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Ambullneo Vineyards Howling Syrah 2004
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
The answers to these questions are now certain. They have been accepted and they continue to make better wines each year. Starting out, they needed to understand our vineyard sites, farm them like never before and make sacrifice. The attitude of Ambullneo Vineyards is "whatever it takes". No cluster is safe from being dropped to the ground, both in the vineyard and on the sorting table. No barrel is safe from being rejected and never making it to the final product. Only the tightest grain barrels are chosen for the project and cost is not a consideration. At first, while learning their sites, we were making cuvees (the blending of several vineyards). Now that the vineyards have more age and we are approaching our 9th vintage, they have started making site specific wines.
It comes down to this: whatever it took to produce the finest in wine is the course they have selected. Ambullneo's decisions have not been easy to make, but they believe that in effort you will find reward. Mass producing wine is not something that interests them. It's handcrafted wines from the vineyard that ignite their passions.
A lesser-known but elite AVA within the larger Santa Barbara district, the Santa Maria Valley AVA runs precisely west to east starting near the coast. The valley funnels cool, Pacific Ocean air to the vineyards more inland, allowing grapes a longer hang time to ripen evenly and achieve their full potential by harvest time. Combined with minimal rainfall, consistent warm sunshine, and well-drained soils, it is an ideal environment for grape growing.
Many of the wineries here are small and highly respected, having established a reputation in the 1970s and 80s for producing excellent Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. More recently, Syrah has also proven quite successful in the region. Many vineyards are owned by growers who sell their grapes to other wineries, so it is common to see the same vineyard name on bottlings from different wineries. Bien Nacido Vineyard is perhaps the best-known and most prestigious.
Marked by unmistakable deep purple hue and savory aromatics, Syrah accounts for a good deal of some of the most intense, powerful and age-worthy reds in the world. Native to the Northern Rhône, Syrah still achieves some of its maximum potential here, especially from Hermitage and Côte-Rôtie.
Syrah also plays an important component in the canonical Southern Rhône blends based on Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre, adding color, depth, complexity and structure to the mix. Today these blends have become well-appreciated from key appellations of the New World, namely Australia, California and increasingly, with praise, from Washington.
In the Glass
Syrah typically shows aromas and flavors of purple fruits, fragrant violets, baking spice, white pepper and even bacon, smoke or black olive. In Australia, where it goes under the name Shiraz, it produces deep, dark, intense and often, jammy reds. While Northern Rhône examples are typically less fruity and more earthy, California appears increasingly capable of either style.
Flavorful Moroccan-spiced lamb, grilled meats, spareribs and hard, aged cheeses are perfect with Syrah. Blue cheeses are perfect with a dense and fruit-driven Australian Shiraz.
Due to the success of Australian “Shiraz,” winemakers throughout the world have adopted this synonym for Syrah when they have produced a plush and fruit forward wine made in the Australian style. As an aside, Australians are also fond of tempering their fruit-forward Shiraz by blending with Cabernet Sauvignon, which adds depth and structure.