Blackberry Bramble at 1800 Feet
America's top single-vineyard Syrahs rank among the flashiest reds on the coast. All are nursed to ripeness on poor soils where vines struggle to push out a couple tons of fruit per acre. Many are found on the cold perches of the Sonoma Coast. But just a few -- like this one -- are grown 1800 feet in elevation, on manicured, nosebleed slopes, high above the valley's fog line.
The first time we heard John Bugay's name was in 2009, while seated on bar stools at the most talked about young winery in the valley. Duncan Meyers and Nathan Roberts had just burst upon the critical scene, putting out a series of single-vineyard Arnot-Roberts Syrahs that garnered 94-point scores from Parker and Tanzer. The Forestville winery was threadbare, but Meyers and Roberts didn't need glitter to blow us off our seats.
That afternoon, Duncan and Nathan took us on an olfactory tour of their favorite vineyard sites. It began at Griffin's Lair and Hudson Vineyard. Then, we moved on to the high slopes of Clajeux and the tight clusters of Alder Springs. But it was the last wine that left the most indelible impression. We finished the day with a voluptuous red, infused with blackberry fireworks, lightly tinged with sweet spices and underbrush. The wine had been drawn from a vineyard set high up on the eastern face of Spring Mountain. The next day, we were on our way to the top of Crystal Springs Road.
Soon after John Bugay purchased this panoramic property, he began clearing trees. Then he cut work roads into the forested mountain top. The vineyard crew followed, hand-carving terraces into the rocky substrata, before planting Syrah on a south facing slope where it would be bathed by afternoon sun and cooled by maritime breezes.
Over the past three years, Bugay's astonishing Cabernets ("Empress," "Rocheuses," and "Incline One-Nine") have garnered more 5-star ratings than any in WineAccess history. But, it would be Bugay's single-parcel Syrahs that would equally light up the WineAccess scoreboard, garnering hundreds of 4- and 5-star ratings and reviews.
The 2008 Bugay Vineyards Estate Grown Syrah is the most powerful Syrah to date off this mountain hotspot, a product of a topsy-turvy growing season that would barely eke out 1.5 tons per acre of impossibly concentrated, small berry clusters.
The nose of the 2008 Bugay Vineyard Syrah evokes blackberry bramble, infused with dark plum and licorice, touched with leather. The attack is massive, filled with crushed black fruits, dense and briary -- a New World take on a Cornas theme. The shoulders are broad, the finish muscular, all bracketed by fine, dusty mountain tannins.
The 2005, 2006 and 2007 Bugay Vineyard Syrahs earned 61 4-star and 113 perfect 5-star ratings from buyers, and a whopping aggregate rating of 3.96 out of 5. With the release of this voluptuous 2008, John Bugay has upped the ante.