Home California Why California Cool(er) Climate Syrah Matters, or, Going Italian, Part 2 (because, in Part 1, I also posted pretty sensorily spontaneous tasting notes)

Why California Cool(er) Climate Syrah Matters, or, Going Italian, Part 2 (because, in Part 1, I also posted pretty sensorily spontaneous tasting notes)


Thanksgiving holiday ending in the United States means people are flipping it towards Christmas, freaking out about selling as much as they can if they own businesses that make, or carry things to sell, and buying as much as possible for their little families to open on the offending day.

I actually love Christmas. But, I love it for the sense of snow christened gratefulness that comes with the incredibly cold weather I grew up within. That is, pinpoint, ultra focused, star flashes on snow so cold it has diamond shining clusters all through it’s crusty top. It’s so cold outside the air is silent, and on the holiday no cars move. Too cold to travel. Even the moose are moving slowly to eat the trees outside. (I grew up in Alaska after all.)

The thing about such familiarity with cold weather is you come to expect the tension it causes in the throat, and on the face. Warm weather, though desired, offends for the way it makes the entire body feel a little too soft. That’s what a warm bath does too–it softens everything through that thing the upper classes call “relaxation.”

Here’s why what I’m saying here matters. (I do realize it sounds like weirdly spontaneous personal revelry.) I’ve decided the difference between life in warm climates, and the kind of softness of flesh that accompanies it, versus the reality of cold-cold weather, helps to get at a wine descriptor I need. A very particular tension quite desirably found in some wine.

When thinking about descriptors for wines, one of the important points to make is that we can readily depict how it smells and tastes, on the one hand. But, we can also focus on the feeling and texture it offers, on the other.

Shifting to texture, mouthfeel, and stimulation in wine is what I want to do here. Making this move offers a different perspective than the more obvious-in-the-New-World attention to scents and flavors. It is a textural, surface-stimulation phenomenon I want to focus on.

I tried to find an old photo of me out cross country skiing, but I just couldn’t for now (I’ll get one up later, promise). But, let me tell you, holy god, Montreal (this is taken in old town) got so cold in the winter. So cold.

Some winters life in Alaska was so cold that to go out cross country skiing (I raced my first two years of high school, and was lucky enough to be sponsored by Fischer skis, though that entire tenure I swore I liked running better) I would coat my face in Dermatone wax stick to keep my skin from freezing. The Dermatone would layer against the cold air pushing over my face as I tucked down hills, or climbed against the wind of an uphill facing the water of the Inlet. Skiing in below zero Farenheit with Dermatone on my cheeks meant the warmth of my own body-heat, sealed beneath a layer of wax, stayed, blended with the sharp needle point prick of the cold air. It was a weird sort of tension in my skin that would worsen when I then stepped inside after to warm back up again, as if my body couldn’t help but fight that initial change.

Here is why I’m telling you this: I am drinking Donelan 2010 Obsidian Vineyard Knight’s Valley Syrah. It is their recent release. 385 cases produced. The nose carries ripe wild berries with the pungency of tundra plants growing in peat. At first taste, the fruit cascade drinks blue, cool, tight, yet round in the mouth. The wine swirls slowly as it turns towards the belly and then rubs down the throat with the heat-insulated, needle poking texture that comes from cross country skiing with Dermatone on the face in too much cold. It is a throat stimulation and weave that is not acidity zipping over the tongue (though there is enough acidity in this wine). It is the almost metallic vibrancy of the site. This is a Syrah with an older world sophisticated nature. It carries the tension of Cornas, with only the very initial fruit that would worry you it will be too big. Drink this wine when you want to tease someone. Tonight, I’m teasing me.


Donelan Wines: http://www.donelanwines.com/index2.html

Thank you to Tyler Thomas. This bottle was given to me as a sample.

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