Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Four Cairn 2011 Syrah, Napa Valley

IMG_20190615_211124Sometimes you have to dig through some dirt to find a buried treasure…

Small Production Syrah

A few years ago I ordered a number of wines from Invino, a great online wine retailer which, regrettably, has morphed into something called Cellar Thief. The really cool Syrah I ordered was somehow out of stock. Instead they substituted this Four Cairn 2011 Syrah from Napa.

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At the time I was bummed. I was looking forward to tasting the other bottle. I paid $20 and this bottle was supposed to be an upgrade. I got over it and stashed this bottle for drinking at a later time.

Napa Know-How

Napa Valley produces scrumptious wines, but for Syrah I usually look northward to Washington State. We’ve been in the middle of a devilish hot spell – and that means we’ve been dipping into an array of chilled white wines and rosé.

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When the Green Dragon (my wife) finally made the call for a red, I was ready. I plucked and popped the Four Cairn Syrah, resolved to finally discover what I had actually purchased back in 2014.
IMG_20190615_211215Four Cairns Vineyard sits at the foot of Spring Mountain in the St. Helena AVA and has primarily gravely loam soil. A cairn is a monument made out of stacked stones and the vineyard name is a nod to the stony composition of the four-acre Syrah vineyard.

When this vintage was released, the word was it needed some aging to taste its best. That’s good news, because I’ve had it tucked away for some time. This was a small lot production, with only 125 cases produced. The prime drinking window was listed as 2015-2017. Oops – we’d missed the window of opportunity by a couple years.

Getting To The Bottom Of The Bottle

In the glass, the Four Cairn is a deep, dark opaque purple. On the palate there is a rich texture and flavor notes of black fruit, leather and spice. This is a mature bottle, and so I’m glad we didn’t wait any longer to open. However, it is complex and elegant with savory notes. Syrah can be tannic, but the years of aging have mellowed the beast into a refined glass of goodness.

When we got toward the bottom of the bottle, the Green Dragon exclaimed, “What’s this in my glass?” It was a healthy dose of dark clumpy sediment. The bottle itself looked like someone had added several spoonfuls of dirt.

Sediment isn’t a bad thing. It’s often a byproduct of aging. Phenolics, the molecules that give wine color, aroma and flavor, combine to form heavier polymers that then drop to the bottom.

When you are searching for treasure, you have to dig through some dirt – or in this case, sediment. Four Cairns Syrah is a small production gem and built to last.

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