© 2003 by Randy Buckner
May 17, 2003

Late Spring 2003 Releases

Spring is in full bloom in the north, while our southern neighbors in New Zealand have finished up a disappointing harvest, with crops down a reported 45 percent. This may be a blessing in disguise since various reports show that the wine pipeline is backing up significantly worldwide. It will be a buyer's market for some time to come. This is good news to the consumer who has grown weary of ever increasing wine prices. Take advantage of the marketplace while it lasts.

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 below 80 points are rated. As always, enjoy a bottle with dinner tonight.

Cabernet Sauvignon wine glass

2001 Annie's Lane, Cabernet Merlot, Clare Valley, Australia, $13. Aromas of plums, spice and American oak emanate from this youthful purple/red wine. Medium-weight, with soft tannins and brisk acidity, this fruity, easy drinker is geared for the near term. 84/85.

2000 Barefoot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Knights Valley, California, $17, 1,128 cases. This ruby red Cab gives off aromas of cassis, cocoa and herbs. Medium-bodied, with rounded tannins, this is an interesting wine not found too often in this price class. Pair with grilled steak and Crimini mushrooms. 85/87.

2001 Caliterra, Cabernet Sauvignon, Valle Central, Chile, $9. This light ruby wine has pleasant notes of black cherries, cedar, herbs and chocolate. Lightly styled, with soft tannins, the flavors will remind you of strawberry preserves with a hint of oak stirred in the batch. 85/87.

1999 Clos Du Bois, Briarcrest, Alexander Valley, California, $36, 3,659 cases. Blackberries, nutmeg and toasty oak aromas radiate from this medium-bodied Cabernet. Elegant, balanced, with ripe tannins, the fruit speaks of blackberries and black cherries. Berries and French vanilla linger on the finish. 88/88.

1999 Clos Du Bois, Marlstone, Alexander Valley, California, $39, 12,747 cases. This Bordeaux blend has a nice dark ruby hue, with aromas of milk chocolate, coffee beans and spice. Full on the palate, with ripe tannins. A mélange of flavors unfold, yielding cherries, blueberries, black olives, allspice, cedar and sweet oak. 89/89.

2000 Clos Du Val, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, $28, 42,500 cases. This is a full, lush wine with youthful tannins and bright acidity. The aromas of blackberries, bell pepper, oak, and mint carry through to the palate, where sandalwood nuances are noted. Herbaceousness is noted less in the mouth than on the nose. 88/88.

2000 Errazuriz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Don Maximiano Founder's Reserve, Aconcagua, Chile, $60. Aromas of blackberries, raspberries, anise, cocoa and mint abound in this dark ruby offering. Full-bodied with medium-weight ripe tannins. The wine is very elegant, well-structured, with lovely fruit that caresses the palate. 90/88.

2000 Frei Brothers, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, California, $24, 22,700 cases. Black fruit, toasted oak, and vanilla are prevalent on the nose and palate. Of medium weight, the tannins are pretty chewy. 84/84.

1999 Gallo of Sonoma, Cabernet Sauvignon, Barelli Creek, Alexander Valley, California, $32, 3,680 cases. Inky purple and bursting with aromas and flavors of blackberries, tobacco leaf, cedar and mint. Tannins are pretty rough and need a minimum of 3-5 years to calm down, then enjoy the wine with a hearty beef dish. 86/86.

1998 Gallo of Sonoma, Cabernet Sauvignon, Frei Ranch, Dry Creek Valley, California, $30, 6,715 cases. Aromas of black fruit, aged wood and cedar underscore the nose. Full-bodied and tannic, the wine provides a mouthful of blackberries, cedar and integrated oak flavors. Will score higher if the tannins tame down. 86+/86.

2000 Geyser Peak, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, California, $17, 60,000 cases. Mouth-watering aromas of cassis, black cherries and violets are augmented by American oak notes. Medium-bodied with nice balance, the wine is pretty straightforward, but pleasing enough for that backyard BBQ. 84/86.

Hess Collection 1999 Hess Collection, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mount Veeder, California, $35. Deeply hued, the wine radiates aromas of black fruit, tobacco, licorice and herbs. Full-bodied with mouth coating tannins, the flavors echo the nose. 89/89.

1999 Kendall-Jackson, Cabernet Sauvignon, Vintner's Reserve, California, $16. Dark ruby in color, the Cab gives off aromas of tea, herbs, black cherries and currants. Well-balanced with flavors mirroring the nose, this wine offers good value. 86/89.

1999 Lake Sonoma, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, California, $22, 5,000 cases. A mélange of aromas assail the nose, displaying blackberries, herbs, cedar, mint, chocolate and oak. Medium to full-bodied, the tannins are noticeable but ripe. Flavors echo the nose, with a long, fruity aftertaste. 86/87.

1999 Salvestrin, Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena, Napa Valley, California, $45, 1,089 cases. Blackberries, black cherries, cinnamon and light barrel notes frame this wine. Full-bodied with substantial but ripe tannins, the wine will obviously benefit from a few years of bottle age. Rich and elegant, the flavors mimic the nose, finishing long and brisk. Wound pretty tight right now. 90/89.

1999 White Heron, Red Wine, Mariposa Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Washington, $15. Made in a Meritage style, this wine has layers of black fruit, menthol, leather and old wood on the nose. Very crisp and fruity, the wine is easy to drink now with its silky tannins. Menthol carries over to the palate, adding a layer of interest to this killer value wine. 88/91.

2000 William Hill, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, $22, 25,166 cases. This ruby red Cab offers up aromas of raspberries and currants. Medium-bodied with easy going tannins, you'll find mixed red fruit, a dash of herbs and balanced oak influence. 86/86.

Chardonnay wine glass

2002 Annie's Lane, Chardonnay, Clare Valley, Australia, $13. Straw-colored with a green hue, the nose displays nectarines and casaba melons. Medium-weight with well-integrated oak, flavors echo the nose, finishing with refreshing acidity. 86/87.

2001 Beringer, Chardonnay, Founders' Estate, California, $12. Pears, apples and toasty oak share top billing on the nose and palate. Soft in the mouth, the finish is long, with caramel and spice notes. 84/85.

2001 Bouchaine, Chardonnay, Carneros, California, $18, 3,200 cases. Aromas of mango, white peach and smoky oak unfold on the nose of this medium-weight wine. Melons, limes, peaches and vanilla are the dominant players in the mouth. 86/87.

2002 Caliterra, Chardonnay, Valle Central, Chile, $8. Pineapple and green apple aromas are quite tempting. Soft, with adequate acidity, the flavors are simple but still good bang for the buck. Long, fruity aftertaste. 85/87.

2001 Clos Du Val, Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California, $21, 9,200 cases. Tropical fruit aromas (especially pineapple) and green apples meld seamlessly with the delicate oak. There is fairly good balance between the fruit and the oak, but there are still plenty of toasty flavors to go around. 86/86.

2000 Columbia Winery, Chardonnay, Wyckoff Vineyard, Yakima Valley, Washington, $19. Medium-bodied and crisp, the aromas and flavors are characterized by toasted nuts, oak, oak spice and yellow delicious apples. 85/85.

2001 Geyser Peak, Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, California, $16, 7,000 cases. Apples, pears, and obvious barrel overtones greet the nose. Full-bodied and crisp, the apples, peaches, and oak all vie for dominance. Nice for the style. 85/86.

Greg Norman 2001 Greg Norman, Chardonnay, Yarra Valley, Australia, $15. Light gold in color, the wine has aromas of white peaches, citrus and a hint of vanilla. Light to medium-bodied, the fruit is mirrored in the mouth, with a very subtle oak influence. 86/87.

2001 Kendall-Jackson, Chardonnay, Vintner's Reserve, California, $12. The nose is an equal mixture of green apples, melons, butterscotch, and toasty oak. Creamy while maintaining crispness, flavors of butterscotch, oak, fig and green apples unfold in the mouth. 85/87.

2002 Kim Crawford, Chardonnay, Unoaked, Marlborough, New Zealand, $18, 11,000 cases imported. Full, rich, and balanced, pineapples and peaches dominate the nose, while mangos, pineapples and buttery nuances are displayed across the palate. 87/87.

1999 King Estate, Chardonnay, Oregon, $10. Pear, vanilla, nutmeg and honey waft from the glass. Creamy, with nice balance, this is pretty nice for the price class. The wine should work well with a Fettuccini Alfredo dish. 84/86.

2001 Lake Sonoma, Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, California, $15, 3,900 cases. Smoky oak and tropical fruit vie for top billing. The wine is creamy, buttery and soft on the palate. 83/83.

2001 Marcelina, Chardonnay, Carneros, California, $25, 10,000 cases. Freshly sliced apples, pears and a hint of tangerines are augmented by toasty oak notes. Medium to full-bodied with a creamy texture, the crisp fruit is followed by buttery nuances. 87/87.

2000 Michaud, Chardonnay, Chalone, Monterey County, California, $40, 2,018 cases. Green apples, nectarines and French oak intermingle on the nose and expand on the palate, with apricots noted as well. Full-bodied, rich and creamy, there is a touch of heat on the long finish. 87/86.

2000 Silver Lake, Chardonnay, Reserve, Columbia Valley, Washington, $16, 588 cases. Straw in color, the wine gives off aromas of green apple, pineapple and French oak. Creamy and buttery, the flavors show citrus, apple and barrel influences. 84/84.

2001 Toasted Head, Chardonnay, Dunnigan Hills, California, $14. Despite the name, the wine does deliver pear and clove along with the toasty oak and butterscotch. Medium-bodied, the wine is crisp and rich. 85/86.

2001 White Heron, Chardonnay, Frenchman Hill, Columbia Valley, Washington, $10. Straw in color, the wine exudes aromas of apples and pears. Crisp and clean, the wine is very fruity, unburdened by layers of obscuring oak. Delightful and a terrific value to boot. 87/90.

2001 William Hill, Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California, $15. Tropical fruit, pear, citrus and vanilla notes emanate form this straw yellow Chard. The wine is medium-bodied, balanced, and make in the creamy, buttery style. Apples, tropical fruit and vanilla linger on the palate. 85/87.

Gewurztraminer wine glass

2002 Hogue, Gewurztraminer, Columbia Valley, Washington, $9, 7,675 cases. The nose is initially reticent but finally yields grapefruit and apricots with a little coaxing. Light, soft, with 2 percent residual sugar, the flavors mirror the nose. 84/85.

2000 Paradisos del Sol, Gerty del Sol, Yakima Valley, Washington, $18, 70 cases. This dry white is dominated by straightforward aromas and flavors of grapefruit and lychee fruit. Medium-bodied, there is plenty of acidity here to be food-friendly. 84/83.

Italian Wines/Varieties wine glasswine glass

1999 Castello di Volpaia, Coltassala, Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG, Italy, $49. Dark fruit, cocoa, vanilla, and old wood nuances unveil themselves on the nose. Tart blackberry fruit and chewy tannins are displayed on the palate, with a lingering finish. 86/84.

2001 Columbia Winery, Barbera, Alder Ridge Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Washington, $20, 500 cases. Bright acidity adds support to the youthful fruit. This wine is all about ripe berries and smoked meat. Nicely balanced, this is a perfect match for spaghetti and meat sauce. 87/87.

2000 Michaud, Sangiovese, Chalone, Monterey County, California, $24, 200 cases. Cranberries and cherries highlight the nose of this garnet colored wine. Cherries, pomegranate and French vanilla flavors are enhanced by crisp acidity, but the tannins are very hard. 84/83.

2001 Poliziano, Rosso Di Montepulciano DOC, Italy, $16. 80 percent Prugnolo Gentile, 20 percent Merlot. Light-bodied with modest tannins, this straightforward wine is supported by very nice acidity. This will work well with white meat when a more delicate red wine is called for. A William Grant & Sons import. 85/85.

1999 Poliziano, Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano DOCG, Italy, $23. This dark ruby offering has a warm, rich nose. Medium-bodied, the silky tannins grab you on the finish. Very rich on the palate, the complex fruit and old wood flavors work well together. Nice value. 89/90.

1999 Poliziano, Asinone, Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano DOCG, Italy, $43. 80 percent Sangiovese. The nose is a tempting mixture of black fruit, dark wood and earth. Silky on the entry, the tannins are very polished, with a firm grip on the finish. Quite elegant overall, the fruit is just delightful. Age this beauty for a few years. 91/90.

Merlot wine glass

Beringer 2000 Beringer, Merlot, Founders' Estate, California, $12. This wine is highlighted by aromas and flavors of blackberries, milk chocolate, herbs, vanilla and a dash of anise. Tannins are a bit coarse. 84/85.

1998 Claar, Cabernet-Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington, $11. This value wine is 75 percent Merlot. Black fruit, mint, and sweet oak are presented in a medium-weight package sporting brisk acids and moderate tannins. 86/89.

1997 Claar, Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington, $10. The grapes come from nine-year-old vines. Red cherries, black olive and oak aromas are evident. Very rich, with bright fruit and herbs, the wine has moderate tannins and a long aftertaste. Currently on sale, this is a killer value. 86/90.

1998 Claar, Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington, $20. Working in harmony, red and black cherries, minerals, spicy oak, moderate tannins and bright acidity combine to make a delightful wine. Defrost that NY strip. 89/90.

2000 Clos Du Val, Merlot, Napa Valley, California, $25, 9,000 cases. Full and lush, with moderate tannins, there is a streak of chalky minerality to compliment the plums, leather, herbs and mint aromas and flavors. Approachable now, better in three years. 88/88.

2001 Errazuriz, Merlot, Curico Valley, Chile, $10. Very soft, with easy tannins, you should enjoy this one over the next three years. Aromas of blackberries, herbs, anise and coffee beans open on the palate to fruity flavors complimented by black olives and old wood notes. Good value. 87/90.

2001 Frei Brothers, Merlot, Dry Creek Valley, California, $20, 31,681 cases. Lots of dark fruit, black olives, cedar and vanilla unfold on the nose. Full in the mouth, the tannins are well-rounded. Blackberries and herbs dominate the flavor profile, with well-integrated vanilla. Tasty. 87/88.

2000 Kenwood, Merlot, Jack London Vineyard, Sonoma Valley, California, $30, 6,000 cases. Black cherries and herbs define the nose of this dark ruby Merlot. Very crisp, tea and cedar nuances add to the dark fruit. 86/85.

1999 Kenwood, Merlot, Massara Vineyard, Reserve, Sonoma Valley, California, $25, 2,400 cases. This Merlot is full in the mouth, with aromas and flavors of black cherries, anise, cedar, and tobacco, with an earthy character. 87/87.

2002 Kim Crawford, Merlot, East Coast, New Zealand, $18, 1,500 cases. Medium-bodied with easy tannins, this fruity little wine is made in an early drinking style for those grilled burgers. 86/86.

1999 Wineglass, Merlot, Reserve, Yakima Valley, Washington, $35. Blackberry jam, dark olives and toasty oak define the aromatics and flavors. Nicely structured, this wine has crisp acids, rounded tannins and a long aftertaste. Tasty. 89/89.

Miscellaneous wine glasswine glass

2001 Beringer, Alluvium Blanc, Knights Valley, California, $16. A Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc blend. The smoky oak and butterscotch obscure any other aromas seeking attention. Full-bodied, creamy, with a lush mouth feel, the wine does display fig and peach fruit along with nutty nuances, butterscotch and toasted oak. If you don't mind a heavy oak influence, this is a very sound wine. 85/86.

2000 Emeril's, Red Wine, California, $13. This is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and Syrah. Medium-bodied with easy tannins, this straightforward wine offers cherry, plum, and cola notes. 83/83.

Langtry 2001 Emeril's, White Wine, Mendocino County, California, $13. Chardonnay and Viognier were blended for this straw colored wine. Smoky oak and Viognier notes prevail on the nose. Straightforward, clean and soft, with citrus and vanilla noted on the lengthy aftertaste. 84/84.

2002 Kim Crawford, Pinot Gris, Boyszone Vineyard, Marlborough, New Zealand, $18, 1,000 cases imported. Pear and citrus aromas are augmented by light lychee notes. Full-bodied, rich, with a hint of sweetness and nice balance. The flavors lean towards canned pineapple, melon and stone fruit. 86/86.

2001 Langtry, Meritage White Wine, Guenoc Valley, California, $23.50, 2,061 cases. This Sauvignon Blanc predominant blend has aromas of citrus and Rome apples. Very viscous, buttery and creamy, with apple, fig, vanilla and toast defining the various layers of taste. 85/85.

NV Wineglass Cellars, Capizimo, Yakima Valley, Washington, $15. Black cherries, cassis and olive notes fill the nose. The wine is very fruit forward, with easy tannins and bright acidity. This is a good food wine and a perfect match for those dishes that demand a light, fruity accompaniment. 87/88.

Pinot Noir wine glass

2001 Anapamu, Pinot Noir, Monterey County, California, $16, 21,435 cases. Red cherries, plums and dried currants cascade across the senses. Medium-bodied and crisp, the Pinot is very fruit forward, with tea and floral notes. Ready to drink now and a nice value to boot. 86/88.

2000 Bargetto, Pinot Noir, Reserve, Santa Cruz Mountains, California, $40. Light ruby in color, with aromas of red cherries, cola, raspberries, plums and cedar. Flavors echo the nose. Moderate tannins and snappy acidity give good structure. 86/85.

2000 Bouchaine, Pinot Noir, Carneros, California, $18, 4,300 cases. A delightful nose of spice, smoke, earth and black cherries opens to flavors of same. Well-balanced, the wine is elegant, with a long finish. 88/89.

2001 Kendall-Jackson, Pinot Noir, Vintner's Reserve, California, $14. Aromas of dried cherries, strawberries, tomato leaf and tea unfold on the nose. Lightly styled and well-balanced, the flavors mimic the nose. A tasty value. 86/88.

2001 Kenwood, Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, California, $17, 62,000 cases. This garnet colored Pinot displays a host of aromas and flavors to include cherries, black tea, herbs, spice, and smoky oak. Lightly styled, this is a red wine for white meat. 85/85.

2001 MacMurray Ranch, Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, California, $17, 40,000 cases. Aromas of red cherries, strawberry preserves and earthy notes emanate from this garnet colored Pinot. Medium-bodied, with a perfect balance of fruit, oak, acids and tannins, this is a delightful, value-priced wine. 88/90.

2001 Mendelson, Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands, California, $37.50, 500 cases. This full-bodied Pinot has silky tannins, snappy acidity and nice balance. Aromas of cherries, blackberries, cedar and smoke carry over to the palate, supplemented by leather, dark tea, sun-dried tomatoes, and French oak. A big boy. 88/87.

2000 Michaud, Pinot Noir, Chalone, Monterey County, California, $45, 165 cases. Garnet in color, the aromas speak of black cherries, tobacco, leather and French Oak. The Pinot has atypical flavors, but is tasty nevertheless, finishing on a refreshing note. 86/85.

Portuguese Wines wine glasswine glass

2000 Casa de Santar, Red Wine, Dao DOC, Portugal, $8. Lightly styled with easy tannins, this is a good little quaffer for deck foods. Dried cherries, vanilla, and leather notes are enhanced by a peppery streak. 84/86.

1999 Casa de Santar, Reserva Red, Dao DOC, Portugal, $18. This medium-weight wine boasts moderate tannins and fine balance. Aromas of dark fruits, spice and chocolate are followed by flavors of briary blackberries, tea and cedar. 86/87.

2000 Quinta da Mimosa, Red Wine, Palmela DOC, Portugal, $15. Made from 100 percent Periquita. Light to medium-bodied, crisp, with easy tannins, this wine is made for food. Dried cherries and cedar aromas open up to floral flavors, with nutty nuances and a spice that I can't lay a finger on. 85/87.

2001 Quinta da Romeira, White Wine, Bucelas DOC, Portugal, $8. Produced from the Arinto grape, the aromas are a cross between pineapples and Asian pears. Crisp, clean and light-bodied, the wine only saw stainless steel. Simple yet has the ability to hold your interest. Serve chilled. 85/87.

Riesling wine glass

2001 Anapamu, Riesling, Monterey County, California, $16, 3,845 cases. This is a well-done New World Riesling. Crisp and clean, the wine has lovely peach and honeysuckle aromas. The floral and fruit notes carry through to the palate as well. Delightful. 88/88.

2002 Annie's Lane, Riesling, Clare Valley, Australia, $14. Limes, floral notes and a hint of slate are a real treat for the nose and palate. Well-balanced, this is one for the acid lovers. Oysters on the half shell come to mind. 88/89.

2002 Claar, Johannisberg Riesling, Columbia Valley, Washington, $9. Lots of grapefruit, honeysuckle and lychee notes greet the nose. While I'd like to see more acidity, the wine is refreshing and fruity, and just right for those summer deck parties. 2 percent residual sugar. 86/88.

2002 Claar, Johannisberg Riesling, Late Harvest, Columbia Valley, Washington, $13.50. Quite sweet at 8.5 percent residual sugar, the wine is not cloying; however more acidity would make this a killer wine. Exuding flavors of peaches and pears, the wine is a real winner for a 750 ml in this price class. 88/91.

2002 Hogue, Johannisberg Riesling, Columbia Valley, Washington, $9, 75,400 cases. Hogue got it right with this wine. Off-dry at 1.8 percent residual sugar, the wine has plenty of acidity to make it work. Tasty tangerine and apricot flavors provide ample enjoyment. 87/89.

2002 Hogue, White Riesling, Late Harvest, Columbia Valley, Washington, $10, 40,250 cases. The color is reminiscent of wheat straw. Sweet and crisp, with plenty of citrus fruit and apricots, this one begs for a fruit and cheese plate. 4.4 percent residual sugar. 87/89.

2001 Paradisos del Sol, Riesling, Yakima Valley, Washington, $18, 412 cases. Apricots underscore the nose of this crisp, off-dry, medium-bodied wine. Very food-friendly, with lots of lemon and peach flavors to provide interest. 86/85.

Rioja wine glass

1995 Montecillo, Rioja, Gran Reserva, Spain, $23. A 100 percent Tempranillo wine with medium structure and well-restrained tannins. The nose is quite interesting, unfolding in layers of dried fruit, earth, leather, and old wood. Blackberries, dried red cherries and a hint of anise rounds out the wine. 86/86.

Sauvignon Blanc wine glass

2002 Bogle, Sauvignon Blanc, Monterey and Amador County, California, $8. This wine saw 100 percent stainless steel fermentation and exhibits aromas of lemon peel and lemongrass. Lively in the mouth, the pure citrus fruit begs for a plate of shellfish. Simple, delightful, and certainly a good value. 85/88.

2002 Caliterra, Sauvignon Blanc, Valle Central, Chile, $8. Straw colored, with aromas of pineapple, mango and lemon zest. Medium-bodied with steely acidity, the fruit is straightforward but a nice quaff. This will match lemon chicken quite well. 85/86.

2002 Geyser Peak, Sauvignon Blanc, California, $10, 73,000 cases. This straw-hued, medium-bodied wine is loaded with tropical fruit and gooseberry notes. Fruity, citrusy and grassy, this always seems to be a good value wine. The crisp feel should work well with shellfish. 85/87.

2001 Kendall-Jackson, Sauvignon Blanc, Vintner's Reserve, California, $10. Citrus, melon and pear aromas repeat on the palate, with the addition of tangerine nuances. Food-friendly, the wine is crisp and has minimal oak influence. Very nice. 88/90.

Syrah wine glass

2001 Annie's Lane, Shiraz, Clare Valley, Australia, $13. Deeply hued, this medium-bodied Shiraz has aromas and flavors of black cherries and smoky oak. Acids are quite brisk. 83/84.

2000 Errazuriz, Syrah, Max Reserva, Aconcagua Valley, Chile, $25. The combination of blackberries, licorice, earthy notes and cinnamon oil makes a heady statement. Silky tannins usher in lush, sweet fruit, and balanced oak. Plums, herbs and sweet vanilla linger on the finish. 88/88.

Greg Norman 2000 Greg Norman, Shiraz, Limestone Coast, Australia, $17. The wine is well-balanced, with tart acidity, bright berry fruit, vanilla, and subtle oak spice. Approachable now but better in a couple of years. 87/89.

2000 Kendall-Jackson, Syrah, Vintner's Reserve, California, $12. Blackberries, lavender, and a touch of smoky oak declare themselves. Balanced, with subtle tannins, the palate shows more raspberry than blackberry tastes. 84/85.

2000 Michaud, Syrah, Chalone, Monterey County, California, $NA, 225 cases. Sporting a youthful purple-red coloration, the nose is filled with dark fruit and smoked wood. Medium-bodied, tannic and crisp, the straightforward blackberry flavors blend with smoky nuances. 85/NA.

2000 Terra d'Oro, Syrah, Amador County, California, $18, 800 cases. The nose is a mélange of dark berry fruit, smoky oak, spice and Earl Grey tea. Very forward, with intense berry fruit and layers of vanilla and spicy oak. 87/88.

2001 White Heron, Syrah, Mariposa Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Washington, $13. The wine has a pleasingly dark hue, with aromas and flavors of black fruit, eucalyptus and cracked pepper. The wine is well-structured, with moderate but rounded tannins and food-friendly acidity. Killer value. 88/91.

Zinfandel wine glass

Beringer 1999 Beringer, Zinfandel, Clear Lake, California, $14. Black cherry jam, cedar and brown spices tempt the nose. Medium-bodied, with polished tannins, the flavors echo the nose. 86/87.

2001 Bogle, Zinfandel, California, $11. Here's another great QPR wine to enjoy with grilled foods this summer. Nice raspberry and cracked black peppercorn aromas repeat on the palate, with oak only playing a minor role. Straightforward, medium-bodied with the acid to stand up to a host of foods. 85/88.

2001 Columbia Winery, Zinfandel, Alder Ridge Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Washington, $20, 465 cases. Brambly blackberries and earthy wood notes spring from this ruby offering. Crisp, tannic, with plenty of black fruit and spicy oak, you'll also notice a cracked pepper streak in the wine. Break out the BBQ grill. 86/86.

2000 Deerfield Ranch, Zinfandel, Old Vine, Buchignani Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley, California, $40, 368 cases. This is a beastie boy for those who want a full-throttle experience. Big, lush, balanced, and carrying a whopping 16.2 percent alcohol, the wine blasts the palate with a mélange of fruit flavors ranging from cranberries to black cherries. Drink now with backyard BBQ. 90/89.

1999 Gallo of Sonoma, Zinfandel, Frei Ranch, Dry Creek Valley, California, $22, 3,670 cases. Easy tannins and crisp acidity usher in the somewhat atypical flavors of red fruit, cedar and vanilla, but none of the briary, peppery notes often associated with a Zin. Tasty nevertheless. 86/86.

2001 Kendall-Jackson, Zinfandel, Vintner's Reserve, California, $12. Raspberry jam shows across the entire sensory spectrum, with brown sugar, tea, vanilla and oak nuances. Straightforward, brisk, with easy tannins. 83/84.

2001 Rancho Zabaco, Zinfandel, Chiotti Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley, California, $28, 2,240 cases. A youthful purple/red, with berries and cherry cola notes abounding on the nose and palate. Very fruity, the wine is nicely balanced. 88/87.

2000 Terra d'Oro, Zinfandel, Home Vineyard, Amador County, California, $24, 750 cases. For fans of the whopper, look no further. Full-bodied, with supple tannins, the nose abounds with aromas of chocolate covered cherries, cherry liqueur, herbs and vanilla. Very forward, the wine mirrors the nose. Drink now before the massive 15.9 percent alcohol becomes obvious. 90/90.

2000 Valley of the Moon, Zinfandel, Sonoma County, California, $15, 7,900 cases. This fairly priced Zin offers raspberries, strawberries, briary notes, black pepper and sweet vanilla all wrapped up in a medium-weight package that is easy to drink. 87/88.

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