This weekend I decided to take my work home with me, literally, in the form of a few bottles of wine. While it’s not unusual for me to have a few bottles during the course of a weekend, I rarely make them "work related," as I leave the pen and paper alone and focus more on enjoying things, rather than being clinical.
Nonetheless, I felt compelled to do a background check on the vineyard where I am sourcing the fruit for my wine from, the Thompson Vineyard in Santa Barbara County. So I scrounged up what I could, the ’03 and ’04 vintages of Ojai’s Syrah Santa Barbara County Thompson Vineyard, augmented with a bottle of the ’98 as well, which serendipitously arrived on Friday afternoon, thanks to Adam Lee of Siduri (I owe you a bottle Adam) who read about my little side project. I struck out trying to find some Thompson Vineyard bottlings from Jaffurs and Copaín, but I figured a vertical from one producer would give me some insight into the profile of the vineyard more so than a horizontal of a few different producers.
So as Nancy got the deep fryer going —we made home made paprika dusted french fries for the girls—I lined up a row of glasses and pulled some corks.
"You're opening up all of those, Daddy?" asked Brittany, my oldest daughter.
"Yes sweetie. It's work," I replied.
Sufficiently unimpressed, she went back to her fries and the movie playing on TV.
Starting with the ’04, I found the wine to be rich and creamy, very forward in style, and relying more on its powerful toast, mocha and chocolate notes. There was a solid core of plum and blackberry fruit, but it was rather big and showy, not what I’ll be trying to do. Quality, yes—90 points for me non-blind—just not my style.
The ’03 was excellent though. It showed more range, with olive and tobacco notes joining the chorus of black fruit, graphite and mineral notes. The toast was more judicious and better integrated, and the wine definitely had room to improve in the cellar. A solid 92 pointer for me, non-blind.
“Heck, if I wind up with something in this vein, I’d be ecstatic,” I said to Nancy, who was tasting along with me. She gave me the classic wife roll-of-the-eyes look that means "duh."
As for the ’98, it had aged well, with mature spice, pepper and sanguine hints leading the way for a core of supple raspberry and red cherry fruit. It showed more of a grilled herb hint as it aired in the glass—good character and time to drink. 89 points now, non-blind, perhaps a shade past peak though.
All in all, I thought the vineyard acquitted itself well. There’s clearly some mineral and olive character here that could potentially be enhanced with some whole cluster fermentation. Perhaps ease off on the new wood to let the fruit come through a bit more. There’s plenty of structure for medium-term aging. My head is already spinning as I try to think about how a wine, whose grapes haven’t even been stomped yet, might wind up tasting.
Of course, if I could just get Nancy to relax a bit about the prospect of 25 cases of the stuff sitting in our cellar, I might be able to focus a bit better!
Andrew J Walter — Sacramento,CA — October 15, 2007 2:06pm ET
Larry Schaffer — Central Coast — October 17, 2007 10:03am ET
James Molesworth — October 17, 2007 10:28am ET
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