Saturday, May 30, 2009

Cellar Report: 2001 Owen Roe "DuBrul Vineyard" Syrah

There's almost no one I hold in higher regard in our local wine scene than David O'Reilly, partner/winemaker for Owen Roe wines here in Oregon. His are almost always impeccably made bottles of grape juice. I think in the nine years I've been selling his wine the wines that have only been average or less could be counted on one hand. That takes in scores of wines. His wines are also fairly polarizing. Big fruit extraction, higher alcohol contents and the accompanying richness tend to turn off old world wine purists. But like them or not, there is no denying his passion, his integrity, and his commitment to excellence, both in the vineyard and the winery.

So with that as a background, I was extremely anxious to try the bottle of a wine I took to share with my pals at our dinner at Laurelhurst Market the other night, a 2001 Owen Roe "DuBrul Vineyard" Syrah. The bottle had been lurking in my basement for several years, coming so close to being opened several times. Last Wednesday its time had come. DuBrul Vineyard is one of Washington's finest vineyard sites, and David has made some stellar reds from those grapes. The question with some of these bigger styled "new world" wines is how will they age? Will the fruit stand up to the higher alcohol contents? Is there enough acidity to hold it together? Last year I had a similarly styled 2000 Sineann Merlot that was absolute garbage...totally fallen apart. Which is really fucking frustrating after holding on to it for so long. So when I took the first sniff of the '01 OR Syrah, I knew immediately I should have opened it a year or two earlier. It still had some great aromatics...blackberry, pepper, hints of meatiness....but the vibrancy, the richness, the bounce the fruit had when it was first bottled had almost disappeared. I was hoping the aroma and flavor would fill out as it sat open, but it didn't. It reminded me of someone just entering dementia. They're still aware and show signs of life, but the lights are starting to dim. It was nice, but it should have been so much more. If you're holding some of these wines, then it seems after five years or so it's kind of a crap shoot. In other words: start drinking! All I know is my corkscrew is coming out. No slam at all on David. His wines are still to me among the best made American wines. So I guess in this instance I would have to side with the old world purists on this one (full disclosure: I am definitely a Euro wine lover), as there's a lot to be said for balance, acidity, and restraint. And maybe there is also a lesson for all of you who are shelling out your ego-driven dollars for all those high scoring, high alcohol domestic reds. Just sayin'..........

1 comment:

Darwin said...

I am about to open up a bottle this evening, and will be curious how it fares. (My bottle is #433 of only 528 bottles produced.)