Winery/Vineyard: Fazeli Cellars
Product/Varietal: 95% Cinsaut + 5% Shiraz
AVA on Bottle: Temecula Valley
How They Describe It
The word “Phel Phel” is Persian for pepper. This blend of Cinsaut and Shiraz offers a wonderful spicy black pepper on the palate. It is the perfect wine to enjoy with your favorite spicy dishes or to simply add some extra spice to your life!
2015 Phel Phel
95% Cinsaut, 5% Shiraz
Red cherry fruit with subtle hints of black pepper, cigar and spice. Medium bodied with soft, but ample, tannins.
How I Describe It
Five years of aging really shows in Cinsaut. The color intensity is on the paler-medium side, but the color is solidly garnet.
Black pepper and toasted wood show right off the bat. Right beneath the woody spice is red currant, cranberry, and red cherry. Eucalyptus and fennel display the interesting terroir around Fazeli’s vineyards, and whipping cream hints at a bit of malo (likely to add body). Vanilla and nutmeg point toward time in oak, and savory mushroom display the wine’s maturity.
An unexpected burst of black pepper, cinnamon, and nutmeg first hit the tongue. Next come brightening tones of red currant, cranberry, and red cherry. There’s a slight medicinal and savory quality, and a touch of green bell pepper. Overtones of vanilla, toasted wood and clove show from oak aging, and a buttery, creamy mouthfeel confirms the winemaker’s choice to incorporate some malo (though the viscosity could be because of the alcohol content). Savory mushroom arrives at the end.
This is a dry wine, with distinctly high alcohol (15.1% ABV). Medium but appropriately gritty tannins add the appropriate amount of texture (not too much, not too little), and medium acid makes for easy drinking. I put the wine at medium-plus body, given the higher alcohol and possible use of malo, and the finish is medium-plus.
Why is This Wine Special?
This is the second Fazeli Cellars wine reviewed on TWR, and it’s strong score is well deserved. Cinsaut is a somewhat uncommon varietal to find in California, partly because its flavor profile contrasts so significantly from American palates.
Cinsaut (also spelled Cinsault, and pronounced SAN-soh) is a grape commonly found in southeastern France, where the weather is warm, dry, and Mediterranean — much like Temecula! In the Old World it’s very commonly used as a blending grape, or for rosés, rather than as a stand-alone red wine. For that reason it’s pretty gutsy of Fazeli Cellars to produce a wine with so much focus on Cinsaut. With that said, they did a tremendous job, and show the best of the grape’s qualities.
It was also smart of Fazeli Cellars to cut the Cinsaut with a small amount of their signature Shiraz. At only 5% of the wine, Fazeli technically didn’t need to even mention the addition, but doing so added a bit of context. Shiraz’s bright, bold fruitiness helps smooth out Cinsaut’s spicy notes, and helps heighten the red fruit flavors. And from a purely thematic point of view, it’s also nice that the 2015 Phel Phel uses grape varietals which originate from the same region.
When & How I Would Drink It
A spicy wine goes well with spicy food! Break out the 2015 Phel Phel next to a savory wet carne asada burrito. Additionally, Cinsaut traditionalists will point out the wine is purpose-built to pair with escargot, and for the adventurous eater they wouldn’t be wrong. Stews and chillies would also pair well, as does beef stroganoff. In other words, Fazeli Cellars 2015 Phel Phel is an ideal wine to bring to parties (and at 15.1% alcohol, it’d be a really fun party too).
How to Get It
Bottle Price: $38 ($30.40 for wine club members)
Cases Produced: 247
Have you tried the Fazeli Cellars 2015 Phel Phel? How did the tasting notes compare with your experience? Leave a comment below.