Friday, June 9, 2023

Zaca Mesa Mesa Reserve Santa Ynez Syrah

 Zaca Mesa Mesa Reserve Santa Ynez Syrah 2017

Son Alec stopped by to see cousin Lauren and Aunt Pat in town for the weekend. We opened this robust Syrah for casual sipping with artisan cheeses, fresh fruits and veggies on the deck. 

We wrote about this Zaca Mesa Winery label when we tasted it upon receipt as part of our wine club allocation shipment late last fall - Zaca Mesa Mesa Reserve Santa Ynez Syrah.

We visited the Zaca Mesa Estate and Vineyards in Santa Ynez Valley during our Santa Barbara County Wine Experience a year ago last spring. We joined their wine club after tasting their portfolio of Rhone varietal based wines highlighting Syrah, one of our favorite varietals. 

Located just 25 miles from the Pacific Ocean, the vineyards sit in the sweet spot between a cool and warm climate. The high elevation vineyard site in Santa Barbara County’s  Santa Ynez Valley wine country give them the ability to grow dynamic, balanced Rhône grapes like Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Viognier.

Ranging from cool and foggy in the west to warm and dry in the east, the Santa Ynez Valley is a climatically diverse growing area. The most expansive AVA within the larger Santa Barbara County region, Santa Ynez is also home to a wide variety of soil types and geographical features. The appellation is further divided into four distinct sub-AVAs—Sta. Rita Hills, Ballard Canyon, Los Olivos District and Happy Canyon—each with its own defining characteristics.

A wide selection of grapes are planted there with more than sixty different varieties, and counting including Chardonnay and Pinot Noir that pre-dominate in the chilly west, while Zinfandel, Rhône blends, and Bordeaux blends rule to the arid east. Syrah is successful at both ends of the valley, with a lean and peppery, Old-World sensibility closer to the coast and lush berry fruit further inland.

Zaca Mesa Estate Winery on Foxen Canyon Rd
Los Olivos, CA
We were eager to try this Reserve 'flagship' Syrah from this producer who specializes in California Syrah. Their feature of wine says, this "Mesa Reserve Syrah represents the best of our mesa top vineyard, focusing on our favorite blocks of Syrah on our estate, ranging in vine age between 9-22 years."

Zaca Mesa's focus on Syrah intensified when in 2004, they planted their "first true high-density vineyard,” said Director of Vineyard & Winery Operations Eric Mohseni, at the time. “This new vineyard was planted to new Syrah clones and rootstock combinations for Zaca Mesa. The resulting wines had a different tannin and flavor profile. This was the birth of the Mesa Reserve.”

The resulting grapes harvested from that vineyard site displayed a "purity of fruit, broad tannins, and complex aromas of the wine" such that they believed it merited a higher-tier "reserve level" Syrah. Such was the birth of this label Mesa Reserve Syrah, crafted from select barrels from the different sub-blocks to create this wine.

Zaca Mesa Estate Vineyard
This is a blend of fruit sourced from sites "high on a mesa top in Santa Ynez Valley, where the various clones of Syrah ripen in the sun. They are planted on multiple varieties of rootstock, huddled close together in a high-density planting scheme. The microclimate here is unique – several degrees cooler than the neighboring town of Los Olivos."

"The Mesa Reserve is more of a 21st Century wine,” says Brand Ambassador Dane Campbell. “It’s the culmination of our 38 years of experimentation with Syrah, leading to a match of the correct clones and rootstocks to our specific vineyard site.”

“These younger blocks offer a great contrast to older Syrah vines on the property,” says Winemaker Kristin Bryden. “These new clones planted and grown with modern viticultural practices give the Mesa Reserve a brightness of fruit and complex richness that is unique when compared to our older blocks.”

Zaca Mesa Mesa Reserve Santa Ynez Valley Estate Syrah 2017

Winemakers' Notes on this release.  The 2017 Mesa Reserve is a brooding wine. It is comprised of our favorite blocks of Syrah on our estate ranging in vine age from 9- 22 years. The 2017 Mesa Reserve Syrah’s black ripe fruits are saturated with aromatic notes of churned earth, smoked meat, sweet cigar, and dark chocolate. Upon the first sip, the texture and tannins are bold, delivering a decadent middle palate layered with flavors of plum and blackberry jam.

I love it and applaud that Zaca Mesa shares the credit across the winemaking and vineyard team - Kristin, Randy, Agustin, Ruben, José, Angel & Ramirez.

This is 100% Santa Ynez Valley Syrah, sourced from Zaca Mesa estate vineyard Blocks Mesa A, B3, C6 & Chapel G4, G5, it was aged 21 months in 25% new French oak. A total of 856 cases were produced.

The 2017 release was rated 93 points by Antonio Galloni, 92 points by Wine Enthusiast and 91 points by Jeb Dunnuck.

This was delightful with hearty aged Gouda cheese, dark chocolate and assorted fresh fruits and veggies. 

Tonight was consistent with that earlier tasting when I wrote, "Dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, firm tight but vibrant aromatic blackberry and ripe cherry fruits, more restrained than those brooding overpowering unctuous fruit bombs, this shows more minerality and wet stone, highlighted by essence of what the winemaker aptly calls 'smoked' or another pundit calls 'roasted' meat, notes of soy, baking spices, hints of tobacco and bitter dark chocolate on the lingering moderate tannin laced finish."

RM 91 points.