Nat Komes, General Manager of Flora Springs (and son of founder John Komes), and I have a few things in common — a love of Halloween and a love of good wine. Nat put his hands together when he created the Skull Ring Red Blend under Flora Spring’s sister label JN Wines. You may see the label and think “gimmicky;” you may read the blend — Syrah and Petite Verdot — and think “scary.” But I tell you to cast these assumptions aside because if there’s anything I know, it’s that Flora Springs crafts excellently balanced wines, especially when it comes to their red blends. And this crazy Skull Ring is no exception…
About the Wine: The JN Wines Skull Ring Red Blend is made from 67% Syrah and 33% Petite Verdot harvested from Napa Valley. Grapes were cold soaked before going to press. The juices were then fermented in stainless steel, with the Syrah macerating for just a few days longer. The wine then aged in combination French and American oak barrels for 20 months. This wine is unfined.
Only 4 barrels made
Flavor Profile: Open the bottle of the Flora Springs Skull Ring Red Blend and become immersed in aromas of macerated blackberries that are lusciously beyond jammy and contain just a hint of hidden umami. As the wine flows from bottle to decanter (NOTE: I did let the wine aerate in a decanter for 30 to 45 minutes prior to enjoying), it releases additional aromatics reminiscent of both fresh and dried figs.
Visually, as the wine is being poured, it is a deep maroon that contains a hidden brownish tint, reminiscent of a freshly formed scab. In the glass, the wine is deep, impenetrable, as if that scab has now solidified. Aromas from the glass reveal cedar wood, blackberry jam, and a clear line of acidity that rides throughout. Swirl, and the Flora Springs Skull Ring Red Blend reveals additional notes of black cherries and plump currents; the woodsy notes now fade toward the background, while the acidity maintains its integrity.
The palate of this red blend is straight-away full, round, and absolutely smooth — tannins don’t come into play until just the tail end, and even then it’s as light as cotton candy on the tongue. Though the acid was strong on the nose, it’s quite subdued on the tongue, with initial flavors speaking of a musky, cologne-like quality. But the acid is present, clearly, as it keeps the dominant flavors of black cherry, maple wood, sage, and almond skins fully alive and active from beginning to end. The finish is a gorgeous mouthful of fragrant sweet cigar smoke, as the fruits fade out and the earthy elements linger.
Food Pairing: This simultaneously juicy and dry red wine pairs perfectly with a medium-rare filet mignon, roasted heirloom potatoes, and an herb-based salad mixed with blue cheese, blueberries, drizzled with my homemade balsamic vinaigrette. What I loved was how the grilled filet brought out more of that cigar-like smokiness found on the finish earlier on in the tasting than when sipping the wine alone. Because of the black peppercorn crust on the exterior of the filet, it also brought out a bit of red heat in the wine that actually added a pleasant extra level of flavor and texture. Meanwhile, the salad with its balsamic dressing pulled out more of the woodsy, earthy aromas in the wine, while the natural acidity and juices of the blueberries cut through the tannins, accentuating that initial full, round, smooth sensation on the palate. And, of course, what Syrah or Petite Verdot- based blend doesn’t love a good blue cheese?
More Info: I received the JN Wines Skull Ring Red Blend as a sample for review. (Cheers Mora!) Retail: $80 only on the JN Wines website. For more information about Flora Springs, their wines, and to purchase wines directly, please visit the Flora Springs website.
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