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© 2001 by Randy Buckner
May 18, 2001

Spring Releases:

With this bevy of new releases, we resurrect the dual scoring system of quality plus value that Jerry Mead so popularized. Each wine receives a two-number rating. The first number indicates its quality irrespective of price; the second reflects its value. This system treats wines more fairly and also allows for more effective shopping. We all love a wine with a high quality to price ratio, and this rating system helps to highlight those $10 wines who pretend that they have a $25 label around their neck.

With the return of warm weather, our minds turn to those barbecues on the deck, cheese and fruit plates by the side of the pool, and boating on the bay. Many of the following wines will help to make those moments memorable. Enjoy your spring and summer, enjoy your wine, and share the joy with others. Now, on to the new releases. Enjoy a bottle with dinner tonight.

Cabernet Sauvignon  wine glass

1999 Calina, Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Itata Valley, 40% Rapel Valley, 10% Maule Valley, Chile, $8. Deeply colored, with a nose of blackberries, mint and tobacco. Flavors of black cherries, cedar and olives are supported by moderate tannins, vanilla cream, and a fruity finish. Imported by Kendall-Jackson Estates. 83/88.

1998 Chateau Ste Michelle, Cabernet Sauvignon, Canoe Ridge Estate Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Washington, $24. Cherry, raspberry and licorice notes please the nose. Easy on the entry, cherries and vanilla spice define the palate, followed by food-friendly acidity and supple tannins on the finish. 86/86.

1998 Chateau Ste Michelle, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington, $15. Cassis and vanilla notes are followed by black cherry and vanilla flavors, with moderate tannins on the long finish. 84/87.

Guenoc 1997 Guenoc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Beckstoffer IV Vineyard, Reserve, Napa Valley, California, $55. Sweet black cherry and black currant notes are found on the nose. Nicely balanced, the fruit ranges from blackberry to raspberry, with an added hint of herbaceousness. The tannins are substantial yet supple. 89/82.

1998 Guenoc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Bella Vista Vineyard, Napa Valley, California, $45.50. This deeply colored wine has cassis, light cedar and a hint of mint on the nose. Blackberries, nicely balanced oak and moderate drying tannins precede the long, very crisp finish. 86/80.

1998 Guenoc, Cabernet Sauvignon, North Coast, California, $17.50. Deep ruby in the glass, with blackberry, cassis, and cedar aromas that are echoed on the palate. You’ll find modest vanilla flavors and moderate tannins on the long aftertaste. 85/87.

1999 Heritage Road, Cabernet Sauvignon, Old Mundella Vineyard, Limestone Coast, Australia, $18, 4,000 cases. Youthful purple, with plum, cigar box, and toasty oak aromas. Sweet blueberry and wild berry flavors, along with modest oak in the background. Modest acidity and smooth tannins round out the wine. A Vintage New World import. 85/88.

2000 Heritage Road, Cabernet Sauvignon, Saxonvale Vineyard, Hunter Valley, Australia, $18, 4,000 cases. Dark ruby, with attractive notes of mulberry, cigar leaf, and vanilla on the nose. Blueberry, mulberry and mild vanilla flavors prevail, followed by balanced acidity and silky tannins. The finish is long and sweet. 85/89.

1997 Hess Collection, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mount Veeder, Napa Valley, California, $35, 15,000 cases. Deeply colored, with splendid aromas of licorice, plum blackberry and cedar. Elegant on the palate, with full flavors of black cherry, blackberry, mocha, and French oak. The tannins are silky, the finish long. Classic California Cabernet. 91/94.

1997 Langtry, Meritage Red Wine, North Coast, CA, $55. A blend of 56% Cabernet Sauvignon and 44% Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Cassis, cedar, and a touch of mint frame the nose of this dark ruby selection. Bright red and black fruits are riding on a moderately tannic backbone. The wine finishes long and crisp and needs 3-5 years to strut its stuff. 90/86.

1998 Monterey Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Monterey County, California, $7, 55,000 cases. Black cherry, olive and cedar notes on the nose. Sweet blackberry, tart cherry, light cedar and modest tannins delineate this offering. 82/86.

1998 Ste. Chapelle, Cabernet Sauvignon, Winemaker’s Series, Idaho, $12. Ruby colored with aromas of cherries, black olives and American oak. Medium-bodied, the wine has cherry fruit, spice, coffee, and light herbal flavors, supported by light tannins. 82/84.

1998 Sterling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Central Coast, California, $13, 51,800 cases. Light cassis, blackberry and vanilla aromas dominate. You’ll find straightforward black fruit, a touch of mint, easy tannins and nice acidity. 84/87.

1998 Sterling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, $24, 100,000 cases. Aromas of blackberry, cassis, cedar and smoke prevail. Tart black cherry, blackberry, moderate chewy tannins and a medium finish define this wine. 84/85.

1999 Tapiz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendoza Region, Argentina, $8, 9,000 cases. Blackberry, plum, chocolate and cedar tempt the nose. Very smooth and easy on the entry, with straightforward blackberry fruit and modest mixed oak flavors. Has a long, sweet aftertaste. A Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates import. 84/87.

Chardonnay  wine glass

1999 Barefoot, Chardonnay, Reserve, Sonoma County, California, $14, 1,100 cases. Sure to please French oak fans, this wine has big pear and toasty oak aromas. Creamy on the entry, the wine is loaded with ripe pear and vanilla flavors, with plenty of acidity. 85/86.

1999 Bargetto, Chardonnay, Central Coast, California, $11, 6,300 cases. Light gold in the glass, the aromas of butterscotch, apples and herbs are evident. Soft on the entry, this light-bodied wine has apple and pear fruit, with a modest finish. Drink over the next year. 82/84.

1999 Bargetto, Chardonnay, Regan Vineyards, Santa Cruz Mountains, California, $20, 1,980 cases. Straw colored, the nose is comprised of ripe apple, caramel and vanilla aromas. Very round on the palate, you’ll find ripe apple and pear on the soft finish. 83/82.

1998 Barwang, Chardonnay, Yarra Valley-Coonawarra-Hilltops, Australia, $14. Golden straw, with full aromas of butterscotch, smoke, apples and pears, which are repeated on the palate. The finish is long and crisp. A Peak Wines International import. 84/85.

wine glass

2000 Brancott, Chardonnay, Gisborne, New Zealand, $11, 12,000 cases. Apples and pears prevail on the nose. This golden straw wine has lively acidity, with apple, pear and apricot fruit and just a touch of clove for added complexity. A Seagram Estate Import. 89/93.

1999 Calina Chardonnay, Itata Valley, Chile, $8. This golden colored wine has butterscotch, apple, pineapple, and smoky aromas. Medium-bodied, with nice acidity, you’ll find apples, pears and caramel on the palate. 85/90.

2000 Canyon Road, Chardonnay, California, $8, 105,000 cases. Dark gold in the glass, with tropical fruit, lemon zest and buttery notes on the nose. Soft and round, ripe yellow delicious apple fruit prevails, with a touch of pear and light vanilla flavors. 84/87.

1999 Chateau Ste Michelle, Chardonnay, Cold Creek Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Washington, $25. Juicy green apple, pear and butterscotch aromas spring from the glass, and are repeated on the palate. The full intensity finish has fine acidity and a healthy dose of spicy oak flavors. 87/85.

1999 Chateau Ste Michelle, Chardonnay, Indian Wells Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Washington, $22. Aromatics of fresh cut apples, roasted nuts, honey and oak spice. Creamy on the palate, the wine has rich fruit flavors, easy acidity, and modest vanilla notes of the full finish. 87/87.

2000 Glen Carlou, Chardonnay, Paarl, South Africa, $14. Golden yellow overtones with a green hue. Aromas of tropical fruit and toasty oak define the palate as well. Viscous mouthfeel, with very soft acidity on the long finish. 83/85.

1998, Guenoc, Chardonnay, Genevieve Magoon Vineyard, Reserve, Unfiltered, Guenoc Valley, California, $30. Deeply colored, the somewhat reticent nose finally yields yellow delicious apple and hazelnut notes. Impeccably balanced and very Burgundian in style, the wine has lovely fruit, hazelnuts and elegant oak flavors in the background. An excellent effort. 93/90.

1998 Guenoc, Chardonnay, North Coast, California, $16. Aromatics of pear and ever so light vanillin punctuate this golden colored wine. Zingy acidity, green apples, pears and oak held in check in the background makes this a dandy food wine. 87/90.

1999 Monterey Vineyard, Chardonnay, 65% Monterey County, 19% St Anistaus County, 16% San Joaquin County, California, $7. Very aromatic tropical fruit on the nose and palate, with a suggestion of clove on the brisk, full finish. 85/90.

1999 Sebastiani, Chardonnay, Sonoma County, California, $13, 44,000 cases. Golden straw to the eye. The aromas speak of green apples, toasty oak and light citrus notes. Full-bodied with a creamy mouthfeel. Ripe apples and caramel showcase the flavors of this wine, with light honeyed tastes and balanced acidity. 87/90.

1999 Sterling, Chardonnay, Central Coast, California, $13, 48,000 cases. Intense butterscotch aromas, a viscous mouthfeel and soft acidity lead off. Followed by caramel, ripe pear and smoke, made in a intermediate style. 83/86.

1999 Sterling, Chardonnay, North Coast, California, $17, 80,000 cases. Brilliant gold in the glass, with ripe apple, pear and toasted oak on the nose. Very creamy, accompanied by pears, apples, vanilla cream, and obvious cinnamon spice. 85/86.

1999 Sterling, Chardonnay, Reserve, Napa Valley, California, $40, 1,095 cases. The nose is profiled by vanilla, smoky oak and yellow delicious apples. Full-bodied, creamy, with lush pear, cinnamon, clove, and oak vanillin. Long aftertaste. 89/82.

1999 Sterling, Chardonnay, Winery Lake Vineyard, Carneros, Napa Valley, California, $25, 2,500 cases. Apple, pear, vanilla and toasted oak aromas are echoed on the palate, with a soft, creamy mouthfeel. 85/85.

1999 Tapiz, Chardonnay, Mendoza Region, Argentina, $8, 4,000 cases. Tropical fruit, pear and vanilla abound on the nose of this golden yellow wine. Very soft on the palate, with pear, apple and vanilla notes. Drink over the next year or so. 83/88.

Gewurztraminer wine glass

Chateau St. Jean 2000 Chateau St. Jean, Gewurztraminer, Sonoma County, California $15. In a grape that is notorious for low acidity, this one manages to squeeze out a little extra zip to stay interesting. Spicy floral and lychee aromas are quite evident. White peach, lychee, and a touch of characteristic bitter spice leads to a pleasant citrus finish. 86/87.

1998 Trimbach, Gewurztraminer, Alsace, France, $16. Classic lychee, rose petal and a dash of grapefruit highlight the nose of this golden colored wine. Medium-bodied, with pretty intense lychee, honeysuckle and citrus flavors. Characteristic of the grape, you’ll find soft acids on the long finish. A Seagram Estate import. 89/90.

Malbec wine glass

1999 Tapiz, Malbec, Mendoza Region, Argentina, $8. This dark ruby wine was sourced from 50-100 year old vines. Plum, coffee, and spicy aromas are repeated on the palate, with just a hint of black pepper peering through. Very soft tannins and acidity make this an early drinker. 84/88.

2000 San Telmo, Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina, $10. Earthy, berry notes are appreciated both on the nose and the palate, with plenty of cracked black pepper to add interest. Supple tannins and lively acidity on the finish. A Seagram Estate import. 87/92.

Merlot wine glass

1998 Barwang, Merlot, Coonawarra, South Australia, $14. Dark ruby, with appealing aromas of plums, blackberries and olives. Mixed berry flavors greet the palate, with a dash of green pepper, dill and oak vanillin. 84/87.

1999 Calina, Merlot, Maule Valley, Chile, $8. Sparkling ruby, with cherry, blackberry, and black olive notes. Supple tannins invite early drinking. Lush cherry, blackberry, and mixed oak flavors combine to make a nice valued wine. 87/93.

1998 Chateau Ste Michelle, Merlot, Canoe Ridge Estate Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Washington, $22. Blueberry, vanilla, and mint aromas highlight this dark ruby wine. Nicely balanced, with blackberry, blueberry and toasty oak overtones, along with brisk acidity on the finish. 85/86.

1998 Chateau Ste Michelle, Merlot, Indian Wells Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Washington, $31. Lovely aromas of black cherry, cedar, and chocolate aromas charm the nose. Very elegant on the palate, there are full flavors of black cherry and French oak, with medium weight tannins. Will improve in the bottle. 87/85.

Chateau Ste. Michelle 1998 Chateau Ste Michelle, Merlot, Reserve, Columbia Valley, Washington, $37. The nose is loaded with mixed red and black fruit, cocoa, cinnamon and clove spice. Very elegant, with velvety tannins, the fruit is full and lush, the finish long and pleasing. A fine example of WA Merlot. 90/87.

1997 Guenoc, Meritage, Red Wine, North Coast, California, $20.75. A blend of 52% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Franc, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Malbec. The nose is defined by blackberries, cassis, spicy oak, and just a pinch of mint. Pretty black fruit and blueberry flavors are supported by sweet oak, middle weight tannins, and a long, brisk finish. 87/90.

1998 Kenwood, Merlot, Jack London Vineyard, Sonoma County, California, $30, 1,639 cases. Deep black fruit and mixed oak aromas are focused in this medium-bodied wine. Moderate but supple tannins support the lush, black cherry fruit. Toasty oak and dill notes round out the wine. The finish is long, fruity and crisp. 88/86.

1999 Owen’s Estate, Merlot, South Eastern Australia, $15, 3,200 cases. Richly colored. Mixed berry aromas have a dash of mint added for interest. Straightforward, tart black cherry fruit is supported by nice acidity. Somewhat coarse tannins dictate a couple of years in bottle. A Brown-Forman import. 83/85.

1998 Ste. Chapelle, Merlot, Winemaker’s Series, Idaho, $12, 1,800 cases. Pleasing blackberry and oak spice aromas and flavors are found in this light-bodied wine. Soft tannins and acidity dictate early consumption. 83/86.

1998 Sterling, Merlot, Central Coast, California, $13, 48,000 cases. The nose of cherry, olive and vanilla is followed by straightforward cherry fruit and light vanilla flavors, coarse tannins, and a tart finish. 83/85.

1998 Sterling, Merlot, Napa Valley, California, $22, 97,000 cases. A light to medium body frames blackberry and black cherry fruit, sweet vanilla, cedar, and a sweet yet tart finish. 84/85.

1999 Tapiz, Merlot, Mendoza Region, Argentina, $8, 9,000 cases. Plum, cherry, vanilla and dill spice abound both on the nose and palate of this medium-bodied wine. Velvety tannins make it drinkable tonight with your favorite grilled beef dish. 84/90.

Miscellaneous  wine glass wine glass

1999 Barton & Guestier, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Tradition, France, $20, 15,000 cases. Black cherry and light cedar notes are echoed on the palate of this light styled wine. Spicy black pepper nuances and smooth tannins finish out this CdP. A Seagram Estate import. 84/84.

1999 Barton & Guestier, Vouvray, Tradition, France, $9. Light gold, with delicate minerals and lemon verbena aromas. Off-dry with light citrus and ripe persimmon flavors. Long aftertaste. 83/84.

1999 Castello di Gabbiano, Chianti, DOCG, Italy, $9.50. The nose has cherry and dried cherry notes. Lean on the palate, with snappy acidity and dried cherry fruit, this wine will match well with spaghetti and meatballs. A BeringerBlass import. 84/88.

1998 Columbia Winery, Pinot Gris, Yakima Valley, Washington, $10. Citrus and melon aromas carry over to the palate, with a touch of peach on the medium-length finish. Food-friendly acidity makes this a nice match for shellfish. 85/86.

Covey Run 1999 Covey Run, Cabernet-Merlot, Washington, $9, 17,735 cases. Rich garnet in color, with cherry, green olive and cedar aromas. Soft and very approachable, the aromas are echoed on the palate. A nice match for spaghetti and meatballs. 83/87.

1997 Duck Pond, Cabernet Franc, Fries’ Desert Wind Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Washington, $40, 250 cases. Earthy black fruit and dark cedar notes tempt the nose. The lovely blackberry fruit, cedar, and forest floor components are currently overwhelmed by the very firm tannins. Give this one at least 4-5 years in bottle. 85/81.

1999 Owen’s Estate, Cabernet Shiraz, South Eastern Australia, $13, 4,000 cases. Black cherry, spice, and toasty oak aromas prevail. Nice fruit flavors, minerals, and medium-weight tannins finish with a tart berry taste. 84/87.

1999 Ste. Chapelle, Chenin Blanc, Winemaker’s Series, Idaho, $6, 6,200 cases. Light straw, with melon notes on the nose. Sweet at 8% residual sugar, there is adequate acidity to prevent the wine from appearing flabby. Straightforward peach and melon flavors. Serve on its own or with a cheese plate. 83/87.

1998 Trimbach, Pinot Blanc, Alsace, France, $11. Light straw, with aromas of melon and pineapple. The pleasing, crisp entry yields to delicate flavors of lemon peel and crenshaw melon. Nice foil with shellfish. 89/92.

1997 White Heron, Chantepierre, Washington, $11, 800 cases. A blend of 62% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Franc, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 3% Malbec. Softer on the palate and less complex than the Mariposa Red Wine, this wine does offer a nice spectrum of red fruit flavors. 84/86.

1998 White Heron, Dry Rose, Washington State, $7, 500 cases. A blend of Lemberger, Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc. Lovely aromas of strawberry and rhubarb are found in this very clean, very crisp wine. Tasty strawberry fruit takes the forefront, with a touch of rhubarb peering through. Worth the search to find. 87/93.

1997 White Heron, Red Wine, Mariposa Vineyard, Washington, $13, 224 cases. A blend of 27% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Franc, and 6% Malbec. The wine has a fruity, complex nose. Very elegant and easy on the palate, the juicy red and black fruit seems to change with every sip. Tasty. 86/89.

Petite Sirah wine glass

1997 Guenoc, Petite Sirah, North Coast, California, $18.75. Deeply colored, this wine gives off black cherry, mint and earthy aromas. Blackberry, black cherry, crisp acids and substantial tannins that don’t overwhelm makes this a great BBQ wine. Give it 2-4 years in bottle. 87/90.

1997 Guenoc, Petite Sirah, Serpentine Meadow, Guenoc Valley, California, $35. Almost opaque in the glass, the wine makes a statement with dark fruit and earthy/mushroom aromas. You'll find plenty of lush, sweet fruit, inviting oak flavors, and bountiful tannins on the long finish. Give this one 3-5 years in bottle. 88/83.

Pinot Noir wine glass

1999 Bargetto, Pinot Noir, Regan Vineyards, Santa Cruz Mountains, California, $25, 900 cases. A lovely garnet color with red currant and sun-dried tomato notes, both on the nose and the palate. Light-bodied, moderate tannins, gentle acidity. 83/83.

1999 Brancott, Pinot Noir, Reserve, Marlborough, New Zealand, $16. A classic Pinot Noir nose on this brilliant ruby wine. You’ll appreciate red berries, spice, black tea, very brisk acidity, and a long finish. 90/93.

1998 Camelot, Pinot Noir, California, $9. Strawberry, cherry, chocolate and smoky aromas are resounded on the palate, with balanced acids on the finish. 84/88.

2000 Monterey Vineyard, Pinot Noir, Central Coast, California, $7.50. Strawberries define the nose of this lightly styled wine. Straightforward red fruit, supple tannins, and a dash of spice round out the wine. 83/86.

Sanford 1999 Sanford, Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County, California, $26.You’ll find a nose full of plums, ripe cherry, black tea and an herbal note in this ruby colored wine. Juicy red fruit, sun-dried tomatoes, tea, supple tannins and lovely acidity enhance this medium-bodied wine. 89/88.

1999 White Heron, Pinot Noir, Mariposa Vineyard, Washington, $13, 140 cases. Medium-bodied, with nice acidity, this wine has black cherry fruit and cedar displayed on the nose and palate. It is difficult to find this level of quality at this price. 86/89.


Port wine glass

1997 Guenoc, Vintage Port, California, $35. This is a quite nice Petite Sirah Port. Ripe plum jam aromas lead to a very smooth entry. This wine hides its 19.3% alcohol very well behind the very rich, lush raspberry and plum fruit. 89/90.

NV Sandeman, Porto, Founders Reserve, Portugal, $15.50. Classic, warm Port aromas. Sweet, complex fruit, easy going tannins and a very long, lush finish makes this a nice everyday Port for the home. A Seagram Estate import. 88/92.

Riesling  wine glass

2000 Chateau St. Jean, Johannisberg Riesling, Sonoma County, California, $15. Lovely melon and apricot aromas greet the nose. Off-dry at 2.97% residual sugar, the wine is full-bodied. The peach and tangerine flavors are balanced by nice acidity. 85/85.

2000 Columbia Winery, Riesling, Cellarmaster’s, Columbia Valley, Washington, $7, 58,000 cases. Brilliant light gold in color. Honey, peach, and apricot aromas and flavors linger, with a slight touch of bitterness and light acidity on the finish. 82/84.

2000 Eroica, Riesling, Columbia Valley, Washington, $20. A joint effort between Chateau Ste Michelle and Dr. Loosen. Delicate aromatics, with fresh peach and mineral flavors, lively acidity, finishing clean, refreshing, and off-dry at 1.7% residual sugar A nice example of New World Riesling. 88/85.

1998 Trimbach, Riesling, Alsace, France, $16. Delicate Riesling aromas and just a touch of slate tempt the senses. Very crisp on the palate, with lovely mineral flavors, tart tangerine, and a hint of petrol. 89/91.

Sauvignon Blanc  wine glass

2000 Brancott, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand, $11, 20,000 cases. Big, beautiful aromas of gardenias, peaches and gooseberries highlight this medium to full-bodied wine. Gooseberry flavors dominate, with apricots and spice on the substantial finish. The wine was a nice match with roasted, herbed chicken and sorrel. 89/94.

wine glass

2000 Camelot, Sauvignon Blanc, California, $9. Canned chunky mixed fruit best describes this fun quaffer. Pear, peach, and pineapple aromas and flavors are supported by adequate acidity. 85/88.

2000 Canyon Road, Sauvignon Blanc, California, $8, 27,200 cases. A very perfumed nose of lemongrass and mandarin orange. The wine receives no barrel aging or malolactic fermentation, allowing pure flavors to express themselves, in this case green apples, lemongrass and a touch of herbs. Pleasing acidity. 86/92.

1998 Guenoc, Sauvignon Blanc, North Coast, California, $14. Delicate citrus notes highlight this light gold offering. Lively acidity greets the palate, with lime flavors and a dash of spiciness. 86/87.

1999 Owen’s Estate, Sauvignon Blanc, McLaren Vale, South Australia, $13, 2,000 cases. Citrus, tropical fruit and herbaceous notes are duplicated on the palate, along with lime zest and light acidity. 83/85.

2000 Sterling, Sauvignon Blanc, North Coast, California, $12, 80,000 cases. Light gold, with aromas of apricots, pineapple and just a hint of gooseberry. Lightly styled, with delicate acidity, sweet peach and herbs delineate the wine. 83/86.

Sparkling Wine wine glass

NV Domaine Ste. Michelle, Blanc De Noir, Columbia Valley, Washington, $11. This lovely salmon colored sparkler has very fine bubbles in the glass. Light strawberry and raspberry aromas and flavors finish with delicate sweetness (1.48% residual sugar). 84/88.

NV Mumm, Cuvee Napa, Blanc De Noirs, Brut, Napa Valley, California, $18, 25,000 cases. You’ll appreciate the lovely, pale salmon color, fine bubbles, and hint of strawberries on the nose. Very nice fruit and toasty flavors. 88/90.

NV Mumm, Cuvee Napa, Brut Prestige, Napa Valley, California, $18, 180,000 cases. Very fine bubbles. There is a touch of citrus on the nose which is also noted on the palate. Finishes with tartness and brisk acidity. 84/87.

1996 Mumm, Cuvee Napa, DVX, Napa Valley, California, $50, 5,000 cases. Light straw, with medium to large bubbles. Crisp yet creamy at the same time. This sparkler has nice fruit and an ever so subtle toastiness on the finish. A nice New World effort. 90/83.

Syrah wine glass

1999 Buffalo Ridge, Syrah, French Camp Vineyard, Central Coast, California, $12, 2,000 cases. Blackberry, raspberry, and vanilla spice entice the nose. Well-balanced and very approachable now. Lush raspberries define this wine, with added nuances of nutmeg, spice, and black tea. Silky tannins persist on the long, fruity finish. 86/90.

1999 Camelot, Syrah, California, $9. Aromas and flavors of raspberries, ripe red plums, and chocolate makes a fun to drink wine. Very forward, you can enjoy this Syrah tonight. 85/89.

1998 terypond, Syrah, Fries’ Desert Wind Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Washington, $30, 500 cases. Deep ruby, with black fruit, dark tea and smoky aromas. This offering is full-bodied, with lush blackberry fruit, spice, smoky oak vanillin, and very chewy tannins that need several years of aging. 85/84.

2000 Heritage Road, Shiraz, Reserve, Limestone Coast, Australia, $18, 1,500 cases. Dark ruby, with aromas of plums, cherries, brown sugar and dill spice. Medium-bodied, with mixed black fruit, minerals, a touch of vanilla spice, and silky tannins all on a long finish. 87/90.

1999 McCrea, Syrah, Amerique, Yakima Valley, Washington, $40, 115 cases. Doug McCrea uses 100% American oak in this special cuvee. Intensely colored, this wine yields dark fruit, smoke and dill aromas. Rich plum jam, moderate caramel and vanilla notes, a touch of pickle barrel, and smooth tannins round out the wine. 90/86.

1999 McCrea, Syrah, Boushey Grande Cote Vineyard, Yakima Valley, Washington, $38, 173 cases. Sweet black fruit and chocolate aromas highlight this deep purple offering. Soft on the palate, rich blackberry jam and wild blackberry flavors seamlessly meld with silky tannins. June 2001 release. 91/88.

McCrea

1999 McCrea, Syrah, Ciel du Cheval Vineyard, Yakima Valley, Washington, $38, 172 cases. Inky colored, with aromas of blackberry and Asian spices. The tannins are more substantial in this wine, yet very forgiving. Blackberry, plum and mocha flavors are up-front, with raspberry nuances on the racy, lengthy aftertaste. June 2001 release. 90/87.

1998 McCrea, Syrah, Cuvee Orleans, Yakima Valley, Washington, $45, 98 cases. Very dark in the glass, with aromas of blackberry jam, light smoke and meaty notes. Very elegant and polished on the entry, the silky tannins make a statement in their finely tuned integration with the wine. Sweet blackberry fruit predominates, with a touch of spicy flavors and brown sugar intermingling throughout. 93/88.

1999 McCrea, Syrah, Yakima Valley, Washington, $33, 466 cases. Dark ruby, with black fruit, roasted coffee beans and a hint of smoke on the nose. Lush and fairly complex, you’ll find black cherry, mulberry, coffee, and cedar flavors, with a touch of plum on the long, smooth, crisp finish. 89/87.

1998 Rosemount, Shiraz, Show Reserve, McLaren Vale, Australia, $24. The nose can best be described as wild berries and spice. Full-bodied and rich, the wine is very fruity, with a touch of mint. The finish is quite long, with mixed berry flavors and firm, but supple tannins. 88/89.

1998 Rosemount, Shiraz Cabernet, Blue Mountain, Mudgee, Australia, $50. A big nose of plum, mocha and mint greets you. Very rich and elegant on the palate, you’ll find complex blackberry, plum and spice flavors. Moderate but supple tannins endure on the very long, fruity finish. 91/85.

1999 White Heron, Syrah, Mariposa Vineyard, Washington, $13. Black fruit, a touch of smoke and cedar greet the nose. Very fruity, elegant, with a touch of black pepper and food-friendly acidity, the wine paired beautifully with beef tenderloin and green peppercorn sauce. 86/90.

Zinfandel wine glass

1999 Buffalo Ridge, Zinfandel, French Camp Vineyard, Central Coast, California, $12, 1,500 cases. Made in a style to appeal to a broad range of palates, this wine has early appeal. Aromas of fresh raisins, blackberries and cedar are followed by sweet berry fruit, spice, a bit of forest floor, and rustic tannins. The aftertaste is long and fruity. A good BBQ wine. 85/87.

1999 Geyser Peak, Zinfandel, Sonoma County, California, $17, 4,500 cases. Richly colored, with sweet brambly fruit aromas and flavors. A touch of spice, pepper, cedary oak and modest tannins round out the wine. 86/87.

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