I had just finished taking my WSET I exam at the Napa Valley Wine Academy after a day-long course, and had stepped out into the warm summer breeze of early evening in the town of Napa. My pocket buzzed; it was my friend and traveling companion, Zach.
“Hey man, what’s up?”
“I’m running a little late. I’m afraid we’re not going to make it to dinner. Can I call you an Uber?”
Zach had our car. He had made a pilgrimage to SLO that day, while I had taken my class in Napa, not far from where we were staying.
“No, that’s fine. That would cost a ton of money. How long do you think you’ll be?” I inquired.
“Hard to say. Traffic isn’t moving and I’m at least an hour drive from Napa still.”
I told him not to worry about it, and that I would contact the people we were planning to have dinner with. Then I struck out on foot to make the short walk to Napa’s downtown. I hadn’t even made the river yet when I saw my favorite Mediterranean place, which I knew from my wife Sonja and my previous trip had good wine and affordable entrees. I was just about to step in for a bite when the building next door caught my eye. “John Anthony.”
I had tasted John Anthony’s Cab before, at an event in my home of Omaha, and it had more than impressed me. Being forced to choose between nostalgic Mediterranean food and the umpteenth tasting room of my trip to the Valley, I decided I wasn’t that hungry after all.
I stepped inside and was greeted by Rick, who in addition to being extremely friendly also turned out to be a fellow Husker enthusiast. I pulled up to the bar and settled in for a flight of reds, and Rick and I chatted about the upcoming football season while Billy Joel serenaded us in the background until eventually Zach arrived.
All of the wines I tasted that evening at John Anthony were impressive, and I’ll probably devote future posts to some of the others. The 2012 Syrah stood out to me, however, for a number of reasons. For starters, it came on the heels of the 2011 vintage, which winemaker John Anthony Truchard was so disappointed with that he made barely any wine at all, my theory being that he then went after 2012 with a vengeance. In addition, his Syrah grapes are actually grafted onto Chardonnay rootstock. My initial reaction to this information was “WTF?” but I soon saw, or rather, tasted, the brilliance of it. I don’t know if I could have picked it out had I not been told, but knowing about the rootstock, I thought I picked up subtle buttery notes on the silky smooth body, mingling behind a beautiful profile of black fruits, distinct and powerful oak notes, and fine tannins. Far more round in the mouth than any other Syrah I’ve had, this masterpiece spent something like two years in 100% new French oak. The results, in my opinion, are undeniable.
I’m not sure if anyone else in wine country is investing this sort of time and energy into Syrah grapes, but I can say for sure that I’m glad J.A. Truchard is doing it. This beautiful Syrah gets 93 points on my scale, and I highly recommend it.