Drew and Laurie Duncan share a lifelong passion for wine, and when they decided to buy a vineyard in the Sta Rita Hills, Laurie’s PhD in Geology came in handy. They looked for a long time, and in the end they chose a property that would encompass diverse terroirs: deep alluvial soils along the Santa Ynez river, and steep clay and rocky marine shale on the north facing hills above the river. Sanford and Benedict, Sea Smoke and Fiddlestix vineyards are very close neighbors, which certainly tells you something. When they launched their winery in 2016 they decided to use the Gaelic spelling of their name, which is, I guess, more memorable than Duncan, and is pronounced DON-nuh-kuh. The farming is organic and regenerative. This wine is a blend of fruit from both the riverside and the hillside vineyards, picked in successive tries. While Syrah is a genius grape that can produce elegant wines in a wide range of environments, if you want it something like the iconic Northern Rhône appellations like Côte Rotie, you must have a cool climate, and consistent wind and fog from the nearby Pacific Ocean make this AVA a Davis Region I climate (the same as Champagne and parts of Burgundy). They don’t allow roasty, chocolate, vanilla and spice flavors from new oak barrels to mask the subtle notes of blackberries, white pepper, caramelized meat and fresh flowers: the wine is aged for 16 months in neutral French oak barrels just to concentrate the wine. This is a lighter style of Syrah that will be very versatile for food pairing, but is a wine that one can enjoy all by itself as the layers of aromas reveal themselves with time.