1. Peay: I have, of course, followed Peay from the very start. Their Syrahs have always been some of my favorite Calif Syrahs. I was (and have been) unable to identify a unique/singular characteristic that separates the LesTitans from the LaBrumas. I guess I was a bit surprised at how far along the older Peays had evolved. I was expecting them to be a bit more youthful. Still, they were very well recieved.
2. Failla: Have followed Ehren's wines from the very start. He was the winemaker at Neyers for a fair number of yrs and made some exceptional Syrahs there from OldLakeville, Hudson, and the legendary Cuvee d'Honneur, in honor of Thierry Allemand, one of Ehren's heros. At Failla-Jordan (now just Failla), he's continued a string of great Syrahs from AlRago's QueSyrahVnyd (now being tended by Arnot-Roberts), PhoenixRanch, Hudson, and now his Estate Ranch out near FtRoss/Seaview a stone's throw from the Pacific. I think his EstateRanch may be one of the greatest Syrah vnyds in Calif.
All of these Syrahs are terrific ("monumental" is the Monktown term) Syrahs that are structured for the long haul. The '03 (gifted me in March by Kathy & Ehren) is the only one showing much evolution. Yet it still has another 3-5 yrs ahead of it. The question of Syrahs of this structure and scale is how they will evolve over time. Will this simply just get older and diminished in size, or will they truly evolve into complex/ethereal old bones. I guess time will tell, but the '03 seems to be headed in the right direction. That said...the young Syrahs had obvious ample/structured tannins. Yet the tannins seemed well-integrated and not at all hard/harsh. And they all had a brisk/zingy acidity that will carry them out in time.
I seldom spend over $50 for a Calif Syrah. But the Failla Estate is one that's a no-brainer for me.
As an aside, Ehren's Viognier from Alban grapes is one of the greatest Viogniers being made in Calif these days. Terrific perfume & structured and certainly not DollyPartin in style.
3. Cold-Climate Syrah: Most of the people in my SFWG are not familiar with the glories of cold-climate Syrah. And certainly not with these two producers. This tasting was designed to give them some exposure to Calif cold-climate Syrah. Of course, some folks dismissed them because they didn't taste like Cote-Rotie. And, of course, they were right. Below is the handout I sent out to entice the folks into coming:
Some of the most compelling Syrahs in Calif come from very cold-climate vnyds that are distinctly non-Mediterrean; vnyds that 20 yrs ago nobody would have dreamed of planting Syrah because it "couldn't ripen". These Syrahs share characteristics more akin to Northern Rhone than they do to the traditional Calif Syrahs. More acidity, more bright/high-toned fruit, a distinct cracked black pepper character. In fact, this is how they'd make Syrah in Cote-Rotie if they could.
These Syrahs are from two very cold-climate vnyds way out on the extreme Sonoma Coast, a few miles from the Pacific. PeayVnyd has two Syrah blocks on the Peay vnyd near Annapolis.
Ehren Jordan has his own Estate vnyd not far from FtRoss. Both are perched up on the ridgelines above the fog-line (usually). The 2003 Failla was Ehren's first Syrah and was recently gifted me by Ehren, for visiting their wnry (in the NapaVlly) and KathyBerez. This will be a rare chance to taste some older Calif Syrahs.