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O’Shaughnessy Syrah 2006, Mount Veeder
Cost: $68
O ccasionally I taste a wine that is so good that I’ll write about it even if it is not available in local stores. You might find it at a restaurant somewhere, or you might order it from the winery, for instance.
This O’Shaughnessy Syrah is so good that it’s worth looking for. The winery in Napa Valley has a well-deserved reputation for world class Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, but their Syrah is over the top, too.
The 2006 Mount Veeder Syrah has a dark red color with a purple tint. When you pour it in the glass you immediately start getting powerful aromas. Because this wine was nine years old, it took several minutes to open up, and it kept getting better for more than an hour.
O'Shaughnessy Mount Veeder Syrah
O’Shaughnessy Mount Veeder Syrah
The aromas are full of ripe fruit, such as boysenberry, plum, raspberry and some spice. Even at this age, it had bold fruit-forward tastes, showing no signs of excess aging. It tasted bright and young, with no harsh tannins. The flavors were raspberry, plums, cherries and spice.
Throughout our meal, the wine kept getting better, with a long, smooth finish.
California, of course, is well known for its Cabernet Sauvignon, but you ought to give Syrah a chance. The grape seems well suited to the climate and soil. I have had many very nice bottles of California Syrah that I enjoyed, but I’d have to say none were quite as good as this one.
It is another example of a first-rate winery doing things right.
I visited there several years ago, and loved touring the winery and tasting their wines. The design is spectacular. I stocked up on Cabs and Chardonnay, and picked up some of their other wines as well, including this Syrah. I should have bought more.
Winery: O’Shaughnessy Estate Winery was founded in 1990 by Betty O’Shaughnessy Woolls, a former Minneapolis real estate developer. She and her husband Paul Woolls remain the owners and operators of the St. Helena winery, which owns 100 acres on Howell Mountain and also has vineyards in Mount Veeder.
The estate makes Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. The estate’s Cabs often get rated in the mid-90s. Antonio Galloni of Wine Advocate rated the 2009 Mt. Veeder Cab at 95 points and called it “impeccable from start to finish.”
The Wools are native Midwesterners who built the winery after careers in other fields.
Betty spent her childhood growing up in a rural farming community in Minnesota. After college she raised a family while building a career in real estate investment/development in Minneapolis. Her entrepreneurial spirit and passion for food and wine fueled the fires that moved her from owner/teacher of a cooking school in Minneapolis to creating a winery in Napa Valley.
In Napa, Betty fell in love with the beauty of the land, the vineyards, and the climate. In 1990 she landed in Oakville with a parcel of land, including vineyards and a home site. Betty reconnected with her deep-rooted appreciation of the soil and the bounties it brings.
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Over the next few years, additional vineyards on Howell Mountain and Mount Veeder added to the source available for varieties of grapes. The new century brought a cave, grapes crushed into wine and a design for a winery structure. The project was completed in time for the harvest of 2003.
Paul was born almost on the campus of Indiana University and later moved to New Mexico. He found his passion for wine in college, though with wines a little lower down the food chain. Paul found in college that starving for a month would allow for one great meal at the only French restaurant nearby.
Then law school and his practice allowed the drive to learn about wine to thrive. That drive culminated in a fortuitous wine tasting where he met Betty.
Together, they now share a challenging goal of making the best possible wine from their exceptional vineyards. Likewise they enjoy family life provided by numerous children (all girls) and even more grandchildren (mostly boys).
Founding winemaker, Sean Capiaux, has 26 years building a reputation at prominent wineries around the world.
He graduated from California State University, Fresno (BS, Enology; minor in Chemistry) in the late-80’s and began his career at Jordan Winery in Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley. Sean traveled to Perth, Australia to work on the winemaking team at the Houghton Winery and later returned to the United States to become the assistant winemaker at Pine Ridge Winery in the Stags Leap district.
Peter Michael Winery tapped him to become their assistant winemaker where he worked for four years. Sean spent several years as a bicoastal winemaker attending to wines both on Long Island and in California before coming to O’Shaughnessy.
Sean serves as president and winemaker for the O’Shaughnessy Estate Winery and consistently creates world class mountain Cabernets. Sean describes his winemaking style as neo-classic in that he employs modern equipment to produce non-interventious wines which are naturally fermented and bottled unfined and unfiltered. These techniques allow the varietal character and terroir of the O’Shaughnessy Estate vineyards to be the stars of the show.
Many of the estate vines on Howell Mountain are 14 years old. They have established deep roots on the 100-acre hillside property. Between 1997 and 2002, the winery planted 29 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and 6 acres of blending varietals: Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Malbec, Carmenere and St. Macaire.
They utilized several different root stocks and clones for the Cabernet plantings. The vines span two distinct vineyards. Amphitheater derives its name from its shape across the hillside. Rancho del Oso, nearest the winery, boasts a resident black bear who visits from time to time.
The vines from the steeply terraced, “Betty’s Vineyard” on Mount Veeder struggle for nourishment and moisture, consistently producing clusters with small berries and intense flavors. Wines from this vineyard have been highly acclaimed since the first vintage in 2002 for their power and elegance.
Their Oakville vineyard spans 30 acres surrounding their home, planted in white varietals. The Sauvignon Blanc fruit creates crisp, flavorful wine. The Chardonnay plantings of Old Wente Clones, as well as 809 and 548 provide the backbone of a complex, dramatic blend which debuted with the 2009 vintage.
Breaded pork tenderloin with mashed potatoes and creamed corn.
Breaded pork tenderloin with mashed potatoes and creamed corn.

Goes with: Teri and I had this with one of my favorite meals: pan-fried breaded pork tenderloin cutlets. When I was a child my grandmother and mother would make this, and we just called it pork tenderloin. Eating this always brings back great memories.
In Chicago you can buy a package of meat labeled “pork tenderloin” that has the cutlets. I have not been able to find anything like that in Augusta, so I just buy a pork tenderloin, slice it in one-inch pieces and then pound them out.
Then soak the cutlets in a mix of milk and egg. After soaking the pork you dredge it in crushed saltine crumbs, which have been mixed with salt, pepper and Morton’s Nature’s Seasons. Then fry them in a pan with a medium hot oil. I cook them about 6-7 minutes on each side, or until the crust gets brown, but not burnt.
I added mashed potatoes, creamed corn and sliced tomatoes to make a real feast.
The luscious fruit of the wine was a nice match for the crisp, peppery pork cutlets. The wine was powerful, but mellow enough that it didn’t overpower the meat flavors.
You could also serve this wine with lamb chops, all kinds of beef dishes, hearty stews, roast chicken and hard cheeses.

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