Harrison Clarke

Harrison Clarke is a tiny operation high up in Ballard canyon. With just a few acres of vineyards overlooking Beckman's Purisima mountain estate they are well positioned to be producing some compelling, handcrafted wines. Add in the fact that the vineyard sits on a limestone outcropping and the big picture gets even more compelling.

Another youngster, producing wines only for a decade and specializing in estate grown Grenache and Syrah, with some Viognier and Mourvedre thrown in for good measure, this was my first tasting with winemaker Hilarie Clark and her Husband Roger. It’s a visit worth making, both to see the wonderfully positioned vineyard and it’s interesting geology as well as to meet with Hilarie who is happy to discuss the developments at Harrison Clarke be they natural yeast fermentations, stem inclusion, or any of the details that is making their wines so unique and compelling.

I really found these wines to be very attractive, finely blending the ripeness one will get in sunny California with some of the nervus energy and savory complexity one sees in the Northern Rhone. As with many producers in the region it seems as though the wines are improving vintage to vintage and Harrison Clarke is no exception. Tasting Syrah from barrel I was really struck by the beauty of these two wines: the 2012 Whole Cluster Syrah offers up ripe fruit without sweetness, precise and super fresh it just lacks some length today. The 2012 Syrah is just incredibly pure, ripe fruit, too young to see where this goes but it could be a wow wine. The 2011 Syrah is rather mineral and very spicy with great balance in the mouth and length on the palate. A winery to watch!

2010 Harrison Clarke Cuvée Charlotte Syrah $55


Wow nose with simply huge aromatics of dry dusty soil, blackberries, raspberries and a lovely framing note of baking spice. This lacks some of the savory notes I’m looking for but is a  big and a bit chewy mouthful of Syrah with gorgeous happy fruit. I’d like to see this in another year. 93pts

2009 Harrison Clarke Syrah Estate 13.6% $32


Mean and assertive on the nose with layers of black pepper,  grilled meats, roasted herbs, soil and mineral notes. In the mouth this is tight, rich and powerful but not weighty with juicy acids and really fine grained tannins supporting savory framed dark berry and plum fruit framed with spicy black pepper and herbs on the backend leading to a moderately long, tangy slightly jammy blackberry rich finish. With fine mineral cut on the midpalate, a lovely inner mouth perfume of violets, and salted plum fruit on the finale this is an engaging wine. 92pts

2009 Harrison Clarke Cuvée Charlotte 15.2% $55


In barrel 23 months

This offers up a simply classic syrah nose rich with  inky black pepper, leather, teriyaki, black plum, and lightly minty aromas. On entry theres a tight mineral note followed by a rich, round wine with angular tannins filling out the palate. The wine pops with lovely inner mouth perfumes, blackberrying pie filling, a bit creamy, baking spices and cracked black pepper all come together in a balanced and layered way on the palate leading to a long elegant finish. For a big wine, this has fabulous clarity, freshness and depth on the palate. 93pts