The Mendocino Ridge AVA in Anderson Valley is at the frontier of California’s wine producing regions to the north of the state. Jason and Molly Drew are the AVAs top spokespeople, having purchased and planted an apple orchard in 2004 after years working in some of the state’s top properties such as Phelps and Corison.
The Terroir of Mendocino Ridge
The Mendocino Ridge has fascinating terroir. The entire AVA is above 1200 feet and lies very close to the Ocean (Drew’s site is 3.5 miles away from the Pacific). It also has varied soil types similar to Sonoma: San Andreas metamorphosis and lifted seabed soils. The region is thus both a lot cooler than the Anderson Valley below (up to 10 degrees Fahrenheit) and receives a considerable amount of rainfall. The elevation lifts the vineyards above the fog line which ensures consistent ripening from the sunshine despite the cooler temperatures and significant rainfall.
Drew wines are utterly distinctive. They began by using purchased fruit from important holdings in the AVA such as Williams-Selyem’s Morning Dew Ranch vineyard. Now their estate vineyards are mature enough to release and as such have been added to the roster and will ultimately become the core focus. The estate vineyards are farmed biodynamically and have been from the outset. The farm is biodiverse as well, with apple trees, sheep and chickens all contributing to the ecosystem.
Interestingly, Jason Drew believes in picking grapes by taste but chooses to harvest just before he feels they taste fully ripe. He does this because he believes grapes continue to ripen after they have been picked and, as such, if you pick when a grape tastes fully ripe, it will end up being over-ripe by the time it goes into the wine.
Age-Worthy, Distinctive Cool-Climate Syrah
Though Drew is best known for Pinot Noir, this Perli Vineyards Syrah demonstrates Drew also deeply understands the historic Rhone grape. The Perli vineyard peaks up at 2200 feet above sea level and the wine is fermented with indigenous yeasts, 50% whole cluster and aged in oak puncheons (50% new). The wine is beautifully distinctive. It offers immensely expressive florality and pure, intense black berry fruits. It offers all this at 13.9% ABV. It is exuberant in its youth but has an acid and tannin structure that will likely allow 10-15 years of aging potential.
The Perli Vineyards Syrah is among the best examples I have had in the state and offers a distinct sense of place that differentiates from other leaders such as Wind Gap, Peay, Copain and Qupe. I will continue to collect and cellar this wine and highly recommend it for fans of cool-climate Syrah.
$48 USD from the winery mailing list