© 2007 by Randy Buckner
As is usual for this time of year, the wineries roll out their red wine offerings. This month's wine reviews crisscross the globe, ranging from France, Spain and Italy to New Zealand, Australia and the Northwest.
Trying to satisfy a wide range of pocketbooks, the reviewed wines range from $8 to $100. You'll find several overachievers for their price class, as well as some beautiful but spendy wines. Let your wallet be your guide.
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. All prices are the manufacturer's suggested retail price. Vendor prices are often less expensive. As always, enjoy a bottle with dinner tonight.
2003 Chateau Giscours, Margaux, France, $45. A mélange of aromas unfold - blackberries, cedar, earthiness and dried herbs. It is ripe and juicy in the mouth, but there is some heat at the back end. The wine seems disjointed - hopefully this will come together with bottle age; 87/87.
2003 Chateau Lagrange, St. Julien, France, $40. A pretty classic Bordeaux nose here, but lots of cocoa notes are evident. The tannins are very firm, with lots of wood showing presently. Violets and milk chocolate linger on the finish, which also shows a bit of heat; 86/86.
2004 Chateau Lascombes, Margaux, France, $45. You won't read print through this deeply-hued Bordeaux. Blackberries, cedar and vanilla scents intermingle on the nose. Medium to full in the mouth, the generous dark fruit has an added earthy component. The tannins are firm but ripe - give the wine a minimum of five years to shed a bit of the bite; 90/90.
2003 Petit Bocq, St. Estephe, France, $20. This young, well-structured Bordeaux shows ripe cherry and currant fruit, floral notes and cedar shavings. For twenty bucks, this is definitely a wine to buy from the '03 vintage; 86/88.
2003 Chateau Segonzac, Premieres Cotes de Blaye, France, $15. Here's another value wine to look for from the 2003 vintage. Sporting a classic Bordeaux nose, you'll appreciate black fruit and cedar shavings on the nose and palate. Bright acidity and modest tannins round out the wine. Oak is obvious but not overdone; 86/89.
2005 Mouton Cadet, Blanc, Bordeaux, France, $8. A blend of three grapes, this crisp, creamy quaffer offers up citrus and tropical fruit aromas and flavors. It will pair well with shellfish; 83/84.
2004 Mouton Cadet, Rouge, Bordeaux, France, $8. This wine offers up a lot of character for the price class. Dark plums and cherries underscore this soft, easy-to-drink Bordeaux. It's ready to enjoy now with a host of foods; 83/85.
2004 Windy Point, ! (Exclamation Point), Yakima Valley, Washington, $19, 220 cases. A 60/40 blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Lovely floral notes combine with red cherries and berries on the nose and palate. The balance is faultless; the tannins are easy on the palate. This value wine is easy to drink now; 88/90.
2004 Windy Point, Cabernet Franc, Reserve, Yakima Valley, Washington, $29, 141 cases. The wine is restrained at this point, but the nose does display mixed red fruits, herbs and cedar. Crisp, with moderate tannins, you'll find red fruit and generous vanilla flavors; 86+/86+.
2003 CE2V (Cosentino), Meritage, Napa Valley, California, $100, 289 cases. You'll find loads of berry fruit, cigar leaf and oak on the nose. The wine is fruity on the palate, tannic, and has a slightly bitter bite; 84/82.
2003 Chateau Julien, Cabernet Sauvignon, Barrel Aged, Sonoma County, California, $10, 8,500 cases. Cassis, chocolate and mint nuances radiate from this purple-red Cab. Generous but manageable tannins give support to the tasty fruit flavors; 83/85.
2004 Chateau St. Jean, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, California, $27, 22,150 cases. Very deeply hued, with lovely violet and berry aromas filling the nose. Sweet fruit continues in the mouth, with nuances of smoky espresso. Tannins are silky smooth - drink tonight with a grilled steak; 87/88.
2005 Cycles Gladiator, Cabernet Sauvignon, Central Coast, California, $10, 15,000 cases. This deeply-hued wine gives off aromas and flavors of raspberries, chocolate, and generous cinnamon spice; 81/81.
2003 Grgich Hills, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, $58, 14,634 cases. Truffles in wine? Blackberries, earthy notes, sage and cedar abound. While lush and silky in the mouth, the wine pushes the ripeness envelope; 86/85.
2004 Kendall-Jackson, Cabernet Sauvignon, Vintner's Reserve, California, $18. You'll find excellent balance and easy drinkability here. Black cherries, cedar, vanilla and cigar leaf notes define the wine. Put that NY Strip on the fire; 85/87.
2000 Kendall-Jackson, Stature, Napa Valley, California, $100. Deep purple-red in the glass, the wine radiates cassis, black cherries and vanilla scents. Impeccably balanced and lush on the entry, the flavors are complex, with a never-ending finish; 91/90.
2004 Moon Mountain, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, California, $16, 14,000 cases. American oak, cassis and chocolate vie for attention on the nose and palate. The acidity is bright, the tannins drying; 83/83.
2004 St. Clement, Oroppas, Napa Valley, California, $55, 3,844 cases. Berries, cherries, chocolate and French oak intermingle on the nose. Oak overwhelms the flavors at this point. Will it ever come around? Not rated.
2004 Sebastiani, Cabernet Sauvignon, Appellation Selection, Alexander Valley, California, $30, 5,600 cases. The wine shows a mix of blue and black fruits and generous oak. In the mouth it is full bodied, with firm tannins and a healthy dollop of oak; 84/84.
2004 Sebastiani, Secolo, Sonoma County, California, $30, 2,400 cases. Gobs of berry fruit competes with the oak for prominence on the nose. While full and fruity in the mouth, the oak tends to obscure all else; 83/82.
2002 Rodney Strong, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Sonoma County, California, $40. Aromas of cassis, black olives and cedar radiate from this crimson-purple Cabernet. It is very tannic on the entry, with flavors mirroring the nose. Dill spice is evident on the finish; 85/84.
2004 Three Rivers Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington, $19, 2,067 cases. Black cherry scents abound, augmented by cedar and coffee nuances. While the tannins are generous, they are ripe and will age well. Flavors mirror the nose. Good value; 87/90.
2003 Three Rivers Winery, Meritage, Columbia Valley, Washington, $39, 613 cases. You'll find a delightful mix of berries, leather and cigar box on the nose. The wine is very elegant on the palate, with firm but rounded tannins. Medium to full bodied, it is showing a lot of vanilla at this point. Give it a few years to lose the baby fat; 88/88.
2004 TwoTone Farm, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, $10, 14,000 cases. Designed with early consumption in mind, you'll find blackberries, vanilla, cedar upfront, with just a hint of raspberries. The wine is crisp on the palate, with modest tannins. Good value; 84/86.
2004 Waterbrook, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington, $22, 3,134 cases. The nose is underscored by blackberry, plum and cedary vanilla scents. The wine is generously flavored with berry fruit and vanilla; 85/85.
2005 Beringer, Chardonnay, Stanly Ranch, Carneros, California, $20. Honeydew melons and orange blossoms abound on the nose. The wine is crisp and bright in the mouth - the melon and green apple flavors really shine without an undue oak burden. Kudos to Beringer for reigning in the oak; 89/91.
2005 Beringer, Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California, $16. Beringer used the oak judiciously here as well - pear, green apple and citrus aromas and flavors stand out. You'll appreciate a hint of cashews on the finish; 87/90.
2005 CE2V (Cosentino), Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California, $40, 490 cases. No malolactic fermentation is used here, resulting in a pleasantly crisp wine. Pear and apple fruit underscores the wine, with a generous oak backdrop; 85/84.
2005 Chateau Julien, Chardonnay, Barrel Aged, Monterey County, California, $10, 12,000 cases. The wine is underscored by pear fruit, butterscotch and lemon drops. It has a soft and creamy mouth feel, with toasted cashews and vanilla on the finish; 84/86.
2005 Clos du Bois, Chardonnay, North Coast, California, $14. Apple, lemon and toasty oak notes carry from the nose to the mouth. The wine is very crisp, with a slightly bitter bite and a buttery finish; 84/85.
2005 Concannon, Chardonnay, Selected Vineyard, Central Coast, California, $10, 70,000 cases. Light, simple and fruity, this nicely-balanced Chardonnay should be consumed now for the pineapple, nectarine and melon rind nuances; 83/85.
2005 Cycles Gladiator, Chardonnay, Central Coast, California, $10, 25,000 cases. This nice little quaffer is not overburdened with oak. It is soft, creamy and fruity, with peach and pineapple nuances; 84/86.
2005 Edna Valley Vineyard, Chardonnay, Paragon Vineyard, Edna Valley, California, $12, 245,000 cases. Fruity, creamy, with a nice acidic backbone, this wine is defined by toasty oak, butter, peaches and pineapples; 84/86.
2004 Mazzocco, Chardonnay, Reserve, Sonoma County, California, $28. Apples, floral notes and toasty vanilla define the nose. While crisp and creamy, the wine is overwhelmed with spicy vanilla from the new French oak barrels; 82/81.
2005 Sterling, Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California, $17. The oak is well restrained here. Green apples and citrus peel underscore this soft, easy-to-drink Chardonnay. Drink over the next year or so; 85/87.
2005 Stone Cellars (Beringer), Chardonnay, California, $8. This soft, simple, fruity quaffer has a soft mouth feel, with citrus oil and pear notes throughout; 83/85.
2005 Three Rivers Winery, Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Washington, $19, 796 cases. Aromas and flavors of pineapples, orange blossoms and leesy notes abound. It's full, balanced, soft and creamy; 87/88.
2005 Twisted, New Vine Chardonnay, California, $14 (mag), 15,000 cases. If you're looking for an inexpensive Chardonnay for large parties, this is it. This should please a wide range of palates with its crisp, straightforward lemon and green apple highlights; 82/85.
2005 TwoTone Farm, Chardonnay, California, $10, 8,100 cases. This is not just another overoaked California Chardonnay - the wood is held in check. Pears, citrus and vanilla carry from the nose to the palate, backed by bright acidity. Good value; 85/88.
2005 Waterbrook, Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Washington, $13, 12,951 cases. Green apple and light butterscotch highlights carry from nose to mouth, all wrapped up in a nicely-balanced package; 84/86.
2005 Ruffino, Aziano, Chianti Classico, DOCG, Italy, $13. Underscored by dark chocolate, tobacco and cherries, this crisp, lean quaffer is looking for a plate of spaghetti and meatballs; 84/85.
2003 Ruffino, Fonte al Sole, Toscana IGT, Italy, $9. This overachiever is marked by cherries, berries, new leather and vanilla. It's fruity and balanced - pair with pasta and red sauce; 84/86.
2004 Beringer, Merlot, Founders' Estate, California, $11. While soft and one-dimensional, the wine is quite fruity. Drink now before the plum, raspberry and herbal flavors fade away; 83/84.
2004 Chalone Vineyard, Merlot, Monterey County, California, $14, 30,000 cases. Black cherries and oak battle for top billing on the nose and palate. Tannins are somewhat drying; 82/82.
2003 Chateau Julien, Merlot, Barrel Aged, Monterey County, California, $10, 20,000 cases. Chewy tannins and generous oak detract from the plum and cherry syrup flavors; 80/80.
2004 Chateau St. Jean, Merlot, Sonoma County, California, $25, 13,773 cases. A mix of American oak, chocolate-covered cherries and dried herbs are presented in a forward package that is ripe and juicy; 84/84.
2005 Cycles Gladiator, Merlot, Central Coast, California, $10, 10,000 cases. You'll find blackberries, herbs, vanilla and cedar notes running the length of the wine. The juicy fruit is backed by supple tannins. It is easy to drink right now; 84/86.
2003 Grgich Hills, Merlot, Napa Valley, California, $38, 3,798 cases. This deeply-hued Merlot is highlighted by blackberries, cedar and smoky spice. While smooth and balanced, you'll feel a little heat from the 14.3 percent alcohol. The aftertaste is long and fruity; 86/86.
2002 Huntington Wine Cellars, Merlot, California, $14, 2,500 cases. Crisp and fruity, with easy tannins, the wine is underscored by plums, cherries, herbs and barrel notes; 83/83.
2004 Three Rivers Winery, Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington, $19, 1,280 cases. Aromas of black cherries, mulberries and cigar leaf radiate from this purple-red Merlot. Moderate tannins and bright acidity give lift to the flavors which mirror the nose; 86/87.
2005 Turner Road, Merlot, Appellation Series, Central Coast, California, $11. This crimson wine conveys red cherry, vanilla and oak aromas and flavors, all wrapped up in a straightforward, approachable package; 83/84.
2004 TwoTone Farm, Merlot, California, $10, 5,600 cases. The nose is a pleasant mix of currants, plums, cola and cedar aromas. The wine is medium bodied and easy to drink right now for the mixed black and red berry fruit; 84/86.
2004 Waterbrook, Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington, $20, 3,361 cases. This fruity, juicy wine presents black cherries, leather and vanilla across the board; 84/85.
2003 Beringer, Nightingale, Napa Valley, California, $35 (375 ml). This is a Botrytised blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc. Honeyed peach aromas and flavors are right up front, with a thick, rich feel in the mouth. The wine carries 12.1 percent residual sugar - with more acidity it would be a killer; 89/89.
2005 Fox Estate, Riesling, Wahluke Slope, Washington, $10, 585 cases. This soft, sweet (3.8 percent residual sugar), straightforward quaffer speaks of citrus and apples. Drink now; 82/82.
2004 Pendulum, Red Table Wine, Columbia Valley, Washington, $25, 2,772 cases. This blend of eight red grapes works well - juicy black cherries, plums and cedary notes abound. It's full and lush on the palate, with ripe flavors and supple tannins; 87/88.
2005 Three Rivers Winery, Meritage White Wine, Columbia Valley, Washington, $19, 570 cases. The nose reveals a mix of lemon drops, vanilla and a dash of oak. The wine is full and fruity in the mouth, with a little alcoholic bite. Roasted nuts linger on the finish; 85/86.
2004 Three Rivers Winery, River's Red, Columbia Valley, Washington, $13, 1,361 cases. Cherries, berries and earthy notes carry from the nose to the palate. The four-grape blend is very crisp in the mouth, with generous but ripe tannins; 85/87.
2005 Waterbrook, Mélange, Columbia Valley, Washington, $15, 16,522 cases. Here's a straightforward, fun and very quaffable red blend - fire up the grill. Enjoy it now for the cherry, milk chocolate and oak spice flavors; 83/84.
2004 Clay Station, Petite Sirah, Lodi, California, $13, 2,500 cases. This one is almost black in the glass, giving off black cherry and tomato leaf aromas. It is simple, fruity and very "chewy", demanding a hearty beef dish for accompaniment; 83/85.
2005 Huntington Wine Cellars, Petite Sirah, California, $14, 5,000 cases. You'll find spicy oak upfront, with underlying black cherries and berries. Oak dominates the palate as well; 82/82.
2005 Beringer, Pinot Grigio, Founders' Estate, California, $11. Tropical fruit and tangerine notes highlight this nicely-balanced, fruity, easy-to-drink wine; 84/85.
2005 Chateau Julien, Pinot Grigio, Barrel Aged, Monterey County, California, $10, 1,600 cases. Despite the wood treatment, the wine is well balanced, light and fruity. The melon and green apples notes should pair well with grilled shrimp; 84/85.
2005 Barton & Guestier, Pinot Noir, Bistro Wine, Vin de Pays d'Oc, France, $9. Just as the name implies, this is a simple bistro wine - nothing unpleasant - just simple but satisfying plum and black cherry flavors; 82/82.
2005 Chalone, Pinot Noir, Monterey County, California, $14, 70,000 cases. Well balanced, with lots of character for the price class - enjoy this one now for the black cherry and dark tea accents; 85/88.
2005 Chateau St. Jean, Pinot Noir, Sonoma County, California, $20, 19,673 cases. Aromas of rose petals, red cherries, strawberry preserves and dark tea follow through on the palate. Full and ripe; 86/86.
2005 Cycles Gladiator, Pinot Noir, Central Coast, California, $14, 45,000 cases. Light on its feet, with soft tannins and simple but tasty fruit - enjoy now for the black cherry, spice and cola accents; 83/84.
2005 Edna Valley Vineyard, Pinot Noir, Paragon Vineyard, Edna Valley, California, $15, 34,100 cases. The nose is a nice mix of strawberries, cherries, vanilla and tea. Light bodied, with good balance, the flavors mirror the aromas; 84/86.
2005 Irony, Pinot Noir, Monterey, California, $14, 5,000 cases. Juicy cherry and raspberry notes abound on the nose. Soft and fruity on the palate, this is an overachiever for the price class; 84/86.
2005 Talus, Pinot Noir, California, $8, 76,000 cases. Light and crisp, this simple quaffer really delivers for eight bucks - perfect for those big parties. Enjoy now for the sour cherry, strawberry and tea essence; 83/86.
2005 Valley of the Moon, Pinot Noir, Carneros, California, $20, 4,900 cases. Smooth and well balanced, this fruity Pinot showcases rose petal, cherry and vanilla spice aromas and flavors. Think pork tenderloin; 86/87.
2005 Whitehaven, Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand, $30, 6,000 cases. The nose is highlighted by black cherry, plum and integrated oak accents. Very well balanced and food friendly, this fruity Pinot will pair well with venison and Yukon River salmon; 87/87.
2004 Yann Chave, Crozes-Hermitage Le Rouvre, France, $32. This wine is very similar to their regular Crozes-Hermitage, but has more smoked bacon aromas and flavors and a tad more intensity. Blackberries linger on the long finish. This is not a long ager - enjoy over the next two to three years; 89/90.
2005 Edna Valley Vineyard, Sauvignon Blanc, Paragon Vineyard, Edna Valley, California, $15, 2,730 cases. Crisp and fruity, the aromas and flavors speak of grapefruit, pear and grassy accents; 85/85.
2005 Moon Mountain, Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma County, California, $12, 8,900 cases. Underscored by citrus, melon and a touch of wood, this crisp, straightforward wine should be consumed early on; 81/81.
2006 Saint Clair, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand, $15. This stunner grabs you from the very start with its intense gooseberry and passionfruit aromas. Crisp in the mouth, the flavors are every bit as intense - passionfruit, limes and grapefruit flavors abound. New Zealand has raised the bar on Sauvignon Blanc with this one. Buy by the case; 93/95.
2005 Waterbrook, Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Valley, Washington, $14, 2,426 cases. The wine is highlighted by green apples, citrus and a hint of oak (10 percent new French oak). It is balanced and creamy, with citrus and dried herbs on the finish; 85/85.
2006 Whitehaven, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand, $22, 90,000 cases. Gooseberries abound on the nose, backed by citrus accents. Full and crisp in the mouth, with intense gooseberry and lime flavors; 88/88.
2005 Osborne, Solaz, Blanco, Tierra de Castilla, Spain, $9. Made from 100 percent Viura (a synonym for Macaebo), the wine displays refreshing lemon fruit with a hazelnut edge; 83/84.
2005 Osborne, Solaz, Merlot Tempranillo, Tierra de Castilla, Spain, $9. This cherry-red blend displays berry jam and modest American oak on the nose. It is ripe, round and fruity - serve with a rich pasta dish; 83/84.
2005 Osborne, Solaz, Shiraz Tempranillo, Tierra de Castilla, Spain, $9. Initial matchstick blew off with vigorous airing, revealing mixed red fruits and vanilla. Smoked meat and black cherry flavors finish with chewy tannins; 83/84.
2004 Osborne, Solaz, Tempranillo Cabernet Sauvignon, Tierra de Castilla, Spain, $9. A very pleasant mix of leather, black fruits and subtle oak greets the nose. These aromas expand on the palate, supported by modest tannins and bright acids. Good value; 86/88.
2005 Cycles Gladiator, Syrah, Central Coast, California, $10, 12,500 cases. Berries, plums and generous toasty oak notes highlight the nose and palate. Easy tannins allow early consumption; 83/84.
2004 Kendall-Jackson, Syrah, Vintner's Reserve, California, $12. This deeply-hued wine gives off blueberry, black cherry and cedar aromas and flavors. It is full and lush, with generous tannins that need some bottle time; 84/86.
2005 Pure Love Wines, Shiraz, Layer Cake, Barossa Valley, Australia, $15. Plums, chocolate and spice highlight this value Shiraz. Full and succulent in the mouth, the moderate tannins are well rounded; 85/87.
2004 Stone Cellars, Shiraz, California, $8. Plum and berry aromas and flavors become evident after extended airing. This is a simple quaffer for that steaming bowl of beef stew; 82/82.
2004 Three Rivers Winery, Syrah, Ahler Vineyard, Walla Walla Valley, Washington, $39, 233 cases. Aromas and flavors speak of mixed berries, espresso and pepper spice. The wine is very elegant on the entry. Tannins are silky but firm up on the finish - give this one some bottle time; 88/88.
2004 Three Rivers Winery, Syrah, Boushey Vineyards, Yakima Valley, Washington, $50, 386 cases. Smoked game, black fruits and French oak underscore the nose. You'll find a full, lush wine that unfolds in layers of complex fruit. Oak is obvious at this point and needs some bottle time; 90+/90+.
2004 Turner Road, Shiraz, Appellation Series, Lodi, California, $11. This simple, fruity wine is ready to drink with a plate of BBQ tonight. Enjoy early on for the plum, berry and herbal accents; 85/87.
2005 Waterbrook, Syrah, Columbia Valley, Washington, $20, 1,997 cases. A mélange of aromas unfold - berries, cracked pepper, dark chocolate and leather. Somewhat subdued in the mouth, berry fruit prevails; 82/82.
2004 Windy Point, Syrah, Yakima Valley, Washington, $20. Smoked meat, berries and generous American oak highlights the aroma profile. The oak is less obvious on the palate, which is defined by a nice mix of black fruits; 85/87.
2005 Gnarly Head, Old Vine Zin, Lodi, California, $12, 65,000 cases. Plums, cola, black pepper and chocolate intermingle on the nose and palate - it's straightforward and food friendly; 83/84.
2005 Kendall-Jackson, Zinfandel, Vintner's Reserve, California, $12. Imagine a blend of black plum and raspberry jam and you have nailed the aroma and flavor profile here. Showing excellent balance, the wine is approachable right now; 85/88.
2004 Lake Sonoma Winery, Zinfandel, Saini Farms, Dry Creek Valley, California, $22, 825 cases. Straightforward, tannic and sporting some heat from the 15 percent alcohol, this one should be consumed early on for the raspberry, blackberry, vanilla and conifer notes; 82/82.
2004 Mazzocco, Zinfandel, Cuneo & Saini Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley, California, $24, 630 cases. Black cherries, cola and oak are presented in an uncomplicated package. The tannins can use a couple of years to tame down; 85/85.
2004 Mazzocco, Zinfandel, Home Ranch, Dry Creek Valley, California, $27, 286 cases. The nose is a pleasant mix of strawberries, cherries and brown sugar. Dark fruit prevails on the palate, with a nice streak of peppery spice. Tannins are generous but rounded; 86/86.
2004 Mazzocco, Zinfandel, Quinn Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley, California, $24, 433 cases. Spicy, jammy raspberry aromas and flavors are punctuated by a streak of cracked black pepper and easy-drinking tannins; 86/86.
2004 Mazzocco, Zinfandel, Stone Ranch, Alexander Valley, California, $24, 738 cases. Deep ruby in color, this Zin is underscored by plums, berries, brown sugar and generous oak; 84/84.
2004 Rodney Strong, Zinfandel, Knotty Vines, Sonoma County, California, $20. The aromas and flavors speak of berries, currants and vanilla spice. Tannins are generous and need time in the bottle; 83/83.
2005 Sebastiani, Zinfandel, Sonoma County, California, $15, 16,200 cases. Plums, currants and cedary accents underscore the wine. Enjoy this straightforward, fruity quaffer with grilled meats; 84/85.