2018 Syrah "Upper Crust"
Rancho Sisquoc Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley
Each year I go up to the Santa Maria area to purchase the Dijon 470 clone of Syrah that grows in the upper terrace on
Rancho Sisquoc’s “McMurray Bench”. The upper terrace is a crusty old piece of dirt that was once described to me by, now-retired grower, Ed Holt as “concretious”, and thus the plight of the vines. They basically have to eke out an existence growing in a soil that is like cement when it dries out. It’s a plight that has forced many a great wine to come out of Block 2, where 3 acres of the clone 470 are located. For at least 10 years I have been shouting it from the rooftops—this (in my opinion) is the best Syrah on the Central Coast! This 2018 bottling continues to lend itself to this principle. As I study it here in my glass, the opaque, purple liquid offers up heady aromas of black fruits that are like an entanglement of cassis, flowers, and a spice that strikes me a bit like cumin. It’s almost like a fruity version of Cabernet Franc, which I find extremely interesting. Not for the faint of heart, its structure is for the long haul, with beautiful, palate-coating tannins that are perfectly woven into the fabric of the fruit and overall mouthfeel. Its central theme has always been an ethereal level of concentration, which is a good thing, because I have too many projects and too many wines being made as it is. If I am going to create a place in my portfolio for a variety, Syrah, that everyone and his or her brother makes, then it has to be spectacular. It’s location, location, location, along with Sisquoc’s well-executed farming that coaxes out the true nobility of Syrah, and keeps my head and heart in the game year after year.