Barefoot California Syrah

Price: $6
Maker: Barefoot Cellars
Variety: Syrah
Packaging: Bottle, natural cork
Our Rating: 8 out of 10

Barefoot California Syrah (no vintage) from is easily spotted on the shelf by its distinctive label featuring a Robinson Crusoe-style footprint. The wine has a deep, purplish red color and a faint, flowery aroma. Its flavor is dominated by currants and blackberries, with a rounded finish. It’s not a great wine, but is satisfying and inexpensive enough to crack a bottle open with hamburgers or pasta with no guilt feelings.

Barefoot Cellars has won some awards with this wine:

  • GOLD Medal…International Eastern Wine Competition, Santa Rosa, CA and Watkins Glen, NY.
  • GOLD Medal…Colorado State Fair Wine Competition, Pueblo, CO.
  • GOLD Medal…San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, Cloverdale, CA.
  • 1st Place…Lake County Fair, Lakeport, CA

Absent a vintage, it may be hard to compare your results with the competitions, but for the price, how far wrong can you go?

Delicato Shiraz 2004

Price: $18
Maker: Delicato Family Vineyards
Variety: Shiraz
Packaging: 3 liter box
Our Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Sampling a box of Delicato Shiraz 2004 could be just the thing to convince a box wine sceptic that good things come in large packages. Delicato puts the same wine in its boxes as its bottles, and their wines have earned accolades both in the U.S. and at international competitions. Notably, Delicato’s entry was named “Best Shiraz of California” awards at the 2001, 2002 and 2003 California State Fair Wine Competitions.

The 2004 Delicato Shiraz lives up to its heritage. A powerful scent of spicy cherries practically bursts from the wine as you pour it. The flavor is a bit more subtle, tasting of blackberry and cherry. Overall, the flavor is balanced and quite smooth. The finish lingers with a fruity spiciness. The start and finish of this wine are so wonderful that they overshadow its pleasant flavor.

The box is what Delicato has branded its Bota Box. It features similar construction to other wine boxes, but includes a FlexTap pushbutton-style spout. The pushbutton is easy to handle with one hand, even when tilting the box to get those last few glasses, and is free of annoying post-pour drips.

It’s little surprise that Delicato’s Shiraz is the best selling brand of that variety in the United States. If they can keep up with demand while maintaining quality, they are likely to hold onto that distinction in the coming yeasrs.

Funky Llama Shiraz 2004

Price: $9
Maker: Funky Llama
Variety: Shiraz
Packaging: Bottle, artificial cork
Our Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Wine packaging seems to have two major variants these days – traditional packaging designed to imply centuries of winemaking, and funky, playful, modernistic packaging designed to appeal to a casual wine-buyer. Funky Llama Shiraz is definitely in the latter category. We picked up a bottle on sale for a fairly amazing $5, hoping to venture back for a dozen more if the tasting went well.

The first thing one notices is the bright yellow cork. It nearly glows with neon intensity, and features a picture of a llama. It’s a nice touch – no wine damage from spoiled corks, and a marketing boost from a cork likely to attract the attention of everyone in the room. A year from now, a brightly colored cork may be no big thing, but at the moment it stands out.

If only the wine were as distinctive as its cork. The aroma is faintly floral, and the color is a nice, deep red. The wine combines moderately weak dark berry flavor with spiciness; it’s a bit thin compared to bolder Shirazes. The finish is faintly bitter and peppery. It’s not a bad wine overall for the price, but there are others in this range that are better.