April 30, 2006

It's really nice to cruise through a producer's wines to see similarities - as well as differences. So, for the sake of research, we held a small offline to check out some mini-verticals of Tensley syrah. From conversation, most people seemed to like the Colson bottlings better than the Thompson, and I'd give a slight edge to it as a more fruit-driven wine. That said, I though a few of the Thompsons were very nice. The Purisima - at least the '01, was killer. Word was Joey won't be buying Purisima fruit any more, but will be adding Tierra Alta Vnyd, another stellar vineyard in the Ballard Cyn corridor, as well as some Turner (SRH) and Three Creeks (Happy Cyn) syrah for 2005. Good things coming from Tensley.

My favs:

'01 Purisima
'03 OGT
'01 Thompson

2005 Lea Tierra Alta Rose of Syrah - (made by Joey's wife) - terrific flavors and balance, I could have sipped this all day.

1999 Tensley Thompson Syrah - slight roasted herb quality in the nose, lots of fruit, very nicely balanced.

2000 Tensley Thompson Syrah - a bit barnyardy - some thought maybe corked, but I think the horse was just eating corks. Bit of bacon accents the black and red fruit - nice, but not as nice as the '99.

2001 Tensley Thompson Syrah - Touch of French stink in the blackberry nose, with lighter notes of chocolate and toasted herb. Very juicy throughout, particularly nice acids and fine grained-tannins see this through the long smooth finish. Very nice.

2002 Tensley Thompson Syrah - Somewhat hi-toned black fruit in the nose - ditto the palate. Nice body and fruit, but the acids seemed a little too bright.

2003 Tensley Thompson Syrah - smoky, slightly roasted nose of dark fruit. Lightly sweet mouthfeel, very juicy acids, nice fine-grained tannins, just a bit unsettled at the moment - may need some more time to come together.

2004 Tensley Thompson Syrah - tons of slightly bright dark fruit, with background notes of smoke and earth. Absolutely mouthfilling fruit and texture, with nice fruit-filled long smooth finish.

2000 Tensley Colson Canyon Syrah - Trace of VA in the nose of dark fruit, herb and a bit of earthy smoke. Very nice balance, texture, and fine-grained finish, though I'd have liked a bit more fruit toward the back end.

2002 Tensley Colson Canyon Syrah – hey, now that's better - nose of clove-infused dark berry, and toasted herb. Somewhat sweet on the palate - more so than the other wines above. Plenty of fruit, lots of sweet tannins and a long smooth finish.

2003 Tensley Colson Canyon Syrah - Lots of dark, spicy and slightly bright fruit in the nose. Some sweetness to the marvelous fruit, excellent balance, chewy seamless mouthfeel, nice long smooth spicy finish.

2004 Tensley Colson Canyon Syrah - Lovely nose of black and red fruit, baking spices, and lightly toasted herbs. Lots of juicy acids, fabulous balance, and very long smooth finish.

2001 Tensley Purisima Mtn Syrah - Wow, what a nose! Light floral and almost citrus scents really add to the lush spicy blackberry fruit. Spicy and mouthfilling, loaded with juicy acids that always seem to stay in harmony with the fruit, long smooth very fine textured finish, and a sweet-sour aftertaste. Beautiful!

2002 Tensley Purisima Mtn Syrah - Smoky dark fruit - still a bit reserved in the nose. Sweet juicy mouthfeel, seems very fruit-driven initially, but the fruit gets a bit pinched on the smooth finish.

2003 Tensley Purisima Mtn Syrah - Lots of herbs seem to accent the dark fruit in the nose, with toasted rosemary, sage, etc., along with some Manzanilla olive.

2001 Tensley Larner Syrah - the lone Larner, this seemed to stand more on its own - stylistically speaking. Smoky herbs and blackberry in the nose, with a much higher degree of acidity (yet still balanced) and slightly leaner in the finish.

2003 Tensley OGT Magnum – Wow! Loads of dark smoky fruit; very mouthfilling and chewy on the palate, with very, very long smooth finish.

2004 Tensley OGT Magnum – quite similar to the ’03, but riper and sweeter nose and mouth.

2005 Departure Tierra Alta Syrah - (Tim Grubb’s label, barrel sample) Lovely perfumed dark fruit nose. Plenty of off-sweet fruit on the palate, very juicy long finish. Nice job here!

2005 Tensley BMT Syrah (Barrel sample, 75% Thompson, 25% Colson) – Sweet and ripe in the nose. Loads of fruit, very lush on the palate, young – but very tasty right now!

2005 Tensley OGT Syrah w/ 20% Grenache (Barrel sample). Bit more raspberry over blackberry in the nose, with a nice perfume scent. Seemed more lush and plummy in flavors, smooth long finish.

2005 Tensley Tierra Alta Syrah - Late Harvest 5% Residual (barrel sample) – what a nice surprise! Nice and sweet – yet not overripe or the least bit pruny. Very nice!

April 22, 2006

Getting together for a small dinner party, we met in Orange County with three fellow eRobertParker board members from the San Diego area to try a few recent SQN wines. What a terrific night! Great wines and great company!

1996 Fleury Brut Millésimé
My notes pretty much mirrored Mark's on this beauty. About 80% Pinot Noir, and it really comes across in the body and structure. Fascinating toasty/yeasty nose, with touches of lemon, lime and dried black cherry. The mouthfeel and balance on this wines was incredible, with a mousse that seemed to smoothly vanish like vapor on the palate somewhere through the long juicy finish.

1998 Sine Qua Non E-Raised
Huge floral-scented nose of predominantly red fruit, accented by clove, herb, and smoked bacon. Smooth and juicy mouthfeel, seamless throughout, well-integrated red and black fruit, amazing smoothness and fine-grained texture. Long luxurious finish. (Not that we were weighing this factor, but this had the wildest label as well. The smeared-look illegible front label has what appears to be a piece of red tape holding it on. On the back, all of the information is typed as if part of a movie script.)

2001 Sine Qua Non Midnight Oil
Fascinating nose of blackberry and black cherry, with a carmelized brown sugar/vanilla-laced accent, and a spicy - almost gunpowder-like background note. Meaty and smooth on the palate - much more Syrah-like than the rest of the flight. Excellent balance, dark tarry flavors, very long smooth finish.

2003 Sine Qua Non Syrah Papa
The nose here is bright and slightly hi-toned blackraspberry, with sweet tarry/licorice notes and hints of clove and something approaching the fragrance of glove leather. Noticable sweet oak on the palate gives this wine lots of definition, but it's extremely well integrated, melding with the dark cherry fruit through the long smooth finish. As Mark mentioned, the slight edginess of this young wine completely disappeared when matched with the duck breast, making the mass of fruit all the more obvious.

2003 Audelssa Syrah Tempest
Nose of blackberry and some dark cherry, with lighter cake spices creating an elegant scent. Knowing that this had 5% Viognier, I made an effort to find it in the nose - either in apricot or floral scents. But this was a "Goldilocks" kind of nose - just the right amount - and, the wine aromas were all interwoven very nicely. Smooth, subtle and almost creamy in the mouth, this wine worked surprisingly well in the flight - like your favorite sibling from out of town.

2001 Ojai Viognier Late Harvest - Roll Ranch
Loaded with pear and a touch of apple cobbler w/cream, there was also an intriguing dried floral scent in the background. Rich, yet not at all overpowering, this wine was amazingly balanced, and the juicy acids continued to cut a swath across the side of the tongue well after swallowing. This was very feminine in its elegance and went marvelously with the creme brulee.

2002 Sine Qua Non Mr. K - The Noble Man
The opposite side of the coin from the Ojai, this smooth but very masculine Chardonnay was brimming with dense apricot and spiced pear aromas. Quite smooth on the palate, with none of the edginess of a sauvignon/semillion-based wine, yet very powerful flavor and texture, nearly perfect balance and wonderful tasty finish.

April 2, 2006

About 25 people gathered locally (in Orange County, CA) to try several vintages of Pisoni Vineyard wines made by many of their producers - about 35 wines in all. We had assembled quite a horizontal - within the vertical of vintages. Our unstated goal was to try and find the defining qualities of the iconic Santa Lucia Highlands grower. The event was both fun and interesting, though I'm not sure we achieved our goal.

Siduri --- seemed a bit hot, but nice nose and flavors.

Nichols--- Big surprise here. I’m sure most of us weren’t expecting much from this bottling but it did not disappoint. Lots of strawberry and cherry aromas that carried through on the palate. Good balance of acids and fruit, nice flavors and finish.

Flowers --- Another surprise. Fascinating nose of strawberry, cherry and orange zest. Juicy mouthfeel with lots of fruit and juicy acids, nice flavors and balance, and long finish. Somewhat better in the mouth that the aromas would foretell.

Siduri ---- Slightly sweet and a bit cloying in the nose, with a sappy vine-like aroma. Sweet-sour dark cherry on the palate, nice flavor profile, balance and finish.

Arcadian --- a little stinky at first, this seemed to blow off and left the wine underneath showing its age fruit-wise, yet still with a nice balance and flavors.

Arcadian --- some beet/stewed veggie thing going on in the nose. Light citrus hints to the strawberry fruit on the palate, nice balance and finish.

Siduri --- bit of an alcoholic wiff at first, but big dark spicy fruit in the nose. Dark, ripe, and very concentrated on the palate, a bit chunky with a somewhat narrow focus. Could’ve used more acids.

Scott Paul --- ripe dark cherry nose, slight citrus element, lots of spice. Lots of spicy dark cherry, touch of citrus, long finish. Delicious!

Arcadian--- subtle nuances of clove and nutmeg accent the strawberry fruit. Nice citrus turn to the red fruit, with a bit of sappy vine.

Tantara --- Sweet sappy spice and red/black fruit. Nice flavors, but kind of understated on the palate, with just a bit of flabbiness from mid-palate onward.

Siduri --- AWOL

Testarossa--- Lovely elegant nose of red and black fruit and spice. Well-integrated juicy mouthfeel, nice flavors with just a touch of earth, excellent balance, very long finish. Very nice!

Ryan --- nose of dark cherry, and sappy spice notes. Sweet spicy mouthfeel, seems very balanced and full-bodied at mid-palate, but gets a bit flabby toward latter palate and finish.

Arcadian --- the 1st bottle was deemed “off” on this wine. It had major citrusy elements in the nose, and a very earthy flavor, and much more of a non-sweet profile. The 2nd bottle was definitely better, with substantial dark fruit, wonderful balance and flavors and long finish.

Ojai ---- I thought this wine was flawed -- its weedy rubbery oxidized aromas seemed to blanket the fruit. Much better in mouthfeel (not a difficult accomplishment), with burnished red fruit and good balance.

Pisoni Estate --- sensuous nose of dark cherry fruit accented with mixed citrus peel and spice. Big, but nicely balanced, with lots of dark fruit, juicy acids and a very, very long citrus-spiced finish. Really nice stuff!

Testarossa --- a sensation of hot spiced dark cherry in the nose. Nice juicy sweet-sour dark fruit, more acids that many of the other wines – but they seem to hold the fruit more in the background, long orange zest-infused finish.

Patz&Hall --- big and spicy in the nose, with a sense of whole cluster earthiness. Lightly sweet mouthfeel, lots of black cherry and a touch of earth and spice, very nice balance and long finish. Very nice!

Ryan --- spicy black cherry nose, with a light floral scent. Seems a bit light or underfilled in initial mouthfeel, nice balance, elegant feel to the texture, and the wine finished with a nice citrus touch to the dark fruit. Interesting wine – nice, but seemingly less Pisoni-like than many others.

Arcadian --- very light in color. Ripe nose, with lots of dark fruit. Lightly sweet mouthfeel, juicy acids, elegant – if soft mouthfeel and finish.

Peter Michael --- Stunning nose of black and red cherry, with a touch of strawberry and spice. Lots of chewy black and red fruit on the palate, with light citrus and spice, marvelous balance, and a very tasty long finish. Excellent!

Pisoni estate --- big and very ripe (almost candied) in the nose, with lots of dark spicy fruit and an initial blast of alcohol that seems to blow off. Less of the aromatic ripeness translates to the palate, and the wine is very nicely balanced without being too sweet. Very good flavors and juicy long finish.

Alcina --- earthy nose of wild strawberry, cherry and spice. More about strawberry fruit initially, the flavor profile turns to a nice cherry/black cherry from mid-palate onward. Very nice balance and flavors, not at all shy on acids, and the palate remains juicy throughout the very long finish.

Roar --- sweet spiced dark cherry /cherry fruit. Juicy mouthfeel, very nice citrus spice to the dark fruit, excellent balance, and nice long finish. Built on a larger frame that several others in the flight, but the balance of acids and fruit work well.

Miura --- light earthy scents to the spiced cherry fruit in the nose. Lovely balance and elegant finish.

Capiaux --- earthy nose of burnished dark cherry and some forest floor. Elegant dark fruit with a punch of spice at mid-palate, and a very long well-balanced finish. Nice!

Arcadian --- nose of strawberry and cherry fruit, and a touch of spice. Off-sweet mouthfeel, with nice juicy acids and fruit, excellent balanced and finish.

Peter Michael --- gorgeous nose of spicy bing and black cherry,and a clove scent. Sweet juicy mouthfeel, very tasty with just the right hint of citrus to make the cherry fruit sing through the long smooth finish. Wow!

Roessler --- beautiful nose of wild strawberry, dried flowers, citrusy spice, and a whole cluster scent. Elegant mouthfeel, with a mineral quality to the nicely integrated fruit and acids, lots of dark fruit and spice, and lovely long finish. This was a beautiful wine out of the gate, but seemed to become a bit more mono-dimensional over the next few hours.

Pisoni estate --- nose of wild strawberry, citrus and spice. Lots of dark spicy fruit that seemed to gain some weight at mid-palate, yet softened just a bit on the finish. Very nice!

Siduri --- lovely sweet-ripe nose of dark fruit, with light touches of citrus and sap. Rich mouthfeel, well-balanced. Lots of chewy black cherry fruit, with just a touch of chocolate on the very long juicy finish. Nice job here!

Roar --- almost tarry dark cherry fruit, with a sappy spice and touch of menthol. Sweet and spicy dark cherry, nice balance, rich spicy mouthfeel with just a touch of candied grapefruit on the long finish. Some thought this wine too oaky, but I thought it wore it well. Nice stuff – what’s the controversy?

Siduri --- nose of black cherry, vanilla, clove and a nice floral note. Sweet black cherry fruit, tons of spice, very nice balance, and smooth tasty long finish.

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