The last time we sampled California Syrah in this manner was in November 2007, and while they weren't bad wines then, we came away this time feeling more optimistic about them, with generally positive reviews overall.

Our first place bottle this round was from the same producer as the second place wine in 2007 -- a small pattern, but leads us to think they know what they're doing with Syrah.

Although the cheapest wine didn't win a lot of points, none of the bottles were terribly expensive.

This was also one of the few times that all bottles came from different appellations in California.

First Place: Terre Rouge Syrah Les Cotes de L'Ouest 2010 (California).  Tasters noted complex scents of candle wax, perfume, plum, glue, Band-Aid, smoke, nail polish remover, and leather.  Good density and structure, with notions of prune, almonds, wild berries, and black olives.  Masculine.  Andy described it as "ready for battle". Ali and Kristin's favorite of the night.  Received 26 total points.  JC's bottle.  About $28.

Second Place:  Halter Ranch Syrah 2011 (Paso Robles).  Aromas of pine sap, fireplace smoke, plums, and violets.  Lots of fruit on the palate, plus floral qualities on the attack.  Pleasing, with good dark flavors of chocolate and graphite.  Mark and David's favorite, with a total of 22 points.  Ali's bottle.  About $25.

Third Place: Jonathan Edwards Syrah 2010 (Napa Valley).  Scented with notions of dill pickles, funky cheese, milkweed, apricots, and peaches.  JC felt that it "smells like a garden".  Plump texture, with flavors of diary, blueberry, blackberry, and eucalyptus.  Nice balance.  Ali hated the dairy quality of it.  JC and Andy's favorite.  Received 19 total points.  Mark's bottle.  About $18.

Ramey Syrah 2007 (Sonoma Coast).  Shy nose, hinting at orange peel and dry erase marker, with the alcohol showing up a bit too much.  Juicy, with a lot of cherry and blackberry flavors, but doesn't do much.  Mark was reminded of "un-sugared grape juice".  Not a lot of nuance.  Received 8 points.  Kristin's bottle.   About $40.

Copain Syrah Tous Ensemble 2011 (Mendocino County).  Dusty, with complex aromas of blueberry, cola, eucalyptus, red ruby grapefruit, sweet cigar, pomegranate, camp fire, lavender, and something medicinal. With air, a jammy quality shows up.  Tasty, with a good attack, but short on finish.  Has that grapefruit acidity, plus something nutty.  Medium-bodied, but kind of flat.  Received 7 points.  David's bottle.  About $35.

Cline Syrah 2012 (Sonoma County).  Aromas of burnt wood, oil, and rubber.  Mark felt it was "like a Jiffy Lube", while others were reminded of musky basement.  Cranberry/raspberry flavors, with a little more tannin, ending with notes of bitter chocolate, black licorice, and bing cherry.  Good texture and structure, with nice finish.  Becomes very jammy with air.  Received 2 points.  Andy's bottle.  About $10.
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