Kevin Hamel

Sorry, I just had to get that one in there.  you remember, when Mom FINALLY realizes that she left the kid at home halfway through Home Alone?  Yeah.

So that’s exactly how I feel about this wine.  My friend Kevin Hamel, who makes Hamel Wines and has had a rather illustrious career as a winemaker, make some spectacular syrah.  And pinot noir.  Recently, I was able to attend a private tasting where Kevin poured some damn fine wines.  A few months later, I headed up to Winemaker Wednesday at Scopa, hands down the BEST restaurant in Healdsburg.  Ok I’m biased, but…no wait, it’s true!

At Winemaker Wednesday, a monthly event that Scopa has in the Spring and Fall, Kevin poured some library wines which really blew my mind.  But alas, I didn’t have any in my cellar (not yet anyway.  Kevin, we need to talk about this little problem I have!) so I opted to enjoy the 2002 Sonoma County Syrah, Westside Hills that I did have in my cellar, in honor of Wine Blogging Wednesday #71.

Wine Blogging Wednesday, our monthly blog around a theme, was created by Lenn Thompson of the New York Cork Report (formerly LENNDEVOURS), and has a new theme every month.  This month, we were asked by Tim Elliot of to talk about wines that are in the style of, but not from, the Rhône.  Well, since I happen to adore Syrah and most other things Rhone, I hopped on this theme of  “Rhones Not From The Rhône.”

Tim asked us to choose a wine from a Rhône variety that we all know and love – but not made in France.  Since Syrah is one of the biggest (in production not style I hope) wines made in California, and since I really enjoyed Kevin’s wines, ba-da-bing, ba-de-boom.

At the private tasting, we enjoyed the 2001 and 2002 Sonoma County Syrah, Westside Hills.  These two wines were absolutely stellar, and yet so different.  The 2001 showed much older, and it was difficult to fathom that it was juts one year before the ssecond wine.  At the tasting event, we went back and forth over which one we liked the most.  Of course, I couldn’t decide because – they were both awesome.  The 2001 could certainly count counter any Rhône out there.  It was austere adn acidic (in a good way) and would be AMAZING with food.

The 2002, while bigger, was certainly no fruit bomb in my estimation.  It was elegant and silky, and had a lot of plum and red fruit.  This was the crowd favorite, but it took several tastes to confirm which one I liked the most.  I refuse to make a distinction because they were THAT good.

Moving on to the Winemaker Dinner at Scopa, Kevin pulled out all the stops with the 1998 Sonoma County “Vitis Allobrogica?” Syrah.  1998?  Yeah 1998.  This Syrah was off the hook with my pork pasta, and as much as I tried not to order a bottle, I pretty much did.  For myself.  It was THAT good.

The moral of this story?  There is some really really good wine out there; Syrah doesn’t have to be over extracted and syrupy.  It can be juicy, acidic, balanced, restrained, and blow your mid.  You just need to explore some new regions and new wineries.  There is a ton of Syrah on the market out there, from Australia, California, Washington, and of course France.  California Syrah can be big. bold and jammy.  However, if you hunt around, you can find these juicy gems.

Another personal fave?  2007 Olson Ogdon Stagecoach.

Want to try the wines?  YOu can go eat at Scopa, and I highly recommend it.  But you can also ask Kevin where the wines are, and if he’ll share.  Please reach out to kevin on TWITTER!


    1. I know my way to a wine blogger's heart my friend! Get you butt out here. Or maybe I'll bring some to VA.

      Although I rather think I might slurp it all by then…mmmmmm!

  1. I'm with Joe on this one. They all sound incredible, but the food pairing really snagged my interest.

    Yes, please bring some to Virginia? Hubby and I are registered and have our hotel room booked! 🙂


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