I was impressed with the quality of the affordable 1998 J. Lohr Cabernet Sauvignon "Seven Oaks", so when I went looking for a Syrah and saw this one on sale for $11, I made the buy. One thing that interested me about this wine was the label's description of the vines involved: one from traditional European stock, the other from Shiraz clones from Australia. Genetically, these are either identical or extremely close, but I interpreted this piece of information as meaning that the winery looked to balance the European and Australian approach to the vinification of Syrah.

Well, they seemed to lean heavily toward Australia. The wine was a dark and dense red, as any Syrah would be, but offered sharp and light spice scents, primarily a peppery-ness that landed somewhere between the black and white. The wine had a thick "mouthfeel," almost like syrup--very fruity and spicy. I actually took the time to cool the wine slightly (to about 65 degrees F) after first tasting it, and this helped me distinguish its flavors better. What was missing, and needed, was a little tannin to back it all up. Usually, you get a big whack of oak with a Syrah, and this can translate into the aroma as vanilla. Not so much here--but the I learned that, although the wine spent 15 months in oak casks, 85% of them were described as "old," meaning they'd seen a few vintages already, and much of the tannin may have already leached out. In any event, this was a good, thick, rich wine at a value price, and I'll be sure to pick up some more bottles. Shame about the tannin, though...

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