I am seldom surprised when I drink a wine. Going in, I usually know what to expect and have confided to friends that I could write a review without ever having tasted the wine - based on the varietal and my experience with the winemaker or winery.
Did I ever get that wrong today!
Cantara Cellars will not impress anyone with their building (industrial plaza) or location (Oxnard Plains) but something special is taking place inside their humble facility: that something special is making great wine.
Cantara Cellars is a small winery (I don't think I saw more than 50 French and American oak barrels total in back) which sources virtually all of their juice from the vineyards of family and personal acquaintances in Lodi, California.
With one white and four reds I settled in for a tasting with the very affable owner, Chris Brown.
You know the scene in the old movie where the boy falls in love with the girl? The scene will include fireworks exploding in the sky: well, my first taste of the 2007 Cantara Cellars Syrah was something like that. Wow.
I purchased a bottle of the Syrah and have spent a several hours of quality time sipping, chewing and genuinely enjoying this fine wine.
My impressions: Inky dark garnet intensely colored in the glass. Blackberries and chocolate powder initially on the nose with the chocolate fading way to pepper as the wine opened up in the glass. Profoundly earthy and mouth filling. Deftly balanced with fruit up front and the acidity at the end - just right. Concludes in a long finish with the tannins winning out over the fruit - but, just barely. Superb.
This is a big red and, as such, I would recommend it with the typical pairs including: beefsteak, prime rib, and bison steak.
I have no idea if Cantara Cellars can continue to produce this wonderful Syrah, or for that matter, their also-wonderful Zinfandel year-in and year-out. Time will tell.
This is a winery to keep your eye on.
$29.99 at the tasting room.