© 2005 by Randy Buckner
January 2005

Winter 2005 Releases

While old man winter has his icy grip on many parts of the nation, my mind has already turned to spring in the Rhone Valley. I am joining the French Wine Explorers tour of the Northern & Southern Rhône Valley, June 6-12, 2005, led by Lauriann Greene-Sollin and Jean-Pierre Sollin, Sommeliers-Conseil, and co-led by Robin Garr of WineLoversPage.com.

A couple of slots are still open for the tour, which is first-class all the way. Please come along - I look forward to meeting you. Details of this exciting trip can be found at: http://www.wine-tours-france.com/RhoneValleyWineTour.htm

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.

Cabernet Sauvignon wine glass

2001 Beaulieu, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, $17, 91,000 cases. Dark ruby in color with aromas of black cherries, pipe tobacco and barrel notes. The wine has a crisp tannic bite, with flavors mirroring the nose in a straightforward package; 85/86.

2001 Beaulieu, Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford, California, $25, 65,000 cases. Aromas of black cherries, olives and American oak emanate from this dark violet-red wine. Very polished on the entry with tannins that will benefit from bottle time. Plenty of black cherry, blackberry and cedar notes provide pleasure; 86/86.

2002 Calistoga Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, $30, 4,000 cases. The nose is filled with black currants, plums, oak, dark chocolate and herbs. Full bodied with rounded tannins, the flavors repeat the nose but with a very heavy hand on the oak - a killer otherwise; 85/85.

2001 Columbia Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington, $15, 22,117 cases. Tart with chewy tannins, the wine displays a lot of berry/cherry fruit, a dash of herbs and a bottle full of vanilla; 84/86.

1999 Columbia Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Otis Vineyard, Yakima Valley, Washington, $23, 2,382 cases. Ruby/brick in color with an interesting nose of black fruit and sage. Crisp on the palate with satiny tannins, the wine has mature fruit flavors and French oak notes; 87/88.

2000 Columbia Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Willow Vineyard, Yakima Valley, Washington, $23, 925 cases. Full in the mouth, this wine has substantial tannins that need a few years of patient aging. Bright acidity heralds in the blackberry and pomegranate fruit; 88/89.

Dusted Valley Vintners 2002 Dusted Valley Vintners, Barrel Thief Red, Columbia Valley, Washington, $20, 243 cases. This value wine is a 60/40 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Full bodied, with tannins that need time in the cellar, the nose and palate are filled with rich black fruit, dark chocolate, chalky minerals and integrated oak. You'll enjoy a long berry finish; 89/90.

2001 Glass Mountain, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, $8, 41,000 cases. A second label from Markham, this wine is designed for easy and early consumption with burger fare. Straightforward, with plums, black cherries, berries and toasty oak intermingling throughout; 83/85.

2001 Hightower, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington, $31. Aromas of black fruit, licorice, cedar, herbs and a distinctive olive character carries right on over to the palate, with a nice acidic backbone giving structure. Pair this one with veal shanks cooked with rosemary and kalamata olives; 89/90.

2001 Premius, Bordeaux, France, $12. Mixed black fruit, herbs, cedar and cinnamon unfold on the nose. Flavors are a mirror image, with cinnamon spice lingering on the soft finish; 84/86.

2002 Riddoch, Cabernet Merlot, Coonawarra, South Australia, $. A Freixenet import. The nose is a pleasant mix of plums, berries, spice and modest barrel notes. Flavors mirror the nose supported by supple tannins and crisp acids. Good value; 86/.

2001 C.R. Sandidge, Tri*Umph, Yakima Valley, Washington, $35, 251 cases. Aromas of blackberries, cherries, cassis and various barrel notes intermingle on the nose. Full bodied with rounded tannins, the wine shows tart cherry and blackberry fruit with nicely integrated oak; 86/86.

2002 Simi, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, California, $25, 95,000 cases. The nose has a nice mix of blackberries, leather and a dash of herbs. Brisk and moderately tannic, the flavors speak of berries, plums and a splash of cinnamon; 86/86.

2001 Sterling, SVR, Napa Valley, California, $45, 4,726 cases. This medium-bodied wine speaks more about balance than power. Aromas and flavors are a pleasant mix of black fruit, anise, cedar and vanilla. The 13.5 percent alcohol is welcomed; 90/89.

2002 Stratton Lummis, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, $30. Purple-red in color. The nose is full of black fruit, violets, sweet vanilla, cedar, anise and tarragon spice. Blackberry fruit predominates, with a healthy dose of sweet vanilla and chewy tannins that need cellar time; 89/89.

Chardonnay wine glass

2003 Beaulieu, Chardonnay, Carneros, California, $18. This wine is very soft on the palate. The low acidity detracts from the apple and honey butter flavors; 82/82.

Chateau St Jean 2003 Chateau St Jean, Chardonnay, Sonoma County, California, $14, 85,000 cases. Smoky, buttery notes win out over the underlying pineapple and pear fruit. Exhibiting a creamy mouth feel, the aromas repeat on the palate; 85/87.

2003 Clos Du Bois, Chardonnay, North Coast, California, $12. Light gold in color with toasty, buttery aromas and underlying pear and yellow delicious apple nuances. While nice for the style, the wine is pretty formulaic; 85/87.

2002 Columbia Winery, Chardonnay, Wyckoff Vineyard, Yakima Valley, Washington, $19, 1,507 cases. The tropical fruit, toasty oak and hazelnut aromas carry over to the palate. The wine sports bright acidity and dandy structure; 86/87.

2002 Deakin Estate, Chardonnay, Red Cliffs, N.W. Victoria, Australia, $9. This golden down under wine is loaded with aromas of citrus and white peaches with light barrel influence. Well balanced and fruit forward, enjoy this one early on for the melon, apricot, peach and hazelnut flavors. Great value; 86/90.

2003 Dusted Valley Vintners, Chardonnay, Old Vine, Columbia Valley, Washington, $20, 176 cases. Aromas of apples, pears and vanilla carry right on over to the palate. Quite crisp and food friendly, I'd pair this one with crab legs and drawn butter; 88/88.

2003 Geyser Peak, Chardonnay, Alexander Valley, California, $19, 32,000 cases. Shimmering light gold in color with aromas of melons, tangerines and a dab of butterscotch. Crisp and creamy in the mouth, the melon and citrus fruit barely wins out over the spicy oak; 86/86.

2002 Glass Mountain, Chardonnay, California, $8, 27,500 cases. Apple, pear and toasty notes arise from this straw gold Chard. Easy in the mouth, the flavors speak of baked apples and nutmeg spice; 83/85.

2003 Kendall-Jackson, Chardonnay, Vintner's Reserve, California, $12. A very rounded, balanced wine that displays peach, apple, butterscotch, and toasty oak aromas. Sporting a creamy mouth feel, the wine is bursting with fruit and oak flavors; 84/86.

2003 Simi, Chardonnay, Sonoma County, California, $16, 93,842 cases. Toasty caramel aromas dominate, with underlying pear and vanilla notes. The wine is well balanced, creamy, crisp and not as oaky as the nose would imply. Apricots, pears, citrus and vanilla linger on the aftertaste; 86/87.

2003 Solaris, Chardonnay, North Coast, California, $13, 14,000 cases. The wine is balanced and easy to drink. You'll find green apples, citrus peel, pears and toasty spice in the background; 84/86.

2003 Valley of the Moon, Chardonnay, Sonoma County, California, $15, 5,100 cases. Straw gold in color, the aromas are highlighted by smoky, buttery notes with vanilla and roasted nuts. The wine is soft and creamy, with apple and pear fruit vying with the barrel for attention; 85/87.

2003 Veramonte, Chardonnay, Casablanca Valley, Chile, $9, 54,000 cases. The nose speaks of nuts, caramels, American oak and citrus peels. Very soft and creamy, the palate displays tropical fruit, melon and butterscotch notes; 84/86.

Fruit Wine wine glass

Enophiles often scoff at the idea of fruit wines. It is their loss. These fruit wines are delicious and offer good bang for the buck. Be adventuresome - give them a try.

NV Hoodsport, Bella Cranberry, Washington, $17, 968 cases. This wine is all about cranberries - the color, the aroma and the flavor. The wine is delicately sweet with good acidity. Orange slice candy and warm spice flavors are noted on the finish; 87/87.

NV Hoodsport, Raspberry, Washington, $13, 3,900 cases. The wine smells like freshly-crushed raspberries. Full in the mouth with delicate sweetness and pure raspberry flavors. Pair this with chocolate, desserts and stir-fried pheasant (yes, I tried this match); 91/91.

NV Hoodsport, Stella Raspberry, Washington, $17, 350 cases. Intense raspberry aromas radiate from this deep ruby wine. Bold raspberry and blood orange flavors fill the mouth and linger on the finish. Think chocolate truffles; 91/91.

Merlot wine glass

2001 Beaulieu, Merlot, Napa Valley, California, $17, 45,000 cases. Ever smelled truffle oil? It's here, along with blackberries, vanilla and cedar. The wine is nicely balanced and fruity with a touch of cocoa to add to the mix. Tasty; 86/87.

2003 Bella Sera, Merlot, Delle Venezie, Italy, $7. This straightforward offering is designed for the short haul. Raspberry, plum and wood notes are backed by soft acids and tannins; 81/81.

2002 Calistoga Cellars, Merlot, Napa Valley, California, $26, 1,200 cases. This is a densely colored Merlot with black fruit, herbs and obvious oak on the nose. The oak overwhelms the wine at this point, making it impossible to judge. Will it ever come around? NR.

2001 Glass Mountain, Merlot, California, $8, 32,000 cases. Here's a straightforward quaffer that won't break the bank. Soft in the mouth, the aromas and flavors speak of plums, berries, American oak and herbs; 83/85.

2001 Hightower, Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington, $28. Light ruby in color, the wine gives off aromas of sweet black fruit, leather and olives. You'll find a crisp wine that is full in the mouth with liqueur-like fruit and olive notes; 88/88.

2002 Kendall-Jackson, Merlot, Vintner's Reserve, California, $16. Medium bodied with silky tannins, this wine delivers generous fruit flavors unencumbered by a heavy hand on the oak. Black cherries and plums linger on the finish; 85/87.

2001 Rodney Strong, Merlot, Sonoma County, California, $18. Rodney Strong took the ho hum out of Merlot with this ruby red wine. Plums, blueberries and American oak carry throughout. Very polished in the mouth with silky tannins, the fruit more than handles the spicy vanilla characteristics. Yummy; 89/91.

2002 Simi, Merlot, Sonoma County, California, $20, 20,000 cases. This wine is characterized by a host of adjectives - cherries, plum jam, American oak, cocoa, spice, crisp acids and easy tannins; 87/87.

2001 Solaris, Merlot, Napa Valley, California, $16, 22,000 cases. Medium bodied and easy on the palate, you'll find just a touch of green tannins. This straightforward wine has 'drink me now' written all over it for the plum and berry fruit; 82/82.

2002 Veramonte, Merlot, Casablanca Valley, Chile, $9, 50,000 cases. Lots of tobacco, herbs, black cherries and cracked pepper embrace the nose. Full on the palate, the flavors mirror the nose in a straightforward but tasty package; 84/85.

Miscellaneous wine glasswine glass

2003 Columbia Winery, Gewurztraminer, Columbia Valley, Washington, $9, 9,169 cases. Grapefruit and lychee aromas entice the nose, however the wine lacks the acidity to stand up to the three percent residual sugar, leaving the fruit hanging; 80/80.

Dusted Valley Vintners 2003 Dusted Valley Vintners, Viognier, Columbia Valley, Washington, $20, 246 cases. Light floral and mixed fruit aromas lead to an impeccably balanced wine with good intensity of white peach fruit and almonds. A nice effort from a newcomer; 90/91.

2000 Guenoc, Vintage Port, Guenoc Valley, California, $30, 592 cases. Almost black in the glass, the wine gives off aromas of black fruit, raisins, chocolate and spice. Well structured, sweet, with flavors similar to the nose; 86/86.

2003 Robert Mondavi, Riesling, Central Coast, California, $9. Peach, pear and spice aromas lead to an off-dry wine with cloying acidity (4 percent residual sugar). No malolactic fermentation and no wood allows the apple and pear fruit to shine; 81/81.

2003 Valley of the Moon, Pinot Blanc, Sonoma County, California, $15, 6,100 cases. The nose is a blend of lemons and canned tropical fruit. Well-balanced with brisk acids, this is a dandy effort. The wine is very fruity on the palate, with tropicals, minerals, spice and almonds; 88/88.

2002 Veramonte, Primus, Casablanca Valley, Chile, $16, 15,000 cases. Roughly an equal blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenère. The wine is elegant on the entry, with the tannins firming up quickly. Tobacco, herbs, menthol and berries define the wine. Pair with beef or wild game dishes; 87/89.

Petite Sirah wine glass

2000 Guenoc, Petite Sirah, North Coast, California, $18, 13,245 cases. Full bodied with excellent tannin management, this effusively fruity wine is a natural match for wild game or pizza. Blackberries, violets, leather, vanilla and cedar notes define the wine; 87/89.

2000 Guenoc, Petite Sirah, Serpentine Meadow Vineyard, Guenoc Valley, California, $35, 512 cases. Aromas of blackberries, dark chocolate, mint, cedar and herbs stem from this deeply-hued wine. It is very elegant for a Petite Sirah, with silky tannins that firm up on the complex finish. It'll even get better with cellar aging; 90/89.

Pinot Gris wine glass

2003 Bella Sera, Pinot Grigio, Della Venezie, Italy, $7. Very soft on the palate, this straightforward quaffer should be enjoyed in the near term for the pear, apricot and tropical fruit; 80/80.

2003 Civello, Pinot Gris, Oregon, $20. The wine is predominantly made from Rogue River fruit. Aromas of pear, peach, melon and citrus peel carry over to the palate. Crisp, fruity and well structured, this is shellfish country; 90/90.

2003 Robert Mondavi, Pinot Grigio, Private Selection, California, $11. No oak aging. Soft and dry in the mouth, the wine displays straightforward citrus, pear and pineapple notes; 81/81.

2003 Winter's Hill, Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $14, 699 cases. Aromas of lemon curd, melon and white peaches emanate from this apricot-tinged wine. No malolactic fermentation or wood was used, preserving the crisp acids and fruit flavors. The finish is endless, with tangerine nuances; 88/90.

Pinot Noir wine glass

2002 Adelaida, Pinot Noir, HMR Estate, Santa Lucia Mountains, California, $25. This wine marks a change of course for Adelaida. They did away with the overuse of American oak and went to French oak. The wine is medium bodied and has terrific balance of fruit, wood and acids. Black cherries, dark tea, toasty cedar and vanilla highlight this Pinot; 90/91.

2002 Adelaida, Pinot Noir, San Luis Obispo County, California, $15. Black cherries, cedar and leather aromas dominate. The wine is nicely balanced with silky tannins. Cherries dominate the palate with oak well in the background. Think grilled halibut; 86/88.

2003 Beaulieu Vineyard, Pinot Noir, Carneros, California, $18. Soft with easy tannins, this light-bodied wine is enjoyable right now for the delicate cherry, tea and vanilla flavors; 85/86.

Chateau St Jean 2003 Chateau St. Jean, Pinot Noir, Sonoma County, California, $19, 11,870 cases. Aromas and flavors of plums, cherries, sandalwood and smoked bacon abound, all wrapped up in a delightfully balanced package; 85/86.

2002 Lindsay, Pinot Noir, Estate Vineyard, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $32, 200 cases. A new label from Stone Wolf's Linda Lindsay. A touch of rose petals adds elegance to the black cherry fruit. Tannins are well managed and the crisp acids invite a grilled salmon accompaniment; 89/89.

2002 Robert Mondavi, Pinot Noir, Central Coast, California, $11. Red cherries, warm spices and barrel notes expand on the nose and repeat on the palate. Spicy oak and berries linger on the finish; 83/84.

2002 Row Eleven, Pinot Noir, San Luis Obispo/Mendocino, California, $24. It is no secret that Syrah wannabe Pinots are not at the top of my list. This one is right up my alley. Medium bodied with terrific acidity, the oak is complimentary here. A blend of both Pommard and Dijon clones, the wine screams black cherries, brown sugar and spice, finishing long and lovely. A great start for Row Eleven; 91/92.

2002 Row Eleven, Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley, California, $29. Light ruby in color with aromas of cherries, warm spices, leather and wormwood. Elegant on the entry, the wine is bright, crisp, balanced and all about cherries; 90/90.

2003 Solaris, Pinot Noir, Carneros, California, $13, 16,000 cases. No over-extraction here. Easy on the palate with silky tannins, this is a near term wine. Cherries, tomato leaf, cedar spice and strawberry jam define the nose and palate; 83/84.

2002 Winter's Hill, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $20, 669 cases. Ripe black cherries, spice and French oak carry throughout the wine. Very rich on the palate with bright acids, this one begs for pork tenderloin; 88/89.

Sangiovese wine glass

2003 C.R. Sandidge, Sangiovese Rose, Yakima Valley, Washington, $14, 98 cases. This lovely copper-colored wine gives off aromas of dried cherries and new leather. Well rounded in the mouth, the wine has threshold sweetness augmenting the melon and strawberry fruit. It should pair well with salmon; 86/86.

2000 Lungarotti, Rubesco, Rosso di Torgiano DOC, Italy, $16, 54,200 cases. Here's a value wine with nice structure and well harnessed tannins. Cherries, leather, dried tomatoes and French oak underscore the nose. Flavors echo the aromas with a touch of plums and herbs adding personality; 87/89.

Sauvignon Blanc wine glass

Dry Creek Vineyard 2003 Chateau St. Jean, Fumé Blanc, Sonoma County, California, $13, 16,500 cases. Melon notes abound in the glass, with lemongrass and vanilla nuances. You'll find a creamy mouth feel, with lots of nutmeg spice, tart peaches and smoky oak; 85/86.

2003 Clos du Bois, Sauvignon Blanc, North Coast, California, $11. Displaying nice balance overall, the wine exhibits melon, oregano and grassy notes on the nose, while the palate shows lime, herbs, lavender and toasty oak; 85/86.

2003 Dry Creek Vineyard, Fumé Blanc, Sonoma County, California, $12, 30,000 cases. Even though the wine saw two months in French oak, this Fumé is all about fruit. Full-bodied and crisp, you'll enjoy the lemon, grapefruit zest, melon and light grassy notes; 87/88.

2003 Robert Mondavi, Sauvignon Blanc, Central Coast, California, $9. Soft and rounded in the mouth, the wine speaks of tropical fruit and grassy/gooseberry nuances. More acidity would give the wine a needed lift; 82/83.

2003 Simi, Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma County, California, $14, 32,645 cases. The nose is a lovely mix of grapefruit, tangerines and vanilla. There is a sense of roundness in the mouth. Bright acids bring out the melon, fig, citrus and kiwi fruit; 86/86.

Southern Rhone wine glass

Why are the 2001s still on the market? All of the following 2001s are in my cellar and I just added four more cases today. These are always my 'go to' wines to compliment a host of food dishes and they still offer good value. Get them while they last! 2002 was a tough vintage and 2003 is predicted to sell at record prices.

Chateauneuf du Pape

2001 Brunel Les Cailloux Chateauneuf du Pape, France, $35. Very complex aromas open on the palate to reveal flavors of berries, plums, smoked meat and minerals. Extremely well balanced, this wine has the stuffing to last to the next decade. Enjoy with grilled meats; 90/90.

Le Vieux Donjon 2001 Le Vieux Donjon, Chateauneuf du Pape, France, $40. You'll find plenty of ripe black fruit, berries, cigar leaf, game, smoke and earthy notes. Well-balanced, with firm but silky tannins, this wine screams CdP. Pair with beef, chicken & shallots, or grilled lamb chops; 93/93.

2001 Domaine du Pegau, Cuvee Reservee, Chateauneuf du Pape, France, $49. This is your big boy - a very ripe wine with a boatload of plums, berries, aged leather/road tar, herbs and a streak of cracked pepper. Excellent tannin management makes it hard to leave the wine alone, although it will age for many years; 93/92.

2001 Domaine Roger Sabon, Cuvee Reservee, Chateauneuf du Pape, France, $39. Full-bodied with terrific balance, this wine is all about plums, berries and mocha, with a hint of smoked meat. Firm but ripe tannins demand a few years in the cellar. Pair this one with a hearty beef roast & vegetables; 92/92.

2001 Pierre Usseglio, Chateauneuf du Pape, France, $35. This is another very ripe CdP with complex aromas and flavors of black fruit, smoke, flinty minerals and a long finish that speaks of things to come over the next 5-7 years; 89+/89+.

Other Regions

2002 Barton & Guestier, Côtes du Rhône, France, $9. Aromas of red cherries, strawberries and delicate wood notes underscore the nose. Light bodied, this straightforward quaffer should be consumed over the short term; 81/82.

2001 Domaine Le Sang des Cailloux, Cuvee Floureto, Vacqueyras, France, $29. I have already gone through one of my two cases - it is hard to leave alone. There are plenty of the funky, leathery, meaty flavors to augment the bright blackberry fruit and floral notes. While tannins are obvious, they are approachable now; 90/90.

Spanish wine glasswine glass

With ever-escalating wine prices and devaluing of the US dollar, the wines from Spain are looking very attractive. You'll find some terrific QPR (quality/price ratio) wines listed below.

2003 Bodegas Montecillo Blanco, White Wine, Rioja Alta, Spain, $8. Light gold in color with fig, baked apple and caramel scents. The wine is well balanced with flavors mirroring the nose, augmented by citrus notes; 85/88.

2000 Bodegas Montecillo, Crianza, Red Wine, Rioja Alta, Spain, $10. Here's another very good value from Spain - 100 percent Tempranillo. Aromas of cherries, leather, cedar, earth and anise carry over to the palate, with a nice meatiness. Match with sharp cheeses; 87/90.

1998 Bodegas Montecillo, Reserva, Red Wine, Rioja Alta, Spain, $17. One-hundred percent Tempranillo. This brick-colored wine gives off aromas of black cherries, plums, cedar, licorice and vanilla. Very elegant on the entry with aromas repeating on the palate. The finish is warm and protracted; 89/91.

2001 Morlanda, Criança, Red Wine, Priorat, Spain, $45, 2,690 cases. This is my second tasting of this wine, with this bottle showing better. The aromas and flavors of this wine are very intense - black cherries, vanilla, black pepper, berries and warm spices. Very polished on the entry with silky tannins. Think grilled lamb; 90/90.

2002 René Barbier, Tempranillo, Penedès, Spain, $6. Blackberries, ripe strawberries and a touch of anise caress the nose. The wine is full and lively with ripe fruit augmented by a peppery streak; 84/87.

2000 Segura Viudas, Tempranillo, Mas d'Aranyo Reserva, Penedès, Spain, $16. The nose is full of plums, Bing cherries, sweet oak and a twist of mint. Tannins are obvious but ripe, and they should age out well. Flavors mirror the nose. Pair with spicy grilled chicken. My second tasting, with similar notes; 87/89.

2003 Valdubón, Cosecha, Ribera del Duero, Spain, $12. This is a lean, crisp wine with modest tannins. Aromas of black cherries, new leather and cedar carry over to the palate in a straightforward package that demands pasta with red sauce; 84/86.

2001 Valdubón, Crianza, Ribera del Duero, Spain, $18. Giving off aromas of plums, strawberry jam, vanilla and cedar, this ruby red wine is quite balanced with modest tannins. The aromas repeat in the mouth. Pair with grilled lamb; 87/89.

1999 Valdubón, Reserva, Ribera del Duero, Spain, $26. You'll find an enchanting nose of black cherries, plums, cedar, leather and smoked meat. Full in the mouth, the wine is crisp, with manageable tannins. Flavors mirror the nose, with a dash of nutmeg for interest. Drink over the next decade, with grilled lamb chops. My second tasting of this wine with almost identical notes; 88/88.

Syrah wine glass

2001 Columbia Winery, Syrah, Columbia Valley, Washington, $15, 8,800 cases. Definitely an overachiever for the buck, this wine is very fruity and fun to drink for the berries, plums, chocolate and oak flavors; 87/90.

2001 Deakin Estate, Shiraz, Red Cliffs, N.W. Victoria, Australia, $9. Ruby red in color, this medium-bodied wine has a bouquet filled with raspberries, aged wood, cotton candy and vanilla. This very crisp and fruity wine is a price class overachiever; 84/86.

2003 Dusted Valley Vintners, Stained Tooth Syrah, Columbia Valley, Washington, $24. The nose displays juicy plums and a wisp of smoke. This is a big, bold, jammy wine with loads of plums and berries that linger tirelessly on the lengthy finish; 90/91.

Dusted Valley Vintners 2003 Dusted Valley Vintners, Stained Tooth Syrah, Walla Walla, Washington, $28. Very crisp with ripe tannins, this Syrah leans more to the black fruit spectrum than their Columbia Valley offering. Blackberries and plum jam linger on the aftertaste; 89/89.

2001 Glass Mountain, Syrah, California, $8, 16,000 cases. Smoked bacon and plums underscore the nose. The wine is very smooth in the mouth with simple berry and cocoa flavors; 83/84.

2001 Katnook Estate, Shiraz, Coonawarra, Australia, $22. Here's a down under wine that is not over-extracted. Medium bodied, very crisp and delightfully fruity, this one is loaded with berries, plums, spice and smoky nuances. Think red meat; 89/90.

2002 Robert Mondavi, Syrah, Central Coast, California, $11. Easy tannins and decent balance give support to the plum, berry, vanilla and cocoa notes. Drink now; 83/84.

2002 RDRL, Syrah, Mendocino County, California, $25. Aromas of blackberries, blueberries, violets and banana bike candy repeat on the palate. Full-bodied with obvious but supple tannins, the wine has a protracted finish; 87/88.

2001 C.R. Sandidge, Syrah, Minick Vineyard, Yakima Valley, Washington, $20, 190 cases. This is a full-bodied wine with silky tannins and aromas of blackberries, plums and smoky oak. Lots of spicy oak greets the taster, followed by flavors mirroring the nose; 85/86.

Zinfandel wine glass

2002 Beaulieu, Zinfandel, Napa Valley, California, $14, 12,000 cases. The nose is filled with blackberry, cracked pepper and American oak aromas. You'll find a full-bodied, fruity wine with lots of berries, cocoa and brambly, jammy overtones; 85/87.

2002 Calistoga Cellars, Zinfandel, Napa Valley, California, $22, 2,200 cases. The nose displays a nice mix of cherries, currants, vanilla and oak. The wine is robust, with a lot of jammy fruit flavors but also shows a lot of sweet oak; 87/88.

2003 Earth, Zin & Fire, Zinfandel, Lodi, California, $16, 4,500 cases. This is a new brand from Jessie's Grove and they are off to a good start. If you like the brambly, jammy style of Zin, this one is for you. There's lots of cherry/berry fruit, cinnamon, cocoa, and barrel notes. Bring on the BBQ; 87/90.

2002 Robert Mondavi, Zinfandel, California, $11. Soft, simple and light bodied - drink this one early on for the brambly berry/cherry fruit, spice and smoke; 81/81.

2002 Valley of the Moon, Zinfandel, Old Vines, Sonoma County, California, $15, 8,000 cases. Here's a jammy style of Zin that is full on the palate. Aromas and flavors speak of plum preserves, vanilla, spice, spice and just a hint of raspberries; 85/87.

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