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90+ point rated wines under $20

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2005 Barrel 27 "Head Honcho" Syrah***
barrel27HH.jpg Region Price Tasted Drank
Santa Barbara, CA $35 Tastes of the Valley 5/4/08
A deep, purple-colored wine with a complex nose filled with ripe black fruit, sweet raspberry, meat, flowers and pepper. The palate is full-bodied, yet well-balanced and filled with flavors of plum, blackberry, blackcurrent, bacon, sweet spice and earth. The finish is lush and long. A complex wine that brings out a new flavor with every sip. Could easily sit for another year or two but is more than enjoyable now. A lot of flavor for the price and one of the best Syrahs I've tasted in a while.

2005 Beckmen Vineyards Estate Syrah***
2005_Estate_Syrah.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Santa Barbara, CA $24 @ the Winery 2/9/08
Deep and rich, it offers bright boysenberry- blackberry fruitiness and a hint of leather, mint, black olive, cocoa and mineral. Round and well balanced, with non-stop flavors of vanilla, spice, and blackfruits with a pleasant, tangy finish. An intense version of this varietal, that's showing well right out of bottle, but could still use another year or two to fully integrate. (Robert Parker: 90)

2005 Beckmen Vineyards Syrah Barrel Select***
05_Barrel_Select_Syrah.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Santa Barbara, CA $35 @ the Winery 5/24/08
Made from their Block 6 syrah and aged in neutral oak barrels, this is a medium-deep, ruby colored wine with ripe aromas of blackberry and blueberry, with hints of tar, smoke, cedar and minerals. On the palate, the flavors are well balanced showing mixed berry, cassis, sweet spice, licorice, wet leaves and hints of vanilla on the medium-length finish. This wine is well-integrated and ready to go with only moderate acidity and soft tannins. It is more elegant than some of Beckmen's other syrahs (its abv is 14.8%) and went really well with our spicy lamb kabobs. I wished for a deeper finish, but was drinking it too quickly to really complain. Re-tasted 2/17/11: Has definitely become even more earthy and savory in the intervening 3 years. Has lost a bit of its fruit and finish. Would drink it up if you've still got it as it's on the way out.

2005 Beckmen Vineyards PMV Syrah***
05beckmenPMVSyrah.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Santa Barbara, CA $40 @ the Winery 10/22/10
This is the 7th vintage of this wine, featuring 100% syrah blended from the best lots from their Purisma Mountain Vineyard. In the glass, the wine is a bright, medium, ruby color with an aromatic nose of black fruit, leather and spice along with hints of coffee and earth. The palate is medium-bodied and round with well-balanced acidity and well-integrated tannins. The flavors are of ripe blackberry and black cherry, herbs, earth and leather with notes of smoke and vanilla on the lengthy finish. The wine was barrel aged for 16 months in 60% new French oak and 40% one and two year old barrels. Popped and poured. I wouldn't wait too much longer to enjoy this wine as there was a bit of heat on the finish, which will only get more pronounced as the years go by. Was better with our food because of that. A complex and intense Syrah that shows how good they can be. (15% abv/350 cases)

2005 Beckmen Vineyards PMV Block Six Syrah***
2005Block6Syrah.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Santa Barbara, CA $50 @ the Winery 7/2/08
A dark ruby-purple colored wine with big aromas of dark berries, smoke, earth and a surprising burst of graham cracker which integrated after about 15 minutes. The palate was full-bodied with flavors of blackberry, black cherry, herbs, spice and a lingering finish with hints of minerals and bacon. The tannins and acid are still quite high and failed to settle down after an hour. This wine is already well-integrated it just need another year or two to allow the tannins to smooth out. Not as bold as other Beckmen's, but still a big wine.

Re-tasted 8/6/10: This wine was popped and poured. Delivered a round, integrated experience with not as much upfront fruit, no detectible tannins and additional notes of mint and leather. Am going to hold my third bottle until next year to see if it continues to develop as it showed no signs of being tired, though it's in a wonderful space right now. Was surprised there was no sign of heat despite its age and 15.5% abv.

2005 Booker Vineyards Fracture Syrah***
05BookerFracture.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Paso Robles, CA $45 @ the Winery 7/16/09
An opaque, ruby-purple colored wine with a big nose filled with aromas of black fruit, sweet spice, smoke and hints of mocha. The palate is full-bodied with blackberry, black cherry, mocha, minerals and notes of of oak and sweet spice on the lengthy, slightly hot finish. An intense wine that I believe still needs a few years in the bottle to fully integrate. Would have waited if it was my choice. The 16.5% alcohol became more apparent as the wine warmed and detracted from my pleasure just a bit. A dense and delicious version of Syrah that's worth the money, it you like them big. Can't imagine drinking this with food. It's one to savor on a cool night.

2005 Calcareous Vineyards Syrah***
calsyrah.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Paso Robles, CA $34 @ the Winery 5/13/08
This wine is a richly hued dark purple with a nose of plums, ripe cherries, spice and oak. Fruit driven flavors of blackberry, cherry and plum are well-integrated with hints of smoky oak and sweet spice on the medium-bodied palate and smooth finish. Firm tannins and notes of minerality add to the complexity. Good the first night, better the second. Quite restrained and elegant for the region. Re-Tasted 4/23/09: This wine is drinking amazing right now. Popped and poured, ripe and round. No waiting. Still has life but why wait. Glad I bought this again. May have to get more.

2005 Cameron Hughes Lot 38 100-Year-Old Vines Shiraz***
chLot38.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Barossa Valley, Australia $20 C. Hughes Online 5/11/08
A deep, ruby/purple colored wine with big aromas of black fruit, earth, smoke and spice. The palate is equally intense with ripe flavors of blackberry, black cherry, sweet spice, oak and notes of leather, herbs and vanilla on the lengthy finish. The first night the wine was a bit all over the place with the flavors and tannins fighting each other for most obvious. The second night brought everything together in a powerful, gulpable way. This baby needs at least another 2-3 years in the bottle and was a steal for $20. I'm glad I have another bottle, as it's no longer available. If you don't know about Cameron Hughes you are really missing out.

2005 Cameron Hughes Lot 41 Shiraz**
chlot41.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
McLaren Vale, Australia $12 C. Hughes Online 12/31/07
Rich warm fruit on the nose with hints of spice. Medium-bodied with a big mouth feel full of blackberry and warm chocolate, finishing with a big, lingering kiss of black pepper. Deep and flavorful. Hard to believe it's a $12 wine. Ready to drink right out of the bottle, which is rare for a 2-year-old Shiraz. Might acquire some additional depth over the next few years, but why wait?

2005 Cameron Hughes Lot 42 75-Year-Old Vines Shiraz***
camhugheslot42.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Barossa Valley, Australia $18 C. Hughes Online 9/3/10
A deep, ruby colored wine with a big nose of blackberry, black cherry, sweet spice and earth with notes of licorice, mint and leather. Popped and poured this wine needed a bit of time to come together in the glass and still has at least a year or two to go in the bottle. Full-bodied, round and ripe with intense flavors that mirror the nose and firm yet integrated tannins. The finish was long with notes of eucalyptus, pepper and leather complementing the fruit. Aged for 14 months in American oak barriques it drinks bigger than its 14.5% abv suggests, yet is still well-structured. Wish I had another one to see where this wine is going. Great QPR.

2005 Carina Cellars "7 Percent" Syrah***
05CarinaCellars7Syrah.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Santa Barbara, CA $32 @ the Winery 11/22/10
A deep, ruby-purple colored wine with a complex nose of ripe blackberry, cassis, plum, licorice, pepper and herbs. The palate is full-bodied with medium acidity, fine tannins and a medium-length finish. The flavors are intense and reflect the nose with additional notes of chalk, tobacco, leather, vanilla and cedar. There's a whole lot going on in this wine, but it unites delightfully with a bit of elegance thanks to its 14.5% abv. This was my first Syrah from this winery and I have to say I was impressed, especially for the price. Will definitely be seeking out future vintages. We popped and poured and it was ready in a few minutes. Still has at least a year in the bottle, but it's definitely in it's sweet spot now.

2005 Cass Winery Syrah***
cass05syrah.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Paso Robles, CA $34 @ the Winery 9/28/08
A splash of Petite Sirah added to this full-bodied wine helps give it a deep ruby color. The nose is aromatic with blackberry fruit, toasty oak, sweet spice and hints of bacon. On the palate the wine is already lush with ripe, peppery black fruit, cedar, vanilla and meat on the lingering, chewy finish. The tannins are present, but well-integrated making this powerful, but well-structured wine ready to go. The fruit is still so ripe it has at least 2-3 years to go in the bottle.

Re-tasted 2/16/11: Haven't had a bottle of this in a long time and figured it was time to see where it was. Still round and supple, but less fruit forward with more savory notes like meat, licorice and herbs on the midpalate and finish. Was better with food than without. Seemed more elegant since the fruit wasn't so in your face. Was worried would show heat (it's 15.25%) but that wasn't an issue. Past it's peak, but still drinking pretty well. Would drink within the next 6 months.

2005 Cleb Wines Evelyn Noir Syrah Black Oak Vineyard**
05clebsyrah.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Santa Barbara, CA $25 Wade's Wines 4/12/10
A medium, ruby-colored wine with a subtle nose of black fruit, earth and smoke. Was a bit tight, so we aerated the wine which rounded out the acid and tannins quite a bit. The palate was medium-bodied and ripe with some chalkiness along with the flavors of blackberry, plum, sweet spice and mint on the lingering finish. Not very complex but well-balanced and well-constructed. I have a feeling we drank it too soon as it seemed a bit shutdown. Made by Lino Garcia, who's been Syrah Guru Joey Tensley's right-hand man for 20 years. This was his first effort and only about 200 cases were made. An interesting wine for the price. Will definitely be on the lookout for his future bottlings.

2005 D'Arenberg Laughing Magpie Shiraz**
89773l.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
McLaren Vale, Australia $26 Wine.com 11/9/07
The wine has a dark, saturated appearance with a violet-crimson hue. The nose is filled with cherries, spice, tea and notes of tar. The palate is soft and generous, showing juicy flavors of blueberries, cherries and dark chocolate. The tannins are still fairly harsh which cut down on my enjoyment. Needs several more years in the bottle to soften and integrate. One of the better Aussie producers. Will give this one another shot down the road.

OTHER RATINGS: Robert Parker: 93

2005 Edward Sellers Syrah Sélectionné***
05EdwardSS.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Paso Robles, CA $32 @ the Winery 11/29/09
A 100% syrah made from six different Paso Robles vineyard lots and aged in 100% French Oak/71% new. A medium-deep, ruby-colored wine with an aromatic nose of ripe black fruit, blueberry, earth and sweet spice. The palate is round and medium to full bodied with integrated tannins and flavors of blackberry, black cherry and plum with hints of minerals, meat and mocha on the long finish. Well-balanced, complex and elegant despite it's 15.6% abv, which was not apparent at all. This one was hard to share, showing just how lovely Syrah can be. Drinking amazing right now, but still has plenty of life left. Will be holding onto my second bottle for awhile to see how it continues to evolve. Wines like this are why I love Syrah. (875 cases)

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**** Outstanding | *** Delicious | ** Enjoyable | * Drinkable
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