Bucko's New Releases

© 2006 by Randy Buckner
April 2006

Spring 2006 Releases

Almost 40 percent of the wines this month hail from Washington State. I recently attended Taste Washington. The event is well worth the effort. It is sensory overload to the max.

While I munched on scrumptious appetizers from the 2005 Washington Wine Restaurant Award winners, I had the opportunity to sample more than 700 wines from the 190 attending wineries. Obviously I had to be selective. Several world-class wines stood out from the pack.

When you purchase your next New World Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, or Syrah, don't forget about Washington State offerings.

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.

Cabernet Sauvignon wine glass

2004 Angove's, Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra, South Australia, $20. Very minty on the nose, with black fruit and cigar notes underscoring the wine. Blackberries and mint unfold on the palate, backed by modest tannins and bright acidity; 85/86.

2003 Beaulieu Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, $18, 96,000 cases. Aromas of black fruit, chocolate, and herbs radiate from this ruby-red wine. Drying tannins detract at the moment - age for a minimum of two to three years; 83/83.

2003 Beaulieu Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford, California, $25, 60,000 cases. You'll find a host of black cherry, cocoa, and American oak notes. Medium to full in intensity, the wine has generous fruit flavors and very generous tannins. Age for three to four years to help soften these tannins; 84/84.

2003 Betz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Père de Famille, Columbia Valley, Washington, $50. Most of the fruit comes from Red Mountain, giving the wine clout, as well as generous but supple tannins. Full and lush in the mouth, you'll find a mélange of flavors, ranging from currants and black cherries to leather and tobacco nuances; 91/91.

2002 CE2V (Cosentino), Meritage, Napa Valley, California, $100, 259 cases. Generous fruit and very generous oak aromas greet the nose, with nuances of licorice and herbs. Chewy tannins and heat from the 14.8 percent alcohol detracts. Layered fruit battles with the heavy-handed oak for attention; 83/80.

2003 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Cabernet Sauvignon, Indian Wells, Columbia Valley, Washington, $17, 21,000 cases. Black fruit, American oak, dark chocolate, and vanilla all combine to make a pleasant enough drink. Soft tannins make for early consumption; 84/85.

2002 Columbia Crest, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grand Estates, Columbia Valley, Washington, $11, 97,000 cases. Black cherries, cocoa and strawberry jam aromas underscore the nose. Medium bodied, with modest tannins, the wine is showing a lot of American oak notes. The fruit drops off quickly; 82/82.

2003 Covey Run, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington, $9, 18,193 cases. The wine is defined by berries, cherry cola, vanilla and oak. While simple, with drying tannins, it should complement grilled burgers; 81/81.

2003 DeLille Cellars, Chaleur Estate, Red Mountain, Washington, $68. Massive is the best way to describe this wine. While it is pretty oaky, the deep, lovely fruit more than carries it. The finish is endless; 91/90.

2003 DeLille, Harrison Hill, Yakima Valley, Washington, $68. The fruit for this wine comes from Washington's second oldest vineyard. Full and juicy in the mouth, the mixed red and black fruit finishes long and lush. Silky tannins add grace; 90/89.

2003 Gallo Family Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma Reserve, Sonoma County, California, $15. Aromas and flavors reveal black cherries, currants, and generous oak. The tannins are firm and drying; 83/84.

2003 Kendall-Jackson, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grand Reserve, Sonoma County/Napa County, California, $26. Blackberry, currant and tobacco leaf aromas repeat on the palate. The tannins beg for two to three years in the cellar; 85/85.

2002 Lake Sonoma, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, California, $22, 3,000 cases. The nose is a delightful mix of black cherries, mint, and American oak. Smooth tannins and juicy black fruits make this an easy one to drink now; 85/85.

2002 Mount Veeder Winery, Reserve, Napa Valley, California, $80, 2,000 cases. This deep ruby wine displays black fruit, smoke, and cedar aromas. It is full bodied, tight and very tannic at present, with plum and coffee flavors; 86/84.

2003 Napa Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley California, $25. While very fruity, with blackberry, chocolate and cedary notes, the tannins are bold and drying which detracts from the wine; 83/83.

2003 Sebastiani, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, California, $17, 64,000 cases. Blackberry and dark chocolate aromas struggle to be noticed over the heavy oak influence. Oak tends to overwhelm the palate as well; 80/80.

2003 Silver Lake, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington, $11, 4,500 cases. It's tough to be kind to this wine - it is disjointed, straightforward and tannic - just passable at eleven bucks; 80/80.

2003 Three Rivers Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Champoux Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Washington, $50, 304 cases. Purple/red in color and packed with cassis, black cherry, and toasty oak aromas. Intense fruit unfolds on the palate, then Wham! - tannins dance a tango on your tongue. Put this in your cellar and forget about it for at least five years. Will they ever tame down? Judgment reserved.

2003 Three Rivers Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington, $19, 1,876 cases. A little heavy handed with the oak here, nevertheless the blackberry fruit and dark chocolate nuances make their presence known. Tannins demand cellaring for a few years; 86/88.

2003 TwoTone Farm, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, $10, 4,850 cases. This well-balanced, simple quaffer should be opened early on for the cherry, raspberry, and cola notes; 82/82.

Chardonnay wine glass

2005 Angove's, Chardonnay, Limestone Coast, South Australia, $17, 1,000 cases. The heavy oak aromas obscure all else. Oak is predominant on the palate as well, but a little pear, peach and melon manages to shine through; 83/83.

2004 Avery Lane, Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Washington, $7, 8,500 cases. Light, simple and quaffable, you'll find green apple, vanilla and toasty oak notes; 80/80.

2004 CE2V (Cosentino), Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California, $40, 370 cases. The nose is a mix of pears, apples, lees, and French oak. Oak overwhelms the palate with green, woody tastes. Passable at best; 80/80.

2004 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Chardonnay, Cold Creek Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Washington, $22, 3,600 cases. The nose is a mix of citrus, pineapple and generous oak notes. Soft, creamy and buttery, with modest fruit under the wood; 84/84.

2004 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Chardonnay, Ethos, Columbia Valley, Washington, $30, 1,200 cases. This light gold wine has an intriguing nose of butterscotch, citrus and floral notes. Impeccably balanced and elegant on the entry, the wood wins out over the fruit flavors; 86/86.

2003 Columbia Crest, Chardonnay, Two Vines, Columbia Valley, Washington, $8. Lemon curd, melon and oak scents define the nose. Made for near-term drinking, the flavors echo the aromas. Straightforward but pleasant; 83/84.

2004 Cosentino Winery, Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California, $28, 1,553 cases. Sporting baked pears, butter and oak notes, this wine is very crisp, but showing some heat from the 14.6 percent alcohol; 85/85.

2004 Gallo Family Vineyards, Chardonnay, Sonoma Reserve, Sonoma County, California, $13. This easy drinker has aromas and flavors of melons, citrus peel and oak, presented in a medium-bodied, well-balanced package; 84/85.

2004 Kendall-Jackson, Chardonnay, Grand Estates, California, $20. This light gold wine displays generous apple, pear and butter cream aromas. Creamy and spicy in the mouth, the medium to full flavors mirror the nose; 87/87.

2003 Madroña Vineyards, Chardonnay, 30th Anniversary, El Dorado County, California, $36, 25 cases. Rich apple fruit, butterscotch, and lemon cream nuances cascade across the senses. The wine is round and lush, but a little too soft; 86/86.

2004 Napa Cellars, Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California, $22. Aromas and flavors showcase pears, apples, and spicy oak. The wine is well balanced and round, with a lengthy lemony finish; 85/85.

2004 Silver Lake, Chardonnay, Reserve, Columbia Valley, Washington, $11, 982 cases. Toasty oak and coconut dominates the nose and palate. Some muted apple fruit makes an attempt at recognition. Passable at the price point; 80/80.

2004 TwoTone Farm, Chardonnay, California, $10, 10,300 cases. Light gold in color with a green tinge. Nuances of green apples, pineapples, and citrus zest delineate the aroma and flavor profiles. Oak is held in check; 84/86.

Gewürztraminer wine glass

2005 Avery Lane, Gewürztraminer, Columbia Valley, Washington, $7, 1,866 cases. Pear fruit and a little bit of spice defines this straightforward wine. Soft, simple, and passable at best; 80/80.

2005 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Gewürztraminer, Columbia Valley, Washington, $9, 72,000 cases. Peaches and honeysuckle define the aroma/flavor profile. The wine is soft, off-dry, with just enough acidity to get a passing grade. Great picnic wine; 83/83.

2004 Columbia Crest, Gewürztraminer, Two Vines, Columbia Valley, Washington, $8. You'll find peach and citrus notes, but none of the Gewurzt spiciness. The soft acidity does not do justice to the 2.94 percent residual sugar; 80/80.

2005 Three Rivers Winery, Late Harvest Gewürztraminer, Biscuit Ridge Vineyard, Walla Walla Valley, Washington, $15 (375 ml). Lychee and tropical fruit aromas abound. The wine is soft, sweet (nine percent residual sugar), with generous flavors unfolding at length. With more acidity to balance out the sugar, this would be a killer; 84/85.

Grenache wine glass

2004 Red Knot, Cadenzia Grenache, McLaren Vale, Australia, $12. This simple quaffer offers up ripe berry fruit and dark chocolate across the board; 80/80.

2004 Shingleback, Grenache, McLaren Vale, Australia, $15. Aromas of ripe berries and vanilla highlight the nose. This well-balanced offering has soft tannins and straightforward cherry/berry flavors; 83/83.

Italian wine glasswine glass

2004 Alois Lageder, Pinot Bianco, Weissburgunder, Alto Adige, Italy, $14. Winemaking has been a part of the Lageder family's history for over 150 years. The winery's vineyards benefit from both Alpine and Mediterranean influences. This wine is straw colored, with a green tinge to it. Melons and floral notes prevail on the nose. It is light bodied, viscous, with soft acidity - serve with creamy cheeses. 85/87.

2004 Alois Lageder, Pinot Grigio, Benefizium Porer, Alto Adige, Italy, $20. Aromas of musk melons, citrus peel and caramels radiate from this straw-colored wine. Light and lively in the mouth, the wine delivers a nice sense of fruitiness and length; 86/86.

2004 Ecco Domani, Chianti D.O.C.G., Italy, $11. Tart red cherries, aged wood, warm spices and peppery notes ride on a framework of crisp acids and modest tannins; 84/85.

2004 Ecco Domani, Merlot, IGT delle Venezie, Italy, $11. This deep ruby wine has distinct herbal notes highlighting the black fruit, spice and wormwood aromas and flavors; 84/85.

2003 Inama, Soave Classico, Vin Soave, Veneto, Italy, $13. Stefano Inama states, "Most people in the world want predictable wines. I want to make wines that are different, and wines that taste different from year to year." This is a serious Soave. The delicate aromas reveal citrus blossoms and tangerines, which follow through on the palate as well, augmented by a hint of almonds. Full, crisp, and delicately sweet, this will pair well with mild cheeses and white fish; 87/90.

2003 Marco Felluga, Bianco, Molamatta, DOC Collio, Italy, $16. The origins of the Felluga winegrowing dynasty can be traced back to 1890 in the Istria region. The family moved to the seaside town of Grado, Italy in 1920. This full-bodied wine shows delightful balance. Aromas and flavors speak of honeydew melons, tropical fruit, and a touch of cotton candy; 88/90.

2004 Russiz Superiore (Felluga), Pinot Grigio, DOC Collio, Italy, $20. You'll appreciate floral notes upfront, with a tad of musk and citrus zest. The wine is soft, with a lingering finish, and should pair well with a risotto; 86/86.

Merlot wine glass

2003 Basel Cellars, Red Wine, Walla Walla Valley, Washington, $36. A 56/44 blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Aromas and flavors of plums, raspberries, cinnamon, and mocha are backed up by silky-smooth tannins. An impressive effort; 90/90.

2003 Beaulieu Vineyard, Merlot, Napa Valley, California, $18, 37,000 cases. Black cherries, anise, and American oak intermingle on the nose. Straightforward but tasty. The soft tannins allow for early consumption; 83/83.

2002 Columbia Crest, Merlot, Two Vines, Columbia Valley, Washington, $8, 235,000 cases. Blackberry and American oak aromas are upfront, with a subtle nuance of raspberries. Well balanced and surprisingly fruity for the price class, this is one of those "buy by the case" party wines; 84/87.

2003 Gallo Family Vineyards, Merlot, Sonoma Reserve, Sonoma County, California, $13. The wine is underscored by berries, herbs, vanilla, and cedar shavings. Tannins are a bit chewy, but it should be fine with a beef roast; 83/84.

2003 Kendall-Jackson, Merlot, Grand Reserve, California, $26. Plums, berries, dark chocolate and oak highlight the nose. The wine is very polished on the entry, with flavors that mirror the aromas. Tannins are generous but rounded; 86/86.

2002 Kenwood Vineyards, Merlot, Reserve, Sonoma Valley, California, $25, 2,100 cases. Plums, ripe berries and cedar are presented in a medium-bodied, well-balanced package; 85/85.

2002 Napa Cellars, Merlot, Napa Valley, California, $20. Aromas of plums, chocolate, coffee, and leather intermingle on the nose and then carry over to the palate. Tannins are firm and drying; 83/83.

2002 Sebastiani, Merlot, Sonoma County, California, $17, 41,000 cases. The nose is filled with blueberries, blackberries, dark chocolate and oak aromas. Oak is even more prominent on the palate, to the exclusion of all else; 80/80.

2003 Three Rivers Winery, Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington, $19, 1,840 cases. Black cherry, mocha and barrel notes combine to make a pleasant bouquet. Full, generous fruit flavors greet the palate. Tannins are apparent but ripe; 88/90.

Miscellaneous wine glasswine glass

2004 Bonny Doon, Big House Red, California, $10. This multi-variety blend gives off aromas and flavors of European plums, black cherries, and dried herbs. The tannins are pretty chewy, so serve it with BBQ or pizza; 83/83.

2004 Bonny Doon, Big House White, California, $10. This blend provides quite a mélange of aromas and flavors, ranging from melons to lemon zest. Rounded in the mouth, with a touch of nuttiness, this should pair well with seafood; 85/87.

2005 Bonny Doon, Vin Gris de Cigare, California, $12. Very aromatic, with herbs, flowers and cranberries taking the forefront. The wine is rich and well balanced in the mouth, with flavors of red cherries, raspberries and garrigue; 89/90.

2004 Brian Carter Cellars, Oriana, Yakima Valley, Washington, $24, 270 cases. An unusual but pleasant blend of Roussanne, Riesling and Viognier is presented in crisp package with threshold sweetness. Lots of terpenes delight the taste buds; 88/88.

2003 Buty, Rediviva of the Stones, Walla Walla Valley, Washington, $40. Sporting a deep ruby color, this is a very fruit-forward wine. Mixed red and black fruits are backed by silky-smooth tannins and balanced acidity. Prime rib time; 90/90.

2005 Ca' del Solo, Big House Pink, California, $10. Flamingo pink in color, with lovely strawberry and guava aromas. Soft, clean and delicately fruity, this should be served with dishes such as grilled shrimp; 84/85.

2005 Ca' del Solo, Malvasia Bianca, Central Coast, California, $13. This straw-colored wine is extremely aromatic - lots of terpenes. It is full, round and crisp, with lots of exotic spices and fruits. Pair with Thai spring rolls; 88/90.

2005 Cougar Crest Winery, Viognier, Walla Walla Valley, Washington, $20, 735 cases. You'll appreciate floral characteristics on the nose and palate, enhanced by generous pear and honeysuckle notes. The acidity level begs for Asian food; 89/90.

2003 Crystal Valley Cellars, Cabernet Franc, California, $18, 505 cases. The wine is defined by liqueur-like black fruit, leather and oak. It is balanced and jammy, with supple tannins; 85/86.

2004 Crystal Valley Cellars, Tempranillo, Lodi, California, $18, 240 cases. Heavy oak on the nose and palate buries the black fruit and spice; 80/80.

2003 Cosentino Winery, Petite Sirah, Knoll Family Vineyard, Lodi, California, $27, 362 cases. This inky beast has very ripe black fruit aromas, with a hint of dark chocolate. The wine is very fruity and peppery, with well-harnessed tannins; 87/87.

2004 Jade Mountain, La Provençale, California, $20, 2,686 cases. This blend of four Rhone grapes is well balanced overall. It is ready to drink right now for the lush raspberry fruit and spicy white pepper notes; 86/87.

2004 Jade Mountain, Mourvèdre, Contra Costa County, California, $20, 1,526 cases. Raspberry and cranberry fruit underscores the nose. While fruity, the wine seems tight and one-dimensional at present. I think it has potential with aging; 85/85.

2002 Rosemount Estate, GSM, McLaren Vale, Australia, $30. A blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre. The nose is a delightful mix of crushed blackberries, mint leaf, and vanilla spice. Smooth tannins give balance to the ripe black fruit. Pair with beef or game; 87/87.

2005 Screwed, Pink Wine, McLaren Vale, Australia, $10, 2,500 cases. Burnt orange in color, with aromas of cranberries and cherries. The wine is off-dry, simple, but very quaffable with a burger or sub sandwich; 81/81.

2004 Screwed, Red Wine, McLaren Vale, Australia, $10, 5,000 cases. Quite simple, very crisp, with mixed berries, vanilla and mushrooms - passable for the price point; 80/80.

2005 Screwed, White Wine, McLaren Vale, Australia, $10, 2,700 cases. Apples, figs, and a twist of citrus give a little character to the wine. While straightforward, the wine is very drinkable - think clam bake; 83/83.

2004 Sebastiani, Barbera, Sonoma Valley, California, $24, 2,100 cases. Purple/red in color. The oak overwhelms the underlying fruit, both on the nose and palate - I don't know if it will ever come around; 80/80.

2003 Solo, Utiel-Requena, Spain, $20, 3,333 cases. An unusual blend of Tempranillo, Bobal, and Shiraz. Aromas speak of plums, black cherries, and sandalwood. Firm, drying tannins detract from the fruit flavors. Will the age out? 82/82.

2003 Three Rivers Winery, River's Red, Red Table Wine, Columbia Valley, Washington, $15, 1,344 cases. Think cherry pie, toasty oak, and coffee here. This straightforward blend is moderately tannic and should make a good BBQ wine; 83/84.

2004 Three Rivers Winery, White Meritage, Columbia Valley, Washington, $19, 884 cases. Toasty French oak is upfront, with melon and citrus accents. Full, round, and crisp, the finish lingers effortlessly. Somewhat one-dimensional; 84/84.

Pinot Noir wine glass

2004 Gallo Family Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Sonoma Reserve, Sonoma County, California, $15. A mix of red and black fruits, tea, and mushrooms underscores the wine, which is backed by crisp acids and food-friendly tannins; 84/85.

2004 Kenwood Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Reserve, Russian River Valley, California, $25, 1,500 cases. The nose reveals red berries and warm spices, while the palate shows raspberries, strawberries, and oak spice. Lightly structured with excellent balance; 86/86.

2004 The Little Penguin, Pinot Noir, South Eastern Australia, $8, 54,000 cases imported. This simple little quaffer is certainly acceptable given the eight-buck SRP, and is highlighted by red fruit, spice and menthol notes; 80/80.

Riesling wine glass

2005 Angove's, Riesling, Clare Valley, South Australia, $17. No oak is used in this wine, which allows the pure lemon-lime and peach aromas to express themselves. Crisp, clean and lean, the flavors echo the nose. A dose of minerality rounds out the wine; 86/86.

2005 Avery Lane, Riesling, Columbia Valley, Washington, $7, 2,067 cases. Here's a simple summer quaffer at a fair price. Light, off-dry, with floral notes, candied peaches and apricots; 82/82.

2005 Kendall-Jackson, Riesling, Vintner's Reserve, California, $10. You'll find nuances of apricots, honeysuckle, and tangerines in a soft, straightforward quaffer for the poolside; 83/83.

2005 Silver Lake, Riesling, Roza, Columbia Valley, Washington, $9, 9,000 cases. Sweet at 5.9 percent residual sugar, with ripe fruit and floral notes intermixed. While it could stand more acidity, it is not cloying; 83/84.

2004 Struktur, Riesling, Mosel Saar Ruwer, Germany, $17, 6,000 cases. Off-dry (2.51 percent residual sugar), crisp, and lean, the minerality here is quite refreshing. White peaches, citrus peel, and floral notes linger for some time; 87/87.

Rosé wine glass

2004 Shingleback, Grenache Rosé, McLaren Vale, Australia, $15. Sporting a pomegranate color, the aromas are reminiscent of fresh berries with a dash of herbs. The wine is soft, medium bodied, and has threshold sweetness - an uncomplicated summer sipper to enjoy by the pool; 84/84.

2005 Three Rivers Winery, Estate Rosé, Walla Walla Valley, Washington, $13, 400 cases. A lovely copper/pink color pleases the eye. This Rosé, made exclusively from Cabernet Franc grapes, exudes grapefruit, cranberries, and pomegranates. Soft, round, and ever so easy to drink, this is a perfect picnic wine; 86/87.

Sauvignon Blanc wine glass

2005 Angove's, Sauvignon Blanc, Adelaide Hills, South Australia, $17, 500 cases. No oak is used in the winemaking process. Very grassy on the nose and palate, with expressive mango fruit; 85/85.

2004 Columbia Crest, Sauvignon Blanc, Two Vines, Columbia Valley, Washington, $8, 20,000 cases. Light straw in color, this simple summer sipper displays grassy notes and citrus peel nuances; 81/81.

2005 Drylands, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand, $14. This is not your tropical fruit style of Sauvignon Blanc. It is lean, crisp, and vibrant, with gooseberry and lemon accents. This is made for shellfish; 89/90.

2004 Snoqualmie Vineyards, Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Valley, Washington, $7, 10,000 cases. Light, simple and quaffable for the melon and grapefruit notes; 80/80.

Syrah wine glass

2004 Angove's, Shiraz, McLaren Vale, South Australia, $20, 1,000 cases. Brambly red fruit and American oak highlight the aromas. The wine is medium bodied, with juicy fruit flavors made in an easy-drinking style; 85/86.

2003 Basel Cellars, Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, Washington, $42 dollars. The bouquet is a lovely mix of blueberries and floral notes. Silky tannins introduce the red berry flavors. Expressive and not overstated; 90/90.

2003 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Syrah, Ethos, Columbia Valley, Washington, $29, 600 cases. Blue and black fruit aromas are augmented by a lovely smoky gaminess. The wine is full and juicy in the mouth, but a little heavy handed with the oak; 86/86.

2003 Covey Run, Syrah, Columbia Valley, Washington, $9, 25,227 cases. The nose is a mix of berry fruit, smoke and dark chocolate. Soft, simple, and quaffable, I'd drink this one over the short term with grilled foods; 82/82.

2002 Forgeron, Syrah, Columbia Valley, Washington, $30, 700 cases. This is a lush, fruity wine with soft tannins. Nice meaty aromas and flavors are augmented by blackberries and blueberries, finishing seamlessly. Tasted twice with similar notes; 91/91.

2003 McCrea, Syrah, Boushey Grande Côte Vineyard, Yakima Valley, Washington, $43, 172 cases. Very lush and fruit forward, this one pushes the limits of ripeness without stepping over the line. Fruit, tannins and acids all sing in harmony, finishing with a long, complex aftertaste; 91/91.

2003 Three Rivers Winery, Syrah, Ahler Vineyard, Walla Walla Valley, Washington, $39, 190 cases. Lots of juicy fruit and smoky cedar greets the nose. Full and ripe in the mouth, however the tannins are bold and drying. This needs a lot of cellar time to hopefully resolve some of the tannins. Judgment reserved.

2003 Three Rivers Winery, Syrah, Columbia Valley, Washington, $24, 1,258 cases. The nose presents rich black fruit and smoky nuances. Full on the palate, with modest tannins, the wine is tasty but one-dimensional - it will pair well with BBQ; 85/86.

Zinfandel wine glass

2003 Madroña Vineyards, Zinfandel, 30th Anniversary, El Dorado, California, $38, 104 cases. Balanced and drinkable now, you'll find lots of currants and Bing cherries, with a dash of pepper; 86/85.

2003 Napa Cellars, Zinfandel, Napa Valley, California, $20. Ripe briary black fruit and pepper carries from the nose to the mouth. Hard tannins detract a bit, but it should be fine with BBQ; 85/85.

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