Winery/Vineyard: Hart Family Winery, Volcanic Ridge Vineyard
Product/Varietal: 100% Syrah
AVA on Bottle: Temecula Valley
How They Describe It
Volcanic Ridge Vineyard, owned by Wayne Gouvion and his family, is located at 2400 feet elevation on a volcanic ridge overlooking the nearby Pacific Ocean. From its Syrah vines, rooted in red volcanic soils and swept by cooling ocean breezes, winemaker Jim Hart crafts some of our finest Reserve-quality wines. This exceptional wine is noteworthy for its deep color, full-bodied, cool-climate varietal character, perfect balance, and nuanced tannins.
How I Describe It
Unless intentionally treated with short skin maceration, Syrah will almost always produce a dark, deeply colored wine. The color can range from purple (basically red with a blue tinge on the rim) to ruby to garnet (with age). In this case, Hart’s Volcanic Ridge is a youthful-looking deep ruby color.
Upon opening, the wine explodes with a youthful blueberry, açai berry, floral, and oak intensity that screams “California” at the top of its lungs. But give it some time to open up, and you’ll find stirring, savory aromas of smokey bacon fat, toffee, lavender, rosemary, clove, and white pepper chillaxin’ in the background.
Just like the aroma, the first thing that hits your mouth is a wave of youthful, juicy boysenberry and black currant fruit, lightly toasted oak, and vanilla. Seamlessly, the full-bodied, 14.2% alcohol wine transitions to a profound finish of crushed stones, licorice, roasted herbs, star anise, and black pepper. One can imagine sipping this from the Santa Rosa Plateau vineyard at sunset, watching each wave roll into an invisible coastline. Medium-plus acidity and fine medium-plus tannins should allow the wine to develop in the bottle. Enjoy today or in 5 years.
Why is This Wine Special?
You may have done a double-take reading “Volcanic” and “Temecula” on the wine’s label. Volcanic and Temecula? How can that be? The vast majority of soil on the Temecula Valley floor consists of decomposed granite, coarse sand, and small amounts of sandy clay. Hart’s Volcanic Ridge Syrah originates from Wayne Gouvion’s private vineyard planted on top of the nearby Santa Rosa Plateau in rocky, red volcanic soil. Don’t worry, Dr. Evil didn’t plant these vines in liquid hot MAGMA! Millions of years of erosion break down the rocks into fine-grained soil.
In general, volcanic soils have low water retention, low fertility (though this varies), low organic content, and a wide range of minerals. Grape berries grow smaller, resulting in concentrated flavors and color, higher acidity, and lower ripeness levels that show more savory than fruitiness. The Hart family works hard to canopy manage the vineyard to prevent unwanted vegetal character in the wine. Other famous winegrowing areas planted in volcanic soil include Napa (Howell Mountain and Stags Leap), Sonoma (Alexander Valley), Lake County in California, Willamette Valley in Oregon, Santorini Island in Greece, and Sicily’s Mt. Etna.
The Santa Rosa Plateau has two distinct differences than the Temecula Valley floor — elevation and proximity to the Pacific Ocean. First, the vineyard sits at just over 2,400 feet while the vines planted on the floor sit between 1,400 – 1,600 feet. That may not sound like much. But anyone who lives in Temecula or visits the wineries in the summer knows that it gets hot. Scorching hot at times. Higher elevation vineyards are naturally cooler than valley floor vineyards. In this case, the 5-15°F cooler plateau temperatures can keep the grapes from becoming overly-ripe.
Secondly, the Pacific Ocean’s cooling effects from wind, fog, cloud cover, and rain are much more significant than experienced on the floor. The Volcanic Ridge vineyard is about 12 miles due east of the Pacific Ocean, while vines on the Valley floor are between 20-25 miles away. These natural factors can prevent sunburn by decreasing exposure to intense sunlight, lengthen the growing season to enable full ripening while retaining acidity, and reduce irrigation costs due to sufficient rainfall. These two distinctions result in a wine that showcases concentrated, perfectly ripe fruit without sacrificing the subtle savory character in high-quality Syrah.
When & How I Would Drink It
Fire up the grill. Toss on some burgers. Layer on the blue cheese. Done! It’s that simple. Then, kick back and listen to some soulful jazz in front of a toasty fire pit.
How to Get It
Order Online: http://vinhart.com/orderform.htm
Bottle Price: $52 ($41.60 for wine club members)
Cases Produced: ~150
Have you tried the Hart 2016 “Volcanic Ridge” Reserve Syrah? How did the tasting notes compare with your experience? Leave a comment below.