Syrah Smackdown: 7 Contenders, 1Winner, and a Great QPR Pretender!

At the most recent meeting of the Pacific Pointe Wine Tasting Club it was Syrah night.  However, for the first time, we encountered a situation where one of the wines to be tasted was not the selected varietal.  That’s because it didn’t meet the at least 75% threshold for a wine to be labeled a particular grape varietal.  In this case Syrah.  One of the wines was 62% Syrah.  It was inadvertently purchased in the “Syrah/Shiraz” section of a local wine store.

The thing is, we didn’t realize that until we’d tasted through all the wines.  We decided to “disqualify” the Syrah blend from the competition, since it was Syrah Night.  So we ended up with 7 contenders, and 1 pretender!

Before we embarked upon the wine tasting, we had a bite to eat, potluck style.  In addition to the featured dish of the night, Arroz Con Constra Paella, our hosts also provided Prosecco, Rosé, and a Pinot Noir to prepare our palates for tasting.  Aside from the usual assortment of cheese, crackers and a vegetable platter, we enjoyed homemade meatballs, Beef Bourguignon, and a couple of different types of pizza.

Tony's Paella - Arroz Con Constra! Photo Courtesy of Jojo Ong

After a bite to eat, and some wonderful fellowship, it was time for some serious fun tasting the wines.  All the wines were blind tasted.  There were 12 tasters.  The contenders tasted, the order in which they finished, and my corresponding tasting notes follow:

The Winner

2006 Rosenblum Cellars Syrah England-Shaw – USA, California, North Coast, Solano County
Dark garnet color with black fruit, black currant aromas. On the palate fruit forward, medium-bodied with blackberry, black currant, vanilla, and spice flavors. Medium-long finish (Ave. score = 90 pts.)

2006 Rosenblum Cellars England-Shaw Syrah. Photo courtesy of Jojo Ong
  • 2007 Everett Ridge Syrah Estate – USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Dark garnet color with dark red fruit, currant, and a hint of baking spice aromas. On the palate approaching medium-bodied with firm tannins, and somewhat candied dark red fruit, vanilla, and black currant flavors. Medium finish (Ave. score = 86.6 pts.)
  • 2008 Jim Barry Shiraz The Lodge Hill – Australia, South Australia, Mount Lofty Ranges, Clare Valley
    Deep violet color with dark red fruit, and a hint of bittersweet chocolate aromas. A bit warm upon opening. On the palate, medium bodied with nicely integrated tannins with blackberry, and vanilla flavors. Medium long finish (Ave. score = 86 pts.)
  • 2002 Robert Hall Syrah – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Garnet color with black fruit, herbs, and cigar box aromas. On the palate, fruity, but balanced with black currant, vanilla, and spice flavors. Medium-long finish (Ave. score = 85.1 pts.)
  • 2008 Astrale e Terra Syrah – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Violet color with dark red fruit, oak aromas. Warm nose. On the palate thin, light-bodied, with black cherry, and vanilla flavors. Short-medium finish. (Ave. score = 84.5 pts.)
  • 2007 Charles Cimicky Shiraz Trumps – Australia, South Australia, Barossa, Barossa Valley
    Dark garnet color with black cherry, earth and clove aromas. Medium bodied with black cherry, vanilla, and spice flavors. Medium long finish. (Ave. score = 84.5 pts.)
  • 2007 Alexander Valley Vineyards Syrah – USA, California, Sonoma County, Alexander Valley
    Garnet color with black fruit and tar aromas. On the palate medium-bodied, and smooth with cherry, vanilla, and mineral flavors. Medium finish (Ave. score 80.5 pts.)
As for the pretender?  It was the highest scoring wine of the night with an average score of 91 points!  It’s a great value at less than $15.  
2007 Marquis Phillips - Sarah's Blend. Photo courtesy of Jojo Ong
  • 2007 Marquis Philips Sarah’s Blend – Australia, South Eastern
    Blend of 62% Shiraz, 25% Cab, 10% Merlot, and 3% Cab Franc. Opaque violet color dark cherry, spice and hint of floral aromas. On the palate creamy, and smooth the black currant, plum, spice and vanilla flavors. Medium-long finish.
It was another great night of wine tasting fun and learning about wine.  I think we’ll do Syrah blends at one of our future meetings!