Bucko's New Releases

© 2005 by Randy Buckner
January 2005

Late Winter 2005 Releases

Computers have changed our lives for the better. In many states of the U.S., wine lovers can search the Internet for dream wines and have them shipped to our door. We hope the upcoming Supreme Court decision on shipping will be favorable to all consumers, but the smart money notes that states will still have a say in regulation. Rumor has it that the decision will be known shortly.

Dreams can turn to nightmares when your computer crashes. My laptop recently decided to die on me, taking with it 86 tasting notes, two newspaper articles and a magazine article. To make matters worse my backup floppy disk gave me a format error and I could not access the files! There is something to be said for pencil and paper – fortunately my tasting notes were on same.

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 Clos Du Bois, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, California, $17. Here’s a crisp, straightforward, food-friendly quaffer for those grilled burgers. The wine is underscored by blackberries, licorice, herbs and vanilla; 83/83.

2002 Echelon, Cabernet Sauvignon, Hames Valley, Central Coast, California, $12, 13,118 cases. Ruby red in hue with aromas of black cherries, mint and barrel notes. Silky in the mouth, the wine is very fruit forward, simple, yet tasty. Burgers anyone? 84/86.

2001 Frank Family, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, $40, 5,100 cases. You’ll find a host of blackberries, plums and barrel notes on the nose, expanding on the palate to reveal additional cocoa, cinnamon and vanilla nuances. Full and ripe; 89/89.

2002 Guenoc, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, $11, 12,666 cases. Candied cherries, roses and American oak highlight the aromas and flavors of this wine, with tart acidity and modest tannins giving support; 83/84.

NV HRM Rex Goliath, Cabernet Sauvignon, ‘free range,’ Central Coast, California, $9, 125,000 cases. Raspberries, plums, cedar and chocolate aromas repeat in the mouth. Medium bodied and jammy, the easy tannins allow early consumption; 84/87.

2000 Katnook Estate, Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra, Australia, $22. Here’s a terrific value from down under. The wine is deeply hued, with aromas of mixed berries, plums, cedar, dark chocolate and crushed mint. Full on the palate and sporting bright acidity, this Cab is packed with lush fruit and leathery notes that linger endlessly on the finish; 90/92.

2002 L’Ecole, Apogee, Pepper Bridge Vineyard, Walla Walla Valley, Washington, $45, 1,611 cases. A mélange of blackberries, violets, chocolate and sweet oak carries from the nose to the palate. Full in the mouth, the wine has tangy acidity and silky tannins; 90/90.

2002 L’Ecole, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington, $30. Here’s an overachiever acting like its big brothers that is full and lush in the mouth with ideal balance. Aromas of blackberries, licorice, cedar and herbs morph into flavors of dark fruit, chalky minerals and a touch of pipe tobacco; 90/91.

2002 L’Ecole, Perigee, Seven Hills Vineyard, Walla Walla Valley, Washington, $45, 1,160 cases. This deep ruby Bordeaux blend gives off aromas and flavors of black fruit, raspberry liqueur, pipe tobacco, violets and new oak. Rich and full in the mouth, the finish seems endless; 90/90.

2002 Maryhill, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington, $15. Toasty oak, lush black fruit and mint highlight the nose. While well balanced, the wine is showing nothing but oak at this point, making it impossible to judge; NR.

2002 Maryhill, Cabernet Sauvignon, Proprietor’s Reserve, Columbia Valley, Washington, $29. Almost black in the glass, the wine has a rich nose of black fruit, sweet oak and mint leaf. The oak is more restrained than their regular bottling, with more intense fruit and bright acidity; 86/86.

2002 Napa Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, $25, 7,100 cases. Blackberries, chocolate, plums, herbs and barrel notes highlight the aromas and flavors of this medium-bodied, moderately tannic wine; 85/85.

2001 Preston, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington, $14, 1,100 cases. Deep ruby in color, with aromas of ripe black fruit, herbs and sawn oak. Chewy tannins and very generous oak dominates the palate, with underlying blackberry and black cherry fruit; 82/82.

2001 Rodney Strong, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander’s Crown, Alexander Valley, California, $30. This is more an elegant Bordeaux styled wine rather than your California fruit bomb. The oak (a mix of 57 percent French, 31 percent American and 12 percent European) is obvious but not overdone. Berries and earthy notes linger on the finish; 87/87.

2002 Smith & Hook, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grand Reserve, Santa Lucia Highlands, California, $25, 9,400 cases. Full bodied with well-rounded tannins, the wine gives off aromas of blackberries, new leather and tobacco leaf. You’ll find black fruit, chocolate and very generous French oak on the palate; 86/86.

2002 Sterling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Central Coast, California, $15, 150,000 cases. Balanced and approachable now, this straightforward quaffer should be enjoyed early for the blackberry fruit. Think grilled burgers; 83/84.

Wolf Blass 2002 Three Rivers, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington, $19, 546 cases. Full in the mouth with robust tannins, this wine will clearly benefit from aging. The aromas and flavors are a delightful mix of black fruit, Baker’s chocolate, cedar and olives; 90/92.

2002 Trinchero, Cabernet Sauvignon, Family Selection, California, $11, 20,000 cases. Made in a drink-me-now style, the wine is quite fruity with a nice acidic bite. Enjoy it early on for the cherries, cassis and herbal notes; 84/86.

2002 Wolf Blass, Cabernet Sauvignon, Gold Label, Coonawarra, Australia, $24. The nose reveals black fruit, herbs, olives and oak notes. Full and fruity in the mouth, the very crisp acidity gives quite a lift. This will be a polarizing wine due to the herbal notes and tangy acidity; 85/85.

Chardonnay wine glass

2003 Acacia, Chardonnay, Carneros, California, $20, 40,300 cases. Light gold in color, with aromas of lemon custard, peaches and oak nuances. The wine is very rounded in the mouth, with flavors of baked peaches, crème brulee, cloves and vanilla; 86/87.

2004 Alice White, Chardonnay, South Eastern Australia, $7. Nicely balanced and simple, delivering aromas and flavors of tropical fruit and wood characters; 80/80.

2003 Beaulieu, Chardonnay, Coastal Estates, Central Coast, California, $11, 230,000 cases. Sporting a straw gold coloration, the aromas speak of green apples, citrus, vanilla and a splash of butterscotch. Balanced, with threshold sweetness, the flavors mirror the nose in this value package; 85/87.

2003 Frank Family, Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California, $29, 3,800 cases. Lemon creams, pears and vanilla underscore the nose of this light gold beauty. Full bodied and well balanced, you’ll find loads of ripe fruit upfront, with an underpinning of vanilla, spice and hazelnuts; 88/88.

2003 Guenoc, Chardonnay, California, $11, 16,749 cases. Straw gold with aromas of melon, peaches and citrus peel. Sporting bright acids, this wine is clean, with pure fruit flavors echoing the nose; 83/84.

2003 Hahn, Chardonnay, Monterey, California, $14, 22,000 cases. Aromas speak of tropical fruit and butterscotch. Medium bodied with nice balance, the sweet fruit flavors mirror the nose; 83/83.

2003 HRM Rex Goliath, Chardonnay, ‘free range,’ Central Coast, California, $9, 74,000 cases. Here’s a tasty little offering for less than ten bucks. Aromas speak of pears, citrus and toasty oak, whereas the flavors lean more towards the tropicals, especially pineapple; 84/86.

2003 Kenwood, Chardonnay, Reserve, Russian River Valley, California, $20, 1,800 cases. Light gold in color, the wine emits green apple scents, with a touch of lemon zest and vanilla. Flavors mirror the nose, all wrapped up in a crisp, creamy package; 86/86.

2002 J Lynne, Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, California, $20. This is a soft, creamy style of Chardonnay with lots of butterscotch and vanilla on the nose and palate, but also with a host of pineapple and green apple fruit. Easy to drink now; 87/87.

2002 Maryhill, Chardonnay, Proprietor’s Reserve, Columbia Valley, Washington, $15. Here’s another soft, creamy style of Chardonnay that exhibits caramels, roasted nuts and toasty oak across the spectrum. Enjoy now; 85/86.

2002 Napa Cellars, Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California, $20, 4,200 cases. Light gold to the eye, this wine gives off aromas and flavors of apples, citrus, butter and oak, with barrel notes prominent on the finish; 84/84.

2003 Preston, Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Washington, $10, 300 cases. Toasty oak and spiced apples emanate from this light gold wine. Crisp and buttery, you’ll find a lot of wood and spice upfront, with some green apple striving to be noticed; 82/82.

San Juan Vineyards 2003 San Juan Vineyards, Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Washington, $14, 380 cases. Here’s another soft, creamy, viscous style of Chardonnay, with aromas of lemon curd, honey and citrus peel. In the mouth the wine displays baked apples, honey, figs and almonds; 85/87.

2003 Stone Cellars by Beringer, Chardonnay, California, $8. Looking for a party wine to appeal to a broad range of palates? This may fit the bill. Aromas and flavors are highlighted by citrus, green apples and American oak, with threshold residual sugar; 83/84.

2003 Stoneleigh, Chardonnay, Marlborough, New Zealand, $16. Stone fruit, butter and French oak aromas dominate the nose. Smooth and well rounded while maintaining adequate acidity, the flavors are a mirror image of the nose. Pair with seafood pasta; 87/89.

2003 Three Rivers, Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Washington, $17, 1,002 cases. Lemon creams, almonds, fresh pears and vanilla unfold on the nose and carry through to the palate. The wine is soft and creamy, with the oak in good balance; 86/88.

2003 Wolf Blass, Chardonnay, Gold Label, Adelaide Hills, Australia, $20. Lean, buttery and creamy in style. The oak overpowers the underlying green apple flavors, with barrel notes lingering on the soft finish; 84/84.

Merlot wine glass

2002 Abundance Vineyards, Merlot, Mencarini Vineyards, California, $14. The bouquet is a mélange of lovely aromas – black cherries, plums, toasty oak and floral notes. Full on the palate, the tannins have been well managed and the brisk acids give the lush fruit pizzazz. Blueberries become evident on the finish. A real crowd pleaser; 90/92.

2004 Alice White, Merlot, South Eastern Australia, $7. Ripe cherry fruit and herbal notes dominate the nose. Crisp with soft tannins, this straightforward red delivers cherry fruit and oak flavors; 80/80.

2002 Beaulieu, Merlot, Coastal Estates, Central Coast, California, $11, 185,000 cases. This wine is very fruity and tasty, if not overly complex. Medium bodied and balanced, the aromas and flavors reveal blackberries, black cherries, cedar and herbs; 86/88.

2002 Canoe Ridge, Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington, $20, 20,467 cases. Ruby black in color, this impeccably balanced wine gives off aromas and flavors of black cherries, chocolate, violets and modest barrel notes. Tasty; 87/87.

2002 Chateau Souverain, Merlot, Alexander Valley, California, $18, 31,600 cases. A deep ruby wine with aromas and flavors of black plums, black cherries, cedar and brown spices. Tannins are obvious but ripe and the acids give the wine zip; 85/86.

2003 Ecco Domani, Merlot, delle Venezie IGT, Italy, $10. This will make a good spaghetti wine, with cherries, berries and oak delivered in a straightforward presentation; 80/80.

2002 Echelon, Merlot, Central Coast, California, $12, 34,000 cases. Medium bodied with bright acidity, the wine delivers black cherries, toasted oak, herbs and dark chocolate throughout the length of the wine. Pair with grilled foods; 84/85.

NV HRM Rex Goliath, Merlot, ‘free range,’ Central Coast, California, $9, 120,000 cases. This producer turns out tasty wines at a fair price. While this Merlot has a bit of drying tannins, the wine is very fruity, with lots of black cherries, herbs, olives and cedar characteristics; 84/86.

2001 Napa Cellars, Merlot, Napa Valley, California, $20, 4,200 cases. Blackberries, chocolate, herbs and warm spices fill the nose. Tart with a moderately tannic bite, berries and chocolate define the palate; 84/84.

2001 Preston, Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington, $14, 1,875 cases. Black fruit, herbs, dill, cigar leaf and generous oak dominate the aromas and flavors, with a tart finish; 82/82.

Stone Cellars 2002 Stone Cellars by Beringer, Merlot, California, $8. A nice entry level Merlot – lots of plumy fruit, soft tannins and zippy acidity. Easy to like; 84/85.

2002 Three Rivers, Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington, $19, 1,936 cases. The fruit reigns supreme here, with the oak used only as a seasoning. Black cherries, raspberries, plums, toasty oak and mint leaf carry throughout the wine. Silky tannins makes it easy to drink this wine now, but it will age nicely; 88/89.

2003 Trinchero, Merlot, Family Selection, California, $11, 31,825 cases. The nose is underscored by black fruit, cinnamon and cedar. Very easy on the palate, you’ll find plums and cherries in a straightforward but tasty package; 85/87.

Miscellaneous wine glasswine glass

2004 Alice White, Cabernet-Shiraz, South Eastern Australia, $7. Simple but tasty, the plums herbs and wood notes carry from nose to mouth. Drink now; 82/82.

2003 Domaine de La Rectorie, Cuvée Léon Parcé, Banyuls, France, $26 (500 ml). The wine is ruby red in color with delicate aromas of raspberry liqueur. Tannins are firm but rounded. The wine is sweet, with flavors mirroring the nose. Now, take a bite of chocolate and take another sip – Bam! Raspberries pour out of the wine and the tannins soften; 88/88.

2003 L’Ecole, Semillon, Fries Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Washington, $20, 432 cases. True to form, this wine is intense, soft, and viscous, with lots of wood. Aromas of green figs, grapefruit and vanilla morph into flavors of tangerines, limes and vanilla; 88/88.

2003 Maryhill, Red Table Wine, Fort Rock Red, Columbia Valley, Washington, $10. This medium-bodied quaffer shows nice balance, delivering nuances of cherries, berries, cola and light wood notes. Drink with BBQ fare; 84/86.

2003 Preston, Gamay Noir, Semi-Sweet Rosé, Columbia Valley, Washington, $10. For those looking for a delicately sweet red wine, this may be the ticket. Cranberry in color, the wine gives off aromas and flavors of strawberries, cherries and pekoe tea. Residual sugar is 1.5 percent; 85/86.

NV Three Alarm Cellars, California Red Wine, $75/case. A spawn of Barefoot Cellar’s winemaker Jennifer Lynne Wall, a portion of the proceeds go to the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation (Wall is married to a Fire Captain). There’s nothing pretentious here and not designed to be – just an inexpensive, fruity quaffer for those neighborhood BBQs or your house spaghetti red; 83/85.

2003 Three Rivers, Gewurztraminer, Late Harvest, Biscuit Ridge Vineyard, Walla Walla Valley, Washington, $12 (375 ml). There’s no mistaking what grape this is. Packed with honey, lychee fruit and spice aromas, the wine is sweet but not cloying. Flavors of apricots, almonds and honey expand on the palate; 87/89.

2003 Three Rivers, Meritage White Wine, Columbia Valley, Washington, $19, 539 cases. Full in the mouth with a sweet sensation. Lemons, grapefruit zest and sweet vanilla aromas and flavors are presented in a creamy package; 85/85.

2003 Three Rivers, Sangiovese, Pepper Bridge Vineyard, Walla Walla Valley, Washington, $39, 272 cases. New World Sangiovese seems to be all over the place in style, but this one is very close to Italian Chianti. Medium bodied with modest tannins, the aromas and flavors speak of berries, cherries and warm spices; 87/87.

Pinot Gris wine glass

2003 King Estate, Pinot Gris, Oregon, $15, 49,000 cases. Citrus, melon and tangerine scents unfold on the nose and carry over to the palate. The wine is balanced and round in the mouth; 85/85.

2003 Meridian, Pinot Grigio, California, $11. Jasmine and tropical fruit leaps from the glass. Crisp and light footed, this wine is all about fruit. Although 20 percent was aged in French oak for five months, it only adds to the wine rather than obscuring it. Think shellfish; 88/90.

Pinot Noir wine glass

2001 Abundance Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Brick Hill Block, Sonoma Coast, California, $17. Black fruit, new leather, herbs and aged wood swirl from the glass then repeat in the mouth. Silky tannins and crisp acids breathe life into this middleweight. Served with fresh grilled salmon; 88/90.

Beringer 2003 Beringer, Pinot Noir, Napa Valley, California, $16. Aromas speak of cherries, strawberry preserves, dark tea and brown spices. Light to medium bodied with tangy acidity, the wine presents modest fruit flavors mirroring the nose; 85/87.

2003 Edna Valley Vineyard, Pinot Noir, Paragon, Edna Valley, California, $16, 17,500 cases. Sporting dandy balance, this Pinot is a little atypical. It is moderately intense, with dried strawberries and very earthy, smoky characters that demand the wine be served with wild game; 83/83.

2003 Hahn, Pinot Noir, Monterey, California, $18, 3,900 cases. This is a jammy style of wine with lots of fruit and lots of oak. Black cherries, cola, tea and vanilla notes predominate; 85/86.

2002 HRM Rex Goliath, Pinot Noir, ‘free range,’ Central Coast, California, $9, 40,000 cases. The nose is defined by red cherries/berries and subtle barrel notes. Light bodied and crisp, you’ll enjoy the jammy red fruit, cedar and spice; 84/87.

2002 J Lynne, Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, California, $20. Be warned this is not your Syrah wannabe. Cranberry hued, the aromas and flavors are as delicate as the color. Strawberries, cherries, dark tea and floral nuances are balanced by tannins so soft you forget they are there. This is a red wine for white fish; 88/89.

2003 Kendall-Jackson, Pinot Noir, Vintner’s Reserve, California, $14. Here’s a well balanced, easy to drink wine at a fair price. Aromas of plums, black cherries, smoke and dark tea morph into cherry, cola and vanilla flavors. Drink now; 85/87.

2003 Kenwood, Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, California, $17, 22,400 cases. A mélange of strawberries, plums, cherries and French oak unfolds on the nose and follows through on the palate. Tangy acidity breathes life into this medium bodied, refreshing wine; 87/89.

2002 King Estate, Pinot Noir, Oregon, $24, 16,500 cases. Aromas and flavors are a delightful mix of black cherries, strawberries, cedar and brown spices. Light to medium bodied with nice structure, this should pair well with grilled fish or pork tenderloin; 87/87.

2003 Meridian, Pinot Noir, Central Coast, California, $11. Intense strawberry and cherry aromas are augmented by light French oak nuances. Tannins are silky smooth and the acids have a nice bite. Flavors mirror the nose. Terrific value; 86/90.

2002 Panther Creek, Pinot Noir, Freedom Hill Vineyard, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $40. Red cherries, cedar, vanilla and pepper highlight the nose. The wine is well rounded, rich and weighing in as a middleweight. Flavors linger endlessly, with an earthy/mushroomy note; 90/90.

2002 Panther Creek, Pinot Noir, Shea Vineyard, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $40. This medium-ruby wine is well balanced, with aromas and flavors of black cherries, dark tea and vanilla. Bing cherries linger on the finish; 88/88.

2002 Panther Creek, Pinot Noir, White Rose Vineyard, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $40. Aromas and flavors speak of red cherries, black tea and tomato leaf. Balance is the name of the game with this medium-bodied wine; 87/87.

2002 Rodney Strong, Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, California, $19. Red cherries, strawberries, vanilla and mushroom nuances highlight the nose. The wine is light bodied, soft and ready to drink for the straightforward fruit; 84/85.

2003 Sterling, Pinot Noir, Central Coast, California, $13, 10,500 cases. This straightforward quaffer offers decent bang for the buck. Soft and easy to drink, the wine speaks of black cherries, dark tea and tomato skins; 84/86.

2003 Stoneleigh, Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand, $16. This wine is all about tartness. Tart cherry fruit is bolstered by tart acidity. Spice and cedary oak nuances come in on the afterpalate. Reasonable tannins allow consumption now; 86/88.

Riesling wine glass

2003 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Riesling, Cold Creek Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Washington, $14. Aromas and flavors speak of green apples, stone fruit and tangy limes. Lean and crisp, this is a very nice New World offering; 87/88.

2004 Stoneleigh, Riesling, Marlborough, New Zealand, $16. This is a delightful New World offering. Crisp, balanced, with just a just a hint of sweetness, the wine is all about limes, nectarines and floral tones; 88/88.

2003 Wolf Blass, Riesling, Gold Label, Adelaide, Australia, $14. This is my style of Riesling – lean, steely with lemons, limes, melons and slate nuances. This will be delightful with many seafood dishes; 90/91.

Sauvignon Blanc wine glass

Beringer 2003 Beringer, Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, California, $12. Aromas of nectarines, grapefruit and mown grass waft from the glass. About 30 percent of the wine was aged for five months in French oak barrels, but it does not overpower the citrus fruit; 85/86.

2003 Kendall-Jackson, Sauvignon Blanc, Vintner’s Reserve, California, $10. Aromas of tropical fruit and melons emanate from this straw-colored wine. Lean with tangy acidity, flavors of figs, limes and melons fan out on the palate; 84/85.

2004 Stoneleigh, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand, $16. New Zealand keeps cranking out delightful SBs and this one is no exception. Bursting with aromas and flavors of gooseberries, tropicals and lime, the crisp acidity makes this wine sing. Where’s that seafood platter? 91/91.

Sparkling Wine wine glass

1999 Luxe, Sparkling Wine, Columbia Valley, Washington, $23. Lemon and pear aromas give way to lemon almond bars on the palate. The medium bead gives zip to the creamy mouth feel; 86/87.

Syrah wine glass

2000 Abundance Vineyards, Syrah, French Camp Vineyard, Paso Robles, California, $15. Aromas are a pleasant mix of blackberries, plums, licorice and leather. Medium to full-bodied, the wine is somewhat hollow in the middle, leaving the taster waiting; 85/86.

2004 Alice White, Shiraz, South Eastern Australia, $7. Soft, simple, but a decent quaffer for BBQ, the wine is ready to drink now for the plum, blueberry and oak nuances; 82/82.

2002 Beaulieu, Shiraz, Coastal Estates, California, $11, 5,000 cases. The color is a delightful ruby red with blue highlights. Well balanced and light on its feet, you can enjoy this one right now for the dandy berry fruit and light oak nuances; 85/87.

Chateau Souverain 2002 Chateau Souverain, Syrah, Alexander Valley, California, $20, 3,300 cases. Purple-red in color. Black plums, blueberries, smoke, licorice and cedar aromas and flavors are supported by tangy acids and modest tannins; 86/86.

2002 Clos Du Bois, Shiraz, Sonoma County, California, $14. The nose displays an interesting mix of black cherries, blueberries, tobacco leaf, oak and mint. Soft tannins and bright acids give lift to this simple but tasty quaffer; 84/86.

2003 Hahn, Syrah, Central Coast, California, $14, 8,000 cases. This jammy-styled wine is medium to full bodied with nice overall balance. Plums, raspberries, currants and cedar notes prevail; 84/86.

2003 HRM Rex Goliath, Shiraz, ‘free range,’ Central Coast, California, $9, 23,000 cases. Deep ruby with purple highlights. Plums, raspberries and vanilla underscore the nose, with straightforward jammy red fruit flavors; 83/85.

2003 Sterling, Shiraz, Central Coast, California, $13, 25,000 cases. Here’s another simple but tasty quaffer for the BBQ crowd. The wine is nicely balanced and displays blueberries, red cherries and oak; 84/86.

2002 Three Rivers, Syrah, Ahler Vineyard, Walla Walla Valley, Washington, $39, 201 cases. Almost black in the glass, the wine displays lovely boysenberry, blueberry, spice and chocolate aromas and flavors. Medium to full bodied with lovely balance, the wine is not overstated. Tannins sneak up on the finish and dictate a few years of bottle aging; 90/90.

2002 Three Rivers, Syrah, Columbia Valley, Washington, $24, 1,600 cases. Aromas of blueberries, blackberries, dark chocolate and French oak radiate from this inky brew. You’ll find a real mouthful here, with impeccable balance of fruit, acids and tannins. Yummy; 88/89.

2002 Wolf Blass, Shiraz, Gold Label, Barossa, Australia, $24. Here’s another polarizing wine from Wolf Blass – it is very tart and only for the acid hounds. Berries, licorice and smoky aromas repeat on the palate. Serve with a tomato-based dish to try and minimize the acidity; 85/85.

Zinfandel wine glass

Cellar No. 8 2002 Cellar No. 8, Zinfandel, North Coast, California, $14, 28,000 cases. This light ruby Zin gives off aromas of blackberries, black cherry jam and barrel notes. Crisp, fruity, with easy tannins – drag out the grill; 85/86.

2003 Echelon, Zinfandel, Driving Range Vineyard, Contra Costa County, California, $13, 3,000 cases. The bouquet is quite a mélange of scents – raspberries, plums, black pepper and French oak. Medium bodied and easy to drink right now. Flavors repeat the nose with a dash of currants for good measure; 85/88.

2001 Guenoc, Zinfandel, California, $9, 8,802 cases. Aromas speak of plums, raspberries, dill and oak. Chewy tannins are followed by a host of American oak flavors, with cherries, plums and raspberries lingering on the finish; 81/81.

2002 Kenwood, Zinfandel, Sonoma County, California, $16, 16,000 cases. Blackberry jam, vanilla and barrel notes underscore the nose. The wine is soft and balanced, sporting nice briary fruit flavors that linger for some time; 86/87.

2002 Lake Sonoma, Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, California, $16, 5,100 cases. Black cherries, toasty oak, vanilla and spice dominate the aromas then echo on the palate. Easy to drink right now; 84/85.

2002 Napa Cellars, Zinfandel, Napa Valley, California, $20, 3,950 cases. This ruby red Zin is packed with aromas of blackberries, raspberries, brambly spice and American Oak. Brambly/jammy fruit is lifted by the bright acids and supple tannins. The 15 percent alcohol shows heat on the finish; 85/85.

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