• 2015 Syrah
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The dominant red wine grape we can successfully grow in Philo is Pinot Noir. For most other reds we must purchase grapes from a warmer viticultural climate where Cabernet, Zinfandel, Syrah and Grenache ripen successfully. Most of Navarro's grapes for these varieties are from vines planted more than a half-century ago. These older vines typically bear a modest crop—an important factor for fine wine production—and seem to possess more character than many modern vineyards. Dark Horse's plantings are relatively recent, yet we feel this vineyard yields grapes that produce the best Syrah and Grenache that we've found in Mendocino.

[above] Heath Dolan and Jim Klein inspecting Syrah at Dark Horse Vineyard. It's easy to see from the photo on the left that the vines have plenty of canopy to efficiently ripen the crop and provide shade for the fruit from the midday sun. If you look closely you'll notice partially ripe clusters on the ground. When most of the fruit was fully colored Heath's crew removed all the partially ripe clusters and left each vine with only fully colored fruit. This evens up the crop load from vine to vine ensuring that at harvest every cluster is equally ripe. Thinning of the crop to achieve consistent ripeness illustrates Dolan's winemaking perspective.

Why? First, a hillside with well-drained red volcanic soil is hard to beat for full-bodied red wines. Second, they selected clones that are known for quality wines rather than high production. Third, this is a family of vintners so, like Navarro, they farm with a high ratio of canopy to fruit ensuring that the fruit will fully ripen. Lastly, the Dolans farm biodynamically which requires that they spend a lot of time in the vineyard to avoid any problems. Four laudable reasons to try this wine. Gold Medal winner.

  • Harvested: Sept. 1, 2015
  • Sugars at harvest: 27.0° Brix
  • Bottled: Aug. 23, 2016
  • Cases produced: 253
  • Alcohol: 14.2%
  • Titratable acidity: 5.2 g/L
  • pH: 3.82