Weekly Wine Roundup: Syrahs and Sassiacaias

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 02-27-2012

Credit: Flickr User naotakem.

The Terroirist team tasted through some Syrahs and Sassicaias this week while your usual correspondent, Terroirist Greg, climbed the mountains of Illinois (?) on a ski trip. Check out full notes below.

Matt Latuchie
Despite an unusually warm winter out here in South Dakota, I had an urge this week to try some syrahs. Three wines from completely different areas produced beautiful results. It speaks to the flexibility of this grape and the diversity of flavor profiles it has.

The first bottle was a 1997 Clos Marie Simon. I am familiar with this producer from my time working at Weygandt Wines in DC but had never had anything this old from them. I found the bottle for $16 at auction so was looking forward to this little experiment. This is typical equal parts grenache and syrah, but I found the syrah elements far more pronounced. It had smoked meats, dark fruit, and nice acidity. A fine example from the Languedoc and a wake up call to me that overlooking this region is a mistake.

The second syrah of the week was a bottle of 2003 Delas Les Bessards. I had my doubts about this bottle given the vintage and my aversion to roasted fruit notes but came away impressed. It started off with dense purple and black fruits and teetered on the edge of being too fruited. With enough air, the more classic syrah characteristics emerged: smoked meat, subtle olives, blackberries, and charcoal. I’m glad I had a chance to taste this as I feared the combination of a modern producer and such a ripe vintage. Shows what I know!

My last syrah of the week was probably the best and came from the Californian Edmunds St. John. Steve Edmunds has long championed the beliefs of minimally invasive winemaking and was recently featured in the documentary Wine From Here. Sadly, my experience with his wines has been limited, but that will soon be changing. This bottle was KILLER. The flavors were so elegant, balanced, and pure that I just couldn’t get over it. It had beautiful dark fruit, smoked meat, and perfumed floral notes. Just lovely stuff that completely flew under my radar. Bravo to Steve!

Steven Washuta
Speaking of skiing, I spent Thursday night in Tahoe at a friend’s 50th birthday party. We drank a few decent wines, including the 1994 Sassicaia, which unfortunately has well passed its peak — or at least that bottle had. That can’t be said about the 1999 Sassicaia, which was gorgeous, with black currant, eucalyptus, and cherry, and everything else expected from one of the best cabernets I’ve ever had the pleasure of consuming. This was well into the night, so I unfortunately do not have better notes nor much of a recollection.

We also opened a 1999 Hospices du Beaune Corton Charlemagne Cuvée François de Salins. The nose showed some age with freshly torched creme brulee atop a nice background of pear and ripe red apple with a hint of toasty sesame. If the Sassicaia was nearly perfect cabernet sauvignon, this is nearly perfect chardonnay. With a little more acidity and some more minerality it’d be in the ranks of my favorite white wines ever consumed. It doesn’t beat some Meursaults that I’ve had, but I’d never turn down a glass.

Robby Schrum
Just one bottle for me this week — a 2010 Tangent Albarino from the Central Coast of California. It featured a full, floral nose, with tart green apple, and some citrus fruits. On the palate, spicy, crisp grapefruit and limes were predominant, and the texture was a tad waxy. The finish lingered, and the wine offered nice acidity from beginning to end. Very refreshing. I had this with Asian noodles but believe the wine would probably feature best as an aperitif, absent food.

Comments (4)

  1. Which ESJ?

  2. Matt, I have to ask, where are you from in South Dakota? My wife and I live in Sonoma, CA and work in the wine industry, but grew up in northwest Iowa. I know how hard it is to find good wine in Iowa and South Dakota, especially given the steep mark-ups.

  3. TWG – I apologize for not highlighting this, but it was the 1997 syrah from Parmelee Hill.

    Cody – I currently live in Rapid City. Yes, the wine market here is not great. We do have a great shop here in town – Canyon Lake Liquors – that does a great job bringing in exciting wines from the US and Italy.

  4. Ha, no kidding – Rapid City is a great town in the midst of a beautiful area. Glad to hear that you’re able to find good wine there.