Ridiculously black, impenetrable, staining stuff. Black-ruby with a wisp of a purple rim. Burnt-tire, crushed-bug and piquantly-briary nose thick and crazily-perfumed, dark bitter olive pit and glycerin-y cherry in a black mash SO concentrated, SO thick with flavor, SO nuanced as to be obfuscating to reality. This is Syrah on Paso Robles proportions, a thick concoction not nodding to Cornas or St. Joseph or Hermitage or ANYTHING in the northern Rhone but also not feeling typical of Sonoma Coast or RRV offerings–or even the rare Napa example–and it certainly doesn’t align with anything in Santa Ynez with the possible exception of Ballard Canyon. This is jet-fuel, plain and simple, feeling very much like a myriad of offerings from Paso Robles. But there’s a difference. There’s a chalkiness and dank spirit to the jet fuel causing me pause. Sorry for the long meandering diatribe on *where this feels like* but am only trying to give you a sense of *place* as this wine is unlike most of the Syrahs I open and quite an outlier from the other Mendocino’s I frequent.
A black, ridiculous stew of dark delirium greets the tongue. Rather one-dimensional and shallow in its overt maceration, the singular plane could also be levied as an argument toward balance in the iron grip it maintains over the palate–never letting anything exemplary protrude. But one gets the feeling there IS exemplary packed IN there, just frozen behind a black wall of tannin and stupendous concentration. More than anything, this reminds me of Cornas in the 80’s, just without ANY old-world nuances. No barnyard, no funk, no brett, no petrichor: new-world fruit in a package unrelenting. Frankly, I feel this wine should be prettier at age 3, but at the same time I can’t help but hearken back to the days of Cornas, Hermitage and even California Petite Sirah taking literally DECADES to release their grip. Those wines are long gone, and would never work in today’s instant-gratification society. How this wine exists on a shelf where I found it alongside 2019 Caymus boggles the mind, and I only chalk that up to an attempt to sell it to the Paso-crowd of *bigger-is-better* jam & vodka. But somehow… I am feeling the makers of this wine were headed somewhere different. Anyone putting a sub-15% wine in a bottle with THIS sort of concentration and briary, tannic aggravation is hoping the purchaser has the patience and understanding to cellar it. And I honestly think it will reward. My recommendation is to buy a case and drink one now so you can see where I’m at with this, then pause and go one-a-year starting 2027.
2017 MARIETTA CELLARS Syrah ‘Gibson Block’ McDowell Valley Mendocino Co. 14.9