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1999 Bon Family Vineyards Syrah, Sonoma

It's rare that I drink a wine, try to blog about it and then can't find any information on who made it, the winery, or the winemaking. But that's unfortunately the case with this bottle that a friend brought over the other night.

The only thing there is to talk about is where the grapes come from --three blocks of a vineyard site on the western slopes of the Mayacamas mountains in Sonoma -- Nelligan Road, the Old Ranch, and Rockpile.

Rockpile is so named because it sits along Rockpile Road, which in turn is named for the Rockpile Ranch. Rumor has it that everything here is so named for the piles of rocks uncovered by the convicts who built the first roads in the area. The vineyard is planted primarily with Zinfandel (for which it is famous, thanks to the folks at Rosenblum), and a little bit of Syrah. Its soil is red and loamy, with heavy clay and lots of rocks (go figure).

I can also tell you that this wine is the opposite of much Syrah that is being produced in California these days. While most of those efforts involve rich, spicy, extracted fruit, this wine is restrained and dark, probably picked at a lower brix (sugar level) than Syrah is typically picked at these days. I'm guessing this not only from the flavors (which have also probably mellowed with age) but also from the relatively low alcohol content of the wine (13.3%).

The wine definitely saw some oak for quite a while and was made in pretty miniscule quantities (410 Cases).

Tasting Notes:
Perfectly blood red in the light of my dining room table, this wine has a deep nose of smoke, cassis, and cherries laced with toasted oak. In the mouth it is clearly a European style syrah, with the cassis and black cherry fruit flavors taking a back seat to more intense flavors of leather, damp earth, woodsmoke and dried mushrooms. The fruit is there, however and makes a nice integrated package with these flavors, laced up by smooth tannins that have clearly mellowed a little in the bottle. This wine reminds me of some Languedoc wines in its earthy intensity and is very unlike what passes for Syrah in California today which either lean towards Rhone style, or more commonly the boldness of Australian Shiraz.

Food Pairing:
This is a great wine to serve with grilled meat of any kind. I've been picking up fruit flavored sausages at my local grocery store, and I'd love to serve this wine with them, charred on the outside savory and a little sweet on the inside with some good mustard on a fresh roll. Now that's summer cooking.

Overall Score: 8.5/9

How Much?: $22

This wine may be difficult to find given its small quantity production and the fact that it's been on the market for a few years. Bevmo had it for a while but it looks like it's long gone from their shelves, at least in San Francisco.

Comments (3)

07.31.04 at 6:23 PM

The current issue of The Wine News (June/July 2004), has an article about the Mayacamas, as well as a separate article about the new Rockpile appelation. Don't know if it mentions anything about this wine, but it might be worth checking out.

Randy Wise wrote:
07.19.07 at 6:42 AM

I also purchased one bottle of this Bon Family vineyards 2000 Syrah Sonomo Valley wine and was floored by the damp earthiness of the taste, which I've been looking for, but cannot put into words this specific taste. I bought my bottle at Jayco Liquors in Elkton, MD. on close-out for $14.99, but they have no more. I would easily pay double or more to secure a case of this inky dark wine.
Any suggestions on other wines that might mirror this same taste?


Alder wrote:
07.19.07 at 4:39 PM


I’d look eastward -- The wines of Cornas, in the Rhone Valley are characteristic for this earthiness, as are some of the Syrahs made it he Languedoc-Roussillon and Minervois appellations of Sothern France.

Very little California Syrah is this way. The one bottling that comes to mind is Spencer Roloson's La Herradura Vineyard Syrah from Lake County.

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