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90+ point rated wines under $20

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2005 Halter Ranch Vineyard Syrah**
halterranch.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Paso Robles, CA $28 @ the Winery 7/25/10
A medium, ruby-colored wine with a nose of smoky black fruit, black cherry and plum with hints of sweet spice and tar. The palate is medium-full-bodied with medium acidity and flavors of blackberry, plum, licorice and spice on the rather short and somewhat hot finish (15.5% abv). I thought when drinking this that it was on its decline and after going to their website I found out I was right. They recommended 3-5 years. The alcohol is killing the fruit so drink it if you've still got it. Am sure would have enjoyed this a lot more last year. (Blend of 81% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre & 9% Malbec)

2005 Henry's Drive Dead Letter Office Shiraz***
deadletter.jpg Region Price Tasted Drank
Padthaway, South Australia $20 Eight-18 4/17/08
Purple-colored and full-bodied, this big ripe wine has well-concealed tannins and very little acidity. It has a nose filled with black fruit, smoke, earth, liqourice and dried herbs, which follow on the soft palate and turn into flavors of blackberry, blueberry, sweet spice, a hint of mint and vanilla on the lingering finish. Well-integrated for all the flavors it contains and a wonderful sipper if you like them juicy...which I do. It comes in at 16% abv, which is quite a lot though I didn't find the alcohol to be overly noticeable.

OTHER RATINGS: Robert Parker: 90

2005 Lafond Winery, SRH Syrah**
lafondsyrah.jpg Region Price Tasted Drank
Santa Barbara, CA $18 @ the Winery 11/24/07
The ripe nose of dark berry, pepper and spice translates wonderfully on the palate with soft tannins, lush fruit and a lingering finish. A complex cool climate version that makes you want to drink more. A real steal.

2005 Bodegas Piqueras Valcanto Syrah*
valcantosyrah.jpg Region Price Tasted Drank
Almansa, Spain $14 Ole Tapas Bar 10/3/08
Deep, ruby/purple colored wine with a nose of ripe red fruit, spice and oak which translates over to the full-bodied palate. It is very smooth and rounded with low acidity, rich plum and blackberry fruit and firm tannins with a nice finish that hints of smoky oak. There's nothing complex here and it may be too ripe for some, but its' simple juiciness made it go down pretty easily. A perfectly pleasant everyday quaffer.

2005 Saarloos & Sons 0 and 2 Syrah***
05SaarloosO2Syrah.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Santa Barbara, CA $45 @ the Winery 3/22/11
An opaque, ruby-garnet colored wine with a medium nose of black fruit, plum, earth, sweet spice and licorice. The palate is full-bodied with low acidity and well-integrated tannins, giving the wine a lush mouthfeel. The flavors were ripe with blackberry and black cherry dominating, followed by notes of licorice, wet leaves and caramel on the smooth, medium-length finish. Not the most complex Syrah I've had from this region, but a well-crafted one that makes you quickly head back to the glass for more. Was aged for two years in barrel and one in bottle before release, so this bottle is definitely ready to go. With an abv of 15.4%, I wouldn't wait much longer. (84 cases/Sold only at the tasting room.)

2005 Stolpman Vineyards Hilltops Syrah****
05StolpmanHilltopsSyrah.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Santa Barbara, CA $38 @ the Winery 5/13/11
A 100% syrah from a select section of their vineyard – the limestone hilltops which have better drainage and more sun exposure. This second tier wine in their Syrah line-up is more complex/costly than the Estate, but less than their flagship Angeli, which is crafted from a single vineyard block. Stolpman's syrahs take a lot of time to settle into themselves, generally more rich and tannic than others from the region, so I'm glad I waited. Most syrahs would be on their way out, but not this one. We popped and poured and it continued to evolve all night and definitely has a few years to go. It was an opaque ruby, with a nose I just couldn't stop smelling. It was well-developed and powerful, filled with notes of blackberry, cassis, earth, tar, sweet spice and minerals with hints of mint and clove. The palate was full-bodied, round and smooth with finely integrated tannins and well-balanced acidity. The wine showed an initial burst of fruit, followed quickly by its more savory elements, showing notes of tar, meat and cocoa on the lingering finish. It's an intense and complex wine, but also a controlled one. It's aged for a year in mostly new French oak and then in its second year is racked onto Roussanne lees from their L'Avion bottling for an additional 8 months to add aromatics and creaminess to the wine. It may be unorthodox, but it works. For those who dislike the over-ripeness of many central coast Syrahs, this is one that is more Northern Rhone in style, except for its alcohol level (15.1%), of course. This is California after all. This wine is not cheap, but is experly crafted and that comes with a price. Am a club member for a very good reason.

2005 Stolpman Vineyards La Coppa Syrah**
stolpmanLaCoppa.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Santa Barbara, CA $22 @ the Winery 11/24/08
A deep, ruby/purple colored wine with aromas of black fruit and sweet spice with notes of minerality and vanilla. The palate is well-balanced and already smooth with flavors of blackberry, plum, black cherry, spice, vanilla and hints of minerals and pepper on the lingering finish. This was ready to go when opened but still got better as the night went on, integrating the flavors and delivering an elegant, yet flavorful experience. If this is any indication of the quality of Stolpman's 05 Syrahs, I can't wait to taste the Estate and Hilltops versions. (1000 cases made. Sold only at the tasting room.)

2005 Zenaida Cellars Estate Syrah***
zenaidasyrah.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Paso Robles, CA $30 @ the Winery 5/10/10
A deep, ruby/purple colored wine with a vibrant nose of black cherry, blackberry and earth with notes of vanilla and meat. The palate is full-bodied, round and smooth with lovely integration of the ripe fruit flavors and the savory aspects and delivering a lengthy finish with hints of leather, pepper and vanilla. At 15.7% abv, this is a big, big wine, but surprisingly we detected no heat from the alcohol. Picked this up in December on 08 and am glad I gave it time to come together in the bottle. Popped and poured, this wine is ready to go, but has enough fruit left to last at least another year. Not really a wine that will work with food, but was great to sip on all night long.

2004 Andrew Murray Estate Syrah**
andrewmurray.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Santa Barbara, CA $20 @ the Winery 1/10/08
Dark ruby, medium-bodied wine with bright, black fruit and spice aromas that lead onto the soft palate filled with black cherry, vanilla and hints of pepper. Ripe and juicy could use a bit more elegance and depth, but still enjoyable for the price.

OTHER RATINGS: Wine Spectator: 87

2004 Beckmen Vineyards PMV Syrah***
2004_PMV_Syrah.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Santa Barbara, CA $40 @ the Winery 9/29/07
Deep and rich, heady and firm earthy effort displaying animal, herb, and meat characteristics. Black olives and moist earth flavors mingle on the palate and finish with fine grained tannins that linger in the mouth. Could still use some time in the bottle.

OTHER RATINGS: Wine & Spirits: 92

2004 Beckmen Vineyards PMV Block 6 Syrah***
04BeckemenBlock6Syrah.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Santa Barbara, CA $45 @ the Winery 2/27/11
An opaque, ruby-purple colored wine with a moderately aromatic nose of blackberry, plum, earth, smoke and hints of mint and caramel. The palate is full-bodied with medium acidity and fine, integratd tannins. The flavors reflect the nose with additional notes of coffee, cedar and wet leaves. Much more savory than a CA Syrah should be at 15% abv, though am sure the age of the wine has something to do with that. Is still quite vibrant with plenty of fruit left, which surprised me and is certainly in its prime with a few years left in the bottle. The flavors are fully integrated, showing just how lush yet complex Syrah can be. Was aged in 75% new Remond French Oak/25% 1 and 2-year-old barrels for 16 months. Unfined and unfiltered, so might be best to decant to get rid of the sediment, but not to aerate. It's ready to go. (250 cases/15% ABV)

2004 Beckmen Vineyards PMV Clone #1 Syrah***
beck_clone_1.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Santa Barbara, CA $42 @ the Winery 7/15/11
A deep, ruby-colored wine with complex aromas of blackberry, black cherry, earth and leather with hints of spice and mocha. The palate is round and intense, with well-integrated fine tannins and moderate acidity, showing the same components as found on the nose with additional notes of minerals, vanilla and pepper on the lengthy finish. Aged for 16 months in new and 1-2 year old French oak, the wine was bottled unfined and unfiltered. Due to its age we popped, poured and savored every drop. Was worried it would be tired and over the hill, but it was lovely all night with no drop out of flavor or hint of heat. It's clearly at its peak, though its descent seems to be a graceful one. Though not especially fruit-forward anymore, there's enough to balance the savory aspects. One of the wineries that formed my love of Syrah and this bottle is a big reason why. Won't be getting any better so drink up. (400 cases/14.8% ABV)

2004 Cass Winery Syrah**
Casssyrah04.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Paso Robles, CA $34 @ the Winery 6/1/10
A deep, ruby-colored wine with a moderate nose of black fruit, earth, herbs and notes of sweet spice and leather. The palate is medium-full-bodied with fine tannins and flavors of blackberry, black cherry, mint, smoke and hints of vanilla and meat on the fairly lengthy finish. Not as powerful or alchoholic as later vintages, but still showcases similar characteristics to their 05 and 06 bottlings. This is the first Syrah produced by Cass and it is still pretty drinkable with the more savory aspects at the forefront, but is showing a bit of fade in the fruit. If you happen to have one of these left, I would drink it by the end of this year.

2004 D'Arenberg "The Footbolt" Shiraz**
footbolt.jpg Region Price Tasted Drank
McLaren Vale, Australia $15 The Wine House 4/14/08
A deep, ruby-colored wine with big aromas of black fruit, herbs, sweet spice, violets and hints of vanilla and liqourice which all follow through onto the bold and full-bodied palate. The flavors are sort of all over the place in the beginning, but a little time in the glass brings them back together with the blackberry, pepper and vanilla winning the battle with oak and mint showing up on the lingering finish. If you're looking for elegance or finesse you won't find it here. This is Aussie shiraz at it's boldest.

2004 Elderton Barossa Shiraz***
elderton.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Barossa Valley, Australia $25 Wine.com 10/1/07
Dark purple in color, with plum, cherry and chocolate notes jumping from the glass. The wine fills the mouth with a myriad of dark fruit flavours with plum, cherry and boysenberry notes at the forefront. Hints of chocolate, mocha and tobacco add to the wine's long finish. Smooth tannins make this an easy and enjoyable experience.

OTHER RATINGS: Robert Parker: 90

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