NEW VINTAGE! Piedrasassi ‘PS’ Syrah, Santa Barbara, California 2017

Piedrasassi PS Syrah.jpg
Piedrasassi PS Syrah.jpg

NEW VINTAGE! Piedrasassi ‘PS’ Syrah, Santa Barbara, California 2017

from 27.95

A gorgeous wine sourced from cool climate Santa Barbara vineyards made by the even-cooler Sashi Moorman (more info below). It tastes like a Californian Syrah that spent its gap year in the northern Rhone. Sleek and glossy and richly succulent, it brings together the shiny, happy ripeness of Golden State fruit with the authentic stamp of Syrah’s DNA as you would find in Cote Rotie or Cornas - that impression of cracked black pepper, which, I hardly need to tell you, is the terpenoid odorant, sesquiterpene rotundone.

The aromas are a combination of glossy black fruits, smoked meats, crushed spice, sweet herbs and violets and the palate takes on those flavours and adds luscious black cherry and blackcurrant as well as the salty, savoury bite of tapenade. It’s a wine that’s comfortable in its own company, but would really come alive with a herb-crusted rack of lamb or a magret de canard or char siu (Chinese barbecued pork), because it evokes a sense of tender interior sweetness with a grilled outer crust. It’s absolutely ready to drink now, but will kaleidoscope into a myriad of delicious transformations over the next 15 years. 13.5% alc. Drink 2019-2035.

The Wine Advocate: “The 2017 PS Syrah has a medium to deep ruby-purple colour and opens with a nose of bacon fat, olive, blueberry coulis, cassis and warm black cherries with notions of warm chocolate, candied violets, crushed stone and fried herbs. The palate is full-bodied with luscious, ripe dark fruits and oodles of savoury and floral accents. It has a firm, finely grained frame and integrated freshness, finishing very long. Drink 2020-2035.” 93 points

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, but Piedrasassi is his small-production ‘home’ label (he calls it a ghetto label) 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 Californian wine”. 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. All the rest is propaganda.

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

In the vineyard, the team at Piedrasassi pick a bit earlier than their counterparts 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

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