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2001 Acorn Winery "Axiom" Syrah, Sonoma

When I get a chance to write about wines like this, I feel like I am really succeeding in what I wanted to do when I set out on the journey to create Vinography. While I had no (and still don't have) official mission statement detailing what I wanted this site to be, one of my definite goals is to find great wines that aren't well known, that are made by good people, and that won't break the bank.

This lovely little Syrah made by the folks at Acorn Winery in Healdsburg is a perfect example of such a wine. Acorn specializes in field-blend wines. This means that they intentionally interplant different varietals together (that they intend to mix together in the wine later) and then they harvest, crush and ferment these grapes together to make the final wine. It's a very different approach than a lot of vintners take -- most want to treat each grape differently to bring out its particular characteristics with different oak, etc, and then blend things later on. This specificity and technique is actually a relatively modern invention, however. Once upon a time field-blended wines were the most common.

The field in discussion here is actually the Alegria (literally "happiness") Vineyard, a benchland vineyard of rounded rocks in the Russian River Valley that has been farmed for grapes since the 1850's. Winery owner and winemaker Bill Nachbaur revived the old Zinfandel vineyard on the site in 1990 and planted several more varietals including Dolcetto, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Franc, Alicante, and Bouschet. Bill and his wife Betsy traditionally have sold about 90% of their grapes to other wineries, but starting in 1996 they began bottling under their own label and have gradually increased production levels to about 2300 cases.

This particular wine is a single-vineyard designate field blend of 99% Syrah and 1% Viognier. As described above, these grapes are harvested and crushed together, then fermented in a mix of French and American oak, and then aged in the same barrels for 17 months before bottling.

Tasting Notes:
This wine is a deep blood red in color and has a delicious nose of cherries, vanilla and chocolate, with a light floral element to the nose that is the unmistakable trace of the Viognier. In the mouth it is lush with flavors of blackberry and cherry and a spicy element that extends through the meaty finish.

Food Pairing:
I think, like most Syrahs this is a great one for grilled meats of any kind, and given the chance I would love to serve it with grilled duck and olives.

Overall Score: 8.5/9

How Much?: $24

There isn't much of this stuff on the market. There are a couple of Internet retailers that carry it but at extremely marked up prices. For those in California, however, it should be relatively easy to get from the winery itself. Give them a call at: 707-433-6440.

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Required Reading for Wine Lovers

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.