It's often said that in California, Cabernet is King. While Cabernet Sauvignon currently gets the most attention in the Golden State, the Syrah grape is gaining kudos as the "next best thing".
Unfortunately, our sampling of California Syrah showed that while it may be an up and coming variety, that time may be a little farther away than we hoped. Still, the winning wine showed good balance and complexity, at a very reasonable price. For the first time, three wines were tied for third place, and Megan and Fritz were excellent as first-time guest tasters.
First Place: Liberty School Syrah 2004 (Central Coast). This wine exhibited complex, dark aromatics of wet soil, bitter chocolate, raw beef, dark berries, and vanilla. Ali commented, "seriously dark smelling", followed by "meaty black olive". Flavors of figs raisins, cream, and licorice. More nuanced, balanced, and elegant than the rest, with a satiny texture. All six tasters gave this wine some points. Received 29 points. Kristin's bottle. A real value at only $15.
Second Place: Terre Rouge Syrah Les Cotes de L'Ouest 2004 (California). Blue/red in color, and offering dusty smells, along with mold, plums, blackberries, buttered popcorn, and sour cherries. David noted "slightly rotten fruit". Moderate in weight. Eucalyptus, anise, blueberry, and cream on the palate. Megan described it as "plain yogurt with sour cherries and boysenberries". Slightly hot finish. Received 18 points. Andy's bottle. About $19.
Third Place (tie): Estancia Syrah 2004 (Central Coast). Nose of soap, herbs, and cloves. Some simple fruit, with some sourness. Slightly thinner in body compared to the others. Unbalanced harsh acidity on the finish that doesn't go away. Ali's favorite of the night. Received 9 points. Fritz's bottle. About $14.
Third Place (tie): Geyser Peak Shiraz 2002 (Sonoma County). Aromas reminiscent of bad sponge, soap, must, sweat, and hints of dairy. Andy was reminded of "grandma's underwear", along with "toenails". Megan found "bad apple cider". Flavors of rotten plum, cider, and cream. Andy described it as "floppy", while David didn't mind it. Megan decided, "if you don't smell it, it's not bad". Kristin's favorite. Received 9 points. Megan's bottle. About $18.
Third Place (tie): Ridge Syrah Lytton West 2003 (California). Tasters noted acetone, movie popcorn, glue, foul milk, and fake vanilla on the nose. Inky and dark, with flavors of blackberries and charred oak. Hot finish. Co-fermented with 3% Viognier. Andy's favorite. Received 9 points. David's bottle. About $30.
And finally . . .
Bridlewood Syrah Reserve 2003 (Central Coast). Smelling like buttery popcorn, cheap leather, cream, strawberries, paint remover, and super-glue. Ali was remided of "Goodyear shop", and Andy felt it was "like a mechanic at the movies". Ends with cloyingly fruity, simple finish. Received 4 points. Ali's bottle. About $15.