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Senior editor James Laube, Wine Spectator's expert on the wines of California, joined the magazine in 1983.
James Laube

A Late Winemaker's Legacy Syrah

Bonaccorsi Syrah Santa Barbara County Star Lane Vineyard 2003

James Laube
Posted: March 20, 2009

Bittersweet is the best word to describe my feelings when I open a bottle of Mike Bonaccorsi's wine. The handsome master sommelier and rising star winemaker died unexpectedly in 2004, at age 43, just as his California winery had taken off. I had met and written about Bonaccorsi shortly before that and had been impressed by his enthusiasm and vision for his wines. His wife and friends kept the label going and finished the 2003 wines that were still in barrel.

I bought some of the early vintages and have had nothing but joyful drinking experiences, including the 2003 Star Lane Syrah I opened on Saturday evening with friends. I loved this wine on release and felt like it could hardly get better. Today it has an amazing range of youthful but transitional flavors. It starts with a pepper-berry medley, cola, spice, tar, black licorice, soy, sautéed bell pepper and tobacco, giving it a rich, savory, full-bodied range of flavors and softening tannins. While it should last another five or six years, my original drink window—from 2005 through 2013—still works. It's still fantastic, but more like 91 points, non-blind.

Bonaccorsi Syrah Santa Barbara County Star Lane Vineyard 2003 (96, $42 on release)

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