California Syrah is better than it has ever been, on a par in terms of quality with the state’s other top reds, including Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. But it isn’t selling like hotcakes.
There are many factors that go into making a great wine, but certainly the matter of quality control, specifically the decision of whether to produce and release a wine, and what its given price will be, are key.
Vincraft, the new owners of Kosta Browne, bought a brand that last year sold 11,000 cases of Pinot Noir, with more than half of that wine going for $72 a bottle and the other half for $58 a bottle. Those are high price points, but the wines sold out and virtually all of it is sold direct to consumers at optimal profit margins.
James Laube tastes the 1961 Haut-Brion, a wine that had it all: The aromas were sublime, with mineral, pebble, tobacco, dried currant and a loamy, earthy herbal edge that turned to the cedar of a cigar box.
In 1988, James Laube tried to taste every California Cabernet ever made for a book project. He ended up tastings thousands of wines from hundreds of wineries, many long gone, and condensed the best into 1,200 reviews for California’s Great Cabernets.
With owner Kathryn Kennedy’s death last month, the fate of her namesake vineyard and winery in Silicon Valley is in limbo. The 7-acre vineyard, from which she initially produced Cabernet and later Syrah, is an agricultural island amid sweeping McMansions in the tony town of Saratoga, California.
Frank and Karen Altamura are making excellent Cabernet Sauvignons in Napa's tiny Wooden Valley, as well as Sangiovese, Sauvignon Blanc and more.
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