Friday, July 10, 2009
K Vintners Syrah flight
I've been waiting for months to attend an event at the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant this week to meet Charles Smith of K Vintners, the rock star of Washington winemaking.
I've been able to acquire some of his lower priced wines (see reviews here), and wanted to try the upper echelon and see what all the commotion is about.
The day came for the big event, and I was all ramped up to try the flight of his single vineyard Syrahs and speak to the man himself. Hours before I was about to leave my office, however, I got pulled into a work event for the night. Oh well.
Disappointed that I couldn't meet Smith, I still hoped to try some of his wines, and the next day, I went over to the wine bar to see what was left.
"Do you still have the K Vintners' flight available?" I asked the bartender with all the eagerness of a child asking a Best Buy clerk if some hot video game was still in stock the day after the hordes of other kids waited in lines for hours to buy every copy.
"Hm, let me see," he said, gazing over the bottles that were in front of him. "Yeah, we can do a mini flight."
The full flight would have consisted of five wines and cost $35. What I got was three generous pours, and probably half an ounce of another one, for $22. I think all of my pours finished off their bottles, so I wasn't expecting much in terms of quality, though with wines purported to be this big, I was thinking a day after opening might do them some good.
I started with the most expensive of the offerings, the 2006 Royal City Syrah, which was selling for $105 for a bottle at the shop (you can get it for $80 from K Vintners's website).
The first thing you notice about the bottle is its kick-ass label. All of Charles Smith's wines employ a striking black and white contrast on their label, with huge letters and a goth-like image. On Royal City, you see a jeweled crown with a skull chopping on two bones on the front of it.
If you look for information about this wine on the K Vintners site, all you get is a blurb review from Paul Gregutt: “100 Point Wine…Rich scents of purple fruit, smoked meat, cedar, lead pencil, moist earth and so on proclaim a wine with genuine gravitas…..the finest syrah I have ever tasted from Washington State, and in fact as good as any young syrah I have ever tasted..." (April 2009). WOW! Best Washington Syrah ever tasted! That's pretty awesome!
Well, what I got wasn't as great. In fact it seemed too huge, too sweet. The wine had a dark ruby red color, and a moderate nose of ripe fruit. It tasted like sugary sweet candy, red and black berries so ripe they're oozing juice. The finish starts to fade after a few seconds, and then BAM! a turbo boosts kicks it into another gear for more what seemed like minutes.
This velvety mouth-coater was definitely the big boy of the tasting, bringing wood and vanilla notes as well. I just don't see it lasting a while (my hopes of getting one of these bottles and socking it away for a couple of decades until my daughter hite 21 were dashed after this tasting).
The bartender agreed with me. "Point chasers," she said, and then professed her love of dirty Rhone Syrahs.
The other wines in the flight seemed smaller in stature to this one. The 2007 "The Deal" Syrah from Wahluke Slope, priced at $37, was almost cartoonishly sweet. On the nose I found red liquorish, charred wood and some green component I couldn't put my finger on; in the glass I described the wine as having Willy Wonka flavors. Just super candish, sweet berries, and some heat on the finish along with a bit of spice.
Since I only tasted about an ounce or two of the Phil Lane Syrah, I'm not going to give it a review here.
The wine I liked the best was the 2007 Morrison Lane, from Walla Walla, priced at $41.
Tasting the "cleanest" of the wines, it had nice blackberries and blueberries, with a juicy center that seems to pop out on your palate. Hints of cranberries and raspberries as well. Medium, dry tannins were balanced against smooth acidity.
Didn't get much of a nose on this one.
Now, Charles Smith has said his K Vintners line up is meant to age, and his Charles Smith wines are for consuming now. Since they're much cheaper and more appealing, I'm probably going to stick with those for the time being, though I still want to try his K Vintner's Ovide, which Gary Vaynerchuk sounded estatic about on the Thunder Show in October.
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