While I was researching for a recent article about California Rhone varieties, winemaker Bradley Brown of Big Basin Vineyards said something interesting to me. “Syrah is the winemaker’s grape,” he said, “It’s hard for consumers to understand it, but winemaker’s love it.” While it’s true that all grapes — and produce in general — is a product of its environment, there’s something about the Syrah grape that is so impacted even by the subtle nuances of its surroundings. Thus, as I’ve said before, Syrah can express itself quite differently even from vineyards within the same AVA — even from blocks within the same vineyard! Well, at 2500 feet of elevation, Halcón is one of the highest vineyards in California, so you can be sure this Syrah will taste unlike any other you’ve had before.
About the Wine: Halcón Vineyards Alturas 2015 Estate Syrah is a Côte-Rôtie style blend made predominantly of Syrah (Chave Clone, Estrella, and Tablas Creek clones) with a small portion of co-fermented Viognier harvested from Halcón Vineyards estate vineyards in the Yorkville Highlands AVA, located in California’s Mendocino County.
The grapes were pressed and fermented with 40% whole-cluster inclusion. The wine aged in a single French oak 500L Saury puncheon (15% new).
Flavor Profile: Out of the bottle are immediate aromas of dark purple fruits like grape jam, blackberry jelly, hints of black olives and a smokey barbecue background. On the pour the Halcón Vineyards Alturas is an inky, royal purple-meets red, settling into the glass with the same richness, a deep and impenetrable center, fading to just a whisper of pink around the perimeter.
Once in the glass, initial aromas are of plum jam with a definite underline of freshness and acidity, hints of raw carob, and the slightest suggestion of something savory. Swirl, and the Syrah becomes alive with that plum compote, notes of vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon. That suggestion of something savory has been wiped away and, instead, the nose is of a fruit-filled garden. Indeed, pull the nose away to find a beautiful bouquet of fresh violets.
The palate of the Halcón Vineyards Alturas is immediately full, dark, with tangible tannins straight away. The acidity is a solid medium level, leaving just a hint of warmth on the palate and in the throat at the finish. Dominant flavors are of ripe plums, dried twigs, a background of milkiness, eucalyptus herbs, dried rose petals, blackberries, and a lingering taste of licorice candy.
Food Pairing: I paired the Halcón Vineyards Alturas 2015 Estate Syrah with herb-crusted lamb rack, beetroot salad, and a pea mash. As the evening progressed, the wine opened up to some richness in the flavor and a smoother mouthfeel. And what I loved about this pairing was the richness of the lamb with its gamey juices, actually pulled out the acidity and freshness first scented on the nose. Meanwhile the earthy sweetness and softness of the beetroot further subsided the tannins, creating a well rounded textural experience.
One thing I will note was that my pea mash, which calls for a bit of lemon juice, unfortunately had too much lemon juice in the mix. This was a little distracting, as such a harsh citrus and Syrah don’t exactly play well together.
More Info: I received the Halcón Vineyards Alturas 2015 Estate Syrah as a sample for review. (Cheers ___!) For more information about Halcón Vineyards, their wines, and to inquire about pricing and purchasing wines, please visit the Halcón Vineyards website.
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