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Weekend Wrap: Bennett Valley Syrah, Erbaluce and a Malbec

April 14, 2008

2006 Shane Wine Cellar Syrah, Jemrose Vineyard, Bennett Valley – Infanticide, I thought, but I had to try… Obscene purple magenta inky tones. Blackberries, raspberries, orange zest and white pepper nose. Big, chewy fruit with proportionate oak and tannin structure. Fantastic pepperiness, spice (clove?) and typicity. The fruit is ripe, but not to the extant that it obliterates the uniqueness of the vineyard and vintage. If I am gunna be a stickler, I’d enjoy a  touch more acidity and more neutral oak character – but by the time the finish kicks in and pulls everything together with such effortless length, I don’t care. Obviously crafted with keen attention and passion, and I can’t wait to see how it (and it’s sisters) evolve over the next few years.

NB – Don’t be afraid to try this now if you are sitting on it – I actually enjoyed the wine more right after I popped it vs 3 hours of decanting. The air-time integrated the fruit, spice notes, oak and tannins – but the intensity and freshness of the initial fruit attack (while a bit monolithic) was most exciting to me.

2005 Orsolani Erbaluce Di Caluso Rustia, Piedmont Italy – The wine of the weekend. Straw gold. Mysterious nose; grassy, some lime, chalk-dust, and after some time in the decanter – tropical notes, honey, lemon and ginger. High-toned, almost austere in its acidity at first (pleasant) but over time the wine put on more and more weight and developed a sweet softness (with mango and coconut) in the midpalate that balanced the wine perfectly. Fascinating transformation on the palate – it started out like a Loire Sauvignon Blanc, moved through a fuller, sweeter, Viognier-like heft and finishes with a mineral-driven dry-riesling slatiness. Rare and confounding, I must find more. Perfect partner to seafood with adventurous sauces.

Diseño Malbec, Mendoza Argentina 2006 – Opulent fruit-driven wine with a decent backend structure and mild spiciness. Juicy and ripe black fruits, plus some tobacco and cinnamon – but with a detracting fakey-oakey vanilla flavor and mild acidity.

Overall – Tasty and not bad wine at all, but “International” in style – having little to show for the Malbec grape or anything particularly unique to the Mendoza region. However, I would probably grab for this before a Shiraz in the under $10 category from a sheer value standpoint.

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