When Stephen Singer decided to take the leap from wine enthusiast to winegrower, his bar for success was set unusually high. Singer developed his encyclopedic understanding of French wine both in Berkeley and San Francisco, the latter being where he created and operated for ten years the wine tasting bar and retail store, Singer & Foy. His first wife was Alice Waters, the brilliant chef/owner of the world renowned Chez Panisse. Working at Chez Panisse in the '80s and '90s meant being part of an extraordinary Bay Area wine community, one whose dean was (and remains) one of the wine import world's true pioneers, Kermit Lynch. Kermit was the first to uncover and bring into the U.S. some of the Northern Rhone's most sought after wines. With Waters and Lynch, Singer spent many evenings with these incomparable Syrahs -- wines that were both incredibly rich and somehow light on their feet. These gorgeous reds drank well on release but could age for decades.
When Singer decided to turn the tables, he looked for property that could somehow re-create the quest for flavor that defined his experience at Chez Panisse. Because of his Kermit-instilled passion for the treasures of the Northern Rhone, he was hoping to make California Syrah that combined New World flavors with the vibrancy and equilibrium of the Old World masters.
It took years, but one day Singer, while looking for vineyard sites in the backyard of the famed horticulturist Luther Burbank, stumbled upon a 15 acre parcel near Sebastopol, a spot near where Burbank conducted his "Gold Ridge Experiment." Burbank had conducted endless experiments with plants and shrubs, having determined that the area's special microclimate (warm days, but summer nights dipping into the high 40s) and its fertile but sandy soil provided a remarkable growing environment. When Singer noted the property's west facing slopes in a protected bowl at the end of Baker Lane, he recalled those Syrah evenings at Chez Panisse, and started to believe that this part of Burbank's Gold Ridge paradigm could be a remarkable and unique spot for growing a special California Syrah.
Baker Lane Vineyards
Surely enough, Singer's care in selecting growing sites has yielded a Syrah that shows plenty of Old World character. The line from the Northern Rhone to Northern California is easy to follow in this deeply colored, bright, ripe wine. The cool micro-climate and the sandy soil make this wine unusually light on its feet for a California Syrah.
For an easy dinner, pair with pork chops marinated in red wine. If you're feeling especially ambitious, try a cassoulet made with white beans, lamb, and sausage. With this combination, you can't help but notice the balance between Old World and New World qualities in the Baker Lane Syrah.