Review: 2010 Herman Story Larner Vineyard Syrah/Grenache

Although the idea of “Cult Wines” in California may have started in the Napa Valley, the trend has been making its way south in recent years and has now firmly implanted itself in the Central Coast, Santa Barbara and Paso Robles areas. Cult wines generally follow a fairly standard approach. They are made in very small quantities, often have very attractive and provocative packaging/labels, garner high scores and praise from wine critics, are extremely sought after by collectors and almost always command extremely high price points. Classic examples of these cult wines include Screaming Eagle and Harlan Estates from the Napa Valley, and closer to the wine we’re reviewing today Saxum Vineyards and Sine Qua Non.

Upon first glance it would seem that the Herman Story wines, made by winemaker Russel P. From, are attempting to follow this cult wine formula to a t. The labels are sexy and eye-catching, the wines are produced in small quantities and the style of these wines is exactly what many wine critics love…big, bold, palate destroying behemoths. There is very little information to be found on the Herman Story website. The back of the bottle tells us that Herman Story was Russel’s grandfather and was “a rancher, logger, swapper, banker, philanthropist and a teller of tales”.

While the hype, ratings and fancy bottle are all well and good, the real question is “is the wine any friggin good?”. Let’s try it out and see.

In the glass the wine is extremely dense, clinging to the sides of the glass and sheeting down slowly like molasses after being swirled. The wine has an opaque center and vibrant purple rim at is the trademark of rich new world Syrah.

On the nose the generous 15.9% alcohol is clearly evident, but not completely overpowering. Aromas of blackberries, licorice, cherry cordial, cinnamon, clove and lavender waft from the glass.

On the palate this certainly plays the role of the dominatrix rather than the coy seductress, thigh high leather boots and all. The Larner is mouth coating and hedonistic, with pronounced tannins that beg for food. Flavours of blackberry, blueberry, creme de cassis, leather, five spice and black peppercorn lead into a finish that lasts for minutes.

This will surely be a huge hit with fans of big, bold, full-bodied Californian reds and at $66 this hasn’t quite reached the price level of some of its cult wine companions yet.

I would highly recommend decanting this wine if you plan to consume it anytime soon. It should also benefit from 2-3 years in the cellar.




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