Beckman, 2012 Syrah, La Purisima Mountain, Ballard Canyon, Central Coast, CA

This Syrah is as big and round as J.Lo’s booty, but it’s a lot easier to get your hands on. The chameleonesque aromas are constantly transforming themselves; at one moment revolving around cedar, vanilla and roasted nuts, the next moment fluctuating between blackberry and concentrated grape skins, followed by hints of smoked meat that could be salami or could be smoked bacon. The palate is a soft, full-bodied amalgam of dark plum and forest berry flavors that turns firmer when the mineral and black pepper notes kick in. And if all that’s not enough for you, the sizeable finish also reveals subtle saddle leather notes. I’m surprised this all fits inside a 750ml bottle. $32

Rating: 4 Stars (4 / 5)

Harrison Clarke, 2010 Syrah, Cuvee Charlotte, Ballard Canyon, Central Coast, CA

The lone female winemaker in this tasting was Hilare Clarke of the Harrison Clarke winery, and of all the wines presented, her Cuvee Charlotte Syrah was far and away the very best wine made by a woman.

Substantial barrel aging (32 months) explains the cedary, slightly oaky aromas that compliment (but don’t overpower) a bouquet rife with blackberry, mineral and subtle beef au jus. This big red is extremely concentrated, with very ripe, almost sweet flavors of cherry, blueberry and focused purple plum and spice. Very silky, refined tannins add to the soft, full-bodied mouthfeel. $55

Rating: 4 Stars (4 / 5)

Jonata, 2010 Syrah, Sangre de Jonata, Ballard Canyon, Central Coast, CA

While I found Jonata Sangre de Jonata Syrah exceptional, I didn’t find it nearly as profound as the Wine Advocate did. Of course WineSnark isn’t the Wine Advocate. For one thing we have far better poopy jokes.

Only Syrah could pull off a nose that features funky game, smoky beef, sweet vanilla cookie dough, ripe black cherries, flowers and something akin to citrus and still make you lust for a taste. This is a big, very ripe, concentrated Syrah with loads of spice and extremely ripe cherry kirsh and raspberry liqueur flavors. A great accomplishment no doubt, but for the price you could buy two or three bottles of the other wines presented, or sixty-two and a half bottles of Two Buck Chuck.  $125

Rating: 4 Stars (4 / 5) 

Kimsey, 2012 Syrah, Ballard Canyon, Central Coast, CA

This big red started out tighter than an eskimo’s sphincter but soon opened up to reveal inky aromas of spring lilacs, fresh crushed grape skins, cedar and graphite (think pencil shavings). This is a bold, full-bodied Syrah with a firm core of stony, graphite-like minerals buoyed by extremely ripe blackberry fruit and accents of fresh crushed black pepper. Give it some time in the cellar. Produced from 95% Syrah co-fermented with 5% Viognier. $60

Rating: 3 Stars (3 / 5) 

Larner, 2010 Syrah, Estate, Ballard Canyon, Central Coast, CA

Many Syrahs from the Rhone Valley have pronounced herbal characteristics. On the other hand, this Ballard Canyon Syrah that I’m about to finish has so much spice but so little thyme. Larner’s Estate Syrah features an absolutely delicious nose of sweet baking spices, fresh baked cookies, and rich, concentrated aromas of cherry liqueur followed by a subtle whiff of sweet cedar. This elegant red is medium to full-bodied with very concentrated flavors of ripe cherry compote and blueberry torte. You can have your cake after dinner, I’ll take the Larner. $38

Rating: 4.5 Stars (4.5 / 5)

Rusack, 2012 Syrah, Reserve, Ballard Canyon, Central Coast, CA

Rusack Reserve Syrah can be summed up in one word; elegant and powerful. Stomach growling aromas of sweet vanilla cookies, fresh baked blueberry muffins and ripe black fruit had me salivating like a vampire at a blood bank. This is a full-bodied red with a river of silky tannins carrying notes of pepper and vanilla through a delta of ripe cherry and berry fruit flavors. I don’t know if you should drink it or have it for breakfast so I recommend both. $36

Rating: 3.5 Stars (3.5 / 5) 

Stolpman Vineyards, 2012 Syrah, Originals, Ballard Canyon, Central Coast, CA

This peculiar Syrah was the Lou Reed of the line-up, a little quirky and definitely on the wild side. It’s a slightly gamy style with perplexing aromas of orange peel, wild berries, and wild flower aromas that are so distinctive they boarder on soapy. This unique red is pretty and floral with polished tannins giving support to a medley of black cherry, blackberry and a concentrated black raspberry flavor that is almost syrup-like. It’s a smooth, full-bodied wine with an interesting carob characteristic that pokes through the bold fruit flavors now and then. Right now it’s hard to tell if this is a painter’s drop cloth with flavors splattered all over it in an incomprehensible mess or if it’s a Jackson Pollack masterpiece waiting to find an audience. You need to step back, wait a few years and see what it turns into. Either way, this wine is for those looking for a walk on the wild side. $42

Rating: 3 Stars (3 / 5)