2014 Leo Steen Upper Scala Vineyard Syrah

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2014 Leo Steen Upper Scala Vineyard Syrah

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Leo Steen’s Upper Scala Syrah resembles a red from the Northern Rhone is two ways: it’s 100% Syrah, and it offers an attractive mix of sweet and savory: violets, cherry liquor, smoked meat and black olives. It’s also built for aging with fresh acidity, firm structure and rich body. The fruit is sourced from the Scala Vineyard, which sits at an elevation of 350 m on Sonoma Mountain. Facing northeast, the plot is cool and well-drained with rocky and volcanic soils. Yields are usually low, but the grape clusters are small and packed with flavors. Now that the wine is entering maturity, complex tertiary flavors are beginning to develop. At under 14% alcohol, it’s an excellent choice to accompany a fine meal. 

Winery


Winery Description

Located in Healdsburg, Sonoma County, Leo Steen Wines is a 1,000 case winery owned by Leo Steen Hansen, a Danish-born winemaker who is passionate about single vineyard, dry Chenin Blanc – though he does produce a few barrels of Syrah, Grenache and Chardonnay as well. 

Founded in 2004, Leo Steen Wines is a point on Leo Hansen’s journey in food and wine that began in the kitchen of his father’s restaurant in Denmark, led him to explore the wine regions of Europe, and saw him become a sommelier, wine director and, finally, a maker of California wine. From the start, Hansen has eschewed making the expected Pinot Noir, Chardonnay or Cab. Instead, he has been a key player in the nascent comeback of California Chenin Blanc, the elegant and versatile grape of the Loire Valley that once was more popular than Chardonnay in Napa and Sonoma but is now grown on less than 50 acres across the two counties.

Steen is the term used in South Africa for wines made of Chenin Blanc. It also happens to be Leo Hansen’s middle name. While charmed by the coincidence, his interest in the grape began while working as a sommelier in Healdsburg. He wished he could offer a food-friendly California wine that wouldn’t cost much but offered structure, elegance and acidity. As luck would have it, right around the time he began making his own wines, he was offered fruit from one of Sonoma County’s last Chenin Blanc vineyards, whose owners were ready to rip out the last remaining acres and plant Chardonnay. While not an overnight success, Hansen has continued to pursue making dry Chenin Blanc from forgotten or overlooked vineyards. In recent years, he’s been joined by a number of like-minded, often younger vintners, and sourcing fruit from good vineyards is getting harder.

Leo Steen Wines continues to make food-friendly wines that are fresh, elegant and affordable. Chenin Blanc is key to the mission, with three vineyard-designated wines: Saini in Dry Creek, Jurassic in Santa Barbara and Peabody in Mendocino. All three vineyards were planted in the early eighties and are dry-farmed, so yields are low. As for winemaking, Leo Hansen works with natural yeasts and limits oak aging and alcohol levels. Syrah, Grenache and Chardonnay round out the portfolio. About vineyards, Leo Hansen has said, “What thrills and inspires me as a winemaker are vineyards that are rich in character, sites that translate into expressive and enthralling wines that give pleasure, but also make you think. Ultimately, making wines that let the vineyards speak is not enough—a vineyard needs to have something worthwhile to say.”

About this Wine


Country USA
Region California
Appellation(s) Sonoma Mountain
Winery Leo Steen
Vintage 2014
Color Red
Varietal(s) Syrah
Closure Cork
Volume 750ml
Bottle Size 8.0 x 29.5
Case Size 34.5 x 26.0 x 30.5
Alcohol 13.9%
Product Code LS14SMS
UPC 798304379358

Owning & Enjoying


Tasting notes

91 points – International Wine Report. 

Aromas of smoke, leather, and red cherry liquor lead to a palate that’s rich, firm, and mouthwateringly fresh.

Production


Vinification

Handpicked grapes were fermented as 100% whole clusters on indigenous yeasts in open-top fermenters. Manual punchdowns instead of pump-overs were employed during maceration. Only the free-run (i.e. not pressed) was used, aging for 16 months in neutral French oak 450-liter puncheons and bottled unfiltered. 

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