Tensley Colson Canyon Syrah 2012
Wine: Tensley 'Colson Canyon'
Region: Santa Barbara County, California
One of my favorite wine-food combinations is lamb and Syrah. More often than not, that means lamb stew and white beans with tomatoes and fresh herbs, like sage or rosemary, paired with a Côte du Rhône or a St. Joseph. But sometimes it means lamb chops and Hermitage or, when life is extra sweet, a Côte Rôtie. A few weeks ago, just before the warm weather began to creep in, I shared a meal of pan seared lamb chops and Tensley Colson Canyon Syrah from Santa Barbara, California, with my mother. The wine was about $40 - close to double what I generally spend on a bottle, but I know the wines well and had no doubt it was going to be a rewarding purchase.
I used to sell Joey's wines in New York. We've shared a couple meals, spent a few afternoons together showing his wines to prospective customers, and one July, a few years ago, I took a took a few good clients out to California to meet winemakers, tour vineyards and see wine making facilities. Joey Tensley was a favorite stop for everyone.
Joey's wine making philosophy is simple: "let the vineyard speak for itself." He bottles only Syrah, only single vineyard cuvées, with minimal handling and oak treatment. The Colson Canyon bottling is the only wine to see a little bit of new French oak, all other cuvées get one-year-old and neutral oak treatments. The Colson Canyon is also the most readily available and the most approachable wine he makes.
Tasting the wines and touring the modest warehouse set up was impressive enough to get behind the wines, but once we spent time with Joey, it was clear, this is not a man who's going to blow smoke up your ass. He speaks his mind - when relevant - and he's not going to tell you how great his product is or how many fat points the wines have scored (and there are many from Parker and Wine Spectator). Even the label presents his name in lower case. The wines speak for themselves, and you don't have to be an expert to get it.
Tensley Colson Canyon Syrah 2012 is inky garnet with deep garnet rim (Hello, Concentration), less black pepper and earthy funk than typical French syrah and more ripe berry intensity with vanilla and coffee notes. It's voluptuous and lush on the palate with firm tannins, yet there's a softness on the finish. If this wine were a man, he could build you a house, hoist you over his shoulder, and tear up when natural beauty crosses his unassuming (because he's so modest) path. It's a crazy delicious wine, not to be taken lightly. It paired beautifully with the lamb chops, though it was tempting to pass up dinner for a liquid supper.