2005 Lyrique Syrah Watch Hill Vineyard Santa Barbara County – $17.25


My comments

This was a find via Garagiste a few years ago.  Unfortunately the couple bottles I had disappeared fairly fast.  It looks like the winery is no longer around, since I can’t find any bottles from them on Cellar Tracker later than 2007.  Based on this wine, the winery seemed to have a bright future.  Luckily, I was able to find a few more bottles a year ago via Wine Bid.


Winery history

Adding to my presumption that the winery is no longer in business, their website no longer exists.


Here’s a bit of Jon Rimmerman’s spiel from his Garagiste Offering:

The winery’s motto pretty much says it all: “Lyrique is a family owned company dedicated to fine wine, great music, and good friends”. Lyrique is the result of a vision to make the finest Syrah in the United States – to take what the climate provides (impact with high sugar and extract ratios) and to allow the wine to express itself without over-doing any one element (in a similar way to 2004/2005 Mount Langi Blue Label). They only make one wine at Lyrique (this one) and the fruit is from a superb little source in the Watch Hill vineyard. The result of this first release was so successful they’ve gone to the trouble of commissioning Susan Dysinger to produce a one-off print for the label (entitled “Speckled Red”) to make it extra-special.


The 2005 Lyrique is full of electricity, excitement, and eurhythmic structure (not Annie Lenox, the actual word) and it intrigues from the first sniff. Believe me, I was skeptical about this as my snobby anti-California reputation was at stake but I just couldn’t help being seduced by its cashmere charms. The above referenced spice-toned aromatics grab the taster with a pure, bright red varietal nature that is not the norm in Syrah from this area. While certainly extracted and large-scaled, it is also refined, promising and discreet as only the best wines are. Charles Atlas meets Twiggy? In the best sense of course.


From the Winery: “Lyrique has a wonderful, velvety mouthfeel. It has the blackberry and cassis fruitiness characteristic of Syrah, with a hint of dark chocolate, espresso and a long white pepper finish. This is a smooth, concentrated wine that has the chops to balance out the oak and alcohol” – I couldn’t have said it better.


My Tasting Note

This is a deep, dark maroon color.  The wine has an intense nose with crushed berries, smoked meat, dark chocolate, dying charcoal embers, pepper, melted licorice, with some scorched earth and a floral in the background.  This is fairly full bodied with ripe, integrated tannins and nice acidity.  This is big, ripe, and rich on the palate with the spicy, smoked meat and juicy berries melding into a delicious and satisfying mouthful of pleasure.  The wine has a fairly long finish leaning heavily on the berries and dark chocolate.  This is delicious stuff.  Absolutely no rough edges.  This won’t improve with additional cellar time, but should hold for another year or two.  (93 pts)




2007 Calistoga Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon – $14.99


My comments

I don’t remember buying this bottle, but it some how found its way into my wine cellar.  We’re enjoying one of the last few nice days before our weather takes a turn for the worse. We’ll be firing up the grill and having juicy cheeseburgers for dinner, sounds like a perfect time to give this one a shot.


Winery history

In July 1996, Roger Louer and several of his best friends bought 11 acres of vineyards in NapaValley, near Calistoga, along with the Blossom Creek Cottage. Originally, there was no plan to create a winery. But after a few years of selling grapes to some of Napa’s top wineries, they decided to take the plunge into the winemaking world.


Roger writes: “Friends from around the Country would come visit my wife and me, stay in the Blossom Creek cottage, and begin to become emotionally invested in what we were doing. So I thought, why not invite our friends to become part of the winemaking process, and make them partial owners?


Sharing that process with our friends has been the key to our success. With partners all over the country, we have ambassadors in many major US markets. They help gain recognition for the brand by introducing it to their favorite retailers, restaurants, and distributors in their own backyards. This grass roots approach has been crucial to our growth, since national marketing on this level is often too exhausting or expensive for young wineries.”


In 1995, the Blossom Creek Cottage was featured in the Hollywood romantic comedy “Nine Months” with Hugh Grant and Julianne Moore. The Blossom Creek Cottage has become the soul of Calistoga Cellars, where the partners gather several times a year to share ideas, wine, and meals while overlooking their vineyard.


My Tasting Note

The wine is a shade or two darker than ruby in color.  This has cassis, tobacco, dried herbs, leather, plum, and a bit of cherry on the very nice nose.  The wine has medium body with ripe, integrated tannins and nice acidity.  On the palate the wine has nice cassis and dried herbs with a touch of spicy oak adding depth.  Decent length on the finish with again shows the cassis and spicy oak.  A pretty nice week night cab with grilled burgers, but not one to pull out with a great steak.  Drink over the next year or two.  (88 pts)




2009 Loring Wine Company Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills – $24.00


My comments

In my opinion, the Loring appellation wines are some of the best bargains out there when it comes to quality California Pinot Noir.  The Loring appellation wines are, at least to me, dialed down a notch compared to their single vineyard siblings.  This and the lower prices, under $25 make them a nice way to kick up a week night dinner several notches without breaking the bank.


Winery history

My philosophy on making wine is that the fruit is EVERYTHING. What happens in the vineyard determines the quality of the wine – I can’t make it better – I can only screw it up! That’s why I’m extremely picky when choosing vineyards to buy grapes from. Not only am I looking for the right soil, micro-climate, and clones, I’m also looking for a grower with the same passion and dedication to producing great wine that I have. In other words, a total Pinot Freak! My part in the vineyard equation is to throw heaping piles of money at the vineyard owners (so that they can limit yields and still make a profit) and then stay out of the way! Since most, if not all of the growers keep some fruit to make their own wine, I tell them to farm my acre(s) the same way they do theirs – since they’ll obviously be doing whatever is necessary to get the best possible fruit. One of the most important decisions made in the vineyard is when to pick. Some people go by the numbers (brix, pH, TA, etc) and some go by taste. Once again, I trust the decision to the vineyard people. The day they pick the fruit for their wine is the day I’m there with a truck to pick mine. Given this approach, the wine that I produce is as much a reflection of the vineyard owner as it is of my winemaking skills. I figure that I’m extending the concept of terroir a bit to include the vineyard owner/manager… but it seems to make sense to me. The added benefit is that I’ll be producing a wide variety of Pinots. It’d be boring if everything I made tasted the same.


My Tasting Note

The wine is a deep ruby color, but not so saturated that it is opaque.  The very sexy and open nose has raspberries, black cherries, cola, baking spices, vanilla, smoke, wild flowers, and a bit of white pepper, earthiness, and an herbal note.  This has a medium body and very nice acidity.  On the palate the wine shows juicy, spicy berries, and just a hint of an herbal element that adds to the taste in a positive way.  On the fairly long finish the juicy berries pick up a touch of white pepper.  This is an very good wine and a great value for under $25.  (91 pts)




2002 Graeser Cabernet Franc Estate Grown Diamond Mountain – $27.00


My comments

This winery used to be one of our favorite stops when we made it to wine country.  The winery was a small complex just off of Petrified Forest Road just west of Calistoga.  Unfortunately, the winery went through some financial troubles a few years back and went out of business.  To me, they made some of the best Cabernet Franc in the valley.


Winery history

Like I stated above, the winery went out of business a couple of years ago.  Now that some of the dust and fallout has settled, I’ve heard from the owner that he’s going to attempt to get back into the business, at least in a small way.  I paid for a case of his 2007 Cabernet Franc in 2009 and have not received it yet, so he doesn’t have my support.  I should add that supposedly, he pulled a case of the wine from his personal stash and it should ship to me in a little over a week.  If I do in fact receive the wine, my harsh judgment of the winery may soften, but I will not be placing any case orders.


My Tasting Note

The wine is a deep ruby color.  The wine has cassis, dried herbs, violets, minerals, tobacco, licorice, and a touch of cedar on the very elegant nose.  This is medium body with a nice tannic backbone and very good acidity.  On the palate the wine has berries with a real nice overlay of dried herbs and just a touch of spicy oak.  Fairly long finish with the berries and dried herbs lingering nicely.  This still tastes like a youngster so I’m in no hurry to open my remaining bottles.  (92 pts)




Mailing Lists




I’ve been on the Rudius mailing list since the beginning.  Rudius is Jeff and Brittany Ames.  Jeff’s name may not ring a bell, but here’s a bit of his bio:

In 2001 Jeff became Thomas Brown’s assistant winemaker at brands including Schrader, Maybach, Outpost, and Tor.  Two years later, Jeff was named the head winemaker at Tor, a position he still commands.   Rudius is the culmination of Jeff’s goal of owning his own wine brand.


I have purchased a fair amount of Jeff’s wines and every one that I have opened has been outstanding.  I have had several of his cabernets and wines made by the Rhone varietals.  I highly recommend the Rudius mailing list.  More information about Jeff and Brittany, Rudius, and most importantly a link to join the mailing list is available on their site.  Visit http://www.rudiuswines.com/



Loring Wine Company

I’ve been on the Loring mailing list for several years.  This is one of the lists that I always buy from without hesitation.  The best part of the Loring list is that they offer a few of their wines each release in 375ml, “half bottles”.  These are perfect for us, allowing my wife to have a “tasty Pinot” when I am traveling.  These are also perfect for us to have just one glass each in the evening when the urge hits us.



Herman Story

I’m not on the Herman Story mailing list, but a friend who is on the list shares some of his allocation with me.  These are big, ripe, bold wines and every once in a while that’s what I get in the mood for.  These wines aren’t for Francophiles.  If my friend wasn’t on the list, I’d join.  If you like that style of wine as much as I do, I highly recommend checking them out, perhaps you can get something from the just released offerings.  Visit http://hermanstorywines.com/ for more information.



Wines bought or received this week

(3) 2011 Loring Pinot Noir Rosella’s Vineyard for $48 a bottle from the winery

(6) 2011 Loring Pinot Noir Garys’ Vineyard(375ml) for $25 a bottle from the winery

(3) 2011 Loring Pinot Noir Keefer Ranch Vineyard(375ml) for $25 a bottle from the winery




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.