The 2013 Syrah is a blend of the Papa’s Block and the Steiner Vineyard Syrahs that had been bottled singularly in the past. Deep and rich, with an opaque purple color, it offers up notes of pen ink, blackberries, roasted meats and lard. This big, rich, chunky, succulent Syrah (870 cases produced) should drink nicely for a decade or more. One of the great success stories in Northern California is the genesis of Carlisle Winery, whose owner, Mike Officer, began as a wine hobbiest / software developer and grew into a full-time wine producer who has done more to save head-pruned, old-vine Zinfandel vineyards than anyone else in the United States. He built his reputation on full-flavored red wines and continues to fine-tune these beauties, often field blends of what are generically referred to as “mixed blacks” planted primarily by Italian immigrants prior to Prohibition.
The 2013 Syrah is one of the real overachievers in this range. Mike Officer did not think his flagship Papa's Block Syrah was good enough to be bottled on its own, so it was blended with a parcel of Sonoma Mountain fruit for this year's Syrah. Dark red cherry, plum, smoke and licorice all jump from the glass in a plump, extroverted Syrah to drink while the fruit retains its juiciness. Hints of lavender, violets, mint and dark spices wrap around the finish. I am not sure I have met a winery owner quite like Mike Officer before. Of course, Officer is well-known for his advocacy of California's heritage vineyards, but his dedication to delivering value to the end consumer is just as noteworthy. All of that is served up with a giddy, boyish enthusiasm that is reflected in rich, powerful wines that highlight the essence of a number of Sonoma's best vineyards. I tasted all of these wines with Officer and longtime winemaker Jay Maddox from barrel prior to bottling. Maddox describes 2013 as a year with no shock weather events such as frost or heat wave. Weather at set was good, and the main challenge was managing the crop load. Harvest was earlier than normal. In response to the fruit that came in, Maddox opted for lower temperatures in fermentation and fewer punch downs. Unfortunately I was not able to taste the Petite Sirah and James Berry Syrah, both of which were being fined in preparation for bottling.
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