Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Piedrasassi PS Santa Barbara County Syrah

Piedrasassi 'PS' Santa Barbara County Syrah 2019

I saw this somewhat modest priced Syrah at Binny's, the big box beverage superstore merchant of Chicagoland and picked up a bottle to try. Piedrasassi is the handicraft of winemaker producer Sashi Moorman, who cultivates the grapes and produces a porfolio of wines in the Central Coast of California. His partner Melissa Sorongon freshly mills American heritage grains for naturally-leavened loaves that she bakes in a hand-built wood-fired oven. The promote the bakery bread in conjunction with their wines.

Piedrasassi focus primarily cultivating and and vinifing Syrah, the grape varietal winemaker Sashi Moorman has been working with for over two decades. According to their website, "the viticultural heritage of the Northern Rhone and the pioneering ethos of the Central Coast equally inform his engagement with Syrah". 

Their wines are sourced from four vineyard sites across the greater Central Coast Santa Barbara County where there is a "remarkable east-west transverse of valleys, shaped by an era of tectonic contortion and upheaval. Here, geologic time stands on its head: diverse soils of varying epochs are often entangled. Receptive to the daily rhythms of the Pacific’s cooling winds and pervasive fog, these valleys and, in particular, their constituent hillsides, are host to some of California’s most compelling terroir for Syrah".

Piedrasassi produce three premium vineyard designated Syrahs from four vineyard sources in the Santa Maria Valley - Rim Rock Vineyard north of Santa Maria along Hwy 101, Bien Nacido Vineyard further inland, east of town, Sebastiani Vinyeard and Patterson Vineyard further south in the valley. 

Arroyo Grande Valley Syrah - Rim Rock Vineyard
Santa Maria Valley Syrah - Bien Nacido Vineyard
Samta Rita Hills Syrah - Patterson & Casa Cassara Vineyards

This 'PS' Piedrasassi Syrah is their larger production 'entry' level Syrah, available in wider distribution, priced at half the price of the three 'premium' labels, which are each priced at $50. 

The Arroyo Grande Valley Syrah comes from their flagship site, the Rim Rock Vineyard situated along Hwy 101 north of the town of Santa Maria. Since 2016, they have leased and farmed the vineyard. Weathered shale soils on a windy slope just seven miles from the Pacific Ocean results in low yields of concentrated, high-quality fruit. They recommend cellaring Rim Rock Syrah for several years prior to opening. In 2019, only 259 cases of Arroyo Grande Valley Syrah were produced. 

Further inland, east of the town of Santa Maria is the Bien Nacido Vineyard, long a highly sought-after site for Syrah in Santa Barbara County. Piedrasassi have the fortune to work with the vineyard's two best plantings, X Block and Z Block. X Block, grafted from Riesling to Syrah in 1986, represents the very first cool-climate Syrah planting in North America. Z Block was planted in 1992, making these the oldest Syrah vines work by Piedrasassi. The advanced vine age slows ripening, keeping potential alcohol levels lower. 

Fruit for the Santa Rita Hills Syrah comes from two vineyards, Patterson and Casa Cassara, both planted at higher altitudes. This wine tends to be the most forward of their offerings as fruit from the Patterson vineyard comes from younger vines, which tend to produce more generous clusters with larger berries and thicker stems. Of the three cuvées, this is the wine they suggest to enjoy in its youth with its striking balance between fruit and savory characteristics best in early years. In 2019, only 188 cases of Santa Rita Hills Syrah were produced.

The Santa Maria Valley Syrah is the most elegant and restrained of the lineup with high-toned fruits and sweet spices on the palate with softer, silkier tannins and a refreshing, acid-laden finish. In 2019, 306 cases of Santa Maria Valley Syrah were produced.

Piedrasassi began making these wines in 2003 inspired by the diversity of grapes and wines cultivated in the wide open, relatively uncharted territory that is the California wine industry.

All their labels are packaged in a distinctive 'moonshine jug' shaped bottle, shorter and more stout than a traditional 750ml bottle. 

Extract of the winemaker notes: "The PS Syrah designated Santa Barbara County a burst of sweet blue/purplish fruit followed by complex floral and savory notes of with hints of lavender, sage, mint and black pepper." Of the 2019 vintage release, 1680 cases were produced.

Dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, black berry fruits with notes of black pepper spices, hints of soy and sage with moderate tangy acidic tannin laced finish. 

RM 88 points.