All one needs to do in order to experience the Northern Rhone without actually setting foot there is to taste the 2005 Failla “Phoenix Ranch” Syrah from Napa Valley California. When you understand what winemaker Ehren Jordan‘s roots are, you’ll know that it’s no mistake that this wine is a dead ringer for a Cornas. I couldn’t believe how closely it resembled what little I have tried from this tiny Northern Rhone appellation. Here’s what I thought:
Super dark purple color in the glass. If the color and intensity of a wine could ever translate into muscular, this would be it. I thought that I was going to be in for a mouthful, but the initial sip revealed otherwise. Surprisingly elegant and light for a syrah. I guess this is what they mean by cool climate syrah. Seriously; flavors of fresh cracked black pepper and bacon. In fact, bacon wrapped blueberries with cracked black pepper sprinkled on it to be more precise. Smells and flavors of smoke , meat and violets. Could use just a little more flesh on the finish, but still fabulous.
Jordan spent two years working with the renowned Cornas winemaker, Jean-Luc Columbo. It is here where he learned his craft for producing cool climate syrahs, thus the resulting Phoenix Ranch syrah. Another thing of note. Ehren makes Turley zinfandels as well. If you’re a fan of Turley zins, crossing over to Failla wines with the same expectations will yield feelings of shock, as the two styles couldn’t be more diametrically opposed. They are a complete contrast in styles as far as impact is concerned. Turley wines are rich, powerful and pack quite a punch while Failla wines tend to be more restrained in nature. Although the style of Turley zinfandels have evolved into wines with less punch and jamminess, they’re still powerful and it’s hard to believe that the same hands make both brands.
Although many excellent syrahs are being made from the golden state, there still seems to be a hesitance for people to jump on board with the varietal. I always think people who like cabernet sauvignon and zinfandel are also going to like syrah, but my real life retail experiences have shown me otherwise. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t. It depends on the style of syrah. There seems to be two prevalent styles in California; the cool climate Northern Rhone version like the Failla or those more closely resembling the Australian, Barossa Valley, blockbuster style. I never gave much thought on preferring one style over the other. I usually just like what’s good, but experiencing this bottle has actually caused me to consider the Northern Rhone style as the only California style for me to drink.
In fact, if you have had syrahs from California or the US, that fit the description above, The GC would like to hear from you in our comments section.
I “bought” this from our store, but here’s a listing of places countrywide that carry this wine.