Santa Maria Valley
After two extremely difficult years for Bien Nacido syrah, we were blessed with a nice crop of fully ripened fruit in 2000. However, without the difficulties of the two previous years, I’m not sure we would have progressed to the point we are now. The very high acid year of 1998 got me thinking about a radical approach to making cool climate Syrah, and so in 1999, again with barely ripe grapes, we treated the wine differently, employing some of the techniques we use for chardonnay.
With the natural high acidity that chardonnay from cool climate Santa Barbara County has, we have found the best way for the wines to show themselves and their inherent fruity richness is to do almost nothing–that is, we leave the new wine in their barrels with all of the yeast from the fermentation. The very tart young wine gathers richness and fullness from its contact with the yeast (what we winemakers call lees, as in “sur lees aging”). The wine is never moved, and we have learned how to separate the clear wine from the lees at bottling—all without fining or pumping or filtering. We applied this knowledge to the syrah and were astonished at the results. The 1999 was the meanest, nastiest red wine I had ever dealt with, but, by the time of bottling, it had softened and become enriched to the point that I no longer had to make excuses for it. And now, after almost two years in the bottle, it is ageworthy yet delicious to drink today.
The 2000, with fully ripe fruit and the same treatment, is simply an amazing wine. It has an exotic aroma of peppery spices, bread, and cherry fruit, and the flavors are equally exotic. This wine has amazing concentration and length with great acidity and reasonably low alcohol (only a California vintner could call 14% low!). This, in my opinion, is one of the best wines I have made. If you are looking for over-the-top richness, definitely consider buying the 50/50 blend described above. But if finesse, power and complexity appeal to you, don’t miss this one.