- There was such a huge amount of press over previous years on how Syrah was supposed to be “the next big thing”, and then more recently how that just never really panned out.
Personally, I don’t see any need for people to wait around for a grape / wine to be named “so hot right now” before you give it your attention (i.e. hard earned $’s).
Look at what happened to Malbec! The grape started to get popular based on the favorable price-to-quality ratio of the wines on the market; but then huge brands started to pump out watered-down garbage and flood grocery store shelves with it, leaving the consumer with a skewed opinion on what the grape is really capable of. I’m not looking for that same thing to happen to Syrah.
- Owning a winery had been on Paul Johnson’s bucket-list for quite some time, so in 2002 (before he hit the big 5-0) he took the plunge and decided to start his own wine label: the aptly-named Fiftyrow. The one flaw in this plan is that he doesn’t actually know how to professionally make wine….he’d therefore need a little help…
- Gary Galleron is the winemaker behind Fiftyrow, and its no wonder that Gary went on to winemaking, as he quite simply has “Rutherford dust” in his soul. As a child he grew up playing amongst the vines on the street which bears his family name: Galleron Road.
In 1976, after graduating college, Gary started making wine at a little-known winery named Chateau Montelena under the guidance of a little-known winemaker named Mike Grgich.
- Only 152 cases of the Fiftyrow Spring Mountain Syrah are made, so don’t expect to see it scattered too widely; however, if you’re looking to get your hands on something a off the “well-trodden Syrah path”, you can always order a bottle (or three) online.
- Click here for the Fiftyrow Facebook Page.
- Red grapes account for around 80% of all planted Spring Mountain acreage. Cabernet makes up around half, Merlot about a quarter. The remainder includes Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel, Petit Verdot, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Malbec and Pinot Noir.
- Grape-growing in Spring Mountain dates back to the Civil War, and by 1874 the Beringer Bros had their own vineyards. However, the region didn’t officially receive its own AVA status until 1993.
- Spring Mountain has been described as, “…probably more responsible than any other Napa hillside for creating the mystique of “mountain grapes”. The reason that “mountain wines” are so highly prized amongst wine nerds, is the way the terroir makes the vines struggle to produce highly concentrated and intense grapes, rather than valley floor fruit that becomes lazy due to the overabundance of nutrients in the soil.
- Some of the other prominent wineries in Spring Mountain include: Cain Vineyard & Winery, Fife Vineyards, Terra Valentine, Newton Vineyard, Hollywood & Vine Cellars and St. Clement Vineyards. Click here for a complete list.
I hate to overuse words like “pretty” when describing a wine, but there’s no other way to describe the nose on the inky-black Fiftyrow Syrah. Musky black fruit and dried spices on the nose showing a fairly serious perfume. No exaggeration, I actually had to make sure I wasn’t actually smelling my own aftershave when first sticking my nose into the glass. True story.
It backs off a little on the palate. Still with concentrated cassis and spice holding its own, but also with a little redcurrant compote, damp soil, slate, and well integrated oak. Not overblown and heavy, neither is it California masquerading as Rhone, instead it strikes a perfect balance between the two.
I’ve tasted very few Syrah’s outside of the Rhone that I would consider sizably age-worthy, but I’d definitely put the Fiftyrow in that category. My advice is to buy a few, drink one as soon as you get in and put the rest in storage for a few years.
Lamb in any way shape or form! Steak or duck would obviously also work wonders, but if it was me doing the pairing, I would try to capitalize on all those spicy aromatics…
Drinking way above its price-point of $30 – available online from the Fiftyrow website.