2005 Syrah, Flora Ranch Chalk Hill
Syrah •Flora Ranch Chalk Hill
California: Sonoma County
What We Say
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SUPERIOR WINE ALERT!
Best. Syrah. Ever? Perhaps! Today’s wine is so good that it deserves this special special alert.
Mission Codename: Jack London would be proud
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Continue to chase the elusive Jeff Gaffner, owner/winemaker for Saxon Brown, and secure one of his fabled wines
Mission Status: Accomplished – finally!
Current Winery: Saxon Brown
Wine Subject: 2005 Syrah
Winemaker: Jeff Gaffner
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 serious Syrah is a bold delight with original flavors, deep aromatics and a perfect mouth feel. Read Agent Red’s tasting notes and interesting mission report below
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Deep and inky Burgundy with a nearly black heart. The wine also has a pronounced snappy springiness to its surface that, when swirled, leaves behind slow-moving legs that crawl slowly down the glass
Smell – Beautifully aromatic with a rich blueberry, blackberry, black currant, dusky earth, lavender, dusty cocoa and smoky meats
Feel – A very unique and very pleasant heaviness up front, but not thick and syrupy. Rather, the wine feels cool and wet, but has an actual weight that exceeds that of other wines. The wine coats the mouth with great soft to medium all-over-mouth tannins
Taste – Delicious layers of flavors, including dark mixed berry, black cherry, black fig, dark chocolate-coated espresso beans, dark plum with dark bakers chocolate
Finish – Hugely Juicy and rich, mouth-coating, delicious and supple, with soft tannins and flavors that go on and on forever
Conclusion – What a great Syrah this wine is! With incredible flavors and a truly unique mouth feel, this wine is an uber-fun and ultra delicious treat that I can’t seem to stop sipping! Perhaps The Wine Spies need to create a Winemaker Hall of Fame for those really gifted winemakers, because Jeff Gaffner now holds a special spot as one of my favorites. If you love really great Syrah, please take my advice on this and pick up a case. You will not be disappointed at all. If you have never tried a Syrah and are interested in what a really great Syrah is like, you, too, must try this wine.
Jeff Gaffner is a veteran of winemaking, and also grape growing. The son of a Sonoma County grape grower Jeff has a special connection to the land where he grows and makes his wines. And the wines he makes are a direct expression of the site where the wine is grown.
As 2008 harvest draws to a close, I caught up with Jeff. He had just concluded the picking of his own fruit and as you read this transcript of our conversation of yesterday, Jeff is picking final fruit today.
What follows is a transcript of our brief discussion:
AGENT RED: Jeff!
JEFF GAFFNER: Hey, Red. I like the Peter Gunn theme music on your phone.
RED: Yeah. I get lot’s of compliments on that. How did harvest go?
JEFF: Well, the quality of the 2008 fruit is spectacular. Volumes are down by almost a third in some of our vineyards, but we’re really happy about the remaining fruit. The 2008 vintage could just be our best vintage ever.
RED: Reserve a few cases for our Operatives, will you?
RED: You’ve come a long way in your career. Now, with Saxon Brown, you’ve grown at a comfortable pace, from 210 cases to nearly 2000 this year.
JEFF: You’ve done your homework.
RED: Well, the first time we tasted your wines, we became big fans. You’ve just been a hard guy to track down. At least my persistence has paid off. This 2005 Syrah is nearly perfect and I think that it just could be the best I have tried all year.
JEFF: Thanks. Its a great wine. Northern Rhone in style, it has that dark fruit and smoked meat character.
RED: Grown up at the top of Chalk Hill in the Flora Vineyard, was this a a challenging wine to make?
JEFF: That vineyard is unique to the area and even to Chalk Hill. It sits in a big limestone bowl where the is a limited sun window and cool afternoon winds. The fruit comes off late each year as compared to the rest of Chalk Hill.
RED: Just like a Northern Rhone.
JEFF: Exactly. Growing grapes there is a challenge, but the result is very rewarding.
RED: The 2005 Syrah really is a stunner. I love it. Tell me, what sort of winemaker are you?
JEFF: I’m curious and analytical, I think that science certainly plays a key role – but there is an art to winemaking as well. I make wines that are specific to the site, and try to gather the site signature into each wine that I make. To a small producer like me, I think that I have a distinct advantage over larger wineries. With small vineyards and small lots, I get to pay a great deal of attention to each wine that I create. One day, I hope to be a great winemaker…
RED: I think that you’ve already arrived!
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the Chalk Hill area can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
“Winemaking must consume you, or your wines may not be worth consuming.” - Jeff Gaffner, Winemaker
Awards & Accolades:
“SIMPLY AMAZING” ~ Saxon Brown Featured as “Small Production Wines that Leave Big Impression” – Wall Street Journal
Winemaker’s Tasting Notes:
I really love how this wine evolves and changes as it breaths. First I get dark fruit with floral/lavender tones. After a time the wine goes to mocha dust, dark chocolate and roasted coffee beans. And after an hour or so it becomes even more amazing – with everything I want in a Syrah. Enjoy the trip, I did.
About The Vineyard:
Flora Ranch is tucked in a bowl shaped, southeast facing valley, that is shielded by the surrounding hills from much of the early morning and late afternoon sun. As a result of its abbreviated sun exposure, Flora Ranch has a cooler and longer growing season than is usual for the Chalk Hill area. The extra hang time results in grapes that ripen slowly and fully with flavors, sugars and acids maturing in unison. The chalky soils, as well as unique mix of clones and rootstocks, give us a complex and elegant Syrah.
Again I emphasize gentle handling and slow fermentations. We harvested our Flora Ranch Syrah, like all my wines, based on flavor and fruit condition, in the cool early morning hours. The must was cold soaked, yeasted with a low rate of yeast (for slow fermentation) and pressed at dryness . The wine was barreled down cloudy in new and one-year-old French oak barrels and aged for 11 months.
About The Winery:
Thank you for choosing Saxon Brown Wines. We are a small, Sonoma Valley winery, owned and operated by my wife and I and our two boys. We source grapes from our family’s century-old Casa Santinamaria Vineyard as well as from a handful of very special vineyard sites in Sonoma and Napa.
Saxon Brown exists because I love making wine. I love the art of it, the science of it and, most of all, the tradition of it. I continue to be fascinated by wine’s capacity for reflecting the subtlest of influences from the vineyard environment to the winemaker’s touch. Our grapes are nurtured in the vineyard throughout the year and hand harvested based upon touch, smell, taste and look — not numbers. In the cellar, we emphasize gentle handling, slow fermentations and (except in the case of our youthfully exuberant Semillon) lengthy aging to produce Zinfandel, Syrah and Pinot Noir that are unique for their elegance and longevity.
We hope you enjoy our site and look forward to the chance to meet and clink glasses with you personally.