Connoisseurs' Guide to California Wine

Rusack 2011 Syrah, Ballard Canyon Estate Reserve
Intense and simply brimming with very specific Syrah spice from the very first sniff, Rusack’s Reserve is a meaty wine of enormous fruit and depth. It is big-bodied and fully ripe but is always controlled, and, if fairly fat and viscous to start, it firms and finds structure as it goes. Still, it is not stern nor especially tannic and does not demand lengthy aging. Its readily evident richness and real complexity earn it high marks even now, and it looks likely to reach its best in no more than three to six years. 93 points

Rusack 2010 Reserve Ballard Canyon Estate Syrah
There is no question but that this wine pushes the limits of ripeness, but, while it goes to the brink, it does not quite go over, and its gifts of deep, wonderfully spicy varietal fruit and generous sweet oak are very much the stuff of unsubtle seduction. It as full and as fleshy as it is outgoing and showy, and, while its ample tannins grab just a bit at the finish, it does not demand protracted cellaring and should come into its own in four or five years. 91 points

Rusack 2010 Reserve Chardonnay, Santa Maria Valley
This combination of full ripeness and high acidity will push the limits of most tasters because of its unrelenting acidy involvement, but that trait does not deter us from liking it. Rich and complementary oak with a slightly smoky edge adds its own voice and, together with the lengthy, well-expressed fruit provides a kind of moderating balance to what is one of the more brisk wines in this Issue. Try it now with dishes like Oysters Rockefeller or set it aside in the cellar for some well-deserved maturation. 91 points

Rusack 2009 Reserve Chardonnay
Moderated rich in tone, hinting at complexity and possessed of both balance and depth, this attractive Chardonnay is focused on ripe apples with touches of minerality and honey among its positives. It is firm in balance on the palate without sacrificing flavor, and it holds onto its character into a bright, slightly crisp, fairly long aftertaste. 90 points

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