they are known for their Pinot Noir, they are also growing some amazing Syrah.  You can hear Chris talk about it here.

Los Olivos

From here we headed back to Los Olivos where you can find the largest selection of Santa Barbara County Tasting rooms within walking distance of each other.  After a walk about town we headed to Crawford Family Wines for a tasting. We had met Mark Horvath, owner and winemaker a while ago at a Syrah Seminar at the Spring Vintners Festival and had wanted to get by to taste his wines. His wife Wendy was manning the tasting room and we had a great conversation and tasting with her.

We stopped at Larner for a tasting and to have lunch out front on the patio in front of the Los Olivos General Store.  This sits on the corner of Grand Avenue and Alamo Pintado Avenue by the flagpole in the center of town.  You get the view of Andrew Murray’s Tasting Room across the street among others.

Larner Tasting Room Los Olivos General Store View Santa Barbara County

The view from lunch with a tasting at Larner Vineyards Tasting Room in Los Olivos

We then finished out the day at the best place to finish your day in Los Olivos, Carhartt’s. It’s just down the block on Grand Ave.  They stay open a little later than the other tasting rooms and get pretty busy at the end of the day.  They have the tiniest tasting room (you can squish 5 people in if you try really hard, but the back patio here has a bit more space and is heaven.  Joe, as always, took great care of us.

Los Olivos Carhartt Tasting Room Santa Barbara County

Carhartt’s, the “World’s smallest tasting Room”.

As you can see, we had to gloss over most areas. You could easily spend 2 to 3 days or more in each area. We put almost 2000 miles on the Prius, but we tasted a variety of wines and saw an amazing portion of the beautiful state of California. Day 6 was the drive back to Vegas.  We soaked in as much of the coast as we could on the drive.  But this was just the quick version of the trip. Check back here as we delve into the details on each of the places we visited.

For more information on the wonderful wineries in Santa Barbara County visit http://www.sbcountywines.com/

The Santa Barbara Vintners Celebration of Harvest is coming up September 29th to October 2, 2017 and it is a great time to visit.  You can attend the Taste of Santa Barbara Wine Country Event and enjoy wines from 50 of the different wineries in the region on September 29th in downtown Santa Barbara.  And there are event all over the region during the weekend where you will learn more about the wines, wineries and winemakers.

Keep up to date on all of our posts by following us on Crushed Grape Chronicles  .  You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

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Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara County’s 1st AVA

Early morning fog in Foxen Canyon

Santa Maria Valley is the northernmost appellation in Santa Barbara County.  The average temperature here is 64 degrees.  The area is bounded on the north by the San Rafael Mountains and on the south by the Solomon Hills.  They get early bud break here and then a long ripening season with an average of 125 days from bloom to harvest.  The maritime fog keeps things cool here from sunset until about 10 am.  This AVA boasts Nielson Vineyard, the oldest commercial vineyard in Santa Barbara County that was planted in 1964.

The View from Zaca Mesa when the morning fog clears

The View from Zaca Mesa when the morning fog clears

The Santa Maria AVA was the 3rd established AVA in the United States. We think of this Santa Barbara region as being so new.  But truly AVA’s are new.  The Santa Maria Valley AVA was established in September of 1981.  To give a little perspective here, the first US AVA was established in June of 1980.  (And crazily enough that 1st AVA was in Augusta, Missouri!)  If you are like me, you won’t be able to read any further until you know where the 2nd US AVA hailed from…so….I did the research and it is the Napa Valley AVA which was established in February of 1981, just a scant 7 months  (or actually 6 and a quarter months) before the Santa Maria Valley AVA.  Are you still curious…you can find this info at The Wine Institute (http://www.iwineinstitute.com/avabydate.asp).  Feel free to search for AVA establishment dates to your hearts content.

There has been a massive replanting of the Santa Maria vineyards in recent years to varieties that are more suited to the climate and soil.  You will find lots of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay here due to the climate, but you will find many vineyards expanding into cool climate Syrah as well as other Rhone varieties.

The Santa Maria AVA encompasses some incredible vineyards like Bien Nacido, Solomon Hills, Julia’s Vineyard and Foxen Estate Vineyard.  As to Wineries… here you will find Cambria, Kenneth Volk, Riverbench and Tres Hermanas.  Fine wineries such at Alta Maria, Au Bon Climat, Bien Nacido, Byron, Qupe, Solomon Hills and others feature wines from Santa Maria.

To enjoy this area take a look at the Santa Maria Valley & Los Alamos Wine Trail that is listed on the Santa Barbara Vintners site  http://www.sbcountywines.com/tasting-routes.html#smv

Windmill on Saarloos & Son's Windmill Ranch Vineyard

Windmill on Saarloos & Son’s Windmill Ranch Vineyard

To fully experience this area I suggest that you start at the Saarloos and Sons Windmill Ranch Vineyard.  (Update…okay I made an assumption, because of the windmill, but clearly if you read the sign on the windmill, you will see that this is actually the El Camino Real Vineyard)  You can’t miss the landmark windmill if you are driving on the 101.  This is just their vineyard, you will have to head back into Los Olivos to do a tasting with them.  From here take Zaca Station Road out into the vineyards.  First on your drive you will pass Firestone (yes from the tire company).  They have a vineyard, winery and a brewing company.

Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard

Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard

Further ahead is Fess Parker (yes, Daniel Boone from the TV series)  Their winery is out here, but they also have a tasting room and Inn in downtown Los Olivos.  A little further on is Zaca Mesa.

The Patio at Zaca Mesa

The Patio at Zaca Mesa

This place really got things going out here.  Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat and Bob Linquist of Qupe both started out working here.  The property is lovely especially if you get there early and can watch the marine layer roll through from Vandenberg AFB, and then stay long enough to enjoy the views that it was hiding once it burns off.  The wines….I love their Rhones.  And on weekends they often have lunch available on the patio.  This place is really welcoming and….they have great trees.

 

Foxen  7600 - the Pinot House

Foxen 7600 – the Pinot House

A little further on you will come to Foxen.  Now you can go into the Pinot House at 7600.  It’s shiny and pretty and nice.  But I prefer stopping a little past there at “The Shack” .  This is their original tasting room and it is rustic and fabulous.  You look out the door onto the hills as you are tasting and often the girls in the tasting room will point out the resident mountain lion who hunts on the ridge.  The Shack pours their Bordeaux & Cal-Ital-style wines.  at 7600 you will find Pinots, Chardonnays and Rhone Blends.

Riverbench's tasting room a 1920's Craftsman style house

Riverbench’s tasting room a 1920’s Craftsman style house

Continue north and you will come to the cluster of River Bench, Cambria and Kenneth Volk.  I will give a shout out here to Kenneth Volk.  I have not been to this tasting room, but did taste at the tasting room with Lone Madrone in Paso Robles.

Kenneth Volk's old Paso tasting room

Kenneth Volk’s old Paso tasting room

He is another wine legend.  He was the winemaker at Wild Horse and now has his own winery where he gets to play.  He does Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Santa Maria and Bordeaux varieties from Paso Robles and then… he does Heirloom Wines.  This are rare varieties like Malvasia, Trousseau, Negrette, Touriga Nacional, Blaufrankish, Verdelho and Albarino.  This is a great place to go and explore varieties you may not have tried before.

Closer to Santa Maria you will find Cottonwood and Presqu’ile.  I have tasted at the old Presqu’ile tasting room in Los Olivos and look forward to an opportunity to see their beautiful winery!

Presqu'ile old Los Olivos tasting room

Presqu’ile old Los Olivos tasting room

And I know that I have skipped a few in here.  What can I say, I have more exploring to do myself.  This is a beautiful drive.  Start early and revel in the fog!

If you are heading up for the Santa Barbara Vintners Spring Weekend April 10-13 you can stop by Zaca Mesa on Saturday the 12th for a Hike with your Dog & Picnic with their winemaker!  In addition Chef John will be offering BBQ Steak Sandwiches all day, so if you are hunger before or after the Grand Tasting…. Also on Saturday night Foxen will hold their Spring Dinner at the Alisal Guest Ranch and Cottonwood Canyon will have a Cook Your Own event.  They have the venue the music and the wine, you just bring something to grill and a side to share!

Early morning fog in Foxen Canyon

Early morning fog in Foxen Canyon

On Sunday Au Bon Climat & Qupe will have their Semi-Annual Spring Open House with a myriad of wines from  Au Bon Climat, Clendenen Family Wines, Qupe, Verdad, Ici La-Bas….and more and a luncheon prepared by Jim Clendenen.  Now how can you pass that up!  Of course you will need to squeeze this in around the Farm-to-Table Picnic and Concert with Jamestown Revival at the Fess Parker Winery.  So much to do….so little time.

Head to Santa Barbara Vintners Spring Weekend for all the details!