Alban Estate Patrina Syrah 2010
California Syrah is very much out of fashion. This is particularly true of the rich, highly extracted style of Syrah that many wine geeks now decry as ‘Parkerized’. These criticisms are both fair and unfair. They are fair insofar as the success of producers like Alban, Sine Qua Non, Pax and Ojai pushed others to produce high octane Syrah to the point where many mediocre producers pushed their grapes too far, failed to farm well and had no sense of balance.
On the other hand, these criticisms are unfair insofar as they ignore how the very best producers have dialed in their farming and winemaking to meld extraction with balance. This is without mentioning the new pioneering producers such as Wind Gap and Arnot-Roberts who are producing lower-alcohol, cool climate syrah that bear little to no resemblance to yesterday’s behemoths.
For those who do like power, fruit and extract, California Syrah offers superb options when you focus on the very best.
Extract and Pleasure
There is probably no producer of California Syrah more iconic than Alban. John Alban was the first to bring Rhone cuttings to California and is the ‘father’ of the Rhone ranger movement along with a handful of other producers such as Bob Lidquist at Qupe and Randal Graham at Bonny Doon. Alban remains the emblem of high-extract, powerhouse Syrahs. Lately he has fine tuned his farming, and increased attention on balance, making his recent Syrahs some of the best yet.
Alban’s famous extraction is as much a result of ‘terroir’ as it is house style. His Edna Valley vineyards are subject to a ton of wind from the Pacific, which makes it difficult for the Syrah berries to grow very big or be prolific. This decrease in the size and quantity of the berries means much greater concentration.
The Patrina is Alban’s entry level Syrah made from young estate vines and is the easiest to both find and afford. It is also an extremely delicious wine that’s all about pleasure. It has been a Christmas tradition for me to drink a bottle of this around the holidays each year as the wine embodies the fun and good cheer that represents the best of the season. If you love powerful, fruity Syrah, I highly recommend forking out the dough if you ever see this. Drink the 2010 now or in the next couple years.