Mahoney Vineyards

2005 Carneros Syrah

Syrah •Las Brisas Estate Vineyard

California: Napa Valley: Carneros

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Enjoy a spectacular double-header with this very unique and very delicious Carneros Syrah. We always feature the best wines we can find, but keep en eye out for special alerts like this one


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Mission Codename: Deep Cover

Operative: Agent Red

Objective: Return to Mahoney Vineyards, in California’s Carneros region. This time, recover their Tasting Room Only Syrah

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Mahoney Vineyards

Wine Subject: 2005 Carneros Syrah

Winemaker: Ken Foster

Backgrounder: The Carneros region, which straddles Napa and Sonoma Counties, is famous for producing incredible wines. Pinot Noir is usually the first thing that people think of when they hear Carneros, but, increasingly, the region is producing excpetional wines from other grape varietals. Today Agent Red returns to Mahoney to sweettalk them out of their tasting room only Syrah – and succeeds! Read Agent Red’s tasting profile and following mission report to learn what makes today’s wine so distinctive – and wonderful

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Deep garnet-to-burgundy in color, with a deep, inky heart and intense color concentration right to the edges of this wine. When swirled, this wine shows a tight surface that quickly settles quickly, leaving skinny legs that rocket down the glass

Smell – Deep, dark and dusky, this wine exhudes dark berries, black pepper, well-steeped black tea, dried earth and lavendar – with just a hint of salt

Feel – Very round at the front of the palate, then soft and slightly dry mid-palate – and finally, it dries your lips

TasteVery unique with initial dark flavors of nearly-burned cherry cobbler, smoky mixed dark berries, mild dried herbs and over-ripe plum. Swallow the wine and something unique happens: A big rush of salty licorice comes cascading across your palate!

Finish – Long and bold and big on flavor, this wine also has a unique secondary cascade of flavors that come rushing in once you finish your sip. After that, primary and secondary flavors linger on for a long time

Conclusion – What in interesting and complex wine this is! Big, bold, rich and delicious, this Syrah is unlike any I have tasted before. It is certainly a Syrah and it possesses the fine-Syrah characteristics that you would expect, but this wine delivers way more. Its aromas and mouth-feel are fantastic and the flavors – and follow-on flavors are very original and very pleasurable.

Mission Report:

The last time we featured a Mahoney Wine here (you didn’t miss out, did you?) it was from their Haire Vineyards. Our Operatives loved the original mission report so much that we are sharing with you again here

We are NOT selling the wine referred to in the following mission recap:

I make no bones about it, I sometimes find Agent White’s discussions on upgrading our W.I.N.E. (Wine Internet Nexus Engine) system, frightfully boring. The W.I.N.E. system is our proprietary and top secret system that, in simple terms, assists us in finding superior wines for our Operatives.

Making my way to the computer lab, I took a deep breath and braced myself for another of Agent White’s endless soliloquys.

Agent White was grinning widely. A bad sign to be sure.

“Ready to begin?” he asked.

“Uh, sure,” I lied.

“I’ve been working on a new algorithm that will make it easier to determine the likelihood that future vintages of particular wines will be better than previous vintages.”

“Wonderful,” I said. “Sounds great! Let me know know how that turns out.”

“Let S be any finite set, ƒ be any function from S to itself, and x0 be any element of S. For any i > 0, let xi = ƒ(xi−1). Let μ be the smallest index such that the value xμ reappears infinitely often within the sequence of values xi, and let λ (the loop length) be the smallest positive integer such that xμ = xλ+μ. The cycle detection problem is the task of finding λ and μ.”

I blinked at him, suddenly realizing that the blank expression on my face probably revealed my disinterest.

He went on: "I call this my Tortoise and the hare algorithm.

‘Hare’… ‘hare’… That reminded me of a well-regarded vineyard I had recently heard of, Haire Vineyard.

Perking up, I grabbed my spy-handheld and, pretending to take notes as Agent White droned happily on. I punched in “Haire Vineyard” and set the Nexus to work. In an instant, a few wines and wineries were revealed. I narrowed my search based on my own favorite search criteria and was presented with a single result:

Mahoney Vineyards. 2004. Carneros Pinot Noir. Haire Vineyard.

As I read about the wine, I nodded and made “mmm, hmmm” sounds. The wine seemed fascinating and I logged a mission request with HQ.

I’ll spare you the rest of Agent White’s discourse. Needless to say, if it hadn’t been for his lecture, I never would have found today’s really superb Pinot Noir.

The Carneros region has consistently wowed me with its quality wine production – particularly Pinot production. Today’s wine is a beautiful example of delicious Carneros Pinot.

Wine Spies Winery Check:

You can taste Mahoney wines at Oxbow in Napa, California, which is shown in this satellite photo.

What the Winery Says

About This Wine:

This Syrah comes from hillside vines on southwestern-facing slopes across from our winery. This area allows full ripening even in our cool climate. The exposure produces rich, supple wines with dark berry fruit while retaining the signature pepper notes found in classic Rhone wines. This midnight-black wine offers elaborate and inviting aromas of blackberry, black tea and lavender. The very rich and complex finish has a lush mouth feel that will continue to develop in bottle. Very limited production.

About The Winery:

Mahoney Vineyards is the culmination of 35 years of experience growing and producing wines in the Carneros region spanning the cool southern reaches of the Napa and Sonoma Valleys. Francis and Kathy Mahoney invite you to enjoy the uniqueness of their wines, carefully crafted in small quantities from the very best of their 160 acres of estate vineyards.

About The Founders:

Armed with the enthusiasm of a 25-year-old and confidence in California’s potential to make world-class wines, Francis Mahoney set out in 1971 with his bride, Kathy, to grow Pinot Noir and make wines that would rival red Burgundies. Undaunted by Pinot Noir’s reputation as a difficult grape to grow and vinify, Francis accepted the challenge.

He researched the elements linked with great French Pinot Noirs, noting that the Burgundians were captivated by the concept of terroir, the combined influence of climate and place on a wine. Francis found an area similar to Burgundy in Los Carneros, the appellation which lies across the southernmost portions of the Napa and Sonoma Valleys. Often obscured by fog and swept by breezes from San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean, Carneros offered cool year-round temperatures ideal for growing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Francis planted Pinot Noir and began 30 years of clonal trials to better understand some of the hundreds of clonal variations of the variety. In 1972, he built a small, functional winery and set about using his best tool, a palate honed in the cellars of Burgundy during his tenure as a wine importer. The profile of superb Pinot Noir remained always in his memory, now expressed in the wines of Mahoney Vineyards. Click here to read more about Mahoney or view a timeline of his career.

About The Winemaker:

Francis Mahoney appointed Ken Foster, veteran Pinot Noir winemaker, to oversee production at Mahoney Vineyards in June, 2002. The winemaker/production manager from David Bruce winery in California’s Santa Cruz Mountains, Foster had been making wine there for 15 years, helping change the focus of the winery from Chardonnay to Pinot Noir, Petite Sirah and Zinfandel. Ken focused on small-lot production, emphasizing gentle handling and separation of small wine lots for potential vineyard designate as well as appellation-labeled wines.

Foster’s hiring further strengthened Mahoney’s Pinot Noir program and wine quality enhancements instituted by previous winemaker, Scott Rich, including use of small, open-top fermenters, new oak barrel regimes and small-lot processing. “Ken is the perfect person to drive our quality to new heights,” Francis remarked. “He brings a wide range of experience and a commitment to exceptional winemaking.”

Foster joined David Bruce in 1987 to work crush after undergraduate studies in geology sparked his interest in translating the qualities of a particular site into wine. During his tenure, he gained experience with Pinot Noir drawn from fifty different vineyards and a dozen appellations. “At Mahoney, it’s great to have vineyards within a 15-minute drive of the winery so I can stay on top of grapes as they develop. I also can draw on Francis’s rich history – his pioneering clonal trials and his more than three decades of experience.”

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