2005 Clendenen Family Vineyards "Rancho La Cuna" Santa Maria Valley Syrah/Viognier

SKU #1125546

One of the great revelations of our 2013 buying trip to the Central Coast was rediscovering the Clendenen Family Vineyards label. Jim Clendenen (Au Bon Climat) started this label in 2000 from family tended vineyards as a project in which his then wife, Morgan and his kids Isabelle and Knox could make as a family. I had sold the wines in the past but they had been MIA for some time. We were shocked by these wines and just how good they were, how classically Californian they were and just how accessible they were. Coming from both organic and non-organic vineyards, some of which he planted himself, the wines displayed great acid, perfect oaken framing and wonderful feel. Some of that had to do with the fact that a few of these wines have been in the bottle for a number of years and are getting closer and closer to their apex, but I think it mostly has to do with the wealth of experience that Jim has amassed and his excitement to pass that knowledge along, not only to his family, but to anyone willing to listen or put in work along side of him.

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Price: $21.99
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Staff Image By: Jim Boyce | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: 3/28/2013 | Send Email
I believe this was a favorite of ours during the big lunch mentioned in Sarah's review as I have a couple "great" check marks next to my notes as well! Lightly floral notes from the Viognier intertwined graciously with masculine gamey and spicy notes on the nose. White pepper, juicy dark fruits, and a bloody mineral streak make for a well structured, dense wine. Fantastic, yet slightly introverted now, this wine will reward patience!

Staff Image By: Sarah Covey | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: 3/26/2013 | Send Email
Disclaimer: My tasting notes on this wine were written while seated at a long lunch table overflowing with incredible food and lots of wine, along with winemaker Jim Clendenen sitting across from me & Qupe winemaker Bob Lindquist to my right- both egging me on to try their favorite wine! I have a big heart in my notebook next to my 2005 Rancho La Cuna Syrah Viognier notes. Stewed cherries, red cherry, red currant, strawberry, with hints of pepper. Clearly slow in its development, this wine is aromatically pronouned (the Viognier waves up at you along with all that lush fruit) and requires lots of time to sit an ponder. Perfect with ribs, steak, hearty dishes- but most importantly, the most jolly, hilarious people you can muster!

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- One of France's noblest black grape varieties, Syrah is known for its intense and distinctive perfume reminiscent of briar fruit, tar, spice and black pepper and its firm structure. One of few black grape varietals frequently vinified on its own, the best examples of Syrah come from the Northern Rhône, particularly Hermitage, but also Côte-Rôtie, Cornas, Crozes-Hermitage and St-Joseph. These wines are very astringent in their youth, though some Crozes-Hermitage and St-Joseph can be enjoyed young, relatively speaking. Given the requisite patience, though, these wines can reveal amazing complexity and secondary fruit characteristics like plum and blackcurrant as well as subtle hints of smoke and flowers. In the Southern Rhône, Syrah is used to add structure and complexity to wines dominated by Grenache and complemented by Mourvèdre, like the more immediately drinkable Côte du Rhônes, as well as the long-lived wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. In recent years, plantings of Syrah have spread throughout the Languedoc-Roussillon where it is produced on its own or blended with other varietals. Outside of France, the most important Syrah growing country is easily Australia, where it is called Shiraz. Quality levels here depend greatly on yields and geography, and the wines range from bold, fruity and easy-drinking to intense and ageable, like the famed Penfolds Grange. Often bottled on its own, in Australia Syrah is also can be blended with Grenache and Mourvèdre, as in the Southern Rhône, and is increasingly combined with Cabernet Sauvignon. Syrah has also been steadily increasing in popularity in California, thanks to a group of advocates called the Rhône Rangers. Its most successful iterations come from the Central and Sonoma Coasts, where winemakers are pushing boundaries and creating some incredible wines. In recent years Syrah has also found a number of proponents in Washington State, which is definitely a region to watch for this variety.

United States

- When people consider domestic wine, they normally think about the state of California. The fine viticultural Region within California, including the Napa Valley, Sonoma, Santa Cruz Mountains, Mendocino and Santa Barbara, are capable of growing grapes of world-class quality. But there's plenty of fabulous wine coming from other states, too. Oregon, Washington and New York are also causing eyebrows (and glassware) to be raised around the world. Click for a list of bestselling items from the United States.


- With the explosive growth that California's wine industry has seen the past several years, it's easy to view winemaking and grape growing in the Golden State as a recent phenomenon. And while it's true that California's viticultural history is brief compared to several European countries, this state's roots date back well over 200 years. Due to the enormous response to California wine within the United States and worldwide, there are thousands of excellent and diverse wines being produced within the state each year. For our entire selection of California wines, please visit this link.
Specific Appellation:

Santa Maria/Santa Barbara

- Santa Maria and Santa Ynez make up the two AVAs of Santa Barbara County, an area known for its natural beauty and temperate climate. The best grape-growing areas, however, are located on the very coastal reaches of these two appellations, and are cooled by ever-present fog and ocean breezes (it is even cooler and foggier here than Carneros!). As expected, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir thrive while the more inland zones lay claim to Bordeaux varietals and some Rhône blends.