Friday, January 15, 2010

2005 Pax Syrah Griffin's Lair $60
(USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast)

California Syrah can be a dicey game. On the quality low end it can range from
a sappy uber-fruit bomb to a savory, peppery meaty wine deep in Syrah character reflective of its roots in the Northern Rhone on the high. The best from California, to me, show those latter traits of the Rhone, but also show more fruit which is typical of wine from the California. The best examples will show Rhone character, but never be too close to the real thing from France. Not one Syrah from anywhere outside of the Rhone has been anything close to what the best in the Rhone can be from Hermitage or Cote Rotie. That is not a bad thing at all. What is typical of the Rhone should be expected of the Rhone. The same should be said of Syrah or any other wine from any
other region, be it Sonoma or Southern Australia.

Poor California Syrah is one dimensional, over-ripe and juicy showing just the sunshine that is easy to capture in a glass of California wine. Its sweet and fruity up front, flat on the mid-palate, then finishes hollow. And why is it hollow? Its empty. It lacks the natural aromas and flavors that Syrah gives when its made right. Whether it be Syrah or Shiraz, it should be reflective of the place it is from, its terroir. Here we have one such Syrah from Cailfornia: the 2005 "Griffin's Lair" from Pax (Wine Cellars). Pax was an outfit out of Sonoma that had the brilliant idea to make mostly single vineyard Syrah from all over Sonoma County in Northern California. Pax also made a few white Rhones made from Viognier and Roussane grapes, and one Grenache based red. The wine maker and the family that founded the winery have split ways and the last vintage of Pax wines are the 2007 reds and 2008 whites. They both have thankfully moved on to their own ventures so we can still enjoy wines from these wonderful sources: Donelan Family Wines and Wind Gap Wines (former wine maker).

Tasting Note

Bravo! Serious Syrah here from California that is actually what California Syrah should be!

Color: Deep purple red core, lighter purple red edges. Color saturates the inside of the glass.

Nose & Palate: Tar, violets, aromatic flowers, black fruit aromas, nice oak integration as its not very noticeable. More Blackberry/currants, pepper, minty herbal, violets, tar and meat flavors fan out over the palate. Very complex!

Finishes long with tarry black berry and smoky bacon, delicious.


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