Finessed Old World Style Syrah From California’s Sonoma Coast

Today’s Story: Radio-Coteau

Radio-Coteau is somewhat of a cult winery (though not in the sense many people use the term nowadays) established by winemaker Eric Sussman in 2002. Though the winery is situated in Sebastopol and Eric owns a ridgetop estate vineyard above the town of Occidental, he also sources fruit from vineyards throughout the cooler climates of the northern coast within western Sonoma County and Anderson Valley. Eric brings his impressive history with wine to Radio-Coteau, one that includes stints in Washington’s Yakima Valley, the 1995 vintage in Pauillac on the Left Bank of Bordeaux, and the 1996 vintage in Burgundy at Domaine Comte Armand of Pommard and Domaine Jacques Prieur of Meursault. It was in France when Eric first heard the term “radio-coteau,” which means “word of mouth” or literally “broadcasting from the hillside.” Coupled with his flair for Old World style wines, Eric named his winery after this phrase to signify both a tight-knit community mindset as well as his wines being a true representation of the terroir. Working extensively with organic and biodynamic viticulture in well-drained and marine soils, Eric produces refined examples of Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Zinfandel.

For more on Radio-Coteau, I suggest visiting the extensive website here. There are some very interactive maps of the vineyards, and fantastic photos that also show the livestock and gardens living on the estate site.

Today’s Wine: 2011 Las Colinas Syrah

100% Syrah; 13.3% ABV

The 2011 Las Colinas Syrah is opaque medium purple in color. This was firing on all cylinders as a pop-and-pour, so I simply let it evolve in the glass in lieu of decanting. The aromas leap out of the glass with pronounced intensity, offering up red plum, cherry, blackberry, dried violet, cigar box, licorice, gamey meat, dried underbrush, smoke, scorched earth, and clove. Meanwhile the palate is equally intense with notes of black plum, black cherry, blueberry, violet, tobacco, dried herbs, slate, black pepper, chalky mineral, mild chocolate, and baking spice. This dry Sonoma Coast Syrah is medium- to full-bodied with medium acidity, medium but refined tannins, medium alcohol, and a long finish. This is as Old World as it gets for California, and is certainly one of the most elegant Cali Syrah’s I’ve had to date. 330 cases produced.

Price: $50. I think I’m on a value streak lately because this Syrah is absolutely worth its price and can even strike up there with high-quality Northern Rhône bottlings. This is perhaps the most elegant and finessed California Syrah I’ve tasted for the price-point and is deliciously chuggable. Well done.