Sunday, April 10, 2022

Carlisle Sonoma County Syrah 2013

Carlisle Sonoma County Syrah 2013 with BBQ Rib Dinner

For a grilled BBQ Rib dinner we pulled from the cellar this hearty aged Syrah for a fabulous, perfect food wine pairing.

Carlisle are a small, family-owned Sonoma County winery specializing in the production of old-vine, vineyard designated Zinfandels and red Rhône varieties (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Petite Sirah). They also produce a small selection of white wines, two of which are blends from historic, old-vine vineyards plus Sonoma County's first ever Grüner Veltliner.

They strive for wines that are bold and intensely flavored, each reflecting its vintage and vineyard, but they also look to create wines of balance, complexity, and nuance. They have built a reputation for producing outstanding, pleasurable wine at a fair price - often at high QPR - Quality Price Ratios.

Robert Parker wrote about producer. winemaker Mike Officer. "One of the great success stories in Northern California is the genesis of Carlisle Winery, whose owner, Mike Officer, began as a wine hobbiest / software developer and grew into a full-time wine producer who has done more to save head-pruned, old-vine Zinfandel vineyards than anyone else in the United States. He built his reputation on full-flavored red wines and continues to fine-tune these beauties, often field blends of what are generically referred to as “mixed blacks” planted primarily by Italian immigrants prior to Prohibition." 

Mike got hooked on wine in college, reading everything he could on the subject, became a collector, attended numerous wine tastings, and taught a course on wine appreciation.

After graduation, he worked as a software developer, but after three years, he pivoted to pursue his passion, applying his analytical skills and creativity, setting out on a career in Winemaking.

Starting with five gallons of Zinfandel in the kitchen, he progressed to a barrel of Zinfandel each vintage with the help of friends and wife, Kendall Carlisle. Encouraged by the results. he and Kendall moved to Santa Rosa in Sonoma County captivated by the old-vine vineyards with their ancient twisted vines with deep roots and long histories. By 1997 he was producing over 300 cases of “garage” wine, mostly vineyard designated old-vine Zinfandels, winning numerous gold medals in amateur competitions.

In 1998, he and Kendall with the support of family, launched Carlisle Winery & Vineyards, concentrating on old-vine Zinfandel and red Rhône varieties (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Petite Sirah), with a goal to create small lots of distinctive, world-class wines from some of California’s most exceptional vineyards. Using vacation from his 'day' job, they produced 650 cases in that first vintage.

They sourced Zinfandel from some of the finest vineyards in the county, planted between 1888 and 1934, including their own vineyard planted in 1927. For Rhône varieties, they contracted with small, family growers, who were equally dedicated and passionate about growing grapes for making exceptional wines. 

After growing production to nearly 1000 cases in 2000, Mike was feeling over-extended in balancing the demands of the growing business and his career as a software developer. If he were to be a full-time winemaker, he would need to increase production to make a living. 

In 2001, he teamed up with Jay Maddox, an old college friend who had just earned a second degree in viticulture and enology from U.C. Davis. Jay joined Carlisle, bringing a wealth of knowledge, a keen palate, and the shared desire to produce the best wines possible. By 2004, they had grown to nearly 10,000 cases production, earning high praise from wine critics and consumers, and settled in to devoting full time to the wine business. 

Today Carlisle produce a dozen plus Zinfandels and nearly a dozen Rhone varietal red wines including this one, sourced from Sonoma estate vineyards and select contract growers.

This is a blend of 54% Russian River Valley Syrah from Papa's Block, 40% Sonoma Mountain Syrah from the Steiner Vineyard, and 6% Sonoma Valley Grenache from Rossi Ranch Vineyard.

 Syrah, sourced from the Papa’s Block and the Steiner Vineyard, which had previously been bottled as single vineyard labels. 

The Papa's Block in the Russian River Valley is named after the growers father, known as Papa to his grandchildren, a special 2-acre block planted to Carlisle specifications within the larger Atoosa's Vineyard.

The Steiner Vineyard, located on the northwest face of Sonoma Mountain has a history of growing grapes for over 40 years.  Carlisle got involved with the property in 2005 after it was taken over by Nate and Lauren Belden, working with vineyard manager Chris Bowland.

Carlisle Sonoma County Syrah 2013

This label release was rated 90-92 points from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and 90-92 points by  Vinous. Cases Produced: 846

Dark garnet colored with hues of purple, medium-full bodied, rich, round blackberry and black cherry fruits with notes of anise, licorice, spices, floral and hints of mint on the full lingering finish. 

RM 90 points. 

Winemaker notes: Like our Rossi Ranch Grenache, this was one of the surprises of 2013.  Despite the perfect growing season, we felt our Papa’s Block Syrah lacked its typical uniqueness.  Rather than being an outstanding Papa’s Block Syrah it was merely an outstanding Syrah, but still worthy of bottling on its own.  We looked at potential blends and found that combining Papa’s Block and Steiner Vineyard Syrahs a wine much better than each component was produced.  

Tasting Note: Very dark ruby-purple.  With swirling, aromas of blackberry, smoke, game, and cracked black pepper emerge.  Surprisingly elegant, the wine flows over the palate with notes of blackberry, boysenberry, and a hint of bitter chocolate.  Like most of our 2013s, just tremendous balance.  Supple tannins and a gentle grip emerge on the long, focused finish.  A wine that drinks at several times above its price point.  Enjoy this beauty from late 2015 through 2023.