Saturday, September 16, 2023

Tensley Colson Canyon Syrah 2021

Tensley Colson Canyon Syrah 2021 with BBQ Ribs

Linda grilled BBQ ribs with baked potatoes and grilled corn and peppers. I pulled from the cellar one of our favorite labels for such a food wine pairing and one of the currently best drinking wines our cellar.

We discovered this producer and label and acquired earlier vintages of this and several other Tensley Santa Barbara County Wines, that I wrote about here, and replay below, during our Santa Barbara County Wine Experience. This was the standout of that tasting and best represents the style that we love.

We discovered Tensley Santa Barbara County Wines during that Santa Barbara County, Santa Maria Valley Wine Experience while driving the Foxen Canyon wine trail. One of the producer's we visited recommended we check out Tensley Wines, which was near that estate we were visiting. 

We drove by the Tensley vineyards on Alisos Canyon Road, (shown left) which was closed, so we stopped in the Tensley tasting room in downtown Los Olivos (below).

I was not aware of this brand prior to this trip. It was a top discovery and revelation and may certainly be one of our go-to boutique labels going forward. We joined their wine club to obtain a supply of their labels from those tasted and going forward.  

As I have written in earlier posts, Tensley was one of the great surprises of our Santa Barbara County, Santa Maria Valley wine experience was the revelation of Syrah being one of the lead varietals in the area. 

We were expecting to see Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, which are predominant taking advantage of the cool climate being close to the coastal maritime eftects. The cool coastal breezes run up the valleys of the mountains that run perpendicular to the coast.

We were delighted to find several producers featuring or even specializing in Syrah, Tensley included. At the Tensley tasting room, we were able to taste a flight of their Rhône varietals centered on their Syrahs.  

Colson Canyon Vineyard | Santa Ynez Mountains

Since joining their wineclub, we have acquired a half dozen labels from this producer, but this single vineyard designated label remains our favorite. Sourced from Colson Canyon Vineyard, high up in the Santa Ynez Mountains north of Los Olivos, it has been providing exceptional Syrah fruit to Joey Tensley since 2000. It is this fruit that helped Tensley become the one of most sought after Syrah's on the coast with consistent high ratings, one vintage flirting with Robert Parker perfection at 99 points.

Joey Tensley launched Tensley Wines in 1998, producing 100 cases, while serving as the assistant winemaker at Beckmen Vineyards, where he was given space to launch his own label.

Three years later, in 2001, he relocated to Buellton, CA to open his own winery, producing 750 cases of wines that immediately appeared on some of the country's top wine lists. That same year, Matt Kramer added two of Tensley's 2001 Syrah wines to the Wine Spectator's Top Ten Wines in the World list. followed by 90-95 point scores from Robert Parker for Tensley's 2001-2004 vintages. 

Tensley released his first vineyard-designate Syrah from Colson Canyon in 2001 and the wine press took notice. That year Matt Kramer of the Wine Spectator named two of Tensley’s 2001 Syrah’s to his list of the Top Ten Wines in the World. Robert Parker, Jr. scored all the ‘01’s in the high 90’s, calling them “serious, hand-crafted efforts.”

By 2008, Food and Wine Magazine named the Colson Canyon Syrah “Top Syrah in America Over $20.” Two years later, Robert Parker gave the 2008 Anniversary Series Colson Canyon Syrah 99 points, and Wine Spectator Magazine named the 2008 Colson Canyon Syrah "#17 of its Top 100 Wines in the World". The 2007 Colson Canyon Syrah was ranked #22 the year before. Since then, the string of high scores has been consistent.

Tensley and his wife Jennifer, purchased the Colson Canyon property about five years ago, ensuring that they would always be able to tap the most distinctive site. 
Today, Tensley produces 3,300 cases a year. Taking advantage of the numerous micro-climates in the Santa Barbara mountain ranges, Joey also produces a Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in areas closer to the ocean, while growing his Rhone varietals--Syrah, Grenache, and Viognier--further inland.  
Winemaker Notes: "Everything we farm in house is something very special to us. This site is one of the most unique and special places in the world of wine. High (1400 elevation) in the hills north of the Santa Maria Valley with some of the most iron-laced soils I have seen in Santa Barbara County."

Perched high up at an elevation of 1,400 feet, from a site located in the hills above Los Olivos, the Colson Canyon Vineyard benefits from the combination of warm days and cool nights that produce dense, fruit-forward wines with opulent jamminess. The site covers 115 acres but has only 16 acres of grapes because the elevation and rugged terrain make so much of the site untamable. Tensley believes that only three more acres have the potential to be planted.

Even though we received this label as part of our wineclub allocation shipment directly from the producer, we enjoy this particular label so much we arranged to pickup several bottles from big box wine merchant super store Total Wine during a recent trip to Indianapolis. This wine is not available in our marketplace as they have no distribution in our state of Illinois.

Tensley Colson Canyon Vineyard Santa Ynez Mountains Santa Barbara County Syrah 2021

Winemaker notes for this 2021 Colson Canyon label: "Coming from one of the coolest vintage in a decade the wine has a serious freshness. With that said the extremely low yields of 1.7 ton per acre the texture is what the wine is all about. When you put your nose in the glass think of cracked pepper, black currant and raspberry with a touch of vanilla on the finish. The finish will last a long time from the high level of acid and tannin. Drink now, but probably best to wait a few years and for those who like aged wines don’t touch for 15-20 years!"

Robert Parker's Wine Advocate writes, "This hedonistic Syrah could use another 5+ years in bottle to unwind and will be long-lived in the cellar. Best After 2024."

Despite guidance to wait at least five years before diving into this full throttle Syrah, we were eager to try it and we weren't disappointed.   

This release was awarded 97 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate who called it "a perfumed powerhouse!", 94-96 by Vinous, and 93-95+ by Jeb Dunnuck. Vinous says, "The 2021 Syrah Colson Canyon Vineyard is one of the highlights among the 2021s I tasted from Joey Tensley."

Ruby and inky purple colored, full-bodied, dense, powerful, ripe, concentrated black and blue fruits, with accented by notes of menthol, bitter dark chocolate, tar, black pepper and hints of vanilla, floral and lavender, with full tannins and bright vibrant acidity on a long perfumed finish. 
This might benefit from a few years further aging to settle a bit.
RM 94 points.

Earlier reviews of this label:

Earlier, last fall I wrote about the previous vintage of this label: "Dark inky purple colored, full bodied, thick concentrated unctuous juicy black and blue fruits with layers of cassis and chocolate nuances with notes of oak, leather and tobacco on a tongue coating lingering finish." 

RM 94 Points