Friday, December 9, 2022

Language of Yes En Passerillage Rancho Real Santa Maria Valley Syrah 

The Language of Yes En Passerillage Rancho Real Santa Maria Valley Syrah 

Linda took a friend out to lunch and brought me a take out entree of polenta and veal meatballs from Gia Mia in Naperville. I paired it with this just discovered, interesting Rhône varietal blend. This odd named wine is from legendary winemaker Randall Grahm and Joe C. Gallo, founder of Maze Row Wine Merchant, who owns the vineyards. They work together in a collaboration to leverage Randall's pioneering work pursuing his obsession with terroir-driven wines, uncommon varietals, and the Central Coast of California.

We traveled through the through the Santa Maria Valley and the Foxen Canyon wine trail and Santa Ynez Valley during our Santa Barbara County Wine Experience in May of this year. lead us to Zaca Mesa Winery and Vineyards. I wrote about it as part of my posting on our Zaca Mesa Winery and Vineyards Visit, and several others.

Randall Grahm gained notoriety with Bonny Doon Vineyard, where he had a long history of innovation and grew some popular brands - Big House, Cardinal Zin and Pacific Rim, to become the 28th largest winery in the United States. He was perhaps the first to truly popularize Rhône grapes in California,

He learned that in a warm, Mediterranean climate, it was blended wines that were most successful. In 1986 Bonny Doon Vineyard released the inaugural vintage (1984) of Le Cigare Volant, an homage to Châteauneuf-du-Pape, which continues as the winery’s flagship/starship brand.

Randall Grahm realized he could have success creating distinctive and original wines working with Rhône varieties in the Central Coast of California. This project is from the Santa Maria Valley which is one of the coolest sites in California where Syrah can be successfully grown, which enjoys perhaps the longest growing season, two important factors contributing to the development of the peppery aroma in wine in the Rhône varietal. 

The name “The Language of Yes” is derived from 'La Langue d'Oc', the term that medieval folk of southern France and adjacent environs , a precursor of modern Provençal, used to describe who they were by how they spoke (differentiating themselves from “La langue d’oil” spoken by their northern neighbors.

Following the established tradition reminiscent of the wines of St. Joseph and Côte-Rôtie, notable wine appellations in the Northern Rhone, he co-ferments Viognier with Syrah grape varietals. This is said to enhance the aromatic potential, the alcohol (not so necessary in California), color stability and structure of the wine. The Viognier adds a unique floral note to the otherwise peppery Syrah. 

The Language of Yes project is not intended to try to replicate the wines of Southern France, but rather to find and amplify the unique characteristics of the climate and terroir of the California Central Coast, inspired from the old world historic equivalents.
Homage to Southern Rhone Provencal region,
map from the Language of Yes website

We recently picked up two Language of Yes red wines based on Rhone varietals, a Grenache and this Syrah, grown in the Rancho Réal Vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley. 

In this project, winemaker Randall Grahm applies old world techniques, such as the practice of passerillage, or post-harvest drying of the grapes before crushing. In the cool Rancho Réal Vineyard, they place the grapes on paper raisin trees in the shade of the vine itself. This practice allows for a slight dehydration and concentration of the grapes, and, as significantly, a maturation of the stems of the bunches. The result is the stems are an excellent source of tannin, supporting the overall structure of the wine. The inclusion of the whole clusters allows for a slow release of grape sugar into the fermenting must, improving the fermentation, thus creating a slower and controlled process. "Clean", less stressed fermentation complements the process in what is called "reductive élevage," central to the style of The Language of Yes.

The Language of Yes En Passerillage "Rancho Real Vineyard" Santa Maria Valley Syrah 2020 

This is a blend of 86% Syrah and 14% Viognier raised in five-year-old barriques. 

It was awarded 94 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, and 93 points by James Suckling, Vinous and by Wine Enthusiast. 

Grapes for the 2020 Syrah En Passerillage were air-dried for three days, co-fermented with 20% Viognier and made with 50% whole clusters.

Winemaker's notes: "The Language of Yes seeks to preserve the old ways, revealing the utmost respect for the integrity of the sites form which they derive. The raising of the wine is done with the lightest possible hand, allowing the natural exuberance of the vines, the grapes, the wine and the winemaker to joyously emerge, unmistakably pronouncing The Language of Yes. The result is a reflection of Provence in these wines - a distinctive balsamique resinous quality resembling the local underbrush, the garrigue - lavender, rosemary and sage, and pine forest.'

"The wine is marked with lively acidity, notes of black pepper, black olive, violets, licorice and white flowers. On the palate, slightly angular immediately upon opening but softening considerably with time."

Definitely reflecting old world style as opposed to the new world, fuller fruit forward style we prefer. 

Opaque ruby purple color, medium bodied, aromatics of blackcurrant, pomegranate and subtle blueberry, notes of white pepper, a hint of dried meat and olive, smoke, exotic spices, floral and garrigue, with dusty-textured tannins and bursts of juicy acidity on the long finish.

RM 91 points.