What We Say 2006 Hampton Vineyard Syrah
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Mission Codename: Weekend in the Hampton
Operative: Agent White
Objective: Revisit our good friends at Epiphany Cellars to retrieve their delicious Block 2 Camp 4 Vineyard Syrah
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Epiphany Cellars
Wine Subject: 2006 Hampton Vineyard Syrah
Winemaker: Blair Fox
France’s Rhone Valley stretches from Vienne in the north down to the Arles in the south may be best known for its intricate blends of red varietals as demonstrated by its legendary Chateauneuf-du-Pape, but the white varietals of this region are not to be underestimated. It is in the spirit of these unique Terrior driven varietals that inspires today’s selection. Syrah, a native to the Rhone Valley find an excellent home in California’s Santa Ynez Valley just north of Santa Barbara. The Hampton Vineyard location in Santa Barbara County is exceptionally well suited to growing Syrah and after tasting this wine we are positive you will agree!
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Intensely deep and dark garnet purple with a blackish nearly inky core that shows just hints of light shining through. Along the edges, the color becomes a slightly lighter garnet purple and when swirled evenly spaced color-laden legs descend slowly to the wine below.
Smell – Rich and spicy black and blue fruit along with an earthy ripe plum aromas are framed by a meaty base with ample leather, earth, spice and licorice.
Feel – With an initially smooth attack this dry, full-bodied and expansively chewy wine has soft but sturdy tannins that hit at mid-palate along with its lively acidity that holds the fruit well and lingers in unison into the finish.
Taste – Fruit forward and jammy red, blue and black fruit (blackberry, black cherry, and some plum) blend with earth, spice and meaty leather flavors. Add some black pepper, smokey toasted oak, floral violets adds to the very approachable palate of this wine.
Finish – Extremely long with this wine’s ripe fruit, earth, spice and leather notes lingering in harmony with the soft but present structure begging for another gulp.
Conclusion – The 2006 Epiphany Hampton Vineyard Syrah is a fantastic fruit-forward and very approachable wine that is both complex and elegant – definitely New World in style but with Old World character too. Drinking great now (please decant for an hour to reveal its evolving aromas and flavors) but will also cellar gracefully for many years to come.
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: Blair Fox
DATE OF BIRTH: 10/74
PLACE OF BIRTH: Santa Barbara, CA
WINE EDUCATION: B.S. Viticulture and Enology, UC Davis
CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Enologist for Fess Parker Winery ’99, Winemaker Sunstone Winery 99-02, Consultant winemaker fess Parker Winery 02, Vintage Winemaker- Haselgrove Winery- McLaren Vale South Australia 03, Associate Winemaker in charge of the Rhone Varietal programs at Fess Parker 03-05, Head Winemaker for Fess Parker Winery and Epiphany Cellars 05-present
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: I spend a lot of time in the vineyard because I feel that wines are truly made in the vineyard. I try to show the different qualities of the different vineyards and create wines with distinct varietal character.
SIGNATURE VARIETAL: I have always been particularly fond of Syrah.
CAREER HIGHLIGHT: Travelling throughout the Rhone Valley in France and tasting some of the best examples of Syrah and other Rhone varietals the world has to offer.
WINEMAKER QUOTE: ”I feel privileged to work with some of the best vineyards and fruit in Santa Barbara County.”
AGENT RED: Greetings, Blair. We are thrilled to be showing your * 2006 Hampton Vineyard Syrah* today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
BLAIR FOX: Thank you for showing my wine today.
RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
BLAIR: My parents were always traveling the globe and bringing home wines to be drunk around the dinner table. I was planning on going to medical school to become a doctor but was lured into the Viticulture and Enology program at UC Davis.
RED: And where did you learn the most about winemaking?
BLAIR: I really enjoyed the viticulture side of the program, but then fell in love with the enology courses and being able to see the conversion of grapes to a final wine.
RED: What is your winemaking style or philosophy?
BLAIR: I feel the best wines are made in the vineyard. You have to be diligent with your vineyard practices to grow grapes worthy of making great wine. It is all about fruit quality, canopy management and managing your yields to produce the most exciting wines possible.
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
BLAIR: I am impressed by all great wines made around the world. I have gained experience making wines in two different hemispheres and like a sponge have absorbed as much knowledge from every winemaker I have ever worked with.
RED: How long have you been making wine?
BLAIR: This will be my 14th vintage.
RED: Who do you make wine for?
BLAIR: I make wines to be enjoyed by all. At Epiphany Cellars we specialize in the production of Rhone Varietal wines and blends. I want these wines to be balanced with intense fruit character, rich mouthfeel and beautiful aromatics.
RED: Tell me, what makes the Santa Barbara region so special?
BLAIR: Santa Barbara is a very unique region. We have very cool areas such as the Santa Rita Hills, which is the ultimate place to grow high quality Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and we have the more interior Santa Ynez Valley where some of the most exciting Rhone varietals in the world are grown.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
BLAIR: We are in the process of getting ready for harvest right now, so there is a lot of cleaning to be done in preparation for harvest.
RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today
BLAIR: It is our 2006 Epiphany Syrah sourced entirely from Dale Hamton’s vineyard. He has been growing grapes in Santa Barbara County for over 30 years and this is his Estate Vineyard.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
BLAIR: Rack of lamb
RED: How would you recommend that people approach your wines, or wine in general?
BLAIR: I am very casual about my approach to wine. I feel wines are best drunk with food, but are also great as an aperitif or after dinner. I feel you should drink what you enjoy regardless of price or region. It is fun to be adventurous with wine and see what else is out there.
RED: If you could choose any one wine to drink (regardless of price or availability), what would it be?
BLAIR: I love Syrah and would choose something like an old Grange from Penfolds or Cote Rotie from the Northern Rhone.
RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and about your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the Epiphany Cellars in Solvang can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
Awards & Accolades:
92 Points – Robert Parker, Jr – Wine Advocate
Best of the Best of California Syrahs – QRW 2010
About This Wine:
With a gentle slope, ideal southern exposure, and gravelloam soils, the Hampton Vineyard is a great example of world-class Syrah being grown in Santa Barbara County. Though made in a definite New World style with rich forward fruit flavors of blackberry and blueberry, and thick chewy tannins, the Hampton Syrah always delivers notes of earth, pepper and smoked meat that are reminiscent of Classic French Rhone wines (think Hermitage). The 2006 vintage has fantastic structure of firm acidity and tannins that should allow this wine to age gracefully for 7-10 years. For those lacking that kind of patience, we suggest decanting this wine to help it unravel and show its full personality before enjoying it with a meal.
About The Winery:
When Fess Parker was cast in the roll of Davy Crockett in the mid-1950’s, it caused an international sensation and changed his life forever. So too did the purchase of 714 acres in the Santa Ynez Valley change the course of the Parker family’s history.
Realizing the potential of Santa Barbara County as a premium grape-growing region, Fess and his son, Eli, originally set out in 1989 to plant a small vineyard and sell fruit to local producers. But, as Fess’ daughter, Ashley explains, “ Fess is from Texas, so he can’t do anything small. “The Fess Parker Winery and Vineyard now farms almost 700 acres on four vineyards throughout Santa Barbara County.
The characters Fess portrayed, Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone, inspired generations of Americans. Throughout the late 1950’s and 1960’s Fess was at the pinnacle of a television career that has an unprecedented impact upon American popular culture. But is was Fess’ entrepreneurial spirit that prompted his leaving Hollywood to go into business for himself. The traits that Crockett and Boone embodied – integrity, resourcefulness and good humor — carried over to Fess’ personal life and formed the foundation upon which the family business was built. First-class hospitality has always been at the core of their ventures, first as hoteliers and eventually with the opening of the winery.
Working as a family has always been a great source of pride and pleasure for the Parker family. Eli Parker began in the family business as assistant winemaker in 1989. After several years of learning the craft at the side of renowned and accomplished winemakers, Eli took the reigns as winemaker himself with the 1995 vintage. A leader of the winery since it’s inception, it was in 1996 that Eli formally assumed the title and responsibilities of President. In the early 1990’s, Ashley ran the first tastings out of the barrel room and represented the winery at trade shows. In 1998, Ashley became Eli’s partner, working on the public relations and sales and marketing teams. The presence of Fess and his wife Marcy as the founding visionaries of the winery is a vital and enduring one.
About The Winemaker:
BLAIR FOX – Head Winemaker – Graduating from UC Davis in 1999 with a combined degree in Viticulture and Enology, Blair Fox gained winemaking experience at Sunstone Winery in the Santa Ynez Valley (1999-2001), and at Haselgrove Winery – a custom-crush winery in McLaren Vale, Australia (2003).
He also traveled through France’s Rhône Valley before returning to his hometown of Santa Barbara. He then joined Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard as Associate Winemaker, overseeing the Rhône varietal wines. Fox had previously consulted in the vineyard for the winery’s 2002 harvest.
“Having focused on the winery’s estate Syrah and Rhône varietal vineyards, I’m excited to add on the responsibility for Ashley’s and Bien Nacido vineyards and control the Burgundian part of our portfolio (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay),” said Fox. “The vineyards and clonal selection here are of such high quality, and the Parkers are a great family to work for.”
Fox continues the stylistic direction set by Eli Parker when capturing the terroir of the vineyards. He aims to continue raising the bar for the award-winning Fess Parker wines, such as the 2001 Rodney’s Vineyard Syrah (91pts, Wine Advocate), 2002 Bien Nacido Vineyard Pinot Noir (93pts, Wine Spectator), and 2001 American Tradition Reserve Syrah, (92pts, Wine Advocate).
Production: 125 Cases