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2000 Grapeleaf Cellars Syrah, Sonoma

Grapeleaf Cellars is a very small winery and custom crush facility in Berkeley, California. I'm not sure if it has the claim to fame of being the only winery in Berkeley, but it's the only one that I know of. The proprieter and winemaker Tom Leaf has been making wine there for several years.

I've met Tom on a number of occasions and have had several opportunities to visit his modest but serviceable facilities in Berkeley. Tom sources his grapes from places all over the California wine country -- Sonoma, Paso Robles, Amador County, to name a few. He produces wine in small lots and focuses primarily on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, with dabblings of Syrah and Zinfandel, matching each varietal and batch of grapes with carefully chosen barrels. Tom is very particular about his oak, and having tasted wine with him on several occasions, its clear that he has an often uncanny ability to identify the type of oak used in a given wine, something my palate has not even begun to approach.

In this case, Tom has chosen particularly ripe grapes from the Nicholson Ranch area of Sonoma, near the B.R. Cohn Winery, and fermented them in medium toast french oak, leaving the wine with a surprisingly distinctive flavor. Tom thinks that this is one of the best wines he has made.

Tasting Notes:
This wine is dark -- brooding dark red, and that darkness is echoed in its nose which, right out of the bottle, is extremely un-syrah like. When I first smelled the wine I thought it was a Cabernet because of the extremely heavy chocolate and cherry aromas, tinged with a bit of jasmine. As the wine opened up over the next hour, these aromas shifted to more blackberry and other jammy notes that one would expect from a syrah. In the mouth the wine is cool and clean with blackberry and blueberry flavors with hints of black pepper. The finish is somewhat astringent, with a slight hint of medicinal quality, but a solid wine nonetheless.

Food Pairing:
This is a good barbecue wine, and one that would go well with spicy foods. I'd be tempted to try it with beef and andouille burgers with asiago cheese.

Overall Score: 8.5/9

How much?: $25

You may purchase these wines directly from Tom:

Grapeleaf Cellars
805 Camelia St.
Berkeley, CA 94710
(510) 527-1305

Comments (3)

n shah wrote:
04.21.04 at 2:43 PM

fyi: Grapeleaf isn't the only winery in Berkeley. Edmunds St. John on walnut st is another. haven't tried the syrah yet, but have heard good things about the 2001 Peay.

btw, great site...

Sasha V (Eno) wrote:
04.26.04 at 5:07 PM

ironically, steve edmunds leased the space before Tom from Grapeleaf. Steve is now custom crushing at Audubon Cellars near the Gourmet Ghetto.

Grapeleaf makes great syrah- very balanced. i have a case; i'm sure it will age wonderfully.


Sandra Morey wrote:
06.01.04 at 7:08 PM

Went over to Grapeleaf to introduce our Colorado friend to Tom and they were gone! What happened? We have a couple bottles still in our basement. We took a bottle of 2000 Zin to Maui, can't recall the name of the vineyard. When we opened it it had a very weird nose and was slightly effervescent. We let it sit 20 minutes and tried it again. The nose was wonderful and the effervescence was gone. It was a glorious rich open wine. I'm glad we gave it time to develop. So where is Tom? Where is the wine?

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