2006 Syrah Noir, Cuveé Donnis
California: Mendocino County
What We Say
UNIQUE CLONE ALERT:
Today’s wine is a unique varietal that is rarely seen in this country. Syrah Noir is a close of Syrah that grows in the Northern Rhone, and is characterized by its unique fruit and aromatic profile. If you love Syrah, you’ll love this wine – and if you just love great wine, you’ll love this unique treat.
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Mission Codename: Smuggler’s Run
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Visit Topel Winery and acquire an allocation of their delicious signature wine, their unique and astonishingly delicious 2006 Syrah Noir.
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Topel Winery
Wine Subject: 2006 Cuvee Donnis Vineyard Syrah Noir
Winemaker: Mark Topel
Today’s wine is made from a unique clone of Syrah. Cuttings of today’s Syrah Noir was rumored to be smuggled from a famous vineyard in Northern Rhone, where the varietal hails from. Syrah Noir is characterized as being bold and fruit-rich, with bright flavors and a rich complexity. Grown on Topel’s mountainside vineyard in Mendocino, today’s wine thrives in the challenging soils and overall environment of the vineyard.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Dazzling translucent ruby, with perfect clarity, right through the darker heart of the wine. Color remains concentrated, right out to the rim of the glass. when swirled, the wine leaves behind wine-stained tears that begin high up on the inside of the glass – before they crawl slowly downward.
Smell – Bright and fruit-forward with medium intensity, this wine leads with gorgeous spiced fruit of cherry, red plum, huckleberry and bramble, with soft graphite, cedar shavings, clove and cinnamon.
Feel – Coating but lightweight, with a tip-drying entry that yields to a softness as the wine moves across the mid-palate. Plush, fine-grained tannins and a medium acidity give the wine a gorgeous and unique finish
Taste – Bright flavors of cherry, black cherry, plum, smoky cranberry and overripe blackberry lead the charge. These flavors are bold, but not over powering, and are lovingly followed by vanilla and soft oak, subtle dried meats and subtle spices of clove, cinnamon and black pepper.
Finish – Bold and bright, initially, then as the fruit slowly fades from tart to sweet, earthen flavors and spice are revealed and a soft dryness encroaches – beginning at the tip of the tongue and spreading all around the entire palate. At the very end, a flavor that reminds us of molasses persists.
Conclusion – The 2006 Topel Winery Cuvee Donnis Syrah Noir is a wine that is as delicious and captivating as it is unique. One sip and our entire tasting panel was won over by its balance and elegant character. This is a boldly flavored wine, but the boldness is tempered by bright fruit and beautiful fruit. The wine is very approachable and is sure to please any fan of Syrah. Here at Wine Spies HQ, I blind-tasted the wine with several other Agents; Most presumed the wine to be a delicious Syrah blend. I recommend this wine for any fan of great wine, and if you love to experience unique wines, then this wine come even more highly recommended! Let me know what you think of it…
My only recommendations with this wine are that you decant for at least an hour before enjoying, and that you experiment with sips of differing sizes. Extended decanting reveals more fruit and a softer feel, while trying different-sized sips delivers a wide array of drinking experiences. Try it and you’ll see exactly what I mean!
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: Mark Topel
DATE OF BIRTH: January 11, 1945
PLACE OF BIRTH: Chicago, Illinois
WINE EDUCATION: Self-taught. Audited courses at UC Davis, mentored by some of the finest CA winemakers who are good friends, and OJT.
CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Winemaker, Topel Winery 1996 – Present
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Minimal intrusion. Let the grapes express themselves.
SIGNATURE VARIETAL: Cabernet Sauvignon
CAREER HIGHLIGHT: Tremendous positive feedback from satisfied customers
WINEMAKER QUOTE: “Each vintage is like a new and unique poem—handcrafted and polished to perfection”
AGENT RED: Greetings, Mark. We are thrilled to be showing your exceptional 2006 Syrah Noir today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
MARK: 1962/63 Penfolds Grainge Hermitage, discovered while I was in Australia, trying a legal case.
RED: And where did you learn the most about winemaking?
MARK: From my co-winemakers whose families had been working with grapes from our area for five generations.
RED: What is your winemaking style or philosophy?
MARK: Minimal intrusion to allow the grapes to express themselves in the most profound manner possible.
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
MARK: Three; The aforementioned Penfolds Grainge Hermitage style, Harlan’s Red Table Wine—Merlot/Cabernet Blend, and Chuck Wagner’s Caymus Special Select.
RED: How long have you been making wine?
MARK: Since 1993
RED: Who do you make wine for?
MARK: Simply, ourselves and our customers
RED: What is one piece of advice that you would give to someone that is considering a career as a winemaker?
MARK: There are no shortcuts, no tricks, only hard work, long hours, and dedication to perfection.
RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today
MARK AND DONNIS: Our Syrah Noir is 100% of the Syrah Noir clone of Syrah. People sometimes think it’s a blend of Pinot Noir and Syrah, but that is wrong! This is a clone which was brought to the U.S. in the 1980’s from the Northern Rhone region of France. we love its concentrated flavors and inky appearance. You can almost chew it. Lucious on the palate and balanced for long life.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
MARK: Grilled lamb chops and pasta with pesto.
DONNIS: Braised short ribs, greens, and buttermilk mashed potatoes or creamy polenta!
RED:What is your favorite ‘everyday’ or table wine?
MARK: 2006 Topel Estate Blend
RED: We’ll have to feature that one, soon! How would you recommend that people approach your wines, or wine in general?
MARK: In a not-too-serious, but appreciative mode, reflecting an understanding that they are about to experience a very pleasurable product, which has resulted from lots of loving and joyful careful preparation.
RED: In your opinion, what makes the Hopland/Mendocino region so special?
MARK: We have a unique micro-climate in Southeast Mendocino. Very similar to Calistoga. Warm summer days with cool Summer nights.
DONNIS: And, our soil is challenging to the grapes, filled with iron and magnesium, which impart a Graves-like, minerally casing for the wine.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
MARK AND DONNIS: fine tuning our wines to increase and accentuate the natural flavors of each of our varietals. I do this by extended barrel aging. I am now convinced that extended barrel aging for Bordeaux and Rhone varietals is the key to great taste and concentration. The extra year or two in the barrel makes a huge difference.
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!
MARK AND DONNIS: Likewise, thank you for the opportunity to introduce new people to our wines!
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of Topel’s Healdsburg tasting room where today’s wine and other great wines can be tasted can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
About This Wine:
Dark, rich and sexy, this unique Syrah Noir wine is drenched with cherry and plum flavors, accented with leathery spice, spice cake and cinnamon. Its velvet texture yields an exquisite mouthfeel and the finish is sublime.
Vineyard Notes: Syrah Noir is a rare clone of Syrah that was first brought to California in the 1980s. The variety is highly sought for its inky, purple color and firm tannins. Our vines have a Northern Rhone pedigree from the world famous M. Chapoutier Winery. We planted them in our Estate Vineyards, carefully coaxing them to maturity in order to harvest enough in 2006 for our very first release of 100% Syrah Noir. This wine is a class act and really shows off its lineage.
Production Notes/Méthode: We harvested the grapes the second week of October and field crushed within 30 minutes of picking to retain the highest concentration of both flavor and color. The must was fermented for 20 days, using indigenous yeast. Temperatures were held below 30° Celsius and fermenters were hand-punched five times daily to maximize flavor and color extraction. We then pressed the wine into 50% new French oak barrels from Vosges and other oak barrels from the center of France (Demptos and Taransaud). The wine completed malolactic fermentation in April of 2007. We then aged the wine 31 months in oak before finally bottling in November of 2009. It was released in March, 2010.
About The Winery:
All Topel wines are lovingly handcrafted by Mark and Donnis, who employ minimalist techniques to transform simple grape juice into world-class wines that are robust, yet balanced and elegant — soulful wines that perfectly reflect the soil and climate of their origin.
At Topel Winery, the art of making wine begins within 15 minutes after the grapes are harvested, with a “field crush” right in the vineyard. The grapes are then transported immediately to the winery to begin their transformation into wine.
Topel Winery uses the highest quality fruit from our estate vineyards and from selected sites that grow grapes to our stringent standards, for making our different varietals.
Varietals: 100% Syrah Noir
Average Brix: 26.1