Cooler climate Santa Barbara has more and more become an obsession of mine. I find myself constantly reaching to drink wines from these rocky sites and marginal climates. The name most integral to this array of labels is Sashi Moorman. Although his Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Gamay are among my favorites, it's his oldest home label, Piedrasassi, that offers the most downright delicious and complex reflection of Syrah.
Today, I'm happy to offer the 2017 Piedrasassi Bien Nacido Vineyard and Rim Rock Vineyard Syrah.
Piedrasassi harnesses savory, bright, and superior aromatics while never shying away from the innate luscious qualities that California instills in the grape. Sashi follows a surgical-like protocol to vinify and age as naturally as possible, excluding sulfur at fermentation and only utilizing native yeasts.
Whole cluster inclusion and aging in larger 500-liter barrels ensure the lively, crushed rock virtues that make Northern Rhone Syrah so unique aren't lost here in Santa Barbara. When I pour Syrah I'm always open to new discoveries, but for some things, I'm just not game. Candied fruit and milk chocolate tones that mar much of the California Syrah I taste is just a non-starter. What I love about Piedrasassi is each wine, regardless of price point, nails the roasted meat, violet, and black pepper trifecta I crave.
Sashi's single vineyard-designate bottlings from Bien Nacido and Rim Rock are examples of how Syrah can continually develop in the bottle over many years.
Very few offers have received glowing reviews from customers equaling that of Evening Land's Seven Springs Vineyard Gamay over the past years. Enthusiastic would be selling it short, as this was the symbolic American head-turner for devoted Francophiles.
Today, I'm happy to offer the 2019 Evening Land Seven Springs Passetoutgrain.
This collaborative project of Sashi Moorman and Rajat Parr answers an intriguing question: What happens when the two people most familiar with the natural approach of Yvon Métras and Jean Foillard tackle the Passetoutgrain Gamay/Pinot Noir blend from their home, volcanic turf?
The Seven Springs Vineyard in Willamette Valley's Eola-Amity Hills is often called Oregon's prime slope. An October visit really confirmed the historical significance of the wines produced here. They are testaments to the heights achieved in Oregon winemaking today, but the Passetoutgrains may be the real star in the lineup.
While I'm not shy about my obsession with Cru Beaujolais benchmarks, Passetoutgrain is a much slimmer category. Gamay comprises less than 2.5% of Burgundy plantings.
Note: I highly recommend this terrific Punch Drink piece on Passetoutgrain.
If there were a hierarchy within Burgundian Passetoutgrain, you would surely find some familiar names at the top of the heap: D'Angerville, Lafarge, Chevillon, to name a few. Sashi and Raj's regular visits and familiarity with these producers have clearly left a significant impression. However, impressions are one thing. Execution is something entirely different.
There are fine-grained, just perceptible tannins, followed by an array of red and blue fruit that's simply unrelenting. The duo employs the same method of fermentation used by the great aforementioned traditionalists. Compounded with organic and biodynamic farming, the breathtaking result in bottle shouldn't come as a surprise.
A small-production gem like this is exactly the kind of wine I get so excited about introducing people to. I highly recommend you take the opportunity to familiarize yourself with one of Oregon's most treasured estates and its rarest wine.