Piedrasassi ‘PS’ Syrah, Santa Barbara, California 2016

Piedrasassi ‘PS’ Syrah, Santa Barbara, California 2016.jpg
Piedrasassi ‘PS’ Syrah, Santa Barbara, California 2016.jpg
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Piedrasassi ‘PS’ Syrah, Santa Barbara, California 2016

from 27.50

This is every bit a Syrah, not a Shiraz, and one of the most delicious examples we have tasted from California and certainly the best by far at this price. If you like Côte-Rotie or Cornas then this is not to be missed, because it takes its inspiration from those peak expressions of the Syrah grape and adds a little Santa Barbara sunshine, bringing a lovely gloss to the fruit. There’s an abundance of shiny black berries, violets, blueberries, black pepper, laurel leaf and a hint of bacon fat, but nothing feels overdone or superfluous and the sweetly succulent acidity holds everything together beautifully. 14% alc. Drink now-2025.

The Winemaker
It’s made by man-of-the-moment, Sashi Moorman, who is perhaps most famously associated with Domaine de la Côte and Sandhi, two of California’s most exciting new estates, specialising in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but Piedrasassi is his small-production ‘home’ label (he calls it a ghetto!) with more of a focus on Rhone varieties. It was established in 2003, but production has never grown beyond 1,000 cases a year, so they are still very much hand-crafted wines. Sashi is one of California’s most thoughtful and progressive winemakers. Having set up the ground-breaking Domaine de la Côte and Sandhi with Rajat Parr, he then set about establishing ‘In Pursuit of Balance’, a movement whose aim was to “promote dialogue around the meaning of balance in California Pinot Noir and Chardonnay”. It’s fair to say that in a very short time, it has led to a paradigm shift in the Golden State’s attitudes towards alcohol content, oak and fruit extraction.

“Piedrasassi is one of my favourite wineries in California. Winemaker Sashi Moorman has the magic touch.” - The Wine Advocate  

"Graceful is very difficult to do in California," says Moorman, "but the style is what I cut my teeth on in Europe. Terroir matters to me, but winemaking style also plays a big role. My style has changed too, from more extracted, oaky wines to those that show a lighter touch. And I no longer age reds in new oak. Tasting with Rajat (Parr) helped me make that transition, but it’s still hard to learn to leave stuff behind during fermentation, to grasp that you don’t need to extract absolutely everything. No one in California talks about elegance, but in a place like Côte-Rôtie most producers deliver it effortlessly. It intrigues me. How does it happen: that collective consciousness in the northern Rhône or Burgundy that puts elegance rather than power and concentration at the top of the list?"

Although quietly-spoken and contemplative (he’s the king of the unnervingly awkward silence), it’s nevertheless always a pleasure to listen to his thoughts, because he challenges preconceptions in a region where things were in danger of becoming stuck in an inextricably deep rut. We’re not fans of winemakers who prioritise dogma over and above all other concerns, a trait which can lead to wines that taste more delicious in theory than they do in practice, but Sasha puts some very simple priorities ahead of any rhetoric: balance, flavour, complexity and drinkability. The rest is propaganda.  

“One of California’s brightest talents.” - Decanter Magazine

The winemaking
In the vineyard, the team at Piedrasassi picks a bit earlier than their colleagues to keep the alcohol levels in balance with flavour and to preserve the natural acidity of the fruit. In the winery, Moorman employs some whole-cluster inclusion, indigenous yeast fermentation, and no sulphur added at fermentation, remaining as natural as possible without compromising the integrity and stability of the wine. Elevage is in 500-litre barrels to limit the wine’s exposure to oxygen and to minimize the influence of oak. They add the smallest amount of sulphur to the wine at bottling; allowing the aromatics to stay expressive while still protecting the wine during cellaring.

“Sashi Moorman is one of the great rising talents in California.” - The Wine Advocate

Vinous (Neal Martin): “The 2016 Syrah (Santa Barbara County) is a gorgeous appellation-level wine. Dark and pliant with expressive savory and black pepper overtones, the 2016 delivers the goods. All the elements fall into place effortlessly. Sage and lavender overtones linger in the glass.“ 92 points

Customer Comments: 

"Just a quick note to say how delicious the wine is. I have only tried one bottle so far but thoroughly enjoyed it." - Mr. F.W.

 “Thanks - another delicious recommendation.” - Mr M.B.


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