- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Gallo of Sonoma, Syrah, Sonoma County, 2002, $13

A platinum meal winner at last month’s Critics Challenge wine competition in San Diego, this serious but seduc-

tive red offers outstanding value. A great partner for summer barbecue, it also has sufficient stuffing to age for a few years, making it worth buying by the case.

Syrah is a relative newcomer to California, but plantings are increasing rapidly up and down the state. The grape variety likes sun and heat, and California offers both in abundance. This particular wine, which tastes primarily of rich, ripe black plum fruit, reflects as much. Yet it garnered critical acclaim because it tempers that richness with evocative, peppery secondary flavors as well as a firm structure. Unlike some California renditions, it is multilayered and not at all jammy or fat.

Gallo of Sonoma often excels with its entry-level Sonoma County wines. I have recommended previous vintages of its chardonnay, pinot gris and merlot, and the 2002 syrah is every bit their equal. Few California wines in its price range provide as much bang for the buck.

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