Chameleon Cellars2004 Syrah, Stagecoach Vineyard
(Atlas Peak ~ Napa Valley)
When he’s not making wine, Jeff Popick, one of the partners (Owsley Brown III is the other) in the little Chameleon brand, is a hell of a weatherman. Popick writes for a publication in the Napa Valley about the weather and his essays are like tomes on the condition of the earth.
The condition of his wines – especially his reds – are usually superb in that they display the earth of their origin. This Syrah is no exception. While still young (hold onto it for a year and then enjoy it for the ensuring eight years), the wine is showing chocolate malt aromas from the 14 months it spent in new and an undisclosed amount of used French barrels. But taste-wise, this is a spot-on Syrah with great fruit depth, baking spices (again from the oak) and balance.
The grapes come from the famed Stagecoach Vineyard at 1,400-foot elevation of Atlas Peak. The volcanic soils there are thin and not particularly fertile, supporting vines of modest size and vigor whose yields average about 3 – 3½ tons per acre. With limited water and a relatively small rooting zone, berries are small, providing concentration and depth to the wine’s colors, aromas and flavors. Only 386 cases were produced. In this case, you need a weatherman to know which way the wine blows.
Reviewed October 19, 2006 by Alan Goldfarb.
Alan Goldfarb has been writing about and reviewing wine for 17 years. His reviews have been published in the St. Helena Star, San Jose Mercury, San Francisco Examiner, Decanter, and Wine Enthusiast, among others. Not once has he used a point system, star system, or an iconic symbol to quantify a wine. What counts in Mr. Goldfarb’s criteria when judging a wine is: how it tastes in the glass; is it well-constructed; its food compatibility; and presence of redeeming regional attributes.