Crystal Basin Cellars – Classic Rhone

Many wine drinkers only tend to think of areas like Napa, Sonoma and even Paso Robles as the only good wine regions of California. There’s no doubt that great wines do come from those regions, however, there’s a particular one that you should be aware of – the El Dorado Wine Region.

Its higher altitude naturally lends itself to the growth of phenomenal Rhone grapes like Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre. It’s my opinion that all too many people have had a bad experience with some of these grapes as they had them from regions which don’t do them justice.

Crystal Basin Cellars, in Camino California, definitely knows what its doing in regards to Rhone grapes and nothing cements that notion better than a recent sample I did on their wines.

2007 Mourvedre Reserve – W.E.P. Rating: 80%

Technical Data:

  • Source: Fodhla Vineyard and Spanish Creek Ranch, El Dorado County
  • Harvest Date: October 20, 2007
  • Brix at Harvest: 26
  • Time in Barrel: 18 months
  • Type of Oak: New and used French & American
  • Alcohol: 15.9%
  • Bottled: April 9, 2009
  • Production: 179 cases
  • Price: $27
  • Nose: Black pepper, bell pepper, cranberries, raspberries, bubble-gum, cinnamon, cloves and chocolate.

    Taste: Definitely get the black pepper dancing across the tongue with the bitterness of cranberry coming through into the mid-palate transistion. In the end, I get the hints of cocoa powder, cinnamon, raspberry, cedar plank and cola. The finish  is too short for me, however.

    2007 Reserve Grenache – W.E.P. Rating: 90%

    Technical Data:

  • Source: Duarte Vineyard, El Dorado County
  • Harvest Date: October 25, 2007
  • Brix at Harvest: 26
  • Time in Barrel: 18 months
  • Type of Oak:Neutral French & American
  • Alcohol: 16%
  • Bottled: April 9, 2009
  • Production: 69cases
  • Price: $28
  • Nose: Dried cherries, white pepper, shoelaces, cranberry, dried red delicious apples and prune juice.

    Taste: A stellar mix of the cherries and cranberries right off the bat that are almost perfectly rounded-out with amazing acids and tannins that hold it all together, keeping it in-check. The finish on this wine is insanely great – the acids and fruit carry on for days and quite simply demand tomato-based pasta dishes with rich cheese and/or beef and veal.

    2007 Reserve Syrah – W.E.P. Rating: 150%

    Technical Data:

  • Varietals and Sources: Suma Kaw Vineyard and Gold Hill Vineyard, El Dorado County
  • Harvest Date: September 30, 2007
  • Brix at Harvest: 26
  • Time in Barrel: 18 months
  • Type of Oak: Neutral French & American
  • Alcohol: 15.3%
  • Bottled: April 9, 2009
  • Production: 250 cases
  • Price: $22
  • Nose: Blackberry jam laced with blueberries and spices like cinnamon and clove on the back end. I also pick up an almost nutmeg / caramel action as well.

    Taste: Hello blackberry and blueberry – my antioxidant lovers. The berry component on the front-end can’t be ignored. Very solid wine from start to finish – I love the solid tannins mixed w/ the obnoxious blackberry and blueberry fruit. I really get the spice component picking up stronly across the mid palate as well as good acidity. The finish brings on notes of leather, attic dust, footlocker and christmas spice that lasts for hours. This is easily one of the best syrah’s I’ve had from anywhere at this price point. I’d HIGHLY encourage you to seek it out and try it asap.

    Winery website: