California: Paso Robles
What we say
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Mission Codename: Sweet, sweet music…”
Operative: Agents Red and White
Objective: Locate an affordable California Syrah with European flair and a robust character
Mission Status: Accomplished
Current Winery: Vihuela Winery
Wine Subject: 2004 Syrah
The Wine Spies have introduced you to plenty of premium Syrah of late. Prices for these wines have been somewhat high, so Central Command issued the directive to spy an affordable Syrah with real character. This led Agents Red and White to California’s Central Coast where undervalued wines of exceptional quality can be found. Ultimately, their quest led them to Vihuela Winery where the sweet music of their Syrah enraptured him.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Deep murky red with ruby highlights and tight and thin legs
Smell – Massive ripe stonefruit leading with rich plum, dusty soil and cherry spice
Feel – Initially very wet, Very balanced in the mouth, then medium-big tannins kick in to bite the mid palate and the roof of the mouth
Taste – Bold and big and tasty, this wine packs a solid punch of sweet and sour cherry, dark plum and the dust off a dry lakebed
Finish – Strong flavors that hang around to dry the mouth and then fall off slowly
Conclusion – Okay, now we’re tasting BIG Syrah! This is a big Euro-style wine that is not afraid to howl at the moon while inspiring you to dance and hoot – especially if the music you are listening to is Spanish guitar!
as reported by Agent Red
My last trip to California’s Central Coast was mostly a nightmare. The heat almost killed me (not really) and I was miserable. This trip down was different.
On this mission we were taking the Spy Plane, a single engine Cessna that we affectionately call Air Wine Spy. Cleared for take-off we taxied out to the runway and were wheels-up and climbing to our cruising altitude of 10,000 feet. It was a brilliantly clear day and the flight was smooth and uneventful.
As we approached the Central Coast area, we turned on our new Wine Spies wine-seeking radar system, FLaVOR (Forward Looking Vine Origination Radar). The FLaVOR system was developed by Wine Spies scientists to assist in the surveillance of wineries and wines. I switched the system on and, after a rapid calibration, set it to search out Syrah with a quality coefficient of 3 or higher. Almost immediately I got a reading and I directed Agent White to overfly the hotspot on the scope.
After a cross-comparison with the GPS coordinates, we verified that we were circling Vihuela Vineyards in Templeton. Vihuela is one of the wineries on my Alert Board, which means that they are under long-term surveillance. In this case because we suspected that the wineries owner, Mike Vihuela, was presumed to be using a false name.
I had White set the plane down on a deserted back road and we hiked cross-country toward the vineyards. I suggested that we pose as Eastern European backpackers, lost in the Central Coast wilds, but we decided against it when Agent White pointed out that the Central Coast wasn’t all that wild. White suggested that we claim that our plane had crashed, but I said that we were looked far too good for that cover to be believed. We pressed onward, bickering as we trudged through fields and vineyards – when suddenly we heard music. We stopped and looked ahead, along the path we had been following. There, before us, loomed a figure clad in black, a guitar strapped to his back. I recognized him instantly. It was Mike Vihuela.
We have been unable to determine the exact origins of Vihuela, but intelligence gathered during past reconnaissance suggest that he was born on a small island off the coast of Spain. It is rumored that his family had an olive farm and that at a very early age Mike Vihuela became enamored with flamenco guitar and would practice for hours on end. This is consistent with the name Vihuela as it refers to a Spanish Renaissance guitar. It also helps to explain the style of Mike Vihuela’s wines. Ladies, who swoon over the man and his wines, are said to declare that both are tall, dark and tasty.
Mike beamed at us, seeming to know who we were but not letting on. This was unsettling to us as our cover as Wine Spies are seldom compromised. He invited us to follow him to his winery, where lunch was just being served. Hungry and curious, we accepted. As we walked closer to the winery, the sound of music and children playing among the grapes rang out. An exotic looking woman greeted us with a nod, smiling silently and motioning us to sit down at the long table under the massive oak.
Mike asked us what sort of wine we liked and we said, “Syrah!” He poured, and we talked wine and winemaking. And we ate and drank. And drank some more. His Vihuela Syrah was marvelous but this man would not let slip with any useful information about his real identity. Resigned to the fact that we would not learn more about this man on this visit, we focused on our original mission; After a few hours of sampling, it was clear to me that we had found our masterpiece syrah!
Oh, and, poor Agent White! Because he would be piloting us back to Central Command, his drinking was limited to lemonade. I had the tough job of sampling this amazing Syrah…
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The Vihuela Winery can be seen in this satellite photo
Wine Spies Technical Analysis:
Grape Varietal: 100% Syrah
Vineyard Sources: Paso Robles
Sugar at Harvest: 26.0 Brix
Wine Acidity: .59g/100ml
Wine pH: 3.91
Wine Residual Sugar: .20%
Release Date: September 2006
Cases Produced: 400
What the winery says
Silver Medal Winner
Big and bold without being over the top, Vihuela’s Syrah embodies a fusion of Paso Robles fruit with European style. Dense, dark cherries on the palate with some dusty notes, a firm body and bold finish characterize this wine that will only get better with age.