2009 Beckmen Vineyards Syrah Purisima Mountain Santa Ynez Valley
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RP 92 points
(Read the full review below)
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Purisima Mountain Vineyard Full Throttle on Purisima Mountain

There seems to be little disagreement on the Santa Barbara coastline. If the 2010 vintage gave birth to the most sophisticated reds in a decade, featuring modest alcohols, attenuated tannins, and delicate Northern Rhone aromatics, it would be the arid summer of 2009 that would set off a New World buying spree.

An early frost would trim yields on Purisima Mountain by 20%. As is often the case after such frost damage, the pristine fruit set featured tiny berry clusters that would then be treated to a near perfect summer recipe.

Many of you have written asking us why we devote so much space to the vagaries of Nature. For example, why in a place that's just thirty minutes from the Santa Barbara harbor, where sailboats are always bathed in July afternoon sun, do we make a big deal out of a flash April frost? Who cares? Don't those Santa Barbara summers make everything right that might have initially gone wrong?

"It's never just one event," Steve Beckmen told us as we trekked up Purisima Mountain last month. "It's the sequence of events and how we respond to each of them. In the spring of 2009, I was miserable. When you lose one-fifth of your crop before things even get started, you can't help but wonder what else will go wrong. Another frost? Rain before harvest? But 2009 was one of those years where what first went wrong ended up being perfectly right. I've been here for almost 15 years and I've never seen Syrah like the night harvest of '09."

After the spring frost, the summer turned cool and dry. Then, in late July, the heat finally came, spiking sugars by mid-August before settling in for the home stretch. There would be no hail. The rain never came. The deep root structure of these manicured biodynamically farmed Syrah plants quenched their thirst on the winter and spring water reserves, eking out just two tons per limestone acre of tight-fisted Syrah that would be night harvested in the last weeks of September.

Most of the crop was destemmed, but Beckmen continued his practice of dosing in 15-20% whole clusters, adding chewiness and density. The vinification would be cool, magnifying extraction, the extreme ripeness of skins and seeds erasing any concern for tannic astringency. "In barrel, you could drink the 2009s with a straw. The concentration was almost extreme, masking any sense of the underlying structure. It would take a year in bottle for this one to really come together."

If you like cold vintage subtlety, wines that are back on their heels and not overly exuberant, this one's not for you. But if your predilection is for deep, dark, full throttle, wild berry concentration, infused with tremendously chewy, briary density, still buttressed by bracing highwire backbone, few coastal reds hold a candle to the 2009 Beckmen Purisima Mountain Syrah.

Tasting Notes

2009 Beckmen Vineyards Syrah Purisima Mountain Santa Ynez Valley
"The 2009 Syrah Purisima Mountain Vineyard is laced with blackberry jam, licorice and sweet spices. This is an especially forward, overt Syrah with plenty of fruit but less in the way of varietal aromatics. Readers who appreciate the silkier style of Syrah will find much to admire. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2017. "
92 points -- Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate

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