There has been a somewhat long-running array of commentaries weaving in and out of my other posts about this wine; it all began with someone’s West Coast Wine Net comment about Syrah and Viognier, it continued through an exploration of co-fermentation, and now, finally, we’ll conclude the thread with a summary of the latest RIDGE In The Round tasting session, in which we taste the RIDGE 2005 California Syrah Lytton West!
My RIDGE Round Table compatriots for this session of RIDGE In The Round were Zani Nesvacil, Samantha MacMillan, Karen Cai, and Sam Howles-Banerji.
Beginning with Aromatics, “deli meat” was the first matter to come up for discussion. All agreed there was something reminiscent of deli meat at work in the bouquet; Blood and iodine? One taker. Roast beef? Again, one taker. Eventually, we all came to the conclusion that, more than any tangible meatiness itself, it was rather the spices that tend to infuse and enliven deli meats that we were experiencing; particularly fennel, clove, anise, etc. Then we got into the fruit. Everyone felt some sweetness in the aromatics, with comparative metaphorical descriptors running the gamut from Italian Pannetone (dried and/or candied fruits) to Organic Blueberry Pancake Syrup (sweet, dark viscosity); from Chocolate-Covered Cherries to Black Cherry Tarts (cocoa, chocolate, a certain creaminess, a rich cherry sweetness)! There was little dispute that there are some smoky, umami-notes interwoven with all this, and although the chocolate-covered cherry reference was generally conceded to be spot on accordingly, a few held out for cocoa powder, and in the end, a compromise was reached by agreeing that, “Well, if it HAS to be chocolate-covered cherries, then the chocolate has to be dark, with none of that white cream in between the fruit and the chocolate!” (Full disclosure, no one actually said exactly that; that’s a composite sketch!) Which brings us to Peppermint Patties. One individual began noting the slight menthol strains, and as we all agreed it was garden mint like spearmint and wintergreen (or, as one taster put it, “all the gum flavors!), rather than anything eucalyptal per se; which led to noting the “iciness”, which led to, you guessed it, Peppermint Patties! Lastly, we got into some good discussion about the autumnal quality of the spices in the bouquet, and one ingenious taster even referenced mincemeat pie, which actually made a lot of sense.
Structurally, we all noted that, in terms of how this wine moves across the palate, almost all the fruit is front-palate, and all the herbs and spices are in the back, a fairly certain indicator that the wine is still in the early stages of pourability. Because of this movement, most of the presence from the acidity is front-palate as well, with dry tannins taking over mid-to-back-palate; it was noted and agreed that the tannins were in fact specifically “dry” rather than “adhesive,” meaning, in this case, and quite literally, mouth-watering, which got us back to spice, salt, deli meat, umami, and in this particular case, barbecued oysters! (Though a hot dog as an example of “salted umami” was spoken of as well!)
Moving into the summary portion of the tasting, the culinary references just kept coming, to the point where we collectively, if not consciously, began verbally crafting an imaginary dish that, were this wine food, this wine would be … It took much hammering out, some concessions and compromises had to be made, but in the end, we emerged from our debate chambers with an agree-upon culinary metaphor: Dutch Oven-Roasted Duck in Smoky Cherry Sauce. Meaning, I think, that this wine is nothing if not SEXY!