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Whoa! Full-throttle hillside Syrah. Classically rich, muscular, and dense. This one screams out of the bottle with raspberry and blackberry fruit, cinnamon and mint. Dense mid-palate fruit carries through to a long, uplifted finish. Pure fruit (24 months in neutral barrels), plenty of complexity, and structure throughout. In my opinion, the best Syrah we have produced so far.
A California vintner to watch is Cameron Hughes. Acting as what the French call a "negociant," he buys surplus wine from top producers and releases it under the Cameron Hughes Label. This technique allows him to invest not in vineyards, but in bottling complex wine at appealingly low prices. Most are sold through his Web site and at Costco. Two wines that pack a serious quality punch are the 2003 Cameron Hughes Lot 11 Paso Robles Petite Syrah and the 2003 Cameron Hughes Lot 12 Sonoma Mountain Syrah (both $11). You would expect to pay at least twice as much for wines from specific appellations, but Hughes negotiates savvy deals. The Petite Syrah is anything but petite. Rich, chewy, with notes of blackberry and licorice, it's a definite burger wine. The full-bodied Lot 12 Syrah sports deep, dark-fruit flavors and intense smoky notes.