Next up in our comparison of bottles from around the world was the Syrah grape.  Made in different styles, these all had a peppery quality that linked them together, from a jammy Australian to a finely balanced Washington version. 

David praised the overall quality of these wines, but other found much to dislike, especially in the South African and Chilean bottles. 

Thanks go out to Andy P and Ina for their insights as guest tasters.

First Place:  L'Ecole No. 41 Syrah 2007 (Columbia Valley).  Tasters found complex aromas of skunk, wet animal, eraser, rubber, black pepper, eucalyptus, and leather.  The skunk scents burned off, turning to port-like aromas.   Dark fruit, plums, vanilla, and salty bacon notes were evident on the palate.  Cinnamon and coffee on the finish.  David praised it for its excellent balance.  Contains 7% Grenache.  Andy P, David, and Ali voted for this as their top wine.  Received 29 points.  Ina's bottle.  About $25

Second Place: Torbreck Woodcutter's Shiraz 2009 (Barossa Valley).  Jammy nose, featuring fruit punch, game, black licorice, acetone, Nyquil, cherry coke, raspberry, mushrooms, and wet stone.  Ali was very vocal about this one, finding "something pulled", "overripe dark berries close to rotting", and finally, "Reminds me of Texas.  Loud, meaty; don't mess with it".  Mouthwatering, and super-fruity, with tart cherry, a savory note, vanilla, and tomato skin/cranberry on the finish.  Ali was reminded of "mom's sauce".  Later, dried apricot, fake iced tea, and raisin notes developed.  A fruit bomb, but with some balanced acidity.  Ina and Kristin's favorite of the night.  Received 24 points.  Andy Parella's bottle.  About $21

Third Place:  Ramey Syrah 2007 (Sonoma Coast).  A floral, perfumed nose, with a little sour milk, wild berry, and raisin.  Hints of toffee and Butterfinger.  A lot of pepper in the mouth, not unlike pepper steak. Blackberry, licorice, tomatoes, and then raisins at the end.  Shows good balance of acidity and tannin.  Andy P felt that his "whole tongue reacts to it".  Good mouthfeel and balance.  Ina felt that "it stings my eyes", while Ali sensed that it "seems confident".  Andy R's favorite of the night.  Received 23 points.  Andy Riley's bottle.  About $40.

The others:

Domaine d'Andézon Côtes-du-Rhône 2009.  Reminiscent of dust, mushrooms, forest floor, moss, wet leaf, old stinky cheese, wet concrete, minerals, Creamsicle, acetone, buttered popcorn, and honey on the nose.  Pleasing tastes of raisins, pepper, and bacon, with a smoky/metallic finish.  Velvety texture.  Ali disliked it, saying it "leaves me wanting a breath mint".  Received 8 points.  Ali's bottle.  About $14.

Montes Alpha Syrah 2006 (Colchagua Valley).  Aromas suggesting oil slick, motor oil, dirty sock, new toy, salt, mildew, caramel, pine, eucalyptus, and green bell pepper.  Andy R noted "bad cheese, covered in oil", and Ina found "sewing machine oil".  Blueberry, blackberry, black licorice, coffee, and raisins on the palate.  A sulfur-like quality on the finish, along with egg custard.  Had a drying effect in mouth.  Ali hated it, saying it was "not wine to me", and described it as "liquid road kill".  Andy R felt that "it immediately overstays its welcome in my mouth".  Only David gave this its 3 points.  David's bottle.  About $25.

Diemersdal Shiraz 2007 (Durbanville).  Bright jammy fruit scents, along with mildew, ammonia, old book, spray cleanser, rubbing alcohol, and tar.  Andy R felt that "there was a bit of fruit at the first, but I can't find it again", and Andy P noted, "I got a little bit of chocolate, but then it went away".  Tasted of Windex, prunes, blueberries, leather, chocolate, and bacon.  Tart on the attack, then some moderate dryness, and alcohol on finish.  Ali felt that it was "like I licked a suede jacket", and Andy P was reminded of "chewing on a saddle, around a campfire".  Ina hated it.  Only Andy R gave this its 3 points.  Kristin's bottle.  About $15.

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