2005 Russian Hill Estate Winery Syrah Top Block Russian River Valley

Russian Hill Estate Winery Syrah Top Block Russian River Valley It took guts. It's not easy to look sure profit straight in the eye and just say, "No thanks." But that's what Patrick did at his family's amazing 40-acre property nestled into the Russian River hills outside of Santa Rosa. The result is an absolutely stunning (and even more stunningly undervalued) 2005 Top Block Syrah, which combines fabulously plush purple fruit flavors and a backdrop of excellent, vibrant acidity.

But, the story here isn't so much about why this wine is so good. It makes perfect sense. Cool foggy mornings and evenings, warm days, terrific exposition, and terrifically extended hang-time make a pretty good recipe for superb Russian River Syrah. The story is in why this wine exists. Why would you plant Syrah when Pinot Noir is being sold like Crackerjacks for astronomical prices? We asked the family's young winemaker, Patrick Melley, and he answered simply. "We thought Syrah would be better on the Top Block." Then he stopped, and broke into a huge grin. "Plus, I was still stuck on Chave."

Melley's family bought property in 1997 and immediately hired the Duttons (of Dutton Ranch) to plant Pinot Noir and Syrah. The Pinot got off to a fast start. The very first release won the Gold Medal at the Orange County Harvest Fair and flew out the door. But the Syrah was Patrick's special project. As a buyer for a chain of restaurants on the East Coast, young Melley fell in love with the wines of the northern Rhone, none more than Jean-Louis Chave's incomparable Hermitage. Okay, so he set the bar a little high, but those Chave wines have a way of grabbing hold of you and never letting go. Melley was infected with the Chave bug.

The Russian River Valley
The Russian River Valley
It took years. First he came to understand that he could wait more than six weeks after the Pinot came in to pick the Syrah. (This 2005 was picked on October 12th.) The fog kept the grapes cool, allowing for very slow, incremental ripening. Then he employed an old Chave trick: a rigorous selection process in the cellar, saving only the best for the wine he would call "Top Block." Starting in 2001, he mastered the technique of co-fermentation with a pinch of ripe, estate Viognier, improving mouthfeel and counter-intuitively enhancing color.

Tasting Notes from the WineAccess Travel Log
"Deep purple to the edge. Lush, but vibrant nose of blueberry, plum and the requisite cool climate licorice. Opulent and velvet-like on the palate with deep cassis-purple fruit flavors. Fine, high-pitched, vibrant finish. Drink now-2012."