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The wines of John Alban, Edna Valley, California

Alban Vineyards, 8575 Orcutt Road, Arroyo Grande, CA 93420 USA
Phone: +1 805 546 0305 Fax: +1 805 546 98790

John Alban is at the vanguard of the Rhône revolution that has been sweeping through California’s diverse Central Coast region. With an emphasis on varieties such as Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Viognier and Roussanne, and vineyard site and practice, he’s achieved remarkable success since he set up on his own in 1989. Since the mid-1990s commentators agree that the wines have really hit their stride, and this tasting of three 1997s suggested they are right.

The two Syrahs are superb wines. You'd never confuse them with Northern Rhône Syrah, but they are also miles apart from some of the oaky, jammy interpretations of this grape common in the new world. With their lush, ripe fruit and huge concentration, there's plenty of complexity and the wines manage to walk a balanced line. The oak, while apparent, is more than balanced by the intensity of the fruit and good acidity, and you couldn't call them jammy or over-ripe. The Viognier is also an interesting wine, although I’d have probably chosen to drink this a year or two earlier.

Like most decent Californians, the UK availability of these wines isn’t too good, but they are stocked by Everywine and also The Wine Treasury, priced around £25 each.

Alban Estate Reva Syrah 1997, Edna Valley
An opaque red/purple colour, this is a very concentrated wine. Lovely nose shows sweet liquoricey, herbal fruit with some expressive floral and spicy notes. The palate is rich and dense, showing complex sweet fruit and a spicy tang. With good acidity and some structure lurking under the fruit, this is powerful yet still quite expressive. The oak and fruit mesh brilliantly here. Excellent

Alban Estate Lorraine Syrah 1997, Edna Valley
Named after John’s wife, Lorraine. Opaque inky purple/red colour with great concentration. Opulent, ripe, liquoricey nose displays sweet fruit and cinnamon notes. The palate is powerful, ripe and complex. It's sweeter and riper than the Reva. There's some tannin here, but it is obscured by the super-ripe fruit. There's a distinct spicy character to the finish, and despite its size, it's still balanced. Two days later it is rich and porty, with vanilla and spice from the oak showing more and some interesting caramel/herby notes. Excellent

Alban Vineyards Viongier 1997, Central Coast
Full yellow/gold colour. Powerful, expressive nose with lemony, peachy and herbal notes. Full, rich-textured palate with herby, peachy fruit and a minty, lemony edge. It's obviously new world, but with its bold expressive style it actually works quite well. A striking wine. Very good/excellent

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