In what has become a tradition when we see Paul and Sara, we put together a Syrah/Shiraz tasting for last Saturday. Our last one was rather impromptu…we had four Rieslings the last time.

The premise this time around was simple, each couple would contribute one bottle of "bargain" wine ($10 or less) and one more expensive bottle ($20 or more). We wanted to see if there was a marked difference based upon price and which we’d prefer.

Plus, four bottles and four tasters always makes for good times.

Nena and I contributed a bottle of 2002 Columbia Crest Two Vines Shiraz ($10)and a bottle of 1996 Pikes Clare Valley Shiraz ($25) that I picked up partially because the back label mentions that "…patience will be rewarded if you cellar the wine for 6 to 8 years." 1996 plus eight years is 2004!

Paul and Sara didn’t follow the rules to the letter, but it’s not really their fault. Their bargain red, 2003 Cave Claude et Nicole Jaume Cotes du Rhone ($10), was actually more Grenache than Syrah but that’s the wine merchant’s mistake, not theirs. Their other bottle was anothe French wine, 2002 Unti Syrah Petit Frere ($20).

Dscn2194 We didn’t have paper bags, so afte rpondering using various decanters,  we decided that we’d just let Paul pour all the wines first and distribute them after making notes about their identity.

As you can see, he didn’t want me peeking! Luckily, he really did forget which wines were in which glasses…so he could participate in our blind tasting.

Dscn2199 So, with the wines poured, we sat down to taste…and it was amazing what we found.

I have to admit that I don’t have my notes…after all this wine (we finished all of the bottles except one before leaving for dinner–where we had a few more bottles!). So, I can’t offer detailed findings…but…

The Pikes was completely different from the other three, which isn’t surprising given the difference in age. Paul and picked this one as our favorite while Nena truly detested it…to the point that I finished her taste of it.

Nena and Sara chose the Unti as their favorite (it was liked by everyone and probably the overall "winner" because no one hated it).

The Rhone blend was popular, but was easily distinguished from the other wines because of it’s light ruby color and light mouthfeel. Paul did love the tannic, peppery finish though.

The true loser of this tasting was the Columbia Crest…which goes to show you how much you can trust Wine Spectator–it got a 90 recently. None of us found it vile…but it didn’t have the complexity or elegance of some of the others.

Paul and I did finish the bottle after we got back from dinner…watching Men of Steel (a show about the Pittsburgh Steelers) on NFL Network.

When Paul and Sara visit us next time (in February) we’re doing a similar tasting…but this time we’re heading to Tuscany…zoning in on Chianti.