Sourced from the rugged terroir of the Vaca Mountain foothills, the consistency of quality fruit the Shafer family harvests year after year is, indeed, persistent, continuing, nonstop, never-ending, interminable, unceasing, endless — relentless. But, as proprietor Doug Shafer says, the “soul” of this wine comes from the winery’s long time winemaker, Elias Fernandez, whose tireless attention to detail seems to create a new level of quality with each vintage. “And so Relentless emerged as a testament to both a person and a place.”
Interestingly, the original concept of this wine was as a field blend, meaning the vineyard site was planted to 80 percent Syrah and 20 percent Petite Sirah and the two grape varieties were harvested, crushed and fermented together. And this was the method Fernandez and Shafer followed for nearly a decade. But in the pursuit of perfection, the winemaking team has a “question everything” philosophy, constantly asking themselves if they are producing the best wine possible in the best way possible. And so, since 2010 Shafer Vineyards now creates Relentless as a proprietary blend of Syrah and Petite Sirah.
About the Wine: The Shafer Vineyards 2014 Relentless Syrah is made of 89% Syrah and 11% Petite Sirah grapes harvested from Vaca Mountain vineyards located in Napa’s Stags Leap District AVA. The wine aged in 60-gallon French oak barrels (100% new; Allier and Trocais cooperage) for 30 months.
Flavor Profile: Open the bottle of the Shafer Vineyards 2014 Relentless Syrah and take a small whiff just above the bottleneck to find very small scents of muddy blackberries. Before enjoying this very special Syrah, I did decant it for about ninety minutes. The wine flowed from bottle to decanter like a thick velvet-red reduction sauce, emitting aromas of boysenberry jam. Once decanted and in the glass, Shafer Vineyards 2014 Relentless Syrah was, indeed, relentless with its thick, impenetrable purple-black hue — the only relief coming at the utmost perimeter with a slightly lighter violet-red.
Initial aromas are of black and blueberries, bittersweet chocolate, a hint of oak wood, and — hidden in the very back — and almost-floral aroma. Swirl to release more of that oak, a cut of acidity, and a cigar-meets perfume scent vaguely reminiscent of incense (though, note, not smokey at this point).
The palate of this Syrah is just how you’d expect: it’s full with tangible tannins, but they are consistent from start to finish in their cotton-like quality that only gently dries the tongue and cheeks. Dominant flavors are of blueberry compote, boysenberry jam, dried oak wood, burnt brown butter, dark chocolate powder, and fennel fronds. The finish has just a bit of a pepper-kick, the after breath is filled with that incense, and there is just a little bit of chewiness left on the teeth.
Food Pairing: I paired the Shafer Vineyards 2014 Relentless Syrah with a grilled lobster tail, roasted red pepper soup, and an heirloom tomato salad dressed with paprika-spiced almonds and greek yogurt dressing. The coolness of the salad did well to calm the tannins, while the spiced nuts brought forward more of those woody flavors. The lobster, cooked to tenderness, gave the wine a rounder mouthfeel. But the soup — for me — was the star of this pairing. The creamy texture, again, did well to calm the tannins, but it was the seasoning (soy, worchestshire sauce, chili flakes) that brought out that bit of smoke and heat in the wine that gives it its multi-level complexity.
I know one wouldn’t “normally” chose a Syrah for a lobster dish, but for me this was an ideal pairing. A heartier meal would have created a heavy-on-heavy effect. Here, the lightness and brightness of the dish married so well with the seriousness and darkness of this wine, creating well-rounded flavor and textural blanance
More Info: I received the Shafer Vineyards 2014 Relentless Syrah as a sample for review. (Cheers Rosa and Andy!) Retail $92. For more information about Shafer Vineyards, their wines and to purchase wine directly, please visit the Shafer Vineyard website.
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