Travieso El Chupacabras 2006
15.5 % | $51

What happens when a music loving marine geologist and a Swedish ex-punk-rocker-turne-doctor team up to make wine? The unexpected and the extraordinary. While it might sound like the set-up for a pithy punchline, it’s the real story behind Travieso Winery, begun on the eve of the new millennium and now producing a unique line up of wines that are masterfully crafted with just enough edge to be both enticing and memorable.

Ray Sliter and Mats Hagstrom have built their winery from the ground up around close working relationships with their growers, a scientific precision with their grapes, and an appreciation for Californian wine made in California. The duo also prize low intervention, avoiding the majority of sulfites and relying on wild yeast. Wines are skin-pressed before ending up in new French Oak and aging for one to three years.

Their El Chupacabras 2006 isn’t quite as ferocious as the name suggests, but rather a well-balanced and intriguing take on a Rhône blend, built up with 37% Los Alamos Syrah, 33% Santa Ynez Syrah, 23% Grenache and 7% Viognier. In the glass, its age and weightiness are evident with a dark and muddied garnet that gives way to brick color and hints of coppery shine. The nose is rich but lean, with dried cranberries and red plums layered over tanned saddle leather. It’s big and bold on the palate, with full and seizing tannins, ripe plum and juicy blackberries, finishing with that same leather note. It leaves an impression of spice and smoke that will have you reaching for more of the supernatural sip.

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