Among the many people I caught up with during the New York Wine Experience these past few days was Brian Loring, who while pouring his tasty Clos Pepe vineyard Pinot, chastised me for not giving more updates on my barrel of Syrah...so here’s an update on the JM Syrah. [To restate, making this wine is purely for my own personal edification, and it will in no way ever be commercialized, for obvious conflict of interest reasons.]
After a flurry of decisions early in the process, including oak and whether or not to use a commercial yeast, it has been a quiet few months for the wine, which was racked an additional time back in July, to give it one last gulp of air. I’m looking to bottle it after the new year, as it’s put on some nice weight and flesh—the ’07 vintage in general looks pretty strong for California.
As a wine rests in a barrel, it needs to be topped up from time to time—adding a small amount of wine to make up for what has evaporated during the élevage (otherwise the wine would oxidize in the barrel). At commercial wineries, topping up is generally done with additional quantities of the same wine to maintain consistency. In my case, having just one barrel, there isn’t an additional supply of my wine to use for topping up. Instead, it’s being topped up with additional Syrah from the same vineyard source (and vintage), but not necessarily juice that was fermented and vinified in exactly the same manner.
Topping up usually means adding just a few liters at a time. It is done several times during a the time spent in barrel, so after a year, it adds up. In the end, the percentage of my 225-liter barrel, which isn’t what I started with, is suddenly significant. In some ways, it feels like it’s not my wine. But topping up is a simple fact of the winemaking process—and as I’ve tasted the wine a couple of times in recent months and found it to be exactly what I was hoping for, I’m able to live with it.
If you’ll remember back when I started this project, I was aiming for a more elegant expression of Syrah, and at a modest 13.55 percent alcohol and relatively lively pH of 3.76, I’m very happy (and surprised) that I was able to coax such relative finesse out of the wine, while not completely forsaking its brightness or richness of fruit. The wine has shed some of its primal fruit and baby fat that it had when I first racked it back in February. It's showing more finesse, spice and a nice briary hint underneath the elegant cherry fruit. When I let my wine friends taste it (some of whom harbor a strong anti-California bias, alas), I got comments along the lines of “against all odds” and “it actually tastes like wine." Thanks guys!
In the past few months, I also had to put on my marketing hat as well—not a hat I would ever want to wear. As a critic, I care about what’s in the bottle, not what’s on the label. Sure, there are labels I like and labels I don’t like, but in the end, that has nothing to do with how the wine tastes. But suddenly, when it came to my wine, I found myself giving some surprisingly deep thought to designing my own label.
|James Molesworth's Syrah label.|
Tom Devlin — October 20, 2008 3:20pm ET
James Molesworth — October 20, 2008 3:41pm ET
Andrew J Walter — Sacramento,CA — October 20, 2008 11:03pm ET
Troy Peterson — Burbank, CA — October 21, 2008 2:22am ET
Karl Mark — Geneva, IL. — October 21, 2008 9:14am ET
Bill Robinson — Calgary — October 21, 2008 12:22pm ET
James Molesworth — October 21, 2008 12:39pm ET
Alex Guarachi — Woodland Hills — October 21, 2008 11:29pm ET
James Molesworth — October 22, 2008 9:50am ET
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