Nielson Vineyard; 14.8% ABV
Upper Bench; 14.8% ABV
both from Santa Maria Valley, CA
$6 each at the Oakland, CA, store on 7 Oct
Seedboy alerted us to these wines by writing on 6 October (slightly edited):
New wines in Oakland. Both of these wines have good fruit. Pushed ripeness a bit but still good balance between the acid and other flavors. They both have a lot of the peppery quality you’d expect from the cool climate Syrahs they are, but more fruit than most northern Rhone wines. The Upper Bench has more stuffing and is more complex. For tonight the Nielson is really lovely. You can’t go wrong with these, especially at $5.99 a bottle.
Based on this recommendation, I started with the Nielsen Vineyard and was not disappointed. Although delicious right away, it became more delicate and balanced after about an hour in a decanter. The fruit was very ripe, with a lightly syrupy character, showing flavors of blackberry, blueberry, purple grape, balanced by a roasted or charred character that was close to a bitter herbal component, and nice acid of black and red currants and darker cranberry. It’s not all that well delineated or elegant, but it’s a very tasty CA Syrah.
The Upper Bench is immediately noticeable as more complex and far more elegant than the Nielson. After about 70 minutes of air, it presents a similar lightly syrupy character, but with flavors of blackberry, blueberry, dark red cherry, vanilla, violets, and a similar (but not as strong) lightly charred edge. The Nielson is tasty, but the Upper Bench is terrific. Both good buys.