© 2000 by Randy Buckner
1997 Barnard & Griffin, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $20. The nose is punctuated by plum, cassis and chocolate highlights. Jammy black fruit, cedar nuances, substantial but velvety tannins, and integrated oak are wrapped up in a tasty package. Good value.
1997 Camelot, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, $10. The wine leads off with black fruit and dark chocolate aromas. Black cherry fruit takes the forefront, with cedar and vanilla nuances, modest tannins, and a long, sweet fruit aftertaste.
1999 Canyon Road, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, $8, 102,000 cases. Berry and cassis aromas and flavors and complimented by American oak spice. Made for early consumption, this is a good value wine.
1997 Chateau St. Jean, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinq Cpages, Sonoma County, $50. Very floral, with blueberry notes, this nicely balanced wine is packed with blackberries, plums, chocolate and generous toasted oak flavors.
1997 Cilurzo Cabernet Sauvignon, Temecula, $18. Dark ruby, with a nose of red fruit, olive and celery. Soft on the palate, mixed red fruit is noted, with a hint of pepper and soft tannins. Drink over the short term.
1998 Clos Du Bois, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, $17. The nose displays black fruit and olive notes. Soft on the palate, this medium-bodied wine has straightforward black cherry fruit, mixed oak flavors, and a crisp finish.
1997 Fetzer, Cabernet Sauvignon, Barrel Select, North Coast, $17, 28,000 cases. Black cherries, plums, and light vanilla notes headline the nose. Medium-bodied, the wine is rich in fruit and easy on the tannins, with a long, lush finish. Good value.
1998 Girardet, Cabernet Sauvignon, Umpqua Valley, Oregon, $16, 135 cases. Dark berry and olive are noted in the bouquet. Balanced, with supple tannins, the ample blackberry fruit is supported by a touch of minerals and mixed oak flavors.
1998 Hess Select, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, $13. Soft on the palate, with silky tannins, this light-bodied wine is loaded with red raspberry, cherry and vanilla oak flavors. Very good value.
1996 Kenwood, Cabernet Sauvignon, Artist Series, Sonoma County, $70, 3,790 cases. Very dark ruby in the glass, with french vanilla oak and black fruit aromas. Very elegant and balanced on the palate, with loads of blackberry fruit and french oak flavors. Silky tannins are appreciated on the long, fruity finish. Place this on the shelf with the other CA "cult classics."
1998 Chateau St. Jean, Chardonnay, Belle Terre Vineyard, Alexander Valley, $22. Light gold in the glass, this wine saw 100% malolactic fermentation. Soft on the palate, the wine yields lovely pear and nectarine aromas, with green apple, pineapple and smoky vanilla flavors.
1999 Chateau St. Jean, Chardonnay, Sonoma County, $13. Bartlett pears and vanilla highlight the nose of this wine. Quite soft and viscous on the palate, white peaches predominate, with buttery notes on the finish.
1998 Cilurzo, Barrel Fermented Reserve, Temecula, $8. This wine has a soft palate feel with an apple butter nose, which leads to spicy apple fruit, all in a nicely balanced package. Drinking well now.
1999 Fetzer, Chardonnay, Barrel Select, Mendocino County, $13, 62,000 cases. Green apples leap from the glass to punctuate the nose. Apples, pears, and creamy butter highlight the wine, with a touch of pineapple on the long finish.
1999 Flora Springs, Chardonnay, Barrel Fermented Reserve, Napa Valley, $26. Light gold, with ripe pears and apples on the nose. The wine has a balanced, elegant feel, very soft and viscous, with yellow delicious apple flavors and creamy oak on the long finish. Ready to drink now.
1998 Gallo of Sonoma, Chardonnay, Laguna Ranch, Russian River Valley, $22, 6,676 cases. Made in a classic CA style, this golden yellow wine has pears and smoky oak aromas. Medium-bodied, buttery, smooth, with ripe pear, citrus and butterscotch flavors.
1998 Gallo of Sonoma, Chardonnay, Stefani Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley, $22, 2,647 cases. Sweet Bartlett pears and vanilla aromas abound. The wine opens to peach and vanilla oak flavors, with a creamy mouthfeel and a long aftertaste.
1999 Geyser Peak, Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, $16, 5,500 cases. Soft on the palate, with a creamy feel, the wine has pear fruit in the forefront, with smoky oak in the background. 50% MLF and 0.39% residual sugar.
1999 Geyser Peak, Chardonnay, Sonoma County, $12, 50,000 cases. Pear and pineapple notes highlight the nose. Soft and buttery on the palate, with honeydew melon and vanilla flavors, and a long aftertaste. Good value for this style.
1997 Girardet, Chardonnay, Umpqua Valley, Oregon, $12, 1,500 cases. Soft and creamy on the palate, toasty oak and apple flavors take the forefront.
1998 Handley, Chardonnay, Anderson Valley, $16, 2,943 cases. Ripe pear aromas leap from the glass. White peaches, pear and apple flavors are in the forefront, with soft vanilla nuances and a creamy finish.
1999 Hess Select, Chardonnay, California, $13. This value wine has lovely green apple and tropical fruit aromas and flavors, with buttery nuances and a soft, clean finish.
1998 Jepson, Chardonnay, Estate Select, Mendocino County, $15, 3,500 cases. A nose of pears and toasty oak carries over to the palate. Crisp, fresh, with a viscous mouthfeel and buttery finish. Good value for the style.
1998 Kendall-Jackson, Chardonnay, Grand Reserve, California, $17. This wine focuses on ripe pear, apple and toasted oak aromas and flavors, finishing with a creamy caramel aftertaste.
1998 La Crema, Chardonnay, Cold Coast Vineyard, Sonoma Coast, $20. The bouquet is replete with green apple, citrus and caramel notes. Full-bodied, soft, with citrus, pineapple, and toasty oak flavors, the finish is long and full.
1998 La Crema, Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, $30. Full-bodied and crisp, the nose is featured by green apple, tropical fruit and caramel notes. The creamy mouthfeel is punctuated by lemon, apple spice, and generous vanilla flavors.
1997 Lorane Valley, Chardonnay, Oregon, $10. Tropical fruit and buttery aromas come through on the palate as well. Clean and crisp, at $10 a bottle this is a good value.
1999 Meridian, Chardonnay, Santa Barbara, $11. Light gold with toasty oak and tropical fruit aromas. Full-bodied, with sweet pineapple and mango flavors, smoky oak nuances and a long finish. Good value for the style.
2000 Rosemount Estate, Chardonnay, Diamond Varietal, Australia, $10. Citrus, peach and oak spice notes are followed by generous vanilla, oak spice, and tropical fruit flavors, all on a creamy framework.
1997 Silvan Ridge, Chardonnay, Carolyn’s Cuvee, Oregon, $10, 390 cases. Soft and creamy in the mouth. Yellow delicious apple fruit and vanilla cream flavors prevail. Ready now.
1998 Villa Mt. Eden, Chardonnay, Signature Series, Santa Maria Valley, $32. The wine is golden straw in the glass. Complex tropical fruit and butterscotch aromas and flavors are supported by an acidic backbone and a very long finish.
1998 Barnard & Griffin, Merlot, Columbia Valley, $17. Blackberries, cherries and vanilla accent the nose of this wine. Lush blackberries and cassis take the forefront, with chalky minerals, well-balanced oak and nice acidity. Moderate tannins need some time in bottle to tame a bit.
1998 Callaway, Merlot, Coastal, California, $11. Made in a soft, approachable style, this wine has black cherry, blackberry and vanilla aromas and flavors, with a sweet fruit finish.
1999 Canyon Road, Merlot, California, $8, 65,200 cases. Straightforward plum and cherry aromas and flavors are supported by light oak vanilla and tart acidity. An early drinker.
1997 Cilurzo, Merlot, April & Luiseno Vineyards, Temecula, $18. There are earthy black fruit aromas and flavors, with spicy oak and vanilla notes, supple tannins, and a crisp finish.
1998 Cilurzo, Merlot, Temecula, $18. Ruby colored with blackberry and olive notes. Smooth on the palate, you find straightforward blackberry fruit and chalky minerals, and a moderate, crisp finish.
1998 Clos Du Bois, Merlot, Sonoma County, $17. Raspberry and blueberry aromas are backed by plum and black cherry flavors, a touch of tea and tobacco, with smooth tannins on the finish.
1998 Fetzer, Merlot, Barrel Select, Sonoma County, $13, 24,000 cases. Nice cherry, blueberry and vanilla notes highlight the nose. Full-bodied and soft, the wine has nice ripe cherry, blueberry, cola, and cedar flavors, with supple tannins on the finish. Good value.
1998 Geyser Peak, Merlot, Sonoma County, $17, 37,000 cases. Red cherry and olive notes are savored on the nose. Very forward, the mixed red and black fruit is complimented by silky tannins and moderate American oak flavors. Drink over the next couple of years.
1997 Hanna, Merlot, Alexander Valley, $22. Ripe black cherries and a hint of mint showcase the nose and palate, with moderate mixed American and French oak flavors, and modest tannins on the fruity finish.
1997 Rodney Strong, Merlot, Alexander Valley, Northern Sonoma, $26, 12,300 cases. New and older American oak was used in making this wine, which is noted on the nose and palate. Very ripe, sweet cherry fruit predominates, with silky tannins and a long, lush finish.
1999 Rosemount Estate, Merlot, Diamond Varietal, Australia, $11. Plums and vanilla spice are featured on the nose. Light-bodied, with black cherry fruit, a kiss of oak, finishing with modest tannins. Ready to drink now.
1996 Silvan Ridge, Merlot, Oregon, $14. Ripe plum, tobacco and bitter chocolate aromas are followed by plum and chocolate flavors, finishing with significant tannins that need bottle aging.
1999 Barton & Guestier, Cabernet Rose, Vins De Pays D’OC, Languedoc, $7. A lovely salmon color, with raspberries apparent on the nose. Crisp and clean, this good value quaffer has satisfying melon fruit and a fresh finish.
1999 Calina, Carmenčre, Maule Valley, Chile, $7. Blackberry and pepper on the nose, with lush blackberry flavors, modest tannins, and a sweet fruit finish. A Kendall-Jackson import.
1999 Callaway, Chenin Blanc, Coastal, California, $7. Straightforward, light, and crisp, this wine has apricot flavors with a hint of sweetness on the palate.
1998 Cilurzo, Muscat Canelli, Temecula, $10. Very viscous on the palate, soft, and sweet (7.5% R.S.), this wine has pear fruit predominating, with a hint of white peaches.
1999 Cilurzo, Rose of Zinfandel, Temecula, $7. Strawberry and tea aromas open to straightforward strawberry fruit and a tart finish.
1997 DeRose, Hollywood Red, Cienega Valley, $16, 684 cases. A blend of six grapes, this rustic red wine has red and black fruits, spicy black pepper, and moderate to heavy tannins. Match with barbecue or roast beef.
1997 DeRose, Negrette, Cienega Valley, $25, 818 cases. Spicy plums accent the nose of this exotic varietal. Full-bodied, the wine has complex black fruit flavors, supple tannins, and very food-friendly acidity. Match this beauty with venison or lamb shanks.
1998 Girardet, Baco Noir, Umpqua Valley, Oregon, $18, 438 cases. Earthy, bacony aromas are also noted on the palate. Very smooth mouthfeel, with a tart finish. Match with polenta and sauteed wild mushrooms.
1998 Girardet, Baco Noir, Reserve, Umpqua Valley, Oregon, $32, 82 cases. Dark fruit and earthy notes on the nose. Balanced, tart, with currants and tea, and a cherry sweet tart finish.
1998 Girardet, Grand Blanc, Umpqua Valley, Oregon, $7. Delicate peach on the nose. Off-dry, smooth, fruity, with canned peach flavors on the finish.
1997 Girardet, Grand Rouge, Umpqua Valley, Oregon, $7. This is a blend of fourteen varietals. Nice up-front fruit and spice, balance, and a tart finish. Good value.
1997 Girardet, Marechal Foch, Umpqua Valley, Oregon, $16, 600 cases. Forest floor aromas are followed by dewberry and tart black cherry flavors, with a hint of mushroom. Finishes tart and crisp.
1998 Girardet, Marechal Foch, Umpqua Valley, Oregon, $18, 372 cases. Chocolate covered cherries and spice accent the nose. Soft on the entry, the wine has black fruit, leather, and tea, with tart acidity on the finish. Match with pasta and red sauce.
1999 Silvan Ridge, Muscat, Semi-Sparkling, Oregon, $12, 3,150 cases. Here is another fun wine to drink. Very aromatic, with mandarin orange and ripe peach aromas. Quite sweet on the palate, the fruit is rich and pronounced, with a light fizz to add interest.
1999 Windsor, Semillon, Private Reserve, Mendocino County, $15. This wine makes a statement with 83% new oak. Soft and supple on the palate, yet with a sense of crispness overall. The fruit is full, lush, and true to form. Match with a grilled seafood dish.
1998 Cilurzo, Petite Sirah, Late Harvest, Temecula, $11 (375ml). Chocolate is the name of the game here, both on the nose and the palate, along with mixed black berries. Delicate sweetness at 4.0%.
1997 Cilurzo, Petite Sirah, Reserve, Temecula, $20. This is always one of their best wines, if not the best. An earthy, barnyardy, black fruit nose opens to lovely blackberry, leather and tobacco flavors. Full-bodied, this wine has moderate tannins and a long finish. Should age well. Good value.
1999 Ponzi, Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, $15, 3,200 cases. Very refreshing, with peach and fig aromas and flavors, finishing long and crisp. Nice food wine.
1999 Silvan Ridge, Pinot Gris, Oregon, $13, 1,750 cases. The wine leads off with lovely aromas of citrus and melon. Lush pear, peach and honeydew melon flavors entice the palate, finishing long and crisp. Good value.
1998 Barefoot Cellars, Pinot Noir, Reserve, Sonoma County, $15, 1,200 cases. Bright cherry fruit and vanilla aromas are also present on the palate, along with added spice. Very soft, with mild tannins and a sweet finish. 0.74% R.S. Very approachable now.
1997 Camelot, Pinot Noir, California, $10. A very lovely nose of spicy chocolate cherries. Soft and balanced on the palate, the tannins are unobtrusive, with cherry fruit and oak spice flavors. Good value.
1998 Girardet, Pinot Noir, Barrel Select, Umpqua Valley, Oregon, $16. Cherry, tea, and earthy aromas and flavors highlight this well-balanced, light to medium bodied wine. Very approachable now. Good value.
1998 Girardet, Pinot Noir, Reserve, Umpqua Valley, Oregon, $35, 127 cases. The wine has an intense bouquet of black cherry and sweet vanilla. Medium-bodied, with black fruit and oak spice flavors, and a touch of mushrooms on the finish.
1997 Hinman, Pinot Noir, Oregon, $9. Aromas of cherry and truffle accent this light-styled wine. Simple but tasty fruit, nice acidity, made in a ready-to-enjoy style.
1998 Kenwood, Pinot Noir, Reserve-Olivet, Russian River Valley, $30, 1,380 cases. Enticing Pinot fruit on the nose. Very soft and elegant on the palate, the wine has lush but delicate sweet cherry and berry flavors and well-integrated French oak. This wine strives for finesse and succeeds.
1997 King Estate, Pinot Noir, Oregon, $20. The wine has a rich bouquet of ripe black cherries and tea. On the palate you find tart, mixed red and black fruits, with black tea nuances. Approachable now.
1997 King Estate, Pinot Noir, Reserve, Oregon, $35. Very elegant on the approach, this wine is packed with black cherry and cranberry fruit, with hints of cedar, oak spice, and soft to moderate tannins on an extended finish.
1998 La Crema, Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, $35. Medium-bodied, this wine is well-balanced, with tea, blackberry and raspberry flavors and a long, fruity finish.
1997 Lorane Valley, Pinot Noir, Oregon, $12. This light-bodied wine has plum, cherry and earthy aromas, straightforward fruit, oak spice and a crisp finish.
1997 Silvan Ridge, Pinot Noir, Oregon, $14. Ripe raspberry, cherry and spice notes are framed by cherry and plum flavors, hints of white pepper, and very food-friendly acidity.
1998 Girardet, Riesling, Estate, Umpqua Valley, $7, 453 cases. Pale straw with a citrus fruit nose, this off-dry Riesling has lemon zest flavors and ample acidity.
1999 Girardet, Riesling, Estate, Umpqua Valley, $7. In contrast to the 98, this wine has peach and apricot aromas and flavors, finishing with light acidity and sweetness.
1999 Kendall-Jackson, Johannisberg Riesling, Vintner’s Reserve, California, $10. Citrus and pineapple aromas enhance the peach and tangerine flavors. Off-dry at 2.1% residual sugar, the wine finishes crisp and clean.
1999 Callaway, Sauvignon Blanc, Coastal, California, $8. Very clean and refreshing, the wine has unmistakable grassy aromas. This is followed by grapefruit flavors and modest herbal notes. Serve with herbed chicken breasts or sesame chicken.
1998 Cilurzo, Sauvignon Blanc, Temecula, $8. Light straw with citrus and vanilla aromas which also prevail on the palate, with ripe fruit and a brisk finish.
1999 Handley, Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Creek Valley, $14, 876 cases. With more apparent oak than previous vintages, this wine is soft on the palate, with citrus and vanilla flavors.
1999 Hanna, Sauvignon Blanc, Russian River Valley, $14, 5,000 cases. The wine has a lovely, fruity nose with grassy notes. Delicious Sauvignon fruit, with grapefruit and gooseberry flavors to delight the palate, finishing with zippy acidity. Very good value.
1998 Hanna, Sauvignon Blanc, Reserve, Russian River Valley, $24, 1,256 cases. Very herbal on the nose with citrus notes at the end. Soft and full on the palate, lemongrass flavors prevail along with a balanced offering of new oak flavors.
1999 Husch, Sauvignon Blanc, Mendocino, $12.50, 9,900 cases. This wine was tasted in a three-year vertical. The 97 is a powerhouse, with lemon/citrus aromas and flavors, lean, steely, a hint of grassiness, and still quite youthful. The 98 (a rough year for grapes to ripen) was less intense, soft, less acidic bite, a touch of the mown hay, and should be consumed short term. The 1999 falls in-between the other two, having nice lemon fruit, vanilla nuances, and food-friendly acidity.
1999 Jepson, Sauvignon Blanc, Estate Select, Mendocino County, $11, 6,300 cases. 36% barrel aged. The wine has an inviting lime/citrus nose, mixed citrus and melon fruits, with a long, flavorful finish.
1999 Meridian, Sauvignon Blanc, California, $8. Entering soft on the palate, the wine has melon, pineapple and lemon aromas and flavors, with hints of mown grass and vanilla notes on the finish. There is 18% Chardonnay in the blend. Good value.
1999 Windsor, Fume Blanc, Private Reserve, Mendocino County, $13. 20% Semillon in the blend. Very lovely and aromatic, the wine has a soft mouthfeel, mixed citrus fruit, and creamy vanilla on the finish. 66% barrel fermented then placed in new American oak.
1996 Clover Hill, Sparkling Wine, Tasmania, $29. 54% Chardonnay, 31% Pinot Noir, 15% Pinot Meunier. Tart apple and fresh bread aromas lead off, followed by fine bubbles in the glass, a creamy mouthfeel, and rich fruit flavors. Leesy notes are appreciated on the finish.
NV Taltarni, Sparkling Wine, Brut Tach, Australia, $22. 75% Chardonnay, 21% Pinot Noir, 4% Pinot Meunier. Fresh pear aromas are backed by apples, spice, a hint of berry, and lively acidity.
1998 Barnard Griffin, Syrah, Columbia Valley, $30. Their first Syrah is a big boy. Almost black in the glass, blueberry and vanilla aromas are pleasing to the nose. Full-bodied and moderately tannic, this wine is loaded with lush blueberries and blackberries, sweet oak vanillin and a long, jammy aftertaste.
1998 Windsor, Syrah, Private Reserve, Sonoma County, $15. Black fruit with a touch of smoke highlight the nose. Lush black fruit comes to the forefront, with smoked meat coming on next, then finishing with moderate but supple tannins and mild vanilla notes. Good value.
1998 Cilurzo, Zinfandel, Old Vines, Cucamonga Valley, $8. Garnet, with ripe red cherry and vanilla aromas which are also noted on the palate. Cranberries are noted on the finish. Made to drink over the short term.
1998 Clos Du Val, Zinfandel, Stags Leap District, Napa Valley, $18, 210 cases. Inviting ripe, red fruit aromas lead to straightforward jammy fruit, black pepper, and slightly coarse tannins on the finish. Match this one with grilled meats.
1997 DeRose, Zinfandel, Cienega Valley, $20, 1,300 cases. This is a big boy. Rich black fruit and chocolate aromas, intense, jammy, briary fruit, chocolate, moderate tannins and 15.7% alcohol. The wine does not seem hot at this point and has a huge, fruity finish. Good value.
1997 Gallo of Sonoma, Zinfandel, Frei Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley, $19, 3,275 cases. Complex aromas of plums, berries, and American oak are also noted on the palate, with modest tannins and a long, fruity aftertaste.
1998 Geyser Peak, Zinfandel, 85% Sonoma County, 15% Cucamonga Valley, $17, 1,900 cases. Cedar and berry aromas lead to a well-balanced wine. The sweet, briary fruit is accented by pepper, subtle oak, moderate tannins and a long finish. Approachable now.
1998 Handley, Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, $25, 190 cases. Loaded with ripe berry fruit, the wine also has a healthy dose of French oak flavors. The moderate tannins need a little bottle time to tame down.
1998 Montevina, Zinfandel, SHR Field Blend, Amador County, $14, 1,000 cases. This wine combines brambly fruit and vanilla highlights, mixed black fruit flavors, and rustic tannins that need bottle aging.
1998 Montevina, Zinfandel, Terra d’Oro, Deaver Ranch, Amador County, $22, 2,400 cases. Blackberry, anise, and chocolate notes are followed by jammy black fruits, pepper, and healthy tannins that need time to tame. There is a long, rich aftertaste.
1998 Peachy Canyon, Zinfandel, Paso Robles, $17, 2,932 cases. Black fruit and earthy aromas prevail. Soft on the entry, made in the elegant style, the wine has black cherry and currant fruit flavors, finishing with crisp acidity.
1998 Peachy Canyon, Zinfandel, Westside, $19, 3,569 cases. Brambly fruit aromas and flavors, pleasant pepper spice, modest tannins and zippy acidity – can we say barbecue here?
1998 Villa Mt. Eden, Zinfandel, Old Vines, California, $12. Currants and plums are appreciated both on the nose and the palate, with moderately intense fruit and balancing acidity. This is a good food wine.