My first days of enjoying wine are filled with wonderful memories of California Cabernet Sauvignon. Shortly after graduating from university, I returned home and lived with my parents in Dallas. The current release was 1994, and we would share bottles over dinner and discuss our day’s experiences. The stories would always become more colorful as the bottle’s punt rose further out of the wine.
Typical of many wine drinkers, my preferences have changed over the years: Once I began working in the industry in 2003, I focused my tastes on the Old World. Along with Australia, New Zealand and South America, I ignored North America, including my first love of California. This near complete aversion lasted for many, many years.
Thankfully, two years ago, some of our savvy suppliers began to open my palate to what appeared to be a new wave of New World producers, with many of them coming from California. This ah-ha moment has only been reinforced by equally savvy staff, including Michael Halajian who has championed his adopted home state since his arrival in the store last year. Now, not only is it easy to find wines from organically and biodynamically farmed vineyards, but also from grapes that are hand harvested, fermented using ambient yeast (read AmByth's 2012 Priscus), vinified with lower alcohol levels (think Teutonic’s 2012 Alsea Pinot Noir) and with minuscule sulfur additions (try La Clarine Farm’s 2013 Jambalaia Rouge).
Wind Gap’s 2011 Sonoma Coast Syrah elegantly ticks the boxes. Wind Gap is the brainchild of Pax Mahle, a producer who is better known for his PAX label. Wind Gap started somewhat as a lark when one of his barrels for the PAX label did not reach the ripeness he was accustomed to producing. The resulting wine was fresher and lower in alcohol. For Pax’s Wind Gap wines, the fruit is sourced from vineyards along the coastal hills. The cooling effects of the ocean allow for fully ripe fruit while also maintaining high acid levels and lower alcohol. Grapes are crushed by foot, fermentation occurs naturally and with the stems included.
Pax only produced 5,940 bottles of his 2011 Sonoma Coast Syrah. The wine is filled with dark fruit, cured meat and black pepper aromas. The palate has a beautiful balance of fruit, acidity and tannin that provides a weight while keeping an ultra-low alcohol level of just 11.4%. What to drink during the long, winding feast of Thanksgiving? That’s an easy answer!