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© 2000 by Randy Buckner
June 25, 2000

New Releases:
Summer has slipped up on us once again, and with it comes a bevy of new wine releases. Picnics, barbecues, family gatherings or the beach - there is a wine for every occasion. We hope that you enjoy your summer to the fullest.

Cabernet Sauvignon:
1998 Carmenet, Cabernet Sauvignon, Dynamite, North Coast, $19.50, 41,000 cases. The wine has a ripe, cherry vanilla nose, followed by red cherry and currant fruit, hefty oak flavors, finishing with drying, green tannins.

1997 Clos Du Val, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, $26, 38,222 cases. Maybe their best Napa Cab since 1985. Elegant is the word here. Well-balanced, moderate yet supple tannins, allowing for drinking now or for several years of aging, bounteous blackberries, minerals, finishing long and lush. Very good value.

1997 Covey Run, Cabernet Sauvignon, Washington State, $13, 3,300 cases. A rich, black cherry nose, unambiguous cherry and berry flavors, hints of minerals, modest tannins, with a crisp finish.

1996 Covey Run, Cabernet Sauvignon, Whiskey Canyon, Yakima Valley, $29, 741 cases. A lovely wine that displays black currant fruit, lots of chalky mineral flavors characteristic of the area, with spice and American oak nuances. Approachable now. Match with a rib-eye steak.

1996 Fetzer, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Napa Valley, $30, 1,900 cases. Black currant and vanilla aromas open to big cassis and moderate, spicy, French oak flavors, finishing with very supple tannins.

1995 Foris, Cabernet Sauvignon, Klipsun Vineyard, Washington, $25, 1,052 cases. Intense, tannic, and robust are the correct adjectives for this wine. Lots of blueberry and blackberry fruit, but the tannins dictate more bottle age.

1997 Gallo of Sonoma, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, $13, 10,000 cases. Mild American and French oak flavors and aromas, along with lush black cherry fruit, and a moderately tannic, spicy finish.

1997 Hogue, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $15, 10,160 cases. Cherry, vanilla, and olive aromas and flavors are packaged in this moderately tannic wine. Needs a little bottle aging.

1996 Lake Sonoma, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, $25, 1,625 cases. This wine has a rich blackberry nose, mixed berry flavors, and a supporting framework of moderate tannins and integrated oak flavors. The long, tannic finish has hints of tobacco peering through. Nice value.

1996 Marcelina, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, $26, 14,085 cases. Earthy black fruit aromas give way to blackberry, bing cherry and generous oak flavors, finishing with manageable tannins.

1998 Monterey Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Monterey County, $7, 55,000 cases. This medium-bodied wine has scents of plums and cherries, with ripe plum fruit, a hint of olive, and subtle oak flavors. Terrific value.

1998 Paul Thomas, Cabernet Sauvignon, Washington, $9, 7,250 cases. Ripe cherry and blueberry aromas are also appreciated on the palate, along with a hint of olive and dusty, chalky minerals that add to the complexity. Approachable now. Match with a grilled steak. Good value.

1998 Paul Thomas, Cabernet-Merlot, Columbia Valley, $9, 7,300 cases. A blueberry and blackberry bouquet, with blueberry winning out on the palate, along with sweet oak spice and an incisive finish.

1996 Powers, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mercer Ranch, Columbia Valley, $20, 850 cases. A leather and blackberry bouquet is followed by big, rich black fruit, leather, and tobacco, finishing with heavy, coarse tannins that demand further bottle aging.

1997 Powers, Cabernet-Merlot, Washington State, $10, 1,625 cases. This is a blend of 59% Cabernet Sauvignon and 41% Merlot. Dark fruits with a hint of olive and vanilla notes are followed by black cherry and vanilla flavors, finishing tart and somewhat tannic.

1997 Rodney Strong, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander's Crown Vineyard, Northern Sonoma, $26, 18,500 cases. A hint of olive adds to the black cherry and vanilla bouquet. Rich, ripe black fruit is supported by integrated oak spice and olive nuances. Weighty, coarse tannins will soften with bottle aging.

1997 M. Trinchero, Cabernet Sauvignon, Founder's Estate, Napa Valley, $38, 4,924 cases. Notes of cassis, cedar and vanilla lead to rich black cherry fruit and enhancing oak flavors. Well-balanced, with moderate tannins on the long finish. Tasty.

1997 Valley of the Moon, Reserve Red Table Wine, Cuvee de la Luna, Sonoma County, $25, 6,900 cases. A hint of brett (?) on the nose and palate that enhances rather than detracts, with rich black fruit, balance, soft mouthfeel, and hints of vanilla on the long finish.

Chardonnay:
1998 Beringer, Chardonnay, Private Reserve, Napa Valley, $36. Well-made for the style and very consistent over the years. Butterscotch and smoky oak aromas open on the palate to complex flavors of ripe apples, caramel and hazelnuts, finishing with toasty, buttery tastes.

1999 Canyon Road, Chardonnay, California, $8, 86,000 cases. Yet another good value wine from Canyon Road. Citrus aromas and flavors, a touch of melon, and subtle oak in the background, supported by moderate acidity.

1998 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Chardonnay, Canoe Ridge Vineyard, Columbia Valley, $19. Lots of ripe apples and toasty oak aromas and flavors, embellished by a dollop of spice, MLF softness, and a long, buttery finish.

1998 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Chardonnay, Cold Creek Vineyard, Columbia Valley, $25. A bouquet of pear and vanilla, intense pear fruit on the palate, with moderate vanilla and buttery notes. Finishes with a soft mouth feel and leesy notes.

1998 Columbia Crest, Chardonnay, Estate Series, Columbia Valley, $10. Aromas of butterscotch and vanilla, a rich mouthfeel, ripe apples, vanilla, and smoke flavors, with an acidic backbone that makes this a nice match for halibut with creamy dill sauce.

1998 Columbia Winery, Chardonnay, Otis Vineyard, Yakima Valley, $24, 960 cases. Vanilla and citrus fragrance, ripe apple and citrus fruit, spice, with a viscous mouthfeel and tart finish.

1998 Covey Run, Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, $10, 15,145 cases. A very soft, creamy mouthfeel, with ripe apple, pear and mixed oak flavors.

1998 Fetzer, Chardonnay, Barrel Select, Mendocino County, $12, 44,000 cases. Lemon/citrus aromas and flavors with a mixture of French and American oak tastes and adequate supporting acidity.

1998 Gallo of Sonoma, Chardonnay, Sonoma County, $11, 100,000 cases. A smoky oak nose is followed by peach fruit, smoke and abundant vanilla flavors, finishing crisp and clean. 0.39% R.S.

1998 Geyser Peak, Chardonnay, Reserve, Alexander Valley, $23, 580 cases. Pears and a hint of smoky oak are appreciated on the nose and palate, with tart apple and light butterscotch notes, braced by crisp acidity. Match this one with a creamy seafood dish.

1998 Gloria Ferrer, Chardonnay, Carneros, $20, 11,500 cases. Clean, refreshing, with tropical fruit aromas and flavors, lovely balance, and nice acidity. Tasty. Good value.

1997 J. Lohr, Chardonnay, Arroyo Vista, Monterey County, $25. Aromas of pear and vanilla are followed by a lush, viscous load of pears and yellow delicious apples, creamy butter, and refreshing acidity.

1999 McPherson, Chardonnay, South Eastern Australia, $7, 120,000 cases. Grapefruit and fig aromas, with ripe tropical fruit and subtle American oak flavors.

1998 Sanford, Chardonnay, Barrel Select, Santa Barbara, $30. A bouquet of citrus and tropical fruit, pineapple and pear flavors, well-integrated oak, zesty acidity and a long finish all combine to make a tasty package.

1998 M. Trinchero, Chardonnay, Founder's Estate, Napa Valley, $25, 3,123 cases. Apple butter and citrus aromas and flavors are enhanced by toasty nuances, a creamy mouthfeel and a long, clean finish. Drink over two years.

Chenin Blanc:
1999 Bookwalter, Chenin Blanc, Columbia Valley, $8, 1,470 cases. Quite sweet at 5% residual sugar, with peach flavors and crisp acids. Match with a fruit and cheese tray.

1998 Covey Run, Chenin Blanc, Late Harvest, Yakima Valley, $18 (375 ml), 1,095 cases. Rich honey, apricots, peaches, and mineral flavors make this a delight. Could use a tad more acidity, but tasty nevertheless.

1998 Covey Run, Chenin Blanc, Reserve Ice Wine, Yakima Valley, $24 (375 ml), 500 cases. Pear nectar and honey abound in this dessert wine, with brisk acidity giving proper balance to the 17.5% residual sugar. Intense and lovely.

Gewurztraminer:
1999 Chateau St. Jean, Gewurztraminer, Sonoma County, $9. A mixed bouquet of lychee and grapefruit, whose flavors are also savored on the palate. Off-dry at 1.3% residual sugar, this will pair admirably with Thai food. Good value.

1999 Columbia Crest, Gewurztraminer, Columbia Valley, $7. Light, clean, slightly sweet at 2.5% residual sugar, with lychee fruit on the nose and palate. The brisk acidity makes this a food friendly wine, perfect with your favorite Asian dishes.

1999 Ste. Chapelle, Gewurztraminer, Winemaker's Series, Idaho, $6, 1,900 cases. A straightforward wine with mixed citrus aroma, nectarine fruit flavor and a nice acid backbone.

Italian Varietals:
1998 Clos Du Val, Sangiovese, Stags Leap District, Napa Valley, $26, 742 cases. Originally only sold in the tasting room, this is the first general release. Spice, cherry and strawberry flavors, with firm tannins and acidity.

1998 Columbia Winery, Sangiovese, Red Willow, Yakima Valley, $18. Tart red cherries and raspberries are enhanced by touches of oak vanillin and brisk acidity. Match this medium-bodied wine with veal parmigiana.

1997 SketchBook, Barbera, Mendocino, $25, 1,400 cases. This wine has very crisp acidity with blackberry and tart cherry fruit. Match with a tomato-based pasta dish to enhance the wine.

Merlot:
1998 Carmenet, Merlot, Dynamite, North Coast, $19.50, 15,000 cases. A bouquet of plums, blueberries and vanilla is followed by rich blueberry flavors, nuances of vanilla, finishing with coarse tannins. This wine will benefit from bottle aging although it is approachable now.

1997 Foris, Merlot, Rogue Valley, Oregon, $15, 2,904 cases. Mixed black fruits, minerals, and moderate to heavy tannins that need bottle aging to round out.

1998 Gallo of Sonoma, Merlot, Sonoma County, $11, 100,000 cases. Raspberry and cherry flavors prevail, with minerals and soft tannins, made in an easy drinking style.

1997 Mirassou, Merlot, Coastal Selection, Monterey County, $13, 4,444 cases. A soft, ready-to-drink style, with mixed berry fruit flavors, nuances of black olive and smoke, and moderately long finish. Pair with a tomato-based pasta dish.

1998 Sawtooth, Merlot, Idaho, $14, 705 cases. Straightforward black cherry fruit, a hint of olive, finishing with brisk acidity.

Miscellaneous:
1999 Covey Run, Morio Muskat, Washington State, $9, 3,300 cases. A cross between Sylvaner and Pinot Blanc, this makes a dandy picnic wine. Floral and tangerine aromas enhance this light-bodied wine. Citrus flavors abound, with tangerine predominating, finishing with brisk acidity to balance out the 2.4% residual sugar.

1999 Jepson, Feliz Creek Cuvee, Mendocino County, $9, 980 cases. A blend of four grapes, French Colombard, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay, this wine has citrus and tropical fruit on the nose, with mango, apple and pear flavors, and a refreshingly crisp finish. A good value summer quaffer.

Non-vintage Korbel, Chardonnay Champagne, $13. Pear and pineapple flavors predominate, with a creamy mouth-feel and a crisp, refreshing finish. Nice for the price category.

1998 Mirassou, Pinot Blanc, Monterey County, $11, 9,600 cases. Leaning more towards a Chardonnay style, this wine had tropical fruit aromas and flavors, a creamy texture, finishing crisp and spicy.

Pinot Gris:
1999 Hogue, Pinot Gris, Columbia Valley, $10, 5,300 cases. A tasty Pinot Gris, with apple, pear and citrus flavors, lovely, chalky minerals, a nice acidic backbone, and a long aftertaste. Very good value.

1999 Ivan Tamas, Pinot Grigio, Monterey County, $9, 11,700 cases. Dry, crisp, with flavors of tangerines and lime. This will be a nice match for shellfish or your favorite grilled fish.

1998 King Estate, Pinot Gris, Reserve, Oregon, $18. A nice expression of what OR Pinot Gris is about. 100% stainless steel fermentation with no MLF. Rich tropical fruit and citrus aromas and flavors, with tangerine being apparent, finishing long and lively.

Pinot Noir:
1998 Fetzer, Pinot Noir, Reserve, Santa Barbara, $28, 1,000 cases. Ripe red cherry and peppery spice aromas are also appreciated on the palate, along with leather and toasty vanilla notes. Medium-bodied, crisp, with an elegant, long finish.

1998 Monterey Vineyard, Pinot Noir, Monterey County, $7. Cherry and dark tea aromas, with red cherries, cracked pepper and cinnamon flavors, made in a soft, drink me now style. Very good value.

1998 Sanford, Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County, $25. There is a complex fragrance of black cherries, cola and tomato skins. Ripe black fruit flavors are enhanced by cracked black pepper and earthy notes, wrapping up with a crisp finish. Lovely for the style.

1998 Rodney Strong, Pinot Noir, Estate, Russian River Valley, $18, 21,000 cases. Pleasing ripe cherry and dark tea aromas, similar flavors, and moderate drying tannins are supported by brisk acidity on the finish.

Rhone Varietals:
1998 Paraiso Springs, Syrah, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County, $22.50, 900 cases. Aromas of ripe black cherries are followed by flavors of blackberry, white pepper spice and a hint of vanilla. Rich mouthfeel.

1998 Preston of Dry Creek, Faux, Dry Creek Valley, $12, 3,000 cases. A blend of Mourvedre, Syrah, Cinsault, Carignane and Grenache. A nose of cherry fruit with just a hint of smoked meat. Complex flavors and moderate tannins will benefit from a couple of years of aging.

1999 Preston of Dry Creek, Vin Gris, Dry Creek Valley, $9, 590 cases. A deeply colored Rose wine, with threshold sweetness, rich mixed berry fruit, and a brisk finish. A nice picnic or BBQ wine for the deck this summer.

1999 Preston of Dry Creek, Viognier, Dry Creek Valley, $15, 920 cases. Extremely perfumed, with peach, mango and kiwi fruit flavors. Match with a grilled scallop and shrimp kabob.

1997 Sketch Book, Grenache, Mendocino, $25, 1,200 cases. Ripe cherry, vanilla, and plum aromas and flavors, a touch of cedar, with nice balance and a long finish.

1999 Sobon Estate, Rhone Rose, Shenandoah Valley, $9, 414 cases. A nice wine for quaffing on the deck this summer. Fruity, crisp, refreshing. A blend of 89% Grenache and 11% Muscat Hamburg.

1999 Sobon Estate, Roussanne, Shenandoah Valley, $18, 340 cases. The wine has a floral and butterscotch bouquet, fig and minerals flavors, a smoky note, finishing with brisk acidity.

1999 Sobon Estate, Viognier, Shenandoah Valley, $15, 1,150 cases. Over the years, Sobon Estate has done well with the varietal. The 1999 follows suit. Very floral, lots of honeysuckle aromas and flavors, some peaches thrown in for good measure, with a long, brisk finish. A nice match for veal-stuffed peppers.

Riesling:
1999 Chateau St. Jean, Johannisberg, Sonoma County, $12. Off-dry at 2.4% residual sugar, this wine is made in a delicate style, with floral and apricot aromas. Peach/nectarine flavors predominate, finishing clean and refreshing.

1999 Columbia Valley, Johannisberg Riesling, Cellarmaster's Reserve, Columbia Valley, $7. Honeyed aromas lead to very ripe peach, apricot and honey flavors, with enough supporting acidity to prevent the wine from becoming cloying at 6.2% residual sugar. Match with your favorite sweet and sour dish.

1999 Covey Run, Riesling, Washington State, $7, 25,900 cases. Very ripe peach and nectarine flavors are balanced by light to moderate acidity. 2.5% residual sugar. Pair with Chinese food or seasonal fruits.

1998 Covey Run, Riesling, Ice Wine, Yakima Valley, $19, 1,157 cases. Serve this one as a dessert unto itself. Very sweet (20.5% residual sugar), viscous, with intense apricot and honey flavors, finishing with just enough acidity to balance out the wine.

1999 Erotica, Riesling, Columbia Valley, $20. This is a new, combined effort of Chateau Ste. Michelle and Loosen (Germany). Off-dry, with honeysuckle, apricot and mixed citrus fruit flavors, brisk acidity, and just a hint of minerals on the finish. A lovely effort.

1999 Geyser Peak, Dry Riesling, Russian River, $12, 225 cases. Actually the wine has threshold sweetness at 0.49% residual sugar. Citrus aromas and flavors, with a hint of mandarin slices, and zesty acidity makes this a nice match for an Orange Roughy.

1999 Hogue, White Riesling, Late Harvest, Columbia Valley, $9, 22,998 cases. Bright, refreshing, with aromas and flavors of citrus, peaches and apricots. Brisk acidity balances the 4.4% residual sugar. Team with a sweet and sour dish, or a cheese and fruit plate.

1999 Paul Thomas, Riesling, Washington, $7, 7,865 cases. Clean, crisp, a nose of fig and orange slices, with mandarin orange and nectarine flavors. Well-balanced, 2.5% residual sugar. Match with honey-glazed ham or Asian dishes.

1999 Ste. Chapelle, Dry Riesling, Winemaker's Series, $6, 8,000 cases. Well-balanced, clean, crisp, with nice peach flavors. Despite the name, the wine has 1.4% residual sugar. Match this with your favorite Thai or Chinese dishes. Good value.

Sauvignon Blanc:
1998 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Sauvignon, Horse Heaven, Columbia Valley, $14. Lemon/lime zest aromas and flavors prevail, with a touch of gooseberry and vanilla, and a long, smooth finish.

1999 Hogue, Fume Blanc, Columbia Valley, $10. This is a food wine, not a sipper. Clean, refreshing, with lemon flavors, minerals and steely acidity. Match with Dungeness crab and drawn butter.

1998 Santa Barbara Winery, Sauvignon Blanc, Late Harvest, Santa Ynez Valley, $30 (375 ml), 585 cases. The wine has 14.2% residual sugar, but the very crisp acidity balances out the wine -- no syrupy effect here. Very rich, very fruity, very tasty. Match with a peach or pear tart.

1999 Rodney Strong, Sauvignon Blanc, Charlotte's Home, Russian River, $12, 16,500 cases. Straightforward, with lemon and gooseberry aromas and flavors, made in an early drinking style.

1999 Villa Mt. Eden, Sauvignon Blanc, Coastal, Central Coast, $10. The embodiment of grapefruit on the nose and palate, with hints of melon and herbs. Crisp, refreshing, and a good value.

Semillon, Semillon Chardonnay:
1998 Columbia Crest, Semillon Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, $8. Nicely balanced, the buttery, toasty nose gives way to flavors of figs and a touch of apple.

1998 Columbia Winery, Semillon, Columbia Valley, $7, 5,900 cases. This is a nice summer quaffer to complement steamed shellfish. Peach and fig nuances predominate, supported by brisk acidity.

1999 McPherson, Semillon Chardonnay, SE Australia, $7, 30,000 cases. 60% Semillon, 40% Chardonnay. Very soft in the mouth, but with decent acidity, the citrus and melon flavors are abundant, unburdened by wood in this unoaked blend. Pretty tasty, but needs drinking over the short term.

1998 Sawtooth, Semillon, Idaho, $12, 155 cases. Fig and citrus aromas are also appreciated on the palate, with very ripe flavors and a smoky component on the finish.

Syrah:
1999 McPherson, Shiraz Cabernet, SE Australia, $8, 50,000 cases. Somewhat simple, but loaded with spicy plums and balancing acidity. Made in a drink-me-now style, this would complement a pasta with red sauce.

1998 Montevina, Syrah, Amador County, $18, 600 cases. Aromas of black fruit, pepper and smoked meat are trailed by ripe black fruit notes and American oak nuances.

1997 Ste. Chapelle, Syrah, Reserve, Idaho, $20, 850 cases. A smoky bacon nose, with dark fruit, pepper, a hint of smoke and leather, all wrapped up in a tasty, approachable package.

Zinfandel:
1998 Chateau Souverain, Zinfandel, Dry Creek, $13. Black cherry and raspberry flavors are noted in this medium-bodied wine. Pleasant acidity, soft tannins, made for the short haul.

1997 Fetzer, Zinfandel, Barrel Select, Mendocino County, $14, 1,648 cases. Typical Zinfandel fruit flavors with red cherries peeking through, smooth but moderate tannins, made for that summer BBQ.

1998 Montevina, Zinfandel, Amador County, $10, 27,000 cases. Plum and boysenberry nose, somewhat thin but tasty black fruit, a dollop of pepper and briary flavors all combine with underpinning acidity and moderate, drying tannins. Fairly priced.

1997 Rancho Zabaco, Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, $16, 14,622 cases. Bright, jammy red and black fruits help to support the whopping 15.5% alcohol. American oak flavors blend harmoniously. Drink sooner than later before the wine becomes hot as the fruit drops out. Tasty.

1997 Valley of the Moon, Zinfandel, Sonoma Valley, $15, 4,800 cases. A very focused wine, rather than the jammy style of Zinfandel. Dark black fruits predominate in this medium-bodied wine, with a hint of spice and supple tannins on the long finish.

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