REVIEWS

2019 Estate Syrah, Petaluma Gap

96 points. John Gilman, View from the Cellar
“The Petaluma Gap bottling from Model Farm is from the family’s “estate” vineyard, on which they started their project with a long-term lease back in 2013. Sean and Joanna farm this cool, two acre parcel of syrah organically. The 2019 version is absolutely stunning, coming in at an even thirteen percent alcohol, having been one hundred percent whole cluster and raised entirely in four used French casks. The bouquet shows plenty of youthful spiciness from the stems, soaring from the glass in a very complex blend of cassis, black raspberries, black olive, gorgeous spice tones, smoked meats, dark soil tones, lavender, pepper and a touch of black tea in the upper register. On the palate the wine is pure, complex and full-bodied, with a beautiful core of fruit, stunning mineral drive, ripe, firm tannins and a long, tangy and superbly balanced finish. While this wine is loaded with complexity and personality, it is stunningly light on its feet and so transparent down toz its underlying soil tones. This is the finest wine I have yet tasted from Sean Castorani and Joanna Wells (and I have been a fan since the very first sample bottle that the couple sent me)! 2033-2075+.

94 points. Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media
“The 2019 Syrah (Petaluma Gap) is a bit darker and wilder next to the La Cruz Syrah tasted alongside it. Black cherry, lavender, spice, menthol, licorice and black pepper bring out the darker side of Syrah. Potent, muscular tannins add to an impression of brooding intensity. The 2019 is just impeccable, not to mention loaded with character.” 2023-2034.

2019 La Cruz Vineyard Syrah, Petaluma Gap

94 points. John Gilman, View from the Cellar
“The 2019 La Cruz Vineyard bottling of syrah from Model Farm comes in at 13.3 percent octane, included fifty percent whole clusters this year and, as is customary with Sean and Joanna’s wines, was fermented with indigenous yeasts and was raised in older French oak casks. The wine is bottled unfined and unfiltered and offers up a superb bouquet of red and black raspberries, sweet cassis, grilled meats, pepper, stony soil, beautiful spice tones and a smoky topnote. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied, focused and complex, with a fine core of fruit, excellent soil undertow and grip, ripe, buried tannins and a long, vibrant and perfectly balanced finish. This is outstanding syrah in the making! ” 2032-2075+.

94 points. Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media
“The 2019 Syrah La Cruz Vineyard is fabulous. A wine of real substance and power, the 2019 impresses with its poise right out of the gate. Sweet red-toned fruit, rose petal, mint, spice and blood orange are nicely delineated, but it is the wine’s sheer vibrancy that is so impressive. All the elements are so well balanced. There is a bit of tannin that needs to resolve, but another year or two in bottle should take care of that.” 2023-2034.

2019 P·M Staiger Vineyard Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains

 94+ points. John Gilman, View from the Cellar
“These chardonnay vines were planted in 1973 on their own rootstocks, on a steep, southwest-facing slope that sits on a combination of sandstone and shale, one thousand feet above the San Lorenzo Valley. The cuttings were from old Wente clones back in 1973, and today the vineyard gets plenty of morning and late day fog to moderate its temperatures during the growing season. The wine is barrel-fermented in older casks with indigenous yeasts, aged in these barrels for a year and the racked to stainless steel tanks for six months of finishing elevage. The 2019 version comes in at 12.7 percent octane and delivers a beautifully refined bouquet of pear, lemon, elder flowers, a complex base of minerality, citrus zest and a whisper of vanillin oak. On the palate the wine is vibrant, full-bodied and impeccably balanced, with a lovely core and soil signature, zesty acids and excellent focus and grip on the long, pure and complex finish. This is more accessible out of the blocks than previous chardonnays that Joanna and Sean have released from the Wood Valley Vineyard, which could prove to make holding onto this beautiful wine in the cellar quite difficult! Like all of the Model Farm wines, it is built to age and will be infinitely more enjoyable to drink if given some bottle age, but good luck exercising the self-control needed! ” 2021-2040.

93 points. Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media
“The 2019 Chardonnay P-M Staiger Vineyard is a gorgeous, expressive wine from a site in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Crushed rocks, slate, sage, mint, chamomile, lemon peel and a touch of reduction infuse the 2019 with layers of depth. The 2019 is vivid and beautifully layered from start to finish.” 2021-2029.

2018 Estate Syrah, Petaluma Gap

94 points. John Gilman, View from the Cellar
“The 2018 Petaluma Gap bottling of syrah from Model Farm is from the couple’s estate vineyard. The wine comes in at 12.5 percent octane this year, was entirely whole cluster fermentation and raised in two hundred and twenty-eight liter, used French barrels. The bouquet is pure, youthful and flat out beautiful, wafting from the glass in a complex constellation of red and black raspberries, smoked meats, pepper, a lovely base of soil, intense notes of lavender, a hint of cedar and a very gentle topnote of violet. On the palate the wine is deep, pure, full-bodied and rock solid at the core, with stunning intensity of flavor and grip, ripe, fine-grained tannins and a long, tangy and very complex finish. The aromatic and flavor profile of this wine remind me very strongly of Gerard Chave’s estate bottling of Saint-Joseph back in the day, but it has far more depth and is a more powerful and mineral wine on the palate than that lovely wine from Domaine Chave’s yesteryears. Great juice.” 2028-2075.

(90-92) points. Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media
“The 2018 Syrah benefits from a much more favorable growing season than the 2017. Bright, fragrant and super-expressive, the 2018 is gracious and light on its feet, yet offers terrific depth. Harvest was a full month later than in 2017. The lasting impression is of a Syrah built on strong aromatic presence.”

2018 La Cruz Syrah, Petaluma Gap

93+ points. John Gilman, View from the Cellar
“The La Cruz Vineyard bottling of Syrah from Sean and Joanna Castorani is a touch riper than their estate vineyard bottling, as the La Cruz Vineyard is a bit further inland in the Petaluma Gap and does not have the same constant winds here. But, a touch riper is still only 13.3 percent in the 2018 vintage, with the wine again all whole clusters and raised in five hundred liter, older French casks. The wine is more black fruity on the nose than the estate vineyard version, offering up a nascently complex bouquet of cassis, black raspberries, pepper, black olive, hung game, a touch of garrigue and just a whisper of cedar. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied, focused and utterly classic in profile, with a superb core, fine mineral drive, ripe tannins and a long, nascently complex and perfectly balanced finish. This is a bit broader-shouldered in personality than the estate vineyard bottling this year, but it is an equally superb example of first class syrah. It really reminds me of a young Côte-Rôtie from a vintage like 1978!” 2028-2075.

(90-93) points. Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media 
“The 2018 Syrah La Cruz Vineyard shows a much deeper and richer expression of the Petaluma Gap than the straight Syrah. Layers of nuance and texture reveal themselves with a bit of air. Rich, pliant and explosive, with superb mid-palate depth, the La Cruz is so promising. Black pepper, game, wild flowers and savory overtones from the clusters are all beautifully delineated. This is such a pretty wine.”

2018 Sonoma Valley Chardonnay, Wood Valley Vineyard

93 points. John Gilman, View from the Cellar
 “The 2018 Chardonnay “Sonoma Valley” from Model Farm is a beautiful wine in the making. The bouquet is pure, precise and still youthful, offering up scents of apple, lemon, pit fruits, salty soil tones, white flowers, fresh almond, lavender and a deft framing of vanillin oak. On the palate the wine is bright, full-bodied and tightly-knit, with an excellent core of fruit, superb mineral drive and a long, racy and still very youthful finish. This is a great bottle of chardonnay in the making, but I would give it two or three years in the cellar and let it blossom properly, for though it is already quite delicious, the wine is only showing the first vestige of its inherent complexity and there is a lot more to come with a bit of patience.” 2022-2035.

(92-94) points. Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media 
“The 2018 Chardonnay shows just how captivating Sonoma Valley can be. Deceptive in its first impression, the 2018 is initially quite airy and lifted, but then reveals power and structure as it opens. Lemon confit, white flowers and orchard fruit all develop nicely, followed by hints of sage and dried flowers that linger on the finish. I can’t wait to taste this from bottle.

2017 Estate Syrah, Petaluma Gap

94 points. John Gilman, View from the Cellar
“The 2017 Syrah “Petaluma Gap” from the husband and wife team Sean Castorani and Joanna Wells’ Model Farm is a superb follow-up to their outstanding 2016 version. The brutal heat wave that roared through northern California during Labor Day weekend of 2017 could have really been a problem for Sean and Joanna, but they chose to be patient, let the vines recover and picked slowly and carefully many days after the heat spike, so as to bring in properly ripe and undamaged fruit. Their resulting syrah is outstanding, tipping the scales at a very civilized 12.5 percent octane and offering up a superb and utterly classic bouquet of cassis, black raspberries, smoked meats, pepper, black olive, a fine array of soil tones and a smoky topnote. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied and nicely structured this year, with a fine core of fruit, firm, well-integrated tannins and superb length and grip on the complex, youthful and very promising finish. This will need a bit more time in the cellar to stretch its wings than the 2016 version, but it is going to be every bit as stellar in the fullness of time. If you have not yet noticed, Model Farm is making some of the most brilliant syrahs in all of California right now!” 2027-2065.

91 points. Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media
“The 2017 Syrah is powerful wild and savory, with a ton of whole cluster influence and notes of dried cherry, game, licorice, spice and menthol that develop with a bit of coaxing. In the glass, the 2017 is quite rich, but more about earthiness and spice than fruit. This fruit came in on Labor Day. The stress of the intense heat is evident, and yet the wine is very nicely balanced given what was possible. Sadly, there are just three barrels to go around.”

2016 Estate Syrah, Petaluma Gap

92+ points. John Gilman, View from the Cellar
“The 2016 Model Farm Syrah comes in cool and vibrant, tipping the scales at 12.5 percent octane and offering up a beautifully refined bouquet of pear, delicious apple, acacia blossoms, a touch of fresh almond, lovely soil tones and a whisper of vanillin oak. On the palate the wine is bright, bouncy and intensely flavored, with a medium-full format, good depth at the core, excellent focus and grip and a long, zesty and nascently complex finish. This will age quite well and could do with a few years in the cellar to allow the secondary layers of complexity to start to emerge. Not surprisingly, given that Sean is the assistant winemaker at Rhys Vineayrds, this is indeed, quite Rhys-like in style and potential. An absolutely superb first effort with this varietal!” 2020-2035.

2016 Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay, P·M Staiger Vineyard

92+ points. John Gilman, View from the Cellar
The 2016 Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay comes in cool and vibrant, tipping the scales at 12.5 percent octane and offering up a beautifully refined bouquet of pear, delicious apple, acacia blossoms, a touch of fresh almond, lovely soil tones and a whisper of vanillin oak. On the palate the wine is bright, bouncy and intensely flavored, with a medium-full format, good depth at the core, excellent focus and grip and a long, zesty and nascently complex finish. This will age quite well and could do with a few years in the cellar to allow the secondary layers of complexity to start to emerge. Not surprisingly, given that Sean is the assistant winemaker at Rhys Vineayrds, this is indeed, quite Rhys-like in style and potential. An absolutely superb first effort with this varietal!” 2020-2035.

92 points. Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media
A new wine in this range, the 2016 Chardonnay is striking. Own-rooted Wente-clone Chardonnay yields a wine of real distinction and personality. Orange peel, honey, chamomile, sage and menthol all develop in the glass, but it is the structural feel that stands out most. The dense, powerful 2016 is a wine of real distinction.”

2015 Estate Syrah, Petaluma Gap (Sonoma Coast)

92+ points. John Gilman, View from the Cellar
“The 2015 Model Farm Syrah offers up a refined and classic bouquet of cassis, black pepper, a nice touch of stems, a touch of grilled venison, black olive, dark chocolate and a fine base of soil tones. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied, focused and beautifully structured, with firm, ripe tannins, an excellent core of fruit, tangy acids and great backend mineral drive on the long, nascently complex and energetic finish. This is great juice in the making! 2022-2055+.

91 points. Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media
“The 2015 Syrah (Sonoma Coast) is a wild, powerful wine that captures the essence of this cool Petaluma Gap site in its intense, savory personality. Black cherry, menthol, licorice, chocolate and black pepper give this mid-weight, persistent Syrah much of its personality. I would give the 2015 at least another year or two in bottle to soften. I imagine, though, the 2015 will always remain a bit brooding in personality. Bright, saline notes add considerable nuance as the wine opens up with air. Even so, the Syrah is the product of a vintage with freakishly low yields. Some of the stress the vines dealt with is inevitably present in the wine as well. The 2015 was fermented in stainless steel, with 100% whole clusters, and aged in a single 132-liter puncheon.”

2014 Estate Syrah, Petaluma Gap (Sonoma Coast)

93+ points. John Gilman, View from the Cellar
“The 2014 Syrah offers up a truly exceptional and complex bouquet of dark berries, pepper, grilled meats, a touch of espresso, woodsmoke, black olive, a touch of balsam bough, a dollop of stems and lovely soil signature. On the palate the wine is pure, full-bodied, tannic and laser-like in its focus, with a fine core of fruit, great backend energy and grip, ripe tannins and a very long, tangy and very complex finish. This is still a very young wine, but it is so beautifully balanced that it is already easy to drink this wine in its youth. That said, I would try desperately to not touch a bottle for at least another five years, as this is going to be absolutely brilliant when it is really ready to dink! 2022-2060.”

90 points. Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media
“The 2014 Syrah (Sonoma Coast) emerges from a cool site in Petaluma, which, along with the 100% whole clusters, brings out the floral, savory side of Syrah. Black pepper, plums, violets, mint, tobacco, lavender and dark spices are all nicely delineated in this super-expressive, mid-weight Syrah. Grippy tannins give the 2014 a classically austere feel and are going to need time to soften. It will be interesting to see if the 2014 gains a bit more flesh in bottle. Overall, the 2014 is an attractive, mid-weight Syrah with considerable personality, and more, importantly, potential for the future. There is plenty to look forward to.”

97 points. Cyrus Limon, Sólosyrah
“This beauty (2014) is a dead ringer for a Northern Rhone Syrah or even a Wind Gap Nellessen or Sonoma Coast Syrah. Olive, bramble, and graceful fresh fruit jump out of the glass. Earth and mineral mixed in there too. Perfectly balanced on the palate, not too much acid or tannin and energetic and full at the same time. Whole cluster deliciousness. This wine definitely surprised me, glad I took a leap of faith. Cool-climate Syrah lovers need to seek this out.”

ARTICLES / MEDIA

“Is California Syrah Misunderstood?” Virginia Boone, Wine Enthusiast

“Braising Basics and Wine Update” Forman and Wolf on Food and Wine, November 1, 2020

https://www.npr.org/podcasts/478728331/foreman-and-wolf-on-food-and-wine

“Meet Your Maker – Joanna Wells of Model Farm”, Midlefield Wine Bar, Toronto, CA

https://www.midfieldwine.com/calendar/2019/4/11/meet-your-maker-joanna-wells-of-model-farm-amp-kutch-wines

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