2004 WS Wine Experience: Syrah/Shiraz Tasting

Hyatt Regency, Chicago

Tasted November 5, 2004 by otisabdul with 2,264 views


This seminar took place during the 2004 Wine Spectator Wine Experience in Chicago. It was moderated by Harvey Steiman and Per-Henrik Mansson and was designed to showcase the different styles and expressions of syrah from around the globe.

We tasted through 8 wines from six different countries, with an even split between old and new world. The order of tasting was determined relatively randomly. Originally, Harvey and Per-Henrik discussed tasting the new world wines first so they would not be overwhelmed by the more extracted style of the old world wines, but PHM decided that “it is a Darwinian world, let the European wines stand on their own…too bad if they can’t.”

In addition to HS and PHM, each winery had a representative on the dais who discussed their particular wine. Their commentary is indicated in quotation marks.

Flight 1 (8 notes)

2001 Domaine Auguste Clape Cornas France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Cornas
88 points
Represented on the dais by owner Pierre Clape. Made from 3 vineyard parcels on steep hills in the Northern Rhone. 100% syrah, unfiltered and aged 22 months in old casks, never in new oak. Average age of the vines is 30 to 60 years old. “Cornas makes tannic wines that keep a long time”. Dark ruby color. Blackberry, mustard seed, and dill aromas. Rhubarb, plum, and dried herbal flavors, but seemed to lack complexity. PHM said that “this is a syrah that is unfettered from the mocha and vanilla of new oak, without the rusticity of most Cornas wines.” Steiman disagreed. He thought it was quite rustic. $63.
2002 Jasper Hill Shiraz Georgia's Paddock Australia, Victoria, Central Victoria, Heathcote
93 points
Represented on the dais by Ron Laughton, owner/winemaker, who noted that the grapes descend from vines that arrived from Hermitage 150 years ago and are planted in deep red soil. The wine is “made in non-interventionist fashion and is unracked, unfined, unfiltered”. Full-on Aussie nose of shoe polish, coconut and vinyl. Lots of blueberry on the palate, with black olive, pepper and herbal notes. Finishes with vibrant acidity and a smoky minerality. Superb balance and a velvety mouthfeel. Laughton “expects all his wines to last 20+ years, but prefers to drink them within 2 years after release or after seven years from the vintage date”. $75.
2001 Tenimenti d'Alessandro Syrah Cortona Il Bosco Italy, Tuscany, Cortona
90 points
Represented on the dais by owner Massimo d’Alessandro, who planted an experimental vineyard in southern Tuscany to 25 different varietals in 1988. He expected that sangiovese would be the star, but to their surprise, it was syrah that stood out most. A somewhat candied nose of watermelon, bubble gum, and strawberry syrup. The wine possesses a very focused core of ripe fruit that just barely peeks out over the edges. PHM said that “the oak is very subtle and the fruit comes through in seductive ways”. Massimo said that "the wine is very, very young and complexity will come in a few years.” $42.
2001 Cayuse Syrah En Cerise Vineyard USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Walla Walla Valley
91 points
Represented on the dais by owner/winemaker Christophe Baron, a Frenchman who planted vines on a site that has softball-sized cobblestones (like CDP). Baron tries to make “a wine with a lot of character, individuality, and soul.” He utilizes biodynamic methods and likes to envision his vines and the dirt making love to each other.” Dark purple color. A stinky barnyard nose. Interesting flavors of plum preserves, truffle, and smoked meat. The mouthfeel is the best part of this wine, with a silky coating that never seems to leave your tongue. $45.
2002 Alban Vineyards Syrah Reva Alban Estate Vineyard USA, California, Central Coast, Edna Valley
91 points
Represented on the dais by owner/winemaker John Alban, who pulled out a plastic beach ball to illustrate that Edna Valley is close to the ocean, “which lends itself to a longer growing season, which leads to great color, concentration, and extraction – and abundant but soft and silky tannins.” He also wanted “to see how much anxiety he could cause Marvin Shanken by pulling out a beach ball in a room with 20,000 wine glasses”, and also congratulated Christophe Baron of Cayuse on “being blessed with tremendous rocks”. The darkest wine on the table, the Reva had a smoky licorice nose. Loaded with baby fat, this wine needs a few years to integrate and add muscle. $56
2000 Barossa Valley Estate Shiraz E & E Black Pepper Australia, South Australia, Barossa, Barossa Valley
92 points
Represented on the dais by winemaker Stuart Bourne. BVE is owned by a collective of growers and Stuart’s job is “to try and express the varietal and Barossa in each bottle, not make a wine that could drop a cow at 20 yards.” The grapes comes from water-stressed vines in North Barossa and the wine is aged in both French and American oak for 18 months. More restrained than the Jasper Hill, it contains spicy, stewed fruit with vanilla overtones. Elegantly balanced, with a long, long finish. Very nice. $85.
2000 Marqués de Griñón Syrah Dominio de Valdepusa Spain, Castilla-La Mancha, Dominio de Valdepusa
91 points
Represented on the dais by owner/winemaker Carlos Falco, a best-selling author and UC-Davis grad. Carlos said they “work more in the vineyards than in the winery, with lots of pruning and irrigation management while being very hands-off in the winemaking.” He also recommended drinking it with game potages, particularly wild boar. This is a thick, syrupy, medicinal wine. Blueberry jam. Steiman felt it was “the biggest wine on the table, with tremendous fruit and length”. $35.
2001 Paul Jaboulet Aîné Hermitage La Chapelle France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Hermitage
95 points
Represented on the dais by winery president Michel Jaboulet, who is the 5th generation. The wine is made from a vineyard bought in 1929, and the vines average around 50 years of age on a steep hill with a SW orientation. In 2001, they had a very moderate summer and a fabulous September. The vintage was so good that they made a “Le Petit Chapelle” for the first time with some of the younger vines. The La Chapelle is a terrific wine, with notes of grilled meat, wild berries, white pepper, mushrooms and beef blood. Tremendous depth finesse, and length. Will age for many, many years. $127.




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