© 2007 by Randy Buckner
Crush is in full swing in the Southern Hemisphere, while our crazy spring weather has closed airports in the East and put New England on the skids with late snowstorms.
This schizophrenic weather has the wine consumer reaching for the reds and then reaching for the whites. Maybe rosé is the safe choice.
I just returned from Australia and will be posting a special report on the trip shortly. It was my first trip, but it will not be my last. The people could not be more friendly, nor the sights more beautiful.
As usual, this month's wines represent all price ranges from $8 to $90, and come from seven countries across the globe.
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. All wines are tasted from Riedel Vinum glasses. No wines scoring below 80 points are listed. All prices are the manufacturer's suggested retail price. Vendor prices are often less expensive. As always, enjoy a bottle with dinner tonight.
2004 Big Yellow, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, $11. This straightforward, medium-bodied wine is tannic and underscored by plum, berry and toasty oak nuances; 82/82.
2004 Charles Krug, Cabernet Sauvignon, Yountville, Napa Valley, California, $26, 28,701 cases. It is nice to see a venerable old house get back on track. The nose is a nice blend of black cherries, cocoa, coffee beans and cedar. It is quite elegant and shows complexity beyond its price tag. You can drink this now or lay it down for several years; 88/90.
2004 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Cabernet Sauvignon, Canoe Ridge Estate, Horse Heaven Hills, Washington, $24, 2,500 cases. Aromas of black fruits, leather, vanilla and cedar intermingle on the nose and palate. Medium bodied, with supple tannins and moderate finish; 87/88.
2004 Clos Du Val, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, $32, 34,000 cases. This crimson-colored wine is medium to full on the palate, with youthful tannins. It is disjointed at this point and needs time to integrate. Black fruit, herbs and cedar are the dominant players; 86/86.
2004 J. Lohr Estates, Cabernet Sauvignon, Seven Oaks, Paso Robles, California, $17. Straightforward and tannic, the wine has modest cherry fruit, licorice and vanilla overtones, with generous oak displayed on the finish; 83/84.
2003 Lancaster Estate, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, California, $65, 4,200 cases. This is a big boy - full bodied, fruity and complex, with youthful tannins and an endless finish. Plums, black cherries and warm spices prevail throughout. Give the wine a few years of cellar time; 89/88.
2004 Night Harvest (by R.H. Phillips), Cabernet Sauvignon, California, $8. While simple and tannic, the wine is flavorful - think cherry pie in a bottle; 82/83.
2004 Ravenswood, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, California, $18, 14,000 cases. The wine is underscored by very ripe black cherry fruit, oak and a touch of herbaceousness - simple and quaffable; 83/83.
2004 San Juan Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Yakima Valley, Washington, $28, 95 cases. Ruby/purple in color. Blackberries, cherries, herbs and barrel accents unfold on the nose. You'll find nice fruit here, but it is packing generous oak as well; 85/85.
2004 San Juan Vineyards, Cabernet-Merlot, Yakima Valley, Washington, $15, 728 cases. Cherry and berry aromas and flavors battle with the oak for dominance. Will it ever integrate? 83/84.
2004 Shafer, One Point Five, Stags Leap District, Napa Valley, California, $65. Underscored by blackberry preserves, Baker's chocolate, a dash of herbs and dusty notes, this Cabernet Sauvignon is full and elegant on the palate, with layers of complexity. Fans of the style will love its big, bold presentation; 91/91.
2003 Simi, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Alexander Valley, California, $60, 3,081 cases. Full and rich on the nose and palate, the wine shows a lot of cassis, leather, cocoa and French oak. It is pretty complex and elegant given the vintage; 88/87.
2005 Sockeye, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington, $12, 4,000 cases. Light ruby in color, with straightforward aromas and flavors of cherries and plums. The tannins are soft, as is the acidity. A quaffer for grilled burgers; 80/80.
2004 Three Rivers, Cabernet Sauvignon, Champoux Vineyard, Horse Heaven Hills, Washington, $50, 316 cases. Black cherries, olives and cedar unfold on the nose and continue on the palate. Medium bodied and elegant, with silky tannins that firm up on the finish; 88/88.
2003 Valley of the Moon, Cuvée de la Luna, Sonoma Valley, California, $30, 460 cases. Black fruit, blueberries and cedar abound on the nose. The wine is generous in the mouth, harmonious, with nice complexity; 87/87.
2005 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Washington, $13. This gold-colored Chardonnay is soft and creamy, with lemon custard and toasty oak notes across the board; 84/86.
2005 Clos Du Val, Chardonnay, Carneros, California, $22, 13,000 cases. Sporting nice balance, this wine is crisp and creamy, with aromas and flavors of pears, citrus, toasty oak and roasted cashews. Good value; 87/88.
2004 Columbia Crest, Chardonnay, Grand Estates, Columbia Valley, Washington, $11, 50,000 cases. Some spritz is noted in the glass, but dissipated without any problems of secondary fermentation noted. Apples, pears and buttered toast highlight the nose, with more barrel notes being apparent on the palate; 84/85.
2004 Columbia Crest, Chardonnay, Two Vines, Columbia Valley, Washington, $8, 400,000 cases. This balanced, creamy, medium-bodied wine is underscored by pear, citrus and caramel highlights. Simple but tasty; 83/84.
2005 Kumeu River, Chardonnay, Village, Kumeu, New Zealand, $19, 600 cases imported. Peaches and flint underscore the wine, with hints of green apples and cotton candy. Balanced, with nice minerality and a peachy finish; 89/91.
2005 J. Lohr Estates, Chardonnay, Riverstone, Arroyo Seco, California, $14. This middleweight is soft, creamy and buttery. Peaches, apples and toasty oak carry from nose to palate; 84/85.
2005 Night Harvest, Chardonnay, California, $8, 131,500 cases. The nose speaks of buttery oak and pears. It is balanced and creamy, with simple flavors echoing the aromas; 81/81.
2005 Ravenswood, Chardonnay, Sonoma County, California, $15, 25,000 cases. Citrus fruit, floral notes and toasty oak define the aromas and flavors of this well-balanced wine. Spicy notes linger on the finish; 85/86.
2005 San Juan Vineyards, Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Washington, $14, 715 cases. Aromas of lemon creams, green apples and toasty oak emanate from this pale gold wine. Full bodied, creamy and balanced, with flavors doing an encore of the nose; 85/87.
2006 Sebeka, Chardonnay, Western Cape, South Africa, $9. The wine is very clean and fruity on the nose and palate, with a soft, creamy feel that leads to a vanilla spice finish; 83/84.
2005 Wild Horse, Chardonnay, Central Coast, California, $17, 50,255 cases. Aromas of lemon custard and toasty oak develop on the nose and then morph into flavors of pears, butter and oak. Nice balance; 85/86.
2006 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Gewurztraminer, Columbia Valley, Washington, $10. Light gold, with lychee and floral notes. Off-dry, soft, simple and fruity - pair with a Thai dish; 83/84.
2006 Kenwood, Gewurztraminer, Sonoma County, California, $11, 600 cases. Honeysuckle, ginger and peach aromas lead to flavors of same. The wine is off-dry, with balancing acidity. Tangerine nuances become evident on the finish; 84/85.
2004 Inniskillin, Sparkling Vidal Icewine, Niagara Peninsula, Canada, $90 (375 ml). Lychee, honey and apricot accents delight the nose and palate. Fine bubbles and racy acidity add structure. Pear and walnut nuances evolve on the finish; 92/91.
2005 Jackson-Triggs, Vidal Icewine, Proprietors' Reserve, Niagara Peninsula, Canada, $20 (187 ml). Intense gold color, with aromas of mango, apricot, tangerines and honey. Sweet, full bodied and viscous with nice balancing acidity - this is a dessert unto itself, or pair with seared medallions of foie gras; 90/91.
2005 Bollini, Pinot Grigio, Trentino, D.O.C., Italy, $15. Straw colored, with melon and floral notes. Light and crisp in the mouth, the creamy fruit flavors seem a natural match for white fish; 86/87.
2004 Bollini, Pinot Grigio, Reserve Selection, Grave del Friuli, D.O.C., Italy, $15. Characterized by melon fruit and fresh-cut hay, the wine is light, bright and crisp, but not showing much depth at this point; 86/86.
2005 Campo al Mare, Vermentino, I.G.T., Toscana, Italy, $17. This straw-gold sipper has a delicate nose of tropical fruit, herbs and citrus peel, all of which does an encore in the mouth. Serve this with a white fish; 86/86.
2003 Michele Chiarlo, Barbera d'Asti, La Court, D.O.C., Italy, $41. Coffee and coconut aromas add to the black cherry, dark chocolate and new leather nuances. Medium to full, ripe and crisp, the tannins firm up on the finish. A nice effort for the steamy 2003 vintage; 88/87.
2004 Michele Chiarlo, Barbera d'Asti, Le Orme, D.O.C., Italy, $13. A hint of leather mingles with the plumy aromas. Velvety smooth, light and crisp, this should pair well with a wide variety of foods; 85/88.
2005 Michele Chiarlo, Gavi, D.O.C., Italy, $13. This wine comes from the cortese grape, a traditional white grape of the Piedmont. A sweet melon perfume continues on the palate, with just a hint of baked peaches. Nice acidity adds character. This is a nice change of pace wine; 88/90.
2005 Pighin, Pinot Grigio, Collio, D.O.C., Italy, $23. From one of the finest growing areas in the Friuli, the wine displays a distinct floral and spicy perfume. White peach flavors highlight the palate, with a delicate finish; 85/85.
2005 Pighin, Pinot Grigio, Grave del Friuli, D.O.C., Italy, $16. Pale straw gold in color, the aromas and flavors speak of white flowers. The wine is delicate and crisp; 84/84.
2004 Beaulieu Vineyard, Merlot, Coastal Estates, California, $9. Well balanced, simple and quaffable - drink now for the cherry, plum and light oak flavors; 83/85.
2004 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Merlot, Canoe Ridge Estate, Horse Heaven Hills, Washington, $22, 12,000 cases. Underscored by black cherry fruit, herbs and vanilla, the tannins are firm but ripe and will age out appropriately. Black fruits and leather linger on the extended finish; 88/90.
2004 Clos Du Val, Merlot, Napa Valley, California, $26, 10,000 cases. Elegant on the entry, the wine is full, ripe and easy to drink. Blackberries, herbs, cedar and a splash of violets underscore the wine's profile; 86/86.
2004 Columbia Crest, Merlot, Grand Estates, Columbia Valley, Washington, $11, 140,000 cases. You'll find generous oak, cherries and cocoa on the nose. This oak overwhelms the palate, leaving an unbalanced wine; 80/80.
2003 Columbia Crest, Merlot, Two Vines, Columbia Valley, Washington, $8, 172,500 cases. Garnet colored, with raspberries, plum, cocoa and light oak carrying across the sensory spectrum. The acidity is bright; the tannins are light - good value; 84/87.
2004 Edna Valley Vineyard, Merlot, San Luis Obispo County, California, $13, 30,000 cases. Straightforward and fruity, with moderate tannins - drink early on for the black cherry fruit; 83/84.
2004 J. Lohr Estates, Merlot, Los Osos, Paso Robles, California, $15. The nose is highlighted by blueberries, chocolate and oak, while the palate is dominated by the barrel influence; 81/81.
2004 Nicholas Cole, Camille, Columbia Valley, Washington, $48, 2,105 cases. While pretty tightly wrapped right now, I was able to coax ripe black fruit and cedar from the wine. It is full and ripe, with generous but rounded tannins. Concentrated and harmonious sums up this Bordeaux blend; 88+/88+.
2004 Night Harvest, Merlot, California, $8, 31,000 cases. Cherries, bell peppers and plums intermingle on the nose and palate. Simple but quaffable - grill up a burger; 81/81.
2004 Ravenswood, Merlot, Sonoma County, California, $18, 10,000 cases. Medium to full in the mouth, the wine is very fruity, albeit one-dimensional. Food-friendly acidity gives the plum and black cherry fruit a little kick; 84/85.
2004 Sterling, Merlot, Vintner's Collection, Central Coast, California, $13. Aromas of blackberries, cherries, vanilla and oak radiate from this ruby-colored Merlot. The wine is crisp and well balanced, with lots of juicy fruit. An overachiever for the tariff; 86/89.
2006 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Dry Rosé, Nellie's Garden, Columbia Valley, Washington, $13. Deep pink in color with a nose of red berries and cherries - this follows through on the palate as well. This is a nice 'beat the heat' summer wine; 85/85.
2004 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Orphelin, Columbia Valley, Washington, $30, 12,000 cases. Aromas of ripe red fruit, cocoa and oak radiate from this deep red blend of 10 red grapes. The nose promises more than the palate delivers; 85/84.
2006 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Pinot Gris, Columbia Valley, Washington, $13. Sporting a pale brass color, the aromas speak of tropical fruit and melons. It's soft, ripe and full in the mouth, with a twist of lemon peel to add to the overall profile; 84/86.
2005 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Semillon, Columbia Valley, Washington, $9. Light gold, with melon, fresh figs and spicy aromas. Melon flavors continue in the mouth, with very soft acidity; 83/84.
2006 Sebeka, Cabernet-Pinotage, Western Cape, South Africa, $9. The wine displays currant, plum and smoky notes throughout. It's balanced and fruity, with drink-me-now tannins. Pair with grilled meats; 84/86.
2006 Sebeka, Syrah-Pinotage, Western Cape, South Africa, $9. You'll find a mélange of aromas and flavors here - blackberries, cherries, forest floor notes and spice. It's interesting and a good value to boot; 84/86.
2006 Twin Fin, Sunset Rosé, California, $10. Pink with an orange tinge, made from the Sangiovese grape. Off-dry, simple and fruity, the rhubarb and strawberry flavors are unburdened by oak; 82/82.
2004 Parducci, Petite Sirah, Mendocino County, California, $10. This deeply-hued wine is very ripe on the nose, with a mix of berries, cherries and mocha, which follows through on the palate as well. Still quite tannic - a nice quaffer for BBQ; 84/85.
2003 Parducci, Petite Sirah, True Grit, Mendocino, California, $25. This is a big, tannic wine that needs serious bottle time. It is deeply hued and underscored by blackberries, new leather and vanilla; 85+/85+.
2005 Clos Du Val, Pinot Noir, Napa Valley, California, $28, 6,400 cases. Generous flavors show nice complexity here - black cherries, mushrooms and vanilla are presented in a well-balanced package, with youthful tannins demanding a little bottle time; 86/86.
2005 Kenwood, Pinot Noir, Reserve, Russian River Valley, California, $25, 2,100 cases. Medium bodied, with a garnet color, you'll find a framework of strawberries, cherries, earth and spicy French oak, however the wine is showing some heat from the 14.5 percent alcohol; 84/84.
2005 Parducci, Pinot Noir, California, $12. Straightforward and moderately tannic. Black cherries, eucalyptus and tea highlight the nose and palate, with a modest finish; 83/84.
2005 Syncline, Pinot Noir, Celilo Vineyard, Columbia Gorge, Washington, $25. The wine is highlighted by brown sugar, black cherries, oak and mushrooms. Oak spiciness lingers on the finish; 85/85.
2005 Wild Horse, Pinot Noir, Central Coast, California, $25, 55,618 cases. The nose of this ruby-red Pinot has black cherry, mushroom and dusty vanilla characteristics. Medium bodied, with nice acidity, this is definitely a food wine - think grilled salmon or lamb chops; 86/86.
2003 Columbia Crest, Shiraz, Grand Estates, Columbia Valley, Washington, $11, 24,000 cases. Raspberries, a hint of smoke and obvious oak unfold on the nose. Light to medium bodied, the wine is simple yet balanced; 82/82.
2004 Columbia Crest, Shiraz, Two Vines, Columbia Valley, Washington, $8, 100,000 cases. One-dimensional, with boysenberries on the nose and palate - light, simple and quaffable; 80/80.
2004 Ravenswood, Syrah, Sonoma County, California, $20. This purple-red Syrah radiates aromas of black cherries and smoke. It is straightforward, balanced, crisp and fruity; 84/84.
2006 Sebeka, Shiraz, Western Cape, South Africa, $9. Black fruits, smoked meat and oak spice highlight this ruby-colored wine. It's balanced, fruity and easy to drink right now with a variety of meat dishes; 84/86.
2006 Syncline, Rosé, Columbia Valley, Washington, $14. The nose is a pleasant mix of sand plums and banana notes. Very fruity and seemingly sweet (no residual sugar), the bright acidity puts this one in competition with rosés from Tavel; 89/90.
2005 Syncline, Roussanne, Alderidge Vineyard, Horse Heaven Hills, Washington, $22. The vineyard yield for these grapes is less than two tons per acre. The nose and palate are highlighted by peaches, melon rind, almonds and a wisp of smoke; 88/88.
2005 Syncline, Subduction Red, Columbia Valley, Washington, $18. Now here is a fun wine, plain and simple. A Rhone-style blend, the wine is elegant and easy to drink due to the soft tannins and charming fruit. Good value; 88/90.
2004 Syncline, Syrah, Destiny Ridge Vineyard, Horse Heaven Hills, Washington, $28. I believe this wine needs time in the bottle to show better. Highlighted by black fruit, licorice, smoke and cedar, it is pretty tannic and hard at this point; 86+/86+.
2004 Syncline, Syrah, McKinley Springs Vineyard, Horse Heaven Hills, Washington, $30. This wine is bigger, richer and more approachable than the Destiny Ridge. The wine is co-fermented with 2-3 percent Viognier grapes, and is loaded with black fruits supported by modest tannins; 90/90.
2005 Syncline, Viognier, Columbia Valley, Washington, $20. Anyone who drinks Viognier knows how fickle the grape can be. Mantone hit a home run here. He barrel ferments the wine in 10-year-old barrels and does not allow malolactic fermentation. Honeysuckle, peach and almond notes abound in this well-structured wine; 91/92.
2004 Three Rivers, Syrah, Columbia Valley, Washington, $24, 433 cases. This deeply-hued Syrah presents a lovely black fruit, smoke and white pepper perfume. It is generous, ripe and fruity in the mouth, with good balance and a harmonious finish. The first bottle opened was corked, but this one is just fine. A terrific value; 89/91.
2006 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Dry Riesling, Columbia Valley, Washington, $12. Although labeled as dry, there is 0.75 percent residual sugar. It's light bodied, balanced and fruity, with peach and tangerine accents; 84/85.
2006 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Riesling, Cold Creek Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Washington, $14. The aromas and flavors, peach predominant, are delightful, but the acidity comes up a little short to balance the 2.2 percent residual sugar; 85/85.
2006 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Riesling, Columbia Valley, Washington, $10. Pale lemon in color, with peach and pear aromas and flavors - it's off-dry and a little flabby; 82/83.
2006 Clos Du Bois, Riesling, California, $12. Sourced primarily from the Santa Lucia Highlands, this inaugural release is soft, off-dry and fruity, with peach and floral notes. A nice summer quaffer; 85/86.
2005 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Valley, Washington, $13. Light gold in color, with citrus and melon aromas. Balanced, with canned fruit flavors, the wine does not show a lot of typicity; 82/83.
2005 Columbia Crest, Sauvignon Blanc, Two Vines, Columbia Valley, Washington, $8, 17,000 cases. The nose displays melon, citrus and cotton candy notes. Flavors echo the nose, with a hint of residual sugar noted; 83/84.
2006 Geyser Peak, Sauvignon Blanc, California, $12. Tropical fruit, melons and grassy aromas expand on the palate. Light, relatively simple, flavorful; 85/86.
2006 Charles Krug, Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, California, $18, 18,000 cases. This wine will change your mind-set about Charles Krug. Lovely grapefruit and melon aromas lead to a very refreshing mouth feel, with loads of tropical fruit, green apples and grapefruit; 90/90.
2004 Michel Redde, Pouilly-Fume, La Moynerie, France, $24. Pale gold in color. Aromas and flavors are characterized by fresh-cut hay and mineral notes, backed by tangy acidity; 86/86.
2004 Michel Redde, Sancerre, Les Tuilieres, France, $25. The nose is a nice mix of herbal notes and white fruits. Framed by snappy acidity, these modest white fruit flavors continue on the palate; 87/87.
2005 Night Harvest, Sauvignon Blanc, California, $8. Here's a very simple quaffer at an affordable price - drink now before the citrus and peach flavors fade away; 80/80.
2005 Parducci, Sauvignon Blanc, Mendocino County - Lake County, California, $9. Lemons, pears and pineapple grace the nose and palate, unburdened by oak cooperage. Bright acidity gives structure. Good value; 85/87.
2005 Sauvignon Republic Cellars, Russian River Valley, California, $18, 10,000 cases. Tropical fruit, grapefruit, herbs and white flower aromas do an encore on the palate. Bright and crisp, this is a nice match for grilled fish with a lemon and caper sauce; 88/88.
2006 Sauvignon Republic Cellars, Stellenbosch, South Africa, $18, 2,250 cases. Well balanced, crisp and fruity, this one is a no-brainer for grilled seafood. Tropical fruit abounds, with grassiness and sage nuances; 90/90.
2006 Sebeka, Sauvignon Blanc, Western Cape, South Africa, $9. Light lemon in color, with tropical fruit and citrus notes. It's soft, simple and fruity, with a slightly herbaceous component lingering on the aftertaste; 84/85.
2005 Silverado, Sauvignon Blanc, Miller Ranch Vineyard, Napa Valley, California, $18, 14,322 cases. The nose is a nice mix of grapefruit, wet stones and orange blossoms. Layers of tasty citrus fruit unfolds in the mouth; 88/88.
2005 Don Olegario, Albarino, Rias Baixas, D.O., Spain, $22. A mélange of aromas radiate from this bronze-hued Albarino - lemons, limes, peaches, melons and white flowers. Creamy and balanced in its presentation, the wine presents nice complexity and persistence; 88/88.
NV Harveys, Fino Light Sherry, Jerez Superior, Spain, $15. Bright almond and flor notes carry from the nose to the mouth. Dry and nutty, the finish seems endless here. Think traditional tapas; 87/90.
NV Harveys, Reserve Sherry, Jerez Superior, Spain, $15. Composed of 80 percent Palomino and 20 percent Ximénez, this Sherry is a blend of 30 soleras. Amber in color, the wine smells like a dried-fruit basket sprinkled with brown sugar and spice. It's sweet, rich and complex, with hazelnuts dominating the palate; 87/90.
NV Harveys, Orange, Jerez, Spain, $15. Dark-honey colored with a nose reminiscent of orange slice candy, brown sugar and nuts, which also reflects on the palate. I'm not much of one for infused wines, but I like this one. It will pair nicely with lemon pound cake; 87/90.
2005 Tapena, Garnacha, Tierra de Castilla, Spain, $8. Soft, simple and fruity, enjoy this one early on for the plum and berry fruit; 82/82.
2005 Tapena, Tempranillo, Tierra de Castilla, Spain, $8. One-dimensional, fruity, with drying tannins - drink now before the ripe red cherry fruit fades; 81/81.
2004 Ravenswood, Zinfandel, Lodi, California, $15, 55,000 cases. Mixed red and blue fruit aromas mingle with toasty notes. The wine is ripe, jammy and brambly, with modest tannins; 84/86.
2004 Ravenswood, Zinfandel, Napa Valley, California, $15, 8,000 cases. Plums and cedary spice are presented in this fruity, moderately tannic, one-dimensional wine. Vanilla is apparent on the finish; 84/86.
2004 Ravenswood, Zinfandel, Sonoma County, California, $15, 10,000 cases. Raspberries, brambleberries and French oak highlight this wine. It's well balanced and tannic, with a hint of cracked pepper on the long berry finish; 84/86.
2004 Zig Zag Zin, Zinfandel, Mendocino County, California, $18. Light and simple, yet fruity and balanced, the wine is highlighted by red berries, cedar and vanilla; 82/82.