Winery/Vineyard: Sweet Oaks Wine, McIntyre Vineyard
Product/Varietal: Rhône-style Red Blend — 78% Syrah + 22% Grenache
AVA on Bottle: Temecula Valley
Winemaker: Mark Horvath
How They Describe It
Clear, bright, medium ruby red in color. This Syrah-heavy blend boasts the classic aromas of candied fruit, earth and spice. Medium body and easy drinking, the palate shows off fresh raspberries and cherries along with a slight sandalwood/spice character. This fresh and juicy wine would be delicious served slightly chilled and is the perfect go-to for everyday occasions. Enjoy it on its own or served with anything from pizza and pasta to burgers and barbequed chicken.
How I Describe It
The Sweet Oaks 2016 Cuvée Stella is on the paler end of medium color intensity. The hue has a fair degree of garnet integrated into a ruby base, signaling microoxygenation likely linked to the Grenache’s sensitivity to air.
While the vast majority of this blend is Syrah — which is normally deeply intense — the wine more closely resembles a Grenache-heavy Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
The nose of the 2016 Cuvée Stella more closely resembles the varietal mix. Blackberry and cassis are straightforward, while raspberry, cherry and strawberry jam are more subtle. Black pepper, fennel, and vanilla build underneath, along with hints of floral blossom, nutmeg, clove, charred wood, and unlit cigar. A slight leather aroma signals emerging maturity.
Flavors in the Sweet Oaks 2016 Cuvée Stella are layered and satisfying. Blackberry, cranberry and black current lead, with a layer of plum, blueberry, cherry, and strawberry not far behind. Brioche, cloves, and charcoal come from fermentation and barrel aging. Ever-so-slight truffle and stewed berry on the finish indicate emerging maturity.
This is a dry wine with medium alcohol (13.3% ABV), medium tannins, and medium-plus acid. While the wine’s body is medium, the flavor intensity is medium-plus, and the finish is impressively long.
Why is This Wine Special?
The Southern Rhône region of France pioneered a red blend which has since become popularized around the world. The wine centers on three primary varietals: Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre. Outside of the Rhône, similar blends often go by initialism, GSM, though some winemakers opt for the more all-encompassing term cuvée, which literally translates to “vintage” and more loosely to “blend”.
One defining characteristic of Southern Rhône and GSM blends is that the dominant varietal is almost universally Grenache.
However, Sweet Oaks winemaker Mark Horvath opted to take a different route. He skipped the Mourvèdre and flipped the Grenache-Syrah proportions. You’d think the result would be a deep, concentrated blend with some red fruit accents — like a diet Northern Rhône. But whatever magic Horvath worked between the vineyard and the winery preserved the Southern Rhône spirit of this wine. In fact, the aroma and flavors of the Sweet Oaks 2016 Cuvée Stella resembles a nice Châteauneuf-du-Pape pretty darn well.
When & How I Would Drink It
The Sweet Oaks 2016 Cuvée Stella is a fair bit lighter than many of the red wines which come out of the Temecula Valley AVA, and consequently can be paired with more delicate and intricately flavored dishes.
You wouldn’t be going wrong to open a bottle of the 2016 Cuvée Stella alongside herb crusted lamb chops, for instance. The leaner and lighter lamb meat (compared to, say, grilled ribeye) needs a less obtrusive wine which won’t be overpowering.
Mushroom and truffle risotto would also go well with this wine. Mushrooms (truffles included) tend to have a lot of umami flavors, which can pair poorly with high-tannin wines. The 2016 Cuvée Stella’s more medium tannin level preserves the fruitiness of the wine next to the risotto’s savoriness.
There are also a variety of poultry dishes (e.g., chicken, turkey, duck) and soft cheeses (e.g., brie, goat’s milk) which would pair superbly. Whatever your preference, I would seize the opportunity to enjoy the Sweet Oaks 2016 Cuvée Stella as part of a meal.
How to Get It
Bottle Price: $34.00
Cases Produced: 600 cases
Have you tried the Sweet Oaks 2016 Cuvée Stella? How did the tasting notes compare with your experience? Leave a comment below.