The grapes for our 2017 Ariya Syrah were picked on September 21, 2017 when my wife was well into her sixth month of pregnancy. The due date for our daughter (who we nicknamed “The Chip” to conceal her name until arrival) was December 12th. The date was actually a concern of mine for two reasons: 1. The numerology of 12/12 was disconcerting to me as a Raiders fan married to a Tom Brady fan–that is just too much TB12 for someone still scarred by the tuck-rule game, and 2. We were picking these grapes assuming that The Chip would join us before the year clicked over to 2018.
“If you don’t have that baby before December is out, she will be the wrong vintage,” I said to my wife.
“I think you mean the wine will be the wrong vintage,” Dee replied.
“Right. Exactly what I meant.”
I had no idea–being a first-time father–that no doctor would allow a pregnancy to run three weeks late. That said, there was no way I was going to have a kid with two 12s in her birthday. And since we picked the grapes for this wine pretty early (both for reasons of freshness and to dodge the insane heat spike that hit the area just a few days later), I thought maybe we could just will this baby into the world early enough to avoid Tom Brady numbers and the new year.
While we waited for The Chip to get fully baked, we had some grapes we needed to guide into wine. Being our first rodeo, we thought it best to be more conventional in our approach, so while we did pick on the early side of ripeness (aligning with our palate preference for lower alcohol Syrah wines of vitality powered by pure fruit and pepper and perfume), we did choose to de-stem the grapes before crushing them under foot. We entertained going with partial whole cluster, but since we were not as familiar with this vineyard or winemaking, we de-stemmed all the grapes prior to our foot tread. While we do not regret this choice and absolutely love the elegance of our first wine, we have learned that we also love stem inclusion in our Syrah and have made decisions in support of that in subsequent vintages.
It is not unlike what we would experience (and continue to experience today) as parents—until you have done it, you really don’t know what to do–and even then, some good luck along the way always helps.
And we had some good luck and great help in the final months of 2017 as we ushered The Chip and her wine along. In the cellar, it was pumpovers and hip-deep wading in the fermenting grape must to move the Syrah along and give it greater texture, aromatics and extraction of color and flavors. Then, in early October, just days after we pressed the skins and barreled the wine down into two neutral French Oak barrels and two kegs I borrowed from my winemaker friends, the Tubbs Fire devastated our region. While we were lucky enough to not lose our home and had our wines safely in barrel in the cellar, we did evacuate the area due to the horrendous air quality and we felt sick for our friends and neighbors who suffered losses. With Dee being pregnant, we did not want to take any chances by sticking around, so we left to stay with family until it was safe to return to the river.
By December, we had been religiously topping up the barrels every two weeks and waiting for the wine to push through malolactic fermentation despite the chilly temperatures in the cellar during these winter months. Dee was having some trouble getting around, but other than that, it was just a lot of wait and see with both the wine and The Chip. We had been trying the wine from barrel, and though it hadn’t completely finished yet, it was clean, it was pretty, and it sure tasted good to us. As for The Chip, Dee was reading to her a lot, and we took her to her first concert, seeing Digable Planets at Yoshi’s in Oakland, thinking that perhaps “The Rebirth of Slick” would initiate the birth of The Chip.
But then the due date passed (whew–no TB12 issues), so now we just had to bring our girl into the world before the big ball dropped in NYC. So my wife and her doctor called the pick, and thanks to Dee’s strength and the skill of her doctor, we had our healthy baby girl safely in our arms on December 21st.
Ariya and her wine came into their own through 2018, when we bottled the wine and Ariya began to walk. And today, they are just hitting their stride–in lock-step with one another as they have been all along this journey. Most importantly, whether picked early or picked late, they both turned out beautifully and we could not be happier.
The 2017 Ariya Syrah is layered with aromas and flavors of blackberry, black cherry, red plum, white pepper, crushed violets, and an earthen smoke. It is lean and fresh on the palate with a vibrant acidity that balances deftly with soft, ripe tannins. We have been enjoying a few bottles over the last several months, pairing the wine with everything from Italian pot roast to carmelized mushroom flatbread to barbecue bacon cheeseburgers. And sometimes, we just drink it on its own.
At just 50 cases of total production, the 2017 Ariya Syrah marks the modest beginning of a new family tradition of which we invite you to be a part.