Russian Hill 2006 Syrah “Top Block”

Russian River Valley, CA; 14.8% ABV
$7 at the Berkeley, CA, store on 24 Feb

RussianHill_2006_Syrah_TopBlockThis is the last of my Russian Hill purchases, and one of my least favorite.  It seemed to need about 2.5 hours in a decanter to open, showing flavors of dark red cherry, redder purple plum or grape, some slightly funky black pepper, and a light earthy / orangey aged complexity.  The body is on the lighter end of full, lighter than either the 2003 Ellen’s Block or the 2001 Windsor Oaks, and, to me, it tastes slightly too old.  I did drink it, so maybe I should say Drinkable, but I think the vinegary aspect is strong enough at this price I have to go with Thumbs Down.


10 thoughts on “Russian Hill 2006 Syrah “Top Block”

  1. EHL

    Picked up several bottles of the ’06 RH TB Syrah when they first came out in Oakland, per SB’s early recommendation, and finally tried one last night.

    As an aside, I really like the heavy, deep punt, wide bottles that Russian Hill Estate uses for all their wines…they bespeak high quality.

    Upon popping the cork, it was immediately apparent that this was a serious wine, the Syrah being brilliant, black purple ink in color, heavy and full-bodied with a muted nose that was vinous with a hint of oak. The wine was similarly closed, the initial taste of dark plum, blueberry and blackberry fruit being undercut by excess acidity and rough tannins.

    The second day, after breathing, the Syrah smoothed out and improved dramatically, gaining complexity with flavors on top of the dark fruit of leather, black olives, grilled meat, smoky earth and black pepper. It also had an ethereal briny element that reminded me of the RRV’s nearby Pacific, like the clean sea essence of Uni when you first crack open a live sea urchin…

    Although not as opulent and fine as the RH Windsor Oaks Syrah, I thoroughly enjoyed this wine with its rich mouthfeel, complex flavors and long, lingering tannic finish.

    Quite a wine for $7…

      1. EHL

        Yep…sorry, PW, that the pickings have been slim in your neck of the woods.

        With your discerning palate, I’m sure you would have enjoyed many of the Russian Hill offerings, this Syrah and especially the Windsor Oaks Syrah and Estate Pinot Noir, all of which went for $7, $5.60 during the sale, a mere fraction of their usual $40-55 retail prices…

        1. Darrell

          I’m afraid most of the good stuff was gone by the time of the sale and if you were lucky you found a store that didn’t buck you to death. The price was supposed to be $4.99 a bottle.

          1. EHL

            Yeah…those guys at the Oakland and Berkeley GOs did kind of take advantage of us, didn’t they, Darrell.

            What can we do for retribution…lol…

            1. Darrell

              It wasn’t just those two but also SF Geary and Palo Alto, just not quite as bad. Good stores were Pleasant Hill, Rocklin and Richmond if I remember correctly. Even Petaluma did some gouging. The only vehicle we have is to keep others informed and that is the reason I try to report prices. It might work as I recall SF having the Cervantes SB coming out at $6.99 while other stores were at $5.99. I may have mentioned this somewhere on the blog. Well Cervantes hasn’t sold like hotcakes so I’m in the store one day and see two prices, one stack had a $6.99 and another had $5.99. Now all the bottles are at the lower price. I try to patronize the stores that don’t buck me, have cases discount and have access to a restroom.

  2. Darrell

    BW, I think your bottle was worse than mine. Mine didn’t seem volatile but the funk everyone is describing is my burnt, skunky smell.

      1. BargainWhine Post author

        When I stopped in at the Berkeley GO in the last couple weeks, there were three bottles of this on the shelf. Recalling your recommendations, I got one of them. This bottle was indeed very nice, showing darker plum, blueberry, and cherry, with a little funky, charred earth and plenty of acid, but not too old like my first bottle. I still prefer the 2003 Ellen’s Block and the 2001 Windsor Oaks, but this is also very good for the money.

  3. DavidLikesWine

    When I first opened this I would have put good money that this was mis-bottled pinot. The orange peel, dark cherry funk had me wondering…


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