"While the benchmark estates certainly delivered the goods in 2018, readers should look at the wines from ... Jeff Cohn, Limerick Lane, Lynmar, Mauritson, Ram’s Gate, Shared Notes, Sojourn Cellars, and Wayfarer, just to name a few of the exciting producers in this report." Read the article
Single Vineyard Syrah
98 What could be thought of as the flagship Syrah, the 2017 Syrah Buffalo Hill Rockpile comes from the Rockpile Vineyard (which is in the Rockpile AVA of Sonoma) and was brought up in new barrels. It’s unquestionably the biggest, richest effort in the lineup yet still has an Old World sensibility in its texture, acidity, and structure. Killer notes of blackberries, crème de cassis, smoked earth, chocolate, lavender, and ground pepper all flow to a full-bodied, powerful, straight-up stacked Syrah that has a wealth of raw material, perfect balance, and a great, great finish. It should age effortlessly for 10-15 years or more.
96+ Coming from the Rockpile Vineyard in Sonoma, the 2017 Syrah So Serine is a primordial 2017 that sports a ruby/purple hue to go with awesome notes of blue fruits, smoked meat, graphite, violets, and a crushed rock-like sense of minerality. Beautifully concentrated, full-bodied, and flawlessly balanced, it’s another magical wine from Cohn that’s going to benefit from at least 2-3 years of bottle age and evolve for 10-15 years or more. Unfortunately, there’s a single barrel (25 cases) produced.
Domaine des Chirats
96+ Coming from a collaboration between Jeff Cohn and Yves Cuilleron, the 2017 Syrah Domaine des Chiratsis wound up and tight yet has wonderful purity in its blackberry fruits as well as notes of ground pepper, candied violets, bouquet garni, bay leaf, and gamey notes. Possessing a killer mix of ripe, sexy fruit and classic, Old World Syrah wildness, it’s full-bodied and flawlessly balance, with ample tannins and a great finish. Hide bottles for 3-4 years if you can.
95 The 2017 Syrah Rockpile Vineyard Haley is another huge success in the vintage. From a great site in the Rockpile AVA of Sonoma County, its deep purple color is followed by a great bouquet of blueberries, iron, crushed rocks, ground pepper, and hints of smoked game. Structured and tannic on the palate, it reminds me of a young Cornas and needs 4-5 years of bottle age. It’s seriously impressive, though, and should have 15 years of overall longevity.
Zio Tony Ranch
94 Lots of violets, flowery incense, blueberries, and peppery herbs emerge from the 2017 Syrah Zio Tony Ranch, a ripe, concentrated, medium to full-bodied Syrah that shines in the vintage. From a vineyard in the Russian River Valley, it has terrific purity of fruit, a solid mid-palate, and building, ripe tannins. Give it a few years.
93 Coming from the Russian River Valley, the 2017 Syrah Silver Eagle Vineyard is terrific, showing lots of plum and blackberry fruits, notes of peppery herbs, game, violets, and scorched earth, full-bodied richness, and ripe, present tannins. It needs a year to integrate some tannins but has the palate to evolve for 10-12 years.
Single Vineyard Rhônes
2 Guys · 2 Barrels Viognier
93 I loved the 2017 Viognier 2 Guys · 2 Barrels, which comes from a collaboration between Jeff Cohn and Yves Gangloff. It has a Condrieu-like bouquet of caramelized citrus, apricot, honeyed spice, and flowers that flows to a medium to full-bodied Viognier with ample richness, yet it stays balanced and pure and has a great finish. It blends power and freshness beautifully. Drink it over the coming couple of years.
Sweetwater Springs Petite Sirah
93 One of the riper, sexier, and more seamless wines in the lineup, 2017 Petite Sirah Sweetwater Springs Vineyard has a dense core of blue and black fruit as well as plenty of scorched earth, graphite, and violet aromatics. With medium to full body, rock-solid balance, and the more focused, straight style of the vintage, drink it over the coming decade.
El Diablo Grenache
92+ Also from the Russian River, 2017 Grenache El Diablo Vineyard is cut from the same mold as the Zinfandels and has a beautiful, spicy, floral, and incense-driven bouquet as well as lots of exotic red, black, and blue fruits, medium body, ripe, present tannins, and a rich yet also weightless texture that makes it a joy to drink. It’s going to continue drinking brilliantly for 8-10 years.
Single Vineyard Zinfandel
95 From a great vineyard in Sonoma County, the 2017 Zinfandel Rossi Ranch Vineyard is another perfumed, complex wine from Cohn that has lots of spicy, floral, orange blossom and violet notes to go with a core of exotic blue fruits. Medium-bodied and incredibly polished on the palate, with great tannins and a seamless texture, this wine has loads of richness and depth, yet still just glides over the palate with no sensation of weight or heaviness. This was a challenging vintage for Zinfandel, as it ripened at the same time as the heatwave, yet this is seriously impressive. Hats off to Mr. Cohn for a stunning wine.
Sweetwater Springs 'Isabel'
95 I loved the nose on the 2017 Zinfandel Sweetwater Springs Vineyard Isabel, a classic Zinfandel loaded with blue fruits, flowery incense, white pepper, and cedary spice aromas and flavors. Playing in the medium to full-bodied, elegant end of the spectrum, it has a seamless texture, light tannins, beautiful balance, and a great finish. It’s a gorgeous Zinfandel from this vintage to drink over the coming 7-8 years.
St. Peter's Church
90 Baked cherries, licorice, toasted spices, chocolate, and dried earth notes all emerge from the 2017 Zinfandel Sweetwater Springs Vineyard, and while it’s more savory and earthy on the nose, it has plenty of sweet fruit on the palate, solid mid-palate depth, and the tannic structure that’s common from Alexander Valley fruit. Give bottles another year or two to see if it develops more complexity, and it should evolve for 7-8 years or more.
93 From a vineyard I’m not familiar with, 2017 Zinfandel Iron Hill Vineyard has a big, boisterous bouquet of blueberries, candied orange peel, mint, and funky herbs. This carries to a medium-bodied Zinfandel that has a rounded, elegant texture, a solid spine of acidity, and ripe, sweet tannins that emerge on the finish. It’s another rich yet elegant wine that’s a joy to drink.
90 Coming from a single vineyard in Amador County, the 2017 Zinfandel Rinaldi Vineyard has a spicy, savory, medium-bodied style as well as notes of cedarwood, dried flowers, potpourri, and sweet strawberry and black berry fruits. Soft and supple on the palate, with an upfront style, it shows more tannins on the finish, which gives the wine plenty of length. It’s ideal for drinking over the coming 5-7 years.
The First Date
94 Checking in as a blend of 60% Grenache Blanc and 40% Roussanne, the 2017 The First Date is another rocking white from Cohn, who seems able to make great wines from just about any variety. Light gold colored, with a hint of green, it offers loads of ripe peach, Caramelized citrus, and brioche in a rounded, supple, full-bodied, incredibly sexy style. It's a white geared for the differ table and would give any number of Southern Rhône whites a run for their money.
Smoke & Mirrors
92 Coming all from Sonoma County, the 2017 Smoke & Mirrors is always a good value, and this vintage is no exception. Lots of bright blueberry and plummy fruits give way to a medium-bodied, nicely textured wine that has plenty of peppery herbs and incense aromatics, good acidity, and a clean, lengthy finish. It doesn’t match the 2016, but it’s an outstanding, pleasure-bent effort that will evolve nicely for 7-8 years.
91 Also all from Sonoma County, the 2017 Pure Yum checks in as 67% Syrah and 33% Grenache that has Cotes du Rhône-like style in its peppery dark fruits, garrigue, and underbrush-like aromas and flavors. Medium-bodied and focused, with present yet ripe tannins, it’s a fruit-loaded yet structured, balanced wine from Cohn to enjoy over the coming 5-7 years or so.
The Growing Season
2017 - This was a brutal vintage for Sonoma featuring a massive heat spike (which overlapped the Zinfandel harvest) followed by devastating fires. Nevertheless, the quality is shockingly good, and the wines have concentrated, structured, and nicely focused profiles. The top wines will be long-lived.
photo credit: JebDunnuck.com
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