Stew and Barb weren’t always winemakers. In fact, Stew still works in the medical field and Barb is only recently retired from her career as an attorney. On a recent visit to Sonoma County wine country, I scheduled some time at this literal mom-and-pop wine operation. And if you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend you visit as well — this is your chance to learn the nitty gritty of the winemaking operation from a couple who’ve made this work a project of passion, not profit. And nothing exemplifies this creativity more than the 2013 Late Harvest Syrah.
Please Note: Due to a contract-related conflict, a full review of Lauterbach Cellars will come at a later date on another site — exact link will be listed when available. Cheers!
About the Wine: 2013 was a particularly fruitful Syrah year for the Lauterbachs. Not only did they make enough to sell to their clients and make their own Syrah bottlings, they had enough excess to leave on the vines to mature even further. Allowing the grapes to sit until about mid-November, the fruit became intensified in its just over-ripeness. So, what does one do with these rich, rich grapes? The Lauterbachs decided to try their hand at a dessert wine. (Ah the beauty of owning your own business. You can experiment with whatever you like however you like.)
Everything about this harvest was late. Yes, the picking of it happened six weeks after everything else was plucked and pruned, but due to cool temps it also took the grapes nearly 10 days to ferment (and that was with the assistance of aquarium heaters). Finally the grapes were pressed, skins intact, and the Lauterbach’s were on their way to making their first dessert-style wine
Flavor Profile: This wine is so purple, it’s almost black in the glass. Intense aromas of fig jam, plum jam, and a bit of brambly cedar just waft up into the nose. I won’t deny it, there’s a bit of unsweetened cocoa perhaps even some roasted coffee lingering in the background as well, which does get one’s mind wrapped around the idea of a dessert-style wine.
Here’s the thing, though: I call this wine “dessert-style” because it’s by no means a sweet wine. Thick with luscious fruits — again that plum and fig jam — are dominant on the foretaste. These elements pave the way to a bit of savory spices — think cloves, nutmeg, even a bit of chili-spiced chocolate. And only on the finish, when you’re playing with that tacky tannin tongue texture will you get just a delicate coat of sugar to finish.
But like their 2009 Syrah (my other recommendation), this wine is not heavy on either the palate or the body. In fact, I would strongly encourage you to pair this wine with food. It’s light and savory enough to do so.
Food Pairing: Ok, it’s a dessert wine. But I don’t know that I would pair this with a dessert food. I would say, drink this on its own as a dessert because anything with extra sugar will amplify the sweetness of the wine and then you’ll lose the subtle complexities in your wine tasting.
If, in fact, you’re looking for a food pairing, I would look to a heartier meat and a complimentary sauce. I’m thinking rack of lamb with a fig and red wine reduction sauce; a rare-cooked filet mignon with an onion chutney. Chose a meat that provides natural juices and a sauce that will compliment the sweet-savory aspect of the wine.
Of course you can, do as Barb does, and just have a glass of this before you go to bed. Cheers to that.
More Info: If you haven’t yet read my review of their 2009 Estate Syrah, this was another one of my personal favorites and one worth seeking out.
Because I cannot yet post my full review for Lauterbach Cellars, please visit the Lauterbach Cellars website for more information about the couple, their wines, and to purchase directly.
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