The brotherly art of winemaking


Gabriel and Shimon Weiss are the talented winemaking brothers behind small but trendy Santa Maria, Calif.-based Shirah Wine. They began making wines in 2009, and then launched their commercial wine production company together two years later.

In 2012, the brothers also began working on a wine that became the first in a new brand called Twin Suns, a
value-driven project for The River Wine, a New York-based kosher wine importer, distributor and producer.

Their winemaking approach overall is minimalist — putting the emphasis on quality fruit, meticulous viticultural practice and terrior, allowing the wines to showcase whatever the fruit has to
offer, free of unnecessary winemaking techniques.

“We suffered for a bit from what I call winemaker’s greed, or the insatiable thirst for acquiring interesting grapes to make great wines,” Shimon Weiss told me when I phoned him recently.

They reached a point with Shirah “where we were producing too much too quickly, and we basically plateaued on production for around three years,” he said.

They shifted their focus to more small-lot, direct-to-consumer wines, and less on their higher volume, wider distribution wines.

“In the last year, though, our brand widened its reach a bit,” Weiss said. “By Pesach, we should have around 12 wines available, including a new Bro. Deux blend, a new single varietal granache, a new single vineyard syrah, and our first port [-style] release.”

Since that conversation, I’ve had the chance to taste some of their latest offerings. These are all well worth seeking out. Local distribution isn’t terrific, but you can buy direct from them.

Shirah Wine Co., Bro. Deux, Central Coast, Calif., 2016 ($45): A blend of 75 percent cabernet sauvignon and 25 percent petit verdot, this offers a lovely nose of rosemary and dark fruits, and an initial subtle whiff of saddle leather. The palate, which was lighter than expected, offered additional notes of toasted oak and subtle bell pepper, along with the red and dark fruits. Overall nice balance between the integrated but chalky tannins, the acidity, and the sweet fruits. Very tasty now but will richly reward further cellaring.

Shirah Wine Co., Alder Springs Vineyard, Syrah, Mendocino, County, Calif., 2015 ($55): This is singing brilliantly right now with aromas and flavors of black pepper, blackberries, blueberries, tobacco leaf and a little oak, and all blanketed by tannins. This syrah is already nicely mellow, and tasty enough right now to be delicious — though it will improve with age.

Shirah Wine Co., Murmur Vineyard, Syrah, Santa Maria Valley, Calif., 2016 ($55): With a tiny 3 percent of viognier added in, this syrah is dazzling, with an enticing, inviting and altogether intense nose of black pepper, boysenberry, baked blackberries, apricot, fresh flowers and with a light touch of mocha and vanilla.

The palate is full, big and fat, but refreshing rather than heavy, with a nice balance of acidity, fruits and tannins, floral overall, and with lovely blue fruits and a smidge of brioche. The finish is long, taking a more herbal and savory turn. Drink slightly chilled over the next five or six years.

Shirah Wine Co., “The Fortress” (Port Style Wine), Bethel Road Vineyard, Templeton Gap, Paso Robles, Calif., 2014 (20 percent abv; $65): This is Shirah’s first fortified, sweet Port-style wine, made from 100 percent Touriga Nacional — a classic, spicy Portuguese grape variety used in their fortified Port wines. With a jammy nose of blackberry, blueberry, strawberry, tamarind, subtle rosemary and bergamot oil, carrying through on the rich, juicy, sweet palate with dark berry fruits, black cherry soda, cocoa powder and some burnt herbal note. The finish offers more fruit jam and herbs. Spectacular! Drink chilled. L’chaim!

Send your wine and spirits questions to Joshua E. London at [email protected].

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