Tor Kenward Single-Vineyard Syrah — “Wines with Sensational Quality”
Toward the end of a recent tasting with Tor Kenward in his home near St. Helena, the legendary vigneron poured me his 2014 TOR Syrah Rogers La Herradura Vineyard alongside Sine Qua Non, Alban, and a Chapoutier Côte-Rôtie — some of the world’s most expensive and sought-after Syrahs. Grown on rocky and steep east-facing vineyards farmed by renowned viticulturist Jim Barbour, Tor’s dense and smoky wine showed how Napa Syrah, when sourced from an exceptional site and made by an extraordinary winemaker, can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with any on the world stage. Knowing that Tor’s wines are nearly impossible to find, I commited to as many bottles as Tor would part with of the La Herradura. Only 300 cases were produced and we have 150 of them — half of the entire production. Those who claim some of our tiny allotment will experience no less than the pinnacle of Napa Syrah.
The Tor Kenward’s 2014 TOR Syrah Rogers La Herradura Vineyard is a beautiful wine: purple-black in appearance, with a brooding and compelling nose, boasting wild black fruits, boysenberry, smoked black pepper, and spiced dark chocolate oak. It is thick and dense with crunchy minerality, chewy tannins, and a long, smoky finish.
Syrah is rare in Napa Valley, but in the right hands and in the right place, it is incredible. Tor’s tiny, extreme-sloped 6.73-acre Syrah parcel on the climb up the Conn Valley is tended by the legendary Jim Barbour and planted with Côte-Rôtie clones from Alban, the 100-point winery that produces some of the most intense and expensive Syrah in California. Tor told me that in 2014, those vines produced some of the smallest clusters and tiny berries he had ever seen or worked with, and the concentration of flavors in the berries led to a wine more reminiscent of the great Syrahs of the Northern Rhône.
Robert Parker has offered “kudos to Tor Kenward, who is pushing the envelope in a dramatic and brilliant manner,” and has described the portfolio as offering “wines with sensational quality.” The 2012 earned 94 points from Parker himself, who described it as “another magnificent offering,” and the “superb” 2013 scored 92-94 points. The 2014 season was the third in that incredible streak of vintages, and the La Herradura Syrah, now coming into its own, just brought down the house at the members’ dinner at the uber-exclusive Montage Palmetto Bluff. The same wine is now en route to Mr. Parker.
You don’t have to wait for Parker’s word on the 2014 La Herradura. I have tasted this wine alongside some of the greatest Syrahs in the world, and it is the finest that Napa Valley has to offer.
Matt Deller MW
Master of Wine