Bucko's New Releases

© 2004 by Randy Buckner
February 2004

Late Winter 2004 Releases

Can spring really be right around the corner? Old man winter has just not wanted to turn loose of his grip and Punxsutawney Phil, Seer of Seers, King of the Groundhogs, Prognosticator of Prognosticators has declared six more weeks of winter. It makes you want to be vacationing with our southern neighbors; Melbourne is a balmy 79F as I type.

The wine world is going through its usual mélange of claims and counterclaims, with everything from how to build a better cork to methods on filtering the TCA out of your wine. France's winemakers held emergency talks with Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, demanding urgent government action amid warnings that the country's most symbolic industry is plummeting into a crisis situation.

Meanwhile, record numbers of wines pour off of the bottling line. 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

2000 Beaulieu, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, $17. Beaulieu used 70% American oak and 30% French oak, of which only 15% was new oak – a refreshing change. Black cherries, anise, cigar box, and light barrel influence compose a complex nose. Dusty tannins and bright acidity herald in the cherry fruit. A significant amount of minerality is noted in the wine, with light herbal characters; 88/91.

2001 Bishop's Peak, Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, California, $15. Aromas of cassis, black cherries, cedar, and anise fall short on the palate. Made in an easy to drink style, the wine has straightforward flavors with a sweet finish; 80/80.

Bogle 2001 Bogle, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, $12. Ripe black cherry, tobacco, and eucalyptus aromas carry over to the palate, where they marry with herbs and American oak. Bright acidity and easy tannins round out this tasty, everyday wine; 85/90.

2001 Canoe Ridge, Red Table Wine, Columbia Valley, Washington, $15, 9,178 cases. This Meritage blend offers up aromas and flavors of berries, cherries, plums, cedar, and chocolate in a forthright presentation, with a spiciness thrown into the mix; 85/87.

2001 Dynamite, Cabernet Sauvignon, North Coast, California, $17, 51,529 cases. Deeply hued, with aromas and flavors of blackberries, chocolate, toasty oak, and a trace of minerality, the ample tannins are drying and need bottle time to tame down; 85/87.

2000 Gallo of Sonoma, Cabernet Sauvignon, Barrelli Creek Vineyard, Alexander Valley, California, $32, 5,095 cases. Dark in the glass, this wine unveils aromas and flavors of currants, black cherries, licorice, cedar, and vanilla, in a nicely balanced package. Elegant and easy to drink right now; 88/88.

1999 Gallo of Sonoma, Cabernet Sauvignon, Frei Ranch, Dry Creek Valley, California, $28, 3,033 cases. Crisp, balanced, and moderately tannic, this purple/red Cab has aromas and flavors of black cherries, cassis, sage, and mint. The finish is pleasantly fruity. Nice; 87/87.

1999 Gallo of Sonoma, Cabernet Sauvignon, Northern Sonoma, California, $80, 1,200 cases. Almost black in the glass, the nose is filled with aromas of black cherries, cedar, vanilla, and toasty oak. The wine is very elegant on the entry, then WHAM! You get hit with substantial drying tannins. Will they ever resolve? I´d like to try this again in five years. Judgment reserved.

2002 Hahn, Meritage, Central Coast, California, $20, 8,900 cases. Purple/red in color with an enticing fragrance of cassis, kirsch, cedar, and light smoke. Crisp and tannic, the wine reveals a boat load of fruit and sweet vanilla; 84/84.

2000 Hogue, Cabernet Sauvignon, Genesis, Columbia Valley, Washington, $17, 20,510 cases. The wine is soft, with velvety tannins, packing a lot of complexity for the price class. Gobs of black cherries are right upfront, with balanced oak attributes. Pair with grilled meats; 86/88.

2000 Kendall-Jackson, Cabernet Sauvignon, Vintner's Reserve, California, $16. Deeply colored with a mixture of blackberries, cassis, smoke, cedar and vanilla unfolding in the glass and mouth. The finish is full, with manageable tannins; 83/84.

2001 L de Lyeth, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, California, $10. Hard to beat for ten bucks. Ruby in color with blue highlights. Blackberry, eucalyptus, and toasty oak aromas repeat on the palate, with a hint of mocha and plum; 85/90.

2000 Louis Martini, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Alexander Valley, California, $35, 8,750 cases. Full-bodied, rich, with a hefty dose of oak that the complex fruit manages to carry at this point. Black fruit, leather, mint, cedar and vanilla highlights are supported by firm but manageable tannins; 88/88.

2000 Louis Martini, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Napa Valley, California, $24. Rich, briary red fruit and cassis battles the European and American oak for dominance. The oak is winning at this point, making the evaluation of this wine impossible at this time. Not rated.

2001 Louis Martini, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, California, $17. Aromas of dark fruit, herbs, and tobacco leaf give way to cherry/berry flavors, minerals and herbs. Well-structured overall; 85/87.

2001 Mettler, Cabernet Sauvignon, Lodi, California, $26, 4,880 cases. Atypical for a Cabernet Sauvignon, this is more reminiscent of a Zinfandel. Full in the mouth, the wine oozes with cassis, chocolate covered cherries, berry jam, and vanilla. Tasty but uncharacteristic; 83/83.

1999 Peju, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Rutherford Estate, Napa Valley, California, $125. Big and bold, the dense fruit battles with overriding French oak. Dense raspberry and blackberry fruit cannot overtake the caramel and vanilla flavors; 85/82.

2002 Ridgefield, Cinnamon Teal, Columbia Valley, Washington, $10, 800 cases. Ruby in color with blue highlights, this Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc blend offers up plenty of blackberry and blueberry fruit, all in a soft, easy to drink package. Terrific value; 86/90.

2001 Sagelands, Cabernet Sauvignon, Four Corners, Columbia Valley, Washington, $12, 16,500 cases. Aromas of black cherries, milk chocolate, cedar, and a hint of Kraft caramels carry through to the palate, in a full-bodied package that belies the price tag; 85/88.

2000 Wente, Cabernet Sauvignon, San Francisco Bay, Livermore Valley, California, $12. This value Cabernet has a ruby/brick color, with aromas of blackberries, herbs, and black olives. Medium-bodied, with soft tannins, the flavors mirror the nose; 85/90.

Chardonnay wine glass

2002 Acacia, Chardonnay, Carneros, California, $20, 41,207 cases. Lemon curd, ginger, pear, vanilla, and buttered toasted mingle on the nose. Soft and balanced, the flavors speak of baked apples, spiced honey, and nutmeg, with a lingering finish; 86/86.

Barefoot 2002 Barefoot Reserve, Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, California, $15, 2,983 cases. Lush Bartlett pear fruit aromas leap from the glass, with French vanilla notes. Medium-bodied and balanced, the flavors echo the nose, with added butterscotch highlights. Pair with a pasta and cream sauce; 84/86.

2001 Bishop's Peak, Chardonnay, Central Coast, California, $13. Gold in color, with aromas of pineapples, tangerines, and vanilla. The straightforward flavors are crisp and clean, with butter and cedar lingering on the finish; 82/82.

2002 Brick House, Chardonnay, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $24, 460 cases. The color of wheat straw, this wine gives off aromas of pears and citrus. Full, soft, and viscous, with ripe pear and leesy flavors. I´d like to try this with more acidity; 86/86.

2002 Buchli Station (Bouchaine), Chardonnay, California, $13. The nose has an interesting mix of tangerines, butter, and vanilla. Made in a soft, creamy style, the wine shows a lot of barrel influence, but it is not in your face oak. Easy to like, with pear and citrus peel lingering on the finish; 85/87.

2002 Canoe Ridge, Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Washington, $19, 784 cases. Yellow gold in color, the wine delivers aromas of green apples and citrus upfront, with French vanilla notes coming in on the backside. Crisp and full on the entry, the ripe apple and buttery notes marry well to form a pretty tasty Chardonnay; 86/87.

Chateau St. Jean 2002 Chateau St. Jean, Chardonnay, Sonoma County, California, $14. This one will thrill the oak fans. Nicely balanced excluding the wood, the aromas of pineapples, smoky oak, vanilla and butter repeat in the mouth and on the finish; 83/83.

2001 Chateau Ste Michelle, Chardonnay, Reserve, Columbia Valley, Washington, $29, 1,200 cases. Barrel fermented in 100% new French oak, this is a wine for connoisseurs of the Quercus family. Soft and creamy, French vanilla, toast, and butterscotch are the predominant players here; 84/83.

2002 Echelon, Chardonnay, Central Coast, California, $10, 48,000 cases. An opening volley of oak and butterscotch is followed closely by green apples and pears. Relatively crisp, creamy, and sweet, the finish lingers; 82/82.

2002 Edna Valley, Chardonnay, Edna Valley, California, $14, 149,000 cases. Shimmering gold, full-bodied, with nice acidity, the wine has a sweet presentation of citrus, yellow delicious apples, butter, and vanilla; 84/84.

1999 Gallo of Sonoma, Chardonnay, Estate, Russian River Valley, California, $45, 1,540 cases. Oak dominates the nose, with underlying apple, fig, and citrus notes. Delightfully balanced and crisp, the wine sees no filtration and only light fining. Oak again plays the leading role on the palate, with apples, citrus, fig, and hazelnuts playing supporting roles. Very nice for this style of wine; 87/85.

2002 Hahn, Chardonnay, Monterey, California, $14, 11,200 cases. The nose has heady aromas of pineapple, pear, butterscotch, and toasted oak. Crisp and creamy, you´ll find a mouthful of juicy fruit and oak spice. The finish has an olive character to it; 82/82.

2002 Hogue, Unoaked Chardonnay, Terroir, Sunnyside Vineyard, Yakima Valley, Washington, $13, 60 cases. Aromas of apple, pear, and sweet cream butter radiate from this light gold offering. Soft, creamy, with lush fruit and sweet butter lingering on the finish. This wine would shine with more acidity; 84/85.

2002 Lake Sonoma, Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, California, $15, 4,500 cases. The nose and palate are filled with smoky oak and butterscotch, with a hint of underlying apple. Soft, with a modest finish; 82/82.

2002 Peju Province, Liana, Napa Valley, California, $45 (375 ml), 461 cases. Botrytis is obvious on the nose of this late harvest Chardonnay. Viscous, balanced, and very sweet at 15.5% residual sugar, you´ll find rich, honeyed, apricot flavors that seem endless on the finish. Spendy but very tasty; 88/86.

St. Clement 2001 St. Clement, Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California, $16, 7,900 cases. Sweet oak immediately greets the nose, with nutmeg spice and Lodi apple fruit. The wine is crisp and creamy, with oak dominated flavors and underlying baked apples; 83/83.

2001 Sebastiani, Chardonnay, Sonoma County Selection, California, $13, 26,500 cases. This light gold Chardonnay gives off aromas of apples, butter, toast, and vanilla. Soft, creamy, and sweet, the wine is dominated by a host of spicy oak flavors that masks the underlying pear and apple flavors; 82/82.

2002 Sterling, Chardonnay, Vintner's Collection, Central Coast, California, $13.Aromas of green apples, pears, and lemon curd prevail over the caramel and buttery notes. Brisk in the mouth, the wine is fruit forward. While oak is evident, it by no means overwhelms the wine. Pair with grilled scallops and lemon butter; 84/85.

2001 Wente, Chardonnay, Riva Ranch, Monterey, Arroyo Seco, California, $15. Following the classic California Chardonnay formula, this is nevertheless a tasty wine in its own right. Defined by butter, toast, green apples, and citrus notes, the wine finishes long and fruity; 85/86.

Italian wine glasswine glass

2002 Ecco Domani, Chianti, D.O.C.G., Tuscany, Italy, $10. The nose is an odd mix of cherries, black pepper, and Chinese Five Spice, which repeats in the mouth. Tannins are very soft for Chianti; 83/83.

2001 Brancaia, Chianti Classico, D.O.C.G., Tuscany, Italy, $32, 4,166 cases. Almost black in the glass, this Chianti has full, rich aromas of black cherries, sun-dried tomatoes, and earthy characters. Generous tannins are well-rounded and will age well. Flavors mirror the nose, with a long, lush finish; 88/88.

2002 Ecco Domani, Merlot delle Venezie, Italy, $10. Displaying aromas of plums, herbal tones, and earth, the wine is soft and balanced, with tart cherry and raspberry fruit; 83/84.

Merlot wine glass

1999 Ballentine, Merlot, Napa Valley, California, $22, 3,000 cases. Deeply hued, with very ripe black cherry, kirsch, and cedar aromas. Concentrated, jammy, and ripe, the finish is lengthy and fruity; 85/85.

2000 Beaulieu, Merlot, Napa Valley, California, $17. Blackberries, ripe black cherries, dill spice, and a subtle truffle-like quality highlight this ruby red Merlot. Easy tannins allow for early consumption; 86/88.

2001 Chateau Ste Michelle, Merlot, Canoe Ridge Estate Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Washington, $24, 12,000 cases. Blackberries, milk chocolate, and spice define the nose of this full-bodied wine. Tannins are generous, ripe, and need bottle age. French oak is prominent at this point but does not overwhelm the wine. The finish is long and lush; 87/87.

2001 Chateau Ste Michelle, Merlot, Cold Creek Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Washington, $33, 5,000 cases. The nose is highlighted by aromas of raspberries, red cherries, pomegranate, and cedar. Elegant on the entry, the balance is flawless. Flavors of black cherries, vanilla, licorice, and Earl Grey tea cascade across the palate. The oak becomes more prominent with prolonged airing; 88/88.

2001 Chateau Ste Michelle, Merlot, Indian Wells, Columbia Valley, Washington, $18, 22,000 cases. The nose is a delightful mix of black cherries, anise, blueberries, French oak and herbs. Tart cherry fruit is quite angular at first, but with airing the Merlot opens up to blackberry, chocolate and French oak flavors; 85/85.

2001 Dynamite, Merlot, North Coast, California, $17, 29,428 cases. The wine opens with soft tannins and bright acidity, displaying black cherries, plums, vanilla, and anise across the sensory spectrum. Pair with a beef roast; 84/85.

2000 Hogue, Merlot, Genesis, Columbia Valley, Washington, $17, 28,000 cases. There's quite a lot packed into this bottle for seventeen bucks. Oodles of rich black cherry, blackberry, and plum fruit are carried by fine tannins and zippy acidity. American oak is obvious on the finish; 86/87.

2001 Kendall-Jackson, Merlot, Vintner's Reserve, California, $16. Here's a pretty easy drinking Merlot, but tannins will be optimal in a year or two. Blackberries, black cherries, smoky oak and vanilla dance across the nose and palate, with a modest finish; 84/85.

2001 Sandhill, Merlot, Red Mountain, Washington, $20, 800 cases. The nose is a mélange of blackberries, black cherries, Baker's chocolate, anise, and vanilla. Elegant in its presentation, with silky tannins and impeccable balance, the wine shows its Red Mountain heritage. Serve with a grilled ribeye steak; 88/90.

2001 Sebastiani, Merlot, Appellation Selection, Alexander Valley, California, $24, 1,250 cases. Dense black cherry and mocha aromas and flavors are simply overwhelmed by smoky oak, making it impossible to evaluate this wine. Will the oak ever integrate? Not rated.

1999 Snoqualmie, Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington, $11, 9,800 cases. Lightly styled, simple, with black cherry notes, this one is a quaffer for grilled burgers; 80/80.

Miscellaneous wine glasswine glass

2002 Canoe Ridge, Gewurztraminer, Oak Ridge Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Washington, $12.50, 1,067 cases. Neutral French oak barrels were used to ferment this wine. Classic honeysuckle aromas are augmented by citrus and melon notes. The flavors speak of Ruby Red grapefruit and honeydew melon. Crisp acidity and delicate sweetness round out the package; 86/87.

2002 EXP (R.H. Phillips), Viognier, Dunnigan Hills, California, $14, 10,000 cases. The initial fragrance is that of a fine old ale, which then opens to tropical fruit and orange blossoms. Soft, creamy, with notes of honey, lychee, ripe peaches, spice, and oak influences; 83/84.

NV Ficklin, Tinta Port, Old Vine, California, $14. Sweet, with lots of plumy fruit, cherries, walnuts, and spice. Nice balance with little heat; 85/86.

2002 Hogue, Assemblage, Terroir, Columbia Valley, Washington, $15, 141 cases. 97% Semillon and 3% Sauvignon Blanc. Older oak barrels and stainless steel were used in the fermentation. Citrus, pear, smoke, and vanilla aromas repeat on the palate, with a twist of orange rind. Pair with lemon/herb roasted chicken; 85/88.

2001 Ivan Tamas, Pinot Grigio, Monterey, California, $8.50. 100% stainless steel. Bright and clean, the wine is defined by citrus peel and tangerines. Simple but tasty, this should pair well with steamed clams; 83/84.

2001 McPherson Shiraz Cabernet, Murray-Darling, Australia, $7. Pleasant aromas of plums, currants, and spice waft from the glass. Soft in its presentation, the wine has straightforward flavors of plums, currants, and oak; 83/85.

2002 Peju Province, California, $18.50, 2,323 cases. Here's a light red wine for those who want something sweet. A rose of Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, with a little Chardonnay and Colombard throw in for good measure. Residual sugar stands at 1.7%. Enjoy early on for the cherry/berry flavors; 84/84.

2001 San Bernabe (Delicato), Unison, Monterey, California, $NA. A blend of Syrah, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. A heavy layer of smoke and spice almost obscures the jammy blackberry fruit. Tannins are relatively soft, the finish brisk; 84/NA.

2002 Silvan Ridge, Early Muscat, Semi-Sparkling, Oregon, $11. Very floral and fruity on the nose, the wine has a light spritz and only 6% alcohol. Crisp, sweet, with pure fruit flavors of Bartlett pears and apricots makes for a fun wine; 89/91.

2001 Snoqualmie, Chenin Blanc, Columbia Valley, Washington, $7, 7,000 cases. Light gold in color and emitting aromas of Crenshaw melons and apricots, this wine is off-dry, relatively crisp, with simple fruit flavors; 80/80.

2001, Veramonte, Primus, Casablanca Valley, Chile, $20, 14,500 cases. This purple/black blend is an interesting mix of Carmenère, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Tobacco, leather, and toasty oak fill the nose of this lively wine. Leaning toward the black fruit spectrum, the wine has a lot of complex earthy notes, with ashes apparent on the long finish. Pair with venison or buffalo steak; 89/90.

Petite Sirah wine glass

2001 Mettler, Petite Sirah, Lodi, California, $26, 570 cases. Almost black in the glass, the wine gives off scents of blackberries, blueberries, and mocha. Full-bodied and tannic, this Petite needs many years of patient aging. Gobs of jammy fruit flavors evolve into a long berry finish; 86/86.

2000 Parducci, Petite Sirah, California, $8.50. This value Petite Sirah is medium to full-bodied, with well tamed tannins. The nose and palate is a nice mix of berries, tomato skins, and toasty oak, with a long blackberry finish; 86/88.

Pinot Noir wine glass

2002 Brick House, Pinot Noir, Cuvee du Tonnelier, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $40, 340 cases. Brick House uses an unfined and unfiltered approach to winemaking, as well as using organic grapes. This is a brooding, full-bodied Pinot Noir. Loads of black fruit and forest floor notes are appreciated on the nose and palate; 90/89.

2002 Brick House, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $26, 840 cases. The cloudiness in the wine is due to being unfined/unfiltered. I can detect no evidence of contamination. This wine is a junior version of the Cuvee du Tonnelier, with less complexity and intensity; 86/86.

2002 Echelon, Pinot Noir, Central Coast, California, $10, 42,000 cases. Pleasant aromas of black cherries, earth, tea, and vanilla greet the taster, followed by soft, crisp, straightforward fruit flavors and a generous finish. Slightly bitter tannins detract, but overall this is a pretty tasty wine for ten bucks; 83/84.

2002 Edna Valley, Pinot Noir, Edna Valley, California, $15, 15,700 cases. The nose is a complex mix of dried cherries, tomato skins, smoke, and forest floor notes. Sweet fruit flavors of black cherries and plums are presented in a smooth, balanced package; 84/86.

2002 Sterling, Pinot Noir, Vintner's Collection, Central Coast, California, $13, 25,000 cases. Black cherries and briary fruit combine with vanilla and cedar notes on the nose and palate. Soft tannins and modest acidity round out the package; 83/84.

Portugal wine glasswine glass

NV Graham's Six Grapes Port, Portugal, $20. Medium-bodied, bright, very fruity, with a host of ripe plums, cherries, and a slightly nutty character. Rich, sweet, and velvety in the mouth, you´ll find nuances of chocolate, and cassis. Well-structured and easy on the pocketbook, this is a winner for dark chocolate; 88/88.

2002 Joao Portugal Ramos, Marques de Borba Red, Alentejo DOC, Portugal, $11. This light ruby wine is soft and round. Aromas and flavors speak of red cherries, spice, tomato skins, and plums. The finish is long and fruity; 85/88.

Riesling wine glass

2002 Wente, Riesling, Monterey, Arroyo Seco, California, $9. Light gold in color, with delightful aromas of honeysuckle and peaches. The wine is soft and sweet, with floral notes, peaches, and tangerines; 84/85.

Rioja/Tempranillo wine glass

2000 Darien, Crianza, Rioja, Spain, $14. Elegant in its presentation, the tannins are silky smooth. The wine is dominated by black cherries, leather, spice, and red currants. Not overly complex, it is tasty in its own right. Pair with a spicy rice dish; 83/84.

2002 Darien, Tempranillo, Rioja, Spain, $9. There is purity of fruit here, as this garnet colored wine saw only stainless steel. Soft on the palate, the wine has straightforward cherry, leather, and black pepper flavors. Simple, but a tasty quaffer; 83/85.

1999 EXP (R.H. Phillips), Tempranillo, Dunnigan Hills, California, $14, 4,700 cases. Deeply hued from the addition of 11% Petite Sirah. Drying tannins are very obvious and need bottle time. Cherry jam aromas carry over to the palate, enhanced by white pepper; 83/84.

Sauvignon Blanc wine glass

2002 Chateau St. Jean, Fumé Blanc, Sonoma County, California, $13. The aromas from this light gold wine are suggestive of melons, fig, lemongrass and oak spice. These aromas continue onto the palate, and then finish with spicy, oaky notes; 84/84.

2002 Chateau Ste Michelle, Sauvignon Blanc, Horse Heaven, Columbia Valley, Washington, $15. 100% barrel fermented in new and one-year-old oak. Aromas speak of pineapples, lemon peel, and vanilla. Tart, with a soft texture, the fruit has to battle the barrel influence for acknowledgment; 83/83.

Dry Creek 2002 Dry Creek, Fumé Blanc, DCV3, Dry Creek Valley, California, $18, 500 cases. This Fumé sees no oak. The nose abounds in aromas of grapefruit and lemongrass. Lively and lean, the aromas continue in the mouth, with a little tarragon and melon thrown in for good measure; 88/88.

2002 Parducci, Sauvignon Blanc, Lake County, California, $7. Cooperage is 100% stainless steel. Pure fruit aromas, citrus peel, and sage are presented in a crisp, clean package. The tropical and grapefruit flavors make a nice match for oysters; 85/87.

2002 Peju Province, Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, California, $16, 796 cases. The nose is a pleasant blend of limes, kiwi fruit, and papaya, which carries over to the palate. Lime and honey are noted on the crisp finish. I would like this wine better sans the threshold residual sugar; 85/85.

2003 Veramonte, Sauvignon Blanc, Casablanca Valley, Chile, $10, 30,000 cases. Beautiful aromas of grapefruit and lime carry over to the palate in a straightforward, medium-bodied wine. The finish is tart and citrusy; 84/85.

Syrah wine glass

1999 Ballentine, Syrah, Napa Valley, California, $25, 750 cases. The fruit comes from forty-year-old vines and was aged in 500 liter French oak cooperage. Aromas are a nice mix of berries, licorice, tar, and merde. Full, with rounded tannins, the mouth is filled with black cherries, dewberries, road tar, and barnyard characters; 88/88.

2002 Edna Valley, Syrah, Central Coast, California, $14, 10,400 cases. Here's a dandy little wine at a terrific price. Blackberries, plums, and black cherries combine with smoky oak, herbs and pepper to deliver a middle-weight package with a brisk finish; 86/89.

2000 Snoqualmie, Syrah, Reserve, Columbia Valley, Washington, $23, 600 cases. Aromas of blackberries, blueberries, plums and sweet oak stem from this bluish red Syrah. The wine is balanced and fruity, but there is also a lot of oak upfront; 84/84.

Zinfandel wine glass

1999 Ballentine, Zinfandel, Napa Valley, California, $19, 3,400 cases. The nose is filled with aromas of black cherries, blueberry jam, and spice. Full-bodied, tannic, with nice acidity, there is no heat from the 14.8% alcohol. The finish is long and berry-like; 87/87.

2001 Beaulieu, Zinfandel, Napa Valley, California, $14, 22,000 cases. Aromas of berry jam, cinnamon spice, and vanilla repeat on the palate, with a measure of anise tossed in the mix. Crisp, soft, and easy to drink; 84/85.

2001 Bishop's Peak, Zinfandel, Paso Robles, California, $14. Briary/berry aromas highlight the nose of this ruby colored Zinfandel. Crisp and sweet, the flavors are simple, yet tasty; 82/82.

Dry Creek 2001 Dry Creek, Zinfandel, Old Vines, Sonoma County, California, $21, 7,000 cases. The vines average 81 years of age. Jammy from start to finish, the bright acidity gives zing to the raspberry fruit, allspice, coffee, and black pepper attributes; 87/87.

2000 Gallo of Sonoma, Zinfandel, Frei Ranch, Dry Creek Valley, California, $22, 2,979 cases. This one is for you if you like the full, jammy style of Zin. The 14.8% alcohol does not show any heat. Lush aromas and flavors of raspberries, plums, red cherries, vanilla, and spice unfold in a nicely balanced package; 87/87.

2001 Ravenswood, Zinfandel, Barricia, Sonoma Valley, California, $32, 2,360 cases. Deeply colored, this Zin is loaded with scents of raspberries, cherries, and cedar shavings. Full-bodied and tannic, the flavors mirror the nose. The finish leans towards bitterness from the tannin load; 85/84.

2001 Ravenswood, Zinfandel, Belloni, Russian River Valley, California, $32, 640 cases. This is your big boy, with lots of extract and 15.2% alcohol. Bright raspberry and cherry aromas leap from the glass then carry over to the palate. A delightful peppery streak courses through the wine. The finish is long, dry, and showing a little heat; 89/89.

2001 Ravenswood, Zinfandel, Big River, Alexander Valley, California, $30, 1,600 cases. Ripe cherries and cedar shavings dominate the nose. Medium-bodied, tannic, and woody, you´ll find a jar full of blackberry jam but the finish is extremely dry; 85/84.

2001 Ravenswood, Zinfandel, Dickerson, Napa Valley, California, $32, 1,155 cases. Jammy berry aromas have a eucalyptus backdrop. Big, full, and tannic, the wine shows bright acidity. Jammy fruit shows a huge pomegranate influence which is quite nice; 88/88.

2001 Ravenswood, Zinfandel, Monte Rosso, Sonoma Valley, California, $36, 1,875 cases. Ripe berry jam and cedar shavings greet the nose. Full in the mouth, tannic, and very fruity, the wine finishes on a very dry note; 86/85.

2001 Ravenswood, Zinfandel, Old Hill, Sonoma Valley, California, $50, 520 cases. There's a lot of everything in this wine. The color is almost impenetrable. Full-bodied with plenty of ripe tannins, the 14.6% alcohol shows no heat. A bowl full of fruit awaits the taster, along with plenty of spicy oak, finishing long and full; 89/87.

2001 Ravenswood, Zinfandel, Teldeschi, Dry Creek Valley, California, $30, 3,125 cases. Aromas of raspberries, cherries, and milk chocolate leap from the glass. Bold, tannic, and jammy, you´ll find a lot of ripe berry fruit and sweet vanilla; 88/88.

2001 Saucelito Canyon, Zinfandel, Arroyo Grande Valley, California, $17, 1,843 cases. Densely colored, with very ripe raspberry, cherry, and raisiny aromas. Bold, with some heat showing from the 15.5% alcohol, this is a full blown, jammy Zin for fans of the style; 85/86.

2001 Saucelito Canyon, Zinfandel, Reserve, Arroyo Grande Valley, California, $28, 98 cases. Lots of new oak competes with the black fruit, coffee, raspberries, spice and chocolate. Well-balanced, this is a no-brainer for oak fans; 85/85.

Wine Events

SATURDAY & SUNDAY, MARCH 6 & 7, 2004
Kendall-Jackson will be one of more than 100 Sonoma County wineries participating in the 26th Annual Russian River Wine Road Barrel Tasting Weekend. There are no tickets to this unique event - simply purchase a $5 glass at any of the participating wineries and start sampling delicious new vintages from the barrel. Check out the list of wineries at http://www.visitwineroad.com.

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