Friday, April 23, 2010

Refined Welterweight

Review: 2007 Terlato Syrah Dry Creek Valley

Rating: More delicate than expected, but a wine with good balance, lovely aromatics, and a bright future.  $35



The Rest of The Story: (Full disclosure: This wine was received as a press sample from the winery.) One of the toughest things about reviewing wine - high-end wine especially - is that it's got to be reviewed soon enough after release so that you (faithful readers and eager consumers) can still put your grimy little paws on some before a new vintage is out.  Sadly, this is often 5, 10, or more years too early... 

And so it is, almost unfairly, that we attempt to asses the merits of these oenological toddlers when we know - or hope - that they will at some point turn into supermodels.  If only we could describe now their future long legs and sultry swagger...

This is another one of those wines.

Terlato Wines International is a fast-growing wine marketing powerhouse, representing over 50 brands from California and abroad.  Shortly after the turn of the millennium, they decided to launch their own family brand, Terlato Family Vineyards.  Using their diverse assets and relationships, the basis for their wines is uncompromising vineyard sites.  And according to Doug Fletcher, head of winemaking for Terlato, Dry Creek is the place to grow Syrah.

Packaged in a massive 42 pound (okay, slight exaggeration) bottle with a distinguished label, it looks like an heirloom to be passed down through generations.  This, and the fact that Syrah is capable of producing some of the most monstrous wine in California, led us to expect a linebacker of a wine.  Dense, extracted, massive.

Not this one.

Though deep and darkly colored in the glass, this is a broad-shouldered, but quiet wine.  Flavors are consistent with quality California Syrah and the structure is in perfect balance, but it doesn't have the weight - the gravitas - of powerful Syrah.  Aromatics are fast, intoxicating, and dreamy - and intensify as it opens up. But the body never quite gets to voluptuous. 

The result is a refined and balanced wine that's almost delicate...precious.  Lovers of the Australian (hit-you-over-the-head) interpretation of Syrah will not find satisfaction here.  But fans of nuance and grace surely will.

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