I was introduced to MacLaren by winemaker and good friend Cindy Cosco of Passaggio. After visiting her tasting room in the Sonoma Square, she literally took me by the hand and walked me just a few doors down. Who could escape a recommendation like that? Needless to say — though I’ll say it anyway — I wasn’t disappointed. Their focus is single-vineyard expressions of single varietals. And while their Pinot Noir was memorable, their Sauvignon Blanc as dry as I like it, it was their Syrah that was the real standout. If you’ve never experienced a Syrah tasting where the only difference is the specific vineyard source, I highly recommend it. You’ll be amazed at the different ways the grape can express itself even within the same
AVA. And with four Syrahs on their current release list, MacLaren is the perfect place to conduct this wine-nerdy experiment. I did, and I couldn’t walk away without this 2012 Stagecoach Vineyard Syrah.

About the Wine: The MacLaren 2012 Stagecoach Vineyard Syrah is made from 100% Syrah grapes harvested from the Stagecoach Vineyard in Napa. At an elevation of 1600 feet, the vines are expose to ample sunlight but also extremely cool nights, allowing for an evening ripening process. The soil is a red and yellow volcanic loam.

The Syrah was all hand-picked and hand sorted. After being destemmed, the grapes were then left to cold soak for 6 days leading to an all-native fermentation. The wine stayed on the skins for 21 days, pressed into tank, then racked once to barrel. The wine aged in 100% French oak barrels (10% new) for 14 months.

14.2% ABV

Flavor Profile: Open the bottle of the MacLaren 2012 Stagecoach Vineyard Syrah and breathe in purple: breathe in blueberries, blackberries, and the hint of a candy-like sweetness. This Syrah pours a smooth, red-purple velvet, settling into the glass just a little darker, a little duller; it’s nearly impenetrable in the center, fading out to a somewhat sad shade of light pink-violet.

Initial aromas are similar to those sensed upon opening the bottle, but there’s a bit more sharpness — perhaps it’s the acidity — as well as a very subtle scent of flowers in the background. You won’t get much else until you swirl. Swirl and release some oak, some umami, dark-petaled flowers, warm dust, and a background of a cherry liqueur.

The palate is absolutely smooth, but full, with lightly textural tannins and a rising acidity. Dominant flavors are of fresh currants, blackberries, and marionberries. There’s a vivacious earthiness — like a full field of dark-petaled flowers, complete with crunchy leaves and stems, and roots that are sopping up every vitamin and mineral Mother Earth has to offer. Hold the wine in the mouth and get just an essence of white pepper heat. Swallow and get the beautiful herb garden that is the lingering finish — fresh marjoram, fresh thyme — again on their twiggy stems — all swirl then sit on the after breath.

Food Pairing: I enjoyed the MacLaren 2012 Stagecoach Vineyard Syrah with a roasted veal tenderloin, roasted carrots and fennel, a parsnip purée, all topped with a vegetable cream sauce. What I loved about this pairing was the vegetable components. Carrots, fennel, parsnip — they’re all root vegetables and they brought out that grounded earthiness underneath the fruits and flowers in the wine. Also, because of the slow roasting, each of these ingredients were more or less soft, further rounding out the texture of the wine. I will also add that the cream sauce went quite nicely as well, adding just a hint of vanilla to the Syrah’s herbaceous end.

More Info: I purchased the MacLaren 2012 Stagecoach Vineyard Syrah at their Sonoma Square tasting room. Retail: Inquire. (This vintage has been moved to their Library Wine portfolio). For more information about MacLaren, their wines, and to purchase available wines (or inquire about how to purchase their Library Wines, please visit the MacLaren Wine website.

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