Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Wine Notes: Kalyra 2004 Syrah Port

I haven't written much about wine but my wine fridge holds 50 bottles and I'm slowly drinking my way through it. I'd like to keep a record of what I drink somewhere. I figured this blog is as good a place as any.

As you can see, this is a 2004 Syrah Port, half bottle. I bought this bottle during one of my wine trips with my girlfriends. We go tasting 1-2 times a year and when we're flush we might go up to 3 times a year. I think I bought this bottle in 2005, maybe 2006. I believe it was our first trip to the Santa Ynez Valley which is about 350 miles from San Francisco near Santa Barbara. Kalyra Winery was a busy place with very friendly, down-to-earth wine servers. Also, I recall the prices for the wines were economical.

Though I don't know much about grape varietals, I do enjoy a good Syrah. In fact, I don't really know much about wine in general but I do have a good palate, as my girlfriends say. I know what tastes good and can pick out subtle flavors in wine. When I first started wine tasting, I was mostly into Cabs (big reds). Now I really like Pinot Noir and Syrah. I still love a good Cab but I don't automatically zero in on them anymore. I've also been interested in whites. I particularly enjoy white wines that have been aged in steel barrels.

Back to this Syrah Port. Since it's a 2004 you know it's been in my wine fridge for several years. When I first opened it there was an overwhelming smell and taste of alcohol. As you can see from the label, the alcohol content
is 19%. The thing is when I opened it up, the cork looked weird. I examined it and realized the cork is synthetic! It's made up of a kind of foam. In recent years we've seen wineries going to screw top and synthetic corks but I don't recall that happening in 2004-2005. I called my good friend and told her about it. We discussed the thinking behind using a screw top lid vs. synthetic cork. A screw top effectively arrests the wine in its current state; no more aging is possible with a screw top lid. Using a screw top lid is very effective with an already well-developed white wine. We've spoken to folks at wineries and they say a synthetic cork allows a little air in but the wine can't really age like it would with a regular cork. This means this Petite Syrah has been sitting in its own massive alcohol content for years.

I poured the wine into a wine glass with a big bowl and spent time swirling it around. If I had a decanter I would have definitely decanted it in an attempt to mellow out the alcohol fumes. When I first tasted it after swirling around it had a sweet port-y taste. I couldn't understand it. I enjoy port but not heavy sweet ports. I made no sense to me that I would have bought this bottle and I talked to my friend about this fact. I kept swirling and we kept talking. Eventually the wine had breathed long enough so I could get a better idea of the taste. Sometimes it can take a while for a wine flavor to really come out after it's been poured.

Decent to brilliant wines have three tasting stages: when it first hits your mouth, how it tastes after you've held it in your mouth (this is the stage where you can pick out any tastes on the side of your tongue), and the finish. By the way, this isn't anything I've read. It's just something I've learned while doing my own tasting. There's also "the nose," that is, what it smells like. And there's what the wine looks like: color, transparency, etc.

This Syrah port could definitely fall into the dessert wine category. It has an interesting mouth feel. Like some ports it has an almost syrupy feel but with some time to breathe it's not really sweet. When this Syrah first hits your mouth it tastes like very ripe strawberries that have been marinated in balsamic vinegar for several hours. It's taken me some time to figure this out. This explains the very fresh, ripe strawberries in the finish (after the swallow, it's very subtle), yet the syrupy mouth feel remains after the swallow and this has an almost maple-y flavor. There's a hint of box-just-opened brown sugar at the end but this is very subtle as well since this wine does not have a very long finish. Most of the time it doesn't take me that long time to figure out how a wine tastes but this was a tough one.

As for the nose, it's difficult to get an accurate scent because of the high alcohol content. Nah, I won't attempt to figure it out because I've already drank almost a full glass and since I'm a lightweight, I need to stop here.

I'll be enjoying this bottle for another couple of days and if memory serves, it was well worth the money I spent on it.

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