Please join Dena and Ernie on Saturday and Sunday, February 10th and 11th from 10 am to 3 pm for our Pre-Valentine’s Day Satisfaction & Top Barrel Syrah Extravaganza! There will be a new release of Top Barrel Syrah from 2014. There will be Satisfaction flowing from bottles spanning multiple vintages. And there will be futures pricing on 2015 Top Barrel Syrah that’s still in its barrel! All prefaced by the uncompromising quality of the (93 point) 2016 Our Muse Viognier. It’s all sooo good. What could possibly go wrong?
By now, most of you know Ernie has an alter ego – he is a Rhône head. And not just any Rhône head, but a Northern Rhône head. How did this happen, you may ask yourself? He seems so intelligent and good looking.
Is delving to the depths of ethereal and sublime Pinot Noir just not enough for this man? Or is it something more? An experience too clandestine to share that has left a splinter in his mind. Perhaps a desire that forever burns yet cannot be satiated? Hint: There is a reason that wine is called “Satisfaction.”
Taste the wine and discover for yourself the motivation and driving life force behind the extravagant Syrah and Viognier program at Amalie Robert Estate. Dena, mind you, has heard all this before. And that is why she has cordoned off just one acre of vineyard, Lucky Block 13. “When he goes in there he can do whatever he wants, I just don’t want it in the Pinot Noir.”
Your tasting program begins with arguably the most compelling Our Muse Viognier we have been fortunate enough to grow, ferment and bottle. The 2016 vintage started the turn back to cool climate winegrowing sanity and we were afforded the opportunity to “hang it out there” and Ernie chose to do so. Dena always offers her encouragement just as Ernie is deciding when to pluck the clusters. “Hey, it’s your call. And I expect you to make it - Correctly.”
The 2016 Our Muse Viognier was fermented in stainless steel to capture the inherent aromas, flavors and all-around goodness that Viognier has to offer. Spoiler Alert: The April issue of Wine Enthusiast will publish a 93-point review and “Editor’s Choice” award for this wine. Just 42 cases produced - Good things come in small lots.
Now, onto the Syrah program. Lucky Block 13 has 4 clones of Syrah all sourced from the cool Northern Rhône. The growing region is called Côte Rôtie and is often referred to as the “Burgundy of the Rhone.” Hmm, sounds intriguing.
Due to a lack of focus and attention to detail, we have a few Viognier plants interspersed in Lucky Block 13. Sauce for the goose, as they say. Ernie said something quite different the first year he saw the Viognier grapes in his Syrah block. Nonetheless, he took it all in stride and chose not to dig them out. Besides after three years, they had put down some serious roots. Winegrower first, winemaker second.
While we harvest, ferment and barrel all of our 30 plus acres of Pinot Noir by block, Ernie goes to the next level with Syrah. He harvests each row of Syrah separately. This is the only way he can maintain the clonal integrity of the block. Dena just smiles and remembers when they first met. “Yeah, Ernie is wired a little differently.”
About half of all the Syrah berries go in the fermenter on the stem as whole clusters. That’s a lot of astringency in a young wine, and it is going to take a while to unwind, but Ernie loves the tactile structure you can only get from whole cluster fermentation. No matter, these wines are built to slowly unwind over time. And that process starts with about 26 months of barrel maturation encased within 1,200 tons of concrete below grade in the cellar at Amalie Robert Estate.
After that amount of time things have mellowed out, a bit. Then it is time to see just what has evolved over the past couple of years. This is when we find out if we have a “Top Barrel” candidate from the vintage. And this year, you can too!
We have selected our 2015 Top Barrel Syrah and are offering futures pricing this Saturday and Sunday. It is a single barrel that will produce about 24 cases of wine. That’s it, there will be no more until 2016. And we will just have to wait and see about that vintage - next year.
And in case you missed it, the current edition of Wine & Spirits Magazine has awarded the 2011 Top Barrel Syrah as one of the years best US Syrahs. While they seem to be a bit miserly on the points (91), they did get the general idea of what Ernie is up to.
Satisfaction Syrah takes in the remainder of the barrels. Sometimes this is just one other barrel, as was the case in 2013. Other times we have a bit more diversity in the barrel program. As is the case with our Pinot Noirs, our Syrahs are bottled unfined and unfiltered and are best enjoyed through the lens of time.
So we will start off your tasting program with a little 2016 Our Muse Viognier, then taste through a few vintages of Satisfaction Syrah, try out the New Release 2014 Top Barrel and then go for a walk in the cellar to taste the 2015 Top Barrel Syrah, in situ.
2015 Top Barrel Futures: The 2015 Top Barrel Syrah will be bottled in February 2018 and released Fall 2018. Price upon release will be $100. Futures are offered in 6 pack quantities at a price of $480 (80% of retail); $420 (70% of retail) for A-list members. There are 48 6 packs available.
Note: There is limited availability of verticals of both the Satisfaction (2011 – 2014) and Top Barrel (2010 – 2014) Syrahs. Case discounts apply, and dollar cost averaging is encouraged. Can’t attend in person, but don’t want to miss out on futures pricing? E-mail Dena this week and she can reserve a 6 pack or two, just for you!
See you in the Cellar, dress warm!
Dena and her Northern Rhone head.