I’ve reviewed the Syrahs from Napa Valley based Mike Smith for years now, beginning in 2008 when I ran the Rhône Report. I’m thrilled to be able to include all of his wines (Syrahs and Cabernet Sauvignons) in this small report, as well as moving forward with the larger Napa Valley and Sonoma Coverage due out later this year.

Mike became a self-taught winemaker early in his career by making wine as a side project in Oregon. He decided to leave his desk job in 1999 to purse wine full-time, and worked numerous crushes (for free) in Napa Valley. Mike ended up spending seven years working with Thomas Rivers Brown, who’s the genius behind the likes of Schrader, Rivers Marie, Outpost, Maybach and others. In 2006, Mike decided to branch out on his own.

Today, Mike is and has been the winemaker for an incredible number of estates in the Valley, Including Carter Cellars, Becklyn, Maybach Family, Tamber Bey, Scarlett Wines, 12c, and Rivers Marie, among others.

This report focuses on Mike’s personal labels, Myriad and Quivet Cellars.

 

Mike's terrific 2014 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons

Mike’s terrific 2014 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Quivet Cellars

Based in St Helena, Quivet Cellars is named in honor of Quivet Neck, an area of Dennis, Massachusetts located on the bay side of Cape Cod. They pull from numerous sites in Napa Valley (and one in Sonoma), including Tench Vineyard, Las Madres Vineyard, Spring Mountain, Kenefick Ranch, Pellet Vineyard and Beckstoffer Las Piedras Vineyard.

Looking at the Cabernet Sauvignons, Mike releases three single vineyard Cabernets, as well as an appellation Napa Valley Blend. All three of the 2014s I tasted showed beautifully, with the more plush, forward and sexy style of the vintage front and center. In addition, as Napa Valley goes, these are smoking values!

On the Syrah side, they produce two wines from Kenefick Ranch, and one from Las Madres. For this report, I tasted the 2015 Syrah Las Madres Hulda Block and the 2015 Syrah Kenefick Ranch. They’re distinctly different in character, with the Las Madres being firmly planted in the northern Rhone style of Syrah with its olive, tapenade and gamy nose, and the Kenefick Ranch showing a much more opulent and fruit-driven style. Which you prefer will be stylistic preference as opposed to any qualitative difference in the wines.

While I wasn’t able to taste it for this report, they also produce a Sauvignon Blanc from the McGah Vineyard in Napa Valley.

Myriad

These wines are made in Calistoga and the first vintage was 2007. Like with the Quivet lineup, Mike has access to some top level fruit, including Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Vineyard, Beckstoffer Georges III Vineyard, Las Madres Vineyard (Carneros), and the Three Twins Vineyard located up near Lake Hennessey.

Looking at the 2014s reviewed, they all share a common purity, suppleness and elegance that make them incredibly approachable and drinkable even today. These aren’t massive wines, yet they certainly don’t lack for fruit, depth or length, and they’re all going to see their 20th birthday in fine form.

The majority of the Syrahs under the Myriad label come from the Las Madres vineyard in Carneros. In addition, they have a new cuvee from the Halcon Vineyard, which is an undeniably promising site in the north coast.

I loved these latest Syrahs From Mike and they all have that classic Syrah wildness paired with unadulterated California fruit and texture – which is exactly what they should be. The Syrah Halcon Vineyard is the finest wine I’ve tasted from this vineyard to date, and I’m becoming more and more convinced of the greatness of this site. The two Las Madres releases were yin and yang, with the whole cluster release showing much more pepper, game and minerality and the classic wine a more supple, approachable effort. The Sangiacomo Syrah was the first wine I’ve tasted from this site, and I absolutely loved it.

Thanks for reading,

Jeb Dunnuck