Robert Parker called Steve Beckmen’s “Cuvee Le Bec” one of the “wine world’s finest bargains.”Wine Spectator was equally emphatic, including Beckmen’s voluptuous Rhône blend on its list of the “100 Outstanding Values” of the year.
We called Steve last November, hoping to corral an allocation of the stunning 2012 “Le Bec” equal to or greater than our allocation of 2011. But as we’d learn during a painful 45-minute conversation with our winemaker friend, the future of “Le Bec” is now uncertain. Why? “In 2014,” Beckmen said, “all hell broke loose” on Purisima Mountain.
In 1996, Tom Beckmen (Steve’s dad) purchased a stunning 365-acre hillside property overlooking the Santa Ynez Valley. Early soil studies indicated an unusually rich concentration of limestone on the mountain, which when coupled with Ballard Canyon’s cool, maritime microclimate, argued for the planting of Rhône varieties.With elevations reaching above 1,250 feet, they devised a vineyard blueprint that called for a diverse clonal mix of Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre. Over the next decade, Purisima Mountain was planted accordingly, an achievement that ranks among the most ambitious viticultural endeavors in the history of Santa Ynez.
Beginning in the mid-2000s, the kingpins of Ballard Canyon — Beckmen Vineyards, Stolpman Vineyards and Jonata (Screaming Eagle’s sister winery) — have been turning out some of the most brilliant Syrahs in California, with many releases rivaling or surpassing the greats of the Northern Rhône. Still, bottles like Beckmen’s Syrah Clone #1, Stolpman’s “Hilltops” or Jonata’s “La Sangre de Jonata” largely eluded the critical radar.
“To be honest,” Steve told us, “we were working too hard in the vines and the cellar to see what was coming.But by the end of the year, our Direct-to-Consumer business was up 50%. We ran out of the high-end Syrahs. We’re down to the last cases of the 2012 Purisima Grenache (Parker’s 93-pointer puts most Châteauneuf-du-Papes to shame!). I love blending ‘Le Bec.’ I like giving people a bargain. But the grapes that go into ‘Le Bec’ are the same as those that go into the higher-priced wines. Economically, ‘Le Bec’ doesn’t add up.”
43% Grenache, 34% Syrah, 15% Mourvedre and 8% Counoise. Bright ruby to the rim. Mouthwatering floral aromas of dark red fruits, tobacco, and sweet spice, mineral and complex. Rich, juicy, and high-toned on the attack, silken in texture, filled with a plush mix of black raspberry preserves, tinged with violets and a dash of white pepper. Finishes, as always, with excellent persistence and limestone-infused vibrancy. Drink now for its sheer primary-fruit pleasure or lay down for 3-5 years.
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