2018 Gearhead ‘Managua’ Syrah
Region: Love Ranch Vineyard < Madera < California
Vineyard/Cellar Stats: CCOF-certified organic farming, dry-farmed vineyards on thin soils of granitic schist; grapes are foot tread and fermented in bins; daily punch downs for 12 days, then direct pressed to natural oak barrels where it rests on the heavy lees for 12 months before bottling, unfined/unfiltered with nothing added (zero-zero); 13% ABV; 70 cases
Winemaker: Craig West
Our buddy Noel of Purity turned us on to his buddy, Craig West, who makes wine at Noel’s Richmond facility for his upstart natural wine label, Gearhead. Craig was a fisherman and a baker for Acme Bread, but when he met Noel and started helping him with production, he decided that this was his calling and pivoted to wine. Now he makes tiny lots of wine from organic farming, all foot tread, many with carbonic maceration, and all sans sulfur.
Craig is scrappy like most of the new natty crew in California and searches high and low for organic fruit to purchase. For this wine, he struck gold with pristine Syrah from the CCOF-certified Love Ranch Vineyard not far from Yosemite, which was established in 1994 by Diana and Steve Love, and planted to 8 Rhone varieties. Craig trucked the grapes back to Richmond himself, where he promptly stomped them, kicking off the fermentation. Then he basically let the wine sit for a year in neutral barrel before bottling, without any additives (including So2). Then he bottles and affixes by hand his labels of his own design, this one an image of a painting he bought in Managua, Nicaragua airport when on vacation with friends. About as simple as it gets, but man, the wine is good. It has everything you want in a big red, flavorwise, but lighter in body. Bright and energetic with high-toned, almost tart, black fruit and red licorice, balanced with soft tannins and a warm, long-lingering finish.