2010 Donelan "Cuvée Christine" Sonoma County Syrah

SKU #1264943 95 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate

 The 2010 Syrah Cuvée Christine could easily pass for a California version of a Northern Rhône Hermitage. Its black/purple color is accompanied by notes of camphor, graphite, creme de cassis and acacia flowers. The wine is super-rich, intense and full-bodied with good underlying minerality as well as loads of fruit and glycerin as well as a powerful, long finish with sweet tannin. It should drink well for a decade or more. 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. (RP)  (12/2013)

92-94 points Jeb Dunnuck

 I was able to taste three separate samples destined for the 2010 Donelan Syrah Cuvée Christine and all rated between 92 and 94 points. Fermented with 30% whole cluster, the samples were slightly reticent and closed on the nose, with deep black and blue fruits, lavender, meat, and spice characteristics, a medium to full-bodied, textured mouth feel, and solid concentration and depth. Give bottles 2-3 years in the cellar and then enjoy over the following decade.  (12/2011)

94 points Vinous

 Plum, licorice and violet notes flesh out in the 2010 Syrah Cuvée Christine. Wonderfully dark and mysterious, the 2010 possesses remarkable depth and intensity, all in a virile, masculine style that stands in stark contrast to the far more approachable 2011. With air the 2010 can be enjoyed today, but it has more than enough density and power to drink well for a number of years. Next to the 2010 Walker Vine Hill, the Cuvée Christine is a bit more silky in its mouthfeel. The 2010 has blossomed beautifully over the last few years. In this vintage, the Cuvée Christine spent 18 months in barrel, 30% new. (AG)  (2/2014)

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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).