Wine Review – 2006 Carlisle “Pelkan Ranch” Syrah, Sonoma, California

carlislesyrahI’m not one to put my name on winery mailing lists.  Never have and probably never will.  I’m always looking for new things to try, especially since I started this blog.  Committing my limited dollars to a shipment of one winery’s wine once, twice or even three times a year is just a little hard for me to do.  I like to have a little more flexibility.  Besides, simple economics dictates that things can and will add up very quickly on the financial front.  As far as your collection goes, before you know it, half your cellar will be of one brand.  There’s too many wines out there to have so much of one winery’s one.  This time it’s a little different though.  The 2006 Carlisle “Pelkan Ranch” Syrah was the dagger in the coffin for me as far as undoing my resistance to signing up for a winery’s mailing list.

Here are my wine notes:  The nose was very herbal and tree bark-like, usually indications to me that the wine needs some time to open up.  When it started to open up, that’s when you could start to catch whiffs of the tar and meat, tell-tale signs that syrah is swimming in your glass.  Lots of dark fruits like plums and blackberries.  A little candy flavored, but it’s ok since there’s enough of the wild and gamy characteristics of syrah present to help balance the wine.  Super dense and chewy but not heavy, cloying or clunky on your palate.  Beautifully textured wines.  Use a decanter if you have one, because this needs a little air to open up and help get it going, but once it does, whoa mama!

I’ve had a few of their zinfandels in the past and came away really impressed.  After drinking this syrah, I was sold as far as accumulating this winery’s wine in the years to come.    While their wines are not cheap for everyday drinking, they can still be opened without guilt.  Their broad appellation wines like the Sonoma County Zinfandel and Sonoma County Syrah run in the low to mid $20 range and are great for early drinking.  Their single vineyard wines run anywhere from $35 to $48, with a majority of them in the high $30 range.  Considering how long you can hold these wines, I think they are excellent cellar collection values.

The winery focuses their efforts on old-vine zinfandel and Rhone varietals such as syrah, grenache and mourvedre.  They have several broad appellation wines, but for the most part, the majority of their wines are single vineyard designated.  Whether its their syrahs or zinfandels, the wines all have a Carlisle sensibility to them.  Being able to create wines from different varietals that share a similar style, but retain varietal character I feel, is a great testament to their wine making prowess.  They’re all dense and compact wines that are loaded with flavor and tannins that allow for drinking now or for laying down for a few years.  The winery even conveniently keeps a drinking chart on their website that highlights the drinking windows for their wines

I really appreciate the story of how the Officers got into to the wine business.  They didn’t buy a winery starter kit complete with land, fancy structure and an all star wine making and vineyard consulting team.  I appreciate that there were baby steps taken before fully committing to wine making as a full-time endeavor.  They learned from the ground up by making wine in their own kitchen, grappling with a career change decision and then actually taking that risk to go full time.  These are the kinds of wines and wineries that you have to tip your hat to.

The Carlisle story just really resonates with me because I can visualize myself taking the same path that the Officers took to get where they are now.  Their story shows that anything is possible and that gets me excited.  For now though, I’ll just have drink vicariously through their wines.  Apparently, other wine consumers are just as revved about their wines as much as I am, so you’re going to have to be patient and stand in line on the waiting list like me.

Carlisle Winery & Vineyards

I bought my wine for about $36 bucks at The Woodland Hills Wine Co. during our time in Woodland Hills, California.  On Oahu, I’ve come across them only at R. Field Wine Co. on the retail level and Vino Italian Tapas and Wine Bar at the restaurant level on Oahu.  As is always the case, check with your local neighborhood retail wine shop.


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