2018 Syrah 'Garys' Vineyard'
"The 50-acre Santa Lucia Highlands property known as Garys’ Vineyard is the result of a 1997 partnership formed between Gary Pisoni and Gary Franscioni, longtime friends and neighbors who grew up in the farming community of the Salinas Valley. Only four acres of the vineyard are devoted to Syrah, but these vines grow in what is generally considered the coldest climate for Syrah in California. As such, it closely simulates the conditions the Syrah vines experience in Côte-Rôtie, where it is one of the last red grapes harvested in France. This long, exaggerated growing season allows the grapes at Garys’ Vineyard to reach full physiological ripeness, and produce wines of unparalleled flavor, complexity and finesse. Few grape farmers in California know and understand the demands of growing Syrah here.
Likewise, few winemakers have the understanding and passion to make Syrah in California as well. In the 17 years that our winemaker Tadeo Borchardt and I have worked together, we have regularly traveled through the heart of the northern Rhône Valley of France, meeting and tasting wines with many of the most celebrated Syrah producers in the world. Respected craftsmen like Auguste Clape, Noël Verset, Jean-Louis Chave, René Rostaing, Robert Jasmin and Marius Gentaz opened the doors to their cellars to me during my years with importer Kermit Lynch, and Tadeo has met many of them as well, studied their techniques, tasted their wines, and listened to their advice. As a result, we have a tremendous opportunity to take what many believe to be grapes from the finest Syrah vineyard in California and produce from it legendary wine.
The 2018 vintage was remarkable in the Santa Lucia Highlands, and vines at Garys’ Vineyard are among the most carefully and attentively tended in the world. We harvested exactly 3 tons on October 10, the latest harvest in the past five years, and delivered the grapes to the winery the next morning so as to minimize any risk of temperature damage during transportation. The grapes were fermented in 200-gallon stainless steel, open-top tanks, leaving 100% of the stems intact. We fermented using only native, wild yeasts -- without the addition of laboratory designed yeast -- and the grapes were crushed by foot using a traditional French pigeage. After 45 days, the tanks were drained and pressed, and the new wine was racked to a combination of new and used 60-gallon French oak barrels. The wine was aged on the lees for six months, then racked for the first time. We racked twice more for natural clarification before the wine was bottled – unfiltered and unfined – on December 13.
It already displays the classic aroma of Syrah, the exotic combination of freshly crushed black pepper, hints of crème de cassis, and lovely ripe blueberries. With some bottle age it will begin to display characteristic bacon fat and smoked meat. When I think of serving Syrah with a meal, I recall my favorite -- a thick-cut veal chop grilled over vine cuttings at the Hotel Beau Rivage, a Michelin two-star dining room in Condrieu, along the Rhône River. During my last stay there, I enjoyed that dinner with a bottle of Marius Gentaz 1991 Côte-Rôtie, a legendary wine that remains today the best Syrah I’ve ever tasted." - Bruce Neyers