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© 2000 by Randy Buckner
April 6, 2000

New Releases:
Early spring brings forth a host of new releases on the market. There are still many fine wines to be found that will not deplete your pocketbook. Here are descriptions of 100 more releases. Wine is a very subjective subject. One person's pleasure is a another person's displeasure. I leave numerical ratings to others, however good value wines are recognized herein.

Cabernet Sauvignon:
1996 Beringer, Cabernet Franc, "Third Century," Howell Mountain, $75. This is a very lovely wine. While the oak is obvious, it is more than held in check by the luscious black cherry fruit, cedar, spice and chocolate nuances. Long, pleasing aftertaste. Getting pricey.

1995 Beringer, Cabernet Sauvignon, Private Reserve, $75. The wine has cassis on the nose and the black currant fruit carries over to the palate, along with black cherries, mint, cedar and well-balanced oak vanillin. The wine finishes with moderate, drying tannins.

1997 Canoe Ridge, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $20.50. Tasty dark fruit with obvious anise spice, soft to moderate tannins and a long, toasty oak finish.

1997 Cenay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Blue Tooth Vineyard, Napa Valley, $22. An unusual, balanced wine, with black cherry fruit, chocolate, cedar and a taste of band-aids and barnyard flavors, finishing with soft but moderate tannins. This wine is sure to be controversial.

1996 Chateau St. Jean, Cinq Cepages, Sonoma County, $33. Black cherry and blueberry nose. The wine has very complex blackberry fruit, with chocolate, and coffee nuances, moderate but soft tannins, and moderate toasty oak vanillin. The number one wine in the world? No, but it is still a decent bottle of wine, despite the commentary.

1996 Columbia Crest, Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate, Columbia Valley, $16. Complex, ripe black fruit with generous but balanced sweet oak and adequate acidity. Very good value in today's market.

1995 Columbia Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Otis Vineyard, Yakima Valley, $24. Ripe black fruit, impeccable balance, soft tannins, and a very long finish.

1997 Columbia Winery, Cabernet-Merlot, Washington, $12, 2,500 cases. Nicely balanced, with blackberry fruit, sweet oak, and soft tannins. Approachable now.

1996 William Hill, Reserve, Napa Valley, $35, 4,800 cases. Black cherry jam, minerals and vanilla oak flavors, with a moderately tannic finish.

1996 Justin, Isosceles, Paso Robles, $37.50, 4,000 cases. A blend of 45% CS, 28% Merlot, and 27% Cab Franc. Blackberry jam, cedar and oak spiciness prevail, finishing with moderate tannins that dictate some bottle time to come together.

1997 Rowland, Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Triangle, $22, 650 cases. Blackberries and black currants, with olive nuances and soft tannins.

1997 St. Clement, Oroppas, Napa Valley, $40, 3,000 cases. A blend of 55% CS, 30% Merlot, 15% CF. An elegant wine, with blackberries, dried cherries, chocolate, balanced sweet oak, and moderate but silky tannins. Very long aftertaste. Approachable now, better in 5 years.

1996 Turning Leaf, Cabernet Sauvignon, Coastal Reserve, San Luis Obispo, $10, 17,400 cases. Balanced, with black cherry and subtle oak qualities, finishing with medium tannins. You can do worse for the price.

Chardonnay:
1998 Atlas Peak, Chardonnay, Atlas Peak, $16. Tropical and citrus fruit flavors predominate, with toasty oak and butterscotch nuances. Ready now.

1998 Barefoot Cellars, Chardonnay, Reserve, Sonoma County, $13. Pears, vanilla and spice prevail, with a soft mouthfeel. Drink over the next year.

1998 Bargetto, Chardonnay, Santa Cruz, Regan Vineyard, $20, 1,350 cases. Tropical fruit prevails, with crisp acidity and a sweet oak finish.

1997 Chateau St. Jean, Chardonnay, Robert Young Vineyard, $24. Very well-balanced, with tangy citrus being balanced by ripe pears, finishing with vanilla cream. A nice wine for the style that will please many palates.

1998 Chateau Souverain, Chardonnay, Sonoma County, $14. Pears and honey in the forefront, with moderate French oak and hints of smoke, finishing with a creamy mouthfeel.

1998 Clos Du Bois, Chardonnay, Calcaire, Alexander Valley, $20, 10,000 cases. Citrus and tropical fruit abound, with generous French oak and a crisp finish. Good foil for linguine with clams.

1998 Clos Du Bois, Chardonnay, Reserve, Alexander Valley, $16, 13,600 cases. Rich lemon and peach flavors, toasty oak, and soft mouthfeel. Good value.

1998 Clos Du Val, Chardonnay, Carneros, $21, 12,700 cases. Soft on the palate, this wine has citrus and vanilla flavors, with a long, toasty finish.

1997 Geyser Peak, Chardonnay, Reserve, $23, 1,230 cases. A full-blown, in-your-face CA Chardonnay, with rich fruit, lots of toasty oak, MLF softness and butteriness. Match with creamy seafood dishes.

1998 Geyser Peak, Chardonnay, Sonoma County, $12. Well made, clean, crisp, yellow delicious apple fruit and a light hand on the oak.

1997 Handley, Chardonnay, Anderson Valley, $16, 3,430 cases. Very crisp, refreshing pear and apple fruit, well-integrated oak, finishing with complex flavors. Good value. We need more wines like this to stir the interest in Chardonnay again.

1998 William Hill, Chardonnay, Reserve, Napa Valley, $22, 7,400 cases. This wine has creamy tropical fruit and spice flavors, a hint of butterscotch and a soft finish.

1998 Hogue, Chardonnay, Barrel Select, $14. An apple nose that carries over to the palate with ripe fruit, spice, hazelnut and a long finish. Good value.

1998 Ironstone, Chardonnay, Sierra Foothills, $9. A clean, straightforward wine offering ripe apple fruit, a hint of butterscotch and supporting acidity. Good value.

1998 Justin, Chardonnay, Reserve, $24.50, 503 cases. This is a very nice Chardonnay that will please a host of palates. Luscious fruit, minerals, crisp acidity and judicious use of oak combine to make a tasty package.

1998 Meridian, Chardonnay, Reserve, Edna Valley, $15. The reserve offering has citrus and pineapple flavors, butterscotch, a hint of smoke, finishing with creamy vanilla.

1998 Mirassou, Chardonnay, San Vicente Vineyard, Monterey, $23.50, 1,019 cases. Apples and pineapples predominate, with a touch of vanilla and good balance. Match with Dungeness crab cakes.

1998 Monterey Vineyard, Chardonnay, Monterey, $7, 130,000 cases. Clean, crisp, with citrus and tropical fruit, finishing with light oak vanillin. Good value. 0.4% RS.

1998 Ste. Chapelle, Chardonnay, Idaho, $12, 6,000 cases. Pears, citrus and mineral flavors predominate, balanced by brisk acidity. Drink over the next year.

1998 Rodney Strong, Chardonnay, Chalk Hill, $16, 45,000 cases. Balanced, with apples, spicy oak flavors and a soft mouthfeel. 0.34% R.S.

1998 Tessera, Chardonnay, California, $10, 32,967 cases. Clean, straightforward, with fig and pear fruit. Structured for consumption over the next year.

Gewurztraminer:
1999 Geyser Peak, Gewurztraminer, California, $8, 9,000 cases. Grapefruit on the nose and palate, a hint of sweetness, with a refreshing finish. Good value. A good match for Chinese/Thai dishes.

1998 Handley, Gewurztraminer, Anderson Valley, $13, 1908 cases. Viscous, with lychee and spicy grapefruit flavors and a crisp finish. Match with Thai food.

1999 Hogue, Gewurztraminer, Columbia Valley, $7, 8,201 cases. Aromatic, off-dry, with lychee nut and citrus flavors, ending in a crisp finish. Good summer deck wine with a fruit and cheese plate.

1998 Mill Creek, Gewurztraminer, Dry Creek, $10, 469 cases. Threshold sweetness balanced by crisp acids, with straightforward tropical fruit and a hint of grapefruit.

Italian/Varietals:
1997 Atlas Peak, Sangiovese, Atlas Peak, $16. Raspberry and plum flavors abound, a gentle hand on the oak, moderate tannins, and a long, fruity finish. Match with lasagna.

1997 Attilio Ghisolfi, Dolcetto, $14. Bright berry fruit, spice, leather and cocoa notes, with round acidity for an Italian. Imported by William Grant & Sons, NJ.

1997 Castello di Volpaia, Chianti Classico. Sweet, black cherry fruit, spice, leather, and floral notes. One to open over the next couple of years, as there may not be enough structure to carry it longer. However, many of you who "don't like" Italian wines may indeed like this one.

1995 Castello di Volpaia, Chianti Classico Riserva. Black cherry fruit, leather, spice, earth, and floral flavors. There's still some tannin here, and it might be better with 2-3 years in the cellar. There's also more acid here, and more of a traditional Italian.

1995 Castello di Volpaia, Coltassala. A Super Tuscan blend of 95% Sangiovese and 5% Mammolo. Sweet black cherry fruit in the mouth, with spice, tar, leather, floral, and earthy notes. Really blossomed after being open an hour or so. This one will in prime drinking shape about 2005.

1995 Castello di Volpaia, Balifico. Another Super Tuscan, this one is 65% Sangiovese and 35% Cabernet Sauvignon. Very nice in the mouth, also a bit sweeter than the previous wine, with lovely black cherry and cassis fruit, earth, spice, leather, black olive, and floral flavors.

1997 Windsor, Sangiovese, Private Reserve, Napa Valley, $18. Bright Sangiovese fruit, toasty American oak, with a hint of tobacco and black pepper.

Merlot:
1996 Beringer, Merlot, Howell Mountain, Bancroft Ranch, $75. Smoky nose, this wine has luscious blackberry and blueberry fruit, nice balance, firm but soft tannins, and a healthy dose of smoky oak. Where are the prices going?

1996 Beringer, Red Table Wine, Alluvium, Knight's Valley, $30. A blend of 75% Merlot with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petite Verdot added. Black fruit predominates, with moderate tannins and obvious smoky oak.

1997 Chateau Julien, Merlot, Monterey County, $10, 8,000 cases. Simple but tasty blueberry fruit, a touch of vanilla and soft tannins. Nice value.

1997 Chateau St. Jean, Merlot, Sonoma County, $22. Black fruit with nuances of tobacco and vanilla spice, moderate tannins and a long, fruity finish.

1997 Clos Du Bois, Merlot, Alexander Valley, $22, 10,600 cases. Ripe cherry, blueberry, plum and toasty oak flavors come to the front in this tasty package. Approachable now.

1997 Columbia Crest, Merlot, Columbia Valley, $12. Blueberries, blackberries, a dollop of oak and a long, fruity finish all combine to make a tasty package at a great price. Case buy for those summer parties!

1997 Hogue, Merlot, Barrel Select, Columbia Valley, $15. Bright black cherries and plums are balanced by modest oak spice and a long finish. A consistently delectable wine at a fair price.

1997 Justin, Justification, Paso Robles, $24.50, 2,500 cases. A blend of 53% Merlot and 47% Cabernet Franc. Well balanced, accentuated by cranberries, chocolate and sweet oak.

1997 Louis Martini, Merlot, Chiles Valley, $25, 950 cases. Black fruit flavors predominate, with obvious American oak flavors and moderate tannins that dictate aging.

1997 Peachy Canyon, Merlot, Paso Robles, $23, 663 cases. Sweet blueberries on the nose and palate, with moderate oak vanillin and a long finish.

1997 St. Clement, Merlot, Napa Valley, $26, 2,450 cases. Floral, with big black fruit flavors and minerals in a well-balanced package. Enjoyable.

1998 Ste. Chapelle, Merlot, Idaho, $9, 5,500 cases. Attractive black fruit and balance. Match with roast game hen.

1997 Ste. Chapelle, Merlot, Winemaker's Series, $12, 1,986 cases. Ripe cherry fruit with a hint of olive, nice acidity, finishing with soft to moderate tannins.

1997 Stone Creek, Merlot, Chairman's Reserve, Napa Valley, $16.50, 1,250 cases. Rich black cherry and blackberry fruit, balanced, with moderate tannins and a long finish. Good value.

1998 Paul Thomas, Merlot, Washington, $12, 9,770 cases. A light-styled Merlot with cherry and raspberry fruit. Nicely balanced. Drink over the next year or so.

Miscellaneous:
1999 Clos Du Bois, Tokay, Y-Tokay, $9, 600 cases. Tart, crisp, with a slightly sweet taste, this wine would serve best as an aperitif.

1998 Covey Run, Lemberger, Yakima Valley, $8, 2,800 cases. This wine has crisp acidity, canned plum fruit flavors, with soft tannins and proper balance. Food friendly.

1998 Covey Run, Riesling, Late Harvest Reserve, $10, 3,000 cases. Very pretty sweet peach fruit with the minimum acidity required to prevent the wine from being cloying. Drink now. 6.5% RS.

1998 Duck Pond, Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, $10, 1,400 cases. Clean, crisp, with refreshing fruit that makes this a fitting match for shellfish. Good value.

NV Gundlach Bundschu, White Table Wine, Polar Bearitage, $10. The second release of this 50% Chardonnay, 35% Sauvignon Blanc and 15% Semillon blend. Bright fruit and a crispy finish makes this a nice seafood match.

NV Gundlach Bundschu, Bearitage, $10, 18,000 cases. A blend of 42% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Cabernet Franc, 12% Zinfandel, and 12% Tempranillo, Mourvedre, Carignane and Gamay.

1998 Napa Ridge, Triad, North Coast, $9. A blend of Chardonnay 49%, Sauvignon Blanc 26%, and Semillon 25%. Peach, fig and spice flavors with a smooth mouthfeel.

1998 Snoqualmie, Semillon Blanc, Columbia, $7. Off-dry, clean, crisp, with white peaches, pears and almond flavors.

1998 Tapiz, Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina, $11, 5,400 cases. Very fruity and peppery, having plum and blackberry flavors, nice acidity and balanced oak flavors. Very good value. Affiliated with Kendall-Jackson.

1996 White Heron, Chantepierre, Columbia Valley, $11, 1000 cases. A blend of 40% CF, 29% CS, and 22% Merlot. Rich mixed berry fruit, a hint of olive, soft tannins and crisp acidity combine for an interesting package. Good value.

1998 White Heron, Dry Rose, Columbia Valley, $7, 500 cases. An unusual blend of 40% Chardonnay, 40% Lemberger and 20% CF that works well. Complex tropical fruit flavors with a hint of peppery spiciness. 100% stainless steel was used, leaving pure fruit flavors. Very good value and worth the hunt.

Pinot Noir:
1998 Acacia, Pinot Noir, Carneros, $25, 10,300 cases. A very lovely wine loaded with plums, red cherries, and peach flavors, hints of smoky oak and cinnamon, finishing with nice acidity and soft tannins.

1998 Bargetto, Pinot Noir, Regan Vineyard, Santa Cruz, $25, 520 cases. A delightful wine loaded with black cherries, strawberry jam, and sweet oak in a well-balanced framework.

1997 Handley, Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, $20, 2,550 cases. Another fine Pinot from Handley, with crisp acidity, layers of raspberries, cherries, currants, and cedar nuances, made in a light-moderate style. Another good value from this impressive CA producer.

1997 Mirassou, Pinot Noir, Harvest Reserve, $18, 5,772 cases. Black cherries, spice, balanced oak, and impeccable balance make a nice package. Good value.

1997 Mirassou, Pinot Noir, Monterey County, $12, 10,745 cases. Very fruity, with lush cherry flavors, spice and a dash of vanilla. Extremely good value. You need to give Mirassou another look.

1998 Rosemount Estates, Pinot Noir, Diamond Series, $11. Red cherry fruit with a hint of plums, smoky vanilla, and nice balance.

1997 Santa Barbara Winery, Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County, $20, 6059 cases. Very concentrated, with lush black cherries and strawberry jam, tomato skin nuances, earthiness, finishing with soft tannins and nice acidity. A very good value.

Rhone Varietals:
1997 Barwang, Shiraz, Coonawarra, Australia, $14, 1,356 cases. Ripe cherries and plums on the palate, with smoky oak, black pepper and a medium-long finish.

1997 Clos Du Bois, Shiraz, Alexander Valley Reserve, $16, 4,900 cases. Jammy black fruit, chocolate, toasty oak, and a hint of pepper combine to make a tasty package. Long finish.

1997 Columbia, Syrah, Red Willow, Yakima, $30, 2,000 cases. Loads of blackberry fruit, sweet oak vanillin, silky tannins and a long finish.

1997 Columbia, Syrah, Yakima, $14, 1,350 cases. Sweet black fruit with judicious use of oak, and soft tannins. Approachable now.

1998 Echelon, Syrah, California, $14.50, 17,500 cases. This wine has black fruit, smoky oak, a hint of pepper, and finishes with moderate tannins.

1997 Geyser Peak, Shiraz, Sonoma County, $16, 2,930 cases. Dark plum fruit with spicy vanilla flavors and a slight hint of pepper, finishing with moderate tannins.

1998 Preston, Marsanne, Dry Creek, $13, 723 cases. Citrus, honeysuckle, and vanilla flavors dominate, finishing with nice acidity.

1997 Preston, Mourvedre, Dry Creek, $16, 1003 cases. Cherry fruit and cassis, with leather and meat flavors, finishing with moderate tannins and chocolate highlights. Serve with a rich roast dish.

1997 Valley of the Moon, Syrah, Sonoma County, $30, 3,490 cases. Rich, concentrated black fruit, just a hint of pepper, subtle America oak flavors, in a nicely balanced package.

Sauvignon Blanc:
1997 Buttonwood Farm, Devin, Santa Ynez, $16, 186 cases. A Bordeaux blend of 60% Sauvignon Blanc and 40% Semillon. Very crisp acidity, citrus, lemon peel, vanilla, and a long, fruity aftertaste. Good shellfish match.

1998 Carmenet, Sauvignon Blanc, Reserve, Edna Valley, $17.50, 8,760 cases. Melon, citrus and gooseberry flavors prevail, with a soft mouthfeel and balanced acidity. Match with grilled seafood.

1998 Covey Run, Fume Blanc, Yakima, $8, 13,000 cases. Green apples, gooseberries, and figs prevail, with a crisp, refreshing finish. 0.4% R.S. Tasty.

1999 Kim Crawford, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, $15. Gooseberry aromas carry over to the palate, with tropical fruit, minimal herbaceousness, and bracing acidity. This wine begs for shellfish. Imported by Vintage New World, Seattle.

1998 Handley, Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Creek Valley, $12, 2,264 cases. Rich tropical fruit leaps from the glass, with citrus and vanilla nuances, finishing with refreshing acidity. Match with a caesar salad.

1999 Rosemount Estate, Sauvignon Blanc, Estate, SE Australia, $9. Clean, steely, with citrus fruit flavors. Match with shellfish.

Sparkling Wine:
Chandon, Sparkling Wine, Reserve Brut 494, Napa County, $24. 71% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay, 2% Pinot Blanc and 2% Pinot Meunier. The majority of fruit comes from the 94 vintage. The wine was aged four years on the yeast, yielding a creamy texture.

1994 Handley, Sparkling Wine, Blanc de Blancs, Anderson Valley, $28, 195 cases. Crisp, dry, fine bubbles and creamy Chardonnay fruit.

Zinfandel:
1996 Gallo of Sonoma, Zinfandel, Frei Ranch, Dry Creek, $18, 10,000 cases. Raspberries and cherries predominate, with a dab of vanilla, black pepper spiciness and soft tannins.

1998 Ironstone, Zinfandel, Sierra Foothills, $9, 13,000 cases. Blackberries, cherries, spice, and moderate French and American oak flavors. R.S. 0.36%.

1997 Lake Sonoma, Zinfandel, Alexander Valley Old Vine, $17, 1,270 cases. Jammy blackberries and black cherries, toasty oak, finishing with mild to moderate tannins.

1997 Lake Sonoma, Zinfandel, Saini Farms Old Vine, $20, 930 cases. Pure blackberry jam with a healthy dollop of oak which is well-supported by the fruit at this stage. Tasty.

1998 Peachy Canyon, Incredible Red, Bin 108, Paso Robles, $11, 6,978 cases. Red and black fruit abounds, with well-balanced oak, soft tannins and a lingering finish. Very good value.

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