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1994 Dehlinger Gold Ridge Vineyard Syrah, Russian River Valley

Tonight I went to a wine tasting that a winemaker friend of mine puts on occasionally. Generally we pick a specific varietal, and sometimes a region, and then taste a bunch of wines (usually 8 to 12 of them) completely blind and compare notes at the end.

Tonight's theme was International Syrah, and we had representation from Australia, New Zealand, France, Argentina (!), and Washington State. If I had to have predicted ahead of time, I would have said that my favorite wine was going to be an Australian, since I tend to be partial to their version of Shiraz. While the #1 favorite of the group was an Australian Shiraz (to be blogged about tomorrow) I was taken by this Dehlinger, which I found to be a stunning example of the potential of this varietal.

I haven't had a lot of experience with Dehlinger wines. I've tried a few of their Pinots, some of which were great, others of which were downright awful, including one bottle of their 1997 Octagon Pinot, which is supposed to be the top of the line and is going at about $100+ at auction. They are known for their Pinots, of course, as well as their Chardonnay's, which owner Tom Dehlinger has been making on their 50 acre vineyard in Sonoma since 1976.

They are one of the few highly exclusive wineries in Sonoma (as opposed to the raft of them in Napa). The winery is not open to the public and most of the wines are sold via their mailing list and some very highly allocated retailers.

Knowing this it was a special treat to get to try one of their Syrahs, and a 1994 to boot.

Tasting Notes:
First of all, wow, this wine did not taste like it was 10 years old, and I'd say it's got at least another 10 years on it. It wasn't headed towards brick yet in color, and the fruit was plush and full. The wine is still very dark ruby colored in the glass, free of sediment, and has the most exquisite nose. I characterized it as eucalyptus, strawberry jam, and woodsmoke. The body of the wine has flavors of cranberry, redcurrant, and strawberry, with excellent dusty tannins and a long satisfying finish. I found the overal flavors and aromas of this wine particularly unique and unlike any other Syrah I've ever tasted. It had personality, fruit, and balance. Outstanding.

Food Pairing:
This is a tough call. I would love to drink this wine with some strong cheeses, but it would be equally good with a nicely charred italian sausage on the grill.

Overall Score: 9.5/10

How Much?: Well apparently when this wine was purchased it was about $22, but rumor has it you can get it for around $40.

A quick search online shows a bottle at auction for $40 and one for retail sale at $85. If you find it, buy it. If you have it, hold it. Me, I'll just dream about it.

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The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.