Syrah • Dry Creek Valley
California: Sonoma County
What we say
TOP SECRET ALERT: Today’s wine is a Killer California Syrah from Roshambo Winery. This award winning wine is a ready to drink gem that you can also cellar for a few years.
Mission Codename: The Stowaway
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Go on the road with the Roshambo Winery on their RoshamBus to uncover the mystique of this irreverent and over-the-top fun winery
Mission Status: Accomplished
Current Winery: Roshambo Winery
Wine Subject: 2002 Justice Syrah
Winemaker: Naomi Johnson
The Roshambo Winery has been on our Winery Alert Board for some time, so Agent Red was sent out to go undercover, posing as a Roshambo Party Army intern. What follows is his report from the road during a recent Party Army tour.
Our primary mission as Wine Spies, is to search out and report on the best wines we can find. Most of the time we find our wines by going undercover and visiting wineries, usually posing as regular customers. Sometimes we follow up on leads from our field agents (that’s you, dear reader). We love getting hot tips and several of our agents have been pointing out Roshambo Winery. The more tips we receive, the higher our alert status on a given winery, so Central Command decided it was time to send me on a mission to investigate Roshambo.
After a brief reconnaissance of this unique Winery, I decided that my best way to learn about them was from the inside. While the winery does not usually have interns, I managed to get myself recruited as a support crew for a tour on the amazing Roshambus.
The Roshambus is a roving party bus that travels from town to town spreading the gospel of Roshambo and their excellent and uniquely styled wines.
I welcomed aboard the bus by Adam Savin, the winery’s “Road Warrior”. Adam is the sort of guy that would seem equally at home on a surfboard or in a corporate boardroom. His easy manner and his sincerity, coupled with his knowledge of wine makes him the perfect ambassador for Roshambo.
Adam showed me around the incredible Roshambus – complete with expanding sides, a fully stocked wine bar (naturally!), disco lighting and room to dance. He introduced me to other Army Members, all of them equally charming and, well, genuinely happy people!
We set off on our tour, Adam at the wheel, bus fully loaded with cases of Roshambo wines, dashboard filled with green plastic army men. As he drove, Adam cheerfully explained the Roshambo philosophy to me. This absorbing discourse on the integration of the art of winemaking with the values of joy, fun, perfection and experimentation went on for what seemed like mere minutes. In fact, a check of the watch told me that he had been talking for considerably longer.
Our tour took us to several California cities and in each we were greeting by hundreds of fans, all of them eager to get aboard the bus for fun and refreshments. During the tour I found myself pouring wine, playing DJ, cleaning the bus after raging parties – and playing about a thousand slightly tipsy games of Roshambo with other fans. It was an experience that I will not soon forget and I recommend that I go on another mission with them soon.
At the end of the mission, I was able to negotiate with Adam for a quantity of Roshambo’s 2002 Justice Syrah, a great wine with wonderful character and a ton of flavor. Our field agents should be advised to stock up on this wine as it will soon be nearly impossible to find.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Deepest dark plum with great legs and a springy surface bounce when swirled
Smell – On opening, anise and subtle caramel. After breathing for a while the wine opens up to reveal floral notes with cherry, plum and sweet grapefruit.
Feel – Wet and smooth at first, giving way to subtle tannins that give a small bite toward the front of the tongue and the rear of the tongue, and not all over like other California Syrahs we have tasted recently
Taste – Vibrant and a little hot on opening. After decanting (let this wine air out!), we get flavors of anise, chocolate, cigar, burned blueberry (in a good way) and plum.
Finish – Long-lasting, all over mouth with flavors of that linger and drop off slowly
Conclusion – This is great wine for those that like juicy and flavorful wines. It is also a wine that reveals changing flavors and mouth feel as it airs out, which provides an interesting lesson in the importance of decanting to improve the character of some wines.
With limited availability on this wonderful wine, it’s the Last Hurrah for this Syrah!
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the Dry Creek Valley can be seen in this satellite photo
Wine Spies Technical Wine Analysis
Name: Justice Syrah
Appellation: Dry Creek Valley
Additional Winery Notes:
Appearance: Deep purple
Aroma: Black currant, cedar, fennel, smoked bacon
Palate: Black currant, fennel, white pepper
What the winery says
95 Points - California State Fair!
TOP 100 Wines - San Francisco Chronicle, 2005!
Just one sniff and you will be carried by the aromas of dark roasted coffee, violets, plums, and earthy mushrooms. Justice is strong- with bursting flavors of ripe currant, blueberry, and smokey bacon. This wine finishes with a long, lush finish of eucalyptus and a hint of ruby grapefruit rind. Justice is Syrah!
You don’t need to know how to cook a steak to eat and enjoy it. You don’t need to know the difference between acrylics and oils to buy a piece of art. No one says you’ve got to understand the manufacturing process of shampoo to choose one bottle over the other. And you don’t need to speak an esoteric language just to explain how much you like your spiffy new car.
So why are we pressured into understanding malolactic fermentation, the difference between a Bordeaux and a Meritage, the art of barrel aging, and the taste of slate in order to have a glass of wine?
And the wine industry wonders why more people don’t “get” wine.
So who are we to think that we can democratize wine and tear down the carefully crafted barriers to entry? We are artists, farmers, jokers, mothers, fathers, progressives, drinkers, queens, quarrelers…and winemakers. Grandfather Frank Johnson started it all with a few acres of grapes. We continued it with the creation of Roshambo, a winery dedicated to the idea that wine should be more fun, more delicious, more Roshambo!
What’s In A Name?
Why Roshambo?…Quite a few people ask and wonder about our name Roshambo. What does it mean? Where does it come from? Well, there are both long and short answers to these questions.
The short answer: Roshambo is California for the hand rock-paper-scissors. Surely you’ve played this game! Maybe you don’t know it as “roshambo.” In Japan, it is known as Jan Ken Pon, in Korea, Muk Chee Ba, and in Switzerland they call it Schare, Schtal, Papier. Whatever you know it as, it is a fun game, and easy game, and something of a cultural universal.
The long answer: This one begins a long, long, long time ago in a land far, far away. Late 1960s Japan to be exact. With a degree in Anthropology in hand, Frank Johnson’s son, Tom Johnson, found himself in rural Japan conducting PhD research. His area of expertise: children’s culture and children’s games.
While studying in Kuwakubo Village, Tom befriended a young boy by the name of Kazuo Wachi. Kazuo introduced Tom to his older sister, Kimie, and to their family. Having some experience with adult games as well (and with a lot of prodding from the family grandmother), Tom soon married Kimie.
Within a few years, they were living in Tokyo with their children, Naomi and Morgan where Tom was teaching at Waseda University. Spending as much time as they did in Japan, Naomi and Morgan naturally began to use the Japanese game Jan Ken Pon (roshambo) to settle many of their arguments. (The game is used widely in Japan for all kinds of decision making, and you frequently see adults, as well as children, using it.) In 1999, Naomi moved to the family vineyard to oversee the construction of the new winery. One of her first tasks was the creation of a name for the new venture.
With Naomi and Morgan’s grandparents honored through the vineyard name, there remained the challenged of honoring family’s second generation. For a time, she debated a wide variety of exciting names involving trees, creeks, swamps and rocks. Finally, after much exploration, and with a stroke of sudden, brilliant inspiration, she landed upon Roshambo.
The name summed up both the California roots of the third generation and their Japanese heritage. It paid tribute to their father’s academic interests. It honored their mother’s Japanese background. It was playful and unpretentious. It was exactly the image needed for the new venture.
So there you have it. More than you ever needed to know about how the name was chosen. Now grab a friend, get some dinner, and “roshambo” for the tab.