The thing about great wines, I’m finally learning, is that they don’t SCREAM or PREACH greatness at you. They, like many other ‘great’ things in this world, simply do what they do better than all the rest – and without fanfare.
I had a conversation with a good friend of mine recently regarding the QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) of wine. I stated my theory regarding the price point of negative returns (essentially at which price two bottles of X are more enjoyable than one bottle of Y for the same total $$). While I’m opening some $75 big boy Napa Cabernet, he reminded me that he rarely drinks anything over $20, yet manages to find some really good, if not GREAT wines. Annoyingly, he’s right.
Chasing the elusive ‘white whale’ of California Cabernet or Burgundian Pinot Noir gets pricey – fast. Money aside, I’m finding that the issue is more that it’s like a drug addiction where you need even more and more and more. More splintery tannins, higher alcohol, or powerful toasty oak to really separate a wine from the pack. Problem is it’s not the wine that you’re tasting at this point, but rather a single, specific attribute which is screaming to set itself apart. At this point, you’ve lost your ability to taste balance and finesse in a wine, and your just comparing car horns.
I’ve written plenty about Nickel & Nickel before…and if you know me I’ve talked about them plenty as well. For the select few of you who *don’t* know the idea behind Nickel & Nickel – they are a single vineyard, single varietal winery. This means if you are drinking a Hudson Vineyard Syrah…you are ONLY drinking Syrah and ONLY from Hudson Vineyard. This might sound obvious and straightforward, but the dirty little secret about most wines (esp in the US) is that in order to say ‘Napa Valley’ or ‘Cabernet’ on the bottle – it only needs to be mostly Cabernet and/or mostly from Napa Valley.
What I love about Nickel & Nickel is that they fit all of the criteria above. They focus on one grape, from one place, which allows for the vineyard to dictate the style, flavor, and intensity of the wine. Beyond this, they focus on BALANCE. They don’t make wines in an obnoxious style, but it’s not at the expense of fruit, body, oak, tannins, age-ability, or otherwise. They simply make awesome, dependable, well-structured, and balanced wines which don’t need to hit you over the head to impress.
Tonight I opened a 2007 Hudson Vineyard Syrah from the Carneros region of Napa. Unlike many Carneros Syrahs, this one is less fruit driven and more spicey in nature.
- The color is an awesomely DEEP neon purple.
- Smokey, graphite nose on opening.
- Evolves into figs, star anise, pencil lead, and steak juice.
- The oak arrives after a minute or two, and is enveloped by a floral note of violets and roses.
- Reminiscent of a Washington State Syrah – gritty and dark.
- Subtle wintergreen mint on nose.
- Massive, refined tannins…but surprisingly weak fruit.
- Expecting powerful juicy raspberries and strawberries, but instead there are tighter, tarter blueberries and cranberries.
- As it opens later along, there are nice additional fruit dimensions, but still drier than expected.
Overall, this is a nice and easy drinking Syrah – perfect with a roast chicken or braised short ribs. However, I (personally) prefer more of a fruit-driven Syrah, so this was kinda lost on me in certain areas. Nickel & Nickel makes a few types of each varietal (Syrah, Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay), and they ensure that there is a style for everyone. Personally, I’m more of a Darien Vineyard guy, but this will CERTAINLY do in a pinch!