© 2009 by Randy Buckner
Spring has been teasing us in the Pacific Northwest, but it is in full force in other parts of the Northern Hemisphere. With the warm weather come the chores - clean off the deck and clean out the grill.
It's time to start charcoaling those steaks and smoking that brisket. My favorite is pork ribs with a sweet tomato-based sauce. This is one time I reach for the Zinfandel above all else.
This month we have several heavy-hitter Zinfandels for your review, as well as numerous light, crisp whites to sip on while waiting on the meat to cook. Enjoy.
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. All wines are tasted from Riedel Vinum glasses after breathing for one hour. 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.
2006 Beringer, Cabernet Sauvignon, Knights Valley, California, $27. The nose shows a nice mix of berries, cedar shavings and dusty earth, however generous drying tannins overwhelm this wine - will they ever come into balance? 83/83.
2006 Bogle, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, $11. Light and fruity, with modest tannins, this value wine offers black cherry, mint and tobacco nuances; 84/87.
2006 Charles Krug, Cabernet Sauvignon, Yountville-Napa Valley, California, $27, 50,204 cases. Defined by cassis, black cherries, coffee and coconut, the wine is elegant, with polished tannins and nice complexity; 88/88.
2005 Clos Du Bois, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Alexander Valley, California, $20, 30,000 cases. Dill spice, tobacco, oak, plums and blackberries unfold on the nose and palate. Tannins are very approachable; 84/84.
2006 Dancing Bull, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, $12. The wine is soft and fruity, with silky tannins. Underscored by cassis, chocolate, vanilla and brown sugar, this will make a nice grilled burger wine; 84/86.
2004 Dry Creek, Cabernet Sauvignon, Endeavour, Dry Creek Valley, California, $55, 749 cases. This deeply-hued wine gives off aromas and flavors of mixed berries, licorice, cedar and vanilla, riding on a medium framework with well-managed tannins; 87/86.
2005 Dry Creek, Meritage Red Wine, The Mariner, Dry Creek Valley, California, $40, 4,625 cases. Underscored by berries, chocolate, tobacco and cedar, the wine is crisp, with firm drying tannins; 85/84.
2006 Festival 34, Cabernet Sauvignon, Central Coast, California, $13. This is a simple, fruit-forward wine with manageable tannins. Drink early on for the plum and red cherry fruit; 83/85.
2007 Lindemans, Cabernet Sauvignon, Bin 45, South Eastern Australia, $8. Juicy berries, dark chocolate, oak and mint unfold on the nose and palate. A value quaffer for those burgers; 84/87.
2005 Lindemans, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Coonawarra, Australia, $10. Here's another value wine from Lindemans. Berries and dusty earth aromas follow through on the palate. This medium-bodied wine went well with grilled chops; 85/88.
2006 Ravenswood, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, California, $15, 14,000 cases. This straightforward wine is highlighted by cassis, dark chocolate and spicy notes. Coarse-grained tannins detract; 83/84.
2007 Robert Mondavi, Cabernet Sauvignon, Private Selection, California, $11. Cassis, black cherries and French oak nuances unfold on the nose and palate. Smooth and fruity, this is an excellent value; 84/87.
2006 Robert Mondavi, Meritage, Private Selection, California, $11. Here's another value wine from Mondavi offering black cherries, plums and cedar in a smooth, fruity package; 84/87.
2006 Solaire (by Robert Mondavi), Cabernet Sauvignon, Central Coast, California, $17. While the wine offers nice plum, cassis cedar and vanilla aromas and flavors, the tannins are clunky; 83/84.
2006 Trinity Oaks, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, $10, 20,000 cases. This simple burger wine offers green olive, cedar and black cherry notes; 82/83.
2006 Byron, Chardonnay, Historic Vines, Santa Maria Valley, California, $35, 90 cases. Citrus, white peach and French oak aromas arise from this golden beauty. Like their Nielson bottling, this wine is very harmonious, but shows more depth of fruit; 92/92.
2006 Byron, Chardonnay, Nielson Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley, California, $27, 199 cases. Light gold in color, with limes, minerals, tropicals and French oak throughout. The wine is very crisp and harmonious - they used a deft hand with the oak. This is perfect foil for cracked crab and drawn butter; 90/91.
2007 Clos Du Bois, Chardonnay, Sonoma Reserve, Russian River Valley, California, $17, 60,000 cases. Aromas and flavors speak of smoky oak, butter, pears and orange spice. Soft and creamy; 85/86.
2007 Cuvaison Chardonnay, Napa Valley, Carneros, California, $24. Nuances of citrus peel and peaches carry from the nose to the palate, with a slightly bitter bite on the finish; 85/85.
2006 Cuvaison Chardonnay, S Block, Napa Valley, Carneros, California, $36. Stone fruit and flower blossoms grace the nose. Creamy and elegant on the entry, the flavors reveal melons and toasty oak; 86/85.
2007 Dancing Bull, Chardonnay, California, $12. Fruit forward, with peach and coconut highlights, this balanced, simple, fruity wine is very quaffable; 84/85.
2006 Dry Creek, DCV 10 Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, California, $30, 970 cases. Pears, figs, toasty oak and butter are underscored on the nose and palate. Soft and creamy; 85/85.
2007 Festival 34, Chardonnay, Central Coast, California, $13. Here's a simple, clean fruit-driven Chardonnay that delivers green apple and citrus highlights. It'll make a nice summer quaffer; 84/86.
2007 French Maid, Chardonnay, Vin de Pays d'Oc, Languedoc-Roussillon, France, $13. This medium-bodied wine has nice complexity for the price class. Crisp and balanced, drink now for the peach and apricot fruit; 86/89.
2007 Kendall-Jackson, Chardonnay, Vintner's Reserve, California, $12. The bouquet has a nice mix of pears, mango and citrus notes. Simple, balanced and fruity - easy to drink now; 84/86.
2007 Meridian, Chardonnay, California, $10. This simple, fruity wine offers green apple, peach and pineapple fruit - a nice quaffer for the price; 83/85.
2007 Chardonnay, Valle Central, Chile. Well balanced, straightforward and quaffable, the wine is underscored by smoky oak, butter and stone fruit nuances; 83/85.
2006 Ravenswood, Chardonnay, Sonoma County, California, $15, 25,000 cases. Nuances of tropical fruits, butter and toasted oak carry from the nose to the palate. Balanced and fruity - good value; 85/87.
2006 Robert Mondavi, Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California, $20. Lots of adjectives describe this wine - smooth, balanced, harmonious. Deft use of oak allows the pear and peach fruit to shine; 88/90.
2007 Rusack, Chardonnay, Santa Barbara County, California, $23, 1,822 cases. Very crisp, balanced and buttery, with white peach, melon, pear and French oak notes; 88/89.
2007 Rusack, Chardonnay, Reserve, Santa Maria Valley, California, $32, 312 cases. Highlighted by pineapples, lemons and green apples, this is a crisp, fruity, food-friendly wine that will complement many dishes; 89/89.
2007 7 Heavenly Chards (Michael-David), Chardonnay, Lodi, California, $17, 8,000 cases. Toasty oak and tropical fruits carry from nose to palate. Well balanced, but there's a bit of heat from the 14.5 percent alcohol; 85/86.
2007 Solaire (by Robert Mondavi), Chardonnay, Santa Lucia Highlands, California, $15. Showing nice complexity for the price class, this crisp wine offers citrus, pineapple and toasty oak highlights; 84/86.
2005 Dry Creek, Soleil, Sonoma County, California, $25 (375 ml), 780 cases. A 62/38 blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, with 10 percent residual sugar. Honey colored, with aromas of peaches and honey. The wine is creamy and sweet, with intense flavors mirroring the nose; 86/86.
2007 Fortress, Novateur, Red Hills, Lake County, California, $20 (375 ml), 447 cases. A 70/30 blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc, with 5.3 percent residual sugar. Light and sweet, the wine displays aromas and flavors of figs, pears, apricots and honey; 85/85.
2007 Confrérie des Vignerons Oisly & Thésée, Sauvignon Les Gourmets, Touraine, France, $NA. The nose has a nice mix of white peaches, citrus and a hint of herbaceousness. Crisp, refreshing and well balanced, this will go well with lemon chicken; 86/NA.
2007 Domaine de la Pépière (Marc Ollivier), Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine, Vieilles Vignes, Clos des Briords, France, $15. This straw-gold wine displays citrus and white flower aromas and flavors. Light, with bright acidity, this is the perfect foil for shellfish; 89/90.
2007 Domaine de la Rouletière, Vouvray Sec, France, $15. A delicate nose of stone fruit repeats on the palate. Light and balanced; 86/87.
2007 Henri Bourgeois, Sancerre, Grande Reserve, France, $25. This well-balanced wine is fruity, with melon and lemongrass aromas and flavors; 87/87.
2007 Diseño, Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina, $13. Cherries, chocolate and vanilla accents carry from the nose to the palate. Medium bodied and well balanced, this Malbec is very fruity; 86/88.
2006 La Linda, Malbec, Lujan de Cuyo, Argentina, $11. Cherries, berries and oak spice define the wine. Nicely balanced, with modest tannins, this is made for grilled meats; 84/86.
2006 Bogle, Merlot, California, $9. Highlighted by cherries, berries, herbs and tobacco, the wine is balanced and fruity, but tannins are firm; 83/85.
2005 Clos Du Bois, Merlot, Alexander Valley, California, $20, 15,000 cases. Dill spice, cedar, plums and berries unfold on the nose and palate, but the tannins are chewy; 83/83.
2006 Festival 34, Merlot, Central Coast, California, $15. Generous oak and drying tannins detract from the black cherry and plum fruit herein; 82/82.
2007 Beringer, Alluvium Blanc, Knights Valley, California, $16. You'll find toasty oak upfront, with underlying lemon and apricot nuances, all in a creamy, well-balanced package; 85/86.
2006 Beringer, Alluvium Red Table Wine, Knights Valley, California, $30. Cassis, berries and spicy cedar underscore the nose. Generous oak and drying tannins dominate the palate, with underlying currant and berry fruit; 83/82.
2007 Francis Coppola, Alicante Bouschet, Diamond Collection, Lodi, California, $16. Defined by raspberries, Baker's chocolate and spice, the wine is pretty polished for an Alicante. It has the power to stand up to summer grilled fare; 85/87.
2007 Lindemans, Shiraz Cabernet, Bin 55, South Eastern Australia, $8. Aromas of plums, black currants and mint leaf waft from the glass, and repeat on the palate. Enjoy this crisp, fruity quaffer with deck fare; 84/87.
2007 (oops), Cabernet Franc Carmenere, Valle Central, Chile, $12. Blackberries, cedar, menthol and vanilla nuances define this wine, but bitter tannins detract; 82/82.
2007 (oops), Carmenere, Valle Central, Chile, $12. Nuances of berries, cherries, floral notes and toasty oak cascade from the nose to the palate. A hint of earthiness adds character; 84/86.
2007 (oops), Carmenere Merlot, Valle Central, Chile, $12. Underscored by black cherries, vanilla and dusty earth notes, this straightforward, balanced wine will go well with casual foods such as grilled burgers; 83/84.
2005 Rancho Arroyo Grande, Deep Sea, Arroyo Grande Valley, California, $24, 327 cases. A blend of Syrah, Mourvèdre and Counoise. Meaty aromas are laced with black fruits and spice. Well balanced and easy to drink given its fine-grained tannins. You'll find little heat despite the 15.6 percent alcohol; 88/89.
2007 Rancho Arroyo Grande, Mourvèdre, Dry Farmed, Arroyo Grande Valley, California, $45, 125 cases. You'll find an intense nose of berries, earth and black peppercorns. Medium bodied and impeccably balanced, the wine shows no heat from its 15.75 percent alcohol; 91/91.
2007 Robert Mondavi, Riesling, Private Selection, Monterey County, California, $9. This crisp, off-dry Riesling is characterized by peach, citrus and spice highlights; 85/87.
N.V. Sokol Blosser, Evolution 12th Edition, Oregon, $15. This is a blend of nine grape varieties. The wine has a complex nose of tropical fruits, lemon curd and pears. It is balanced, fruity and easy to drink with lighter fare; 87/87.
N.V. Sokol Blosser, Meditrina 5, Oregon, $15. Defined by plums, cherries and cedar, the wine is simple but easy to drink with deck foods; 84/84.
2007 Trinity Oaks, Pinot Grigio, California, $10, 20,000 cases. Soft and simple, with melon and citrus nuances; 81/81.
2006 Bogle, Petite Sirah, California, $11. Dark berry aromas lead to flavors of mixed berries, toasty oak and coconut. The tannins are very manageable; 83/85.
2006 Rosenblum, Reserve Petite Sirah, Rockpile Road Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley, California, $45, 890 cases. Defined by mixed blue and black berries, vanilla beans and French oak, this wine is generous, fruity and tannic. It needs several years in the bottle; 88/87.
2006 Bogle, Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, California, $13. This value wine is light, crisp and flavorful, especially for the price class. Enjoy now for the strawberry, cherry, dark tea and mushroom highlights; 84/88.
2006 Byron, Pinot Noir, Bien Nacido Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley, California, $39, 862 cases. Elegant, crisp and fruity, this Pinot is laced with black cherry, brown sugar, spice and earthy notes that linger on the lengthy finish; 91/91.
2006 Byron, Pinot Noir, Monument, Santa Maria Valley, California, $60, 237 cases. A complex nose of cherries, cigar leaf and warm spices leads to an elegant, silky wine with sweet jammy fruit; 90/88.
2006 Byron, Pinot Noir, Nielson Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley, California, $28, 852 cases. Mixed red and black cherry aromas are augmented by brown sugar and dark tea accents. Medium bodied, elegant and fruity, with silky tannins, this is a terrific food wine; 90/91.
2006 Byron, Pinot Noir, Sierra Madre Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley, California, $40, 286 cases. This medium-ruby wine gives off aromas of plums, cherries, rose petals and earthy notes. Cherries and mushrooms explode on the palate - lots of depth and complexity here; 92/92.
2006 Clos Du Bois, Pinot Noir, Reserve, Sonoma Coast, California, $25, 5,000 cases. Aromas and flavors reveal berry, plum and currant accents, riding on a medium framework with modest tannins; 85/85.
2007 French Maid, Pinot Noir, Vin de Pays d'Oc, Languedoc-Roussillon, France, $13. Underscored by plums, raspberries and toasty oak, the wine is well balanced and very approachable. Excellent value; 85/88.
2008 Matua, Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand, $14. Light garnet in color with a perfume of crushed berries and dark tea. Light to medium bodied, with excellent balance, this will pair well with grilled Ahi tuna steaks; 86/89.
2007 Robert Mondavi, Pinot Noir, Private Selection, Central Coast, California, $11. Underscored by cherries, red berries and floral notes, this Pinot is medium bodied, polished and jammy; 84/87.
2007 Rusack, Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County, California, $30, 724 cases. Very aromatic - notes of strawberries, dark tea and rose petals abound. Smooth and crisp, the flavors mirror the nose; 88/88.
2007 Rusack, Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley, California, $36, 552 cases. Highlighted by black cherries, berries and toasty oak, the wine is smooth, elegant and fruity. The tannins will benefit from bottle time; 88/88.
2007 Rusack, Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills, California, $40, 552 cases. The nose is an interesting mix of black cherries, rhubarb and spicy oak. Crisp, fruity and tannic - give it a couple of years in the bottle; 89/89.
2007 Trinity Oaks, Pinot Noir, California, $10. This is a light, fruity quaffer to enjoy with grilled seafood. Enjoy now for the cherry and plum highlights; 83/85.
2007 Dancing Bull, Sauvignon Blanc, California, $12. Citrus, tropicals and a hint of grassiness unfolds on the nose and palate of this straightforward quaffer; 84/85.
2007 French Maid, Sauvignon Blanc, Vin de Pays d'Oc, Languedoc-Roussillon, France, $13. You'll find notes of limes and tropical fruits in this light, crisp, refreshing wine; 85/86.
2008 Matua, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand, $13. Crisp, refreshing and flavorful, enjoy the wine now for the citrus, tropical fruit and jalapeno nuances; 89/91.
2007 Robert Mondavi, Fume Blanc, Napa Valley, California, $20. Accents of lemongrass and orange blossoms carry from the nose to the palate of this crisp, dry Sauvignon; 87/87.
2008 Veramonte, Sauvignon Blanc, Casablanca Valley, Chile, $11, 70,000 cases imported. Herbaceous on the nose, with melon and citrus nuances. The wine is crisp, with lemon, stone fruit and herbs lingering on the finish; 84/85.
NV Ballatore, Gran Spumante, California, $8, 500,000 cases. Simple, sweet and fruity, the wine is characterized by white peaches and mandarin oranges; 80/80.
NV Ballatore, Rosso Red Spumante, California, $8, 75,000 cases. Watermelon in color, with berries and citrus aromas. Simple and sweet, with red berry flavors - a wine for the summer crowds where a sweet Rosé has its place; 80/80.
NV Lucien Albrecht, Brut, Blanc de Blancs, Crémant de Alsace, France, $21. An inviting nose of pineapples, citrus, pears and toasted cashews leads to a light, crisp sparkler with flavors echoing the aromas; 88/88.
NV Paul Cheneau, Brut, Cava, Spain, $14. Aromas speak of fresh sliced pears and tropical fruits. Crisp and dry in the mouth, with brioche, baked pears and toasted nuts defining the flavor profile; 86/88.
2006 Groom, Shiraz, Barossa Valley, Australia, $38. This deeply-hued wine has a lovely nose of blueberries, blackberries, cedar and mint leaf. It is crisp and balanced, with firm rounded tannins and a long finish of currants and berries; 91/91.
2005 Kenwood, Syrah, Jack London Vineyard, Sonoma, California, $25, 500 cases. Both meaty and fruity on the nose and palate, the wine still has unresolved tannins. Black cherries and spicy notes linger on the finish; 86/86.
2007 Lindemans, Shiraz, Bin 50, South Eastern Australia, $8. Light, simple and pretty generic - enjoy now for the plum and berry notes; 81/81.
2005 Ravenswood, Syrah, Sonoma County, California, $15, 11,000 cases. This smooth, fruity, value wine is easy to drink - enjoy now for the berry, game and smoky accents; 86/88.
2006 Rosenblum, Syrah, Abba Vineyard, Lodi, California, $25, 2,550 cases. Smoked game, cassis and floral overtones carry from nose to palate. Medium to full in the mouth, the wine shows nice balance; 88/88.
2006 Rusack, Syrah, Santa Barbara County, California, $25, 1,290 cases. Sporting berry, spicy oak and vanilla highlights, this fruity wine is quite tannic - it needs cellar time to blossom; 88/88.
2007 Sonoma Vineyards, Syrah, Sonoma County, California, $15. Blueberries, plums and barrel notes are highlighted in this straightforward, fruity Syrah; 84/86.
2006 Bogle, Old Vine Zinfandel, California, $11. This medium-garnet wine displays strawberries, cherries and rhubarb nuances on the nose and palate. It is crisp and easy to drink now; 83/85.
2006 Dancing Bull, Zinfandel, California, $12. The wine is defined by cherry and raspberry jam, vanilla and spice. It is soft and fruity, albeit one-dimensional; 83/85.
2006 Kenwood, Zinfandel, Jack London Vineyard, Sonoma, California, $25, 6,300 cases. The nose presents an array of berries, cedar and chocolate. Medium bodied and elegant, with moderate tannins, the flavors mirror the nose; 87/87.
2006 Kenwood, Zinfandel, Sonoma County, California, $14, 27,000 cases. Medium bodied, balanced and fruity, the wine is underscored by black cherries, berries and violet accents; 85/87.
2006 Mazzocco, Zinfandel, Maple, Dry Creek Valley, California, $40. Plums, dark chocolate and violets intermingle on the nose and palate, with a dash of warm spices for interest. Elegant on the entry, with tannins that firm up on the finish; 89/89.
2006 Mazzocco, Zinfandel, Pony, Dry Creek Valley, California, $32. The nose is packed with black cherry, berry, and French oak aromas. Medium to full on the palate, the jammy fruit flavors linger endlessly on the finish. Tannins are very manageable; 89/89.
2006 Mazzocco, Zinfandel, Warm Springs Ranch, Dry Creek Valley, California, $32. The nose is interesting - a mix of black cherries, currants and a hint of juniper. Full and jammy on the palate, with a streak of black pepper, you'll also find generous but rounded tannins; 88/88.
2007 Rancho Arroyo Grande, Zinfandel, Dry Farmed, San Luis Obispo County, California, $45, 699 cases. Intense crushed raspberry and brambly aromas highlight the nose. Full, intense and jammy on the palate - this is your 'big boy' style of Zinfandel; 91/91.
2006 Rosenblum, Zinfandel, Annette's Reserve, Mendocino County, California, $35, 2,025 cases. Aromas of black cherries, bramble berries and vanilla cream highlight the nose. While very polished, elegant and fruity, the generous tannins will benefit from bottle age; 90/90.
2006 Rosenblum, Zinfandel, Carla's Reserve, Contra Costa County, California, $30, 1,488 cases. You'll find a generous nose of black cherries, berries, vanilla and warm spices. Elegant, with silky tannins, the bright acids support the cherry/berry fruit; 88/88.
2006 Rosenblum, Zinfandel, Eagle Point Vineyard, Mendocino County, California, $25, 1,525 cases. Highlighted by blackberries, milk chocolate, vanilla and dill spice, this medium-bodied wine has drying tannins that detract; 85/85.
2006 Rosenblum, Zinfandel, Rockpile Road Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley, California, $35, 2,812 cases. A mixed bowl full of crushed berries greets the nose, with added vanilla and cedar accents. The wine is full in the mouth, with sweet jammy fruit and moderate tannins; 89/89.