If you’ve yet to fill your cellar with cases of the top 2013 Syrahs from Santa Barbara County, you’re missing out on some of the most extraordinary California reds of the year. In a growing season in which drought conditions again prevailed, the summer was unusually hot. In cool-climate Ballard Canyon, where steady breezes off the Pacific blow through the coastal range, typically keeping high temperatures in the high 70s and low 80s, the mercury regularly soared into the 90s.
We visited a dozen top estates last November, including Tensley, Jonata, Melville, Beckmen, and Stolpman. Nearly all began harvesting in late August, weeks before the norm. Despite high yields, the excessive heat helped natural sugars soar (with many wines flirting or exceeding 15 degrees in alcohol), even as tannins and acids remained surprisingly firm. Steve Beckmen and Joey Tensley used the same word to describe their 2013s — “brawny.” The adjective was well chosen.
By our scorecards, if Tensley’s “Colson Canyon” was the most flamboyant of the vintage, Steve Beckmen’s “Block 6” the most polished, Sashi Moorman’s Stolpman Vineyards “Originals” — drawn off a parcel that was planted in 1992 — most resembled a warm-vintage Northern Rhône Syrah from Hermitage or perhaps Saint-Joseph. Here’s why.
The 24-year-old-vine “Originals” blocks are perched at the very top of Stolpman Vineyards, and look directly onto Jonata (owned by the same proprietor as Napa’s Screaming Eagle). For more than two decades, these Syrah vines have been trained to grow without a drop of irrigation. As a result, the root structure is extraordinarily deep, spidering meters into the limestone substrata. While nearly every Syrah vineyard in Santa Barbara County was generously irrigated during the torrid summer of 2013, Sashi Moorman and Pete Stolpman stuck to their guns, challenging the vines to fend for themselves. Remarkably, the rows of “Originals” Syrah flourished under the unusually blistering Ballard Canyon sun, without any suggestion of thirst or dehydration.
At harvest, sugars were high, though not excessively so (finished alcohol is a fairly tame 14.1%), but most importantly, there was no sign of desiccation. The grapes were loaded with sugar, yet also juicy. Seeds were perfectly brown, much explaining the luscious Hermitage-like plumpness and sleekness of winemaker Moorman’s 2013 “Originals.”
The 2013 “Originals” has it ALL — opulence, vibrancy, silken texture, great length, and tension. If one was to put the wine under a microscope, scavenging for faults, there’s just one. Despite its age-worthiness (Parker’s Wine Advocate suggests a drinking window of 2015-2025), it’s almost too luscious out of the gate. Even the most disciplined Northern Rhône collectors will struggle to lay the 2013 “Originals” down for more than a year or two.
93 points from The Wine Advocate. At $36/bottle, one of the most complex and hedonistic American reds of the sensational 2013 vintage. Shipping included on just 4. 480 bottles are up for grabs.
very not subtle with explosive nose of dark berry and inviting purple colors begging you to take a gulp, not a sip, and enjoy the jam with chocolate- repeat til gone!
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