The streets of Mexico
“To be honest, I am still waiting to be totally convinced that Southern Oregon can become a major player in the wine scene, though if it can produce fermented grape juice like the quality at Cowhorn, then it should have no problem. Like last year, winemaker and co-proprietor Barbara Steele came to see me at my tastings held in McMinnville. She is a very direct and tenacious winemaker, poring over my previous notes, asking plenty of questions about my observations. She is clearly very principled in terms of winemaking that concentrates upon Rhône varieties, the vines certified biodynamic by Demeter, partial whole cluster use, native yeast ferments and prudent use of new oak. And I have to say, I really admire the style of these wines that are some of the best for this part of Oregon: clean, focused, complex and full of personality. Moreover, for their quality I consider them exceptionally well priced. Perhaps my only quibble is that I find the numbering on the label confusing. (It refers to the number of frost hours suffered during the years, which is interesting, but maybe lost on some consumers?) Still, most of their current releases come highly recommended.”
2014 Marsanne Roussanne
The 2014 Marsanne Roussanne, an equal blend of the two varieties, has a clean, quite fresh bouquet with peach skin and frangipane scents that are neatly integrated with the 18% new French oak. The palate is balanced with a waxy texture, much more resinous notes than fruit-driven with a touch of fresh ginger on the finish. Like previous vintages, this handles these tickles with some aplomb. 90 pts.
2013 Grenache 21
The 2013 Grenache 21 (the number referring to the frost hours in the year) was cropped at three tons per acre, much more than previous years, though without depriving it of complexity and power according to Barbara Steele. This includes around 30% whole cluster fruit and matured in 29% new French oak. It has well-defined red cherry, red plum and attractive licorice scents coming through with aeration. The palate is medium-bodied with grainy tannin, blackcurrant pastilles mixed with truffle and garrigue-like notes. I like the acidity here and at 13.2% alcohol, it is fresh and easy to drink. This follows in a line of excellent Grenache from Cowhorn. 92 pts.
2013 Syrah 21
The 2013 Syrah 21 was picked 16-23 October and includes 38% whole cluster, matured for nine months in 40% new French oak. Apparently the fruit was so abundant that they could trim around blocks that were not totally ripe – the first time this has been done. It is quite closed on the nose at first, but you can tell that the fruit intensity here is just tightly coiled at the moment: blackberry, boysenberry, a touch of fig and a little garrigue. The palate is medium-bodied with juicy ripe black fruit. I actually prefer the previous vintage in terms of texture, though this has commendable weight and very fine balance all the way through to the finish, a touch of black truffle and licorice lingering on the aftertaste. Give this 2-3 years in bottle once it is released in November 2016. 92+ pts.
The 2013 Sentience was picked 16-23 October, a selection of barrels that has more structure. It includes 43% whole cluster fruit and is aged for nine months in 39% new French oak. It is tightly wound on the nose with blackberry, boysenberry and undergrowth scents accompanied by a sprig of wild mint. The palate is medium-bodied with juicy black fruit, good weight and structure in the mouth, a slight edginess towards the finish with tightly coiled energy. This is more masculine than the 2011 and there is more salinity (almost brine-like) lingering on the aftertaste. This has good potential.92 pts.
2012 Reserve Syrah
The 2012 Syrah Reserve was picked on 12 October and included 60% whole bunch fruit, matured for ten months in 50% new French oak. (Note: This was not released in either 2010 or 2011.) It has a very backward, slightly earthy character, a mixture of red and black fruit, touches of granite and flint surfacing with continued aeration in the glass. The palate is medium-bodied with potent blackberry and bilberry fruit, a grainy texture, firm backbone here with notes of clove and bay leaf developing towards the finish that grips the mouth. Very well crafted…I would like to see a little more personality come through with requisite bottle age.93 pts.
– Neal Martin, June 2016
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