Viña Falernia Syrah Reserva 2010, Elqui Valley, Chile

Drunk September 2015 @ home

Viña Falernia syrah reserva 2010

The winery

Viña Falernia was founded in 1998 by Aldo Olivier Gramola. The Aldo Olivier’s family was originally from a small village in northern Italy (Trentino Region) called Dimaro. In 1951 Aldo’s father (Don Lino) decided to leave the country to move to Chile in May 1951 taking advantage of a development deal between Italy and Chile. The family arrived in the Coquimbo / La Serena region.

Aldo got married and he changed from La Serena to a small village located in Elqui Valley, called El Tambo, part of the Vicuña common.  The Falernia project was born in 1995 after he met his cousin Giorgio Flessati, an oenologist working in the Trentino region of northern Italy. 

Viña Falernia is located in the Elqui Valley between La Serena and Vicuña, 520 km (323 miles) to the north of Santiago and it is at present Chile’s northernmost wine estate. 

The soils in Falernia vineyards are composed partly of rubble which has eroded from the Andes mountains and deposited by glaciers and wind, and partly of alluvial sand and silt deposited by the river. While stony, gravely soils are regarded as poor for most crops, their excellent drainage qualities make them perfect for wine growing. The climate is semi-arid (average annual rainfall is 80-100 mm) making drip irrigation indispensable during the spring and summer months. The vineyards benefit from currents of cold air which descend from the high mountains at night., causing a dramatic contrast between day and night time temperatures during the ripening season, from 27-32°C (80.6-89.6°F) to 10-12°C (50-53.6°F). 

Viña Falernia comprises around 320 hectares of vineyard (800 acres), plus 100 hectares (250 acres) with long term contracts. The vineyards are located in several sites of the Elqui Valley, with very different climate conditions.

The first site, Titon vineyard, lies at an altitude of 350 meters (1070 feet), 18 km away from the ocean (11 miles). Day temperature there reach a maximum of 24/ 25º C (74ºF) during the summer and 9- 10ºC (48 /50ºF) at night time; In the morning there is often fog until 10/11 am. The actual size is 125 ha (312 acres) under vines.

The second site is just around the winery at the end of Puclaro lake (an artificial dam built by the government in 2003 for supporting the irrigation in the valley and guarantee water supply of the cities of Coquimbo and La Serena as well). Altitude is 515 mts (1570 feet). Climate conditions are very different, it is drier than Titon, warmer and with few foggy mornings (due to the lake, that changed the microclimate). 

The third site is close to Vicuña, where there is a young planting called “Pedregal”, 30º South /70 45’F at 560 Mts. (or 1680 feet): 40 has (100 acres) planted on the old bed of the Elqui River with a very stoney soil perfectly suited to Syrah, Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon. The vineyards is in transition to organic certification by IMO SWITZERLAND.

The fourth site is an old vineyard called “Huanta” or “Guanta” that is a rocky valley at an altitude between 1700 and 2070 meters (5185- 6320 feet), one of the highest vineyards in the world. The climate is very dry with a big difference between day and night temperatures.

Huanta Vineyard

These geographical features have kept at bay the phylloxera, and aphid which devastated most of the world’s vineyards a century ago, as well as downy mildew mould. The fact that pests and diseases such as these are kept at bay makes the use of chemical sprays and insecticides to protect the vines and grapes largely unnecessary.

Jamie Good visit to Falernia video

The wine

Hand picked grapes from two vineyards in the Elqui Valley, Titon and Huanta with very different soil and microclimates. Using cold maceration prior to fermentation on the skins in stainless steel tanks. After malolactic fermentation, 50% is aged in small French oak barrels for 6 months. tasting notes

A full bodied powerful wine, with big fruit and notable pepper and spice on the nose and on the palate. There is a hint of dark chocolate on the finish giving a slight bitterness with mint elements. 

For the price this cool climate Syrah is very good particularly with a barbecue. Be sure to serve the wine at the right temperature 18 degrees or so.

Hermitage Les Moines 2009, Syrah, Northern Rhône, France

hermitage 2009


The wine Tasting notes

This Hermitage from the Northern Rhône from a very good vintage (2009) was delicious with the cherry fruit and spice characteristics of a great Syrah coming through strongly. Power but with very decent complexity with multiple layers of berry fruit with a long satisfying finish. At 33 euros very good (even if sourced at a French supermarket) and I am eager to drink a few more glasses this time with food. This is my perfect style of wine as it is not overpowered by fruit or alcohol, yet exhibits really interesting notes on the palate. The small but famous parcel of land, on a sunny hillside, Hermitage is seen as the mother of Syrah, and tasting this wine it is a understandable description. 

Kingston Family Vineyards Lucero Syrah 2011, Casablanca Valley, Chile

Drunk june 2015 (purchased M&S)

The Winery

In the early 1900's Carl John Kingston, packed up his belongings and made the months-long journey from Central Mine, Michigan to Chile in search of copper and gold. In 1906 he joined the Cerro de Pasco Mining Company as an engineer, and traveled throughout South America. Although he never struck gold, C.J. unearthed a large dairy and cattle ranch 12 miles from the Pacific Ocean in the western hills of Chile's Casablanca Valley. With his new wife Caroline Los Kamp, C.J. settled in the casa patronal on "The Farm."

Carl John Kingston

After attending college in the United States, C.J. and Caroline's oldest son, John, returned to Chile to manage The Farm. As family lore goes, John graduated from Harvard on a Wednesday, married Janet Wilson on a Thursday, and set sail for Chile on Friday. They settled in Casablanca next to the old corral, and raised five children on The Farm in the 40s and 50s.

With the 1990s came another generation of Kingstons and new possibilities for The Farm. While in graduate school at Stanford University, Courtney Kingston wrote a business plan that had little to do with cattle and traditional farming: She wanted to plant a vineyard in the far western hills of Casablanca. Planting their first grapevines in 1998, the Kingstons bet on pinot noir and syrah in a valley known exclusively for white wines. Inspired by California vineyard leaders like David Hirsch and Gary Pisoni, they planted a vineyard up in the hills and gambled on the future of cool climate reds. In 2003, they made 400 cases of pinot noir and syrah under their own Kingston Family label to showcase the potential of coastal Chile for world-class wines.


The Kingston vineyards, first planted in 1998 and gradually expanded over the past dozen years, now consists of ~350 acres located within the century-old Kingston family farm in Chile's Casablanca Valley. In many ways, the Casablanca Valley is analogous to California's Central Coast, but somewhat colder.The vineyard lies about 12 miles from the Pacific Ocean and is surrounded by rolling forested hills.

The vineyard has a  cooler location than most of Casablanca, with temperatures often measuring 10°F cooler than at Veramonte (the neighbours on the opposite/eastern end of our valley). Due to cooling effects from the Pacific's icy Humboldt Current, the climate is mild and the growing season is long.

Today, Kingston Family Vineyards is still going strong and producing some excellent coastal style wines. The Pinot Noir and Syrah are planted in the hills, where the sun exposure and drainage is more favorable to red grapes, while the Sauvignon Blanc grows in the lower, cooler sections of the vineyard. The soil in the hills contains a lot of decomposed granite; lower down it is sandy clay.  Yields are very low: typically 2 to 3 tons per acre—a necessity just to ripen the crop. The last of the syrah is harvested in late May, the equivalent of November in Europe.

90% of Kingston grapes are sold to some of Chile's best winemakers, including Ignacio Recabarren (Concha y Toro), Aurelio Montes (Montes), and Rafael Urrejola (Undurraga).

The wine

This was a lovely spicy syrah exhibiting balanced cool climate charaterisitics with no hint of green or high acidity caused by under ripening. The wine had a great nose of berries, earth and spices, the palate was strong blackberry & raspberry with bags of fine tannin as well as vanilla notes with a certain elegance you might find in a Burgundy. Highly recommended!

Sine Qua Non, Five Shooter Syrah 2010, Ventura, California, USA

Drunk November 2013, Hawksmoor Guildhall, London

The winery

The wines of Sine Qua Non, "without which nothing" are made by the eccentric Manfred Krankle in the outer suburbs of Ventura California, in a winery described by Robert Parker as "a set scene from the movie Mad Max". This is true cult wine, it takes 6 years to get onto the waiting list for the winery. There are stories of divorcing couples fighting over the rights to their position on the list. Those on the list sometimes flip their allocation. This is when a person on the mailing list buys their allocation and then puts it on the secondary market to turn in a healthy profit, as wines will sell for two, four, six,  or as much as 10 times their release price.

Krankle came to California from Austria in the early 1980's. In 1989 he opened the LA restaurant Campanile, the accompanying La Brea Bakery became a national chain of shops which Krankle sold out of in 2001. There is a excellent Forbe's article about Krankle at

Each bottle is produced in very small quantities from low yields, bought in from trusted growers in the central coast area. With little estate fruit to speak of and constantly changing tastes, Manfred Krankle rarely makes the same wine twice, prefering to be able to chop and change vineyards as he sees fit. Krankle says, "The real differentiation in my mind comes from if you’re willing to go through great lengths for a very small reward."

While this is an unorthodox approach for a quality producer it doesn't seem to affect the quality of his wines, which regularly receive Parker scores in the high 90's, very often reaching the mythical 100 mark. Robert Parker has awarded 12 Sine Qua Non wines 100-point scores so far, placing Krankl's winery well ahead of the most famous Burgundy and Bordeaux châteaux. As Krankl himself says, "People buy Sine Qua Non, they don't give a toot where it's from".

Sine Qua Non was created after the 1994 harvest of a Bien Nacido Syrah named “The Queen of Spades”. Krankl made only four and half barrels and sent a bottle to Robert Parker with a handwritten note and overnight Sine Qua Non went from just another wine label that no-one had heard of to the must-have new talent. Parker called Krankl after tasting the wine and scoring it a stupendous 95 points - the highest score an American Rhône blend have ever received. "We were going to give our home number [for customers to ring] and he said, 'You might wanna rethink that because you’re going to get a lot of calls!'”

In the last few years Manfred and his wife, Elaine, have begun creating their own vineyards dedicated to Rhone varietals. Previously, Manfred had made wines with Bryan Babcock and John Alban and still sources much of his fruit from Alban’s vineyard. Their winemaking philosophy is to work in very small batches, gravity flow, natural yeasts (unless a fermentation problem is anticipated), long lees aging for the whites and repeated racking for the reds to open them up. This is a modified explanation of a very dedicated and artistic approach to winemaking. The wines are simultaneously very rich and elegant, superbly balanced and thoroughly harmonious with food, never overwhelming.

Krankl's idiosyncrasies are a product of his laid back approach to wine. He took up winemaking as a hobby, not an occupation. He claims he never felt the pressure to “conform to be commercially successful." He has never written a business plan, has never had a budget, and in the absence of such constraints, he has operated the winery “from a rather emotional or passionate standpoint.”. “We are sort of this oddball outsider,” he admits.

Their wines really only began to hit full world-class qualitative levels in 2000. The vineyard sources have largely changed from Alban, Stolpman, Bien Nacido, Shadow Canyon and White Hawk Vineyards to primarily estate vineyards Cumulus Vineyard in Ventura County and 11 Confessions Vineyard in the Santa Rita Hills. 

His reds fetch some of the highest prices of any Californian wines, according to Wine-Searcher’s statistics. The 1998 Hospice du Rhône Alban Vineyard Syrah currently sells for an average $2570 before tax while his first wine, the 1994 Queen of Spades Syrah would set you back at least $2400.

The wine

I felt very lucky to have the opportunity to try this cult wine from California, The Five Shooter Syrah 2010. Krankle sounds like a cool dude indeed and this has been on my wish list for a long time because of the price outstanding £325 in a restaurant, £200 retail!

It is actually a blend of 85% Syrah, 5% Grenache, 3% Petite Sirah, 5% Roussanne, 2% Viognier.

The first thing that strikes you is how different this is to a standard Californian Syrah. Deep, deep red in the glass, really smooth on the palate with incredible floral and fruit notes on the nose. Berry, smokiness, pepper and spices. A long, long finish. Incredibly complex is all I can say...I wish I had another bottle to take my time on and figure this one out. No wonder Sine Qua Non is so difficult to get hold of in any quantity. A connoisseurs choice, some Sommeliers have been known to steer their least favoured customers to other wines! Wowsa! Shame is so crazily expensive. I guess this is a wine for a wine lovers bucket list.

Dada 2 Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Franc 2009, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand

Drunk October 2013, Vinoteca, London


The winery

Founded in 2006 by David Ramonteu and Kate Galloway, Dada Wines was established with the sole aim of creating unique, non-classifiable and exceptional wines. Based in Hawke's bay, New Zealand, they aim to produce unorthodox blends that encompass the best of the region’s diverse landscape and varieties.


Partners in life and winemaking, David is from France and Kate is a New Zealander. 

David Ramonteu is from a winemaking background; he grew up in the mountainous Pyrenean farming and winegrowing region, where his family has an estate, Domaine Cauhape in Jurancon. David graduated from Bordeaux with a Master’s degree (1998), before joining French wine research company Oenodev as a consultant, work that took him around the world – and to New Zealand. David now lives in New Zealand, working for wineries throughout the country as a wine consultant.  His ongoing affiliation with Oenodev ensures he is kept abreast of new developments in wine technology.

New Zealand born Kate Galloway is chief winemaker for Alpha Domus winery. In addition, she works with David to produce wine under their labels, Dada and Alluviale. Kate had a career as a chef, including several years working in Europe, before returning home to pursue her love of wine, and her interest in New Zealand’s burgeoning wine industry. She has a Bachelor of Wine Science (1998) from EIT Hawkes Bay in association with Charles Sturt University, graduating with Academic Excellence. 

Kate and David live by the sea in Hawkes Bay with their two young children, Gala and Saul, and a collection of ceramics, paintings, old cars and trinkets. 

They believe that blending enables them to create complex, complete, elegant and restrained wines that could not be made with the conventional constraints imposed by single vineyards, single terroir or single varieties. There aim is to create wines unlike any other that combine lightness and purity with depth and substance - "Throw away your textbook, reject the safety of the predictable, for the possibility of an extraordinary experience."


Located on the east coast of the North Island of New Zealand, Hawke’s Bay is a maritime climate and has a diverse landscape.  It encompasses high mountain ranges to the north, south and west that shelter the region from cool winds and weather and steps down towards the coast, flattening out to the plains and the Pacific Ocean.


The wine

Dada 2 is blended red wine from the renowned Gimblett Gravels and Triangle regions.  It is predominantly Merlot with contributions from Syrah and Cabernet Franc, depending on the vintage. It references the exchange of wine that existed in the 19th Century between Bordeaux and Hermitage.

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The Gimblett Gravels winegrowing District, covering 800ha, is strictly determined by the gravelly soils laid down by the old Ngaruroro River, which were exposed after a huge flood in the 1860's. In the triangle region it is the special nature of the soils here that provide depth and flavour to the resulting wines, based on free-draining "red metal" gravels overlaid by alluvium derived from loess, volcanic ash and greywacke. The combination of these special soils with high sunshine hours, low rainfall and Growing Degree Days comparable to Bordeaux makes the Bridge Pa Triangle a unique viticultural area.

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Dada 2 is believed to be the first red wine made and bottled without any sulfur dioxide in NZ. The exact composition of each wine changes year to year, and is entirely determined by the quality of the fruit that particular vintage. We do not wish to rely on varietal composition for defining this wine. This composition is subject to vintage variation. Several varieties were vinified but did not make the final blend. The final blend in 2009 comprises 3 varieties –Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Franc. 

It s a deep purple red out of the bottle. On the nose plum and berry fruits and spice. Beautifully balanced in the mouth, acid balancing the fine grained tannins and fruit. The finish is long and delicious.

Love the branding for Dada, the quirky creativity behind the brand. This is New Zealand wine but not as you know it. With top enviromental credentials and a Euro flair what's not to like here.