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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Look out 'Rhone Ranger' folks, the next
best thing is on the horizon!
A recent tasting of a Herman Story Roussanne heightened my interest in further researching winemaker Russell Form’s origins. Little did I know that my exploration would turn me onto another upstart producer, his partner McPrice Myers. While they only team together on one project, a 2500 case Syrah called Barrel 27 (which they casually refer to as ‘fifteen buck chuck’), their deft touch w/ Rhone varietals is certainly one that is cut from the same cloth.

McPrice, 32 years old, stumbled out of Cypress College when an arm injury cut his baseball aspirations short and caught the proverbial wine bug during a happenstance stint at Trader Joe’s. While their 2 buck chuck didn’t exactly compel McPrice into his current wine frenzy, the older bottles opened after hours by his boss certainly did. He became a bit of a journeyman winemaker that took 50 some jobs throughout the Paso Robles region until he was prepared to take his own plunge. Now the McPrice Myers portfolio is close to 2,000 cases strong, it is likely to become scarce as its quality ceases to be a secret.

McPrice and Kristina Myers put together an intense portfolio of extremely effusive, bold wines fashioned exclusively from Rhone varieties. Each one of their efforts that I’ve tasted has been heady, extremely concentrated but is supported by ample structure and acidity to keep things in lovely harmony. These are certainly ‘wow’ wines, that are sure to give the standard bearers like John Alban, Stolpman and Sin Qua Non a run for their money, but likely will see criticism for their full-throttle, no-holds bared style. Personally, I’d run, not walk to sample some of these spectacularly hedonistic, opulently endowed Rhone rides.

I reviewed 3 of their new releases for this post, but would be remiss to not mention two of McPrice’s other bottlings.

There is a Santa Ynez White Wine, created with 30% Roussanne and a hefty 70% Viognier that is made in extremely limited quantities (the winery limits customer purchases to 3 bottles each); as well as a red that is referred to as Beautiful Earth. This Syrah based wine comes from Paso Robles fruit (84% Syrah, 8% Grenache, 8% Mourvedre), particularly the south facing slopes of the Terra Bella Vineyard (which means beautiful earth) in the western hills of Paso Robles (only 168 cases are produced). The soil content is predominantly limestone and the wine, like all others made at McPrice Myers, is vinified at Central Coast Wine Services.

Each bottle is draped w/ the ‘Claddagh,’ an Irish symbol of love.

Viognier, Larner Vineyard 2005
This is a primal, insanely expressive Viognier that does not shy away from shouting its declaration of character. Explosions of butterscotch, candied peach, honey glazed papaya, lemon curd and poached pears bombard the senses, exposing unabashed Viognier elements w/ oodles of intensity. In the mouth, this unctuous white pushes ripeness to the max, revealing lavishly voluptuous layers of monstrous fruit, exotic spice and chalky minerality. For all its power, the wine maintains a sense of precision, focus and clarity, thanks to palate cleansing acidity, 93 points.

L’Ange Rouge Grenache, 2005
French for ‘red angel,’ this 435 case Grenache (one of the larger production wines in McPrice Myers stable) is sourced from the Alta Mesa Vineyard (68%) and the Larner Vineyard (32%). This is a wine that justifies any Rhone advocate’s search for Elysium through the thousands of innocuous reds that come out of California each year. A dark, almost inky color preludes one of the finest, most archetypal New World renditions of Grenache that I’ve had the pleasure to taste. Spicy notes of nutmeg, pepper, anise, black raspberry ganache, caramelized herbs and black cherry fill the room w/ a full throttle, permeating and irresistibly delicious character. While this is undoubtedly a high octane effort, it is beautifully proportioned and exhibits lovely symmetry that make a ‘watch out Alban, watch out Rhone, here I come’ type of statement, 95 points.

Colson Canyon Syrah 2005
Colson Canyon, an emerging grand cru vineyard of the Central Coast, is located in the Santa Maria Valley of the Central Coast and is home to some of the most outstanding Rhone varietal wines made in California. The 2005 Syrah is co-fermented w/ 2% Viognier and aged in neutral oak casks. Purple in color and one of the most tar driven noses one will come across in Californian Syrah. Additional notes of roasted herbs, asphalt, white flowers, blueberries, crème de cassis, and gravelly undertones emerge as the wine sits in the glass. Heady, incredibly endowed and bursting w/ flavor in the mouth, this Syrah is extremely ambitious and as full tilt an expression as you’ll come across (a common theme for this producer). While there is undoubtedly some unresolved heat in this young red, a bit of short-term cellaring should round it into form nicely, sadly only 186 cases of this beauty are made, 92+ points.

Cuvee Kristina Proprietary Red 2005
Composed of 80% Syrah, 13% Grenache and 7% Mourvedre, this wine is a flat out hedonistic fruit bomb. Not bashful in the slightest, as the aromatic array is effusive in its cassis, black currant, fig, mocha and cocoa kissed toast notes that slap you over the face w/ their exhuberance. Creamy, supple and imbedded w/ some seriously intense stature that just may provide tasters w/ a evolutionary surprise, as this young pup brims w/ a sense of pleasure and potential that is sure to wow lovers of wines like Le Mistral (Phelps) and Relentless (Shafer), 93+ points.

Alta Mesa Red Wine '05 Santa Barbara County
This blend of 50% Grenache, 30% Mourvedre and 20% Syrah is certain to improve w/ a bit of bottle age. Initially a touch woody and alcoholic, but some airtime reveals classic varietal(s) character of blackberry sauce, kirsch, creme de cassis, licorice and pepper. While the fruit, structure and depth is formidable, the wine is plagued by a somewhat intermittent loss of focus and has a tendency to exhibit a bit too much heat. Having said that, between the producer's ambition and the dynamite substance of fruit, this wine (amongst others in McPrice's portfolio) are sure to improve w/ experience, trial and error and greater vine maturity as these prime sites continue to age. This effort is just short of outstanding, 89 points.

*Source materials are thanks to the San Francisco Chronicle.


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