This is a Dragonette Seven from 2014. Quite simply, it’s one of the best Syrah’s produced in the state every year. I originally met the Dragonette guys about 7 years ago (hold on a second, it’s hard for me to even take that one in…..it’s been a while!) in San Diego at Family Winemakers.
Dragonette is the story of 2 brothers and a family friend who came together to start a winery. They also, have a long history of major dental care-at points that I’ve known them two of the owners have had their jaws wired shut and the 3rd underwent such major dental care that he was on a liquid diet for a time as well. Between teasing them over those continued misfortunes as well as my own proclivity to bring a burrito at the wrong time, I have long wondered when you have a partnership of three how this works. Do the two brothers always side together? Does the friend hold all the power because the brothers always bicker? It’s a testament to all three men that after about a decade together sharing both business and winemaking decisions communally that I’ve never seen them visibly annoyed at each other, or never had them turn down a meeting because they weren’t getting along.
Ok so about the wine in your glass. It’s Syrah. But it’s not “that” Syrah. In fact it’s sourced from what some of the cooler vineyard sites around Santa Barbara County including some of my old favorites, like Stolpman. Fermented in neutral oak barrels (neutral oak has been used for a number of years already, so it should either not impart any flavors at all, or impart only a minimum of flavor). It’s also unfined and unfiltered, so if you have a Vegan friend this is fine to open.
Oh and Wine Enthusiast continues it’s love affair with this version of Syrah from Dragonette. If you’ve been a wine club member for awhile, you know I don’t abide strictly by scores, after all I’ve seen how these actually happen. In any case, here’s what the professionals at Wine Spectator had to say:
This bottling, from seven cool climate vineyards, makes a great intro into savory Syrah, showing all that peppery might without shoving it down the throat. Cracked peppercorn is redolent on the nose and palate, with the latter also showing raw lamb and beef char. The sip tends toward soy and leather, but with a core of dried blackberry fruit that’s familiar to most palates. The texture is tightly woven.
A short note, it no longer comes from seven vineyard sites. Originally it did, but they didn’t change the name once they whittled down the sites. If you’re wondering why not? Marketing wines is damn hard and they already had a few excellent scores from this blend. They thought it was fine because the point of the wine hadn’t changed. It’s still a cool climate Syrah from Santa Barbara County and it’s still sourced from a number of sites.
So why cut it down? Mostly because as Dragonette’s profile has gotten bigger, they both have access to better and better fruit but on the central coast there’s a lot of bigger vineyards. Stolpman is about 250 acres and still feels tiny in fact.
But, the reality is that as Dragonette has had a series of these positive scores come in, they have access to the same vineyards, but those vineyards are more likely to make more of their best fruit available to them. It’s a cycle that continues to repeat itself. Good scores lead to better fruit. Better fruit leads to better scores etc etc etc. A positive feedback loop of sorts.
All in all, this along with Larner’s estate offering, continues to be among my favorite Syrah’s produced in this region of California. It’s nice to have the critics on board.