Some may wonder whether Horton Vineyards can continue to push the envelope and make great, outside-the-box wines as it did for nearly 30 years under the late founder Dennis Horton. This iconic Syrah (on top of the Rose of Pinotage I reviewed last time) shows that they can.

The wine was the inspiration of Shannon Horton, Dennis and Sharon’s daughter and winery manager. She was tasting barrels of Syrah in the winery cellar and found one that was much better than the rest and got the idea to hold back the superior barrels of a variety and do a special label for them. With the five top barrels of Syrah from 2016, as well as four of Mourvedre, she dedicated this “barrel select” label for the winery’s limited production line.

***Horton Vineyards Syrah Barrel Select 2016

Color: vivid crimson. Nose: vibrant ripe red cherry, with smoke and pepper notes. Palate: concentrated and intense; red cherries, smoke and a clean gamey note. Vibrant fruit/acid balance and vivid varietal flavor, all fruit-driven (despite the “barrel select”). A must for any Rhone/Syrah fan, and the first Syrah from the East that I can really believe in. Also, I like the moderate (12%) alcohol. Even at three years old, it should be decanted before drinking, and probably best cellared another 2-3 years. $45.00 at the winery only.

Rating Scale: * = very good, ** = exceptional, *** = outstanding