Last year, Verge Wine Cellars made a decidedly dramatic entrance onto the stage of the wine world with the release of its Verge 2006 Dry Creek Valley Syrah ($40), and people who delighted in this wine’s robust complexities will likely find at least as much to enjoy in the newly-released Verge 2007 Dry Creek Valley Syrah ($40), though their enjoyment might take a somewhat different form. By way of musical analogy, Verge 2006 Syrah is like Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony: it announces itself dramatically, and then delivers on its bold promises; Verge 2007 Syrah is like a Mozart concerto: it reveals its major themes in a subtle introduction, and then proceeds to elaborate them stylishly. Verge 2006 Syrah shouts its glories; Verge 2007 Syrah never raises its voice, but it nonetheless communicates as well – and as much – as its predecessor.
The restrained eloquence of Verge 2007 Syrah is largely attributable to its having been produced from the fruit of several vineyards, a fact which afforded winemaker Mike Brunson considerable latitude in blending the different lots of wine into the sort of Syrah he envisioned. The result is a wine that opens softly with rich dark berry and spice flavors that are soon complicated by notes of vanilla-oak, black cherry, plum, and earth. These flavors are supported by ample tannins and find closure in a long, polished finish. While this Syrah will certainly evolve in the bottle for many years, it is irresistible now, especially as a companion to hearty fare, such as grilled meat, savory stew, or barbecue.
I offer a second musical analogy to help my fellow Woodstockers better appreciate the different but equally attractive characters of the two Verge Syrahs: Verge 2006 Syrah is Janis Joplin; Verge 2007 Syrah is Gracie Slick.
When asked to recommend a white wine to accompany rich fare, I always suggest that, with its generally fruit-forward character, a good Chardonnay tends to amplify the flavors of the repast, while an excellemt Sauvignon Blanc will generally contribute its own delicate fruit and herbal tones to the meal and then, with its traditionally crisp finish, clear the palate for the next bite of food. Verge Wine Cellars 2008 Dry Creek Valley Viognier ($24) manages to accomplish both these feats, since it is filled with abundant, beautifully orchestrated peach, apricot, citrus, and tropical fruit flavors accompanied by hints of almond and fig that emerge on its long and delectably crisp finish. The whisper of fig in the wine’s flavor profile might be attributable to the fact that, rather than being given any time in oak, the wine was blended with 12% Semillon for depth. While this complex Viognier can certainly complement a wide variety of good food, including salmon, trout, seafood, and most poultry dishes, it is also charming enough to accompany picnic fare – or to be sipped lovingly on those occasions when the temperature does not go down with the sun.
By any reasonable measure, Verge Wine Cellars 2007 Dry Creek Valley Syrah and Verge Wine Cellars 2008 Dry Creek Valley Viognier have been crafted deftly enough to be considered among the finest wines of California. In fact, after tasting these two new releases from Verge, many wine lovers are likely to conclude that rather than being on the verge of greatness, the winery has crossed the threshold and entered its precincts.