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A beautiful Northern California day greeted about a dozen or so wine nuts for BAWE’s September tasting event yesterday afternoon in Berkeley, CA. This months event was graciously and generously hosted by WS Forums own Lafon Rochet at her wonderful home, and the theme was “New World Syrah”. As always, the wine and conversation flowed, and the food was plentiful and mighty tasty, but enough setup, on to the wine!

My tasting notes are pretty brief (spent more time talking and enjoying the wine and less time writing). So hopefully others will chime in on this thread and fill in their impressions as well as filling in the blanks.

Highlights from the tasting itself: 1997 Hanna Bismark Ranch Syrah – I brought this selection, so obviously I was extremely pleased with how it was showing. It was a close vote, but the Hanna was winner of flight #1 with the 1997 Phelps Syrah a close 2nd. The 2nd flight seemed overall weaker than the 1st, but had the added benefit of an evil wine in the lineup. Yes, EVIL – dark, brooding, a wine from the dark side, one of the ringers of the night – a 1996 Syrah from Spain! The evil wine came in 2nd place, with the 1999 Rosemount winning the flight.

Flight #1:
1999 Chateau Fonsalette Chatea Chateauneuf du Pape – Spicy nose, has the look of an older wine but doesn’t come across so on the nose or palate. Very spicy/peppery and lighter in body than the others.
1998 ???? Victory Shiraz – Deep purple in color, deep rich nose, lots of oak, heavy full body big syrah. I mis-wrote the vintner on this – hopefully someone will full in the blanks.
1998 Joseph Phelps Syrah – Also deep purple and oakey, but deeper, more complex wine – game and dried herbs (thyme). 2nd favorite of the flight.
1997 Joseph Phelps Syrah – Lighter on the palate than the two above, very pleasant, but not as much going on as 2 & 3. Meaty syrah.
1999 Parker Coonawarra Estate Shiraz – A little bell pepper action, tart sour apple, my least favorite of the lineup.
1997 Hanna Bismark Ranch Syrah – wow, tons of fruit & oak, rich, deep, really tasty. My favorite wine of the entire lineup.

2nd flight:
1997 Jade Mountain – An off bottle I think, smokey and thin, and not much else.
2000 Paige 23 Syrah – Awful – sweet nose, sweet palate, overly perfumed, and shallow. Some described it as kool-aid – not a bit descriptor, what is up with this wine???
2000 D'Arenberg the Footbolt – Good fruit, soft, not overpowering, “grapey”, very pleasant.
2000 Hunter Hill Hunter’s Blend – My ringer, showed terribly against this competition. Thin and vegetal.
1996 Dominio De Valdepase Syrah (Spain) – Bacon fat, hard edge on the nose, tons of oak, dark, evil, brooding….I like it!
1999 Rosemount Estate – well balanced, nice, easy drinking syrah – my favorite of the flight.

Following the tasting our generous host opened some special selections from her excellent cellar (notes get even briefer as the evening goes on)

2000 T-Vine Petit Syrah – WOW, I really like this wine. Outstanding.
1994 Silver Oak Alexander Valley – Showing some age to it already, but very very nice.
2000 Biale Petit Syrah – Huge, huge wine – showing very well, but I prefer the T-Vine.

Dinner followed – about half of us headed to Liaison, a terrific French Restaurant on Shattuck Ave – along with a half dozen more wines from Lafon’s cellar. No notes taken, just note that these were all outstanding:
Dr. Loosen Riesling (didn’t catch the vintage), 1994 Chateau St. Jean Cinq Cepages, 1998 Lewelling Wight Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, a Chatelain Pouilly-Fume (from the list), and another excellent Cab from Lafon’s cellar that I am ashamed to say I cannot remember the name (someone help me out here!)
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#$%^! I was too busy sucking down the Dr. Loosen to try any of the Cinq. I believe the Dr. Loosen was a 2001 and it was a Spatleese. Much thanks Lafon_Rochet for having us over. Next month sound very interesting. The only thing is the A's will have to sweep in the first round of the playoffs so I can go.

The latest person to join the group brought the CdP. He was chatised for not following instructions. But we still enjoyed the tasting.

[ 09-09-2002, 10:30 PM: Message edited by: skwid ]
A few clarifications from what I can remember from yesterday...I'm still wading through the fog.

One thing's for sure, I think we had a pretty good time.

I think we had the following:

1998 Lewelling Cab.-probably the regular one not the Wight vineyard

1998 T-Vine Petite Syrah-I don't believe that the 2000 has been released yet.

1995 Ch. St. Jean Cinq Cepage-I think I still have a '94 left, but I didn't check to see if Jim snuck one out of the cellar [Wink]

Additionally, we had the 1999 Ritchie Creek Pinot Noir, which was extremely nice, strawberry and dark fruit with a sweet, but present tannin, which could hold up to another 4-5 years of cellaring. Ritchie Creek is a vineyard that's on Spring Mountain and adjacent to Behren's and Hitchcock.

The '99 Fonsalette is a fine CDP, but seemed "off" when trying to fit into a syrah shoe. There apparently was some confusion as to the selection this time so we'll let that one slide. Ch. Rayas also makes a Fonsalette that is a pure syrah which is supposed to be excellent as well.

Finally, as to the Paige 23 Syrah, which is reported made by Heidi Barret Peterson, it did not show well and was abundantly and rightfully "dissed" at the tasting.

We'll see if it rears its head again in yet another BAWE tasting. [Cool]

I agree that the Dr. Loosen was a very nice surprise. We hope to pick up a few more of those soon.

I'm Audi...Lafon
Thanks for the notes. Coincidently, the Boston Wine Club is having a "Syrah Around the World" tasting this Saturday. The lineup includes '96 Rosemount Balmoral, '97 Elderton Command, '99 Shafer Relentless, '98 Guigal Brune et Blonde and a couple others. Since I promised notes for members who can't attend I'll definitely posts notes from the evening.
Q and K:

No really, it's you guys who looked great in the Soiree photos. I, however, got caught "trash talking" into the lens. As to the tasting, if you'd like, I'm sure we can see if some folks are around when you're here and have a few people over and open up the cellar.

As to Ritchie Creek, I know that the grapes are from Spring Mountain, and it may be Pete's own grapes or another producer's. Here's the website: Give Pete a call. He's a great guy and used to part of the Berkeley community.

The hands-down winner of the night was the T-Vine Petite Syrah and I believe I've already spoken to you about that offline. I'll see what I can do.

Now, if you want cats and hats, you'll have to talk to Eric. Let Caleb know that the hat is on its way.
King and Queen, any time you are in town just give us a little advance notice and we would be delighted to arrange a special BAWE event in your honor.

Regarding the Phelps, majority indicates I got them mixed up and it was the 97 that showed better than the 98, I stand corrected.

Now, the pictures... take a gander over to the off-line forum for some interesting hat sightings and other assorted pics from the afternoon/evening.

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