We love the Syrah fruit that comes from the X-Block. We have a lot of history with this block.
93 Points James Suckling
93 Points Vinous
$50.00 per bottle / $540.00 per case
$42.50 per bottle / $480.00 per case (Members)
Bien Nacido in Santa Maria Valley is a very tony neighborhood, vitaceously speaking. I have long (possibly erroneously) believed that the clone of Syrah planted in the X-block (the "Estrella River" clone) was in fact be identical to "Serine", the aromatic Syrah variant of Côte Rôtie. I now believe that it is a particularly expressive clone - certainly my very favorite of those currently grown in California - likely of Hermitage origin. But to the point, Syrah does its very best work when grown on very cool sites, which, of course, pace global climate change, still accurately describes Bien Nacido.
The shy-yielding ’13 vintage produced a very classic BDV/ Bien Nacido X-Block style, though perhaps in a slightly riper style than some vintages, with perhaps a bit softer acidity. But unmistakable is the characteristic meaty, leathery, almost feral nose, bordering on rancio, (but in a good way), anise and pepper. There is a sleek, oily texture to this wine with great persistence, and ubiquitous umami or savoriness (a hallmark of BDV in general, and X-Block in particular.) On the palate, very plush w/ soft tannins and suggestions of smoked meat in the lower register; peppery, minty and delicately floral on top. While absolutely approachable in the short-term, this X-Block will also repay cellaring.
The Syrah from the "X-Block" of the Bien Nacido Vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley elegantly evokes the Platonic paradigm of Syrah, likely owing to the area's unique microclimate, the age of the vines, the clonal selection, and the unique calcareous vineyard soils. 2013 was a warmer and challenging year (everywhere), but nevertheless yielded a classic expression of Bien Nacido. We love the Syrah fruit that comes from the X-Block. We have a lot of history with this block, including a hand in the re-trellising of the vines (originally cordon-trained and for the last almost twenty years, a sort of modified Geneva Double Curtain), and revamping of its irrigation design. (The sloped segment of the block needs approximately 2x the amount of irrigation as the flatter section.) The big vines with lots of buds produces extremely small clusters, especially in the sloped section, and this is one secret to the intensity and concentration of the X-block fruit. It may or may not be a unique clone on the ranch (there seems to be a bit of confusion about that at Bien Nacido itself), but the Syrah it produces seems unlike the fruit from other parts of the ranch.
Food Pairing Notes
Lamb Rib Chops with Olive Oil Braised Cannelini Beans, Orange Gremolata. Steak Au Poivre with Green Peppercorns. Sherry Braised Chicken Thighs with Lardons. Wild Mushroom Cobbler.