Who: Jaffurs Wine Cellars
Aerospace accountant Craig Jaffurs started making wine in 1989, with the first release of his eponymous wine in 1994. Jaffurs has cemented his place as a Syrah guru, but also produces other lovely wines. In 2016, he initiated his retirement process by selling to winemaker Dan Green. Luckily, Jaffurs will ensure a smooth transition and remain involved in company oversight.
Where: Santa Barbara, CA
Jaffurs Wine Cellars is located only 8 blocks from the heart of downtown Santa Barbara. This is a true urban winery, housed in a small facility without much signage. When we arrived, they were wrapping up crush activities for the day. A tasting table is set up in the wine production room and we got to speak with the assistant winemaker and cellar hands as they were going about their work.
Wine: Syrah and Other Rhone Varietals
Jaffurs specializes in Rhone varietals, and they are core members of the Rhone Rangers organization. They bottle 8 Syrahs (mostly single-vineyard), along with Grenache Blanc and Rouge, Viognier, Roussanne, Pinot Noir, and Petit Sirah.
Why: Big Syrahs
The 2012 Larner Vineyard Syrah was one of the favorite wines I tasted all year. This is a BIG Syrah: deep color, ripe fruit, high alcohol, and lots of complexity. I'm not partial to warm or cool climate styles of Syrah; I like both if made well. And this Larner Vineyard bottling is awesome. All of the Syrahs we tasted were excellent, but this was my favorite and the purchase to take home.
I also really, really enjoyed the 2012 Grenache. Again, it is a big fruity wine with high alcohol, as Grenache can tend to be. But it also has some nice floral and savory notes that balance it out, along with decent tannins, perhaps due to the 1/3 whole cluster inclusion at maceration. I brought this wine home for my Florida New Year's Eve 2017 tasting event. It was a big hit.