Risk and Reward: The Making of Melville Syrah
As the saying goes, “with great risk comes great reward.” We’ve all heard it – but to most, it’s simply an overlooked cliché. To us, it’s much more than that. It’s the foundation on which we have built our winegrowing philosophy and the idea that, even after three decades of farming, drives every decision we make. If it was easy, everyone would do it.
If you know Melville, you probably know we do things a bit differently around here – we surrender control. This is something we as humans have trouble doing, but it’s an essential part of our winegrowing process. We don’t hide from Mother Nature, we rely on her. We make sure that we’re involved in every step of the process so that we can take risks that others wouldn’t dream of taking. The difference is apparent in all of our wines, but especially in our Syrah. As opposed to most varieties, Syrah can be planted and grown in a wide range of climates, almost anywhere in the world. Differences in soil quality, the slope of the vineyard, and climate result in Syrahs with differing aromas, flavors, and textures. So, you might wonder, how can you make Syrah unique when you start with a fruit that can be grown in any climate, in any soil around the world? For us the answer is simple: you take a risk.
In the heart of Sta. Rita Hills, occasionally under a layer of fog, our vineyards rest just off the coast of the Pacific Ocean. With a handful of Syrah clones, a few different soil types, and a wind-whipped climate, we’ve witnessed that something magical happens when you live life on the edge. Or as we like to say, plant on the edge. We planted our vines in a cold-climate with shifty soil, and farm aggressively during a longer than average growing season. Our vines awaken from their winter dormancy in late February, and we don’t harvest until mid-November. In any given year, we’re taking 40-50% of the fruit on the vine and dropping it on the ground. This is something that may seem like a waste to most winemakers, but to us, it’s how we ensure the highest quality grapes will make it to harvest. We lean into the idea that a number of things can go wrong in this process, instead of running from it. The reward? Some kick-ass Syrah.
Anyone who has tried cold-climate Syrah from Sta. Rita Hills will tell you that it’s something special. Farming aggressively, yet carefully, helps encourage our vines to produce small amounts of intensely concentrated fruit. Our climate, different soil types, clones, and farming methods produce a unique Syrah with exhilarating aromas, beautiful weight, and mouthwatering acidity. You don’t have to take our word for it, though. Our 2018 Donna’s Syrah was named to Wine & Spirits’ top 100 wines, is highly rated by the experts, and adored by the masses. If you love our 2018 Donna’s Syrah, we’re sure you’ll love Donna’s younger sister, our newest release: the 2018 Estate Syrah. Given the same attention and love as our Donna’s Syrah, this affordable, highly anticipated bottle was featured on Jeb Dunnuck’s Top 100 Wines of 2020 out of the thousands of wines tasted across the globe. Matt Kettmann, of the Wine Enthusiast, describes this wine as having notes of crumbled lilac, dark-black plum, and snappy red-currant aromas. There’s a wild zest to the palate, where the peppery spice plays well with black-raspberry, lavender, and rosemary flavors.
The greatest rewards in life are the result of the greatest risks. So, what are you waiting for? If we can take a chance every day in our vineyards, you can take a chance on our 2018 Estate Syrah, and at this price point, you have nothing to lose.
And remember, if you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space.
-Chad Melville (co-founder & head winegrower)