2006 Zaca Mesa Syrah – $15.67
This is generally a good California Syrah at a wallet friendly price. In some vintages it seems to have that little something extra that propels it to the next level. In my opinion, 2006 was one of those years. I bought a half case of this from my local store and after killing two bottles fairly quickly, I’ve been showing some unusual restraint. Even with the restraint, I’ll only have one bottle left after popping this one. I have the 2007 in the cellar, but based on the one bottle I had upon release, it dropped back into the merely good category.
The original property was purchased in 1972 by a group of friends and they started planting the vineyard in 1973. With few other vineyards in the area to learn from, the vineyard was originally planted with numerous varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Grenache, Chardonnay, and Syrah to see what would work.
As the vineyard came into production, a winery was built on the property in 1978 and later expanded in 1981. 1978 was another milestone for Zaca Mesa, planting the first Syrah in Santa BarbaraCounty.
By the early-1990’s, we had determined based on our farming experience that the Rhône varieties (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Viognier, and Roussanne) grew best on our property.
As one of the pioneers in the Santa BarbaraCounty, Zaca Mesa was a training ground for many. Ken Brown was our first winemaker and later started Byron in Santa MariaValley. Adam Tolmach, Jim Clendenen and Bob Lindquist worked at Zaca Mesa before venturing out on their own to start Ojai, Au Bon Climat and Qupé, respectively.
Zaca Mesa was the first CentralCoast winery to appear in Wine Spectator’s Top 10 back in 1995. A year later, our Syrah was served by President Clinton to French President Jacque Chirac at a White House State Dinner. To show that we are not leaning one direction, our wines were also served at President Reagan’s 80th birthday party at the Beverly Hilton.
Since 1997, we have focused on growing the best Syrah, Viognier, and other Rhône varieties. We have ripped up over half the original vines, replacing them with high-density planting of new rootstock and clone combinations that has significantly improved our quality. We now have 9 clones of syrah and the most high density vineyard acres in the county.
Over time the ownership group diminished to one of the original partners. Zaca Mesa has been family owned for almost 25 years.
My Tasting Note
The wine is a deep, dark maroon color. The outstanding nose has blackberries, licorice, smoked meat, black pepper, vanilla, plums, violets, dried herbs, and a bit of dark chocolate. This is fairly full bodied with solid tannins and very nice acidity. On the palate the peppery berries lead the way with some chocolaty oak and dried herbs in the background adding depth and complexity. The finish features nice fruit leading to dark chocolate and dried herbs, but it could be a touch longer. An outstanding week night Syrah for well under $20. (90 pts)
2005 Frenchman Hills Syrah Sentinel Gap Vineyards – $7.99
This was a blind purchase, which I usually avoid. This was one of the infamous Garagiste Mystery Wines from an offer at the end of August. For those keeping score, this was Mystery Wine #50, a Washington State Syrah for $7.99 a bottle.
My expectations were low, this was ordered just to fill one last case before shipping season. After receiving the wine, my expectations were raised considerably. The average price paid on CellarTracker was close to $30 and the two notes didn’t sound too bad.
Not much information available on the internet about the winery.
My Tasting Note
The wine is a deep maroon color. The nose is a bit shy but reveals blackberry, licorice, dried herbs, black pepper, and a touch of dark chocolate. This has medium to full body with fairly solid tannins and very nice acidity. Nice spicy, peppery berries greet the palate in a laid back style. This is not a big, ripe, fruit forward, fruit bomb, This is fairly elegant and nuanced, perfectly concealing its 15% alcohol. The finish has nice length and shows a bit more fruit than the savory elements. A solid bottle of wine for those who jumped on the Garagiste Mystery Wine offer. A steal at $8. (88 pts)
2006 Vincent Arroyo Bodega – $19.99
I’ve been a long time supporter and buyer of the wines from Vincent Arroyo. This wine is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Malbec, 6% Petit Verdot, and 4% Merlot.
Walking into the Vincent Arroyo Winery, one gets the sense that it has been here forever. Is it just the comfortable atmosphere of a big barn full of oak wine barrels that lends to the sense of permanence? Vincent Arroyo, himself, may feel like he has been here forever, as well. He left behind a career as a mechanical engineer in the Silicon Valley during the early 70’s and headed to Calistoga, at the northern tip of the NapaValley. He felt much more at home close to the land, being able to see and taste the fruits of his labors.
The purchase of the 23 acres of the Greenwood Ranch property in 1974 began the evolution of what is seen today, 85 acres cultivating 9 different wine grape varietals. Vince has always been a farmer at heart, taking care of the land to produce the best that it can. He began to transform the Greenwood Ranch by ripping out existing prune trees and unhealthy vines and planting new vineyards. For many years, he did it all alone, the tractor work, cellar work and a one-man sales force. Originally he made just a few hundred cases of his favorites, Petite Sirah and Cabernet, selling the majority of the grape tonnage to other Napa wineries. Today, he produces over 8,000 cases of seven different varietals.
The wines produced at the Vincent Arroyo Winery have put a star on many NapaValley maps as a place that shouldn’t be missed. His signature wine, still Petite Sirah, has become so popular that it often sells out before it is bottled every year. Once you have tasted the wines, you’ll know why. The winery also makes a Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sangiovese, Zinfandel and several red blends.
More information is available at http://www.vincentarroyo.com/
My Tasting Note
The wine is a medium to dark garnet color. The very appealing nose features blackberries, baking spices, cedar, tobacco, cherry, vanilla, and a bit of earthiness. This has medium body with fairly solid tannins and very nice acidity. On the palate the spicy fruit hits first with some cedar and earthiness in the background adding depth. The finish has nice length with cherries and spice carrying the load. A very nice Bordeaux style blend from Napa. (90 pts)
2010 The Lucky Country Shiraz – $9.90
It’s been a while since I opened a bottle of this wine. I opened one not long after picking up a case at my local store. The wine was decent, but seemed to be a bit below the previous vintage. I felt a bit of cellar time should help the wine settle down a bit. It’s time to check in to see how it is doing. This is made by the team behind Two Hands, and the general thought is this is the declassified fruit from Two Hands.
The Lucky Country Wines offers quality wines packaged with iconic Australian photography, representing the lively spirit of Australia.
The name is taken from the 1964 book, The Lucky Country, written by social critic Donald Horne and was originally written to be ironic, as an indictment of 1960’s Australia. Donald believed that the economic success of 60’s Australia was derived from luck rather than skill.
But over the years, this phrase has taken on new meaning and is now proudly used by many to describe what is great about Australia.
The Lucky Country Wines is the result of hard work combined with vision, creative acumen and business ‘smarts’, and maybe just a little bit of luck to help bring it all together. The wines are already proving a hit, available in several markets around the world and with the brand continuing to grow every day.
The Lucky Country Wines were created to deliver great value, stylish wines to drinkers at a reasonable price. People everywhere can now share and enjoy the experience of what makes Australia the Lucky Country.
My Tasting Note
The wine is a deep purple color. The very Australian nose features blackberries, blueberries, black pepper, vanilla, baking spices, and wild flowers. This has a medium body with soft, ripe tannins and decent acidity. On the palate the big fruit and peppery spice carries the load with a touch or chocolate and earthiness in the background. The finish has decent length with sweet berries and spice. This seems to carry a touch of residual sugar but not enough to really stick out. This would be a nice holiday party wine. (87 pts)
Wines bought or received this week
It was a busy receiving week so far. I received a couple cases from Garagiste and have a couple cases due in tomorrow from Loring. I’ll list all the wines received in my weekend blog, to be posted on Sunday evening.
Remember to support your local wine store!
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Notes – I use the “official” Cellar Tracker name for the wines. I use Cellar Tracker to help manage and organize my cellar. I highly recommend checking it out at www.cellartracker.com. Loading you existing cellar is a lot less intimidating than it would first appear. There is a good chance 99% of your wine is already in the system, so you generally only need to enter part of the wine’s name and the system will find it for you.
Prices noted are the prices I paid at the time of purchase. I don’t shop around to find the best prices, but my local store is usually VERY competitive. I generally get case discounts, and since I work there part time, I get a 5% discount. Wines purchased direct from a winery do not include any shipping charges. None of the prices include the sales tax.
All wines that were sent to me free of charge to sample will be noted and I will show suggested prices when available.