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Left Coast Correspondent 


Tasting Notes from 
the Northern Ridge

Further Tasting Notes from the Ridge

Up the Coast
Domaine Serene, 
Domaine Drouhin
and Archery Summit

Syren Vineyards

More Tasting Notes from the Ridge

Jancis Robinson

Pax Mahle

Sean Thackrey

Robert Biale Vineyards

Havens Wine Cellars


Scott Paul Wines

Landmark Vineyards

Dashe Cellars

Tasting a Legacy
Wines of Stag's Leap

TN's From The Ridge & Beyond
Paul Draper and Monte Bello



"T" is for...
califusa ventures where the stags leap


A Day in the Dust

Premiere Napa Valley ®

Family Winemakers 02, 01, 98

It’s hard to resist.

There’s enough allegory here to satisfy even the most hyperbolic writer. But lest I cast myself adrift in the gobs, dear reader, I shall promise not to exploit the obvious today.

I won’t mention the lure and allure of the Homeric Sirens and how that could be metaphorically alluding to the fabled charms of the grape we call Pinot Noir.

And I’ll not talk about the symbolic island on the label, surrounded by a Grecographic ocean.

Further, I shall avoid the temptation to discuss our Odyssean quest to find the elusive Perfect Pinot.

Laura Bishop WangoeI’ll just tell you a little about Laura.

With more time in the industry than I could tell you and still remain discreet, Laura Bishop Wangoe (right) traveled to New Zealand in 1999 to consult some local vintners interested in penetrating the US market.

The rest is herstory.

As many of us have, Laura became smitten with Pinot Noir, and found a variety of producers on both islands of the nation experimenting and succeeding with this finicky grape. After careful research (uh,...tasting, I suppose) she selected three sites, each of which expresses this delightful grape in a distinctive fashion. Each wine is cultivated, vinted and bottled by the grower. These are hand crafted wines, and carry with them the passion and dedication of these small farmers.

Central Otago

This area is the southernmost winegrowing region in the world. With rainforest 20 miles away in one direction and desert 20 miles away in another direction, winegrower Greg Hay has seen that “no two seasons are the same”. With dedication, hands-on care, and yields near 1.5 tons per acre, Greg is producing distinctive Pinot Noir.

The fruit gets a one week cold soak and 20% whole cluster fermentation. After pressing, the wine sees one third new oak and is egg white fined prior to bottling.

2001 Syren Pinot Noir  Central Otago2001 Syren Pinot Noir  Central Otago – I found it easier to describe this wine relative to my personal reference points – it has the forward dark cherry and berry flavors of Russian River fruit, and lovely spice without the cola highlights. It also has the structure and focus of the best Carneros Pinots without the austerity.

This is a beautiful expression of the variety, or rather, a beautiful wine through which the fruit is expressed. It tastes as if the winemaker was both skilled and smart enough to get out of the way, and let the wine be what it wanted to be. How fortunate. This is a beauty.

Tasted twice with consistent notes.


Lucy Harper and Roger Pemberton discovered the lure of Pinot Noir in 1989 after meeting the owners of Ata Rangi Winery and helping out in their Martinborough vineyard. They finally succumbed in 1994 when they took a year’s leave from their jobs as government biologists, and purchased the long neglected ten acre Stonecutter Vineyard.

They ripped nearly all the vines, repaired the trellis system, reoriented the vines and replanted to Pinot Noir. The wine is vinified on site, with seven clones included in this selection.

The yields were less than 2 tons per acre. The fruit was completely destemmed and crushed before undergoing a four to five day cold soak. After fermentation, the wine rested on the skins for an additional eighteen days before being placed in barrel, 30% of which was new oak. After 10 months in barrel, the wine was racked twice prior to bottling – it was not fined.

2001 Syren Pinot Noir  Martinborough – bright cherry and raspberry aromas that follow on the palate with hints of rhubarb – lighter in the midpalate than the Otago, this wine is a bit more elegant and “feminine”, if you will. It pairs very nicely with food.

A third wine, the Marlborough, will join the portfolio in summer of 2003.

With the prices of California Pinot reaching $40 and up for premium quality, these selections at $25 – $35 are more than competitive in price and quality. Like other wines I have recently described, these Pinots generously allow the fruit of their origin to express themselves. I look forward to the growth and success of Syren, and I think you would enjoy meeting Laura as much as I did.

These are wines that, sing for themselves.

Syren Vineyards
PO Box 262
Big Sur, CA  93920

The wines of Syren Vineyards are 
imported by Dreyfus, Ashby & Co.


Left Coast Correspondent to the Gang of Pour


© Allan Bree February 2003

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