2019 Irene Syrah Kobler Vineyard Sonoma Coast
Region: Sonoma Coast < California
Grapes: 98% Syrah, 2% Viognier
Vineyard/Cellar Stats: Certified organic farming; sandy loam Goldridge soils; 100% whole cluster fermentation, short maceration, then fermented in stainless steel and aged in neutral oak; bottled unfined/unfiltered with <25ppm added so2; 12% ABV; 210 cases
Winemaker: Brian & Katelynn Jessen
Irene is a 6-year-old bootstrapped project from thirty-something couple Brian + Katelynn Jessen. Bryan, originally from Monterey County, studied wine business and viticulture/enology at Sonoma State at Santa Rose JC, then worked around Italy, New Zealand, and finally as cellar master at Copain before starting his own project with wife Katelynn. They both still have day jobs (he sells vine cuttings and rootstock to nurseries, she’s an artist), but their passion is Irene, their own label, named in honor of Brian’s mother, who passed away when he was young. Brian makes the wine at a custom crush facility in Healdsburg, and Katelynn paints the labels. Like most upstart Cali producers, they don’t own vineyards, so the biggest challenge is sourcing good, organic fruit.
But once again they managed to get pristine Syrah from the certified organic Kobler Vineyard is a small five acre vineyard settled on the outskirts of Green Valley, one of the coldest growing regions in Sonoma County. The site is farmed organically by Mike Kobler and his family. The Goldridge soils, a type of rare, fine-grained sandy loam known for its excellent drainage, are light and fluffy and have enough holding capacity to only need water in the driest of years. This dry farming is not only better for the environment, it gives the wine a nice concentration without alcoholic weight and a savory, herby tapenade quality.
They do several Syrah bottlings, each very distinctive from different places, and we love how this Kobler bottling showcases the site's cool climate and coastal terroir. Like all of their wines, it has a very European sensibility, with structure, minerality and bright, high-toned fruit. You get flashes of mossy, wet earth, vibrant blackberry, olives and cola, then opens up to reveal more purple, floral notes. This is Syrah that drinks more Côte-Rôtie than Cali, and has the legs to age, if you have that kind of discipline. Or, if you're like us and just can't wait, she is drinking beautifully now. Nice with a light chill, if you are so inspired.