Andrew Murray Vineyards
2006 Watch Hill Vineyard Syrah
Syrah • Watch Hill Vineyard
Santa Barbara County
What we say
SUPERIOR WINE ALERT:
Agent Red declares today’s Syrah to be on of his all-time favorites – deeming it worthy of this special alert
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Mission Codename: Overwatch
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Respond to reports by our junior agent, Agent Franc, that Andrew Murray Vineyards in Santa Barbara County makes extraordinary Syrah. If his intel is correct, infiltrate the winery and secure a small allotment for our Syrah-loving Operatives
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Andrew Murray Vineyards
Wine Subject: 2006 Watch Hill Vineyard Syrah
Winemaker: Andrew Murray
Backgrounder: Several months ago, Agent Red began a new round of Wine Spies Agent recruitment. His search uncovered an eager young man named [REDACTED]. After thoroughly vetting [REDACTED], Agent Red brought him into the fold, making him a Junior Agent, and giving him the code-name, Agent Franc. Fran quickly proved his mettle, and when he sleuthed out an Andrew Murray Syrah, it was clear that Agent Red had recruited wisely. Today we are proud to feature Agent Franc’s first wine selection, a brilliant Andrew Murray Syrah.
The popularity of Syrah is undeniable. Big and bold in flavor and texture, it packs a concentrated punch of flavor that many people love. This Rhone varietal, although many believe that the grape originated in the Persia region, is 100% French in lineage. The Syrah grape is directly descendant from the Monduese Blanche and Dureza varietals and is grown worldwide with great success. Today’s delightful Syrah is a bold and balanced delight with deep flavors, dark aromatics and a voluptuous mouth feel
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Deepest dark garnet, with a deeper but still clear heart. This wine shows off very concentrated color throughout, but has lovely ruby edges. The surface of the wine looks soft and bouncy when swirled. When it settles down, super tightly-packed, chubby legs appear high on the glass. They take a very long time to make their way down the glass, becoming thinner as they do
Smell -Dark ripe blackberry leads the charge, followed by raspberry, cassis, smoky black cherry and aromatic forest floor. These sit atop dried fall leaves, dark dried flowers and a hint of subtle pencil shavings
Feel – Round and rich in the mouth, with a voluptuous medium body, balanced acidity, soft spice and mild minerality
Taste – Deep blackberry, smoky blueberry, dark cherry and cassis, with soft earth, dried meats and cracked peppercorn
Finish – Ultra-long, rich and full of dark fruit, this wine finishes dusky and flavorful, leading with darkest fruit flavors and finishing slightly smoky
Conclusion – I think that I may have found my new Go-To Syrah! This is a deeply delicious wine that reaffirms Syrah’s place among the other kings of red wine. Andrew Murray is known for his extraordinary Santa Barbara County Syrah and this wine shows us why; Deep, rich and full of dark flavors, this Syrah is beautifully balanced and a great joy to drink. Spend ample time with this wine, experimenting with sips (and gulps!) of differing sizes, and you’ll find a full range of flavors and feelings in your mouth. Kudos to Agent Franc for bringing this extraordinary wine – and winery – to my attention. Andrew Murray Syrah is a new favorite!
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER_
SUBJECT: Andrew Murray
WINE EDUCATION: Double BS in Fermentation Science and Viticulture, UC Davis
CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Founded eponymous Vineyard and Winery in 1990.
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Wine starts and very nearly ends in the vineyard. We are blessed to be in Los Olivos, in the heart of the Santa Ynez Valley, where we focus exclusively on Rhone varieties, and mostly on Syrah. We have worked tirelessly to pursue relationships with a select few local growers who share our passion for excellence and our attention to detail. We strive to craft wines that speak of their unique hillside origins while adhering to our philosophy of non-interventional winemaking. We will employ as few inputs as possible towards our goal of crafting delicious and ageworthy wines.
FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: 1994 Vintage Syrah, released in 1996.
AGENT RED: Greetings, Andrew. We are thrilled to be showing your Watch Hill Syrah today. I had the great pleasure to review the wine, recently, and I have to tell you, I love it! Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
WINEMAKER: Hello, I am truly delighted to have our Syrah featured on the site…
RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
WINEMAKER: Wow…deep question right off the bat… Sometimes I feel as though my parents raised me to be a winemaker, though I know that they would argue with that! My parents raised me as an inquisitive foodie, and shared with me their passion for travel and all things Gourmand…they took me on a few culinary tours of Europe while I was just a young teenager. These food trips once led to the Rhone Valley in Southern France…there we sampled Viognier for the first time. It was the most unusual variety…rich, un-oaked, floral, oily, unctuous, palate filling. It got us all started with the crazy notion of starting a vineyard together, back on a parcel of land that my parents had recently purchased as a Los Angeles getaway…it just happened to be along Foxen Canyon Road, in the heart of some really up and coming wine country…
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
WINEMAKER: No one winemaker or wine has singularly influenced my winemaking…rather the influence comes from so many wines and so many regions. I lived and worked in Western Australia for nine months before launching AMV, so I was and am heavily influenced by Australia…though I often find the wines to be over the top. So, I temper this influence with my European travels (including virtual travels while sitting at dinner with a great bottle of wine in front of me), where I have often found the wines to have too much restraint. So, I am uniquely influenced by a mythical blend of in-your-face Aussie Juice and wonderfully elegant Old World wines.
RED: Who do you make wine for?
WINEMAKER: I used to answer this kind of question with the answer, “Myself”…yet it always sounded so self-serving and shallow. What I really meant was that I craft our wines for our consumers, while staying true to MY core values as a person and a winemaker. I strive to make pure and honest and delicious wines for our customers, as I certainly want our customers to appreciate and purchase our wines and to share this ride with me…
RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.
WINEMAKER: The Watch Hill Vineyard lies in the cool reaches of the Los Alamos Valley. The grapes are allowed to reach very high maturity levels, while retaining a stunning natural acidity due to warm, sunny days and cool nights and soils rich in sand an calcareous material. This results in a very full-bodied Syrah that is refreshing, rather than heavy or cloying. The aromas and flavors lean toward bright red fruits…cherries, raspberries, currants, and cranberries, with a spicy note dominated by fresh black pepper and a dose of sweet French Oak. This wine is quite drinkable now, but you will be rewarded if you wait 2-5 years to drink this one.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
WINEMAKER: I am always overly simple about food pairings, taking the philosophy that I usually choose the wine and then enjoy it with whatever we are eating…however, this wine sings with grilled meats like lamb, and filet, and even lasagna and Pizza. The Super Bowl is forthcoming…it would be tasty with a gourmet burger, grilled onions, blue cheese and bacon…I must be hungry as that sounds really good right now.
RED: In your opinion, what makes Santa Ynez so special?
WINEMAKER: The Santa Ynez Valley has a magical combination of varied and fantastic soils, amazing hillside aspects, and consistently near-perfect weather. This is combined with conscientious and focused vineyard owners and managers who strive to grow the best fruit possible. Also, the local wine community is a fun bunch of people who are always stretching and trying to improve their own wines and thus the reputation of this place.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
WINEMAKER: We are making final blends and getting ready to bottle the 2008 Vintage wines for release later in the year.
RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?
WINEMAKER: My great hope in life is that people enjoy the kinds of wines that they ACTUALLY enjoy rather than simply drinking a wine that they think is O.K. to like because someone else has told them that it was good. I see lots of unsure wine consumers out there, who endlessly apologize for their lack of knowledge or sophistication, or for liking a kind of wine that others have deemed less-than-worthy. It really bums me out. I always tell people that they are their own best expert, their own best judge and that they should never be embarrassed to like or dislike a certain wine. It sounds so simple, yet there are too many folks out there that do not approach wine like this at all. I think that too much emphasis has been placed on the wine critic and not enough on their own personal strength. Don’t get me wrong…the wine critic or the expert is a very important piece of the puzzle…often helping a confused consumer (and yes even me) wade through the ever expanding world of wine. But, don’t let them be the judge and the jury, retain that power for yourself. Everyone has some sort of system for liking something over something else…whether it be art, cars, music, sports, books, etc. and usually that system is established over a lifetime of experiences and interactions. Wine seems to intimidate people (not all people certainly), but enough people that it worries me that people are drinking certain wines for someone else’s ego, rather than for their own hedonistic delight. So, I would wish for folks to try our wines with an open mind and an open palate (we have been lucky to get some really nice scores through the years) and to appreciate them (or not, of course) based upon their own perceptions…
RED: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
WINEMAKER: One will notice right away that this wine is closed with the Stelvin screw top. We switched to this closure system for all of our wines in 2006 after several years of experimentation. We believe so strongly in the superiority of the closure that we purchased our own bottling line so that I could directly oversee each and every bottle as the cap is spun on. Many are confused about the qualities of the screwcap, so I wanted to leave you with one interesting morsel. The Stelvin screwcap is engineered to let in a small amount of oxygen over time, just like a cork allows. So, it is a miss-truth to say the screwcap is aseptic or airtight. The cork and the screwcap differ in a very important way…the cork is the bark of a special oak tree…it is a living organism and thus is quite variable from batch to batch. So, even though TCA taint has been dramatically reduced through these last few years, there is still chance for leaking and severe oxidation from a bad cork. When we looked at the evidence proving the screwcap as a superior choice, we had NO choice but to bottle our wines this way. Because the air ingress is engineered and is rather a small amount, our wines tend to age more slowly and taste “fresher” long after bottling. We are also allowed to employ smaller amounts of sulfites prior to bottling…all good things in my humble opinion.
RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of Andrew Murray Vineyards can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the winery says
About This Wine:
The Watch Hill Vineyard lies in the cool reaches of the Los Alamos Valley. The grapes are allowed to reach very high maturity levels, while retaining a stunning natural acidity due to warm, sunny days and cool nights and soils rich in sand an calcareous material. This results in a very full-bodied syrah that is refreshing, rather than heavy or cloying. The aromas and flavors lean toward bright red fruits…cherries, raspberries, currants, and cranberries, with a spicy note dominated by fresh black pepper and a dose of sweet French Oak. This wine is quite drinkable now, but you will be rewarded if you wait 2-5 years to drink this one.
About The Winery:
Andrew Murray fell in love with the emerging Rhône varieties, Syrah and Viognier, in the late ’80s while traveling through the Rhône Valley. He took that passion further when he headed out for a short internship in Australia in 1992 to learn more about the famed Australian Shiraz. There he fell so in love with Syrah that he overstayed his planned three months by almost a year.
When he returned home, he earned a degree in viticulture and oenology from U.C. D avis and started his eponymous vineyard and winery, working with growers who mirrored his passion for excellence. He found vineyard owners who matched his desire for perfection, and who farmed their vines to ruinously low yields with the most advanced viticultural methods. Andrew’s razor sharp vision can be surmised succinctly in the company motto, “Handcrafted wines from steep hillside vineyards, planted exclusively to Rhône Varieties.”
All of the focus, passion, and dedication have paid off. Today, Andrew Murray Vineyards is considered, “One of Santa Barbara’s finest wineries,” by Robert Parker,Jr. and the editors of Food and Wine magazine were in agreement when they named Andrew as the “Tastemaker Of the Year” in 2004.