Hundreds of worthy wines clamor for attention at the under-$10 price point. Packed with value, they are solid everyday wines, but now and then, it's nice to set the bar a little higher. It has been a while since I've opened a bottle of Australian Shiraz priced above 20 bucks, and frankly, I wasn't sure what to expect. Past experience prepared me for big wines with ample oak, and while the bottles we tasted were not long on subtlety, they showed more restraint and balance than I would have thought. In fact, they were just the thing for the recent cooler weather or for a late season barbecue. Here are the top picks:
2004 Cimicky Trumps Shiraz, $16.99
Charles Cimicky wines are new to the valley and we are lucky to get them. The only wine retailing for less than $20, the Trumps Shiraz beat out some heavy hitters. There's a rustic touch of earth and tar that blends nicely with the violet, blackberry and plum aromas. Old wood barrels contribute a creamy smoothness to the spice and berry fruit flavors. Sweet cherry and a bit of toffee come through on the finish. Overall, it's an excellent value.
2002 Joseph Angel Gully Shiraz, $41.50
Italian immigrant Primo Grilli planted his vineyards north of Adelaide back in 1973. His son Joseph took on the winemaking with their first vintage in '79 under the Primo Estate label. This high-end Shiraz pulls out all the stops, with big oak and bigger fruit. The heady aromas start with dense cherry that gives way to anise, pepper and truffle. The opulent blackberry fruit flavors are backed by mint, mineral and spice in this hedonistic wine that doesn't sacrifice structure.
2004 Red Heads Studio Barrel Monkey Shiraz, $26
Another newcomer to Boise, this McLaren Vale winery started life as a bar. Now it gives recent wine school graduates a chance to do more than move barrels and clean tanks. If this bottle is any indication, they are off to a good start, having crafted a wine with light plum fruit aromas complemented by hints of bacon, cola and leather. The flavors are rich and lively, led by creamy blackberry fruit, mocha and espresso. It's a nicely balanced wine from start to finish.
This week's panel: Fawn Caveney, Tastevin; David Kirkpatrick, Boise Co-op; Cindy Limber, Bardenay; Kevin Settles, Bardenay