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© 2000 by Randy Buckner
Aug. 31, 2000

New Releases:
Summer is waning, fall is coming on, and there is no letup in the number of new wine releases. There are some nice wines to be found out there that will not put a major dent in your pocketbook. As usual, there are no ratings on these 94 new wines, mostly from the U.S. West Coast with a few others thrown in. Everyone places their own value on a wine, making ratings somewhat passé. The important thing is to not be afraid to explore new labels and new varietals. Enjoy a glass with dinner tonight!

Cabernet Sauvignon

1999 Alice White, Cabernet Sauvignon, South Eastern Australia, $7, 5,000 cases. The wine has a nose of black cherry, cola and smoke, which carries over to the palate, with modest tannins and a tart finish.

1999 Bel Arbor, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, $6, 65,000 cases. Aromas of black cherries and sweet vanilla. Unpretentious black cherry fruit, vanilla, and cedar on a soft finish.

1998 Callaway, Cabernet Sauvignon, Coastal, California, $11. Full-bodied, with flavors and aromas of plum, blackberry and a hint of coffee, with moderate tannins on a tart finish.

1997 Claar, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $22. A pleasant nose of cherries, with an underpinning of rich, black cherry and plum fruit, minerals, nicely integrated oak and a supple mouthfeel. Approachable now.

1996 Clos Du Val, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Napa Valley, $75, 1,575 cases. A fine example of a premium California Cabernet. There is an inviting nose of blackberry, cedar and chocolate. Very graceful, the fruit is in the forefront with blackberry and cassis, followed by cedar nuances and a hint of cocoa. The finish is long, with the silky tannins coming in at the end to let you know to age this one a while longer.

1998 Covey Run, Cabernet-Merlot, Washington State, $9, 23,000 cases. A blend of 43 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 42 percent Merlot, and 15 percent Cabernet Franc. The wine has smoky, cherry vanilla aromas, is light, made in an easy drinking style, with cherry and cranberry flavors, and balanced acidity.

1997 Geyser Peak, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Alexander Valley, $40, 5,200 cases. Generous black fruit and vanilla aromas and flavors, with hints of mint and spice, all on a moderately tannic background. Aging will round this one out.

1997 Justin, Isosceles, Paso Robles, $39.50. A Bordeaux blend, this wine falls on the red fruit end of the spectrum. Toasty oak and red raspberry aromas lead to currant, raspberry jam and vanilla flavors, on a moderately tannic framework. This one needs bottle time.

1997 Kenwood, Cabernet Sauvignon, Jack London Vineyard, $35, 14,500 cases. Black fruit and vanilla aromas lead to abundant blackberry fruit and tannins to match. This one needs a few years of bottle time to round out.

1997 Kenwood, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, $22, 39,650 cases. Almost opaque in the glass, the wine has lovely blackberry and American oak aromas. Rich, dark fruits prevail, with generous but integrated sweet oak, and a long, fruity finish. The ample tannins will benefit from bottle aging. Good value.

1997 Louis Martini, Cabernet Sauvignon, Monte Rosso Vineyard, Sonoma Valley, $40, 1,172 cases. Rich, complex black fruit and mixed oak flavors are riding a tannic backbone. The wine finishes with a long, fruity aftertaste. Needs aging.

1996 Rodney Strong, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Northern Sonoma, $40. The cherry and blueberry bouquet opens on the palate with full-bodied flavors of blueberry, cedar, chocolate, and nuts, supported by moderate but silky tannins.

1997 Rodney Strong, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, $16, 160,000 cases. The nose has black cherry and cola notes. Lush, mixed black fruit flavors are supported by well-integrated oak, moderate tannins and a brisk finish. Good value.

1998 Shenandoah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Amador County, $15, 1,300 cases. This one has huge plum and floral notes that enhance the black cherry and plum fruit. Silky tannins allow this to be consumed early on. Very good value.

1997 Sketch Book, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendocino, $25, 7,000 cases. Rich, black fruit is appreciated on the nose and the palate, with nuances of cedar, all in a well-balanced package. Needs time to blossom.

1997 Snoqualmie, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Columbia Valley, $21. Black fruit, oak and dill aromas are followed by very sweet black cherry flavors, with moderate smoky oak on a very forward framework.

1998 Snoqualmie, Cabernet Merlot, Columbia Valley, $11. Made for early consumption, this straightforward wine has black cherries predominating on the nose and palate, with a long, sweet finish.

1997 St. Clement, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, $35, 7,100 cases. This wine has luscious blackberry and plum aromas and flavors, well-integrated spicy oak, impeccable balance, and finishes with silky tannins. Good value in today's market.

1998 St. Clement, Oroppas, Napa Valley, $45, 3,600 cases. Another well-balanced wine from St. Clement. Rich, sweet black fruit is accentuated by spicy vanilla oak flavors, chocolate, and soft tannins.

1998 Stone Creek, Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Selection, California, $8, 26,000 cases. Smooth on the palate, accessible now, this wine has sweet, jammy cherries and plums prevailing.

Chardonnay

1999 Bel Arbor, Chardonnay, California, $6, 139,400 cases. Vanilla and tropical fruit aromas are followed by straightforward pineapple flavors, with citrus and vanilla on the finish.

1999 Callaway, Chardonnay, Coastal, California, $10. The lemon/citrus bouquet follows through to the palate, with pineapple flavors, unobtrusive oak, and food-friendly acidity.

1998 Chateau Souverain, Chardonnay, Winemaker's Reserve, Russian River Valley, $25. Smokey oak and apple spice notes, with butterscotch, toasted oak and vanilla spice flavors, on a viscous structure.

1997 Covey Run, Chardonnay, Celilo Vineyard, Washington State, $25, 815 cases. There are butterscotch aromas on this lovely, balanced wine, with green apple, pear, vanilla and spicy oak flavors, and a creamy finish.

1997 Covey Run, Chardonnay, Reserve, Yakima Valley, $15, 7,400 cases. Ripe pineapple and pear are presented on the nose. On the palate, pear, apple and pineapple flavors abound, finishing with a soft mouthfeel. Made for drinking now with a grilled chicken breast.

1999 Duckpond, Chardonnay, Fries' Desert Wind Vineyard, Columbia Valley, $9. This creamy Chardonnay has a smoky oak bouquet, with a healthy dose of vanilla and toasty oak flavors, and apple and pear fruit coming through at the end.

1999 Kenwood, Chardonnay, Sonoma County, $15, 60,000 cases. Tropical fruit and vanilla aromas carry through to the palate, with a creamy finish.

1997 King Estate, Chardonnay, Oregon, $14. Tropical fruit aromas and flavors, with temperate oak spiciness and buttery nuances. The finish is long and crisp.

1997 King Estate, Chardonnay, Reserve, Oregon, $20. With aromas of vanilla spice and honey, this fruit-forward wine has pear, apple and citrus flavors, vanilla, oak spice, and nice balance.

1999 La Palma, Chardonnay, Rapel Valley, Chile, $8. The wine has grapefruit and lemon curd aromas and flavors. Smooth on the palate, this is made to drink over the short term. Imported by Corus Brands.

1998 La Palma, Chardonnay, Reserve, Rapel Valley, Chile, $10. Big tropical fruit aromas and flavors, full-bodied, buttery, with generous oak on the finish.

1998 Pedroncelli, Chardonnay, F. Johnson Vineyard, Dry Creek, $13.50, 1,400 cases. A full-bodied wine with apple and butterscotch flavors, spicy American oak that does not dominate, and a long, crisp finish. A nice match with shrimp creole.

1999 Rodney Strong, Chardonnay, Sonoma County, $14, 71,000 cases. Tropical fruit and vanilla aromas are also appreciated on the palate. The finish is long, clean and crisp.

1999 Sanford, Chardonnay, Santa Barbara County, $19. Green apple and smokey notes on the nose, with tart apple, citrus and butterscotch flavors. Match with a grilled chicken breast.

1999 Snoqualmie, Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, $11. Banana and pineapple notes accent this wine. Tropical fruit and apple flavors are followed by moderate vanilla oak and buttery tastes. Good value for the style.

1998 St. Clement, Chardonnay, Abbotts Vineyard, Carneros, $20, 2,500 cases. This medium-bodied wine has a bouquet of pears, citrus and vanilla, which carries through to the palate, with a long, toasty finish. Good value for those who enjoy this style.

Gewurztraminer

1999 Handley, Gewurztraminer, Anderson Valley, $14, 617 cases. While not up to prior stellar efforts, this wine offers lychee fruit and orange zest notes, with threshold sweetness at 0.47 percent.

1999 Kenwood, Gewurztraminer, Sonoma County, $11, 1,500 cases. With barely perceptible sweetness, the residual sugar here only acts to round out the wine. Citrus, lychee fruit and rose petal flavors are braced by food-friendly acidity.

Italian Varietals

1994 Castello di Gabbiano, Chianti Classico, Riserva Oro, $24. Raspberry aromas are followed by mixed black fruit, cracked pepper, food-friendly acidity, and a mouth-puckering finish.

1999 Montevina, Nebbiolo Rosato, $7.50, 900 cases. Very fresh and fragrant, this eminently quaffable wine has flavors resembling a cross between strawberries and pomegranates, with citrus notes on the finish. A good picnic wine and a good value.

1997 Sketch Book, Sangiovese, Mendocino, $21, 1,300 cases. A well-balanced, fruity wine, with dried cherry and cedar notes, finishing long and crisp. This wine will complement a host of foods.

Johannisberg Riesling

1999 Amity, Dry Riesling, Oregon, $9.50, 1,026 cases. The wine has grapefruit and orange zest aromas. Very clean, crisp, and light, this off-dry wine has apricot flavors predominating.

1998 Claar, Johannisberg Riesling, Columbia Valley, $9. Pineapples and lemons dominate the nose. Very soft on the palate, this wine is loaded with ripe peaches. Food-friendly at 2 percent residual sugar, this should match well with Thai food. Drink over the short term.

1999 Jekel, Riesling, Late Harvest, Monterey, $18, 800 cases. A nice example of a California Late Harvest Riesling. Very sweet, at 16 percent residual sugar, yet not cloying. This wine has very concentrated apricot and peach flavors, with a long, lush aftertaste.

1999 Snoqualmie, Johannisberg Riesling, Columbia Valley, $7. Obvious apricot and pineapple aromas lead to tart green apple and pear flavors, with adequate acidity. 2.1 percent residual sugar. Good value.

1999 Snoqualmie, White Riesling, Columbia Valley, $7. Apricots and peaches are savored both on the nose and the palate. Sweet, at 3.75 percent residual sugar, but enough acid to not be cloying, this wine will match Chinese foods well.

Merlot

1999 Bel Arbor, Merlot, California, $6, 73,500 cases. Black cherry and cola aromas and flavors, with a soft mouthfeel. This value-priced wine is ready to drink now.

1998 Chateau St. Jean, Merlot, Sonoma County, $24. Chocolate-covered cherries and plums on the nose, with soft blackberry fruit and light oak spice. Drink early for optimum enjoyment.

1998 Ironstone, Merlot, Sierra Foothills, $9, 74,000 cases. There are plum and olive notes on the nose, with nice blackberry flavors, a kiss of green olive, all on a soft framework. Good value.

1999 La Palma, Merlot, Rapel, Chile, $8. Balanced, soft mouthfeel, with cherry plum and black olive flavors.

1997 Mirassou, Merlot, Harvest Reserve, Monterey County, $18, 2,868 cases. Black cherry and cedar aromas are joined by tasty soft plum and vanilla flavors, and can be enjoyed now. Good value.

1997 Sketch Book, Merlot, Mendocino, $23, 5,400 cases. Dense, rich black fruit aromas and flavors, with a healthy dose of spicy oak and a balanced mouthfeel. Enjoy with a rib-eye.

1997 Snoqualmie, Merlot, Reserve, Columbia Valley, $21. Lush black cherries, coffee, chocolate and French oak abound in this reserve wine. There is a long, fruity aftertaste and can be enjoyed now.

Miscellaneous

1998 L'Ecole Semillon, Barrel Fermented, Columbia Valley, $15. Noted for their Semillon, this one does not fail to please. Fig and citrus flavors predominate. Rounded out by the barrel treatment, this wine still has bracing acidity, making it the consummate shellfish match.

1999 Robert Pecota, Moscato d'Andrea, Napa Valley, $12 (375 ml). Delicate sweetness with lovely perfume, lush peaches and citrus on the palate, and a balanced, crisp finish.

1999 Snoqualmie, Chenin Blanc, Columbia Valley, $7. Off-dry at 1.9 percent, this wine has citrus aromas and flavors, with a crisp, lemony finish.

1999 Sutter Home, White Zinfandel, California, $6. From the granddaddy of White Zin, this wine has watermelon aromas and a soft, light, sweet (3.35 percent R.S.), fruity taste.

1999 Valley of the Moon, Pinot Blanc, Sonoma County, $15, 6,060 cases. A nose of tropical fruit and pears, soft on the palate, with very sweet pear and apple flavors, finishing with tropical fruit and vanilla notes.

Pinot Gris

1999 Chateau Julien, Pinot Grigio, Monterey County, $10, 600 cases. Light, fresh, with citrus, melon and bubble gum flavors, finishing with a touch of vanilla.

1999 Handley, Pinot Gris, Anderson Valley, $16, 403 cases. A fine effort in their third vintage with this grape. Lovely orange peel and ripe banana aromas are a nice opening. On the palate, zesty citrus and tart peach flavors abound, finishing long and crisp, with a hint of sweetness. Thai food readily comes to mind.

Pinot Noir

1998 Amity Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $20. This light to medium-bodied wine is structured to be food friendly. Black cherry fruit and just a trace of smoky oak are supported by crisp acidity. This paired well with Grilled Salmon with Tarragon Butter and Shallots.

1999 Sanford, Pinot Noir, Vin Gris, Santa Barbara County, $14.50. This Rose of Pinot was made with grilled salmon in mind. Smoky red fruit aromas and flavors are supported by lemon zest and food-friendly acidity. Nicely balanced with a long aftertaste.

Sauvignon Blanc

1999 Justin, Sauvignon Blanc, Paso Robles, $12.50, 2,187 cases. A hint of grass and ripe citrus aromas usher in lemon fruit flavors with a kiss of French oak that does not overpower the wine. The finish is crisp and clean. Enjoy with crab cakes and garlic mayonnaise.

1999 Kenwood, Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma County, $11.50, 65,000 cases. Very consistent in their quality and style, this good value wine has combined citrus, tropical fruit and freshly cut grass aromas and flavors in a tasty package.

1999 Robert Pecota, Sauvignon Blanc, Monterey County, $13. Made in a lean, steely style, citrus fruit predominates the flavor profile, supported by bracing acidity. This wine screams shellfish.

2000 Rosemount Estate, Sauvignon Blanc, Estate (Diamond), $10. This very crisp, clean wine has very obvious gooseberry aromas that carry over to the palate, with additional citrus flavors at the end. Match this one with a fresh tomato bisque or a seafood kabob.

1999 St. Clement, Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, $13, 1,300 cases. Citrus/tropical fruit aromas and flavors, with a healthy dose of creamy oak, a viscous mouthfeel, finishing clean and crisp. A good value for fans of the style.

Sparkling Wine

1994 Handley, Blanc de Blanc, Anderson Valley, $28, 195 cases. Plenty of bubbles in this one, with tart green apple notes, a touch of lees, and a creamy mouthfeel.

1995 Handley, Brut, Anderson Valley, $28, 470 cases. 75 percent Pinot Noir, 25 percent Chardonnay. A hint of lees is noted with the citrus fruit, and creamy body. The wine improves in the glass, with a more complex finish noted over time.

NV Ste. Chapelle, Sparkling Riesling, American, $8. What a fun wine! Clean, crisp, fruity, and refreshing. Light sweetness at 2.7 percent residual sugar, this would be a great picnic wine.

Syrah

1999 Alice White, Shiraz, South Eastern Australia, $8. You'll find straightforward plum fruit, a hint of mint, in a soft, drink me now style.

1998 Chateau Julien, Syrah, Monterey County, $10, 600 cases. Smoky cherry and mint notes reflect obvious raspberry, red cherry and menthol flavors.

1997 Geyser Peak, Syrah, Reserve, Sonoma County, $32, 1,250 cases. Smoked meat on the nose leads to big black fruit flavors, leather, a hint of white pepper and vanilla, with a long, blackberry jam finish. Moderate tannins should mellow with a couple of years of bottle age.

1997 Hidden Cellars, Syrah, Mendocino, $NA. A nice example of a CA Syrah, with bright black cherry and plum fruit, leather and white pepper notes, and moderate tannins that would benefit from a couple of years of bottle aging.

1998 Hogue, Syrah, Vineyard Selection, Columbia Valley, $16, 6,470 cases. Black cherries, plums, a hint of cracked pepper and generous oak spice all combine for a tasty, approachable now package.

1998 Robert Pecota, Syrah, Monterey County, $24. Soft, rich dark fruit is supported by bacon, leather and finely integrated toasty oak flavors. The tannins are silky, and the yummy aftertaste goes on forever. Good value.

1997 Sketch Book, Syrah, Mendocino, $21, 1,000 cases. Atypical for a Syrah, this wine makes a dandy Merlot, with lush black fruit and a soft palate feel. Approachable now.

1998 Snoqualmie, Syrah, Columbia Valley, $11. Plum and smoky oak aromas carry through to the palate, with black pepper, healthy oak spice, soft tannins, and a long, fruity finish.

1998 Taltarni, Shiraz, Victoria, Australia, $16. The wine has a bouquet of dark plums and coffee. Medium-bodied, the mixed berry fruit is supported by nuances of pepper and soft tannins.

Viognier

1999 Echelon, Viognier, California, $12, 5,146 cases. Made in a light, easy style, that is crisp on the palate and quite floral. Peach fruit is the main player here, with a hint of orange zest, and no oak burden to bear. Good value.

1999 Hogue, Viognier, Vineyard Selection, Columbia Valley, $15, 800 cases. Very floral, with honeysuckle, white peaches and a crisp, slightly hot finish (14.5 percent alcohol).

Zinfandel

1998 Clos Du Val, Zinfandel, Palisade Vineyard, Napa Valley, $28, 210 cases. Available only from the winery, this full-bodied wine will please a host of palates. Jammy mixed fruit and white pepper highlights this elegant wine. The aftertaste is long and fruity, with modest tannins at the end.

1997 Kenwood, Zinfandel, Mazzoni Vineyard, Alexander Valley, $20, 690 cases. This is a full-bodied, fruity wine, with earthy black cherries, cedar, tobacco and a healthy dollop of oak vanilla on the finish.

1997 Kenwood, Zinfandel, Nuns Canyon, Sonoma County, $20, 1,180 cases. This tasty wine leans toward the dark end of the fruit spectrum, with mixed blackberries, black cherries, plums and cedar notes. Medium-bodied, crisp, and structured to drink well now, or for the next three to five years.

1997 Kenwood, Zinfandel, Upper Weise, Sonoma County, $15, 1,930 cases. Laser beam berry fruit, and a medium-bodied profile makes this wine one to lay down for a couple of years to develop.

1997 Louis Martini, Zinfandel, Gnarly Vine, Monte Rosso, Sonoma Valley, $40, 1,034 cases. This is a big wine - big fruit, big oak, big alcohol - yet it all seems to come together to deliver an impressive wine. Raspberry jam and vanilla are in the forefront, with pepper and chocolate notes. It does not seem hot, even at 15 percent alcohol.

1997 Montevina, Zinfandel, Terra d'Oro, Amador County, $16, 5,800 cases. Red fruit and toasted oak aromas lead to jammy mixed berry flavors, spice and cedar nuances, with substantial tannins on the finish that dictate bottle aging.

1998 Peachy Canyon, Zinfandel, Benito Dusi Ranch, Paso Robles, $26, 965 cases. This wine has luscious black cherry and vanilla aromas, lovely balance and silky tannins. The mixed red and black fruits are enhanced by a healthy dose of cracked black pepper. Good value.

1998 Peachy Canyon, Zinfandel, Estate, Paso Robles, $30, 715 cases. The wine has a cassis, vanilla and black cherry bouquet. Full-bodied, with black fruit and pomegranate flavors and a touch of pepper on the long, lovely finish. size=4>

1998 Peachy Canyon, Zinfandel, Mustang Springs, Paso Robles, $26, 1,159 cases. There are rich, ripe aromas in this lovely, robust wine. Black cherries, blackberries, cassis and moderate but smooth tannins combine to make a tasty package. Good value.

1998 Pedroncelli, Zinfandel, Mother Clone, Dry Creek Valley, $13.50, 13,500 cases. Blackberry and raspberry aromas are also appreciated on the palate. The fruit is of light to moderate intensity, and is supported by hints of vanilla and peppery spice, finishing with moderate drying tannins.

1998 Sobon Estate, Zinfandel, Cougar Hill, Shenandoah Valley, $15, 374 cases. A mixed nose of oak, mint and chocolate. Earthy blackberries and red raspberry fruit are supported by moderate tannins and brisk acidity.

1998 Sobon Estate, Zinfandel, Fiddletown, $18, 784 cases. A pleasant, complex nose, with dusty, cherry fruit and moderate tannins, finishing slightly hot at 15.9 percent alcohol. This one should be consumed over the next couple of years.

1998 Sobon Estate, Zinfandel, Rocky Top, Shenandoah Valley, $15, 1,700 cases. Raspberry jam and vanilla aromas open to a tasty wine for the vintage. Raspberries, black cherries, and cracked pepper are supported by moderate tannins.

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