Since we started our sporadic series of office wine tastings last year, most of the afternoon affairs have been rather broad in scope (with sometimes more than 15 wines to sample) and often jumbled in theme (with most of the selections coming from the random assortment of bottles that get sent our way from around the world). But a few weeks ago, thanks to the support of SpiritLand Wine Bistro BYOB madam and occasional Jaffurs Winery employee Leslie Thomas, The Independent‘s dedicated crew of fermented grape juice quaffers enjoyed our most focused tasting yet.
With an assembled crew of journalists and guests that included the esteemed and experienced wine salesman Antonio Gardella of the Henry Wine Group, Thomas supplied the 2006 to 2009 range of Jaffurs’s Santa Barbara County syrahs for a blind tasting. To help mix things up a bit and keep people on their toes, I also threw in the Dierberg 2007 Syrah, which had recently been sent to my office.
Before we tasted, Thomas gave a rundown on what set each year’s blend apart: 2009 had a bit of petite sirah, but no viognier; 2008 scored a 92 from Wine Spectator; 2007 was tasting like “the fruit bomb of the bunch” earlier that day; and 2006 featured fruit from Thompson, Larner, Lafond, and Verna’s vineyards. Gardella then heaped some praise upon winemaker Craig Jaffurs, explaining, “He’s gotten better and better … He’s always got the same rows [in each vineyard], so he knows his fruit very well.” He believes that these Santa Barbara County blends — while not the single vineyard offerings that score in the high 90s with big critics — truly represent wines where the sum is greater than the individual parts.
But upon learning of the Dierberg twist, Gardella was also quite excited: Japan had already purchased half of the 2007 vintage and California was allotted only 100 cases altogether, making this bottle one of the last around.
During the tasting, the first bottle had very discernible hints of vanilla, and turned out to be the Dierberg. The second bottle, which elicited comments about cola flavors, toasty plum, and a soft mouthfeel, was the Jaffurs 2009. The third bottle, which had a flowery nose and what Thomas called a “more complete package” than the previous wine, was later revealed to be the 2008. The fourth bottle, full of spice and tobacco, was the oldest, the 2006. And the fifth bottle was the 2007 fruit bomb, although not as bombacious as Thomas had remembered from earlier in the day.
“They’re all so different,” said wine writer Laura Sanchez upon completing the tasting. “It’s so cool.” It was a statement we could all agree with.
Stay tuned for more Independent office tastings in the months to come, and watch out for the March 10 wine issue, which is the first of the print edition’s quarterly issues dedicated to wine in 2011. To get your wines covered, send info to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more of our wine reporting, see independent.com/wine.