© 2005 by Randy Buckner
May 2005

Late Spring 2005 Releases

You will notice a large percentage of Washington wines reviewed this month. Taste Washington recently presented their three-day program of food, wine and wine education in Seattle.

This year they held a trade day event on Friday for the first time. Sampling as many wines as possible over the three-hour period, I remain convinced that Washington is at its best with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Rhone varieties. The best of these wines rival or exceed anything available in the New World.

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/Blends wine glass

2002 Bennett Lane, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, $45, 1,000 cases. Purple/red in color, with aromas of blackberries and French oak. The wine is very silky in the mouth but still seems pretty primal. Lots of jammy fruit and toasty oak dominate the palate. Give this one a few years in the cellar to see how it evolves; 87+/86+.

2002 Bennett Lane, Maximus, Napa Valley, California, $28, 3,200 cases. A 43/33/24 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. Black fruit, toasty oak and herbs intermingle on the nose then expand on the palate. Tannins and acids are user friendly, making this wine a no-brainer for grilled meats; 87/87.

2002 Betz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Père de Famille, Columbia Valley, Washington, $45. This deeply colored Cabernet gives off aromas of black fruit, toast and vanilla. Full bodied, tannic and sporting bold acids, this wine needs several years in the cellar to let the fruit shine; 91/91.

2002 Bogle, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, $12. This medium-ruby wine gives off ripe cherry and American oak notes. Soft on the entry, the wine showcases cherry fruit and sweet vanilla; 83/84.

2003 Canyon Road, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, $9, 42,725 cases. Sporting a deep ruby hue with a purple edge, the wine is crisp in the mouth with soft tannins. You'll find pretty decent black cherry fruit nine bucks. Burgers anyone? 84/86.

Souverain 2001 Chateau Souverain, Cabernet Sauvignon, Winemaker's Reserve, Alexander Valley, California, $40, 3,332 cases. Deep ruby in color with complex aromas of plums, leather, chocolate and vanilla spice. While elegant on the entry, the tannins firm up on the finish. Give it three to five more years. Plums, black cherries and integrated oak do quite a number on the palate; 90/90.

2002 Cliff Lede, Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District, California, $50, 1,622 cases. The wine is almost black in the glass, with a complex bouquet of red and black fruit, cedar shakes, spice and anise notes. The wine is very rich and elegant in the mouth, with full but ripe tannins that will age well. Red fruit lingers endlessly on the protracted finish; 90/90.

2002 Cliff Lede, Claret, Stags Leap District, California, $32, 1,857 cases. Lots of plum, cherry, tobacco and sweet oak notes fill the nose. Silky on the entry, the tannins firm up on the finish. Flavors repeat the aromas; 87/87.

2002 Clos Du Val, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, $28, 30,000 cases. Aromas and flavors are defined by juicy black fruit, leather, toasty French oak and anise. The wine is very crisp, with firm but rounded tannins. This one should cellar well for many years to come; 88/88.

2002 Crystal Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, $16, 3,572 cases. Aromas and flavors speak of red cherries, cola, herbs and American oak. Easy drinking, crisp, and nicely balanced, the wine delivers pretty decent bang for the buck; 83/84.

2001 Duck Pond, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington, $12, 4,832 cases. On the nose you'll find a distinct herbal edge to the berry and cedar notes. Easy to drink now, the wine delivers a mouthful for 12 bucks. Chalky minerals add to the cherry/berry fruit; 84/86.

2002 Fritz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Dry Creek Valley, California, $35. The nose is a mélange of scents - black cherries, berries, licorice, vanilla and cedar. Full in the mouth, the wine needs time to soften the bold tannins. Flavors mirror the nose, with a healthy dollop of sweet oak; 84/84.

2002 Gamache Brothers, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington, $28. Charlie Hoppes of Fidelitas helped out with the winemaking duties on this outstanding first Cabernet offering. A touch of olives adds character to the black cherry fruit and vanilla accents. Very harmonious; 90/90.

2003 Hahn, Cabernet Sauvignon, Central Coast, California, $14, 18,300 cases. This deeply hued wine is well rounded in the mouth. Raspberry, cedar, cigar and vanilla aromas repeat in the mouth, with lots of wood influence; 84/85.

2003 Hahn, Meritage, Central Coast, California, $20, 13,500 cases. Raspberries, vanilla and cedar aromas arise from this inky blend. Tannic, with a creamy elegance, you'll find a host of jammy fruit flavors and a consignment of oak; 86/86.

2003 Huntington, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, $12, 2,470 cases. Straightforward notes of plums, black cherries and oak spice predominate, finishing with chewy tannins; 82/82.

2001 Husch, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendocino, California, $18, 4,325 cases. Blackberries, plums, cedar and American oak come together on the nose. The wine is medium bodied, with drying tannins that detract from the lovely fruit; 85/85.

2001 Louis Martini, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, $25, 36,000 cases. The nose is a pleasant mix of cassis, cherries and tobacco leaf. Firm but rounded tannins let their presence be known. Cherries, plums and tobacco expand on the palate; 85/85.

2002 Louis Martini, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, California, $17, 52,000 cases. Aromas and flavors are highlighted by cherries, berries, cassis, herbs and vanilla, all supported by bright acidity and chewy tannins; 84/84.

2001 Louis Martini, Cabernet Sauvignon, Monte Rosso Vineyard, Sonoma Valley, California, $50, 3,600 cases. You'll find lovely aromas of cherries, leather, cigar leaf and mint. The wine is elegant on the entry, then the tannins really firm up. Complex fruit flavors echo the aromas. Will the tannins ever balance out? 85+/84+.

2001 Matthews, Red Wine, Columbia Valley, Washington, $45. This is a Bordeaux blend of 63 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 16 percent Merlot, 13 percent Cabernet Franc, 4 percent Malbec and 4 percent Petit Verdot. This is a lovely wine that displays layers of rich fruit ranging from raspberries to rich black cherries. Firm, ripe tannins and bright acids give lift to the wine; 91/91.

2002 Mirassou, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, $10, 75,000 cases. A mélange of notes unfold on the nose - cherries, chocolate, licorice, herbs and dill spice. Threshold sweetness is used to bolster the straightforward fruit; 82/82.

2002 Three Rivers, Cabernet Sauvignon, Champoux Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Washington, $39, 294 cases. Intense aromas of black cherries, cassis and sweet vanilla greet the taster. Full, elegant, with firm but forgiving tannins, the flavors mirror the nose, with nice oak integration. Give this one 3-5 years to come around; 92/92.

2002 Three Rivers, Red Meritage, Columbia Valley, Washington, $39, 594 cases. This deeply hued wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec. The nose shows classic boysenberry scents, with a touch of earth and cedar, which repeats in the mouth. Full, with firm tannins, this one will benefit from patient aging; 91/91.

TwoTone Farm 2002 TwoTone Farm, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, $10, 9,700 cases. Simple, fruity and very quaffable, the wine is defined by cherry cola and wood notes. Break out the burgers; 83/84.

2002 Wilridge, Cabernet Sauvignon, Ludmell Vineyards, Columbia Valley, Washington, $19: The nose abounds with blue and black fruit, leather, chalky minerals and a touch of banana. This is a big wine with tannins that need resolution. Black fruit expands on the palate, with loads of chalky minerals that add a lovely dimension to the wine. Terrific value; 89/91.

Chardonnay wine glass

2002 Adelaida, Chardonnay, Chamisal Vineyard, Edna Valley, California, $24, 448 cases. This wine is all about balance and subtlety. Delicate tropicals, French oak and toast carry throughout, with citrus overtones and cashews lingering on the bright, viscous finish; 91/92.

2002 Adelaida, Chardonnay, HMR Estate, Paso Robles, California, $30, 226 cases. Citrus zest and oak nuances radiate from this light gold, medium-bodied Chardonnay. Toasty, nutty flavors unfold on the palate, with a modest finish; 86/86.

2003 Clos Du Val, Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California, $21, 8,500 cases. Lovely pineapple, pear, vanilla and butterscotch aromas and flavors are supported by very bright acidity. Similar flavors linger on the extended finish; 86/87.

2003 Covey Run, Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Washington, $9, 55,578 cases. Straw gold in color, this straightforward wine offers up baked pear, butter and toasty nuances on a soft framework; 81/81.

2002 De Loach, Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, California, $16, 14,000 cases. Aromas of lemon creams, green apples and toasty oak caress the nose. The wine is well structured, with straightforward flavors and integrated oak; 83/83.

St. Clement 2002 Franciscan, Chardonnay, Cuvee Sauvage, Napa Valley, California, $35. This is a very delicious wine for the style. Complex aromas of baked apples, lees and sweet oak expand on the palate, with added allspice and buttery nuances rounding out the wine; 91/91.

2003 Fritz, Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, California, $20. Light gold, balanced and crisp, the wine is defined by pear, apple, butterscotch, vanilla and cedar nuances; 85/86.

2003 Husch, Chardonnay, Mendocino, California, $14, 8,175 cases. The wine is somewhat muted, with pears, white peaches, vanilla and hazelnuts carrying throughout the length of the wine. Crisp on the finish; 84/84.

2003 St. Clement, Chardonnay, Carneros, Napa Valley, California, $16, 4,147 cases. The nose has smoky oak and butter upfront, with nuances of citrus, pears and vanilla coaxed out by swirling the glass. Creamy, spicy and oaky in the mouth, you'll also appreciate loads of apples, pears and citrus blossoms. Tasty for the style; 86/88.

2004 Twin Fin, Chardonnay, California, $10. This wine may be too acidic for the crowd for which it is designed. Lean in style, the aromas and flavors speak of apples and butterscotch; 80/80.

Chenin Blanc wine glass

2004 Ballentine, Chenin Blanc, Pocai Vineyard, Napa Valley, California, $14, 1,000 cases. This is an excellent example of New World Chenin Blanc. Enjoy it for the crisp, clean citrus peel and melon rind notes - leave the Loire comparisons for another day; 88/89.

2004 Dry Creek, Dry Chenin Blanc, Clarksburg, California, $10, 10,600 cases. Lemon peel and tropical fruit aromas transform into lime, green apple and grapefruit flavors. The wine is pleasantly tart, lending itself well to shellfish; 87/89.

Côtes-du-Rhône wine glass

2003 Pont d'Avignon, Côtes du Rhône, France, $15, 8,000 cases. The nose is characterized by black cherries, strawberry jam, oak spice and rosemary. Light to medium bodied, the straightforward flavors echo the aromas; 82/82.

2003 Red Beret, Côtes du Rhône, France, $11. Coarse tannins detract from the wine. Red cherry and vanilla aromas morph into plum and cherry flavors, finishing on a crisp note; 80/80.

Gewürztraminer wine glass

2004 Covey Run, Gewürztraminer, Columbia Valley, Washington, $8, 20,500 cases. Typical aromas of lychee and spice greet the nose, while flavors mirror the aromas. The acidity is too soft for the 2.7 percent residual sugar; 82/82.

2004 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Gewürztraminer, Columbia Valley, Washington, $9, 55,000 cases. Lots of terpenes here - six percent Muscat and 11 percent Riesling are blended in. Delicately sweet at 1.56 percent residual sugar, the wine maintains a fair degree of balance. Apricots and canned fruit linger on the finish; 82/82.

2004 Hogue, Gewürztraminer, Columbia Valley, Washington, $9, 12,500 cases. Characteristic aromas and flavors of lychee fruit, citrus and apricots prevail, however the acidity pales in the face of the 2.1 percent residual sugar; 83/83.

2003 Husch, Gewürztraminer, Late Harvest, Anderson Valley, California, $18 (375 ml), 396 cases. Although the wine sports 11 percent residual sugar, it does not seem that sweet. Citrus zest, honeysuckle and peach aromas morph into flavors of apricots and limes; 84/84.

Merlot wine glass

2003 Bogle, Merlot, California, $9. Not bad for the price class - plenty of black cherries, raspberries, spice and American oak carry from the nose to the palate, supported by firm yet supple tannins and tangy acidity; 84/86.

2003 Canyon Road, Merlot, California, $9, 44,900 cases. You can always count on Canyon Road for a decent quaffer and this is no exception. Impeccably balanced, this wine should be consumed early on for the simple but tasty blueberry and cherry cola flavors; 84/86.

2001 Cliff Lede, Merlot, Stags Leap District, Napa Valley, California, $38. Aromas are a delightful mix of blackberries, cedar and vanilla. Very elegant on the entry, the black fruit is silky smooth, albeit somewhat one-dimensional; 86/86.

Clos du Val 2002 Clos Du Val, Merlot, Napa Valley, California, $25, 7,500 cases. Faultlessly balanced, the wine is silky smooth and fruity, with berries, black currants, herbs, toasty oak and violets coursing throughout the Merlot; 88/88.

2003 Hahn, Merlot, Monterey, California, $14, 26,000 cases. This ruby red Merlot gives off aromas of black cherries, cassis, tobacco and toasty oak. Snappy acidity and soft tannins add to the fruity, oaky flavors; 84/85.

2002 Huntington, Merlot, California, $12, 2,457 cases. You'll find much more oak on the palate than the nose here. Plums, cedar and milk chocolate unfold in the mouth, with drying tannins on the finish; 83/84.

2002 Mirassou, Merlot, California, $10, 35,000 cases. Obvious residual sugar is observed in the wine. Medium bodied with easy tannins, the wine is accentuated by plums, berries and toasty vanilla; 82/82.

2003 Twin Fin, Merlot, California, $10. Berries and oak highlight the nose. Tart, with soft tannins, the simple flavors mirror the aromas; 82/82.

Miscellaneous wine glasswine glass

2002 Adelaida, Roussanne/Grenache Blanc, Paso Robles, California, $25, 192 cases. Melons, toast and smoke show through on the nose. Rich and tangy in the mouth, you'll find honeydew melon and black walnut nuances; 86/86.

2002 Paraduxx, Red Wine, Napa Valley, California, $43. A blend of Zin, Cab and Merlot from Duckhorn Wine Company. Jammy berry aromas are augmented by a blend of oak, pepper and vanilla. Big, bold, highly extracted and sporting 14.9 percent alcohol, this is not for the faint of heart. Black fruit, cherries, chocolate and barrel char take the mouth for a wild ride; 90/90.

Pinot Gris wine glass

2004 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Pinot Gris, Columbia Valley, Washington, $13, 33,000 cases. This wheat straw colored wine has aromas of citrus, melons and spice. The wine has very lovely flavors but the acidity is too soft to hold the taster's interest; 83/83.

2004 Clos du Bois, Pinot Grigio, California, $12, 40,000 cases. Their debut Pinot Gris shows a straw coloration with an apricot tinge. Melon, fig, grapefruit and lime dance on the nose and palate. Lean and crisp, think cracked crab here; 85/86.

2004 Hogue, Pinot Gris, Columbia Valley, Washington, $10, 22,244 cases. The wine only sees stainless steel. Well balanced with threshold sweetness, the aromas and flavors reveal juicy pears, orange zest and lemons; 86/87.

2004 Twin Fin, Pinot Grigio, California, $10. The floral and peachy nose is quite inviting, however the wine is too acidic for the designed audience. Straightforward flavors mirror the nose; 80/80.

2003 Vin du Lac, Pinot Gris, Yakima Valley, Washington, $18. You'll appreciate apples, pears and bananas on the nose, with additional spice evident in the mouth. Finishes long; 85/85.

Pinot Noir wine glass

2003 Clos Du Val, Pinot Noir, Napa Valley, California, $24, 2,500 cases. Aromas of black cherries, leather, cedar and earth swirl from the glass. Elegant on the entry, the aromas do an encore in the mouth. Tannins firm up on the finish; 86/86.

2002 De Loach, Pinot Noir, Sonoma County, California, $18, 4,750 cases. Here's an easy drinking, simple quaffer with spicy, smoky, strawberry jam notes; 82/82.

2003 Fritz, Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, California, $30. Typical earthy black cherry aromas abound. The wine is medium bodied, with tannins that are slightly green and drying which detract from the lovely fruit. Will they ever tame? NR.

2003 Husch, Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, California, $21, 3,344 cases. Aromas and flavors are a bit shy, but cherries, tea, spice and floral notes were coaxed from the wine. Moderate tannins are apparent on the finish; 84/84.

2003 Sterling, Pinot Noir, Napa Valley, California, $19, 15,186 cases. Light to medium bodied, the wine has nice balance with straightforward cherry fruit and cedar notes; 84/84.

2003 Whitehaven, Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand, $28, 4,000 cases. Made in a lean, crisp style, the tannins are well managed here. Aromas of red berry fruit, tea and spice morph into flavors of black cherries, plums and earthy notes. This should pair well with duck; 86/86.

Riesling wine glass

2004 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Riesling, Columbia Valley, Washington, $9, 476,000 cases. The wine is characterized by pears, melons, peaches and citrus, but the soft acidity barely covers the 1.65 percent residual sugar; 83/83.

2004 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Dry Riesling, Columbia Valley, Washington, $8, 7,000 cases. The wine should be called off-dry, not dry - the residual sugar stands at 0.94 percent. Light and fresh in the mouth, apricot and tangerine nuances are delightful. Killer value; 85/88.

2004 Covey Run, Riesling, Columbia Valley, Washington, $8, 57,750 cases. Peaches and honeysuckle dominate the nose. Sweet (2.7 percent RS), with soft acidity, the straightforward fruit mirrors the nose; 83/83.

2004 Eroica, Riesling, Columbia Valley, Washington, $22, 23,000 cases. Straw gold in color with tangerine and mineral notes being obvious throughout. The wine is delicately sweet (1.7 percent RS), with enough acidity to prevent a cloying mouth feel; 86/86.

2004 Hogue, White Riesling, Late Harvest, Columbia Valley, Washington, $10, 69,000 cases. Beautiful aromas of apricots, tangerines and citrus zest also deliver on the palate. Unfortunately there is not nearly enough acidity to handle the 4.5 percent residual sugar; 82/82.

Sangiovese wine glass

2001 Atlas Peak, Sangiovese, Atlas Peak, Napa Valley, California, $16, 14,000 cases. Lean, crisp, with firm but pliable tannins, the black cherry, leather and vanilla aromas echo in the mouth. This will pair with a wide range of foods; 84/85.

2002 Valley of the Moon, Sangiovese, Sonoma County, California, $16, 1,000 cases. The bouquet is a pleasant mix of berries, leather and cedary notes. Firm acids and tannins give lift to the fruit, with generous oak and coffee nuances coming in on the finish; 84/85.

Sauvignon Blanc wine glass

2003 Avery Lane, Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Valley, Washington, $9. Here's a tasty, value-priced wine. Bright acidity gives lift to the citrus and tropical notes. A touch of menthol is evident on the finish; 86/88.

2004 Canyon Road, Sauvignon Blanc, California, $8, 29,181 cases. Canyon Road always seems to deliver with this wine. It is smooth and ready to drink, with pineapple, grapefruit and tangerine notes throughout. Good bang for the buck; 85/88.

2003 Cedargreen, Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Valley, Washington, $17, 310 cases. This non-oaked wine is clean and crisp, with bright citrus fruit and a touch of banana chips. Tasty; 87/87.

2003 Cliff Lede, Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, California, $18, 1,140 cases. Lots of melons and snap peas unfold on the nose. The wine is lean and crisp, with tropical fruit and melon rind highlighting the flavors; 87/87.

2003 Eleven, Sauvignon Blanc, Artz Vineyard, Red Mountain, Washington, $13, 125 cases. Bright acids breathe life into this wine. Citrus, apple and pineapple aromas carry over to the palate, leading to a refreshing finish; 88/89.

2004 Fritz, Sauvignon Blanc, Russian River Valley, California, $14. This is a clean, very crisp wine, with steely acidity. Pineapples, melons, lemongrass and oranges abound - a no-brainer for shellfish; 87/88.

2004 Huntington, Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma County, California, $12, 2,400 cases. Sparkling straw gold color. Lemongrass, lime and green apple aromas unfurl on the nose, and then reverberate in the mouth, supported by very tangy acidity; 87/89.

2003 Husch, Sauvignon Blanc, Mendocino, California, $12.50, 3,518 cases. Straw in color, this tight, crisp wine is characterized by citrus peel, melon and pear. Shellfish and Asian cuisine come to mind; 87/88.

2003 Husch, Sauvignon Blanc, Renegade, Mendocino, California, $18, 494 cases. Native or “renegade’ yeast was used in the fermentation process. The aromas are reminiscent of lemon drops and melons. The mouth feel is soft and creamy, leading to citrus and honeydew fruit flavors; 86/86.

2004 Whitehaven, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand, $16, 40,000 cases. There are lots of gooseberry aromas here. The wine is very lean and acidic, with citrus fruit and jalapeno flavors bursting in the mouth. This is the perfect foil for shellfish; 88/88.

Syrah wine glass

2002 Alexandria Nicole, Syrah, Destiny Ridge Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Washington, $27, 575 cases. Lots of red and black fruit, liqueur, sweet oak and toast carry from the nose to the mouth, finishing long and full; 89/89.

2002 Badger Mountain, Syrah, Columbia Valley, Washington, $20, 700 cases. Peppery black fruit carries from the nose to the palate in this bighearted wine. Tannins are ripe and the acids are generous; 87/88.

2003 Barnard Griffin, Syrah, Columbia Valley, Washington, $17, 5,263 cases. At this price, this wine will sell out fast. Loads of plums and berry fruit are upfront, with soft tannins and acids, making this an easy drinker for this summer's BBQs; 88/90.

2002 Chatter Creek, Syrah, Clifton Hill Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Washington, $30. Blueberries and boysenberries carry from the nose to the mouth. Full in weight, but not a heavily extracted wine, the finish is underscored by cocoa and spice; 88/88.

2002 Duck Pond, Syrah, Columbia Valley, Washington, $12. Typical on the nose, with black fruit and smoked meat unfolding. An easy drinker, the bright acidity lends itself well to food; 86/88.

2003 E.B. Foote, Syrah, Columbia Valley, Washington, $16. This is a very peppery style of Syrah, with loads of acidity and ripe tannins. Smoked meat, red fruit and blueberries provide interest. Good value; 88/90.

2002 Goose Ridge Estate, Syrah, Columbia Valley, Washington, $25. This purple/red wine gives off aromas of liqueur-like fruit, generous vanilla, oak and banana nuances. Blue and black fruits are framed by distinct smoky notes and vanilla spice; 87/87.

2002 McCrea, Syrah, Cuvee Orleans, Yakima Valley, Washington, $45. Always one of the front runners in Washington Syrah, the wine is packed with complex fruit and smoked meat qualities. Harmonious from start to finish; 91/91.

2001 Terra Blanca, Syrah, Red Mountain, Washington, $20. Yet another good value Washington Syrah. White pepper, red and black fruit, bright acidity and soft tannins all combine to make to a smooth wine that is lovely to drink; 89/90.

2002 Two Mountain Winery, Syrah, Yakima Valley, Washington, $22. This is a big boy, with lots of smoky berry flavors, vanilla nuances, and nice balance of tannins and acids. Crushed berries linger on the palate; 88/89.

Zinfandel wine glass

2003 Bogle, Zinfandel, California, $11. This is a jammy style of Zinfandel with plenty of bang for the buck. Black fruit, American oak, vanilla and pipe tobacco are presented in a nicely-balanced package; 84/86.

2002 DeLoach, Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, California, $18, 2,576 cases. I'm not sure what is going on with this wine. The acidity is very tart, it seems a little stemmy, but where is the fruit? No corkiness - I'd like to try a second bottle; NR.

2003 Edmeades, Zinfandel, Mendocino, California, $18, 12,000 cases. You'll find cherries, pomegranates, spice and vanilla on the nose and palate, with modest tannins and bright acids. Great pizza wine; 87/88.

2002 Fritz, Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, California, $25. Densely hued, with raspberries, black cherries and barrel notes dancing about on the nose. The wine has nice structure, with generous but ripe tannins. Straightforward fruit echoes the nose; 84/84.

2003 Rancho Zabaco, Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, California, $18, 18,600 cases. Jammy cherry/berry fruit and vanilla aromas resound in the mouth. Silky smooth with firm tannins, this is a dandy companion for BBQ; 87/88.

Rosenblum 2003 Rosenblum, Zinfandel, Continente Vineyard, San Francisco Bay, California, $20, 3,209 cases. Deeply hued, with plums, cherries and barrel notes expanding on the nose. No sissy here - the wine is full, moderately tannic and showing a bit of heat. The fruit is reminiscent of Japanese plums, augmented by nuances of chocolate, spice and vanilla; 89/90.

2003 Rosenblum, Zinfandel, Richard Sauret Vineyards, Paso Robles, California, $20, 7,029 cases. Here's a terrific wine for fans of the full-blown style. Bold, jammy, and packed with briary fruit, the wine does not seem hot in spite of its 15.5 percent alcohol content. American oak and vanilla come through on the finish; 90/91.

2003 Rosenblum, Zinfandel, Rockpile Road Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley, California, $30, 4,973 cases. The wine is defined by black cherries, currants, dewberries, chocolate and barrel notes. While rich and full, the wine is also very tannic. Will they ever tame? I'd wait 3-5 years to find out; 85/84.

Wine Auctions: Many of you are familiar with Winebid.com, Winecommune.com, The Chicago Wine Company and others. You may not be aware of a new kid on the block. Hart Davis Hart Wine Co., a Chicago-based fine wine retailer and auction house, just announced the results of their second live auction, which took place at the Chicago Athletic Association on Saturday, May 7. The auction realized $1.9 million with 98% of the lots sold by value. If you enjoy buying wine at auction, you might want to check out the new kid. Disclaimer - I have no affiliation with the auction house.

Hart Davis Hart Wine Co.
363 West Erie Street, 500W
Chicago, Ill. 60610
(312) 482-9996

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