A Taste Of California's Future

By Robert Parker

Slide Show >>

Many of the vineyards and wineries of California's Central Coast are still young, but their potential to produce great pinot noir, chardonnay, and syrah is enormous. In a decade, the top viticultural areas of Santa Barbara, the Santa Rita Hills, and the limestone hillsides west of Paso Robles will be as well known as the Napa and Sonoma Valleys. Following are some of the region's noteworthy current syrah releases.

Melville 2003 Syrah Estate

90 points.This deep ruby syrah possesses more of a pinot noir sensibility. It has a feminine style with hints of sweet black currants, ripe cherries, and flowers in a medium-bodied, velvet-textured, complex, ethereal format. Enjoy over the next four to five years. $20

Holus-Bolus 2003 Syrah

93 points. A sexy red offering with a gorgeously exotic, flowery, blackberry-and-cassis-filled bouquet and hints of charcoal, licorice, and smoke. Velvety, with big, chewy, rich, fleshy flavors, low acidity, and wonderful purity, this seamless seductress should drink well over the next five to seven years. $25

Kunin Wines 2003 Syrah

89 points. Exhibits good integration of tannin with notes of flowers, blackberries, currants, spice, licorice, and a hint of wood. Initially reticent, it opens beautifully both aromatically and on the palate. Will drink well over four to five years. $28

Stolpman Vineyards 2003 Syrah Hilltops Estate

93 points. This 100% estate syrah emerges from ridgetops that are the most stressed parts of the vineyard. It offers rich, concentrated blackberry, acacia flower, charcoal, and subtle background wood notes. Powerful as well as impressively pure and elegant, this is a wonderfully symmetrical effort with tremendous harmony, depth, and persistence. Drink it over the next five to nine years. $33

Fess Parker Winery 2002 Syrah Rodney's Vineyard

92 points. A sweet perfume of Valrhona chocolate mixed with espresso, blackberries, cassis, camphor, and flowers. The aromatic display is followed by a wine of enormous density, richness, and balance, with good acidity as well as sweet but noticeable tannin. This wine will age beautifully for 10 to 12 years. $35

Andrew Murray Vineyards 2003 Syrah Westerly Vineyard

91 points. The opaque ruby/purple color is accompanied by aromas of charcoal, blackberries, cassis, and licorice. The wine has tremendous purity, full-bodied power, and concentrated as well as elegant and harmonious flavors. Consume it over the next seven to eight years. $35

Fess Parker Winery 2002 Syrah The Big Easy

93 points. This dense, purple-tinged, explosive effort exhibits huge notes of creosote-infused chocolate, blackberries, cherries, and licorice. Full-bodied, with marvelous fruit, a seamless texture, and a long finish. You can enjoy this wine over 10 to 12-plus years. $36

Garretson Wine Co. 2003 Syrah Mon Amie Bassetti Vineyard

90 points. At 16.8% alcohol, this deep purple syrah is no shy wine. Still, it has enough acidity to provide balance. Aromas of crème de cassis, licorice, scorched earth, and oak are followed by a powerful, long, mouth-filling syrah that should drink well for seven to eight years. $50

Wines rated from 96-100 are extraordinary; 90-95, excellent; 80-89, above average to very good

Visit www.eRobertParker.com for the Internet's most active wine bulletin board, tens of thousands of tasting notes, or to order his recent book, The World's Greatest Wine Estates: A Modern Perspective. You can also subscribe to Parker's newsletter, The Wine Advocate. Request a sample copy at: The Wine Advocate, P.O. Box 311, Monkton, MD 21111

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.