Thursday, February 2, 2012

Updated Review: *** $ Cameron Hughes (CH) Lot 123 Syrah, Alexander Valley, Lot 123, Sonoma County, CA, 2006

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By way of background: This syrah from Alexander Valley in Sonoma County is part of the Cameron Hughes line.   For vintage 2006, the syrah is finished at 14.1% alcohol.  It captured my attention because of the distributor's tasting descriptions which included "meaty" and "hints of pencil lead".  I really do enjoy "pencil lead" in my wines; and some of my earlier winemaking experiments did show "roast beef" in my Alexander Valley syrah.  Let's see what kind of exotic aromatics we find in this Cameron Hughes offering...

Original review, December, 2009:

In the glass:The Cameron Hughes Alexander Valley Syrah is purple magenta in the glass, opaque to within about 3/4 inch of the edge.

On the nose: Poured without a decant and swirled vigorously, I detect aromatic red berries, elements of black currant.  Yes, okay, I can see why "hints of pencil lead" may come through.  I see them more as "smoky oak shavings" or maybe even the wood shavings from a pencil sharpener, but I suppose those are close enough.  The "surround sound" though, is definitely red fruit.
On the palate:A gritty, almost sandy, sweet raspberry, first hits the tip of your tongue, then your upper mouth.  The sandy aspect is intriguing.  The rugged fruit reaches across your tongue, having a hard time reaching your cheeks.  I think that is because sand doesn't glide too easily.  To me, this suggests we have an awesome fabric of tannins surrounding this wine.  Lingering fruit elements -- once you attend past the sweet tannins -- are red cherry and red currants.

And the finish:Mouth-coating finish brings charcoal-tinged fruit.  Sits for a good long time before releasing its tannic grip.

In summary: Intense physical experience in your mouth.  Three stars on the five-star Spirit of Wine scale.  Watch it for the future.  Not sure what these tannins surrounding the brighter red fruits will turn it into.  Excellent value wine, even in its youth.

Following a two-day partial-bottle decant, the nose has veered in the direction of red cherry candy lollipops with a light oak dusting.  The sandy palate has subsided.  Now you get full-on sweet raspberries, held slightly close with solid acids and tannins.  Red currants as the sip comes to a close.  This seems as though it will always remain bright, tangy and fruity, even as the tannins settle more with age.

Updated review, over two years later,  January, 2012:  Color remains purple magenta, now with a hint of brick at the edge.  Nose is now soft, deep and meaty.  A bright, broad, raspberry-tinged palate is apparent along with a slight charcoal surround.  Remains solid.  Feels ready to drink, now at six years from vintage date. Following long decant, full day kept cool in partially filled bottle: Nose remains the same, but the palate settles and becomes a bit deeper, broader.  Shows fresh, young blackberries.

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