2011 Beckmen Vineyards Syrah Estate Santa Ynez Valley
Expert Rating
RP 91 points
(Read the full review below)
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Beckmen Vineyards The Wine Advocate's 91-point "No Brainer"

The market isn't getting any easier for bargain hunters. A variety of factors have combined to push prices higher in 2013: small yields, a rebounding economy, and a noticeable uptick in demand. For the most part, our hunt for high-scoring under-$20 coastal reds has come up goose eggs. At least, until today.

For the last 20 years, Steve Beckmen has been farming two family-owned estates on the Santa Barbara coast. The first is in Ballard Canyon, on the steep, limestone slopes of Purisima Mountain. The second is the Beckmens' original ranch, set further east in a warmer quadrant of the Santa Ynez Valley.

In warm vintages, the cooler-climate Purisima Mountain Syrah outclasses Beckmen's Estate offering. But in unusually cold growing seasons, the Estate Syrah -- while still richly concentrated -- gives every Syrah on the Santa Barbara coast a run for its money. Never more so than in the Indian summer harvest of 2011.

"2011 wasn't a year for the faint of heart," Steve told us a month ago over dinner at Julienne in Santa Barbara. "We rarely see spring frost in Ballard Canyon, but the inversion frost of early April was devastating. We lost almost half the crop at the bottom of the hillside in just a few hours. And that was just the beginning."

May and June were cold and wet. The poor weather shattered clusters, making for a small set. Yields at the Santa Ynez ranch would be down by 33 percent. But as Steve has always said, while these early-season calamities are tough on balance sheets, they often pay the most handsome dividends at harvest.

By August, the vines were three to four weeks behind. Had there been a full crop, Beckmen told us, the Syrah would have struggled to ripen. But with each plant squeezing out just a few tiny berry clusters (yields at harvest were barely two tons per acre!), the vines dodged the risk of mildew, with their bunches remaining healthy and pert. When gorgeous turquoise skies arrived in early October, sugars spiked as acids remained unusually firm. Beckmen would wait nearly a month to make the call to pick in early November -- one of the latest harvest dates on record.

Steve Beckmen's 2011 is one of the most elegant, gorgeously honed Syrahs -- at ANY price -- of the vintage. Inky purple to the rim with bright, piercing aromas of black raspberries and violets, dashed with white pepper. Rich, compact and polished on the attack, packed with crushed red fruit preserves, finishing soft and supple, with elegant Northern Rhone vibrancy.

Tasting Notes

2011 Beckmen Vineyards Syrah Estate Santa Ynez Valley
"This fantastic entry-level Syrah that's truthfully not that far off the more expensive single vineyard releases, the 2011 Syrah Estate (harvest from October 4 to November 6) is a pretty, elegant and pure Syrah that has classy black raspberry, crushed flowers, underbrush and salty minerality on the nose. Medium-bodied, concentrated and supple, with sweet tannin, it's a no-brainer and will drink nicely for 3-5 years. Drink now-2018."
91 points -- Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate


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