When we first heard about Joey Tensley in 1996, it had nothing to do with his World Class Syrah. We were on the phone with Bryan Babcock, one of our winemaker friends in Santa Barbara County, when Babcock screamed 'Holy Moly, Joey!' (Ok, so it wasn't "Moly'.) The phone went dead and a few days later Babcock gave us the story. Tensley, then a bright, young assistant winemaker, was racking some Pinot Noir when he was stung by a bee. It only took a few minutes before Tensley's face blew up like a balloon and Babcock was rushing him to the hospital. Much to Tensley and Babcock's chagrin, Joey gave notice a few days later. He had to get away from those Babcock bees.
Though Tensley was only in his early 20s when he left Babcock, he came away with Babcock's precious understanding of the importance of truly unusual vineyard sites. It was this know-how that led him to one of the most exotic vineyards in California: a 20-acre red volcanic soil planting on a rugged 120-acre parcel high up in the Santa Maria foothills. Joey said it was the most 'extreme' of all the extreme vineyard sites he'd encountered and wasn't able to shake it from his mind. A few days later, he took the plunge, locking into a grape contract for the best and oldest block on Colson Canyon. That decision, coupled with Tensley's deft hand in the cellar, has catapulted him into the highest echelon of California's Syrah producers. Along with Araujo, Kongsgaard, Saxum, Colgin, Pax and Alban, Tensley Colson Canyon has received some of Robert Parker Jr.'s highest composite ratings of any Syrah in California.
Even by these standards, the Colson Canyon 2006 vintage is something special. The growing season was unusually temperate, with temperatures hovering in the 70's into the third week of September. The grapes were in perfect shape, gaining ripeness slowly. Then, a warm front came in and temperatures spiked to nearly 100 degrees for a week. Natural sugar levels in the grapes spiked accordingly. Tensley quickly organized his crew and brought in grapes with amazing concentration, fine acidity and optimal ripeness.
Deep purple in color with an extravagantly ripe, purple fruit, creme de cassis nose, the aromas alone are worth the price of admission. Wonderful attack on the palate full of rich, dense, concentrated red fruit/cassis flavors. Finely honed finish with excellent vibrancy for a wine with this much concentration.
We served the 2006 Colson Canyon with the following and drew raves from our guests: Grass-fed Buffalo Stew, winter vegetables sauteed in red wine and marscapone cornbread.