The Big Game

"Big Games" are about long-standing rivals on the same playing field where the outcome is bigger than the individual participants.  In wine, the rivalry of Rhône and Bordeaux regions is timeless. Our wine, The Big Game, is where Bordeaux meets Rhône and everyone wins.  The stars are Cabernet Sauvignon & Petit Verdot on one side and Syrah on the other. 

Ultimately, the character of the wine is closer to the complexity and size of Bordeaux than Rhône, but the spirit of the wine is a tie.  The Big Game is layered, complex, and mouth-filling.  There is something in there for everybody.  The red fruits, the black fruits, the freshness, the earthiness. It’s a classic.

Vintage 2013 winemaker's notes

229 cases produced.  46% Syrah, 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Petit Verdot
I’m allowed to have favorites.  After all, something has to accrue after all this tasting!  I love complex wines.  And The Big Game is the most complex of all.  Maybe because there are three varieties building up a total that’s greater than the sum of the parts.  Maybe because when Rhone meets Bordeaux, magic happens, and suddenly the civilized “guy in a suit” (a Bordeaux blend) turns into a “guy in suit, but with a ponytail and a tattoo his neck.”  Syrah adds a wild edge to Bordeaux’s savoir faire.

The nose is immense.  Huge.  Limitless.  Each return to the glass adds more nuances.  Clearly there’s a majority presence of that blue note of Syrah.  But surrounded.  Helped.  Held up by all the harmonic notes that vibrate with it.  Cab adds depth.  Petit Verdot adds a black note, a root system.  The palate is true to the glimpse that the nose provides.  But so much more.  It’s the nose’s promise amplified.  A medley of fruits.  Sequential but simultaneous.  Almost overpowering but with enough restraint to wait until my perception finds harmony.  This is a job, so I have to go on, and taste other wines.  But I don’t want to.  I want to stay with The Big Game, and hold it close until finally we understand each other.

Vintage 2013 reviews

Deep garnet-purple colored, the 2013 The Big Game, a blend of 46% Syrah, 38% Cabernet Sauvignon and 16% Petit Verdot, reveals a lovely perfume of star anise, potpourri and dried roses over a core of blackberry preserves, cassis and mulberries, plus hints of forest floor, cloves and dried herbs. Full-bodied and densely laden with gregarious fruit and spice layers, it has a great structure of ripe, rounded tannins and plenty of vitality in the long finish.   Drink  2017 - 2033.
95 points; Wine Advocate  September 2017

The 2013 Big Game offers terrific notes of black raspberries, blackberries, peppery spice and leafy herbs. Deep, rich and beautifully textured on the palate, with plenty of structure, it will continue drinking well through 2023.
94 points; JebDunnuck.com  August 2017

Not a hunting reference exactly even though The Big Game does have something to do with making bears feel bad, this wine, from Stanford grads whose memories of The Farm live happily on, cuts a fine line between inside humor and out and out Petit Verdot potency, and if those disparate elements seem to be lacking something on the sequitur front, the wine is not.  It follows from front to back with deep, ripe, reasonably fruit-driven notes.  It is far more supple in texture than so many of its admirable concentration, and yet it does sport plenty of tannin for its sins.  With balance and even a hint of polish, it could be a wine from the near- to mid-term, but our inclination is to let is sit quietly in a cool, dark place for at least a half a decade and we will not be surprised to see it last longer.
93 points; Connoisseurs’ Guide to California Wine   March 2017

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Vintage 2012 winemaker's notes

245 cases produced.
Bordeaux meet Rhone.  Opposites attract.  The whole is bigger than the sum of the parts.  Cabernet Sauvignon 34%, Petit Verdot 11% for a 45% Bordeaux participation.  Syrah is the only Rhone player, but weighs in at 55% almost as over-compensation for its solitude.  This wine is all about complexity and balance.  About power barely restrained by good manners!  About depth, intensity and specific weight.

The nose is enormously attractive. It calls for a deeper breath to get more information.  It pre-announces the multiplicity of flavors coming soon into the mouth.  Red fresh fruit, black ripe fruit.  Notes of undergrowth and the slightly dark character of the Petit Verdot.  A note of oak so well integrated that it has to be tweezed up from below the fruit to identify it!  If not, it would remain incognito.  Bolder alcohol levels than we’re accustomed to, but in balance with the fruit, the acidity and the structure.  Smooth, fine grain tannin, lots of it!  But so harmonious, so rounded that no aggressive sensations result from it. Only a mouth-cleansing effect that invites the next bite of rare New York steak.  Of baby-back ribs.  Wine writing makes me hungry!

Vintage 2012 reviews

Pretty, bright and deep chocolate, florals, supple and dense thickness to the dark berries.  The palate is intense and powerfully built, concentrated black fruits, fig and currant.  Beautifully polished.    Drink 2016 - 2023.
94 points; purely domestic wine report  December 2015

The Big Game is a delicious opaque-colored blend of 55% Syrah, 34% Cabernet Sauvignon and 11% Petit Verdot.  It is nicely concentrated revealing hints of cassia graphite, black cherry, black currant and herbs.  It is nicely balanced with firm round silky tannins and a long finish.  A beautiful polished wine!!
93 points; International Wine Review  January 2016

Inky ruby. Smoky blueberry and cherry liqueur aromas pick up a peppery nuance with air, along with a suave floral quality. Fleshy and seamless on the palate, offering concentrated black and blue fruit flavors and hints of violet pastille and cracked pepper. Spreads out and becomes spicier on the juicy, impressively persistent finish, which is framed by supple, slow-building tannins.  Drinking window:  2018 - 2024
93 points; Vinous   September 2016

Earthy and aged notes of cigar, leather, beef char and blackberry paste show on the nose of this wine, but so do fresh purple flowers, rosemary and dried mint. The blend of 55% Syrah, 34% Cabernet Sauvignon and 11% Petit Verdot is creamy on the palate, with a dank herbal quality. It blends oregano and dill with black currant, licorice, fudge and a menthol-laced finish.
93 points; Wine Enthusiast   May 2016

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Vintage 2011 winemaker's notes

2011 has roughly the same percentage of Syrah as 2010.  We’ve increased Petit Verdot to 17%, so a big jump over the 12% of previous year.  The decrease of Cabernet is a natural reflection of a long and cool harvest.  But right now, the dominant note is from the Syrah. That edge of wildness, of spice and pepper of a Côte-Rôtie!  Very complex aromas leading into tightly knit textures of fruit and tannin.  Cab gives it backbone and darker fruit notes.  A keeper!
We’re finding that our intuition on delaying the release of The Big Game to give it more bottle aging is paying big time in terms of smoothness of structures and integration of varieties.  Will it stay this way?  No! Nor it should!  The Big Game is all about the merging and melding and melting of different angles and points of view.  I look forward to the awakening of the Petit Verdot which for now is a bit of a sleeper in the bottle.  But we tasted those grapes and that fermentation!  I have no doubt that you will find joy in the change of this wine along the years.

Vintage 2011 reviews

The 2011 Big Game is a delicious blend of 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Syrah and 17% Petit Verdot.  It offers ripe and concentrated blackberry and cassis fruit with a rich and luscious mouth feel.  Aged 27 months in new and used oak, it is perfectly balanced with beautifully integrated sweet oak, soft round tannins and a long finish.   The grapes are from two outstanding vineyards:  Terra Bella at 1800 ft, one of the highest Westside Paso Syrah vineyards,  planted in 2001, and Adelaida Springs Ranch, planted in 2002.  Only 265 cases made.
93+ points; International Wine Review  January 2015

The nose is nicely focused and fresh, beautifully layered black fruit, graphite and menthol.  The palate is firm and well focused with deeply flavored black fruit, lavender and camphor.    Drink 2016 - 2023.
92 points; purely domestic wine report  April 2015

Vintage 2010 reviews

Rated four times 92 or 93 (Wine Advocate, International Wine Review, Wine Enthusiast, pdwr - purely domestic wine report)

It is much more evolved, offering aromas of ripe blackberry, blackcurrant fruit and graphite. Aged in barrel for 27 months in new and one-year old oak, it displays an elegant palate, good structure and balance, firm but polished tannins and a long finish. A lovely wine that is also food friendly and elegant with alcohol held in check (14.3%).   93+ points; International Wine Review  September 2013

Solid aromatics of black fruits, carbon, currant and violet. The palate offers some densely packed flavors with well- balanced structure. Luxurious blackberry, spice box and oak coupled with solid acidity suggest lots to enjoy down the road. Drink 2014 – 2020.  
93 points; purely domestic wine report  September 2013

Offering up good Cabernet Sauvignon aromas and flavors. Rich, pure and fresh, with black currant, lead pencil, mint, licorice and hints of tar all emerging from the glass, it flows onto the palate with a medium to full-bodied, elegant texture, integrated acidity and finely polished tannin framing the finish. Impressive all around and beautifully balanced and fresh, it should evolve gracefully for 12-15 years. Drink now-2025.  
92+ points; WA August 2013

This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Petit Verdot is a good example of the kind of wine propelling Paso Robles to the forefront.  It feels higher in alcohol than the official reading of 14.3%, but the warm mouthfeel is an integral part of the experience.  The flavors are absolutely delicious, suggesting ripe cherries, plums, mocha and sweet, salty beef jerky.  
92 points; Wine Enthusiast December 2013