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90+ point rated wines under $20

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2002 Kaena Wine Co. Santa Ynez Syrah**
kaenasyrah.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Santa Barbara, CA $28 Wade's Wines 9/6/08
Since I love Beckmen's wines and this wine is made by the same winemaker, I really wanted to love this, but I think I drank it a year too late. This medium/full-bodied, ruby-colored wine had a subtle nose of dark red fruit, smoke and herbs, with hints of meat and tar as it opened. The fruit was almost gone, with mostly savory, earthy flavors of licorice and tar along with hints of blackberry and blackcurrant on the moderate, thin finish. Certainly made in the cool climate style, there's plenty of finesse, just not enough fruit left to balance the tannins. I'd drink it if you've got it.

2002 Montemaggiore Paolo's Vineyard Syrah***
mont_2002_syrah.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Sonoma, CA $35 Gift 12/27/09
An opaque, ruby-purple colored wine with deep aromas of black fruit, plum, sweet spice and cedar with hints of violets and smoke. Popped and poured, the palate was full-bodied with well-integrated tannins and flavors of blackberry, blackcurrant and minerals with notes of oak and licorice on the medium-length finish. Lush and well-balanced, this wine had enough depth to keep tempting me back to glass for more. Definitely in its' sweet spot. The 19% Cabernet Sauvignon gives it backbone, along with 21 months of barrel aging in mostly French Oak with 64% new. A big wine that comes off as classy and elegant. Will definitely seek out more current vintages.

2001 Bedford Thompson Vineyards Syrah***
syrah_00.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Santa Barbara, CA $22 @ the Winery 9/17/07
A dark purple opaque wine that delivers elegance along with intense concentration. Full-bodied with a generous fruit character suggesting blackberry, mulberry with spice notes on the nose. Its rich, lush quality, smoky, berry bouquet is joined on the palate by a touch of toasty oak. It is a big, dense wine that's still drinking beautifully.

Retasted 2/21/09: Received another bottle in our last wine club shipment. Not sure when new versions are ever coming. While still drinkable, this wine is on its way out, throwing a ton of sediment and losing much of its fruit. Now a 2-star wine.

2000 Bedford Thompson Vineyards Syrah**
syrah_00.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Santa Barbara, CA $22 @ the Winery 4/22/09
A deep ruby/garnet colored wine with a moderate nose of black fruits and earth with notes of cedar, mint and tar. The palate is medium-bodied and was initially acidic and dusty, but rounded out with about a half hour of air. The flavors were all cool climate, mirroring the fruits and notes found on the nose with a lingering finish of the cedar and mint. While well-balanced and still enjoyable this wine is past its prime with the fruit almost gone and the earthy/oak flavors taking prominence. If you dislike fruit bombs you'll really like this wine. Drink soon.

2000 E. Guigal St. Joseph**
guigaljoseph.jpg Region Price Tasted Drank
Rhone Valley, France $24 @ Dinner 3/22/08
The initial sniffs of this wine were typical French garrigue, all musty and herby and not altogether pleasant. However, once those notes blew away the wine revealed its' true nature of red fruits, earth and spice both on the nose and the palate. Medium-bodied with fairly soft tannins, it's drinking well now and is elegant and flavorful, but not as complex as I expected. A nice wine, but not overly memorable.

1999 E. Guigal Cote Rotie Brune et Blonde***
guigalcoterotie.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Rhone Valley, France $50 @ the Wine House 3/9/08
Deep, almost opaque ruby/purple color with no signs of age. The nose took awhile to open but once it did it was a subtle mix of smoke, earth and black fruit with hints of white pepper and blueberry. The palate was equally earthy and smokey with a core of blackberry fruit and spice that held everything together. Full-bodied and teeth-coating with quite a bit of tannin and acid left. Took about 2 hours for the flavors to fully come together. A bottle I've been aging a long time and now wish I'd held longer. A wine that still needs time, drinking like a Syrah half it's age. Leave it alone for at least another year or two. What "cool climate" Syrah is all about.

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