A great wine under a seemingly nondescript label (unless you're a Nathaniel Hawthorne fan, in which case it's downright scandalous) made by a farm-first family winery, all ingredients for an outstanding under-the-radar value. The Alfaro family has made a tidy name for themselves in the Santa Cruz Mountains, not only for the work they do on their own estate vineyards but on some famous properties they help to manage. For example they have helped to make Trout Gulch vineyard one of the most sought after names in the mountains for the signature style of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir it can provide. On their own home properties that they have been working for nearly 30 years now they have more varietal diversity, but still farm them beautifully and provide textbook examples of their coastal mountain climate. Syrah can have a distinct 'cool climate' aroma versus a 'warm climate' one, a savory blueberry and bluer fruits combined with a meatiness (some may say bacon or beef blood, depending on how much of a carnivore they are), and this certainly has it thanks to the fog that so often rolls over the Santa Cruz Mountains from the nearby Pacific Ocean. The palate is nice and weighty with tannins almost as fine as a Pinot Noir, but have a nice dustiness to them that bring out the blue fruit skin notes on the finish. Perhaps not as elegant and refined as a Northern Rhone Syrah, but definitely inspired by it, and impressive for the money and worthy of pairing with any great cut of beef or gamey meat dishes.
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