Friday, January 28, 2011

Stacking the Deck with JAQK Cellars Syrah

New labels seem to pop up every week. When I first started in the wine business, about nine years ago, this phenomenon was rare and seemingly relegated to the high end, cult Napa cabernet labels. Back then, every six months brought a new, $100+ bottle sourced from the apparently inexhaustible supply of cabernet sauvignon grapes Napa Valley produces.

I think it's a fair summation to say that I became skeptical of these "amazing" new producers who "expressed the soul of cabernet sauvignon" through "meticulous vine management and vinification techniques". In other words, it all starts to sound like the same shit. Fast forward a few years, the real estate bubble bursts and the money propping up the new, lacking-of-track-record labels evaporated like the value of a San Diego duplex. Grapes are now everywhere, you throw a stone in Northern California and you hit grape vines (and probably a vineyard owner/manager too!). Hundreds of new labels are popping up, at lower prices but equally good quality as before. Vintners aren't going to let a little Global Financial Crisis change the way they make wines and the fruit is still grown by the same vineyard managers in the same vineyards.

My point is much more brief than the rant you have just read through. There are a lot of grapes available and a lot of very talented winemakers looking to turn those grapes into delicious wine. One of those winemakers is Craig MacLean. Crag has produced award winning wines at places like Cain Vineyards and Spring Mountain Vineyards, so he obviously knows how to make great wine. His latest project, which I just recently became aware of, is JAQK Cellars.

Last week I was invited to a tasting of wines from JAQK Cellars down at the Wine Bank in downtown San Diego. While prior commitments prevented me from attending, David Dees, their national sales representative was able to leave me some samples to taste. I'll be featuring each of the six wines in this blog and talking about why I think, as new labels go, the JAQK Cellars wines are the real deal.

2007 JAQK Cellars Soldiers of Fortune Syrah Napa Valley - Opaque purple at it's center, light at the edges and with some elegant legs. Some wines have stage presence in the glass, this is one of those wines. Stick your nose in the glass, earth, spice box, graham cracker come back at your face! A touch of heat tickles the nostrils and at 15.1%, the JAQK is potent! Syrah, when done correctly, exhibits grippy but integrated tannins instead of super creamy vanilla oak. See Washington state for good examples, and see this 2007 Soldiers of Fortune too. I bet another five years in the bottle would be great, the tannins would soften and allow some fruit to come out. As it stands, the palate is dominated by dark chocolate, dried black cherry, earth, and crushed pepper. I'm digging how everything goes down, there's a ripeness yet a complexity in harmony here. Absolutely solid juice. A- and a BUY recommendation. Check the $43 SRP but find it for less with research!

Beau Carufel


  1. Nice to see some cool Syrah coming in at a more accessible price point! Intriguing for sure.

  2. Yea the price isn't bad, I feel though that if it were closer to $35-37 it would be a better "buy". The quality is undeniable though.