This month on The Somm Set, we’re excited to feature Thomas Dorman! Join us as we explore everything from his passion for wine, favorite wine and food pairing, and his newest endeavors.
The Many Faces of Syrah
The Somm Set Home
This week from Thomas:
Syrah can be very polarizing;
some see its many faces and love it fiercely, others have yet to discover its
versatility. It has no singular
personality, it can take many forms and in the right light, it can be all things
to all people. In that way, it really shines. Through drought, rain,
sunburn, Syrah endures it all and thrives in a unique way to each terroir. Syrah offers aromatic complexity, dark-fruit, and textural diversity. Syrah can be lithe but Meaty. Ripe but savory. Fruity
yet Earthy. It can be dark, brooding, and robust, or fresh, bright, and
austere. Sometimes with stems and sometimes carbonic. The dichotomies
of viticulture and vinification attract the most talented winemakers in the
world. Their creations are some of the most revered wines in the
THE HOLY GRAIL...
The Wine Spectator deemed JL
Chave, a 500-year-old estate, "the most sought after Rhone bottling among
private collectors." With production at just over 3,000 cases per annum,
his passion for letting the terroir speak through the grapes creates
integrated, powerful, and complex wines; there is no makeup on these wines. The
focus is on great wines, emphasizing father-to-son tradition 'vignerons de Pere
en Fils.' The University of California
Davis graduate Jean Louis Chave took over as winemaker with the help of his
father, Gerard, who is still very much active on the property. They believe the
French appellations need more definition, which is evident in his passion for
preserving the integrity and individuality of each parcel they source from
before blending. There are no chemicals and no machines in the vineyards and
minimal intervention in the cellar. The wines are an expression of their soil,
their people, and their place. A small selection for sure.
Keep looking for the J.L. Chave selection wines at a fraction of the price.
Unrestrained farming regimens and attention to detail set this producer apart
from the rest. Perhaps the single most remarkable expression of the grape is
the Hermitage from Chave.
Thierry Allemand's wines are
one of Cornas' most expressive wines. Thierry Allemand did not come from a
family of winemakers. However, instead, he created his own Domaine after
learning winemaking techniques from apprenticing for Cornas legends Robert
Michel and Noël Verset. While working alongside these two masters, he acquired
his land on extremely steep slopes on an overgrown vineyard. He patiently
rehabilitated the vines to make them produce some of the highest quality grapes
in Cornas. He learned from some of the
best and worked very hard to become meticulous in his techniques which have
paid dividends as his beautifully composed wines are becoming more popular each
Rene Rostaing produced its
first vintage in 1971, but it was not for another three decades that wine
production became a full-time occupation for the Domaine. Located in the
Côte-Rôtie region of the Northern Rhône, the estate is mainly known for its
Syrah. Initially, Rostaing only covered a humble 3.7 acres divided between the
Côte Blonde and La Landonne sub-regions. With steady growth, the Domaine has
over 18 acres of vineyards in Côte Rôtie currently, which is considered a
substantial amount for the region. The wines are adored by aficionados and
critics alike, warranting their current price increase.
WEST COAST WONDERS:
Sine Qua Non
Manfred Krankl's Sine Qua Non wines were born of pure passion and a wishful dream "to make something that is so distinctive and so delicious." The wines are ripe and flavorful but also graceful and balanced. For every vintage, a new label is designed for these highly-rated rarities making them a work of art with a name that seems to capture its essence.
John and Lorraine Alban first
purchased their now-legendary land in 1990 because of the striking geographic
similarity to the beloved Rhône Valley in France. With a heavy emphasis on
powerful Rhône style blends, this California estate has a global reputation for
being difficult to acquire without a trusted source like Benchmark Wine Group.
Located in the Edna Valley of San Luis Obispo County, Alban has 66 acres
devoted to growing Syrah, Grenache, Viognier, and more. They produce a total of
about 6,000 cases per year under their label, most of which are sold on
allocation to a lengthy waiting list and sell some of their grapes to other
notable producers. The meticulous effort and strategic combination of
California terroir and Southeastern French varietals that Alban Vineyards
provides are essential for any cellar.
No Girls was originally
founded as a collaboration between Cayuse Vineyards' owner and vigneron
Christophe Baron and general manager Trevor Dorland. Since the No Girls Project
was launched, the wines have earned routinely high accolades, with Wine
Spectator calling the 2009 vintage "some of the best Washington wines ever
rated" by the magazine. No Girls' name represents an
appreciative nod to the 1950s and 60s—one of Walla Walla's most prosperous and
colorful eras. It's a celebration of our history, with concrete roots in one of
downtown's most storied landmarks. The grapes come from the
Cayuse La Paciencia vineyard, which means patience—appropriate since the
project was ten years in the making. The vines are tightly spaced and planted
on an angle, giving No Girls a personality all its own, and the wines are focused
and pure. These are food-friendly creations that eloquently express the rocky
terroir from which they spring.
Pax Wine Cellars began with
Pax and Pam Mahle when they moved from the East Coast to California after Pax
got a corporate position sourcing wine for Dean & Deluca. After a couple of
years in that position, Pax decided to begin winemaking as a profession and
launched Pax Wine Cellars in 2000. Pax Wine Cellars is known for cool-climate
Syrah bottlings from vineyards in Sonoma County and Mendocino and is well
received by critics and connoisseurs.
Saxum Vineyards founder,
Justin Smith, is Paso Robles's first vintner raised in the vines. He has
developed a deep respect for each of his seven vineyard sites and the
Rhone-style wines he produces. The high-quality, low-yielding winery is
credited for revolutionizing Paso Robles winemaking. Their Templeton Gap/Willow
Creek location is characterized by rocky calcareous soils, steep hillsides,
perfectly sunny days, and cool breezes from the Pacific Ocean. This Central
Coast rock star focuses on producing Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre blends,
crafting some of the most sought-after and expensive wines in Paso Robles
history. The production is up to 4,000
cases, with 38 of his wines scoring over 95 points by the Wine Advocate and
Saxum's 2007 James Berry Vineyard earning Wine Spectator's 2010 Wine of the
Year. Smith eagerly shares his experiences and knowledge with his neighbor
winemakers and utilizes the help from his childhood friends in the cellar.
Uniqueness and creativity are found on the bottle as their labels are crafted
by a local artist, making it as highly expressive as their wines.
Shafer's Relentless is a blend of
Syrah and Petite Sirah that originates in a rugged, sloping vineyard planted in
the chaparral foothills of the Vaca Mountains, along Napa Valley's drier,
cooler southeast corridor. The soul of the wine, though, comes from its
namesake, our longtime winemaker, Elias Fernandez, whom the Shafer family
honors with this proprietary blend for his relentless pursuit of quality.
The original and most
powerful expression of Penfolds multi-vineyard, multi-district blending philosophy,
Grange is arguably Australia's most celebrated wine. It is officially listed as
a Heritage Icon of South Australia. Crafted utilizing fully-ripe,
intensely-flavored, and structured Shiraz grapes, the result is a unique
Australian style that is now recognized as one of the most consistent of the
world's great wines. With an unbroken line of vintages from the experimental
1951, Grange demonstrates the synergy between Shiraz and the soils and climates
of South Australia.
Torbreck has been named on
Robert Parker's Top 100 Wine Estates and is one of the rarest, most expensive,
and exciting wineries revolutionizing how the rest of the world reacts to
Australian wine. Located in the Barossa Valley, Torbreck takes its name from
the forest in Scotland where the owner and founding winemaker, David Powell,
was once a lumberjack. He developed a passion for wine as he worked with old
Shiraz vines in 1992, which led him to establish Torbreck in 1994. Powell
accessed sufficient capital through share-farming and pursued his passion.
These Rhone-inspired wines have received big scores and praise from every vital
Check out all the wines mentioned below!