The 2004 R Paso Robles Syrah has been likened to the "life of the party," by one member of the tasting panel and "the portly gentleman with the winning smile, the gregarious manner, and the positively wicked wit," by another panel member. Indeed, Jeff Runquist's latest Syrah is one fun, but imposing statement of a wine. To begin with, it is an intensely purple, super saturated wine that could make a perfectly ripe plum look like the raw material for a pale rosé. Welcome to the full throttle world of Runquist wines, but lest you think this youthful Syrah is all brawn and no pleasure, just take a good long draught of this R's heavenly bouquet: crushed blackberry, oriental spice, and fragrant wood smoke stream from glass and continue to beguile for hours on end. And that's not all; this rich lush Shiraz style Syrah offers up plenty of lavish, up front flavors in a beautifully balanced format. Luscious black fruits, chocolate, coffee, and forest woodlands all sing their collective song before ending in a long symphonic finish of pure fruit and perfectly integrated oak. From this wine's auspicious start to its amazingly long finish, there is neither a note nor chord out of sync. In short, the 2004 R Paso Robles Syrah is another tour de force from Jeff Runquist and one of the most distinctive and enjoyable Syrah's we have tasted in a good long while. We suggest serving it at cool room temperature (64°-66° F), after giving it at least thirty minutes to breathe. Anticipated maturity: 2007-2014.
The 2004 R Paso Robles Syrah is one of the few young Syrah wines, from anywhere, that truly needs little or no accompaniment to shine. Yet, it has the uncanny ability of elevating fine cuts of meat and well prepared country specialties to glorious new heights. Given this formidable Syrah's great balance and overt personality, we highly recommend that it accompany the best meat money can buy as well as thick rich, stick to your ribs kinds of meals. Consequently, we heartily endorse the combination of R Syrah with the likes of Filet Mignon au Poivre, accompanied by gorgonzola mashed potatoes and sautéed green beans. Tenderloin of New Zealand Lamb, stuffed with rosemary and garlic, and served over a white bean ragu makes for another memorable pairing. Beef or venison stew, served with plenty of vegetables and pearl onions, and Barbecued Baby Back Ribs provide other superlative choices, but these are just a few of the many options the formidable 2004 R has to offer. Several slices of hard cheese, some crusty French bread, and a spicy Provencal Ratatouille provide an excellent vegetarian alternative, but as you like it.
R stands for Runquist and Jeff Runquist's own label. It is his passion, pride, and joy. R is, also, the envy of the legion of California winemakers who stay up nights dreaming of making wine their own way and being critically and financially successful in the process. Jeff Runquist is unequivocally one of California's finest and most consistent winemakers. He is the sole proprietor and winemaker for R and he is the driving force and successful suit behind a number of other premium California wineries. "I just want to play the game my way," has always been Jeff Runquist's mantra. By this statement he means dedicating himself entirely to the art of winemaking, the way he wants to make wine. With R, Runquist specializes in ultra premium, single vineyard designated, 100% varietal red wines. Petite Sirah, Syrah, and Zinfandel are Runquist's specialties and most renowned wines, but he, also, fashions small quantities of outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Barbera, Sangiovese, and Primitivo – the latter the forerunner of Zinfandel. Runquist has been making wine for more than twenty-five years and the now legendary R since 1995. Since inception, R wines have consistently won gold medals in major wine competitions. Each has sold out promptly, leaving the cellar devoid of even a single bottle shortly after release. Critics complain repeatedly that they haven't even had a chance to taste the R wines before they are sold out. In addition, Runquist spends little time selling wines and even less time marketing them, unlike most of his peers. This scenario is certainly not the norm, but then again Jeff Runquist is not an ordinary winemaker. Neither R nor Runquist himself own even a single vine. Runquist has no written contracts with any of the great growers and vineyards he sources year after year. Nonetheless, they always provide him with outstanding raw material with which to practice his art and work his magic. And to his credit and the utter amazement of the California wine establishment, Jeff Runquist does not even maintain a tasting room – an omission and unforgivable offense to the large commercial establishments that prey upon the accidental connoisseur and the casual wine tourist alike. Moreover, Runquist refuses to expand his annual production of R wines for fear of compromising their quality. In fact, his overriding objective is to produce all of his wines in tiny lots. This means producing only 700-1000 cases of each of his main varietals (Petite Sirah, Syrah, and Zinfandel) and only 100-300 cases of each of his other red varieties. Routinely, this process involves declassifying a third or more of his production each vintage simply because Runquist declares: "If I am not happy with a wine, I don't bottle it … if I don't get as big an economic reward, that's okay. I am happy with the wines made under my label." Sadly, this is hardly the prevailing philosophy elsewhere in today's world. However, far be it from us to complain; we are and sincerely hope to be in the future beneficiaries of such arcane practices. We are the chosen few who actually get to taste a bona fide R wine, and enjoy it – the fruit of Jeff Runquist's refreshing philosophy.
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