Tuesday, March 8, 2011

HOLUS BOLUS SYRAH OCTOBRIST, SANTA YNEZ VALLEY 2006


Holus Bolus Syrah Octobrist at Bar Bouchon

A wine's sense of place is its most important characteristic.  It's called terroir - the way the grapes, the soil, the climate and the winemaking all come together to create something much bigger than the individual pieces of the puzzle.

A sense of place is also important when tasting a wine.  A wine sampled in the hurried and sometimes chaotic atmosphere of a big tasting event may not fare as well as when it is sampled in a more relaxed and personal manner.

That note was gently brought home to me during lunch with Denise on Valentine's Day.  Almost by chance, we lunched at Bouchon in Beverly Hills, but not actually in the Bistro.  We had our Valentine lunch at Bar Bouchon, downstairs from the restaurant.  A few tables scattered along the beautiful courtyard in the bright, warm sunshine of February in Southern California called to us strongly, and we took a seat.

The wine I enjoyed was the '06 Holus Bolus Syrah Octobrist, a Santa Ynez Valley product of Black Sheep Finds , a winery located in a nondescript warehouse facility in Lompoc.  Peter Hunken - formerly winemaker at Stolpman Vineyards - heads up the collective which includes his wife, Amy Christine.  This Syrah is one of the most intense and delicious wines I've had recently.  Would it have been so good in a one-ounce sample, swirled, savored and spit at an event with other tasters crowding in at my elbow?  Maybe the taste would have been there, but the experience would have been missing.

The setting was perfect.  Valentine's Day lunch with my wife, bright sunshine warming us on a day that was just barely cool, and the food of the Thomas Keller eatery would have been enough to write home about.  But a big tip of the pork-pie hat should go to Bouchon's Beverly Hills sommelier, Alex Weil, for including the Holus Bolus on his list.  Kudos also go to Hunken for making the wine in the first place.

Inky black, this 100% Syrah has a nose that is dark, dark and darker still.  Dark blackberry and cassis fruit are joined by aromas of roasting meat, smoke, cedar and tar.  The taste is full of blackberries, spices and a Slim Jim component that both amuses and thrills me.  My BBQ sandwich of braised Hobbs Shore pork shoulder, cabbage and Fuji apple coleslaw paired perfectly with the Syrah.  The wine costs $13 by the glass at Bouchon.