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Monthly Archives: December 2011
Many thanks to WineHarlots.com for this tribute to Syrah and her kind words about our crafting of this sensational variety of grape.
“Andrew Murray produces some of the finest syrah in California, the Terra Bella Syrah is a remarkable testament to the skill of the winemaker and exquisiteness that is syrah grape varietal.” Click here to read the complete review of the 2008 Syrah Terra Bella Vineyards.
People often ask me about the necessity of decanting, especially around the holidays. Everyone has a relative who is particular about his wine; you know, the one who cradles his bottle like he’s brought the Messiah himself and looks over your shoulder as you gingerly place it on the counter. He’s the one who took a couple of wine education classes after graduate school and is pretty sure that if he only had the time, he’d be the 181st person to hold the title of Master Sommelier.
Let me start by saying, I’m no pro in this department. All I can do is give you a little background, then share my personal thoughts about the subject – tell you what I do when I drink wine. Decanting originated as a means of clarifying wine – particularly older wine. It was meant to remove the sediment that can occur in wine over time. Modern wines that are intended to be imbibed within a few years generally will be sediment free due to modern filtration processes. Wines that are prepared with aging in mind, will eventually show sediment in the form of tartrates and pigmented tannins resulting from phenolic polymerization (red wines)1.
When you go to a fancy restaurant and order an expensive bottle of wine, there’s no option for requesting that it be decanted; the sommelier will do it as a matter of course. He (or she) will bring a candle to provide pure light through the bottle, and as he or she pours, the moment sediment becomes visible in the neck of the bottle, the pouring stops. Though there may be a meaningful percentage of your pricey wine left in the bottle, it is considered contaminated by the sediment and will not be poured.
Decanting is thought by some to have the added benefit of introducing oxygen into the wine. The act of pouring the wine from the bottle to the decanter aerates the wine. The big broad base of the decanter is designed to optimize surface area. In other words, it optimizes the volume of wine that comes in contact with the air. Why do we care about aerating the wine? Aerating is thought to develop the bouquet of the wine. The great French oenology professor, Emile Peynaud from the University of Bordeaux, felt the exact opposite: to aerate a bottle of wine is to lose the concentrated aromas – in effect to dilute the sensorial experience. Besides, one can always aerate the wine by swirling it in one’s glass.
So, do I decant my own wines? No, I don’t. Should I? Perhaps, but I drink wine in a manner that works for me. The screw top is such a reliable device that it only allows a very limited amount of oxygen into the bottle. This makes our wines age in a slow, controlled manner, with little opportunity for generating a flaw in the wine. In addition, our careful, minimalistic winemaking approach results in limited sediment. My issue with decanting is that it’s a fatal process. Once you’ve decanted an entire bottle of wine, you’d better be prepared to drink the whole thing – there’s no going back. A few new products have hit the market which allow you to decant a glass at a time. The Vinturi is one of them. Incidentally, for those of you who are less geeky than I am, Vinturi is a nice play on words…a merge of ‘vin’ for wine, and ‘Venturi’ which is a fluid dynamics/physics term. But again, after a long day in the winery, I’m not likely to fool with a gadget.
My advice is that if you have a wonderful bottle of aged wine, decant it to ensure that you eliminate the sediment. If you can truly taste a difference in newer wines due to the aeration, then aerate them. If you can’t, then don’t bother. If your brother-in-law wants you to decant his wine, indulge him. It’s the season for giving and you can save the arguing for something more interesting like politics or religion.
1 – As I was writing this, I did reference Jancis Robinson’s excellent tome, “The Oxford Companion to Wine”, and specifically her entries on ‘Decanting’ and ‘Sediment’.
Issue #10, December 2011 Jeb Dunnuck
2008 Andrew Murray Espérance (USA, California, Central Coast) $30
Earthy and mineral driven, the 2008 Andrew Murray Espérance, 60%, Grenache, 25% Syrah, and 15% Mourvedre aged in 33% new French oak, opens up in the glass to shows beautifully complex aromas of black cherries, underbrush, leather, ripe herbs, and licorice. This carries into a medium to full-bodied wine that’s beautifully balanced, possesses a supple, polished texture, and an overall delicious, exceptionally drinkable profile. It should continue to perform admirably for 6-7 years. (91 pts.)
2008 Andrew Murray Syrah Tous les Jours (USA, California, Central Coast) $16
A fantastic value, the 2008 Andrew Murray Syrah Tous les Jours is a pretty, classy Syrah that opens up in the glass to show complex notes of spiced red and black fruits, ripe herbs, tar, and black olive qualities on the nose. Medium-bodied and fresh and pure on the palate, with integrated acidity and an overall light, deft texture, this delicious and easy going red should be purchased by the case, and consume over the coming 5-6 years. (90 pts.)
2008 Andrew Murray Syrah Terra Bella Vineyard (USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles) $36
Showing the most ripeness and flesh in the lineup is the 2008 Andrew Murray Syrah Terra Bella Vineyard. All Syrah from Hillside plots and aged for 18 months in French oak, it boasts an inky purple color as well as decadent black and blue fruits, vanilla, coffee grinds, and lavender aromatics. This full-bodied, rich, round Syrah has a supple, mouth coating texture, beautifully integrated acidity, and a long, completely dry finish. Impressive and this can be consumed now, or cellared for 4-5 years. (91 pts.)
2008 Andrew Murray Syrah Reserve (USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley) $50
Coming from the top 6 Syrah barrels in the winery and the most complete wine in the lineup, the 2008 Andrew Murray Syrah Reserve is a serious Syrah that delivers not only complex, cooler climate aromatic, but perfectly ripe fruit and loads of texture. Showing copious amounts of smoked black fruits, coffee, pepper, and subtle floral nuances on the nose, this wine is medium to full-bodied on the palate and impressively put together, with ripe, yet substantial tannin, vibrant acidity, and a classically styled, structured finish. This is approachable now given the fruit, yet has more than enough structure to allow it to age gracefully for a decade or longer. (93 pts.)
2009 Andrew Murray Syrah Watch Hill Vineyard (USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County) $36
Beautifully distinctive and oozing cool-climate Syrah character, the 2009 Andrew Murray Syrah Watch Hill Vineyard has smoky, gamey notes with wild berry fruits, bramble, pepper, and violets all intermixed. This flows to a medium-bodied Syrah that shows an overall fresh, balanced profile with vibrant acidity and masses of ripe underlying tannin that frame the finish. Give bottles a solid 2-3 years of bottle age, and then drink over the following decade. (92 pts.)
Come join us this Saturday at the Los Olivos Old-Fashioned Christmas celebration. Kristen and Andrew will NOT be dressed in Dickensian garb, but they will be serving complimentary glasses of wine and some sweet treats and apple cider at the Los Olivos tasting room.
Where: Center of Los Olivos and Andrew Murray Vineyards Tasting Room (2901-A Grand Avenue, Los Olivos, CA)
What: Complimentary glasses of wine and holiday treats
Details: Tree lighting at 6 p.m. and photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. – sing-alongs, live music, popcorn, and roasted walnuts too!