Alexander Valley Vineyards

2004 Alexander School Top of the Crop Reserve Syrah


California: Sonoma County: Alexander Valley

Offer Expired:Mar 16, 2011 at 11:59 pm
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Mission Codename: The Hungarian Gambit

Operative: Agent Red

Objective: Send Agent Red back to Alexander Valley Vineyard to secure a limited-quantity library reserve Syrah, for our deserving Operatives.

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Alexander Valley Vineyards

Wine Subject: 2004 Alexander School Top of the Crop Reserve Syrah

Winemaker: Kevin Hall


After a long hiatus, Alexander Valley Vineyards is back. They sell out of their wines, but Agent Red was granted private access to their library. He came back with a small allotment of AVV’s stellar 2004 Syrah, nicknamed “Big Barrel”, because of the 92 Gallon Hungarian oak Barrels that the wine is aged in.

Alexander Valley in northeast Sonoma County is located on the western side of the Mayacamas range and extends westward to the edge of the Russian River Valley. This appellation was formerly considered a part of Dry Creek Valley but became its own appellation in November 1984. The region is best known for exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot but recently people are starting to discover its Sangiovese, Nebbiolo and Chardonnay as well.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Warm earthy red, with hues of dark red plum skin, and a heart of dark garnet. When swirled, the wine shows some fine, natural sediment (dubbed “Floaty Bits” by our own Agent H) and skinny, wine-stained legs that start high on the glass, then slowly make their way downward.

Smell – Fragrant and perfumy, with sweet purple and red flowers, jammy cherry, blackberry Danish pastry, soft spice of cinnamon and clove, gentle cedar and a hint o subtle fresh fennel bulb.

Feel – Crushed velvet on entry, the wine quickly reveals a medium body. The wine coats the mouth and becomes grippy and softly drying with plush medium tannins. Bright acidity shines through on the rear palate where it slowly spreads forward, drying as it spreads.

Taste – Plummy and dark, with tart black cherry cider, overripe blackberry, red cherry, flaky blackberry pastry, vanilla and fresh herbs.

Finish – This wine finishes medium-long with bright plum and red cherry flavors that gradually yield to a spreading dryness that begins at the rear-palate and then spreads outward, eventually drying the cheeks, lips, tongue – and even the teeth!

Conclusion – The 2004 Alexander School Top of the Crop Reserve Syrah is a fantastic Syrah, crafted in a style that is uniquely Alexander Valley. There is no pronounced black pepper, as might be found in other California Syrah, and the wine shows red flavors instead of the mostly-black flavors that we are used to. With plenty of character and a plush mouth-feel, this wine is an intriguing wine that is worthy of your attention. I’d call this wine a Syrah for Pinot lovers, in that it has some of the textural properties of a more bold-styled Pinot Noir. With a bright acidity, this wine is an excellent pairing companion for most foods.

Mission Report:


SUBJECT: Kevin Hall

WINE EDUCATION: I have a Master’s Degree in Enology from the University of California at Davis.

CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: 13 years at AVV, 3 years at Sebastiani

WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Be passionate about wine and never take short cuts

WINEMAKER QUOTE: ”Don’t screw up the fruit.”



AGENT RED: Greetings, Kevin Hall. We are thrilled to be showing your 2004 Alexander School Reserve Syrah today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.

KEVIN HALL: Happy to be here.

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

KEVIN: My wife’s family was involved in the wine industry and it was a way to get closer to her.

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

KEVIN: I worked for a winemaker in New Zealand named Rod McDonald. His passion for wine was contagious.

RED: Who do you make wine for?

KEVIN: For our wine-loving customers

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

KEVIN: This wine has wonderful aromas and flavors of blackberry and boysenberry jam with hints of thyme and spice. Nicknamed “Big Barrel Syrah”, the wine was aged in large (92 gallon) French and Hungarian barrels. This techniques allows for the flavor of the fruit to dominate the wine instead of the oak from the barrel.

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

KEVIN: Anything from the grill, especially ribs.

RED: In your opinion, what makes the Alexander Valley so special?

KEVIN: The Alexander valley has extremely diverse soil types and the climate is a blend of coastal and inland influences. We can have temperature shifts of 50 degrees in the growing season wheich allows the grapes to ripen slowly.

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

KEVIN: Bottling!

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

KEVIN: Have fun and enjoy.

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 Alexander Valley Vineyards can be seen in this satellite photo.

What the Winery Says

Awards & Accolades:

Silver Medal Winner – Los Angeles International Wine & Spirits Competition

Silver Medal – 2007 Houston Rodeo Wine Competition

Bronze Medal – 2007 Sonoma Harvest Fair

About This Wine:

Around the winery, this reserve Syrah has been nicknamed “Big Barrel” for the enormous barrels that are used to age the wine. Borrowing on an old technique that is slowly becoming in vogue again, winemaker Kevin Hall ages this lush Syrah in 92 gallon barrels instead of the customary 60 gallon containers. That puts the oak in the background and allows the fruit of this hillside-grown Syrah to take centerstage.

The 2004 Alexander School Top of the Crop Syrah is 100 percent Syrah from hillside vineyards. Boysenberry and blackberry jam flavors dominate this inky-hued wine along with notes of violet, thyme and spice. The wine was aged in a combination of French and Hungarian oak with a third of the barrels new.

About The Winery:

Welcome to our family-owned wine estate, once the original homestead of Cyrus Alexander, the namesake of this prominent viticultural appellation, Alexander Valley. We purchased the land from the Alexander’s heirs in 1962, planted vineyards, and in 1975 built our winery. Here we grow grapes and produce delicious wines that complement food and enrich your dining experience.

Alexander Valley Vineyards is located on Highway 128 in northern Sonoma County, just 75 miles north of San Francisco, 6 miles from the sleepy town of Healdsburg and 16 miles from Calistoga in the Napa Valley.

Visit our historic property, taste our award-winning wines including our Estate Cabernet Sauvignon and our renowned Sin Zin, bring a picnic and enjoy beautiful vistas of our peaceful, rural valley. Our winery tasting room is open daily, 10am to 5pm.

About The Winemaker:

Kevin Hall has studied wine and winemaking techniques across the globe, but the AVV winemaker says his philosophy has always been to respect the inherent qualities of the estate grapes right at his doorstep. “I get beautiful fruit from here on the property,” he says, “and my main focus is to preserve the flavor of the varietal and the terroir.”

Kevin, who has a Masters of Science in Enology from the University of California–Davis, joined the winemaking staff at AVV in 1998. Before that, he spent a year exploring the world’s major wine regions with his wife Paula. “My wife’s family is from the Mosel region of Germany,” he says. “Her grandparents made wine and sold it to their village cooperative.” The pair worked at wineries in Bingen, Germany and Hastings, New Zealand. Between assignments, while traveling through Italy, Spain and all the major wine regions of France and Australia, they talked to as many winemakers as they could, learning key techniques that other winemakers used to produce their best wines.

Under his direction, Alexander Valley Vineyards has won numerous prestigious awards including Best of Show at both the Atlanta International Wine Competition and the Houston Rodeo International Wine Competition, Best Red Wine at the Eastern International Wine Competition and the Florida State Fair and Best Bordeaux Blend at the California State Fair.

Technical Analysis:

Alcohol: 14.0%

Appellation: Alexander Valley

Grape Varietal: Syrah

Cases Produced: 500

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