A big blockbuster Syrah from winemaker Tim Spear, the 2003 Brave Oak Vineyard is currently available for $297 per 6-bottle case. Click to Buy.
If ever there was a wine ideally suited to the Flintstones car-tipping Brontosaurus ribs, this is it. Deep and dark and brooding, though surprisingly well balanced - the proverbial velvet hammer. This award-winning wine is a solo act that demands, and deserves, your attention. Aromas and flavors dominated by ripe, warm dark berries, an anise/black licorice essence that boldly crosses the boundary into "tar", and enough ripe fruit so the high alcohol is well balanced. Despite the pleasant bottle bouquet beginning to emerge from this wine, I recommend decanting at least an hour before drinking.
Winemaker/Owner Tim Spear takes his wines seriously. But he is convinced his current wines - as good as they are - are training him for making wine in his next life. You see, Tim believes in reincarnation. REALLY believes in it, and has been able to a prior life as a winemaker in northern Burgundy, where he made world-class Pinot Noir. He is just as certain he'll be a Burgundy winemaker again in his next life.
So why does he make Syrah instead of Pinot Noir? "Because Syrah does well in the heat of Paso Robles, and Pinot doesn't," he says. "And global warming is going to change winemaking in Burgundy by my next life, and I don't expect they'll be growing pinot noir there by then."
It may be tempting to dismiss Spear as having taken Harry Potter just a little too seriously. He talks about myths and pagan rites. He times his harvest by the phase of the moon. He seeks tips from "The Witches' Almanac: The Complete Guide to Lunar Harmony." But yielding to such taunting temptations would be unwise. Tim is serious about his wine, and you don't have to accept his theories on reincarnation, witchcraft or anything else to appreciate them.
Overlooking the Estrella River, the "Brave Oak" vineyard is exactly 4 miles north of highway 46-East and 2 miles north of the Paso Robles airport. This remarkable vineyard is owned and farmed by Tony Domingos, a young vineyard maverick raised in Santa Maria whom I met in 1994 while working for Bob Steinhauer and Meridian Vineyards. With two rows of vines per terrace, "Brave Oak" is planted with 1,922 vines per acre, which is very rare for Paso Robles. Vines are planted 3.5 feet apart. The 1.08-acre block has a north-south row orientation. The 0.47-acre block has an east-west orientation. These blocks are planted with the Estrella clone of syrah on 1103P. The soil at "brave oak" is a medium drained clay loam weathered from calcareous shale. These terraces contain a large amount of limestone below the topsoil.
In 2003 yields were 33.5 hectoliters per hectare (2.79 tons per acre). Harvest was the 10th of September. The sugar content in the grapes was 26.3° brix (north-south terraces) and 30.0° brix (east-west terraces). The grapes were 100% destemmed, 100% treaded by foot, and fermented with 100% indigenous yeasts. Total maceration was 59 days (north-south terraces) and 74 days (east-west terraces) exactly two and three full moons after harvest.
The wine from the north-south terraces was aged in 225-liter Seguin Moreau barrels 3 and 4 years old. And the wine from the east-west terraces was aged in new 225-liter Seguin Moreau barrels. In August of 2005 I declassified the new barrels into the 2004 "petite rousse" syrah. Total time in barrel was 28 months. The wine was racked barrel-to-barrel one time on the summer solstice in 2004. This wine was never pumped, acidulated, fined or filtered. This wine was bottled by hand via gravity on Clos Mimi's own equipment. There is no press wine in the bottle.
I visited Tim at the new Clos Mimi facility long after this vintage was in bottle. But I'm sure it received the same barrel aging technique he was applying during my visit - a combination of jazz and classical music, depending on the season, time of day, etc.
Dave Chambers, Wine Merchant
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