© 2003 by Randy Buckner
March 14, 2003
While winter reluctantly releases its icy grip on parts of North America, our southern neighbors are closing out another summer, looking forward to the fall weather and harvest. The Rhodies are blooming in the Pacific Northwest, heralding spring and another new year’s crop of grapes. We hope that the weather will be kind to the grapes, producing great wines worldwide.
Another 100 new and current releases are presented for your inspection. The dual rating system evaluates quality (the first number) and value (the second) on a 100-point scale. No wines below 80 points are rated. As always, enjoy a bottle with dinner tonight.
2000 DeRose, Cabernet Franc, Cienega Valley, California, $18, 175 cases. Aromas of tobacco, herbs, cedar and black fruit repeat on the palate, with a dollop of vanilla. Tannins are somewhat coarse and need time in bottle. 84/84.
2000 Huntington, Cabernet Franc, Alexander Valley, California, $18, 1,150 cases. Plum, oak and mocha notes highlight the nose of this deep ruby wine. Straightforward, the plum, coffee bean and mineral flavors are augmented by snappy acids and chewy tannins. 84/84.
1997 Atlas Peak, Cabernet Sauvignon, Consenso, Atlas Peak, Napa Valley, California, $30, 1,000 cases. 6% Sangiovese and 4% Merlot is blended into the wine. The nose is a mélange of cassis, blackberry, oak, spice and coffee beans. Elegant on the palate, the fruit is complex and enjoyable. Deft use of oak and satiny tannins are additional pluses. This is a real sleeper. 90/91.
1999 Beaulieu, Cabernet Sauvignon, Georges de Latour Private Reserve, Napa Valley, California, $100, 15,000 cases. Very deeply colored, with intense aromas of dark cherries, herbs, licorice and vanilla. Wound pretty tight right now, I was able to coax out some red and black fruit flavors, licorice, and chocolate. Tannins are obvious, the acidity crisp. 89+/86.
1999 Beaulieu, Tapestry, Reserve, Napa Valley, California, $45, 30,000 cases. Almost violet in color, this Bordeaux blend is pretty restrained at this point. Blackberries, mint, coffee and vanilla glide effortlessly across the senses. Nice acidity and ripe tannins add structure. Tough to access at this point. 87+/87.
2000 W.D. Bridgman, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington, $15, 3,100 cases. This is a very crisp, medium-bodied Cab with ripe tannins. The aromas speak of blackberries, blueberries and cedar, while the flavors lean more toward Bing cherries. Deft use of oak is refreshing. 86/87.
1999 Columbia Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington, $15. Raspberries and herbs are very apparent upfront, with a touch of oak spice. Lovely raspberry fruit flavors are ushered in by tannins that firm up on the palate. Nuances of cedar and vanilla round out the wine. 86/87.
1998 Desert Wind, Ruah, Columbia Valley, Washington, $35, 3,000 cases. A Bordeaux blend, Cabernet Sauvignon predominant. Aromas and flavors are principally black fruit, oak and vanilla, with some old wood notes. Tannins are pretty rustic at this point. 85/84.
2000 Fetzer, Cabernet Sauvignon, Five Rivers Ranch, Central Coast, California, $10, 35,000 cases. This medium-bodied Cab has very food-friendly acidity. Black cherries, plums, currants and very light vanilla aromas and flavors are supported by easy drinking tannins. A nice match for lamb. 85/87.
2000 Gallo of Sonoma, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, California, $13, 118,000 cases. Dense fruit aromas of cassis, blackberries, cedar, mint and oak work well together. Fruity, spicy, with a reasonable amount of oak, the tannins finish on a rustic note. 84/85.
1998 Gallo of Sonoma, Cabernet Sauvignon, Stefani Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley, California, $30, 4,740 cases. Deep cherry fruit, tobacco leaf, cedar and herbs emanate from this purple-red Cab. Medium to full-bodied, with sturdy tannins, this is a nice effort for the 98 vintage. Dark fruit and tobacco are highlighted, along with a lengthy cherry aftertaste. 87/87.
1999 Langtry, Meritage Red Wine, 70% Lake County/30% Napa County, California, $55, 3,810 cases. Floral notes, chocolate, black cherries and cigar leaf highlight the nose. Flavors speak the same language. While the acidity is terrific, the tannins are big and chewy. This one needs several years in the bottle to attempt to tame the tannins. 86+/85.
1999 Snoqualmie, Cabernet-Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington, $10. Ruby, with brick overtones. Aromas of black cherries, cassis, and cedar integrate well with the fruit, chocolate and dill notes. Well-balanced, the easy going tannins make this easy to enjoy now. 86/88.
1999 Sterling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Napa Valley, California, $75, 8,450 cases. This is a nice example of California Cabernet, and is loaded with blackberries, cassis, milk chocolate and cedar. Tannins grab you right off, but they give the impression of being ripe and should drop out with proper aging. 90/88.
2000 Trey Marie, Trutina, Columbia Valley, Washington, $17.50, 5,710 cases. This Bordeaux blend has a purple-red hue, with aromas of black cherries, leather, and wildflowers. Very polished and crisp, with blackberries, plums, cedar, and cinnamon oak spice making a statement. Nice value. 86/88.
1999 Trinchero, Cabernet Sauvignon, Lewelling Vineyard, Napa Valley, California, $45, 400 cases. Lots of blackberries, black cherries, herbs, cedar, chocolate and spicy vanilla draws attention to this wine. Brisk acidity, substantial but rounded tannins and a long finish, round out this Spring Mountain Cab. 86/85.
1999 Trinchero, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mario’s Reserve, Napa Valley, California, $45, 5,000 cases. A youthful purple in color, this wine radiates aromas of black cherries, mint, licorice, dill, vanilla and chocolate. Well-structured and crisp, you’ll find lots of chocolate accentuating the juicy blackberry and blueberry fruit. 88/87.
2000 Trinchero, Meritage, Mario’s Reserve, Napa Valley, California, $45, 1,000 cases. Dark ruby in color, this Meritage red exudes aromas and flavors of blackberries, mocha, tobacco, and sweet oak. Easy on the palate, the crisp acidity gives zing to the wine. 87/86.
2000 Turning Leaf, Cabernet Sauvignon, Coastal Reserve, Central Coast, California, $10, 90,000 cases. Boysenberries, black cherries, black olives and cedar develop on the nose and expand on the palate. Medium-bodied, with modest tannins, the wine has a long, fruity, crisp finish. Nice value. 85/87.
1999 Valley of the Moon, Cuvée de la Luna, Sonoma County, California, $28, 2,021 cases. This is Valley of the Moon’s Bordeaux blend. Oodles of black fruit, aged leather, cedar, vanilla and spice are presented in a medium-bodied package with youthful tannins. 87/88.
2000 Beringer, Chardonnay, Private Reserve, Napa Valley, California, $35. Beringer is very consistent with this wine, year in and year out. Ripe apples, butterscotch and smoky oak dominate the nose and palate. Very creamy and buttery, yet maintains fair acidity. 88/87.
1999 Brancott, Chardonnay, Reserve, Gisborne, New Zealand, $18, 1,350 cases. This golden straw wine has a slight green edge and exhibits pineapple, vanilla and barrel toast on the nose. Creamy while maintaining respectable acidity, flavors of butterscotch, peaches and apples meld seamlessly. 87/88.
2001 Buty, Chardonnay, Conner Lee Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Washington, $25, 124 cases. Pears and vanilla underscore the nose of this light gold Chardonnay. Nicely balanced, with the acidity, pear and citrus fruit, and oak all working in harmony. Kudos go out for keeping the oak in the background where it belongs. 91/92.
2000 Dry Creek, Chardonnay, DCV4, Dry Creek Valley, California, $22. Sweet oak, coconut, apples and pineapples fill the nose. While the French oak is obvious, the wood is not overwhelming. Creamy, with delicate flavors of apples, pineapples and sweet creamy butter, this needs a mild, lightly grilled fish dish. 87/87.
2001 Duck Pond, Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Washington, $7, 23,000 cases. This light gold Chard has plenty of butterscotch, apple, pear and vanilla aromas to tempt the nose. Soft and creamy, you’ll find sweet pear fruit and a lot of barrel influence. Value-priced. 83/86.
2001 Fetzer, Chardonnay, Five Rivers Ranch, Monterey County, California, $10, 58,000 cases. Finally, here is a Chardonnay that is not saturated in oak and flabby as a wet noodle! Delightfully crisp and fruity, pineapples, pears, and citrus dominate the senses, with very light vanilla spice noted on the finish. 87/90.
2001 Frei Brothers, Chardonnay, Reserve, Russian River Valley, California, $20, 32,278 cases. Green apples, pears, vanilla, and toasty oak are displayed across the senses, in a medium-bodied, crisp package. 84/84.
2001 Gallo of Sonoma, Chardonnay, Sonoma County, California, $11. This middleweight light gold Chard has a nose of green apples, butterscotch, and citrus peel. Very soft and creamy, pear predominant fruit is followed by a healthy dose of oak. 83/83.
2001 Geyser Peak, Chardonnay, Block Collection, Carneros, California, $21, 1,200 cases. Pears, figs, vanilla, and toasty American oak make up the wine’s bouquet. Buttery, with gobs of sweet oak and spice, the tropical fruit and pears have to struggle for attention. 85/85.
2001 Gold Digger, Chardonnay, Okanogan Valley, Washington, $15, 850 cases. Yellow delicious apples, mango, vanilla and butterscotch intermingle on the nose. Creamy but maintaining nice acidity, flavors echo the nose, with a dash of almond for added complexity. 85/85.
2001 Guenoc, Chardonnay, Guenoc Valley, California, $17, 10,861 cases. Soft and creamy, pears and butterscotch dominate the wine’s profile, with a touch of cinnamon spice and orange cream noted. Enjoy now. 85/86.
2000, Guenoc, Chardonnay, Unfiltered Reserve, Genevieve Magoon Vineyard, Guenoc Valley, California, $32.50, 2,454 cases. The nose is defined by aromas of peaches, apricots and toasted oak. Full in the mouth, with a silky feel, flavors of pear, white peach and sweet vanilla linger endlessly. 87/87.
2001 Hahn, Chardonnay, Monterey, California, $12, 20,000 cases. Medium in weight, this crisp new release offers plenty of citrus, light butterscotch and pineapple aromas. Flavors mirror the nose, with added pear nuances. 85/87.
2001 Preston, Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Washington, $10. Light gold in the glass, with aromas of fresh sliced apples, vanilla and toast. Apples and oak barrel notes prevail on the palate, with a brisk finish. 83/84.
2000 Snoqualmie, Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Washington, $10. 83/84. Light to medium-bodied, with tropical fruit, citrus and caramel highlights. The flavors are augmented by pears, pineapple and spice. 83/84.
2001 Waterbrook, Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Washington, $10, 17,133 cases. Pleasantly crisp, without a heavy oak burden, this Chardonnay exudes aromas and flavors of casaba melons, white peaches, and citrus. Well-balanced with a creamy mouth feel, the wine finishes on a refreshing note. 88/90.
1999 Brancott, Merlot, Reserve, Marlborough, New Zealand, $18, 2,000 cases. This is a case of a wine tasting better than it smells. Pretty herbaceous on the nose, this is only a background flavor, with lots of plums, minerals and sturdy but manageable tannins up front. 86/87.
1999 Columbia Crest, Merlot, Grand Estates, Columbia Valley, Washington, $11. Raspberries, vanilla, herbs and cedar aromas emanate from the glass. Well-balanced with supple tannins, the juicy fruit, cocoa and vanilla fades into a long finish of dark berries. 87/89.
2000 Deerfield Ranch, Merlot, Roumiguiere Vineyard, Clear Lake, California, $24, 1,008 cases. Black fruit, olives and oak notes set the stage for this full-bodied wine. Bold fruit flavors are supported by nice acids and moderate barrel influence from the mixed French and American oak. 87/87.
2000 Fetzer, Merlot, Five Rivers Ranch, Central Coast, California, $10, 35,000 cases. Medium-bodied, with modest tannins, this Merlot is fairly generic, but certainly a value quaffer. Cherry and blackberry fruit is not buried under a blanket of oak, which is refreshing. The wine paired well with rack of lamb. 84/85.
2000 Geyser Peak, Merlot, Sonoma County, California, $17, 53,000 cases. Dark ruby, with aromas of cherries, raspberries, tobacco and cedar. Medium-bodied with rounded tannins, the wine is quite crisp and fruity on the palate, with nice complexity for the price class. 87/89.
2001 Hahn, Merlot, Monterey, California, $12, 20,000 cases. This youthful purple/red Merlot emits aromas of cherry, cola and toasted oak which carry over to the palate. The easy tannins and brisk acidity makes this a nice food wine. 84/86.
2000 Hogue, Merlot, Genesis, Columbia Valley, Washington, $15, 28,000 cases. This dark ruby Merlot offers up cassis, berries and herbs on the nose. Gobs of black cherries and berries fill the palate. Medium-full bodied, the chewy tannins need bottle time. 86/87.
2001 La Tunella, Merlot, Friuli D.O.C., Italy, $14. Here is a nice Merlot at a nice price. Plums, coffee, and leather fill the nose and spill over to the palate, with sweet oak underlying it all. Medium-ripe tannins are manageable. 88/91.
1999 Preston, Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington, $14. A complex nose of Bing cherries, black olive, cedar and aged tobacco greets the taster. Well-structured, with silky tannins and zippy acidity. Flavors echo the nose, with chocolate and integrated vanilla adding to the mix. 88/90.
1999 Sterling, Merlot, Reserve, Napa Valley, California, $65, 2,929 cases. You’ll be hard pressed to read print through this one. Intense aromas of blackberries, cedar and vanilla beg investigation. Very stylish with sleek tannins, the wine is fruit driven. Dark cherries, chocolate and sweet oak linger on the prolonged aftertaste. 90/88.
2000 Beaulieu, Red Wine, Ensemble, California, $25, 2,000 cases. BV has made a nice blend of Rhone varieties here, predominantly Syrah and Grenache. The nose is enticed by raspberry, cedar and white pepper notes. Very elegant, the fruity is jammy and layered, with a long, flavorful aftertaste. I personally like the reasonable 13.7% alcohol. 88/88.
2001 Bookwalter, Chenin Blanc, Ciel du Cheval Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Washington, $10. The nose is filled with peaches, apricots and citrus peel. While quite sweet, the wine is not at all cloying. Peaches and almonds linger on the finish. 85/85.
Release Four, DeRose, Hollywood Red, Cienega Valley, California, $16, 675 cases. A blend of six grapes, Zinfandel predominant, this is a fruit forward, fun wine to drink with about any grilled foods. Full of berry fruit, the tannins are soft and the acidity is quite food-friendly. This paired nicely with a meatloaf. 86/88.
2001 DeRose, Negrette, Cienega Valley, California, $20, 375 cases. This is a nice example of the grape, but like many other wine grapes, this one does not have a lot of wow power. Inky black in the glass, aromas and flavors of plums, leather and cedar are supported by nice acids. Pair with a hearty beef stew. 86/86.
2001 Gold Digger, Gewurztraminer, Okanogan Valley, Washington, $14, 260 cases. Showing the characteristic aromas and flavors of lychee and grapefruit, this delicate wine is well-balanced, with an ever so slight sense of sweetness. 84/84.
2001 Hedges, “CMS,” Columbia Valley, Washington, $12, 27,800 cases. A Cabernet Sauvignon predominant blend. Nice Bing cherry, raspberry and toasty oak aromas emanate from the glass. Well-balanced with firm but rounded tannins. Red cherries, cola, and minerals are upfront, with a nutmeg spiciness coming in on the finish. 86/87.
NV Maryhill, Rediviva Red, Columbia Valley, Washington, $14. While not vintage dated, the grapes all came from the 2000 harvest. This is an interesting blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc and 18% Syrah. Ruby red, with black fruit and smoked game on the nose. Balanced, with nice acidity, you’ll appreciate a host of fruit flavors on the palate along with smoke and meaty notes. 87/89.
2000 Pedroncelli, Petite Sirah, Dry Creek Valley, California, $14.50, 2,300 cases. Deeply hued, this medium to full-bodied wine has hefty but rounded tannins that need bottle time. A meaty Petite, with lots of black fruit flavors complimented by modest vanilla flavors. 85/87.
NV Three Rivers, Red Table wine, River’s Red, Columbia Valley, Washington, $15. I wish more producers made these tasty blends at a fair price. A combination of Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese, Merlot and Syrah, the aroma is full of berries and American oak notes of herbs/dill. Juicy on the palate with all components working in harmony, this is a fun wine that will match anything from spaghetti and meatballs to grilled steak. 88/90.
2002 Thurston Wolfe, PGV, Columbia Valley, Washington, $13.50, 530 cases. A delightful straw color with a peach tinge. The nose is an enchanting mix of mandarin oranges, peaches, and floral notes. Light to medium-bodied, delicate and delightful. I wish that more of these blends enhancing the individual grapes were made. 89/90.
2001 Waterbrook, Mélange, Columbia Valley, Washington, $13, 7,483 cases. Mélange is a good description for the nose of this wine, with lots of black and red fruit and violet notes. Full-bodied, fruity, with ripe tannins and a long aftertaste of berries and American oak nuances. 86/87.
2001 Domaines Schlumberger, Pinot Blanc, Les Princes Abbès, Alsace, France, $14. Wheat straw in color. White peach aromas and flavors are augmented by light floral notes. The acidity is very soft, leaving the taster searching for that crisp bite. 82/82.
2001 La Tunella, Pinot Bianco, Friuli D.O.C., Italy, $14. Apples and floral notes highlight this golden straw Italian. Flavors mimic the nose, with a light dash of vanilla thrown in, and finishes on a crisp note. 84/84.
2001 Columbia Winery, Pinot Gris, Yakima Valley, Washington, $10. This pale straw, light-bodied wine has modest acidity, with peaches, melon, and citrus notes carrying from the nose to the palate. 83/84.
1999 Domaines Schlumberger, Pinot Gris, Princes Abbés, Alsace, France, $21. Straw gold with an apricot tinge. Ripe apples, pear and buttery notes unfold on the nose. Ample fruit flavors abound but the wine is quite soft. 83/82.
2001 Duck Pond, Pinot Gris, Oregon, $9, 7,500 cases. Straw-colored with an apricot tinge. Aromas are of peaches and canned pineapple with a mild oak influence. Straightforward, juicy fruit is balanced by nice acidity. 83/84.
2001 La Tunella, Pinot Grigio, Friuli D.O.C., Italy, $14. Medium-bodied with modest acidity, the aromas and flavors are a diverse mixture of tropical fruit, bread dough, citrus and apricot, with just a touch of barrel notes in the finish. 85/85.
2001 Beaulieu, Pinot Noir, Coastal, California, $11, 100,000 cases. Here’s a pleasant quaffer that won’t break the bank. Cherries, herbs and forest floor aromas resound on the palate. Straightforward but pleasant, the wine has easy tannins and a long finish. 86/88.
2000 Brancott, Pinot Noir, Reserve, Marlborough, New Zealand, $18, 4,000 cases. This medium-bodied Pinot has a mélange of aromas and flavors working in unison. Earthy notes, tea, spice, blackberries, red cherries, and vanilla are braced by snappy acidity. Tannins are slightly bitter. 86/87.
2001 Duck Pond, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $9, 15,000 cases. Interesting aromas of red cherries, tea and damp earth lure the taster in. Light-bodied and simple, yet the wine offers an honest cherry fruit flavor at a value price. This will work well when you want a red wine with fish. 83/85.
2001 Fetzer, Pinot Noir, Five Rivers Ranch, Santa Barbara County, California, $10, 25,000 cases. The bright acidity really drives this wine. Cherries, dried cherries, and a tomato leaf character waft from the glass and carry over to the taste, with additional raspberry nuances. This is a good value and a fine food wine. 86/88.
2001 Firesteed, Pinot Noir, Oregon, $10. Meant for early consumption, this quaffer has strawberries, cherries and pepper on the nose, with straightforward flavors of Smucker’s strawberry preserves. 83/83.
2000 Firesteed, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $19, 2,500 cases. This is an interesting wine that will only get better with a couple of years of bottle time. Black cherries, dark tea and coffee lead off, followed by plums, chocolate and even a touch of orange slice candy. Nicely balanced. 87/88.
2001 Frei Brothers, Pinot Noir, Reserve, Russian River Valley, California, $24, 22,000 cases. Bright red cherries, cedar and cola notes follow through to the palate. Medium-bodied, the wine is crisp and the tannins are manageable. 85/85.
2001 HMR Rex Goliath, Pinot Noir, Central Coast, California, $8, 4,000 cases. Surprisingly tasty for the price class! Well-balanced, with mixed berry fruit, strawberry preserves, tea and spice giving the wine character. 86/90.
2002 Bookwalter, Johannisberg Riesling, Columbia Valley, Washington, $10. Apples, honeysuckle and apricots rule the nose. Sweet, with very juicy flavors of mango, citrus and honeysuckle that is enjoyable. This is a nice match for a fruit and cheese plate. 87/87.
1998 Domaines Schlumberger, Riesling, Princes Abbés, Alsace, France, $16. Straw colored with just a hint of green tinge. Pretty classic Alsatian Riesling with delicate slate notes. Lean, with crisp acidity, I would drink this over the next three years of so. 87/87.
2001 Fox Estate, Riesling, Columbia Valley, Washington, $10, 1000 cases. Freshly sliced apples and apricots delight the nose, while apricots dominate the flavor profile. With 3.8% residual sugar, the wine could use a tad more acidity to balance out the sweetness. 85/86.
2001 Tagaris, Johannisberg Riesling, Columbia Valley, Washington, $9, 800 cases. Straw gold in color, with aromas of grape jelly and slate. Straightforward and soft, honeydew melon and floral nuances highlight this Riesling. 83/84.
2000 Atlas Peak, Sangiovese, Reserve, Atlas Peak, Napa Valley, California, $30, 1,000 cases. Opening with scents of mixed berries, leather, and peppery spice, the wine is medium-bodied with drying tannins. The fruit is lush and complex, with a healthy dose of French oak apparent throughout. 85/84.
1999 Castello di Fonterutoli, Chianti Classico, D.O.C.G., Tuscany, Italy, $50, 8,300 cases. Densely colored, the almost Port-like nose has very ripe fruit and toasty oak. Tannins are obvious at first sip but manageable, with ripe black cherries, tobacco and oak defining the wine. A William Grant & Sons import. 87/86.
2000 Fonterutoli, Chianti Classico, D.O.C.G., Tuscany, Italy, $26, 16,660 cases. This is a fun wine at a fair price that has an elegant, balanced presentation. Spicy red fruit, earthiness and vanilla aromas meld seamlessly with the flavors of leather and blueberry/strawberry compote. 89/89.
2001 Poggio alla Badiola, Toscana I.G.T., Italy, $14. Mildly astringent tannins and nice acids herald in the tart cherry, dried cherry, leather and herbal aromas and flavors. An easy quaffer made for a plate of spaghetti. 85/86.
2002 Brancott, Sauvignon Blanc, Reserve, Marlborough, New Zealand, $18, 12,000 cases. Lots of gooseberry, citrus and peach aromas are given off by this shimmering straw beauty. Crispness that one comes to expect from New Zealand supports the melon, tropical fruit, nectarine, and jalapeno flavors. 90/90.
2001 Deerfield Ranch, Sauvignon Blanc, Peterson Vineyard, Sonoma Valley, California, $18, 292 cases. This sparkling straw colored SB has enjoyable aromas of lemongrass and tropical fruit. Full on the palate, with flavors of pears, citrus and mango, there is a hint of herbaceousness on the brisk finish. 88/88.
2001 Dry Creek Vineyard, Fume Blanc, DCV3, Dry Creek Valley, California, $18. This Fume saw no oak aging, but could use a little more acid zip. Creamy in the mouth, there are plenty of flavors to go around, ranging from lemon and pineapple to melon and pear. 86/86.
2000 Redwood Creek, Sauvignon Blanc, California, $8, 80,000 cases. Made in a light to medium bodied style, the aromas of citrus/grapefruit and herbs carry over to the palate, leaving a sweet impression lingering of the aftertaste. 82/83.
2001 Silver Lake, Fume Blanc, Columbia Valley, Washington, $10, 1,875 cases. Nice acidity heralds in the lovely nectarine, grapefruit and orange peel aromas and flavors. Oak is noticeable, but is not a predominant player. Tasty. 87/88.
2000 Beaulieu, Syrah, California, $15, 20,000 cases. There’s a pretty complex nose of berries, herbs, smoke, licorice and cedar in this deep ruby Syrah. Medium-bodied, with polished tannins, the flavors speak of mixed berries, spice and sweet oak. 85/86.
1999 Covey Run, Syrah, Barrel Select, Yakima Valley/Columbia Valley, Washington, $13, 483 cases. Black fruit, oak spice and smoky nuances originate from this deeply hued wine. A blend of blackberry, blueberry, chocolate and Chinese five spice flavors makes for an interesting wine. 86/87.
2000 Duck Pond, Syrah, Columbia Valley, Washington, $35, 423 cases. Almost black in the glass, this full-bodied wine is packed with blackberries and blueberries. Moderately ripe tannins will benefit from 3-5 years of aging, but drink before the whopping 15.8% alcohol takes command. 88/88.
1999 Lava Cap, Syrah, Reserve, El Dorado, California, $40, 420 cases. Deeply hued, the nose has blackberries and floral notes reminiscent of red roses. Very elegant, with substantial but polished tannins, this full-bodied Syrah has rich fruit. Oak and cinnamon flavors are also very prevalent. Hopefully these will calm down with bottle age? 88/87.
1999 Sierra Vista, Syrah, Red Rock Ridge, El Dorado, California, $25, 344 cases. The wine has a lovely nose of black cherries, violets, cloves, and blackberry liqueur, however the wine itself is straightforward, tart, with raspberries lingering on the finish. 84/83.
2000 Snoqualmie, Syrah, Columbia Valley, Washington, $10. Deeply hued. This Syrah speaks of blueberries, cocoa and vanilla. While straightforward, it is tasty, with nice balance and a long berry aftertaste. 86/88.
1999 Tenimenti Luigi d’Alessandro, Il Bosco, Tuscany, Italy, $40. Lots of black fruit aromas are enhanced by a kiss of anise. Complex fruit unfolds on the palate with an almost sensual feel. Polished tannins and easy acidity are noted on the finish. This one delivers the goods. 90% Syrah. 91/91.
2001 Beaulieu, Zinfandel, Napa Valley, California, $14, 22,000 cases. Dark ruby hued with spicy pepper and berry aromas. Quite fruity, with juicy blackberry and oak spice flavors that linger on the palate. 85/86.
2001 Jessie’s Grove, Zinfandel, Old Vine, “Vintners Choice,” Lodi, California, $15, 2,900 cases. Delightful raspberry liquor aromas meld with American oak notes, then repeat on the palate, with the addition of vanilla and barrel toast. Tannins are not aggressive at all. Not a lot of depth, but a tasty quaffer nevertheless. 86/88.
2001 Jessie’s Grove, Zinfandel, Old Vine, “Westwind,” Lodi, California, $20, 1,450 cases. Scents of mixed berries and American oak emanate from this deeply hued Zin. Berries, herbs, vanilla, and tobacco meld seamlessly with the brisk acidity and ample tannins. Nice complexity, but give this one a couple of years of bottle time. 88/88.
2000 Kenwood, Zinfandel, Sonoma County, California, $16, 28,000 cases. Here’s a pretty decent Zin at a fair price. Full of raspberries, currants, orange peel, cinnamon, vanilla and spice, this middleweight has easily approachable tannins. 87/89.
2000 Pedroncelli, Zinfandel, Mother Clone, Dry Creek Valley, California, $14, 11,900 cases. You’ll find huge raspberry aromas, with a hint of pepper. Medium-bodied, crisp, with easy to manage tannins. This is a nice burger wine – a little simple, but nice raspberry fruit and acidity. 85/87.
2000 Rancho Zabaco, Zinfandel, Heritage Vines, Sonoma County, California, $18, 110,000 cases. Bright cherry and blackberry aromas open to a mouthful of fruit. Full-bodied and crisp, there is enough here to hold your attention. 87/87.
2000 Rancho Zabaco, Zinfandel, Reserve, Dry Creek Valley, California, $14, 29,000 cases. Medium-bodied and crisp, the nose reveals mixed berries, cherries, vanilla and cedar. Straightforward, the flavors mirror the nose. Nice BBQ wine. 85/86.
2000 Saucelito Canyon, Zinfandel, Arroyo Grande Valley, California, $20. Blackberry and cherry aromas leap from the glass. Light to medium-bodied and the tannins are very easy on the taster. Similar flavors linger on the palate, with a slight peppery note coming in late. This is a good food wine. 88/88.
2001 Saucelito Canyon, Zinfandel, Late Harvest, Arroyo Grande Valley, California, $20 (375 ml), 93 cases. Think extract of crushed berries and roses when smelling this wine. Intensely sweet (15% residual sugar) and fruity, with layers of blackberries, cherries, chocolate and coffee unfolding. The acidity matches the sweetness. 88/88.