Textbook Syrah That Blends Northern Rhône Character With California

Today’s Story: Lillian Winery

Lillian came to fruition in 2004 with their inaugural release of Syrah. The winemaker, Maggie Harrison, worked as assistant winemaker for Manfred Krankl of Sine Qua Non (think $200-$1,000 bottles of cult Rhone variety wines) when he encouraged her to begin producing her own Syrah. With grapes coming from the White Hawk Vineyard, Maggie bottled 150 cases of her 2004 Syrah and, though I have not had that vintage, the several vintages I’ve had since clearly reflect on her experiences at Sine Qua Non.

Over time Lillian grew from 150 cases and, although still small, sources grapes from White Hawk Vineyard, Stolpman Vineyards, Bien Nacido Vineyards, and Cabernet Sauvignon from True Vineyard on Howell Mountain. Additionally, Maggie makes Lillian Roussanne and Grenache which are bottlings added later to the portfolio. With the focus on Syrah, though, each vineyard offers different character. White Hawk is sandy soil producing dark fruit personality, Stolpman is calcareous soil producing brighter fruit but more tannin structure, and Bien Nacido is cooler producing smokier and floral notes with higher acidity and tannin. When they come together, a very elegant wine is born.

I previously reviewed the 2013 Syrah and 2013 Gold Series No. 3 Syrah from Lillian.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Syrah

100% Syrah; 14.3% ABV

The 2015 Syrah is deep purple in color. I decanted this for about an hour, though it was gorgeous from the start. The aromas are of medium (+) intensity, with the nose showcasing classic Syrah notes of blueberry, blackberry, black cherry, lavender, candied bacon, hickory smoke, toasted vanilla bean, crushed gravel, mocha, and sweet toasted oak. The flavors are also of medium (+) intensity, while the palate offers up notes of black plum, blueberry, blackberry, cassis, bacon fat, sweet tobacco, graphite, brown sugar, smoke, mint, and cocoa. This dry red is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium but velvety tannin, high alcohol, and a long finish. Very good quality and a textbook Syrah.

Price: $75. I think this is very reasonably-priced given its high quality level, balance, length, intensity, and complexity. It is also exactly what I want out of a Syrah and a textbook example of the variety. I think this also strikes a good balance between Northern Rhône and California characteristics.