Wines of the Week | Westerhold 2009 Syrah and 2012 Pinot Noir

One of the first times I tasted the Westerhold wines was with John Westerhold, and his winemaker, Russell Bevan at Hospice du Rhone in Paso Robles a few years ago. It was the first of two consecutive years where Russell wore the coveted Coat du Rhone, the rakishly gaudy smock bestowed on the consensus favorite winemaker by the assembled producers. It was easy to see why they were so appealing with their classis, rich fruit, meat and black pepper structure. I do my best to try these wines with Russell every year and am finally back on track.

Note: The Westerholds were supposed to have been in Volume 3.3 last month but didn’t fit in the final layout. An omission that has now been remedied. 

90 2009 Westerhold Syrah

Bennett Valley, Estate, 14.3%, 177 cs., $42

Alban 1 Clone from the estate. The nose is pure black plum, racy blackberry, conifer, spice and black pepper. The palate entry shows a firm, floral and peppercorn appeal, seamless with a solid grip of mineral, carbon and blue fruits in the finish. Drink 2015 - 2025. 

91 2012 Westerhold Pinot Noir

Bennett Valley, Estate, 14.7%, 125 cs., $52

A blend of Pommard and a trio of Dijon [115,667,777] clones, The nose is briar, raspberry, violet with the spice that only Pommard brings. The palate entry is crisp, yet polished and full with darker fruits and spice with forest floor. Shows excellent length and moderate oak, [14 m. in new Gamba and Remond]. Drink 2015 - 2021. 




2011 Graft Grenache

One of the things I am happy about at pdwr is the opportunity to learn about new wines that are practically under my nose and tell you about them early. in preparation for writing volume 3.3, I received samples from a new project called Graft. I learned from the material included that the wine is the product of three partners who met while they were interns at Williams-Selyem in 2008, Ryan Prichard, Diego Roig and Sheri Zarkoob. Since then, they have worked with Medlock Ames, Peay, Hartford Court, Copain Custom Crush and Lambert Bridge. This may very well be their first release.

My samples were from 2011, a vintage that did pretty well if you beat the rains, and the Graft were very well made examples. As you can see, production is very small.  The full reviews of Graft (invluding Viognier) will appear in Volume 3.3 of pdwr. They have a really tempting (actually insane) program for purchasing offering 10% on six, or 20% on twelve bottles. 

91 2011 Graft Grenache 

Mendocino County, Dark Horse Vineyard, 13.5%, 67 cs., $32

The nose is raspberry with a dusty mantle of spice box and florals. In the mouth, the wine comes across as a little rustic, yet possesses a fresh, smooth red berry and bramble to go along with a supple spicy core. Drink 2014 – 2018. 



2011 Nicora Red Wine, Law Vineyard 53GR|47SR


2011 Field Recordings Petite Sirah Jesperson Vineyard

92 2012 Field Recordings Petite Sirah, Edna Valley, Jesperson Vineyard, 14.6%, 180 cs. $22

Made by Andrew Jones

If you have spent any time in the countryside during early winter, such as marshlands, or vineyards after harvest you may have spotted an amorphous mass of black flying against the sky, moving through the air as if it is a single organism. After learning that it is a flock [murmuration] of birds, starlings, numbering in the thousands, most who see it never forget it. Here is a video. 

Owner and winemaker, Andrew Jones’ inspiration for his brand is from photographing these murmurations and sharing them on his labels. The philosophy is is to use single vineyards with distinctive character and produce small quantities of reasonably priced wines. With recent tastings of a Chenin Blanc from 33 year old vines, to a pair of single vineyard bordeaux variety field blends. Frankly it was difficult to decide on which one to pick for WOTW as all the wines are very good quality and will be reviewed in Volume 3.2 of pdwr in December. 

Petite Sirah is a grape that can run the gamut from tough and monochromatic to brilliantly prismatic. A beguiling wine, they seem to show their best attributes in early youth, or after a dozen years. In between is when they can turn into brooding, tannic examples that makes us wonder ‘What happened?” The Field Recordings Jesperson is clearly at that point where it is in the early stage of trajectory full of fresh liveliness. 

Aged in 60% new American Oak, and 40% used French Oak. The nose is is brilliant crushed raspberry, currant, briar, laurel and plum. The palate entry is effortlessly dialed in with plum, currant, espresso and a tactile blue fruit, cedar and floral notes. Tannins are still in the background at this time. Drink 2013 - 2015, or 2020 - 2026.  www.fieldrecordingswine.com





2011 Straight Line Syrah | Santa Barbara County

When most wine lovers think of Jon Grant, they connect him to the myriad of excellent examples of Pinot Noir under his Couloir label that you read about here and elsewhere. His other project covers a broader, more electic spectrum from Sauvignon Blanc to Syrah using fruit from throughout the state bottled under Straight Line, first reviewed at pdwr in issue three. As the samples arrived after I had laid out the current volume, I included them at the end. The Syrah featured here was the final wine I tasted before publishing and was a pure joy to drink. 

94 2011 Straight Line Syrah               $V

Santa Barbara County, 14.4%, 201 cs., 97SR|03VG, $29

A nose of pure blueberry, cassis and peppercorn dominates the aromatics with underlying carbon and blackberry. The palate offers persistent purple florals with a dense core of saturated dark fruits and herbs. This wine just keeps drawing you back in. What a delightful way to finish the issue. Drink 2013 – 2018.