2011 Tensley Syrah Colson Canyon Vineyard Santa Barbara County
 
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94+ Points: No Longer P--sing in the Wind

Ok, we admit it. Politesse has never been our strong suit. But truth is, we were ticked off, downright p--sed. Back in 2009, we thought we'd done a solid for a talented young winemaker who grew up in the farmland of California's central coast -- only to have the rug pulled out from under our feet.

Wine Advocate's Top American Syrah: Ratings and Prices

2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 Price Avg. Rating
Alban Reva Alban Vineyard 96 100 96 96+ 94-96 NA $80+ 97 pts
Saxum James Berry Vineyard 96 96+ 99 96 94 96-98 $90+ 96 pts
Kongsgaard 98 95 94 92 97 97 $169+ 95.5 pts
Colgin 95 93 95 94 96 94+ $279+ 94.5 pts
Tensley Colson Canyon 94 90+ 95 96 95+ 93 $38 94.5 pts
Booker Fracture 93 91+ 94 95 94 95-97 $80 94 pts
Lagier Meredith 95 92 94+ 95 94 94 $60 94 pts
Araujo 93 92 91 95 96 96 $150+ 94 pts

The story we ran about Joey Tensley's cult Syrah, drawn off just 8 rugged acres in a place called Colson Canyon, had been perfectly timed. Just after those 1200 bottles vanished on a too brief Tuesday morning, Food and Wine Magazine named Tensley's 2007 "The Top American Syrah Over $20." That was bad, but what followed would be far worse.

Robert Parker's 95pt review blew the lid of our Colson Canyon story, sucking every bottle out of the Tensleys' cellar. When we returned to Los Olivos the following year, Joey -- quite charmingly -- blew us off. Were we pleased? Nope. But, were we surprised? Not at all.

The Wine Advocate rated the 2008 Colson Canyon Syrah one point HIGHER than the '07, dropping a gigantic 96pt score on what would soon be the most sought after Syrah in America. Joey took us out to lunch. We shot the breeze, then tried to ask the question. Tensley deftly changed the subject. It soon became clear that any hope we had at garnering another bottle of Colson Canyon for WineAccess, was like p--sing in the wind. Here's why.

Over the last eight years, Tensley's signature Syrah has placed #5 on Robert Parker's American Syrah Honor Roll, finishing just behind Alban and Saxum. Unlike the other big names on the list, Joey Tensley has kept his price almost ridiculously steady. Take a look at the chart above. The biggest difference between Colson Canyon and Colgin? A price tag that differs by a factor of 8!

Sensible people would have recognized the weakness of the hand they'd drawn and thrown in the towel, living to fight another day. But no one's ever accused us of being sensible -- and we hate to lose! So we adopted a different approach, and returned to Los Olivos loaded for bear.

Our proposition was simple. Every other buyer of Colson Canyon Syrah waited to cut his purchase order until AFTER Parker weighed in. After tasting Tensley's sensational 2011 -- which the winemaker places 'somewhere between the 2007 and 2008' -- we told JT that we were prepared to move ahead just as we had four years ago, BEFORE Parker's review hit the web. Tensley just chuckled and gave us one of those 'oh-shucks' smiles. He liked our moxie. Then he took the bait.

This is an absolutely extravagant Syrah from the remarkably cool summer of 2011. Yields were down close to 30% at Colson Canyon, helping to explain the deep ruby color and luscious red raspberry nose, gently laced with sweet coastal herbs. The attack, as always, is massive, a huge, mouth-filling assemblage of wild raspberry and dark plum preserves, bracketed by signature Colson Canyon vibrancy.


Tasting Notes

2011 Tensley Syrah Colson Canyon Vineyard Santa Barbara County
"Yields were down close to 30% at Colson Canyon, helping to explain the deep ruby color and luscious red raspberry nose, gently laced with sweet coastal herbs. The attack, as always, is massive, a huge, mouth-filling assemblage of wild raspberry and dark plum preserves, bracketed by signature Colson Canyon vibrancy. All hedonism in its youth, but don't be afraid to lay this one down for 5-7 years."
-- WineAccess Travel Log

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