James Family Cellars
2009 Dry Creek Valley Syrah
Syrah •Mounts Vineyard
California: Sonoma County: Dry Creek Valley
What We Say
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Mission Codename: The Ascent of Mount James
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Return to Operative favorite, James Family Cellars, secure their latest Mounts Vineyard Syrah, a wine that we have featured in past vintages. Secure an ample allotment of this wine for our Syrah-loving Operatives.
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: James Family Cellars
Wine Subject: 2009 Syrah – Mounts Vineyard – Dry Creek Valley
Winemaker: Mat Gustafson
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 delightful Syrah is a bold delight with original flavors, deep aromatics and a ultra-fine mouth feel.
Today’s Syrah hails from the Mounts Vineyard is Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley. The Dry Creek Valley across the Russian River from Alexander Valley has a generally cooler and wetter climate which makes the growing season longer and more flexible than neighboring appellations.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Iridescent dark plum, with perfect clarity through its dark purple core. At the edge, a skinny ring of dark pink encircles the wine. After swirling, tall, skinny, wine -stained tears start high up on the glass, and then run quickly downward.
Smell – Sweet, jammy blackberry and blueberry launch from the glass and into your soul! These sweet aromas are joined by dark strawberry preserves, subtle dried meat, sweet spice, fresh fennel and milk chocolate.
Feel – Soft and round on the attack. Then, quickly, the wine becomes weighty and sturdy, revealing a complex texture that is supported by plush tannins and a sweet, bright acidity.
Taste – Sweet dark mixed berries, black cherry and wild plums are perfectly integrated with earthen dried leaves, dried black tea leaf, kola nut and sweet dark spice.
Finish – Ultra-long and flavor-filled, with jammy fruit, earthy minerals, sweet spice and soft dried fall leaves with a hint of black pepper at the end.
Conclusion – This wine represents the potent pairing of James Family Cellars with Mounts Family Vineyards fruit. We’ve been featuring wines from both, for nearly the last five years, and we love them both – very much. Today’s wine is deep and delicious, with dark fruit that sings its aromatic magic and dances on the palate. Loaded with plenty of dark character, this complex and delicious wine is beautifully balanced, with a sweet acidity that lends it to fine pairing. Delicious with food or without, we enjoyed our review bottles with a perfectly rare, garlic-rubbed, grilled Filet Mignon. This 2009 James Family Syrah gets our big Wine Spies recommendation!
* GRAPE GROWER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER*
SUBJECT: Jeff James
FARMING EDUCATION: U.C. Davis – Agricultural Science & Management degree
CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF:
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Start with good grapes, then don’t mess them up.
GRAPE GROWER QUOTE: “You want to know how to make a small fortune in farming?… you start with a large fortune.”
FIRST HARVEST AT STONY POINT VINEYARD: September, 2000
WINERY OWNER INTERVIEW
AGENT RED: Greetings, Jeff. It’s great to be showcasing your wine again. We are thrilled to be showing your latest Syrah today. Our Operatives really loved your 2008, and I am certain that they’ll fall in love with your 2009! Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
JEFF JAMES: Thank you so much. We’re happy to have the fruits of our labors on display.
RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
JEFF: My friends at U.C. Davis would occasionally bring the wines that they were making from their vineyards at home. Some were really good… some were not.
RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.
JEFF: Our ’09 Mounts Vineyard Syrah is a definitive, and delicious, representation of the fruit that our long-time friends, the Mounts family, grow in Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley. As with all of our James Family Cellars wines, the winemaking was designed to support, not overshadow, the great grapes that we started with. I believe we found that balance with this wine.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
JEFF: We are discovering new pairings, all the time, but this wine pairs particularly well with lasagna, grilled lamb with a blueberry/syrah reduction sauce, and essentially every cut of barbequed beef and pork that we tried it with when we were pouring our wine at a sanctioned barbeque competition last weekend.
RED: In your opinion, what makes the Dry Creek Valley so special?
JEFF: The Dry Creek Valley has a wonderful combination of climate and soil that is ideal for ripening Syrah (and, of course, Zinfandel) which allows us to craft these deep, luscious wines.
RED: What is occupying your time in the vineyard these days?
JEFF: We have just been getting things organized and ready for this year’s delayed crush. The very mild weather we’ve had in Sonoma County this summer has delayed the harvest, but looks like it will be producing uncommonly flavorful grapes. I think we’re going to have fairly small quantities of very, very good wine this year.
RED: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
JEFF: The next time you enjoy a glass of wine or a bite of food, try to remember to honor the farmer that produced it for you. Cheers!
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 James Family Cellars can be seen in this satellite photo.
The location of the Mounts Family Vineyard, where today’s wine was born, can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
About This Wine:
Bright hints of strawberry and plum rise up to entice your senses as you smell this wine. Your first taste is reminiscent of strawberry rhubarb pie with a hint of spiciness… and cherries. Is there such a thing as cherry-strawberry rhubarb pie? That’s what this delicious wine reminds us of. This zinfandel remains bright on the palate and isn’t handicapped by the high alcohol levels that some of its peers have become known for. A nice, balanced finish leaves you with a pleasant reminder of the tart cherry that rounded out this delightfully food-friendly wine. Only 75 cases produced!
About The Winery:
Owners Jeff and Judy James, along with their two sons who are 4th generation Sonoma County agriculturalists, founded James Family Cellars. James Family Cellars is a family-owned boutique winery that is dedicated to the production of artisinal wines that showcase the world-class grapes that they grow. Jeff and Judy planted their vineyard in 1998. They have been selling grapes for many years to premium wineries in Sonoma and Napa Counties. After winning several awards for the amateur wines they produced from their grapes, they decided in 2007 to follow their dreams and start James Family Cellars. Jeff and Judy are committed to the highest quality, which is reflected in the limited number of cases released.
James Family Cellars is dedicated to reaching the pinnacle of what Pinot Noir can be—a marvelously aromatic and flavorful wine. We are committed to quality and this is reflected in the limited number of cases released.
This is a family enterprise, involving our two sons and other family members. We are all involved and dedicated to the same goals. We enjoy being part of our region’s agricultural and wine businesses and strive to always produce wines which delight our customers.
Single Vineyard Pinot Noir:
From the vineyard to the cellar, our goal is to craft wines that are a delight to drink and a distinct expression of our vineyard. This ensures that our site’s singular “fingerprint” is revealed in the wine that we ultimately present to our customers.
Location and Climate – Stony Point Vineyard, our home site on which our James Family Cellars Zinfandel is grown, is situated on a gently sloping parcel of nearly 10 acres in the rolling hills of western Sonoma County. The region’s cool maritime climate is balanced by our vineyard’s south facing exposure, providing us with ultimate hang time. As a result, our grapes ripen slowly and evenly with tremendous balance of sugar, acid and flavors.
Design and Farming – Our vineyard’s specific row orientation, which mirrors the slope of the land, maximizes sunlight exposure, maintains natural soil profiles and provides us with better access to the vines for lower impact farming. In partnership with our vineyard managers, Steve and Joe Dutton, we practice a variety of sustainable farming techniques aimed at maximizing vine health and fruit quality. Canopy management is critical for proper sun exposure, while leaf pulling maintains open air flow and reduces the need for spraying. Crop thinning throughout the growing season concentrates flavors and ensures full ripening. Since we are located within the Russian River watershed, we are committed to fish friendly farming practices including the use of cover crops, drip irrigation and alternate row tilling to prevent erosion and run off.
Sustainable Farming – Sustainable agriculture is an alternative system of farming based upon resource conservation and quality of life to the surrounding environment and its inhabitants. The three most common indicators that appear in definitions of sustainable agriculture are: environmentally sound, economically viable, and socially acceptable. In this context, sustainable agriculture embraces all agricultural systems striving to meet these criteria. Such practices require a high degree of management of biological resources, and a firm commitment to long-term sustainable growth.
Vineyard: Mounts Vineyard
Appellation: Dry Creek Valley
Winemaker: Terry Adams