On Pritchard Hill, it’s Colgin. On the Sonoma Coast, it’s David Ramey. The two have set the benchmark for North Coast Syrah, and none are more sharply delineated, juicy, and Hermitage-like than Ramey’s Syrah off Rodgers Creek in the Petaluma Gap.
Sitting at 800 feet in elevation on well-drained, volcanic ash soils, Rodgers Creek benefits from a perfect combination of geological factors: fog, cold Pacific winds raging through the Petaluma Wind Gap, and southwestern sun exposure for much-needed afternoon warmth. The result? Low yields with harvest dates often extended into November, making for burly and ripe Syrah with spicy and savory complexity.
Ramey’s achievements off Rodgers Creek have hardly gone unnoticed. In the last eight years, Robert Parker, Stephen Tanzer, and Antonio Galloni have awarded Ramey’s Rodgers Creek Syrah 16 scores of 94 points or more.
For the better part of a decade, Matt Cline searched relentlessly for a vineyard whose Syrah would perfectly complement his more decadent California heritage varietals, Mourvèdre and Carignan. Cline speculated that a cool-climate source would be best suited, but over the last 10 years, Syrah sites on the North Coast had become increasingly scarce. Matt knew his search was over when he first set eyes on Rodgers Creek in 2009, but he would still have to settle for a spot on the long waitlist. Then, in 2013, an unlikely connection helped Matt to what he calls “the deal of a lifetime.”
“At my age,” Matt explained, “your kids make you new friends. I had an eye on Rodgers Creek, but was never able to lock into a grape contract. Turns out the gentleman who manages Rodgers Creek has a daughter who went to preschool with my youngest. We met at a parent-teacher conference and have been pals ever since. Thanks to my daughter, I soon found myself at the top of the waitlist, and lucky for me it couldn’t have happened in a more perfect vintage.”
Parker wrote that 2013 was the “best vintage in 37 years” on the North Coast. For Rodgers Creek, 2013 was not only plentiful and ripe, but also beautifully restrained. The call to harvest was made on October 16th, one of the earliest in recent years, as sugars had soared to 25.3 Brix.
Matt bought all the Syrah he could from Rodgers Creek and produced one of his most extraordinary blends. He calls this tiny-production blend “SMC,” with the Syrah off Rodgers Creek supported by a massively structured Mourvèdre and velvety-smooth Carignan from Cline’s dry-farmed vineyards in Contra Costa. If you’ve enjoyed Three’s full-throttle, lively, old-vine Zinfandels, or Matt’s bright, floral, and structured Field Blends, you’ll appreciate “SMC” as a seamless marriage of both styles.
Cline’s 2013 “SMC” is inky purple/black to the rim, with mouthwatering aromas of plush black cherries and spices. Velvety smooth and high-toned on the attack, with a dark-fruit core laced with dried herbs, more spice, and a hint of tobacco. This is a hedonistic New World effort that will bring much pleasure now, but with enough vibrant acidity (as always from Cline) and sufficient tannin backbone to argue for longer-term drinking (5-7 years).
$48 at the winery. Only $30 today on WineAccess. Just 600 bottles are up for grabs for Matt's latest magic trick.
Dark oak laced with smoke and spice on the nose. Dusty raspberry with clay and peppery notes that flow into chewy tannins, pepper, incense, oak, and hints of charcoal with dried red fruits throughout. Quite complex.
Different that anything I've known. No acid, little tannin, but unique taste. Big and beautiful.
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