SYRAH / SHIRAZ
Marietta Cellars 1996 Syrah
Refined enough but quite tannic. Big, lots of nose, relatively long finish. A fairly generic red wine experience.
Seven Peaks 1997 Shiraz, Paso Robles
Not much nose, but nice mouth feel. Starts out with tannic currant and pepper. Then a strong sense of aromatic hydrocarbon almost like gasoline. But a nice swallow, pleasant trail-off on the way down the throat. Leaves a ripened fruit aftertaste with some caramel.
Bogle 1998 Petite Syrah
CAB-LIKE: Nose is buttery almost like cabernet. Mouthfeel is soft, round. Flavor is consistent, muted, not too fruity. Pleasant, but not especially memorable. With food, almost seems like a cab.
Parducci 1998 Petite Syrah
A grape-y nose, purple color. Mouthfeel is a bit edgy with unbuffered alcohol and tannic. Flavor is short in duration but well balanced, no off-tastes. Backdrop is sweet / ester, foreground is somewhat like tea or cola; overall flavor is perhaps like iced tea with berry juice. A bit of parchment on the swallow, clean finish, no after taste.
Echelon 1998 Syrah
Brandy-like nose. A very clean and quick finish, almost no after taste. A bit of spice, slightly sweet start-off. Smooth mouth feel. Almost a whiskey-like caramel flavor but w/o any heavy alcohol buzz on the tongue. Rather unique.
Pedroncelli 1999 Petite Sirah, Dry Creek Valley
WAKES THE MOUTH UP: A purple wine, almost like Welches. A bit of fruit in the nose, also some wood and graphite (like a pencil!). Then you sip it, and the entire mouth awakens. A lot going on. First, on the lips, dry wood but some sweetness. A buffered tannic buzz on the palate and throat. On the swallow, brighter fruity notes, cherry and raspberry. Some length, as the fruit continues for a spell. Complex it is, but balanced too.
Exp 1999 Syrah
NICE ENOUGH: Nose is prominent but subtle. On the sip, well balanced, spicy, peppery, some tannic, dark cherry and red plum fruit. Polished leather and a hint of tobacco in the mouth. A long swallow. Complex, not overly robust nor subtle. Not lush nor dry. A nice wine.
Echalon 1999 Syrah
Appreciable nose, deep and fruity. Rich mouthfeel, although some tannin presence. Pepper, cardamom (rather interesting), a bit of wood on the swallow. Plum, currant fruit. Pleasant but short finish. Complex enough, interesting.
Half Moon 2000 Shiraz, Austraila
FAIRLY SOPHISTICATED: A deep hue, big nose of licorice. Robust mouthfeel, definitely big, but not lush. Some tea flavors, but not very tannic. Well buffered. Fruit is dark, of currant, prune and sour wildberries. A long swallow. Complex, not the usual shiraz. Sophisticated; Australia is coming of age.
Pepperwood Grove 2000 Syrah, California
ROUND AND MELLOW: A dense red-purple color, with a delicate nose of vanilla and flowers. On the tongue, this wine starts quick and stands right up. There is some caramel and toast, then blackberries and plum, maybe a hint of raspberry or even ripe strawberry. Tannins are present but balanced. A nice easy swallow is followed with a short but satisfying finish. A taste of red apple is left behind. This is a very good wine, drinkable yet rewarding, very round and mellow in the mouth.
Buckley's 2000 Shiraz
Pours ruby and opaque, with a jammy nose having a hint of spice. But on the tongue, perhaps a bit acidic and sour. Dark plum / currant fruit, with burnt caramel. Not really complex, a bit plain. A long finish, but with a strange aftertaste, somewhat like melon. Probably OK with food, but not really a wine to contemplate.
Foppiano 2000 Petite Sirah
MOST INTERESTING: The nose: fruity, big, a lot of clove oil, reminds one of the old days in a dentist's office! The appearance: dense, opaque purple like grape juice. The taste: rich, substantial, finessed. Tannic at first on the rear palate, then dry notes weave their way through a dense fruitiness. And yes, the clove tones pipe in. A crescendo, then on the swallow you're hardly aware when the liquid has passed beyond the throat. A nice fade out without any unpleasantness. Interesting and complex.
Yalumba 2000 Shiraz
NOT BAD: A clear, deep ruby hue. The nose is a little sour and dry, with some floral notes beneath. The mouth is greeted with complexity, a wine tending toward the sour and dry with some lushness beneath the surface. The fruit speaks of raspberry and blackberry, with a hint of vanilla. A quick swallow trails off in a slightly dry manner. Overall, not bad, well made, not the typical sweet Australian thing.
Francis Coppola 2001 Syrah
COMPROMISE: A dense purple liquid with a nice nose, a bit floral with some spice and fruit. In the mouth, it brings a sense of bigness and substance, even though it's also a bit dry. Not much caramel, more tea and tannin, although a tarry backdrop starts the show. Fruit tones of plum and raspberry (just a bit) soon fade, but the wine continues along an earthy, gravely road toward an extended finish. Not a bad compromise between Californian power and European sophistication . . . if that's your cup of tea.
Bogle 2001 Petite Sirah
A very dark purple liquid, but a subtle, almost floral nose. An unexpected wave of tannin grips the palate and the nose, but at the same time a round, rich presence coats the tongue. Not unexpectedly, there are notes of pepper, tobacco, anise, caramel, black plum, currants. The finish is long because of the tannins. It's also a bit bitter, but has a contradictory hint of flowers within it. Overall, the tannins are a distraction, a bit unbalanced. This is a good wine, but also a wine of many contradictions. It's gripping, not subtle; it will stand up well to robust food, but it ain't for sipping.
Charles Shaw 2004 Shiraz
Interestingly complex for the price. Starts with a clear, ruby purple hue. The nose is fragrant with a drop of vanilla in it. Drinks with surprising body, a bit of caramel giving way to something more complex. The fruit is black cherry and strawberry, over a tar- like backdrop. The tannins stay relatively light, allowing that drop of vanilla to come back at some point. A fairly good finish, but a bit of musty bitterness comes out of nowhere at the close. Not perfect, but more than you bargained for at Chuck Shaw prices.
Nevada Wine Guild 1997 Syrah
GREAT STUFF! Dark but clear, with a fragrant nose of shoe polish and brandy. Has a rich feel; smooth, caramelly, just a bit of tannic buzz to keep you awake. Fruit tones of raspberry, black berry and dark cherry with licorice and a hint of benedictine on the swallow. Makes a smooth departure with just a hint of tannin residue. Really a beautiful, well balanced wine.
Echelon 2001 Esperanza Vineyard Shiraz
This wine is purple and opaque, with a mellow toasty nose a bit like plum preserves. Feels nice on the tongue, with caramel richness and mellow fruit (black cherry). Then some buzzy tannins appear with a cola- like taste, fading to a dry finish of strong black tea and pencil lead. Not a world-beater especially once the tannins take over, but a wine that will hold itself well against strong foods.
Echelon [2nd REVIEW] 2001 Shiraz, Esperanza Vineyard
(This is a second review, done a few years after the above review of this wine). An aging wine by the time I opened it, with a slightly brownish-ruby hue. But it still presented a delicate nose, a bit like sweet butter-cream cake icing. A sophisticated presence in the mouth, with sweet fruity notes of cherry and currant. These balance against a backdrop of wood and dried hay. Body is fair to medium, not hefty, not thin. The tannins leave a bit of astringent pucker, forcing a lengthy presence after swallow. They prevent this from being an "easy- sippin" wine, but it certainly works with food.
Reynella 2002 Shiraz
A very opaque, dark purple wine with a promisingly rich nose with hints of vanilla, mint and fruit pectin. It starts in the mouth a smooth, caramelly feel, but them seems to thin out. Carbon-like tannins build up on the tongue, overwhelming the fruity currant and date flavors with something more like cocoa or even dry earth. It finishes on the bitter side. This is a stressed wine, not an easy or pleasant companion.
Pedroncelli 2002 Petite Sirah, Dry Creek Valley
The trademark inky-dark color of a petite sirah. The nose presents a strong hint of ripe strawberry. Makes a nice, smooth entry, followed by a bit of tannic buzz. Presents notes of blueberry, ripe black plum, ripe pear, with a bit of mossy earth in the background. The tannins really bite in on the swallow, and the afterglow is thus a bit too dry. But overall, a firm, substantial wine with complexity and general balance, if you can excuse the tannic charge at the close.
Bogle 2005 Petite Sirah
This "Bogey" has a dark purple hue but a rosey nose. It's light on the tongue but unfolds as the tannins get their grip. Blackberry, dark ripe plum and some sweet cherry notes lead off, with wood resin in the backdrop. The tannins and fruit fade out together, which seems well rehearsed. The swallow is rather clean, hardly any bitter dryness in the afterglow. Body is on the light side, but this wine makes up for that with intensity and complexity. It's a wine that makes you appreciate petite sirah.
Castle Rock 2004 Petite Sirah, Lodi
As with most petites, has a dark purple look. Presents a woody nose, a bit like turpentine. Starts out on a sweet note at the tip of the tongue, presenting black cherry and raspberry fruit, just a bit of cedar, and a flowery, perfume-like backdrop. The tannins kick in near the swallow, yet it goes down easy. It won't bite, although it leaves with just a bit of pucker. Overall, rather nice and well balanced. A wine that there deserves a place in the cellar and on the table.
Castle Rock 2004 Petite Sirah, Lodi [2ND REVIEW]
(This is a second review, done a few years after the above review of this wine). Pours with a petite's signature grape juice-purple hue, beneath a woody but demure nose. Makes a smooth start over the lips, with a bit of yeast, then tannins. The fruit basket holds dates, currant and raw blackberries. There's little caramel and not much body to oppose a bitter tone on the finish and during the afterglow. It's interesting and certainly complex, but not outstanding. {LESSON: WINE IS COMPLEX, A BOTTLE TODAY MAY NOT BE THE SAME TOMORROW!}
McManis 2005 Petite Sirah
Rather dark in hue, but not as inky as some petites. Presents a rich nose of vanilla icing and cake, but makes a thin, watery entry to the mouth. It has some charry fruit, notes of blackberry and prune. Just a hint of tomato sauce. The backdrop is a mix of wood polish and paper. This one swallows easy due to the demure tannins, leaving some pleasant after taste. So, very little bitterness and complex enough. Not bad, overall, but not much body to it.
Big House 'Prodigal Son' 2005
The hue is inky-dark, as a petite should be. Makes a smooth entry, a bit light but with some body to it. The tannins are muted, and the fruit is also demure at first. But flavors of blueberry and raspberry finally step forward. The base is a bit dry and astringent, i.e. "some straw on the floor". Thus, it leaves with a quick, clean swallow, and just a hint of powdered cocoa afterwards. Overall, the Big House has put out another very drinkable wine; you could almost guzzle this one!

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