A first ever vertical tasting of Jaffurs Wine Cellars Thompson Vineyard Santa Barbara Syrah was held recently at the Jaffur`s Winery. I was felt very blessed to be invited to share in this rare and special occasion as I`ve long been a fan of the vineyard, the wine and the principals of the winery.
Others joining included the present owner of Thompson Vineyard, wine and food writers, the 5 principal members and staff of Jaffurs Wine Cellars and a few others, 17 in all.
We tasted a 1994, then moved on to the 16 bottle vertical, 1998- 2013, poured in 4 flights of 4.
There were some common threads throughout most of the bottles tasted with a few deviations. All wines were 100% same source Syrah. All bottles with the exception of 1 showcased the treasures of this exquisite cool climate Syrah. There was so much ongoing depth and layers of complexity with ever changing and unfolding nuances developing in each bottle. Whatever tasting notes I first made would be accurate only for that moment. The wines kept changing in the glass and what I got at the outset was markedly different from what I got a few minutes later; there was however, some commonality in most bottles.
I found a somewhat consistent very pleasant slightly sweetened black fruit profile of black cherry, blackberry and black currant plus some plum and blueberry. Some had a bit of mint, menthol, pepper and saline character along with integrated and yet evident oak influence. All but the 94` had a deep, dark, rich and in some case, inky vibrant purple color hue. All had a tactile pleasing soft and easy on the palate feel.
The following tasting notes are a composite of at least 2 passes through on each wine:
1994 JAFFURS WINE CELLARS THOMPSON VINEYARD SANTA BARBARA COUNTY SYRAH- this was the first ever Thompson Vineyard Syrah Craig made and he used it to launch his winery which also happened to be the first year the vineyard came on line; the color denotes the wine is still quite viable with only a slight amount of bricking evident; I got some fine tertiary notes early in the aromatics and continuing on through the taste profile including some spicy dried prune, plum and fig with a touch of mint and wood character; the taste had more cedar infused tasty wild cherry/ berry with a hit of pepper; it finished with some of the fruit dissipating, but still evident; this is so delightful and a testament to the ageability of these wines; great start!
First flight of 4:
1998 JAFFURS WINE CELLARS THOMPSON VINEYARD SANTA BARBARA COUNTY SYRAH- very youthful medium dark purple color; the nose had spice, earth, mushroom laden black currant followed by nice spicy, peppered red and black raspberry and sweetened blueberry along with a bit of oak; it was perfectly balanced and had an elegance and finesse quality that was so pleasing; this bottle nailed it from the nose through the tail and hit all of the sensory receptors with satisfying results.
1999 JAFFURS WINE CELLARS THOMPSON VINEYARD SANTA BARBARA COUNTY SYRAH- this had the hallmark deep, dark, rich and vibrant purple color hue along with aromatics of rose petal, cedar and mint toast with black currant fruit; the taste profile included some very tasty, upfront and intense slightly sweetened black cherry with a hint of bacon coming in late; it had great mouthfeel and a long, extended finish; now, my sensory receptors, already perked up, were stimulated majorly; really good wine.
2000 JAFFURS WINE CELLARS THOMPSON VINEYARD SANTA BARBARA COUNTY SYRAH- vibrant dark purple color; the nose had some earthy, menthol black cherry notes followed by tastes of black currant, black raspberry and black cherry, all with a bit of a briary after taste note; this had a silky smooth texture that carried all of the treasures to the back end and helped in sustaining the long finish.
2001 JAFFURS WINE CELLARS THOMPSON VINEYARD SANTA BARBARA COUNTY SYRAH- this was the first year in the new and still currant winery in Santa Barbara having moved from a co-op facility in Santa Maria; it was also the first time this wine was made doing a cool soak; the color was a young, vibrant, deep, dark purple; the nose was big and inviting accurately suggesting depth and complexity with sweet black fruit and floral notes showing up; early on, there is some talc and sandalwood inundated black cherry and blueberry flavors extending to the back of the palate; the firm tannins provide enough backbone for future maturity from which this bottle will benefit.
Second flight of 4:
2002 JAFFURS WINE CELLARS THOMPSON VINEYARD SANTA BARBARA COUNTY SYRAH- youthful, deep, rich purple color; huge nose of concentrated fresh blueberry, black cherry, violets, rose petals, menthol, sage and bacon most of which continues on and is joined by dark chocolate, wild and sweet cherry notes that to me implies some oak influence and as before and throughout this tasting, not to a fault; the acidity and tannins, which are somewhat stiff in this bottle, were re-assuring of longevity; this has years to go prior to full maturation.
2003 JAFFURS WINE CELLARS THOMPSON VINEYARD SANTA BARBARA COUNTY SYRAH- youthful, vibrant dark purple color; the nose has some pretty serious sweet grapey notes that sing loud and clear; this is full bodied, complex and significantly structured along with bright acidity to go for the long haul; the dark fruit profile is full on and borders on being intense; there`s power and yet some finesse here; the hallmark may be the perfect balance this has; it stays on the palate forever; great wine now and one for the future as well.
2004 JAFFURS WINE CELLARS THOMPSON VINEYARD SANTA BARBARA COUNTY SYRAH- the color was dark purple; however, the nose suggested something amiss which for me translated into Volatile Acidity and in this case, more toward acetic acid than ethyl acetate; I did explore further and found some pleasing sweet dark fruit initially, but it dissipated somewhat abruptly and the bottle finished quite dry.
2005 JAFFURS WINE CELLARS THOMPSON VINEYARD SANTA BARBARA COUNTY SYRAH- dark, rich purple; a bit of a veggie character in the nose which did blow off in time and was replaced by some super ripe raisin almost Amarone type fruit; none of this appeared in the taste as it was replaced by nice, super fruity and sweet black cherry with a bacon and bit of salt accent; it had nice mouthfeel and a sustained finish; this bottle served to remind that what we get in the nose is not always representative of what we get in the taste and beyond.
Third flight of 4:
2006 JAFFURS WINE CELLARS THOMPSON VINEYARD SANTA BARBARA COUNTY SYRAH- dark, intense inky purple; the nose had a soft and gentle welcoming with a tinge of VA coming in late; bacon flavored sweet and ripe black fruit with a wildness to it dominated the taste profile; this had a smooth texture and satisfying finish.
2007 JAFFURS WINE CELLARS THOMPSON VINEYARD SANTA BARBARA COUNTY SYRAH- young, inky dark color; the aromatics and taste profile had some really nice toasty, spicy concentrated blueberry, black cherry and black currant fruit that just exploded on the palate; this is a seriously complex high energy wine that is sure to please all who venture in.
2008 JAFFURS WINE CELLARS THOMPSON VINEYARD SANTA VARBARA COUNTY SYRAH- very youthful deep, dark, rich color; the nose is redolent with significant fresh, sweet fruit which is confirmed in the taste which is full on ripe black cherry/ berry, black currant and plum; there`s a toasty, spicy accent that comes in and accentuates the black cherry notes; this is a sensory treat par excellence; although really good now, it promises to do even greater things down the line.
2009 JAFFURS WINE CELLARS THOMPSON VINEYARD SANTA BARBARA COUNTY SYRAH- inky dark purple color; aromatics of menthol, mint chocolate black fruit which extends into the taste profile and is joined by some nice wild berry notes; this wine is playful, youthful, vibrant and lively; it dances around on the palate and stays there for extended pleasure; amazingly energetic.
Fourth and final flight of 4:
2010 JAFFURS WINE CELLARS THOMPSON VINEYARD SANTA BARBARA COUNTY SYRAH- winemaker notes state this season was cool, moist and came in quite late [Nov. 6] and the Thompson fruit came in as the best pick of the year for the winery and was picked at 24.4 brix; the color is a vibrant, young inky dark purple; the nose suggests a semblance of balance and a mellowness amidst some seriousness; the taste explodes on the olfactory senses with coffee, talc, milk chocolate flavored black cherry/ berry; it`s full bodied, easy on the palate and long; great wine with so many fine years/ decades to go.
2011 JAFFURS WINE CELLARS THOMPSON VINEYARD SANTA BARBARA COUNTY SYRAH- also picked quite late [31 Oct.] at 24.0 brix; the tannins were perceived to be quite vigorous; this was considered to be a good Rhone-like year; with an inky dark color, the nose offered generous amounts of spicy, delicious dark fruit; upon tasting, all of these notes were joined by a hit of cinnamon and clove with even more spice showing up; it had really pleasant soft mouthfeel, was in beautiful balance and so approachable at this young age with promises for more wonderful gifts down the line.
2012 JAFFURS WINE CELLARS THOMPSON VINEYARD SANTA BARBARA COUNTY SYRAH- considered to be a “perfect” harvest year, this already sold out wine complimented the wise choice everyone made by showcasing some very fine attributes including a substantial inviting floral and grapey nose, intense and concentrated blue and black fruit with a delicate sweetness to please and a soft, smooth texture sensually coating the palate with all of the treasures; it had amazing balance for being such a pup and the fruit is staggeringly tasty; a real treat at this early stage.
2013 JAFFURS WINE CELLARS THOMPSON VINEYARD SANTA BARBARA COUNTY SYRAH- not yet released, the winemaker`s notes on this wine state the growing season was similar to 2012 with maybe a touch riper fruit along with a greater yield; our bottle was another early on great showing for a wine that can age for many years prior to maturity; it is very fruit forward with aromas jumping out of the glass once poured; it`s soft and easy on the palate, full bodied and also elegant; there is some oaky talc and vanilla notes that have not yet integrated, but balance is not far away here and with all other aspects; yes, this is a youngster and in its early life, it is already learning how to show grace and charm without pretentiousness.
Having had most of these wines previously and a fond appreciation for how they have showed, this was a special treat not only to taste through 17 vintages, but to share it with Craig, Dave, Matt and others who have had an intimate relationship with the vineyard and resulting wines.