Peay Les Titans: Incredible Syrah From One of the Coldest Vineyards in the World
Normally when we think of California Syrah, we think of the jammy, full fruited, high alcohol bombs that are made from vines planted on the warmer vineyards of the Central Coast and Sonoma Valley. The thinking was this: the Northern Rhone Valley lies on roughly latitude as Bordeaux, and so we should plant our Syrah in roughly the same climate as our Cabernet Sauvignon. But the Northern Rhone is vastly different climatically from Bordeaux, the famous winds coming to and from the Mediterranean serving to drastically cool the valley and wick away moisture. It is no surprise then, that most Syrah coming from California tastes so different than those meaty, savory wines that so famously originate in between the Cote Rotie and the hill of Hermitage. This was true, at least, until those producers on the frontiers of coastal Sonoma turned their attention to the grape.
In our opinion, the most successful of these foyers into Syrah growing have been by the Peay family. The Peay Estate Vineyards are nestled somewhere in the foggy, forested mountains above Annapolis, CA and a stone’s throw from the Pacific coast (they are slightly mum as to the exact location of the vineyards, but this might just be that the lack of any notable landmarks nearby makes describing their location difficult). The Peay vineyards are remarkable, some of the coolest in California, and for Syrah, possibly the coldest in the world. That cool character, however, is counteracted by the region’s outrageously long growing season. Seasonal lag is ubiquitous to coastal California, where May Gray, June Gloom, and even Fogust rule the early summer, but hot and sunny days reign deep into October (the famous but totally unsubstantiated “earthquake weather”). The cool Pacific breeze, then, moderates the near-ripe September Syrah to something more recognizable to a Northern Rhone lover.
The result is a wine of two worlds, with all of the savory, meaty, peppery qualities of the great Syrahs of the Northern Rhone, with just a touch of sun kissed California fruit. The combination is enchanting, making one of the great Syrahs, not just of the United States, but of the world. This wine delivers on all fronts now, but given a little time, will be a total knockout.