© 2005 by Randy Buckner
April 2005

Spring 2005 Releases

Choose your hemisphere - spring or fall has arrived. As we look for signs of spring with verdant new growth in the Pacific Northwest vineyards, our Southern neighbors are wrapping up another harvest.

New Zealand is expecting their second largest harvest on record. Estimates are down from the record 2004 harvest due to cool December weather which reduced fruit set, particularly in the central and southern regions. Australia expects a near record vintage as well, with good to excellent fruit quality.

Meanwhile the latest bottlings are rolling off of the 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

Beringer 2002 Beringer, Cabernet Sauvignon, Founders' Estate, California, $12. Here's a light to medium-bodied quaffer with easy-drinking tannins. Straightforward black fruit, cola, vanilla and brown spices prevail; 83/84.

2001 Clos du Bois, Briarcrest, Alexander Valley, California, $36, 1,000 cases. Clos du Bois is back on track with this new release. Sporting bright acidity and great tannin management, the nose and palate reveal a complex mix of blackberries, cassis, spice, toasty oak and a whiff of pipe tobacco. Prime rib time; 89/89.

2001 Conn Creek, Cabernet Sauvignon, Limited Release, Napa Valley, California, $28, 10,000 cases. Blackberries, cherries and spice carry from the nose to the mouth, with chocolate and vanilla thrown into the mix. Food-friendly acidity makes this a nice match for that grilled porterhouse; 88/88.

2001 Franciscan, Magnificat, Napa Valley, California, $40, 20,000 cases. Black cherries, plums, tobacco and cedar notes unfold on the nose. The wine is full on the palate with a moderately tannic bite. The rich fruit sings in harmony with the oak. Give this one three to four years to shed some of the tannins; 87+/87+.

2002 Kendall-Jackson, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grand Reserve, North Coast, California, $26. Blackberries, coffee, chocolate and tobacco leaf nuances fill the nose. Bright acidity highlights the wine, with blackberry fruit upfront followed by cedary oak flavors and firm but rounded tannins; 85/85.

2001 Kendall-Jackson, Cabernet Sauvignon, Vintner's Reserve, California, $16. Ruby in color, the wine gives off aromas of blackberries, cedar and vanilla. This Cab is medium bodied and balanced, with bright acidity giving lift to the berry fruit; 85/87.

2001 Mount Veeder, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, $40, 16,000 cases. Aromas and flavors speak of blackberries, plums, tobacco and aged wood. Full and rich on the palate, with rounded tannins exerting themselves on the long finish; 87/87.

2001 Mount Veeder, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Napa Valley, California, $80, 3,950 cases. This deep ruby wine gives off rich aromas of blackberries, chocolate and French oak. The wine is moderately tannic with nice overall balance. The nose promises more than the palate delivers, but you'll find pleasant mixed berry fruit, dark chocolate and French vanilla; 86/84.

Pedroncelli 2001 Pedroncelli, Cabernet Sauvignon, Three Vineyards, Dry Creek Valley, California, $14.50, 7,700 cases. Here's an easy-drinking, good-value Cab for those deck cookouts. Blackberries, cherries, licorice spice and American oak aromas and flavors are augmented by chewy tannins; 85/87.

2002 Provenance, Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford, Napa Valley, California, $35, 16,636 cases. Elegant on the entry, the wine shows firm but ripe tannins. Berries, currants, cocoa, sage and cedar nuances combine to make a delightful mix. Age this one a few years to let the tannins resolve; 89+/89+.

2000 Rodney Strong, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Sonoma County, California, $40. This deep ruby Cab is full on the palate with firm tannins that need bottle time. Blackberries, olives, herbs and cedar define the wine. Pair this with a tomato-based dish to help offset some of the bracing acidity; 86/86.

2001 Rutherford Ranch, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, $15, 15,000 cases. Blackberries, mocha and oak are obvious on the nose. Crisp, with rounded tannins, the straightforward fruit gives good varietal character; 83/83.

2002 Sebastiani, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, California, $28, 3,400 cases. Blackberry, anise, mocha and violet aromas carry over to the palate, with very generous oak flavors abounding. Moderately tannic; 86/86.

2002 Snoqualmie, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Columbia Valley, Washington, $23, 1,200 cases. The nose presents a nice mix of red fruit, American oak and sagebrush. Medium bodied with good balance. The red/black fruit and sweet oak combine to make a tasty package; 85/85.

2000 Symmetry, Alexander Valley, California, $55. This deeply hued Bordeaux blend gives off lovely blackberry, dark chocolate and Chinese 5-spice aromas. The wine is elegant on the entry, with very tart acidity and firm tannins. This wine needs to be paired with an acidic or oily food dish; 85/84.

2002 Tintara, Cabernet Sauvignon, McLaren Vale, South Australia, $18, 6,400 cases. This down-under wine has the fruit, tannins and acids all singing in harmony. Aromas of currants, herbs, toasty oak and menthol morph into flavors of black cherries, currants and herbs. Good value; 86/88.

2002 Trinchero, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chicken Ranch Vineyard, Napa Valley, California, $25. Purple/red in color, with crushed berries, new leather and hints of oak filling the nose. Showing nice balance of fruit, oak and tannins, berry fruit dominates the palate; 85/85.

2001 Trinchero, Cabernet Sauvignon, Lewelling Vineyard, Napa Valley, California, $45, 2,360 cases. Loads of black fruit, mocha, anise, cedar and vanilla swirl about on the nose. The wine is full bodied and elegant, with oak that is obvious but not overblown. You'll find nice intensity of red and black fruit in the mouth; 88/88.

2001 Trinchero, Cabernet Sauvignon, Main Street Vineyard, Napa Valley, California, $40. This crimson beauty has a delightful mix of currants, berries, sweet oak and warm spices on the nose. Displaying terrific structure, the wine is very tight right now. With coaxing the wine gives up flavors of cassis, blackberries, violets and mixed oak. Give it a few years to come around; 90/90.

2002 Trinchero, Meritage, Mario's Reserve, Napa Valley, California, $45, 1,000 cases. Cassis, plums, blueberries and French oak underscore the nose. Very polished on the entry with terrific balance, the wine reveals complex flavors of berries, cherries, new French oak and brown spices; 90/90.

2003 Turner Road, Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, California, $11. Delivering very good bang for the buck, the berry, cherry and plum aromas morph into flavors of plums and marionberries in the mouth. Soft tannins and tangy acids round out the package; 85/87.

Chardonnay wine glass

2003 Anapamu, Chardonnay, Monterey County, California, $16, 9,300 cases. Straw gold in color with aromas of pears, melon and vanilla. The wine is medium bodied, soft, and creamy, with citrus and melon lingering on the finish; 83/83.

2003 Beringer, Chardonnay, Founders' Estate, California, $12. The nose is dominated by butterscotch notes, with underlying citrus and peach nuances. Rounded in the mouth, with threshold sweetness, you'll find a host of oak, butterscotch and stone fruit flavors; 83/84.

Beringer 2003 Beringer, Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California, $16. Gold in color with aromas of lemons, spice and butterscotch. The wine is very creamy in the mouth, with citrus, apples, butter and oak being the predominant flavors; 85/86.

2003 Cosentino, Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California, $22, 1,026 cases. Aromas of apples, vanilla and toast emanate from this bright gold Chard. Very creamy and very fruity in the mouth, with flavors of apples, pears and lemons; 86/86.

2002 Gallo of Sonoma, Chardonnay, Laguna Ranch Vineyard, Russian River Valley, California, $22, 2,600 cases. A green sheen gives a boost to the medium gold color. Pears, melons, vanilla and toast unfold on the nose. The wine is soft, creamy and spicy, with lots of melon fruit and lots of oak influence; 85/85.

2003 Kendall-Jackson, Chardonnay, Grand Reserve, California, $20. Tropical fruit, citrus and oak dominate the aromas. Displaying generous oak flavors, the wine is very fruity on the entry, with creamy, buttery notes. Nice for the style; 86/86.

2003 Marcelina, Chardonnay, Carneros, California, $24, 2,100 cases. Here's a laudable effort from the Gallo web of wineries. The wine is medium bodied, with nice balance and excellent oak integration. Aromas and flavors speak of green apples, citrus peel, vanilla and light toast; 88/88.

2003 Napa Valley Vineyards, Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California, $15, 77,000 cases. Lemons, melons and white peaches cascade across the nose and onto the palate. Creamy in structure with good oak integration; 83/83.

2003 Rodney Strong, Chardonnay, Chalk Hill, California, $19, 49,673 cases. Baked apple and pear aromas are upfront, with light oak and floral notes. The wine has very tart acidity, with aromas doing an encore in the mouth. You'll find a touch of allspice on the finish; 85/85.

2003 Round Hill, Chardonnay, California, $9, 51,000 cases. Pears and oak notes prevail on the nose of this crisp Chardonnay. The wine delivers a lot of fruit for a nine-buck wine. Oak flavors are well in the background. Residual sugar is threshold at 0.52 percent; 83/84.

2003 Rutherford Ranch, Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California, $13, 7,000 cases. Stone fruit and spice highlight the nose, while spicy apples and citrus are evident in the mouth. Crisp and creamy, this should pair well with pasta and white sauce; 85/86.

2003 Sebastiani, Chardonnay, Dutton Ranch, Russian River Valley, California, $25, 860 cases. While not my style of Chard, many people will love this wine for its intense fruit and the creamy, buttery, toasty oak qualities that unfold on the nose and in the mouth; 88/88.

2002 Villa Mt. Eden, Chardonnay, California, $10, 65,000 cases. Buttery, toasty oak, vanilla and pineapple nuances unfold on the nose. The wine is creamy, with similar flavors; 83/84.

Chenin Blanc wine glass

2003 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Chenin Blanc, Horse Heaven Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Washington, $15, 600 cases. While I am a big Loire Valley fan, this is one of the better New World offerings. Citrus, pears, limes and minerals combine on the nose and palate to make a delightful wine. Off-dry at 0.97 percent residual sugar, the wine is only available at the winery; 87/87.

2003 Snoqualmie, Chenin Blanc, Columbia Valley, Washington, $7, 4,000 cases. The wine is very reticent on the nose, with perhaps a bit of melon. You'll find soft, sweet, straightforward pear and melon flavors; 82/82.

Merlot wine glass

2002 Clos du Bois, Merlot, Reserve, Alexander Valley, California, $22, 13,000 cases. Deeply hued and displaying aromas of plums, cherries, spice and cedar, the wine exhibits lovely balance and concentration as well. Tannins are obvious but rounded. Plums and red fruit dominate the palate, with cola notes coming in on the long finish; 86/86.

2002 Dynamite, Merlot, North Coast, California, $17, 23,099 cases. Black cherries, currants and American oak dominate the nose. The wine has nice acidity but the tannins are drying. Black fruit, chocolate and toasty oak linger on the finish; 84/85.

2001 Estancia, Merlot, Central Coast, California, $15. Light on its feet, crisp and sporting easy-going tannins, this one is ready to drink now for the mixed black fruit, cedar and smoky nuances. Pair with grilled foods; 84/85.

Kendall-Jackson 2002 Kendall-Jackson, Merlot, Grand Reserve, North Coast, California, $26. Deep ruby in color with black fruit, chocolate and toasty oak aromas. Intense black cherry fruit greets the palate, with obvious but not overblown oak. Tannins are firm but rounded; 86/86.

2001 Kenwood, Merlot, Reserve, Sonoma Valley, California, $25, 1,000 cases. The aromas are an enticing blend of black cherries, pomegranate, vanilla, cedar and anise. You'll find a nicely structured wine, with bright acids and rounded tannins. Aromas do an encore on the palate, with a modest aftertaste; 86/86.

2002 Kenwood, Merlot, Sonoma County, California, $17, 28,500 cases. This crisp Merlot has easy-going tannins, with aromas of black cherries, plums, dill spice and nutmeg. Drink early for the straightforward plumy flavors; 84/84.

2002 Round Hill, Merlot, California, $9, 21,500 cases. Plums and cedar highlight the nose. Tart, with modest tannins, the straightforward flavors echo the nose; 80/80.

2002 Rutherford Ranch, Merlot, Napa Valley, California, $13, 12,000 cases. Black cherries, berries and herbs unfold on the nose and palate. Tannins are well managed and the bright acidity makes for a nice food wine; 83/83.

2001 William Hill, Merlot, Napa Valley, California, $22, 14,425 cases. The bouquet consists of a mélange of scents - mixed berries, anise, warm spices, toasty oak and vanilla. Medium bodied with supple tannins. Flavors echo the nose; 84/84.

2002 Trinchero, Merlot, Chicken Ranch Vineyard, Napa Valley, California, $25, 973 cases. Ruby red in color, this Merlot gives off aromas of cassis, American oak and mushrooms. While lush on the entry, the tannins become rapidly drying. You'll find generous oak but generous fruit as well. Give this one three or four years to shed some of its youthful bite; 86/86.

Miscellaneous wine glasswine glass

2000 Barton & Guestier, Sauternes, Bordeaux, France, $24. Honey and dried fruit aromas emanate from the light gold dessert wine. Light bodied, balanced and not overly sweet, the wine displays straightforward fruit and nutty characteristics; 82/82.

2003 Columbia Crest, Gewurztraminer, Columbia Valley, Washington, $8, 30,000 cases. The wine is very soft and sweet, with citrus, spice and lychee nuances; 81/81.

The Bush Family of Madroņa Vineyards
The Bush Family of Madroña Vineyards
2000 Cosentino, Charbono, Napa Valley, California, $25, 54 cases. The grapes come from the Gary Heitz family vineyard. The wine was aged in older French oak barrels for more than three years. Big, leathery aromas are upfront, with spicy black fruit underlying. Very tart in the mouth, with forgiving tannins, the aromas repeat in the mouth. Think pasta with red sauce; 86/86.

2002 Madroña, Shiraz-Cabernet, El Dorado, California, $16, 615 cases. Blackberry and raspberry aromas are framed by Chinese 5 Spice. The wine is crisp, with rounded tannins supporting the peppery black cherry fruit; 86/88.

2003 Sebastiani, Barbera, Sonoma Valley, California, $15, 1,900 cases. Nuances of raspberries, truffle oil and cedar make a delightful bouquet. The wine is full, forward, and packed with raspberry, mocha, oak and vanilla flavors; 85/86.

Pinot Gris wine glass

2004 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Pinot Gris, Columbia Valley, Washington, $13. This wine is soft in the mouth, with aromas and flavors of melons and citrus fruit. It paired well with a delicate fish dish; however the wine would really shine with more acidity; 85/86.

2004 Estancia, Pinot Grigio, California, $15, 90,000 cases. The wine spent two months in neutral oak. Pears, grapefruit and rose petals unfold on the nose, with apples and pears expressing themselves in the mouth. Nice structure; 84/84.

Pinot Noir wine glass

2003 Acacia, Pinot Noir, Carneros, California, $20, 24,000 cases. Rich on the nose and palate, with very nice balance. The wine unfolds in layers of earthy black cherries, plums, coffee, dark chocolate and vanilla. Good value; 88/90.

2002 Anapamu, Pinot Noir, Monterey County, California, $16, 9,600 cases. The aromas speak of cherries, cola and toasty oak. Soft and easy on the palate, with a peppery streak coursing its way through the cherry fruit; 85/87.

2003 Clos du Bois, Pinot Noir, Reserve, Sonoma Coast, California, $22, 1,000 cases. Aromas of black cherries, nutmeg and sandalwood emanate from this garnet-colored Pinot. The wine is light to medium bodied, tangy, with polished tannins. Aromas repeat on the palate, with a long cherry finish; 85/85.

2003 Clos du Bois, Pinot Noir, Sonoma County, California, $16, 55,000 cases. Here's a well-balanced, light-bodied, tasty little Pinot. Aromas and flavors reveal black cherry and plum fruit, with nuances of brown spice and vanilla. Good bang for the buck; 85/87.

2002 Estancia, Pinot Noir, Pinnacles Ranches, Monterey, California, $15, 65,000 cases. Contrary to some reviews, I like this wine. The nose gives off black tea, cherry and spicy oak aromas, whereas the palate reveals rich cherry fruit, strawberry jam and pecan nuttiness. You'll find nice balance of oak, tannins, acids and fruit. Killer value; 87/90.

2003 Frei Brothers, Pinot Noir, Reserve, Russian River Valley, California, $24, 23,000 cases. Balanced, with silky tannins, this fruit-forward wine delivers black cherry, vanilla and delicate oak aromas and flavors. A hint of raspberries becomes evident on the finish; 86/86.

Trinchero 2003 Gallo of Sonoma, Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, California, $13, 30,000 cases. It's pretty tough to find a Pinot Noir in this price class that delivers as much as this one does. Red cherries, brown spices and earthy/mushroom notes abound in a soft, silky package; 84/87.

2003 MacMurray Ranch, Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, California, $17, 43,568 cases. This garnet-colored wine delivers aromas of black cherries, tomato leaf and smoky oak. You'll find loads of red and black fruit, integrated oak and earthy nuances in this impeccably balanced Pinot; 88/90.

2003 Mirassou, Pinot Noir, Monterey County, California, $10, 35,000 cases. Here's a simple but tasty quaff for grilled fish. Light and easy in the mouth, enjoy this one early on for the cherry, plum, spice and smoky flavors; 83/83.

2003 Sebastiani, Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, California, $15, 16,300 cases. A little atypical but tasty nevertheless. Cherries, strawberries, coffee, aged wood and vanilla fragrances present on the nose, with the palate displaying bright cherry fruit and sandalwood. Full, rich and balanced; 86/88.

2003 Trinchero, Pinot Noir, Vista Montone, Napa Valley, California, $25, 1,000 cases. Elegant on the entry, the silky tannins invite another sip. Aromas and flavors reveal black cherries, plums, cola, brown spices and well-integrated oak; 88/89.

Port/New World Port wine glass

1992 Dow's, Colheita Porto, Portugal, $31. Sporting a rich Tawny color, the aromas are a pleasing mix of raisins, toasted nuts and brown sugar. The wine is smooth, viscous, sweet and packed with roasted hazelnuts. Raisiny fruit flavors linger on the protracted finish; 88/88.

1986 Smith Woodhouse, Colheita Porto, Portugal, $41. Light tawny in color with aromas reminiscent of baked plums and brown sugar. Smooth as a baby's backside, the flavors are warm and rich, with hazelnuts and cashews evident on the lengthy finish; 89/89.

2002 Madroña, New World Port, California, $24 (500 ml), 830 cases. Here's a nice example of New World Port. Using seven native Portuguese varieties, the wine shows good integration of the components. Blackberry preserves dominate the palate, with sweetness not overdone (6.49 percent). Chocolate nuances become evident on the finish; 86/86.

Rhone Rangers wine glasswine glass

2002 Madroña, Malbec, El Dorado, California, $27, 80 cases. While lovely to the eye, with a ruby/purple color, the aromas are just as enticing - blueberries, nutmeg and underlying toasty oak. This wine grabs you from the very start. The rich fruitiness is enhanced by a streak of cracked peppercorns, supported by tannins as soft as a baby's backside. Mixed berries linger on the long finish. Bravo! 90/90.

2003 Madroña, Mélange de Trois, El Dorado, California, $16, 539 cases. Three white Rhone varieties make us this wine - Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier. Apricots, honey, vanilla cream and melons underscore the nose. This blend is soft and spicy on the entry and is loaded with lovely fruit and floral notes that linger on the palate; 88/90.

2003 McCrea, Counoise, Red Mountain, Washington, $28. The nose is an inviting mix of black cherries, violets and cedar. The palate does not deliver as much as the nose promises, but you'll find red and black fruit along with grainy tannins. Tart acidity begs for a tomato-based dish; 86/86.

2003 McCrea, Mourvèdre, Red Mountain, Washington, $28. Purple/red in the glass, this aromatic wine gives off blue and black fruit notes and floral nuances. The wine is full bodied and balanced, with the palate a repeat of the nose. Youthful tannins need time to resolve. I look forward to observing how this wine matures in the cellar; 88+/88+.

2004 McCrea, Rosé of Mourvèdre, Ciel du Cheval Vineyard, Red Mountain, Washington, $14. This copper-colored Rosé will make a dandy summer picnic wine. Aromas of strawberries, dried fruit and melon rind carry over to the palate in a soft, rounded package; 86/86.

2004 McCrea, Roussanne, Red Mountain, Washington, $22. Like their Viognier, this required a 24 hour decanting to open up. The nose displays lots of melon, with a touch of citrus and almond/nutty attributes. Crisp acidity adds to the lovely balance of the wine. Full bodied with flavors mirroring the nose, this one is a no-brainer for shellfish; 90/90.

2004 McCrea, Viognier, Red Mountain, Washington, $22. Light gold in color, the wine is very tight on the nose and palate. After decanting for 24 hours, the wine opened to reveal characteristic Viognier fruit with a distinctive peachy quality. This is more focused than and not as fat as prior offerings; 88/88.

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. The 2004 is due for release shortly; 87/88.

2004 Columbia Crest, Riesling, Columbia Valley, Washington, $8, 50,000 cases. Crisp, clean, simple and sweet, you'll find nuances of peaches, poached pears and honeysuckle throughout; 82/82.

2004 Kendall-Jackson, Riesling, Vintner's Reserve, California, $10. The 7 percent Gewurztraminer and 5 percent Viognier mixed into this wine are quite obvious. Apricot and honeysuckle nuances carry throughout this crisp, off-dry wine. Perfect for a picnic; 82/82.

2003 Madroña, Dry Riesling, El Dorado, California, $12, 332 cases. This straw-gold Riesling displays aromas of pineapples, citrus fruit, honey and floral notes. You'll find a soft presentation, with good intensity of fruit that mirrors the nose. Unlike many wines that say ‘dry,' this one is really bone dry; 87/88.

2004 Snoqualmie, Riesling, Winemaker's Select, Columbia Valley, Washington, $7, 15,000 cases. You'll find apricots and pears on the nose that expand to honey, pear and peach flavors, all in a soft, sweet package; 82/82.

Rioja wine glass

2001 Campo Viejo, Crianza, Rioja D.O.Ca., Spain, $10. Sporting nice balance of acids, fruit and wood, this light-bodied Tempranillo is smooth as silk. Enjoy early on for the blackberries, spice and sandalwood; 84/86

1999 Campo Viejo, Reserva, Rioja D.O.Ca., Spain, $13. You'll find mixed berries, vanilla and toasted oak across the spectrum. The wine is very crisp and lean, with modest tannins. Pair with tomato-based dishes; 85/87.

1997 Campo Viejo, Gran Reserva, Rioja D.O.Ca., Spain, $20. Baked plums, warm spices and wood notes highlight the nose. This well-balanced Rioja is very spicy on the entry, with ripe fruit and raisiny notes; 86/86.

Sauvignon Blanc wine glass

2003 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Sauvignon Blanc, Horse Heaven Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Washington, $15, 20,000 cases. Showing less wood than previous offerings, this is a welcomed change. The citrus fruit is allowed to show itself while crisp acids breathe life into the wine; 88/88.

2004 Drylands, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand, $15, 9,200 cases. I have a weakness for NZ SBs. This one is loaded with jalapeno, tropical fruit and grapefruit on the nose, whereas the palate is dominated by tropical fruit and citrus flavors that linger for some time; 88/89.

2003 Dynamite, Sauvignon Blanc, Lake County, California, $11, 5,016 cases. Straw colored with aromas of tropical fruit, citrus and melons. Easy on the palate, the straightforward fruit echoes the nose; 83/83.

2004 Monkey Bay, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand, $10. The bouquet is a nice blend of citrus, tropical fruit and jalapeno/capsicum notes. Crisp and refreshing, the flavors mirror the nose; 85/86.

Sparkling Wine wine glass

NV Korbel, Brut Rosé, California Champagne, $11. Pinkish/bronze in color, with aromas of sand plums and raspberries. Tart with a medium bead, the straightforward fruit mirrors the nose; 84/84.

Syrah wine glass

2001 Bridlewood, Syrah, Central Coast, California, $19, 9,000 cases. Crisp, with nice tannin structure, this deep ruby wine displays a host of aromas and flavors - berries, chocolate, cedar and a touch of smoked meat; 86/86.

2002 Kendall-Jackson, Syrah, Vintner's Reserve, California, $12. Smoky and meaty on the nose, this medium-bodied Syrah is simple but tasty, with nice balance and cherry/berry fruit; 83/84.

2003 McCrea, Syrah, Washington State, $25. Black fruit, cedar and pipe tobacco notes make for a delightful bouquet. Silky and plush on the palate, the tannins stiffen on the finish. Blackberries, cedar and vanilla flavors are lifted by the bright acids; 88/88.

Pedroncelli 2002 Pedroncelli, Syrah, Dry Creek Valley, California, $14, 585 cases. Deeply hued, with aromas of mixed berries, dill spice and vanilla. The wine is easy to drink and shows a lot of fruit and wood; 84/85.

2002 Snoqualmie, Syrah, Reserve, Columbia Valley, Washington, $23, 1,200 cases. Sporting a purple hue, the wine gives off aromas of plums, blueberries and American oak. Big and bold in the mouth, the plums and blueberries do a repeat performance, along with mocha and sweet oak flavors; 87/87.

2002 Tintara, Shiraz, McLaren Vale, South Australia, $18, 12,300 cases. This is a full, very smooth Shiraz with a host of adjectives attached - black cherries, blueberries, spice, chocolate, mint and cedar. The bright acidity gives zip to the wine; 88/90.

2003 Turner Road, Shiraz, Lodi, California, $11. This easy drinker shows straightforward plums, berries and smoke on the palate and nose, with crisp acidity and easy-going tannins; 83/84.

Zinfandel wine glass

2003 Cosentino, Zinfandel, The Zin, California, $30, 5,295 cases. This deep ruby Zin emits lovely scents of raspberries, cherries, milk chocolate and vanilla. Crisp and moderately tannic, the jammy, brambly fruit delivers quite a punch, with a touch of raisins on the finish; 85/85.

2003 Dynamite, Zinfandel, Mendocino County, California, $17, 4,100 cases. Light to medium bodied with moderate tannins, the aromas and flavors are a nice blend of berry jam, brambly plums, vanilla and American oak, all supported by bright acidity; 85/85.

2002 Estancia, Zinfandel, Keyes Canyon Vineyard, Paso Robles, California, $12, 7,500 cases. Raspberries, blackberries, chocolate and oak intermingle on the nose. Crisp acidity and modest tannins give support to the jammy berry flavors; 84/86.

2002 Kendall-Jackson, Zinfandel, Vintner's Reserve, California, $12. This light-bodied Zin is simple, well balanced and easy to drink right now for the spicy berry fruit; 83/84.

Pedroncelli 2003 Madroña, Zinfandel, El Dorado, California, $16, 1,341 cases. This is your Port style of Zinfandel - lots of jammy fruit and lots of alcohol (15.2 percent). You're going to need some BBQ ribs to help tame this bad boy. Strawberries, raspberries and cherries linger on the palate; 86/88.

2004 Pedroncelli, Zinfandel Rosé, Sonoma County, California, $8, 2,100 cases. Watermelon in color, this Rosé will make a dandy picnic wine with its delicate sweetness and crisp acids. You should drink this over the next year for the refreshing red cherry, citrus and red currant fruit; 86/88.

2001 Villa Mt. Eden, Zinfandel, Grand Reserve, Mead Ranch, Napa Valley, California, $22, 1,000 cases. Here's an appealing Zin with nice acidity and brambly fruit. Blackberry jam, toffee, pomegranates and cracked pepper evolve in the mouth, finishing with mixed berries that linger for some time; 88/88.

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