2010 Beckmen Vineyards Syrah Estate Santa Ynez Valley
Expert Rating
ST 90 points
(Read the full review below)
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Steve Beckmen and Beckmen Vineyards Bargain of the Year

We've been saving the best for last. The 2010 vintage would prove difficult for West Coast bargain hunters. A variety of factors combined to push prices higher -- small yields, challenging winery balance sheets on the heels of the crisis, and a noticeable uptick in demand. Even with our much-strengthened buying muscle, precious few excellent reds were to be had at under $20/bottle.

For the greater part of the last twenty years, Steve Beckmen has been farming two family-owned estates on the Santa Barbara coast. The first, you may remember, is called Purisima Mountain, a steep slope in the high ground of prized Ballard Canyon. The second is the original property, set in a warmer cut-out of the Santa Ynez Valley. Typically, it's the limestone majesty of Purisima Mountain Syrah that simply outclasses Beckmen's Estate offering. But in the one-of-a-kind 2010 growing season -- the most remarkable of Beckmen's two decade tenure -- the Estate Syrah held its own against what many (count us among them) consider to be the finest Syrah property in California. Here's why.

"Spring wasn't cool," Steve told us in the quaint tasting room off Ontiveros Road, "it was cold. Typically, I never worry about ripeness in Santa Ynez, but we were so far behind in July, I began to wonder how much pink wine the market could absorb!" Over the last ten years, no one on the coast has done more to prepare his vines for calamity. While others scrambled, pulling leaves, watching hair turn gray, Beckmen stood pat and waited. "Either the weather would come around. Or it wouldn't. I felt like I'd trained the Syrah vines for any calamity. Now, I'd find out if I'd trained them hard enough." Steve said.

Little had changed in August. Not only did it remain chilly -- more like fall than summer -- but there was little rainfall. Beckmen's deep-rooted, dry-farmed Syrah quenched their thirst on the water reserves in the clay substrata, locked in a precarious battle of survival of the fittest. Then, in September, just as it would in Russian River, Napa, and even on the First Growth calcaire of Pauillac, Nature flipped a switch, igniting the Santa Barbara heat lamp. The timing couldn't have been more perfect.

"In August, I stopped checking the sugars. It was too demoralizing. By September 15, I was out there everyday, and I wasn't thinking about pink wine any more. At a Bordeaux symposium I attended a few years back, they said that the greatest vintages were slow to develop, the sugars really spiking in the last three weeks before harvest. I'd never really seen that in Santa Barbara County. Now we all understand what the Bordelais were talking about!"

Harvest wouldn't come until October, under brilliant sunshine. The Purisima Mountain Syrah would be monumental. But just twenty minutes away, in the warmer climes of Santa Ynez, Steve Beckmen would bring in the harvest of his career, accounting for this sensationally rich, but marvelously focused, high-toned and delineated red berry powerhouse that stands tall against Purisima, Jonata, Stolpman and Ojai.

Deep purple in color with explosive aromas of sweet black cherry and anise. Full throttle on the attack, packed with crushed black fruit and raspberry preserves, sprinkled with Hermitage-like white pepper. Long, focused and persistent on the finish. Drink now for its lavish primary fruit opulence or age for up to 5 years in a cool cellar.

Tasting Notes

2010 Beckmen Vineyards Syrah Estate Santa Ynez Valley
"Inky purple. Cherry and musky berry skin aromas are complicated by notes of licorice, woodsmoke and cola. Sappy, penetrating blackberry and bitter cherry flavors pick up olive and black pepper nuances with air and show a refreshingly bitter quality. Fine-grained give gentle grip to a long, smoke- and spice-inflected finish."
90 points -- Stephen Tanzer, International Wine Cellar

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