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Splendid Santa Barbara Syrahs

Santa Barbara's Craig Jaffurs of Jaffurs Wine Cellars offers wonderful single-vineyard syrahs at reasonable prices

Over the past few vintages, Craig Jaffurs has emerged as one of Santa Barbara's finest, most consistent winemakers, with his wines going from strength to strength. His specialties include single-vineyard syrahs as well as a grenache. Wines from these two renowned Rhône Valley varietals are often referred to as "Rhône Rangers" when made in California. Following are some of the most recent releases from Jaffurs Wine Cellars, all noteworthy as well as realistically priced for their quality. The winery's fax number is 805 962-7007.

89+ points

2005 Syrah Thompson Vineyard Santa Barbara

An inky/purple-tinged effort revealing hints of tar, spring flowers, barbecue smoke, pepper, and cassis, this syrah plays it close to the vest. A broad, powerful, muscular, tannic, backward red, it requires one to two years of bottle age, and should evolve for a decade or more. $34

90 points

2006 Syrah Santa Barbara

This is a beautiful, lush, sexy effort revealing scents of charcoal, burning embers, blackberries, and cassis. Succulent with pure fruit, medium to full body, and a lush texture, it begs for consumption over the next three to four years. $23

90+ points

2005 Syrah Bien Nacido Vineyard Santa Barbara

The Bien Nacido Vineyard's earthy/graphite character as well as a more firm, muscular structure are obvious in this dense purple-colored effort. It reveals beautiful freshness (a characteristic of all these Jaffurs wines), full body, and a dense, powerful, but backward personality displaying high acidity. This cuvée will benefit from one to two more years of bottle age. Anticipated maturity: 2010-20+. $34

92 points

2006 Syrah Larner Vineyard Santa Barbara

Apparently available only in magnum, the 2006 Syrah Larner Vineyard emerges from a site that would merit grand cru status in France. (The Larner Vineyard nearly always produces wines with excellent minerality, ripe fruit, and a distinct personality.) This offering exhibits an inky/blue/purple color along with beautiful aromas of sweet black raspberries, black currants, crushed rocks, and acacia flowers. It is an opulent, full-bodied effort displaying a seamless integration of acidity, tannin, wood, and alcohol. Enjoy it now and over the next decade. $34

92 points

2006 Syrah Verna's Vineyard Santa Barbara

Another brilliant offering, the Syrah Verna's Vineyard offers sweet, juicy crème de cassis, black cherry, spring flower, licorice, and background wood characteristics. This full-bodied, deep, chewy, lush, impressively pure, textured, long syrah should drink well for 7-10 years. $38

93 points

2006 Syrah Ampelos Vineyard Santa Rita Hills

The stunning 2006 Syrah Ampelos Vineyard boasts an impressive black/purple color in addition to a gorgeous bouquet of bacon fat, graphite, crème de cassis, plums, and blackberries. Full-bodied as well as refreshingly elegant with terrific precision and minerality, this beauty can be enjoyed now or cellared for 8-10 years. $42

Robert Parker is the world's most influential wine critic. Visit to see tens of thousands of tasting notes, buy his books, or subscribe to his newsletter, The Wine Advocate.

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