March 4, 2007

2004 Robert Hall Syrah, Paso Robles, California

We seem to be caught in a wine feedback loop presently. It seems that we have been consistently rotating our wine choices between Burgundy, the Loire, and non-French Syrah. Sure, we've thrown in the occasional Rhone blend or the odd bottle of Champagne, but largely you all have seen reviews that predominantly fall into those three main categories. Prepare yourselves for one more.

To be honest, I would say that our taste preferences fall into those three broad wine categories, and this is evidenced by the diversity of reviews within each here on winecommando. I talked about Rioja earlier, but we haven't really gotten around to reviewing any of merit. Yet. Stay tuned for that one.

We picked up this Syrah simply because we had not tried it before, and we had not yet reviewed a wine from Paso Robles (pronounced "passoe roe-blays"), named for the areas oak trees and shortened from the Spanish El Paso de Robles. What we know of Paso Robles is that there are some great wineries and great wines in this area. It is one of the fastest growing wine regions in California, located between San Francisco and Los Angeles on the Central Coast, and is currently home to over 100 wineries, producing over 40 different wine varietals. It is still overshadowed by Napa and Sonoma, but Paso Robles is resurgent... and not least of all due to the changing tastes of American wine drinkers. As different varietals, like Syrah and Viognier, gain popularity so do the fortunes of the areas that produce these grapes, areas just like Paso Robles. To be fair, though, there is also great Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel produced there, the backbones (with Chardonnay) of the Californian wine industry.

The winery owner, Robert Hall, is another individual who came to wine indirectly. He was a very successful developer of shopping centers and when faced with options for retirement, chose to dive into wine. He had always had a passion for wine, and had developed this passion with many visits to France, especially to the Rhone valley. When he bought his winery in Paso Robles, it was this passion for the Rhone style wines that he sought to pursue. He partnered with winemaker Don Brady to create wines that are true to the Southern French style, with special focus on the Syrah grape.

It was interesting to learn that this Syrah is blended with both Mourvedre and Merlot. Mourvedre is a traditional Rhone varietal that is often blended with Syrah and Grenache, but the Merlot part of this equation was not something we had experienced before. We opened and decanted this bottle for about an hour and a half. When we poured to taste the nose was full, rich and very aromatic. We could smell the wine well before putting the glasses to our noses. There is intense, concentrated raspberry and blackberry with hints of mint and earth. The palate was also rich and full, but without being cloying or over-the-top. It was remarkably balanced, which I think surprised us given how powerful the nose is. We tasted deep, sweet raspberry with dark chocolate, a little coffee, and some woody flavors. It definitely approaches being a heavier bodied wine, but the balance of the flavors and the structure keeps it well on the elegant side. The finish on this Syrah was long and flavorful. This is a Syrah that would be terrific with beef tenderloin, or a rich meat like bison. It would also work great with Cat's special vegetarian chili filled out with bulgar, which is what we paired it with. It was a good match.

I would not say that this wine was off the charts, or that it delivered some wildly sophisticated flavors. It is incredibly solid, and for the money an exceptional value. This would be another excellent example of a great value wine with which to bolster your cellar as this 2004 will drink great for the next five years or so.

cost - $18.99

winecommando rating (1-10) - 8.5

No comments: