What We Say 2005 Syrah Sélectionné
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Mission Codename: The Long Haul
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: After a protracted surveillance, Agent Red must secure an allotment of wine from fabled Paso Robles winery, Edward Sellers. If he fails, Agent Red will be subject to disciplinary action. Again.
Mission Status: Accomplished
Current Winery: Edward Sellers Vineyards & Wines
Wine Subject: 2005 Syrah Sélectionné Paso Robles
Winemaker: Edward Sellers
Backgrounder: Agent Red has had Edward Sellers under surveillance for nearly three years. The winery, which had always sold out of its wines, was finally convinced to allow The Wine Spies unprecedented access to a small quantity of today’s very special wine, a 90-point, Double Gold, award winning Syrah from Edward Sellers.
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 Northern 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 Paso Robles delight with rich, delicious flavors, deep aromatics and a perfect mouth feel. Read Agent Red’s tasting notes and mission report below.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Intensely dark purple with lighter violet-hued edges. Crooked legs take a long time to emerge when swirled. When they finally do show up, the march slowly down the glass in tight columns
Smell – Pronounced ripe blackberry, black cherry, and smoky blueberry mingle with dark leather, dark chocolate, espresso grounds, pepper and dried herbs
Feel – Lush and complex on entry, then drying and grippy on the tip of the tongue. After a moment, the tannins dig in further, spreading a soft dryness across the entire palate as peppery minerals coat the mouth
Taste – Concentrated layers of dark mixed berries, smoky dark cherry, chocolate and dark herbs, with soft oak. These are followed by hints of leather, mild tobacco and black pepper, with a subtle hint of dried meat
Finish – Evolving and long-lingering, this wine starts with a dark minerality that dries the mouth. After a few moments, dark fruit returns and flavors spread around the entire mouth
Conclusion – This is a deep and dark Syrah that reminds us of the best that the northern Rhone has to offer. Dark, rich and concentrated, this wine delivers a complex rush of aromatics and bold flavors. Paso Robles wines are often characterized as being big, rich, concentrated bombers. In the best possible ways, this wine is all of those things – and much more. There is finesse and complexity present in this wine that we don’t usually fine in Syrah of the region. My three year hunt for a great Edward Sellers wine has finally paid off for our Operatives today. Lovers of great Syrah are certain to be very pleased.
Please note: At the start of this feature, there were only 30 cases of this wine remaining. Enjoy!
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: Amy Butler
DATE OF BIRTH: 10/75
PLACE OF BIRTH: Ridgecrest, California
WINE EDUCATION: Officially, UC Davis. Realistically, ongoing.
CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Napa Valley right out of school, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, then Schramsberg, then to Paso Robles, where anything was possible.
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Restraint. Even the most robust wines should show elegance and balance.
SIGNATURE VARIETAL: Rhones! All of them!
CAREER HIGHLIGHT: Initially, learning to make sparkling wine, when I was at Schramsberg, was super exciting. Trying to imagine what a given Chardonnay juice will be like after a second fermentation and three years of bottle age… challenging. And fun. They told me, “if you can make sparkling wine, you can make anything.”
CAREER HIGHLIGHT: Launching the brand with Edward Sellers. The opportunity to create a style, a collection of wines, a signature blend — to steer, in that way, the philosophy of the company, is really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity
WINEMAKER QUOTE: This smells like sweaty pool boy. I like it! Or, more seriously, the thing about restraint, above.
AGENT RED: Greetings, Amy. It took me a long time to secure one of your wines. I am glad that I persisted! I have to say that I am thrilled to be showing your wine today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
AMY: Thanks for having me! What’s with the trench coat?
RED: It helps me to keep my cover! Tell me, was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
AMY: Not an experience, really…a person. My mom. She’s not a wine guru or anything, she just really enjoys wine. Actually, just recently, I told her she wasn’t allowed to buy $6.99 wine anymore. (Graduate already, Mom!) And from a small age she taught me about the joys of wine and food.
RED: And where did you learn the most about winemaking?
AMY: I really learned a lot from Hugh and the guys at Schramsberg, but then when I came to Paso Robles it was a whole new ball game, sort of, making Rhones for the first time. I’m comfortable with my competence, but I have to say I’m still learning, always trying new things and checking out new vineyards. It’s really fun here, because we’re a relatively new region and we’re still trying to figure out what works.
RED: What is your winemaking style or philosophy?
AMY: It is a style, and I’m glad you said that. I always sort of think that the word “philosophy” is a bit too strong for what we’re doing in the vineyard and cellar. It’s not a religion, after all! Stylistically, I guess it’s true to say that I’m trying to express what the fruit has to offer, but it’s also true that I have a clear vision of where I want the wine to go before I even have the grapes in the winery. I’m not super manipulative; I think the single most important decision I can make to that end is when to pick the grapes. That balance of acid and sugar is so crucial, and I’m really turned off by overripe flavors. When I do intervene, it’s always with the intention of enhancing the fruit character, whether it’s my choice of oak (I’m not shy about oak), the saignee for added concentration, lees stirring, or whatever.
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
AMY: Well, I can’t say really. I taste a lot of wines and most of the ones I like come from cooler climates than Paso Robles. Or the actual Rhone Valley! I’m nutty about Viognier, but I’ve scarcely run across a California one that I like. I want mine to have that mineral thing, you know? Anyway, not to be overly self-aggrandizing, but nobody else in this region is really doing what I’m doing. For most of the winemakers (who are, I feel it’s a good time to mention, men) the game is about making the biggest, ripest wine you can. And that’s not really me. However, I am grateful for and proud of the support I’ve had from other Paso Robles winemakers, who profess to enjoy what I’m doing and who have actually been seen drinking my wines!
RED: How long have you been making wine?
AMY: 2009 was my 14th harvest. I had to count on my toes. I had lost track.
RED: Who do you make wine for?
AMY: I make wine for real people to drink, especially during the most joyful or relaxed times in their lives: the great meals, the celebrations, the back porch in Spring. I love hearing from our fans about where, and when, and with whom, and with what food they enjoyed the wines I made. It makes me feel like I’m really giving them something intangible, beyond just the juice in the bottle.
RED: Tell me, what makes Paso Robles so special?
AMY: Paso Robles is just fantastic. I moved here in 2002 from Napa with no job lined up or anything, I just wanted to be here. I like how it is such a tight-knit community, and so much about wine. Everybody makes wine. The neighbor kids’ teacher makes wine. The guy who works on my car makes wine. Everyone is just so charged up about what’s going on in Paso right now. We’re having a huge quality revolution, and we just can’t get enough of patting each other on the back. It’s truly a world-class wine region, but it has the attitude of a laid-back country town.
RED: What is one piece of advice that you would give to someone that is considering a career as a winemaker?
AMY: Learn to run in galoshes. And taste, taste, taste.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
AMY: Topping. It seems like it never ends…but it’s got to be done. Actually it’s OK, because it gives me a chance to see what’s going on with every single barrel. And I’ve been listening to Merle Haggard while I do it. And it’s raining outside anyway.
RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today
AMY: This is the 2005 Syrah Selectionnee. It’s a blend of the best barrels from five of my favorite Westside Paso Robles vineyards, including Starr Ranch and Eastin Ranch, from which we also make vineyard designate wines. Paso just grows incredible Syrah. It’s concentrated, has amazing fruit characters, but it also has this cool earthy thing that I like to think of as a combination of freshly trodden forest floor and warm asphalt. A little bit of country and a little bit of city. This wine won five gold medals at various competitions, and I’m proud of that. I think it’s an excellent expression of the varietal.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
AMY: Well, leading up to the Agent Red feature, I’ve been drinking this wine quite a bit. At Christmas we had the 05 Syrah Selectionnee with prime rib. It was a magic pairing. Still, just the other night I had it with burgers. Well, they were amazing burgers…grass-fed beef, sauteed mushrooms, Gruyere. I really like the pairing of Syrah with mushrooms.
RED: Please share one thing about yourself that few people know
AMY: I LOVE CHARDONNAY!
RED: What is your favorite ‘everyday’ or table wine?
AMY: Well, at Edward Sellers we made this cool, lower-priced Syrah that’s tank-aged with oak chips. It comes in a screwcap, is a fruit bomb, and is absolutely luscious and perfect as an everyday wine. I drink a lot of that. Mostly, though, I’m a white wine girl. I’m always looking for that value-priced Chardonnay with searing acidity. (I’m usually disappointed. Any suggestions?)
RED: How would you recommend that people approach your wines, or wine in general?
AMY: Fearlessly. Trust your own palate. Don’t be tempted to go with what the reviewer says. He’s not you. I want people to stop saying things like “but I don’t really know what I’m tasting…” If you like it, you like it. Don’t second-guess yourself.
RED: If you could choose any one wine to drink (regardless of price or availability), what would it be?
AMY: White Burgundy, all the time, every day. Specifically, Bonneau du Martray Corton-Charlemagne. And I would never stop. You’d have to carry me around.
RED: What is the one question that I should have asked you, and what is your answer to that question?
AMY: You’ve pretty much covered it, I think. What most journalists ask me is, “what’s it like being a woman winemaker?” and I usually say something like, “it’s probably a lot like being a winemaker.”
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!
AMY: Thank you so much for featuring this Syrah! I hope to talk to you again, soon.
What the Winery Says
Edward Sellers Vineyards and Wines
Awards & Accolades:
Double Gold Medal – 2008 Monterey Wine Competition
Gold Medal – 2008 Los Angeles International Wine Competition
Gold Medal – 2008 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition
Gold Medal – 2008 Dallas Morning News Wine Competition
About This Wine:
Each year we make Syrah from some of the finest vineyards on Paso Robles’ famed Westside. To create this wine, we selected the very best barrels from six different vineyard lots, blending them to showcase the finer points of each vineyard. The resulting Syrah is intensely concentrated yet elegant, with remarkable balance and a long, firm finish.
Showing a concentrated garnet color, the Syrah Sélectionné truly embodies the best of Paso Robles Syrah. Bursting with jam-like fruit, the nose is reminiscent of perfectly ripened red currant and blackberry balanced by a loamy, woodsy quality. Soft yet well-structured on the palate, this wine can easily be enjoyed upon release, but will stand up to cellar aging for at least another decade.
About The Winery:
The intricately designed 32-point compass rose is a symbol found on Old World maps and every bottle of Edward Sellers Vineyards & Wines. The compass was chosen when Ed Sellers, a passionate entrepreneur, sailor, and pilot, set a new course for himself and started a 30-acre vineyard and artisan winery on the Westside of Paso Robles.
Ed and his wife Dani discovered the booming farm community of Paso Robles, California in 2003 and instantly fell in love. “It’s Napa 30 years ago!” Ed exclaimed. As Rhône varietal enthusiasts, the couple was particularly inspired when they learned that the growing conditions of the area closely resemble those of southeastern France. More specifically, they purchased land in the Templeton Gap corridor, which provides rocky soils and a microclimate that is cooled by breezes created by the Santa Lucia Coastal Mountain Range and the Pacific Ocean. The days are clear and sunny, with temperatures often reaching into the high 90s. But mist rolls in through the mountain pass by late afternoon, and temperatures drop as much as 40 degrees. This fluctuation is critical to attain the intense flavors in the estate’s Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Roussanne, Marsanne, and Grenache Blanc.
In 2004, Winemaker Amy Butler was drawn to Paso Robles too. After spending several years in the Napa Valley at Stag’s Leap Cellars and Schramsberg, she decided to make a move, just as Ed and Dani began their search for a winemaker. She still marvels at the potential of the region. “As far as I’m concerned, Rhône varietals are Paso’s best,” Amy says. “They love the hot days and cool nights, and they make wines of such personality. My favorite part of the process is the blending, when each part of the picture comes together to make a distinctive and beautiful wine.”
“Distinctive” and “beautiful” are just two fitting adjectives for the small lot wines in the winery’s portfolio. “Popular” and “praiseworthy” are two more. In fact, Edward Sellers Vineyards & Wines was listed in the March 2009 issue of Wine Spectator on the list of “10 Emerging California Rhône Producers”. The wines have also received the attention of leading wine critics, including Robert Parker, who recently lauded four Edward Sellers wines. He gave the 2007 Cognito (a blend of Mourvèdre, Syrah, Zinfandel, and Grenache) 90 points, calling it a “head turner.” The 2007 Vertigo (a blend of Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Syrah) also received 90 points, the 2007 Blanc du Rhône, (a blend of Roussanne, Marsanne, and Viognier) earned 88 points, and the 2007 Cuvée des Cinq (a blend of Mourvèdre, Syrah, Grenache, Counoise, and Cinsault), which Robert describes as “seductive,” received 90 points.
As anyone visiting the Edward Sellers Vineyards & Wines tasting room in downtown Paso Robles will discover, Rhône-style grapes have taken well to the growing conditions of Paso Robles. And Ed and Dani, Amy, Kendall, and the rest of the crew have taken well to the business of growing fine artisan wines.
Blend: 100% Syrah
Appellation: Paso Robles
T.A.: 5.8 g/L
Cooperage: 100% French Oak, 71% New
Bottle Date: April 2007
Release Date: November 15th 2007
Production: 875 Cases