We selected our Syrah from several vineyards along the California Coast. A majority of our fruit came from Paso Robles, which, like San Benito, produces powerful, ripe Syrah grapes with dense, dark fruit and abundant round tannins. Monterey, which is slightly cooler, gives the lifted, bright red berry notes, higher acidity and a slightly more angular tannic structure. We were lucky to get some wonderful fruit from the Fess Parker vineyard in Santa Barbara; these grapes are dark, black and tannic, with interesting savory notes.
“This is a style that I really like drinking,” admits Winemaker Jim Corkin, a New Zealand native. “A perfect fit for roast lamb or barbecue.”
Sterling Vineyards was born in the 1960s, a time when creativity and entrepreneurial spirit abounded, especially in California. In 1964, Peter Newton, once a paper broker in England, purchased 70 acres of land in Calistoga and became a Napa Valley winemaker. He planted grapes others did not, bottled varietals others did not, and built a dramatic winery with an aerial tramway. His innovations put Sterling Vineyards into the public eye and helped establish the Napa Valley as a premier travel destination. When Newton began planting his estate, Cabernet Sauvignon was the preferred variety. He planted the esteemed Cabernet, but his decision to also plant Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot was a bold move. His Merlot vines were the first significant planting of that variety in the Napa Valley. Newton saw potential in the soft, velvety Merlot fruit, and in 1969 he took a chance by releasing California’s first vintage-dated Merlot. This decision flew in the face of traditional standards, which held that Merlot was merely a blending grape, and forever changed the perception of red wine. People started to enter a restaurant and ask for a glass of Merlot!