© 2004 by Randy Buckner
The Rhone Rangers took it to the road and charged into Seattle recently, bringing with them a host of wines to sample. As is typical of these events, the wine taster feels like a chicken in a feed house. There is no way to sample all of the wines, but I gave it a valiant effort. Over one-half of the wine notes in this issue feature New World Rhone varietal wines. There are some real values out there. Washington is red hot right now with Rhone-style wines. I hate to mention it because I don't need the competition for the wines!
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. No wines scoring below 80 points are listed. As always, enjoy a bottle with dinner tonight.
2001 Chateau Julien, Cabernet Sauvignon, Monterey County, California, $10. Aromas of black cherries and raspberries leap from the glass. Medium-bodied, smooth, and straightforward, the wine is nevertheless tasty, with a long finish; 85/87.
2000 Chateau Julien, Cabernet Sauvignon, Private Reserve, Monterey County, California, $36. Full on the palate with bright acidity, this ruby/blue Cab has abundant tannins that can use bottle aging. Blackberries, cassis, and cedary French oak define the wine; 85/84.
2000 Chateau Souverain, Cabernet Sauvignon, Winemaker's Reserve, Alexander Valley, California, $35, 3,800 cases. Plums, black cherries, dark chocolate, and oak define the wine. Very elegant in its presentation, the oak is obvious (100 percent new French and American) but not obtrusive; 88/88.
2000 Claar, Cabernet Sauvignon, White Bluffs, Columbia Valley, Washington, $18. The nose is a pleasant mix of cassis, blackberries, mint, and aged wood. Crisp, with moderate tannins that need time to age, the straightforward flavors echo the nose; 83/83.
2002 Covey Run, Cabernet Sauvignon, Washington State, $9, 27,900 cases. The nose speaks of black cherries, blackberries, and light oak influence. Straightforward fruit flavors are supported by modest tannins and zippy acidity; 83/84.
1999 Geyser Peak, Cabernet Sauvignon, Block Collection, Vallerga Vineyard, Napa Valley, California, $36, 470 cases. The nose is a mélange of black cherry fruit, mint, anise, cedar, and juniper berries. With nice overall balance, the palate is somewhat simple, displaying tart black cherry fruit and a jammy finish; 86/85.
2000 Geyser Peak, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Sonoma County, California, $45, 8,500 cases. A mix of berries, cassis, American oak, and vanilla fill the nose. This is a full-bodied, no holds barred style of wine, with bold but rounded tannins that will need bottle aging. The herbal oak flavors are fairly well-integrated into the lush blackberry and black cherry fruit; 87/86.
2000 Geyser Peak, Reserve Alexandre Meritage, Alexander Valley, California, $45, 4,900 cases. Red cherries, aged wormwood, menthol, and dried herb aromas combine to make a pleasant bouquet. Full and in-your-face, the tannins are bold but well-rounded, all balanced by bright acidity. Drag out the Porterhouse; 88/87.
2001 Patit Creek, Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, Washington, $35, 300 cases. Ruby in color with blue highlights, the wine gives off aromas of black fruit, leather, and cedar. Impeccably balanced with silky but firm tannins, the flavors repeat the nose with a powerful delivery. Delightful; 90/90.
2001 Sebastiani, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cherryblock Centinaio, Sonoma Valley, California, $75, 2,000 cases. The wine is almost black in the glass, emitting intense aromas of blackberry jam, cassis, toasty oak, and smoke. Very concentrated on the palate, with an abundance of fruit complexities and toasty French oak. Fans of the full-blown style will love this; 90/88.
2001 Snoqualmie, Cabernet Sauvignon, Rosebud Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Washington, $15, 5,000 cases. The nose displays currants and herbs, while the palate reveals lots of sweet fruit, soft tannins, and bright acids. Tasty package; 85/87.
2001 Barton & Guestier, Pouilly-Fuissé Tradition, Pouilly-Fuissé, France, $9. This unassuming wine delivers lots of floral notes, almonds, and buttery aromas. Creamy on the palate with very ripe flavors that mirror the nose; 81/81.
2002 Barton & Guestier, Mâcon-Villages Tradition, Mâcon-Villages, France, $9. The nose is defined by green apples, almonds, and flowery notes. Very soft and creamy, this straightforward offering has enough character to hold the interest; 83/84.
2002 Chalone Vineyard, Chardonnay, Chalone, California, $25, 24,800 cases. This is a balanced, creamy wine, with aromas of pineapple, vanilla, hazelnuts, and white peaches. Displaying some degree of complexity, the barrel notes dominate the palate; 85/85.
2002 Chateau Julien, Chardonnay, Monterey County, California, $10. This barrel fermented Chard is viscous and creamy, sporting lots of buttery caramel and apple notes. Relatively crisp on the finish; 83/85.
2002 Pepi, Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California, $8. The wine was aged in neutral oak barrels which does not mask the tropical fruit and green apple aromas. Lightly styled, with soft acidity, the flavors are straightforward and clean; 83/85.
2002 Rulo, Chardonnay, Vanessa Vineyard, Walla Walla, Washington, $24. 100 percent MLF and 100 percent barrel fermented in 40 percent new oak, the wine is fruit forward on the nose with good integration of the oak. The wine maintains nice acidity, with subtle pear and honey flavors; 88/88.
2003 Bogle, Chenin Blanc, Sutter Ranch, Clarksburg, California, $7, 1,200 cases. This will make a soft, straightforward, but tasty sipper for the deck/pool. Off-dry at 1 percent RS, aromas and flavors of honeysuckle, pineapple, apple, and pear hold the interest; 83/84.
2002 Snoqualmie, Chenin Blanc, Columbia Valley, Washington, $7, 18,000 cases. There's plenty of acidity to balance the off-dry style of the wine. Pear and melon aromas carry over to the palate, with a bit of citrus thrown in for good measure; 82/83.
1999 Castello di Gabbiano, Alleanza, Toscana, Italy, $35, 1,290 cases. This is a tasty blend of Sangiovese, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Plum, berry, and integrated barrel notes are supported by tart acidity and supple tannins. Built for food, this should pair well with a host of hearty dishes; 88/88.
1999 Castello di Gabbiano, Bellezza, I.G.T. Rosso di Toscana, Italy, $30. Aromas of dried cherries, leather, mint, and vanilla unfold, and then morph into black cherries, aged leather, and wormwood in the mouth. Firm but ripe tannins and tangy acidity give structure to the wine; 87/87.
2002 Castello di Gabbiano, Chianti DOCG, Italy, $10. Cherry, plum, dried flower, and menthol scents intermix on the nose, then present as straightforward cherry flavors with a streak of black pepper. Soft tannins and easy acidity dictate early consumption; 83/83.
2001 Castello di Gabbiano, Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG, Italy, $17. Elegant on the presentation, the tannins are well-rounded. The bright acidity breathes life into the mélange of aromas and flavors; 85/85.
2003 Chateau Julien, Pinot Grigio, Monterey County, California, $10. Pale straw in color, with aromas of melons and white peaches. Soft, with straightforward canned tropical fruit and oak notes; 81/81.
2000 Claar, Sangiovese, White Bluffs, Columbia Valley, Washington, $12. This light ruby wine delivers aromas and flavors of dried red cherries, leather, and herbs in a lean package with tangy acidity; 83/84.
2002 Bogle, Merlot, California, $9, 190,000 cases. Here's another tasty value from Bogle. Black cherries, plums, tobacco, aged leather, and vanilla fan out across the nose and palate. Soft tannins and balanced acids makes this a fun wine to drink now; 85/88.
2000 Claar, Merlot, White Bluffs, Columbia Valley, Washington, $18. Straightforward aromas and flavors of black cherries, leather, and herbs are supported by moderately rounded tannins and tangy acidity; 83/83.
2001 Columbia Crest, Merlot, Two Vines, Columbia Valley, Washington, $8, 300,000 cases. Just when you think decent wines under ten bucks don't exist, Columbia Crest turns out this value wine. Soft, fruity, seemingly sweet, and designed for near-term consumption, the finish reveals cherry cola, herbs, and American oak; 84/86.
2001 Covey Run, Merlot, Washington State, $9, 45,000 cases. Here's a pretty tasty value wine. Simple but fruity, the wine displays red cherries, blueberries, mint, and cedar, with soft tannins and easy acidity. Drink early on; 84/85.
2000 Geyser Peak, Merlot, Reserve, Alexander Valley, California, $39, 1,400 cases. This ruby/black Merlot has a rich nose of black fruit, coffee, Baker's chocolate, and smoky oak. Full in the mouth with tangy acidity, the flavors fail to deliver what the nose promises at this point. I'd give this some time to see if it comes around. Judgment reserved.
2000 Kenwood, Merlot, Reserve-Massara, Sonoma Valley, California, $25, 1,600 cases. Light ruby in color, the wine is medium-bodied in style with silky tannins. Aromas and flavors speak of blackberries, French oak, and humidor scents; 86/86.
2001 Patit Creek, Merlot, Walla Walla Valley, Washington, $29, 300 cases. This nicely balanced wine has ripe tannins and a crisp mouth feel. Aromas and flavors deliver an array of characters, from black cherry fruit, new leather, and cedar, to a touch of earthiness and smoke. Tasty; 87/87.
2003 Alice White, Cabernet-Shiraz, South Eastern Australia, $7. Soft, easy, and straightforward, this one should be consumed early for the plum and cherry fruit; 81/81.
2003 Rulo, Combine, Columbia Valley, Washington, $12.50. Roughly an equal mix of Viognier and Chardonnay, you'll find a lot of floral notes and complex fruit aromas and flavors. This is a fun wine to drink and screams SUMMER! A real steal; 89/91.
2001 Greg Norman, Shiraz Cabernet, Limestone Coast, Australia, $16. Easy tannins and zippy acidity makes this a nice food wine with grilled meats. Plums, berries, and barrel smoke carry across the spectrum; 86/88.
NV Sokol Blosser, Evolution, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $16, 36,000 cases. A proprietary blend of nine grapes, this off-dry white wine displays a virtual rainbow of aromas and flavors. I expected the wine to be disjointed, but is comes across quite unified. Very tasty; 86/88.
2001 Peachy Canyon, Petite Sirah, Paso Robles, California, $22, 195 cases. This purple-red Petite has very ripe (bordering on overripe) black fruit aromas with modest barrel influence, which carries over to the palate. Tannins are firm but manageable. The wine leans too much to the port side for my preference; 83/83.
2002 Chalone Vineyard, Pinot Noir, Chalone, California, $25, 11,800 cases. Lovely aromas of black cherries, currants, and vanilla are given off by this well-balanced, silky wine. Very rich in the mouth, with lush fruit, French vanilla, and a whiff of smoke, this is a nice value; 89/90.
2001 King Estate, Pinot Noir, Oregon, $22. The wine spent 10-12 months in French oak, 25 percent new. Garnet in color, this nicely balanced wine has a host of aromas and flavors ranging from cherries and strawberries to smoky blueberries and spice; 86/87.
2001 Apex Syrah, Outlook Vineyard, Yakima Valley, Washington, $45, 117 cases. Deeply hued with earthy, smoky cherry and berry aromas and a touch of sweet oak. This is a sleeping giant right now, with a lot of potential. The deep black fruit and spice is closed up tight right now; 91?/90?.
2000 Apex, Syrah, Yakima Valley, Washington, $30, 787 cases. The wine is almost black in the glass, with deep black cherry and berry aromas, and just a touch of earthy leather. More substantial on the palate than their Bridgman bottling, but very close. The brilliant acidity breathes life into the tart fruit, which lingers for some time; 91/91.
2001 Beckman Grenache, Santa Ynez Valley, California, $25, 850 cases. Ruby red in color, the wine gives off a perfume of blackberries and barrel smoke. Sweet blackberries and chewy tannins are evident in the mouth, with a modest finish; 86/86.
2002 Beckman, Marsanne, Burisima Mountain Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley, California, $16, 650 cases. White peach and floral notes carry over to the palate of this nicely balanced wine. Bright acidity augments the tasty finish; 86/87.
2002 Beckman, Roussanne, Burisima Mountain Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley, California, $16. The nose is difficult to describe, somewhere between muted peach and green apple characters. Displaying a lot of character in the mouth, the wine is rich and lush with a unique flavor profile; 87/88.
2002 Betz Family, Syrah, La Côte Rousse, Red Mountain, Washington, $40, 229 cases. Very different from their La Serenne, the wine took 24 hours of decanting to open up. The Red Mountain fruit is known for its intensity and depth of red/black fruit flavors and this wine delivers just that. I'd give this one several years of patient aging to let it really strut its stuff; 92/92.
2002 Betz Family, Syrah, La Serenne, Yakima Valley, Washington, $40, 204 cases. There's no reading print through this one. Very aromatic, this wine is all about power and grace. Rich, juicy plums and black raspberries carry from the nose to the palate, riding on a backbone of silky tannins, balancing acidity, and very well-integrated oak. The blueberry finish lingers for some time; 92/92.
2002 Bogle, Viognier, Clarksburg, California, $11. Lots of floral notes and grapefruit zest aromas carry over to the palate, with additional peachy flavors. A very nice, well-balanced wine; 88/90.
2003 Bonny Doon, Clos de Gilroy, California Grenache, Santa Cruz, California, $12.50. Soft and balanced, you'll find lots of strawberry on the nose, along with added fruit complexities. Tannins sneak up on you. While lacking some depth, it is tasty overall; 86/87.
2001 Bonny Doon, Mourvedre, Old Telegram, Santa Cruz, California, $32, 1,500 cases. Made from 100-year-old vines, the wine is light ruby in color with cherry, berry, and cranberry aromas. A very fruity, spicy, and meaty wine that has a fine finish; 88/88.
2001 Bonny Doon, California Syrah, Santa Cruz, California, $15. Nice plumy fruit unfolds on the nose, with oak well in the background. The wine has a silky mouth feel with delightful fruit that unfolds in a straightforward manner; 87/89.
2002 Bonny Doon, Syrah, Domaine des Blagueurs, Languedoc, France, $9. An easy to drink, fun Syrah that is right up front. Silky tannins carry the blueberry and plum flavors with aplomb. A streak of pepper becomes obvious over time. Tasty; 87/90.
2002 Bridgman, Roussanne, Yakima Valley, Washington, $13, 171 cases. Ripe apple and quince aromas carry over to the palate. Soft and clean on the palate, with ripe peaches lingering on the finish; 86/87.
2001 Bridgman, Syrah, Yakima Valley, Washington, $18, 2,012 cases. Loads of dark berry fruit, earthiness, and smoke are presented to the nose. Impeccably balanced, the acidity, tannins, and oak all sing in harmony. This is a nice, lush, fruity Syrah with some spice on the end; 90/92.
2001 Bridgman, Viognier, Yakima Valley, Washington, $13, 1,195 cases. Very floral and peachy on the nose with nice balance and pretty good acidity for this grape. Lots of lush fruit lingers on the finish. Nice wine; 88/90.
2002 Chateau Julien, Syrah, Monterey County, California, $22. Boysenberries and smoky American oak aromas emanate from this deep ruby wine. Medium-bodied, crisp, and moderately tannic, the substantial sweet oak jumps to the forefront, with black fruit underlying. Sweet vanilla lingers on the finish; 82/82.
2003 Columbia Valley, Viognier, Red Willow Vineyard, Yakima, Washington, $30. Very floral with white peach aromas that carry right on over to the mouth. The wine only sees old oak barrels with at least seven years of age to them, which gives the wine roundness without overt oakiness. A dandy wine; 91/90.
2001 DeLille, Doyenne, Yakima Valley, Washington, $42. Ruby red in color, the wine displays black fruit and smoky/toasty oak aromas that carry over to the palate. You'll find bright acidity and well-rounded tannins supporting the package; 90/89.
2002 Dunham, Syrah, Columbia Valley, Washington, $45. Intense black cherry and black raspberry aromas are augmented by smoky barrel notes that compliment the wine rather than detract. Flavors mirror the nose, with terrific acidity and tannin management. The substantial oak is carried well at this point; 91/90.
2001 Geyser Peak, Shiraz, Sonoma County, California, $18, 10,000 cases. Built for food, not for sipping, this middleweight is very crisp with rounded tannins. Blackberries, plums, cedar, spice, and a touch of anise showcase the wine; 86/87.
1999 Geyser Peak, Shiraz, Reserve, Sonoma County, California, $45, 1,900 cases. You won't read print through this bruiser. Black fruit, raspberries, and light barrel aromas carry over to the palate. The fruit carries the oak well at this point. Full and viscous, the aftertaste seems endless; 91/90.
2003 Geyser Peak, Viognier, Block Collection, Preston Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley, California, $19, 685 cases. Toasty oak and butterscotch overwhelm the fruit aromas and flavors in this otherwise crisp, balanced wine. Just say no to oak; 80/80.
2003 Isenhower, Snapdragon, Columbia Valley, Washington, $17. A 52/48 blend of Viognier and Roussanne. Extremely floral on the nose with lots of peachy scents. Lovely acidity gives zip to the wine. Flavors are complex and difficult to describe, but there are definite tropical notes and spice. Tasty; 89/90.
2002 Isenhower, Syrah, River Beauty, Columbia Valley, Washington, $32. The nose has a host of berry aromas with cedary oak entering only as a background player. The dense fruit is just excellent, unfolding in layers of complexity. Blackberries and plums linger on the finish; 91/91.
2002 JC Cellars, Syrah, Caldwell Vineyards, Napa Valley, California, $45. There's good depth of fruit on the nose, with sweet oak. As might be expected, this is a fully extracted wine with 15 percent alcohol and .substantial tannins that play the iron fist in a velvet glove routine. Delightful, but not for those seeking subtlety; 91/90.
2002 JC Cellars, Syrah, Fess Parker Vineyard, Santa Barbara County, California, $27. Full of blackberry and blueberry fruit on the nose, with light oak aromas. You'll find substantial but rounded tannins that give backbone to the blackberry and black cherry fruit. A healthy dose of sweet oak and spice carry throughout. There's more oak than I prefer but it is not overdone; 89/89.
2002 McCrea, Counoise, Red Mountain, Washington, $29, 110 cases. Purple in the glass with a lot of black fruit aromas and a dab of barrel smoke. While this makes an interesting wine on its own, I prefer the wine blended in with other Rhone varieties. While well-balanced, I don't find a lot of depth of character; 85/85.
2002 McCrea, Mourvedre, Red Mountain, Washington, $29, 150 cases. I get a lot of earthy black fruit upfront with a puff of smoke. As with Counoise, I prefer this grape in a blend. All of the components work together, with blackberry fruit throughout; 87/87.
2003 McCrea, Roussanne, Red Mountain, Washington, $22, 150 cases. Smoky pear and peach aromas abound in this crisp, well-balanced wine. Very full on the palate, with intense peach and pear flavors that linger on the palate for some time, 89/89.
2002 McCrea, Sirocco, Washington State, $32, 550 cases. The Sirocco is what it is all about for me - a terrific blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, and Counoise. The nose and palate are packed with complex black and blue fruits, with barrel char adding character. Tannins and acidity are very harmonious; 90/90.
2002 McCrea, Syrah, Washington State, $25, 550 cases. Lots of blue and black fruits tempt the nose, with oak appearing well in the background. The wine has very nice fruit, leaning towards the black spectrum, with a nice peppery streak to add interest. Tannins are a bit coarse but manageable; 88/88.
2001 McCrea Cellars, Syrah, Boushey Grande Côte Vineyard, Yakima Valley, Washington, $42. This one is not for the faint of heart. This is your no-holds-barred, blow your hair back, silicone implants Syrah. Very intense on the nose and in the mouth, the black fruit, blueberries, and smoky notes are quite complex. The finish lingers endlessly; 93/93.
2002 McCrea Cellars, Syrah, Boushey Grande Côte Vineyard, Yakima Valley, Washington, $44. Ruby with blue overtones. Smoky black fruit, game, and mocha dominates the nose. Almost liqueur-like in the mouth, McCrea always seems to hit the sweet spot’ with his alcohol levels. This is a big boy, with lush dark berry fruit, milk chocolate, and silky tannins; 91/91.
2001 McCrea, Syrah, Cuvee Orleans, Yakima Valley, Washington, $45, 177 cases. The palate is almost overwhelming what with all of the complexity and richness of the wine. Layer after layer of black and blue fruit complexity unfolds, revealing tannins in perfect balance. Wonderful juice; 93/93.
2003 McCrea, Vin Rosé, Washington State, $14, 124 cases. This Rosé is made from Viognier, Grenache, and Counoise in a fully dry style. Red berries and blueberries present on the nose and evolve into sand plums and strawberries on the palate. The dandy acidity makes this a no-brainer for grilled salmon; 90/90.
2003 McCrea, Viognier, Red Mountain, Washington, $22, 145 cases. Delightful white flowers take the lead on the nose, with a bit of pear and cream. Very concentrated in the mouth, the wine displays exquisite fruit and perfect harmony; 91/91.
2001 Qupe, Roussanne, Alban Vineyard, Edna Valley, California, $25. The wine has a smoky, buttery nose. The flavors are a cross between ripe peaches and caramel, with a lingering aftertaste; 85/85.
2003 Qupe, Viognier, Ibara-Young Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley, California, $25, 234 cases. Pretty classic Viognier aromas with straightforward peachy flavors without much depth. The wine has nice overall balance; 85/85.
2002 Ravenswood, Shiraz, Vintners Blend, South Eastern Australia, $10, 42,000 cases. This is the first for Ravenswood - a Vintners Blend on the shelf with Aussie wines. Ruby/blue in color, the wine presents with aromas of juicy black fruit, smoke, and a touch of wood. Not particularly Syrah-like, the jammy red and black fruit is tasty nevertheless; 85/87.
2002 Rosenblum, Chateau La Paws, Cote du Bone Roan, San Francisco Bay, California, $13. A blend of Carignan, Syrah, Grenache, and Viognier. This is a fun wine that is meant for early consumption. Very fruity up front, with soft tannins and great acidity, this will make a perfect burger wine; 86/88.
2002 Rosenblum, Shiraz, McLaren Vale, Australia, $22, 2,100 cases. Almost black in the glass, the wine gives off aromas of blackberries, milk chocolate, and roasted nuts. Flavors are a repeat of the nose. Well-balanced, this is a nice overall package; 90/91.
2001 Rosenblum, Syrah, Fess Parker Vineyard, Santa Barbara, California, $24, 1,100 cases. The nose is a mélange of blackberries, plums, licorice, and toasty oak. Tannins and acids are right in step with the layers of blackberries, blueberries, herbs, and sweet vanilla; 88/88.
2002 Rulo, Silo, Columbia Valley, Washington, $25, 328 cases. This is Rulo's Reserve Syrah. The nose is highlighted by black fruit and lovely violet floral notes. Pretty nice balance overall, with generous oak that is carried well by the dense fruit. Berries and French vanilla linger on the aftertaste; 90/90.
2002 Rulo, Syrah, Walla Walla, Washington, $18, 860 cases. Purple-black in the glass, with aromas of blackberries, black cherries, smoke, and aged leather. Medium to full-bodied, the wine displays a lot of black fruit, with generous sweet oak flavors; 88/89.
2003 Rulo, Viognier, Walla Walla, Washington, $18. Straw gold in color, with classic Viognier fruit and floral aromas. Extremely well-balanced, with lots of acidity for the grape. Deep, lush, lingering sweet pear and peach flavors makes it hard to put this one down; 91/92.
2001 Serience (Zefina), Red Wine, Alder Ridge Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Washington, $30, 675 cases. Blend: 36 percent Grenache, 36 percent Syrah, 14 percent Mourvedre, 14 percent Counoise. The nose is packed with cherry and berry aromas, with subtle nuances of raspberry and saddle leather. Sweet, bold, cherry/berry fruit is right in your face, presented in a lovely, balanced package; 91/91.
2002 Serience (Zefina), White Wine, Columbia Valley, Washington, $20, 675 cases. 50 percent stainless steel fermented and 50 percent barrel fermented in 2-3 year old oak for 7 months. A blend of 55 percent Viognier and 45 percent Roussanne. Very floral on the nose and palate, with nice tropical fruit, peaches, pears, and bright acidity; 90/90.
2001 Three Rivers Winery, Syrah, Boushey Vineyards, Yakima Valley, Washington, $39. I had to look twice to make sure that I did not pour out the inkwell. The color is as intense as the aromas and flavors. Loaded with notes of black fruit, dewberries, dark chocolate, smoked game, and sweet oak, the wine manages to maintain a nice overall sense of balance; 91/91.
2002 Whitman Cellars, Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, Washington, $28, 740 cases. The nose displays a host of black fruit and floral notes, with some smoky cedar thrown in the mix. Rich blackberry and black cherry fruit is augmented by black pepper and spice. Sweet French oak is noted on the persistent finish; 90/90.
2003 Whitman Cellars, Viognier, Cougar Crest Vineyard, Walla Walla, Washington, $19, 336 cases. The nose is just beautiful, following in step with the 2002 vintage. Exceptionally well-balanced on the palate, this wine is structured for food. Peach and quince fruit abound, with underlying tropical notes; 91/92.
2001 Wilridge, Syrah, Elephant Mountain Vineyard, Yakima Valley, Washington, $29. This is the first wine that I've tried from this house. Lots of red and black fruit and violets lay siege to the nose. They did a very good job with tannin management and acidity. The flavors follow the nose in a quite tasty package; 90/90.
2000 Wilridge, Syrah, Stout Ranch Vineyards, Yakima Valley, Washington, $19. Totally different from their mountain fruit, with a lot more upfront floral notes on the nose. Gobs of blackberry and raspberry fruit are present, with chalky minerals that I often pick up from this region. Good value; 89/90.
2002 Zefina, Grenache Rosé, Alder Ridge Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Washington, $15, 275 cases. Dry, crisp, and fruity, with raspberry and strawberry fruit exerting their influence. This will pair well with grilled halibut; 86/87.
2003 Covey Run, Riesling, Washington State, $7, 47,200 cases. Straw colored with green highlights, the wine is packed with aromas of green apples and honeysuckle. Off-dry (2.9 percent RS) and too soft, the straightforward flavors mirror the nose; 80/80.
2002 Hogue, Riesling, Terroir, Yakima Valley, Washington, $13, 131 cases. This light gold wine emits aromas of apricots, white peaches, and floral notes. Off-dry with very soft acidity, the flavors speak of ripe peaches, pineapple, vanilla, and honey; 83/83.
2003 Snoqualmie, Riesling, Nearly Naked, Columbia Valley, Washington, $11, 500 cases. Organic grapes were used to produce this soft, quite sweet wine. Peaches and apples are presented in a straightforward manner; 81/81.
2003 Bogle, Petite Sirah Rosé, Clarksburg, California, $8. Available only from the winery. The wine has a burnt orange color, with a peach/apple/cherry mélange on the nose. It is a little soft on the acidity, but you can forgive that for all of the fun peach and cherry fruit that delights the mouth; 90/91.
2003 Hogue, Sangiovese Rose, Terroir, Columbia Valley, Washington, $13, 110 cases. Soft, with threshold sweetness, this watermelon-colored wine displays berries, cherries, and cranberries throughout; 84/84.
2003 Rulo, Rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla, Washington, $12. Very crisp acidity makes this wine a delight to drink. Straightforward, but with nice berry flavors that persist on the finish. Think grilled halibut; 87/88.
2003 Geyser Peak, Sauvignon Blanc, Block Collection, River Road Ranch, Russian River Valley, California, $19, 1,500 cases. No MLF was used and the wine was predominantly fermented in stainless steel (17 percent was placed in neutral barrels). The nose is underscored by tropical fruit, limes, and a touch of grassiness. Very crisp and clean, the flavors repeat the nose. Tasty; 88/88.
2002 Peachy Canyon, Zinfandel, Incredible Red Bin 114, Paso Robles, California, $12, 7,869 cases. Raspberry and blackberry aromas leap from the glass of this lightly styled quaffer. Easy on the palate, the wine delivers straightforward but tasty raspberry and blueberry flavors; 85/88.