Tag Archives: Eric Kent

California Syrah

We recently got together with wine drinking friends in Sonoma to enjoy an evening of California Syrah. Our reference point for exceptional California Syrah has always been the wines of Sine Qua Non. Over the last few years however, we have become increasing interested in those coming out of the Las Madres Vineyard in Carneros. Vie, Eric Kent, Myriad and Apsara have year after year made fantastic wines that are not only enjoyable, but highly affordable. The night was a treat for us as we got a chance to try several wines never tasted before.

Given the number of wines, and the pace tasted, observations are a quick snapshot impression. In this type of tasting, generally gives us a sense of whether it is a producer we should keep an eye on to establish a track record for future purchases. Brief observations follow. All wines are sorted in order of personal preference by flight.

White Wine of the Night – 2008 Domaine William Fevre Preuses
Red Wine of the Night – 2011 Apsara Las Madres Syrah

Starter Wines – Of the two white wines, the Preuses was the standout. Some initial funk on the nose that blew off quickly, a crisp, balanced, and youthful good drinking Chablis. Nothing out of place, drank very well. The Wayfarer Chardonnay was a completely different taste profile, youthful and floral, a good everyday drinking Chardonnay. The Wayfarer Pinot was ripe, creamy and one dimensional, not a very good showing.

2008 Domaine William Fevre Preuses
2012 Wayfarer Chardonnay
2012 Wayfarer Pinot Noir

Syrah Flight 1 – The 2011 Apsara was spectacular, easily our wine of the night. Tasted at the beginning and end of the evening, was the most balanced, complex and interesting wine. Showed consistent to previous tastings, clean blue and black fruits, oily texture, and fantastic structure. A wine that should age and improve for a considerable length of time. A close second of the evening was the Eric Kent Las Madres Syrah. It held true to the cold climate, Las Madres profile. A perfectly balanced and nuanced wine. Sadly, the Lois Rae was badly corked.

2011 Apsara Las Madres Syrah
2011 Eric Kent Las Madres Syrah
2011 Lois Rae Las Madres Syrah

Syrah Flight 2 – Our first time tasting Sonklin Cellars wines, It was fun to compare three vintages in a row. 2010 was our favorite. Round, balanced and approachable. Found it a nice easy drinking Syrah. Styllistically different, enjoyed the 2011 next with its very expressive nose. Finally, the 2009. It was tight at first and appeared to be lean and disjointed. After tasting later in the evening, think it was simply shutdown and needed a good bit of air to open up.

2010 Sonkin Cellars Persona
2011 Sonkin Cellars Persona
2009 Sonkin Cellars Persona

Syrah Flight 3 – A more challenging flight, found the wines “interesting”. The Kale was ok, earthy and medium bodied. The Alban, barrel sample like and showed potential up front, shortly thereafter, heat took center stage. Did not spend as much time with the Campesino as we would have liked given food served. The wine maker is very likeable, a wine we need to revisit over a long evening to fully and fairly evaluate.

2011 Kale Syrah
2006 Alban Pandora
2011 Campesino Syrah

Syrah Flight 4 – Another challenging flight, probably my least favorite of the evening. The Kale and Rhys came across overripe with plum/prune qualities we did not find particularly appealing. In contrast to the Kale and Rhys, the Thirty Seven was brighter, but nothing of note captured our attention. With a personal bais toward the cooler climate Syrahs, was not gravitating toward the later wines / flights as I had hoped.

2010 Kale Syrah
2007 Thirty Seven Syrah
2008 Rhys Syrah

Syrah Flight 5 – Both wines showed somewhat similar to the previous flight from a taste profile standpoint. The Peidrasassi was the more dense of the two wines. This and the previous two flights suffered a bit due to food at the table, and to a certain extent, personal stylistic preference. Have never found value in wines that lean in a plum, prune, and raisin direction.

2011 Herman Story Syrah
2007 Peidrasassi Mr Smith Syrah

Syrah Flight 6 – The Favia left an immediate positive impression. Bright clean blue fruits, was a nice very well made wine. In time, picked up a sweetness that was a touch off putting but did not perceive it as much, the longer it sat in the glass. Would be a good producer to revisit. Have had some excellent Favia in the past. In contrast to it, the Copain was dusty and lean. Did not particularly enjoy this wine.

2007 Favia Syrah
2006 Copain Syrah

A fun evening sampling a lot of wines we do not regularly drink, but perhaps should!

Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine


Las Madres Winemaker Lunch 2012

This past Wednesday, we were fortunate to attend the 2012 Las Madres Winemaker Lunch. The intent of the lunch is to get all winemakers using grapes from the Las Madres Vineyard together to discuss and taste barrel samples from the current vintage, in this case, 2011. We also had the opportunity to taste through previous vintages in bottle.

Las Madres is a beautiful vineyard located on the Sonoma side of Carneros. In our opinion, the cold climate Syrah that come from the property are some of the best examples you could find anywhere in California, and might add, at some of the most attractive prices. We highly recommend the wines to our customers. The 2011 wines all showed a relatively consistent, creamy, ripe and clean style.

2011 Las Madres Barrel Samples
2011 Apsara Las Madres Syrah – Made by Robin Akhurst, the barrel sample just went through malolactic, as did all other samples. His wine made with once used french oak white wine barrels, equal parts clone 174 and 300. Thought it was a clean, very well made wine, not over the top, a wonderful expression of cold climate syrah.
2011 Vie Las Madres Syrah –  Bryan Kane’s wine used indigenous yeast to ferment, co fermented with about 3% Viognier. It was approximately 60% clone 174, 40% clone 300. Year after year, Vie has always showed well, and has a good grasp on this vineyard. Find their wines more compact and nuanced, tend to have a slightly darker fruit quality to them, yet well within the vineyard profile.
2011 Vanite Las Madres Syrah –  Brenda Martin’s wine used 100% new french oak, co-fermented with about 8% Viognier. A very good wine where the aromatics leap from the glass. Think it will be quite age worthy and one I hope to revisit in the future!  Was a distinct wine and showed uniqueness, primarily due to the Viognier.
2011 Myriad Cellars Las Madres Syrah –  Mike Smith’s Myriad and Quivet were our first introduction to Las Madres Syrah. 100% clone 174, no cold soak. This was a big, clean, pure, intense wine. Thought it was excellent, and highly curious to revisit with time in the bottle.
2011 Quivet Cellars Las Madres Syrah –  100% clone 300, Mike Smith’s other Syrah showed distinctly different. It does not have the intense round fruit of the Myriad, more reserved with a touch of oak that added a little spice and elegance to the wine. A fantastic effort that I thought showed slightly better than the Myriad.
2011 Eric Kent Cellars Las Madres Syrah – .  Kent Humphrey’s wine, approximately  60% clone 174 and 40% clone 300 with 60% whole cluster. A lovely standout for someone who likes a stemy quality to their wine. Thought it was exceptional and like where the wine is headed. Based on previous tastings of whole cluster inclusion, found it works very well with wines from the Las Madres Vineyard. Look forward to see how the wine evolves over the coming years in bottle.
2011 Lois Rae Cellars Las Madres Syrah –  Mark Finver’s 1st commercial vintage from the Las Madres Vineyard, the wine showed slightly less dense than the other wines, but highly approachable. Comparing Marks wine to last year, the wine making has matured considerably and he is on the right track to producing an enjoyable wine!
2011 Orin Swift Cellars – Dave Phinney and Kevin Fox’s wine was probably one of the most closed on the table. It did not want to come out of its shell and was one of the more challenging to see where it was headed. A wine that will have to be revisited in time. It was balanced, which should bode well for the future.
Las Madres Lunch Wines
2002 Las Madres Garagiste – Made by Armando Ceja and John Painter, 3rd leaf 50/50 clone 174 and 300. A very young wine, spritzy, a curious early effort!
2004 Nicholson Ranch Las Madres –  Made by Thomas Brown, a very hot Carneros summer, did not find this wine showed well. Plums, prunes and raisin notes.
2004 Nicholson Ranch Consentido Las Madres – A fantastic wine, thought it was well integrated, good fruit, complex, my favorite bottled wine with a lot of life ahead of it.
2005 Nicholson Ranch Las Madres –  Made by Thomas Brown and Mike Smith.  60% whole cluster. Second favorite bottle tasted, round, expressive Las Madres fruit, easy drinking, and yet, still very youthful. Could easily continue to age for some time.
2006 Myriad Las Madres Syrah –  The Myriad Syrah remained consistent to their style, clean, ripe, big fruit, nothing out a place. Year after year, a beautiful wine.
2008 Vie Las Madres Syrah –  As a producer, Vie has previously had a style more unique to the producer than the vintage, leaner toward darker fruits, slightly more restrained. Was a little surprised how ripe the fruit was in this wine! Very nice, however different than expectations.
Sadly, did not taste the 2010 Apsara Cellars Las Madres Syrah, 2010 Lois Rae Garagiste, or 2006 Eno Wines “In Your Own Time” Syrah while enjoying the wonder lunch offered by Las Madres Vineyard owners, John and Jean Painer.
This was a fantastic event! Great food, great company, and great wine! Our second time attending this tasting, cheers to joining the third!
Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine