2006 Napa Valley Syrah


California: Napa Valley: Howell Mountain

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Mission Codename: St. Joseph goes Down Under

Operative: Agent White

Objective: respond to operative request and acquire Viader’s delicious Napa Valley – Howell Mountain Syrah

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Viader

Wine Subject: 2006 Napa Valley Syrah

Winemaker: Alan Viader & Delia Viader

Backgrounder: The Howell Mountain region in the Napa Valley is the birthplace of some of our very favorite wines. We fell in love early on and we have not been disappointed by a high-elevation Howell Mountain wine yet like today’s delicious Syrah.

The popularity of Syrah is undeniable. Big and bold in flavor and texture, it packs a concentrated punch of flavor that many people love. This Rhone varietal, although many believe that the grape originated in the Persia region, is 100% French in lineage. The Syrah grape is directly descendant from the Monduese Blanche and Dureza varietals and is grown worldwide with great success. Today’s delicious Syrah is a delight with original flavors, deep aromatics and a tender mouth feel.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Dark ruby red with purple hues throughout its clear but dense ruby red heart. When swirled, fast fat legs laden with color ring the glass and are followed by slow thin legs that hang before descending to the ruby edges of this wine.

Smell – Plush and fruit forward, but still balanced. Ripe dark blackberry, plum and cherry blend with cocoa, spice, dark earthy minerals and black licorice. A touch of vanilla oak along with floral and herbal notes round out the nose.

Feel – Velvet smooth, rich and mouth-coating, this full-bodied wine chewy with softly ripe but present tannins and lively acidity.

Taste – Generous ripe and rich blackberry, sweet cherry and plum layer with cocoa, dark earthy minerality, soft peppery spice, black licorice and a balanced herbal and floral notes.

Finish – Lingering ripe and fresh fruit fade first leaving behind its other complex flavors that are supported by this wine’s rich and mouth-coating texture.

Conclusion – The 2006 Viader Napa Valley Syrah is a delicious wine. We can see how others describe this wine as having a Northern Rhone character – its complexity and rich dry smoothness provides a lot of finesse and its complex aromas and flavors really deliver. Pack with fruit and its boldness makes it also distinctly California in style. A delicious wine worthy of your table and cellar.

Mission Report:


SUBJECT: Delia Viader, PhD

WINE EDUCATION: Delia Viader, founder and winemaker (pronounced “vee-ah-dare”) grew up in France as the daughter of a diplomat and might never have become a winemaker at all, having completed a doctorate in philosophy at the Sorbonne and studied financial management at M.I.T. and the University of CA at Berkeley. But she was a wine enthusiast and, as a single mother, she wanted to raise her children in a natural setting like the Napa valley.

CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: founded VIADER in the early 80’s when only a handful of women were recognized in an industry that for so long has been predominantly male dominated.

WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: She came to the wine business with a global perspective and from the beginning her wines have found their place amongst the great vintages of the world.

WINEMAKER QUOTE: “When you taste a wine from a great vineyard, it has a distinct personality: a taste, a feel, a look; something that makes it different from any vineyard in the world. This distinct personality however, is the sum of a variety of personalities within the vineyard itself. Understanding and interpreting those personalities, is the greatest challenge in the evolution of a great vineyard and the wines produced from it.”

FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: 1989 VIADER 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Cabernet franc proprietary blend – 2000 for the first (estate grown produced and bottled) Viader Syrah clonal selection.


AGENT RED: Greetings, Delia Viader. We are thrilled to be showing your 2006 Viader clonal selection Rhone Syrah today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.

DELIA: You’re very welcome. Fire away!

RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?

DELIA: When I was about 12 years old, my father passed me a taste from his glass and asked for my opinion. I thought it was the nicest wine I had ever tasted. It turned out to be a 1970 Petrus! It was his favorite “Merlotte” (he would pronounce the “t”) that he would bring out for special occasions.

RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?

DELIA: In terms of shining the light on aspiring towards elegance in wine, I would say Emile Peynaud.

RED: Who do you make wine for?

DELIA: I make wine for people to enjoy with food and to encourage conviviality.

RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.

DELIA: The Viader wines aren’t made in the style of the California fruit “bomb” but rather in a more subtle and with more ‘seductive’ structural elements. This particular clonal selection of 2006 Viader Syrah shows the powerful imprint of the grape variety in its overtones of ‘cooked bacon’ with a nuanced and more velvety raspberries interpretation laced with suave black pepper counterpoint, which is typical of the Viader Syrah style.

RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?

DELIA: Mildly spiced tapas or pasta dishes and of course, try it with Jamon Iberico if you can find it.

RED: Yum! In your opinion, what makes the Napa Valley so special?

DELIA: The hillside location -both in altitude and latitude in the Napa valley – the perfect facing sun exposure plus the rocky volcanic soil composition. All elements coinciding to highlight, without a doubt, what are considered the best and most elusive characteristics of the Syrah grape.

RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?

DELIA: Everything we do, practically every day, is in preparation for the most crucial moment in the life of a fine wine grower, that of the harvest.

RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?

DELIA: Expect to be pleasantly surprised by the approachability, the purity of the fruit, and the elegance of structure.

RED: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

DELIA: Do your heart a favor, drink a glass of wine with your meal!

RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!

Wine Spies Vineyard Check:

The location of the Viader in Napa Valley can be seen in this satellite photo.

What the Winery Says

Awards & Accolades:

Stephen Tanzer of the International Wine Cellar writes, “Good full ruby-red. Bitter cherry and licorice on the nose. Juicy… with flavors of bitter cherry, dark chocolate, minerals and mint. Finishes fresh and leafy, with rather polite varietal character. This reminded me of a drier-styled St. Joseph.”

About This Wine:

Our 2006 VIADER Syrah shows rich juicy flavors of pomegranate, dried dark cherries, and plum. Aromas of huckleberry and sweet brown sugar with a hint of licorice. Integrated oak, with ripe tannins and firm structure. A lingering fruity finish accompanies enticing mineral and earthy notes. Medium to full bodied.

Located on Howell Mountain, with an elevation of 1300 ft., our Syrah vineyards lie on the optimal South facing slopes and are planted side by side with a combination of two clones, Hermitage (Rhone Valley) and Barossa (Australia) selections.

Following a European design, this combination encompasses the spice and fruit concentration of Australian Shiraz while maintaining the sleek and fragrant nuances typically found in the wines of the Northern Rhone Region.


The fruit was fermented in a small batch in Burgundian concrete unlined tanks with 100% whole berries, with 20% whole cluster. Cold soaks occurred for up to 5 days, turning the volume of the tanks constantly through manual punch-downs. Fermentation was about 10 days, with temperatures below 85-88˚F to preserve the delicate aromas. Light pump-overs were used as well as and delestage (rack and return) increasing the gentle extraction and slowly building the density while broadening the middle structure of the wines.

Extended maceration periods of over 30 days of skin contact was done to balance the big tannin structure with richer and denser fruit notes. Aged in 100% French Oak for 12 months in our underground caves using mostly Francois Freres cooper with medium to heavy toast. Wines remained sur lees for a period of 6 months with batonage (stirring) every 1-2 weeks. Minimal racking was done to preserve delicate nuances.

Growing Season:

The 2006 growing season presented a few hurdles, from record rainfall at the New Year to delayed bud break due to a cool spring. In June, the shoots eagerly pushed, and proper canopy management was critical. In July, temperatures soared over 100° for well over a week, but our grapes were protected by the canopy with vine rows oriented East-West. Manual leafing was performed to expose the fruit zone and improve air flow for uniform ripening. Temperatures cooled down in August allowing a steady ripening pace. Harvest date was September 30, 2006. Hand-harvesting started at 10pm with the cold fruit arriving to our cellar immediately after.

About The Winery:

Founded in 1986 by Delia Viader, VIADER is located 1200 feet above the Napa Valley floor just northeast of St. Helena on the steep, rocky slopes of Howell Mountain. Emulating a European design quite rare in California, the vines are oriented up and down the steep hillsides, a planting method that optimizes sun exposure, vine density and erosion control. Planting on such a steep grade of 32 % is a challenge and requires meticulous hand farming.

The first VIADER wine was produced in 1989 and with that vintage a proprietary estate blend was established that features Cabernet Franc with Cabernet Sauvignon as its base element. At the time, this blend was a daring diversion from other Cabernet-based wines being made in Napa Valley. This blend has come to be the signature wine from VIADER.

Over the years, the product line has grown to include Syrah under the VIADER label and two additional brands: The “V” is a reserve Bordeaux-style blend featuring Petit Verdot. The DARE line features two distinct wines – a Cabernet Franc and a Tempranillo – made from selected vineyards. Born in Argentina, Proprietor Delia Viader spent much of her formative years in Europe and especially in France. She developed an international approach to business and a long range vision of success. Delia came to the United States as a post-graduate student and earned her PhD. While raising four children on her own, Delia forged the vision and design for this unique estate vineyard property, wine blend and brand.

Because of Delia’s dedication, persistence and attention to high ideals, VIADER was recognized early on as a first growth property and the wines have been highly coveted since inception. In the last few years, Delia’s children have come back to help manage and operate the business making this a true family concern. Alan Viader is Direction of Operations and Winemaking, Janet Viader is Director of Marketing and Sales. Mariela Viader (married to Alan) is in charge of the Culinary Program. In the winter of 2006, Michel Rolland, the world-renowned enologist, and family friend, was brought on as a winemaking consultant.

Delia has earned the reputation as a pioneer for planting the vines running directly down the mountain, in a style normally found in Bordeaux. After receiving initial cirticism, eventually Delia’s vineyards on Howell Mountain were regarded as an ideal model for growing super-premium quality grapes. The original focus on Cabernet Franc as the main blending component, thought to be radical upon release, was a natural harkening back to Delia’s European roots and her love of Cheval Blanc. The idea of a single woman running a successful winery business while raising a family of four children on her own was a rare happening in Napa Valley’s developing fine wine business in the late ‘80’s.

Over the years, Delia has remained true to her vision. Today Viader Vineyards is a thriving family business producing world-class wines from a magnificent, mature estate vineyard property complete with small bonded winery, underground caves, and a Hospitality Center which offers tours and tastings by appointment and a sophisticated wine and food pairing Culinary Program.

About The Winemaker:

Delia Viader, Owner/Winemaker – Argentine-born Delia Viader came to the United States as a post-graduate college student in the 1980s. She holds a doctorate in Philosophy from the Sorbonne University in Paris, France and pursued advanced business Studies at three American universities. At the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Delia studied Executive Programs in Financial Management, Corporate Strategy and Negotiation. She then moved to California and at the University of California Berkeley studied Financial Management, Corporate Market-Focused Organizations and Masters Program in Business Administration. Delia has four children ranging in age from 13 to 28 year of age, and even with the great feat of raising a family, has also managed to create a successful vineyard and winery. Delia’s family and fascination with fine wines has been her primary motivation for starting her beautiful winery overlooking the Napa Valley. After founding VIADER in 1986, Delia pursued programs in Enology and Viticulture offered at University of California Davis to better learn the practical theory behind making fine wine.

Technical Analysis:

Alcohol: 14.5%

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