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© 2000 by Randy Buckner
Nov. 25, 2000

New Releases:
Elections are over (?), the endless commercials are thankfully history, and a new President will hopefully take office, for better or worse, after the most bizarre, hotly contested election in the history of the United States. The temperate autumn weather now has a definite chill, and old man winter is already arriving in some areas to chill the bones. We find ourselves reaching for the Port and Cognac to sip in front of the fireplace. Pinot Noirs are being released by the drove at this time of year, ideal for the holiday table. Many good values are to be found.

Cabernet Sauvignon

1997 Bonterra, Cabernet Sauvignon, North Coast, $15, 54,000 cases. Cherry, cola, and vanilla aromas are followed by straightforward, soft cherry fruit and moderate tannins.

1997 Chateau Ste Michelle, Cabernet Sauvignon, Canoe Ridge Vineyard, Columbia Valley, $24. The nose has pleasant blackberry, cassis and olive notes. Well-balanced, the wine has ample fruit, moderate but supple tannins, and a touch of mint and cedar on the long finish.

1997 Clos Du Bois, Marlstone, Alexander Valley, $38, 12,000 cases. A blend of 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Merlot and 4% Petit Verdot. Blackberry, cassis and caramel are appreciated both on the nose and the palate, with medium tannins on the finish. Needs bottle time.

1998 Clos Du Bois, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Alexander Valley, $20, 19,000 cases. Blackberry, cassis, and light oak notes accentuate the nose. Nice black cherry and blackberry flavors, and a hint of cedar and licorice are rounded out by smooth tannins on a long finish.

1998 J. Lohr, Cabernet Sauvignon, Seven Oaks, Paso Robles, $15, 100,000 cases. Blueberry, blackberry and floral notes precede black cherry, chocolate and vanilla flavors, with coarse tannins that need bottle time to resolve.

1997 Sebastiani, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma Valley, $24, 3,850 cases. Black cherry, cedar and black olive notes highlight this well-balanced wine. Sweet blackberry and blueberry fruit and generous vanilla flavors are noted on the long finish.

1998 Sobon Estate, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Signature Select Program, Shenandoah Valley, $25, 220 cases. Blended with 22% Cab Franc. This lean-styled wine has tart black cherry aromas, followed by blackberry fruit with blueberry overtones, finishing with tart acidity and moderate tannins. Give this one 2-3 years to come together.

1997 Taltarni, Cabernet Sauvignon, Victoria, Australia, $16. Blackberries, currants, and menthol notes are mirrored on the palate, with chocolate, sweet oak, modest tannins, and a long, fruit-filled finish. Good value.

1998 Walla Walla Vintners, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $34. Blueberry and bing cherry notes are pleasing to the nose. Smooth on the palate, this wine is simply packed with jammy mixed black fruit that makes you want look for the bread to spread it on. Silky tannins and enhancing American oak flavors lurk in the background.

1998 William Hill, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, $22, 25,500 cases. Medium-bodied, rich and soft on the palate, plums, cassis and blackberries highlight this wine, with silky tannins and sweet oak in the background. Good value.

1998 William Hill, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Napa Valley, $38, 6,000 cases. Aromas of black fruits and French oak lead off. This medium-bodied wine has black cherry, plum and cassis flavors, generous French vanilla notes, and supple tannins on the finish.

Chardonnay

1999 Bonterra, Chardonnay, Mendocino County, $15, 80,000 cases. Yellow delicious apples, citrus and creamy oak aromas and flavors, are followed by balancing acidity and a citrus finish.

1999 Clos Du Bois, Chardonnay, Calcaire, Alexander Valley, $22, 12,000 cases. Tropical fruit and smoky oak aromas are echoed on the palate, with a creamy, toasty aftertaste.

1999 Clos Du Bois, Chardonnay, Reserve, Alexander Valley, $16, 19,500 cases. This medium-weight wine has tropical fruit, pear, plenty of oak, all on a buttery, satiny finish.

1999 Clos Du Val, Chardonnay, Carneros, Napa Valley, $21, 17,067 cases. The wine offers pear and tropical fruit aromas. Full and rich on the palate, tropical fruit/mangoes dominate. Generous French oak flavors compliment the long finish. Good value for fans of the style.

1999 Edna Valley, Chardonnay, Paragon, Edna Valley, $18, 84,000 cases. Aromas of white peach and vanilla lead to a full bodied wine with a soft entry. White peach, apple and pineapple flavors entice the palate, finishing crisp and clean. Good value.

1999 Glen Carlou, Chardonnay, Paarl, South Africa, $14. Tropical fruit aromas, with ripe apple and vanilla notes, all on a soft, creamy finish.

1998 Hess Collection, Chardonnay, Napa Valley, $18. This wine has citrus and toasty oak aromas. Creamy on the palate, there is light tropical fruit, pear and moderate smoky vanilla flavors.

1998 Ponzi, Chardonnay, Reserve, Willamette Valley, $35, 928 cases. Light aromas of Asian pear tempt the nose. Entering soft on the palate, delicate pear and ripe apple fruit is supported by a creamy vanilla finish.

1998 Sebastiani, Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, $20, 2,000 cases. Green apple, pineapple and toasted oak aromas and flavors highlight this medium-bodied wine. Generous smoky caramel notes are noted on the crisp finish.

1999 Stone Creek, Chardonnay, Special Selection, California, $8, 56,000 cases. Straightforward apple, pear and vanilla aromas and flavors, with a creamy mouthfeel.

1998 Van Duzer, Chardonnay, Willamette Valley, $16, 1,550 cases. Pear and nectarine aromas are followed by ripe apple fruit, light vanilla notes, and a doughy, toasty finish.

1999 William Hill, Chardonnay, Napa Valley, $15, 44,000 cases. Fresh green apple aromas please the senses. Soft, medium-bodied, with yellow peach, apple, and oak spice flavors predominating on the palate.

1999 William Hill, Chardonnay, Reserve, Napa Valley, $23, 10,000 cases. Tropical fruit and butterscotch notes prevail on the nose and palate, with a very soft mouthfeel and light acidity. Drink now.

Italian Varietals

1998 Gallo of Sonoma, Sangiovese, Alexander Valley, $13, 8,000 cases. This nice food wine has light cherry and spice aromas, followed by tart, dried cherry fruit, black tea flavors and tangy acidity.

1999 Preston, Barbera, Dry Creek Valley, $22, 1,510 cases. There are obvious aromas of cherries, raspberries and chocolate, followed by rich, jammy fruit, the perfect match of tannins and acids, making this a nice food wine.

1997 Sebastiani, Barbera, Dry Creek Valley, $25. A bright berry, leather and spice bouquet. Intensely fruity on the palate, the tannins are soft, the acidity lively. This is a nice match for a plate of spaghetti and meatballs. Good value.

Merlot

1997 Bonterra, Merlot, Mendocino County, $19, 14,500 cases. Cherry, cedar, and olive aromas buoy the mixed red and black fruit, spice and moderate tannins.

1999 Echelon, Merlot, California, $12.50, 54,500 cases. Black cherry and plum aromas repeat on the palate, with delicate fruit flavors and soft tannins. Approachable now.

1998 Huntington, Merlot, North Coast, $12, 1,200 cases. Vanilla spice on the nose, with straightforward sweet plum and American oak flavors, with soft tannins on the finish. Ready now.

1998 Jade Mountain, Merlot, Caldwell Vineyard, Napa Valley, $38, 1,235 cases. Raspberries dominate the nose. Elegant on the palate, this medium-bodied wine has lovely raspberry and blackberry fruit, dusty/chalky minerals and rounded tannins. Can be enjoyed now.

1997 Kenwood, Merlot, Massara Vineyard, Sonoma Valley, $25, 2,000 cases. An elegant entry on the palate, quite smooth, with black fruit, tart plum and balanced oak flavors, finishing with zippy acidity.

1998 Kenwood, Merlot, Sonoma County, $17, 30,820 cases. Medium bodied, this wine features black cherry, chocolate and vanilla notes on the nose and palate, with a hint of allspice on the long finish.

1997 Sebastiani, Merlot, Sonoma Valley, $22, 1,070 cases. Black cherry and vanilla aromas precede jammy black fruit flavors, cedar, substantial tannins and mixed oak flavors on the finish.

1998 Stone Creek, Merlot, Chairman's Reserve, Napa County, $17, 1,250 cases. Blackberry, black cherry, black olive, chocolate, and humidor aromas and flavors. There are modest tannins on a fruity finish.

1999 Veramonte, Merlot, Maipo, Chile, $10, 45,000 cases. Black cherry and olive aromas are echoed on the palate along with black pepper and earthy notes, balanced oak, and a long, lush aftertaste. Good value.

Miscellaneous

1998 Clos Du Bois, Tempranillo, Reserve, Alexander Valley, $16, 379 cases. Another wine structured for that favorite tomato-based pasta dish. Very fruity, plum predominating, with bracing acidity and smoky notes on the finish.

1999 Kendall-Jackson, Cabernet Sauvignon-Shiraz, California, $10. Black fruit aromas enhance the soft blackberry fruit and light mineral flavors. Finishes long and crisp.

1998 Kendall-Jackson, Zinfandel-Shiraz, California, $10. Light-bodied, the wine has red cherry aromas, mixed red and black fruit, mild tannins and subtle oak on the finish.

1999 McDowell, Marsanne, Mendocino County, $16, 420 cases. Apricots and floral notes are appreciated in this medium-bodied wine, with sweet fruit, light acidity and modest vanilla flavors on the finish.

1998 Secret House, Riesling, Willamette Valley, $8, 1,200 cases. Straightforward peach and citrus aromas and flavors, with a slightly sweet, acidic finish. 2% residual sugar.

1998 Shenandoah, Vintage Port, Amador County, $18, 320 cases. Made from the Portuguese varieties Tinta Cao, Tinta Mazuelo, and Tinta Francesca, this Port has blackberry, cassis, chocolate and dill flavors. 6.1% residual sugar.

1998 Veramonte, Carmenere, Primus, Casablanca Valley, Chile, $20. A blend of 85% Carmenere and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. Green olive, mint, and muted black fruit aromas lead to an exotic array of flavors. Blackberry, bacon, spice, and a healthy dose of green peppercorn flavors combine to make a nicely balanced, intriguing wine. Good value. Imported by Franciscan Estates.

Pinot Blanc

1999 Chalone, Pinot Blanc, Estate, Chalone, $24, 4,285 cases. True to their style, the wine has aromas of peaches, pears and creamy vanilla. Full-bodied, there is a compendium of rich fruit, minerals and creamy oak. This would match well with Oysters Bienvielle.

1999 Dundee Springs, Pinot Blanc, Oregon, $16. Fig and citrus aromas are appreciated on the palate as well, along with melon notes and refreshing acidity.

Pinot Gris

1999 Dundee Springs, Pinot Gris, Oregon, $12. Nicely balanced, with lovely mixed fruit aromas and melon flavors. Very clean and crisp, the finish is long and fruity.

1999 Rancho Zabaco, Pinot Gris, Sonoma Coast, $16, 5,545 cases. Aromas of peach and citrus prevail, with sweet peach and vanilla cream flavors, finishing with crisp acidity. 0.67% R.S.

1998 Secret House, Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, $12, 1,200 cases. This good value wine has lovely citrus aromas, kiwi and orange fruit flavors, and a lively, refreshing finish.

1999 Yamhill Valley, Pinot Gris, Oregon, $12. Hints of peach and citrus tempt the nose, as well as the palate. The wine has very food-friendly acidity and will match light seafood dishes well. Improved with breathing.

Pinot Noir

1999 Acacia, Pinot Noir, Carneros, $25, 12,868 cases. Earthy dark fruit notes on the nose are also appreciated on the palate. Well-balanced, rich, and fruity, the oak is well integrated and the finish is long and lush. This was a nice match with grilled pork loin.

1998 Boyer, Pinot Noir, Arroyo Seco, Monterey County, $20, 200 cases. Cherry and toasted oak aromas express themselves on the nose. Raspberry and tart cherry fruit are in the forefront, with generous but enhancing French oak spice, and food-friendly acidity.

1999 Chalone, Pinot Noir, Estate, Chalone, $35, 6,400 cases. The wine has a complex nose of berries, French vanilla, and just a trace of mint. Very rich and elegant on the palate, with layers of ripe fruit, minerals, generous oak flavors and moderate tannins on the lingering finish.

1999 Chateau St. Jean, Pinot Noir, Sonoma County, $16. Ripe red cherries, spice and floral notes entice the nose. Light to medium-bodied, with cranberry and red cherry flavors, soft tannins and a crisp, spicy finish.

1998 Cloninger, Pinot Noir, Monterey, $20, 500 cases. Ripe cherries, rose petal and toasted oak aromas are noted in this full-bodied wine. Very ripe black cherry fruit and tomato skin flavors are supported by snappy acidity.

1998 Clos Du Val, Pinot Noir, Carneros, Napa Valley, $26, 790 cases. Black cherry, oak spice and black tea notes are savored on the nose and palate. Light to medium-bodied, the wine has modest tannins on the long finish.

1997 Joe Dobbes, Pinot Noir, Signature Cuvee, Willamette Valley, $51, 300 cases. Complex aromas of black fruit and toasty barrel notes. Very tight at present, this medium bodied wine has plum and black cherry fruit. Needs significant bottle aging to strut its stuff.

1998 Dundee Springs, Pinot Noir, Oregon, $25. Unfined and unfiltered. Garnet colored, with a bright red cherry nose. Light to medium bodied, tart red cherry and raspberry fruit prevails, with light vanilla notes and food-friendly acidity.

1998 Edmeades, Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, $16, 2,822 cases. The nose displays earthy, blackberry notes with just a hint of spice. Plum and blueberry flavors are closely followed by savory cedar, wrapping up with a long, complex finish. Very good value.

1998 Griffin Creek, Pinot Noir, Rogue Valley, Oregon, $27, 2,464 cases. Lively aromas of orange zest, cherries, and mixed spices. Light to medium bodied and soft on the palate, the wine offers red cherry fruit, hints of orange peel and light smoky spice. Approachable now.

1998 Handley, Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, $25, 1,887 cases. Very lovely black cherry and vanilla aromas precede dried cherry flavors, tea, and spice. You'll find crisp acidity on the finish, with a moderately tannic underpinning.

1998 Meridian, Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County, $13. Ripe black cherry, blackberry, and vanilla aromas echo on the palate in this medium-bodied wine. Well-balanced, there is a lush, lingering aftertaste. Good value.

1998 Robert Mondavi, Pinot Noir, Monterey County, $15, 200 cases. Black cherry and spicy oak aromas are followed by straightforward cherry fruit flavors, a touch of black pepper and soft tannins on the finish.

1998 Paraiso Springs, Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County, $22.50, 2,300 cases. Lovely plum, blueberry and light vanilla aromas highlight this well-balanced wine. Lush black cherry and blueberry flavors are up-front, with light smoky vanilla notes in the background. Good value.

1997 Ponzi, Pinot Noir, Reserve, Willamette Valley, $48, 1,573 cases. Unfiltered and unfined, this wine is dark in the glass with earthy, cherry aromas. Dense black cherry fruit, oak spice and dusty flavors are supported by an acidic backbone. Approachable now.

1998 Scheid, Pinot Noir, Monterey, $25, 300 cases. Dewberry, mint and vanilla aromas are featured in this medium-bodied wine. Easy on the palate, cherry fruit predominates, with a kiss of nutmeg.

1998 Sebastiani, Pinot Noir, Carneros, Sonoma Valley, $20, 1,700 cases. Cherry, rose petal and toasty aromas precede the ripe cherry fruit and spicy oak flavors in this well-balanced, medium-bodied wine.

1998 Secret House, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $22, 1,148 cases. Light raspberry notes on the nose. Light to medium bodied, with raspberry fruit prevailing, this wine has a brisk finish.

1997 Secret House, Pinot Noir, Reserve, Willamette Valley, $20, 800 cases. Aromas of black cherry and smoky oak are closely followed by earthy black cherry fruit, well-balanced oak and nice acidity. Approachable now.

1998 Tualatin Estate, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $28, 1,700 cases. Rich aromas of black cherry and vanilla are also appreciated on the palate, along with cherry and spice notes. Mouth-puckering tannins require this wine to be aged 3+ years.

1997 Willamette Valley, Pinot Noir, Founder's Reserve, Willamette Valley, $27, 3,148 cases. Floral and cherry aromas combine with currants, blueberries and dusty earth flavors, all on a moderately tannic backbone. Needs two to three years bottle aging to round out.

1997 Willamette Valley, Pinot Noir, Freedom Hill Vineyard, Willamette Valley, $41, 279 cases. A lovely nose of black cherry and vanilla spice, with black cherry fruit and cedar flavors. Significant tannins will require some patience in cellaring.

1997 Willamette Valley, Pinot Noir, Hoodview Vineyard, Willamette Valley, $35, 252 cases. Cranberry, cherry and vanilla flavors highlight the nose. Easy on the palate, this medium-bodied wine has generous black cherry and cedar flavors, with a tasty finish. Drinkable now.

1997 Willamette Valley, Pinot Noir, Karina Vineyard, Willamette Valley, $37, 280 cases. Deep black cherry, vanilla, and spice aromas come through on the palate as well. Moderate but supple tannins. Let this one age for a year or two.

1997 Willamette Valley, Pinot Noir, Madrona Vineyard, Willamette Valley, $35, 285 cases. Very tight at the moment, with ripe berry aromas and flavors, tea, and a touch of green peppercorn notes. Firm tannins dictate bottle aging.

1998 Willamette Valley, Pinot Noir, Vintage Selection, Willamette Valley, $17, 18,000 cases. Black cherry, spice and light vanilla notes enhance the black cherry fruit. The tannins are obvious but smooth, making the wine approachable now, better in two years.

1998 Yamhill Valley, Pinot Noir, Reserve, Willamette Valley, $48. You sense a lush nose of bing cherries and toasty oak with this wine. Very rich on the palate, with layered black cherry, blackberry and plum fruit, sweet oak flavors, substantial but silky tannins, and a very long finish.

Sauvignon Blanc

2000 Bodega Norton, Sauvignon Blanc, Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina, $7. Honest grapefruit aromas and flavors, with lively acidity and decent balance. Good value.

1999 Carmenet, Sauvignon Blanc, Reserve, Edna Valley, $16, 6,500 cases. There is 10% Semillon in the blend to soften the wine. Classic gooseberry aromas and flavors, with ripe melon and light oak flavors. The finish is long and crisp. A nice match with Caesar Salad.

1999 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Valley, $10. 25% Semillon is blended in to the wine. Citrus and melon please the nose and the palate, with nicely balanced oak and acidity. A nice match for steamed razor clams.

2000 Huntington, Sauvignon Blanc, Earthquake, Napa Valley, $12, 1,100 cases. Lovely aromas of citrus and mown grass are very evident. This wine saw 100% stainless steel, showing purity of fruit, with nice citrus and mineral notes, bracing acidity and a refreshing finish. Good value.

1999 Rancho Zabaco, Sauvignon Blanc, Russian River, $16, 1,851 cases. Melon and light grassy aromas carry over to the palate as well, with a lemon curd flavor on a snappy finish. 0.43% residual sugar.

2000 Taltarni, Sauvignon Blanc, Victoria, Australia, $13. Imported by Clos Du Val. Citrus and grassy aromas precede straightforward citrus, peach and gooseberry flavors. Made in an easy drinking style.

Semillon, Semillon-Chardonnay

1999 Hogue, Semillon, Columbia Valley, $9, 5,065 cases. Granny Smith apple and fig aromas are reflected on the palate as well, finishing with a touch of melon and bracing acidity.

1998 Hogue, Semillon-Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, $8, 3,199 cases. Light to medium-bodied, with lime, melon and vanilla aromas and flavors, with a long, crisp finish. Match with a light fish dish.

1999 Kendall-Jackson, Semillon-Chardonnay, California, $10. The nose reveals delicate lemon zest. Tropical fruit and citrus flavors finish with food-friendly acidity. Nice seafood match.

2000 Rosemount, Semillon, Estate, SE Australia, $10. Lemon-lime fruit on the nose is also appreciated on the palate, with a touch of grapefruit. Soft, yet with enough acidity to make this a nice shellfish match.

Sparkling Wine

1995 Handley, Sparkling Wine, Blanc de Blanc, Anderson Valley, $30, 270 cases. Dry on the palate, with fine bubbles, tart apple fruit and light doughy notes.

1997 Handley, Sparkling Wine, Brut Rose, Anderson Valley, $28, 460 cases. Pale salmon in color, with a fine bead. Creamy on the palate, there are light raspberry notes on the refreshing finish.

1993 Secret House, Sparkling Wine, Celebration, Willamette Valley, $11, 425 cases. 60% Chardonnay and 40% Riesling. Fine bubbles, crisp, with fun fruit flavors at a nice price. Should have big crowd appeal.

1993 Secret House, Sparkling Wine, Northern Silk, Willamette Valley, $15, 969 cases. A traditional blend this sparkler has fine bubbles, nice acidity, fresh apple fruit and a creamy finish with leesy notes.

Syrah

1998 Bonterra, Syrah, Mendocino, $19, 6,200 cases. Blackberry and white pepper aromas are a prelude to the blackberry fruit, moderate tannins and tart acidic finish.

1998 Hess Select, Syrah, California, $13. Blackberry and smoky notes both on the nose and palate, with soft tannins and generous toasty oak on the finish.

1998 Jade Mountain, Syrah, Napa Valley, $25. Very dark in the glass, this wine screams blueberries on the nose and palate. White pepper and cedar add to the complexity, with smoky French oak in the background, finishing with smooth tannins. There is 14.8% alcohol, but the wine does not seem hot at the present time.

1999 Preston of Dry Creek, Syrah, Dry Creek Valley, $19.50, 1,450 cases. Smoked meat and muted vanilla notes, with blackberry fruit, hints of black olive, and toasty oak on the finish.

Viognier

1998 Bonterra, Viognier, North Coast, $19, 5,130 cases. Light honeysuckle and peach aromas and flavors, with crisp acidity. 0.39% residual sugar.

1999 Jade Mountain, Viognier, Paras Vineyard, Napa Valley, $30, 510 cases. Extremely floral, you can enjoy this for the bouquet alone. Lush flavors of peaches, honeysuckle, and dusty minerals. Drink early for the fruit before the 14.9% alcohol becomes too evident.

1999 McDowell, Viognier, Mendocino County, $16, 1,500 cases. This aromatic wine has a bouquet filled with floral and citrus notes. Medium-bodied and well-balanced, white peach and fig flavors prevail, with a lush aftertaste.

Zinfandel

1998 Kenwood, Zinfandel, Sonoma County, $15, 12,735 cases. Modest wild berry aromas expand on the palate, with added green peppercorn flavors and moderate tannins.

1998 Rancho Zabaco, Zinfandel, Heritage Vines, Sonoma County, $14, 38,175 cases. 11% Petite Sirah blended in. Raspberry jam aromas dominate the nose. Lush raspberry fruit and cola flavors are supported by modest tannins and refreshing acidity. Approachable now.

1998 Stone Creek, Zinfandel, Special Selection, California, $8, 2,000 cases. This honest-value wine is light-styled, with red fruit flavors, licorice and soft tannins. Ready to drink.

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