The grapes for this wine, representing five different clonal selections of the Syrah variety, came exclusively from vineyards in the cool Carneros district of southwestern Napa Valley, a justly celebrated growing region heavily influenced by breezes and fog from nearby San Pablo Bay. Syrahs grown in such cool-climate regions, as in France’s Northern Rhone Valley, typically offer intense, complex varietal characteristics, along with the structure required for aging.
The unpredictable 2003 growing season began with unusual heat spells in March followed by extremely cold, rainy weather in April, which set back vine growth and reduced yields on some early ripening varieties. Fortunately, summer arrived with picture-perfect weather - cool mornings, warm afternoons, and an absence of rainfall – and concluded with a few well-timed September heat spikes that accelerated ripening. These conditions enabled our Syrah grapes, which were harvested between October 11th and October 29th, to develop intense varietal flavors and a superb balance of sugar, acid, pH and ripe tannins.
Ninety percent of the grapes were crushed and de-stemmed, while 10% were preserved as whole clusters, enhancing fruitiness while preserving tannins. Fermentation was conducted in a combination of small, open and closed-top fermentors, with both punchdowns and pumpovers to thoroughly macerate the “cap” of skins and extract maximum color and flavor. As the fermentation progressed, the number of punchdowns and pumpovers were decreased to avoid the extraction of bitter seed tannins. Once fermentation completed, the wine was aged nine months in 60% new French oak barrels before the various vineyard lots were blended and barrel-aged an additional five months. Bottling was in December 2004.
Our 2003 Carneros Syrah boasts a dark, almost opaque, ruby color and complex, tantalizing aromas of ripe black fruits (wild blackberry, plum and fig), warm brown spices and sweet, toasty oak, with an undertone of roasted coffee. On the palate, the wine is thick, rich, and smooth, with savory black plum and roasted spice flavors that are framed by ripe, supple tannins and extend into a long, succulent finish. Delicious to drink now with grilled red meats and other hearty fare, it will handsomely reward another 3-5 years’ bottle aging.