Sta. Rita Hills
The 2001 syrah Melville is a great surprise, and it proves the point I was making in my introduction to this newsletter. I actually toured the property many years ago when I was looking for land to plant grapes on. I just couldn’t imagine that this spot– a flat sandy field that looked like it had been planted to lima beans for the last fifty years–had any magic to it, and rejected it out of hand. But the site has a reservoir of hidden beauty that I simply couldn’t see at the time.
The magic starts with where the vineyard is located, in the Santa Rita Hills appellation near the town of Lompoc. The very long and cool growing season allows the grapes to mature slowly without losing acidity. The color and flavor seem to intensify with that long “hang time.” If it weren’t for the dry fall weather of Southern California, one could never grow syrah in this extremely cool climate, as the grapes ripen here very late in the fall. The sandy soil turns out to be a benefit because sandy soils hold almost no water or nutrients, so it is easier to control the growth of the vines, which is essential for quality. The third aspect that makes this vineyard work for us is Chad Melville. He does a fabulous job farming this close-planted vineyard and is receptive and responsive to my many picky vineyard management requests.