We are blessed in California to have the Napa Valley, Sonoma County, and Paso Robles wine regions. But less than a three-hour drive from our Orange County office lies the vastly underrated Santa Ynez Valley. This is where we found ourselves last week after having to cancel our Napa trip due to the devastating fires. Once we decided on visiting Santa Ynez we knew our first stop had to be Tensley.
We were first introduced to Tensley last fall when its 2017 Santa Barbara County Colson Canyon Syrah checked in at #14 on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines. The very day the issue appeared we had a bottle delivered from Total Wine. We were most struck by the deep purple color and the nose of smoked meat.
With that as a backdrop, four of us from Peninsula Underground arrived at Tensley and enjoyed our tasting on their lovely patio in Los Olivos. Nelida guided us through their lineup of 2019 Syrahs: Santa Barbara County, Turner, and Colson Canyon. They are our September wines-of-the-month.
As our followers know, we normally pick one particular bottle as our wine-of-the-month. This month is the exception as Tensley’s 2019 Syrahs were all equally but distinctively exceptional. You might wonder why we are already tasting and reviewing 2019 Syrahs. Well, we had the pleasure of meeting owner and winemaker Joey Tensley, who was very generous with his time. He explained to us that they had already sold out of the 2018s so they had to push the 2019s out quickly. It is amazing how good they are already.
The Santa Barbara County Syrah was surprisingly silky with red fruit and berries. It is young with a slight bite at the end but wonderfully drinkable now and will be outstanding for 8-10 years. The Turner Syrah is a shade lighter than the Santa Barbara. We detect less oak and more black pepper. On the whole this was more complex than the Santa Barbara and can also be cellared for 10 years. They only made 70 cases so grab yours soon! Finally, the Colson Canyon was lighter still than the Turner with a nose of violets. On the palette is smoked meat with a notably fruity finish. This wine has wonderful flavor now and is surprisingly approachable for its complexity. It was distinct from the others.
On the whole, Tensley makes the best Syrahs we have ever reviewed. Followers of PU know that we always have an eye toward wine that is ready to drink at a great value. Tensley Syrahs are the template for that approach to wine. When you taste the wines you won’t believe the prices:
Santa Barbara County: $30
Colson Canyon: $46
Do yourself a favor. Take a weekend away to the Santa Ynez Valley. Enjoy the beauty of the outdoors and the delicious wines of the region. Just make sure that visiting Tensley is at the top of your list. Tell them you visited because they were Peninsula Underground’s September wine-of-the-month.