By Jonathan Mitchell
When the sun starts setting early, and there's a bit of a chill to the air, my wine tastes drift toward rich and robust reds. I really like red wines that have a nice balance of fruit, spice, and tannins. Merlot and Syrah pop right to mind.
I recently had the great honor of enjoying the Pride Mountain Vineyard 2004 Merlot and the Foley Estates 2002 Syrah. Both wines exhibit phenomenal intensity and are very true to the character of their respective varietals. What does that mean to you? It means If you like a Merlot with brilliant red fruit, juicy plum, and a hint of cocoa, Pride Mountain's got it.
If you like a bold Syrah that has rich, smoky, black fruit notes, Foley's got it. First the Merlot. Pride Mountain's winemaker Bob Foley (no relation to Foley Estates) made less than 3500 cases of this wine. Grown in the Napa Valley, high up on Spring Mountain, this 100% Merlot is aged in French oak, and is not for the faint of heart. On the nose I got warm cherry pie, dark plum, and spice. On the palate, the wine showed a burst of fresh red fruits, dried cherries, cocoa, and white pepper. It had very fine tannins and an elegant, long finish. A marvelous effort, sure to please any serious wine aficionado. Even Miles, in "Sideways" would approve! $56 retail. The other Foley in our story (William) owns Foley Estates located in Santa Barbara.They have vineyards in the coveted Santa Rita Hills AVA, where the best Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah thrive! Grown in the Rancho Santa Rosa parcel, this 100% Syrah was aged in small French oak barrels for 14 months. It boasted notes of dark fruit like blackberries, blueberries, and black cherries, beautifully intertwined with bittersweet chocolate, espresso, pepper, and a hint of licorice spice. A massive wine with a gorgeous finish that goes on and on. 1248 cases were made, and it is a bargain at $30! Go out and buy yourself a bottle of each for the Holidays, and be the hit of the party!
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