2009 Donelan "Cuvée Keltie" Sonoma County Syrah

SKU #1152374 98 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate

 Also remarkable, the 2009 Cuvée Keltie leans more toward a Chave style of Hermitage, particularly their Cuvée Cathelin. An inky/black color is followed by abundant notes of creme de cassis, roast beef, blackberries, bouquet garni and graphite. This extremely full-bodied, dense 2009 saturates the palate with intensity, and the finish lasts for nearly 60 seconds. This gorgeous 2009 should drink well for 15+ years... This is one of the most impressive Rhône Ranger winemaking estates in California. They have also expanded their portfolio to make small quantities of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. For me, the real glories of Donelan Family Wines are their Syrahs. As the tasting notes suggest, 2011 turned out well here despite the challenges. However, if you can still track down a bottle or two of the 2009s and 2010s, you are in for something very special. Joe Donelan believes their finest wine, representing the best vineyard parcels and top barrel selections is the Cuvée Keltie, which normally comes from specific sub-sections of such vineyard sources as Obsidian, Richard’s Family, Steiner Ranch and Walker Vine Hill. Kudos to Donelan Family Wines! (RP) 98+  (12/2013)

94 points Jeb Dunnuck

 A relatively elegant and civilized version of this cuvée, the 2009 Donelan Syrah Cuvée Keltie, 100% Syrah fermented with 100% whole cluster and aged all in neutral French oak, delivers a savory, slightly exotic bouquet of pure blackberry and crème de cassis that's intermixed with notions of freshly cracked black pepper, underbrush, hints of game, and lit gun powder. This is followed up by a medium to full-bodied wine that has a light, seamless, and overriding elegant texture, gorgeous balance and purity, polished tannin, and a finish where the class and quality of the wine shows. Surprisingly accessible and ready to go (with a decant), this should continue to shine and drink beautifully for a decade or longer. 94+  (12/2011)

K&L Notes

Fans of big, powerful California Syrah may remember Pax Wine Cellars, which Joe Donelan co-founded; fans of top Crozes-Hermitage will like the wines from his new project, too. The 2009 is a selection of lots from the Obsidian, Richards, Kobler, Windsor Oaks, and Walker Vine Hill vineyards.

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Price: $89.99
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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.


- 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.
Specific Appellation:

Sonoma County

- Second in fame only to Napa, this "other" valley offers just about every climate and topography imaginable. From its cool and fog-enshrouded coastal regions on the far west, to the sprawling Alexander Valley on the boarder of Napa and the many little dips and peaks in between, Sonoma has been a vital wine-grape-growing region since the mid 1800s. Important sub-AVAs include Chalk Hill (known for chardonnay and sauvignon blanc), Dry Creek Valley (where zin is king) Knights Valley (largely cabernet land), Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast (both celebrated pinot and chardonnay zones).