What a treat it was to see this four pack arrive on my doorstep. Regular readers are already familiar with my affinity for Andrew Murray's wines. However, rather than approach these bottles with an expectation of greatness, the cynic in me approached them asking, "Can he maintain a winning streak?" This question is all the more relevant given the challenging vintages in California of late.
Though only the Syrah Watch Hill was from the difficult 2010 vintage, what I found in these bottles was a common thumbprint, a sign of both maturity and confidence in winemaking. Still, site and vintage differences are on full display in this diverse lineup.
Rarely does a wine drinker come across a portfolio which shares an easily appreciable DNA from vintage to vintage and variety to variety. So, it's a pleasure to see Andrew's wines all exhibiting similar mannerisms.
The bottom line on these wines is that they are all worth seeking out. A note of caution, however: while it's hard to be patient waiting for tomatoes to ripen up in the garden, they taste much better when red than green. And so it goes with these wines. A year will give these a chance to unwind, loosen up, and deliver an entirely new dimension of drinking pleasure. Enjoy!
(Disclosure: these wines were received as press samples.)
2009 Syrah Tous les Jours $16
Today's California Syrah falls on either side of a price fence which, generally speaking, translates to flabby, indistinct fruit bombs below $20-ish. Which is why this terrific bottle confounds expectations at its price point. Again, we need a few hours to loosen the starch on this, but once it unwinds, the supple texture is an expensive-feeling come-on. Balanced, packed, and deftly straddling the savory/extracted line. Seriously, you will be hard pressed to find this kind of experience in Syrah at this price - anywhere.
2009 Esperance $25
This is an attention-commanding wine that requires little guesswork. Big, brash flavors come on like a spring thunderstorm; strong, swift, decisive, and replenishing. Still, it manages to chisel subtleties into the layered structure that make this wine an intricate thinker - if you are able to pause long enough. More tightly knit than previous vintages, but four-six hours in the decanter soften the initially staunch tannins and heat considerably. Australian lineage is more than just hinted at here. If the 08 Esperance (quite possibly the most pleasurable wine I've had so far this year) is any indication, another year in the bottle will make the revelation of complexity complete. Despite being in the middle tier (cost wise) of the winery's lineup, this could well represent the very best of what AMV does. And a stellar value to boot.
2010 Syrah Watch Hill $30
Polish over power. Not that it's shy, but the concentration found in other vintages of the Watch Hill is replaced by structure. This translates into a wine that is both confident and focused. The texture is finely stiched and finishes with a comforting embrace. As with some other AMV wines, I'm willing to wager that this one will bloom with another year in the bottle. For the impatient, a (slightly) more restrained version of Watch Hill awaits. And for those with the means, get a 6-pack, open one a year, and get reacquainted with a friend who mellows with each visit and whose company you value more as the years trot along.
2009 Syrah Terra Bella $36
The 2008 vintage of this wine sits among top of the most memorable bottles consumed last year. By comparison, the 09 is biding its time in revealing itself. Somewhat closed and timid, it leads with floral hillside herbs and subtle anise rather than the comforting hug of a wine the 08 is right now. That said, this is anything but a shy wine; fruit is in strong supply - coiled, and waiting to emerge from hibernation. When it does, the ingredients are all here for a transformation from good to great as it unwinds. This is a wine that I've given a lot of thought to and the image that keeps coming back is a new pair of jeans. It's going to take some patience, but the fit will be perfect if given the time.