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Midnight Cellars 2002 Nocturne Syrah

I got a call the other night from a friend of mine who went with me on my Central Coast wine jaunt this past summer.

He had pulled the cork on a Cabernet from a small family winery called Dark Star Cellars that we had happened into and it was much better than his minds eye (or taste buds) recalled.  That tasting room visit in and of itself was memorable because the co-owner and wife to the winemaker had a certain pleasantness that rubbed off and we were also joined in the tasting room by a bachelorette party of recent Notre Dame graduates.

Nothing spells F-U-N like a bachelorette party plus I grew up in South Bend and I’m a die hard Notre Dame fan, so a common bond was struck as we tasted down the list.

I had enjoyed the Dark Star Cab a couple of months ago and forgot about it.  But, his call prompted me to do a second look at my wine stash to see what was left from the rapidly dwindling couple of cases that I purchased.

Nope.  No Dark Star left, but I did have the Midnight Cellars 2002 Nocturne Syrah.

We had gone to Midnight Cellars just before Dark Star Cellars and that visit to Midnight Cellars stuck with me as a bit of an enigmatic event.  The tasting room had wine competition ribbons all over the place, but all of the energy and vigor of a morgue.  The guy that did our tasting had woken up on the wrong side of the bed and showed us only marginal, that is to say very slight, interest.  He did open a fresh bottle of the Nocturne and proclaimed that it showed better after decanting.  I therefore have no idea why he poured us our taste 30 seconds after opening, but, then, I did say it was an enigmatic visit.  We gave it a good swirl and drank.

I am, however, the kind of guy that tasting room manager’s love because regardless of my assessment of the tasting, the winery or the wines, I always buy a bottle of what I deem to be the best wine within the price range that I’m willing to plunk down.  This was one of those situations where I eased into my tithe to the church of wine and picked up the 2002 Nocturne Syrah—their best seller and a multi-medal winner.

Interestingly, there’s a blurb of an article on and a feature in the November issue that talks about the business of wine competitions.  It notes:

Wines are increasingly facing a very competitive playing field, and most producers are looking for a way to single out their wines to the consumer.  A medal can help tremendously with marketing efforts.

It did with me as the Nocturne consistently wins medal after medal at all sorts of country fair wine competitions. 

When I opened the Nocturne, it was a tightly wound ball of dark fruit and white pepper and not much else.  Likely called Nocturne because it will stain your teeth the color of night, I sipped it, pondered it, and then drank the rest of the glass.  In my house a bottle lasts for about three days—I Vacu-Vin it and put it in the fridge and it holds up for me.  I drank a glass of the Nocturne the next day and it had opened up a bit, it wasn’t nearly as tight, but still somewhat inaccessible—to the point that I just chalked it up as a wine I didn’t enjoy.

Oddly enough, the third night, when the wine was at room temperature, it opened up and blossomed.  What a beautiful wine this was showing to be.

In a highly unscientific, non-blind, aired out for three days wine rating, I gave this guy a 17 on the UC Davis 20 point scale.  My notes say:  Dark berry fruit, spice and oak on the nose with blackberry, mulberry, a bit of cherry, toffee with firm tannins and a medium long finish.

Later, in doing some research, I found a Wine Enthusiast rating from late in ’05 that gave it an 85 and noted, “There’s plenty of fruit in this country-style wine.  The fruit consists of all sort of black and red berries and stone fruits, with an edge of espresso and oaky caramel.  The country is in the rugged texture, which calls for a good steak.”

Definitely a steak.  I think they call it a country-style wine because of all the country-style medals, but nonetheless the three-day wait was worth it for this one.  Just make sure it gets some air. 


Posted in, Good Grape Wine Reviews. Permalink | Comments (2) |


On 12/05, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

Hello—I’m the eldest daughter of the family who owns Midnight Cellars. The Notre Dame connection is that I went to ND for undergraduate school, as did a very particular friend of our family. I’m delighted that you found your way into the Nocturne and hope that you return some day to sample the estate zin. You might find the Gemini (sort of named for me as I am the Gemini in the family) doubly satisfying as it is a sublime blend of Syrah and zin. But you have to come back to try the Gemini because we only offer it in our tasting room, and perhaps on this visit you’ll find Wayne our tasting room manager a little more rested! Happy holidays to you and yours—Lisa

On 12/07, Jeff Lefevere wrote:

Thanks for the comment, Lisa.  Always nice to know that a winery can happen on to the review and comment.  I look forward to my return trip out. 




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