© 2008 by Randy Buckner
With warm spring and summer days right around the corner, our attention turns to crisp white wines to beat the heat, and friendly red wines to serve with our cookouts.
As usual, we have wines this month ranging from $6 to $105, sure to fit any occasion and pocketbook.
I also reviewed a wine glass that is new to me. The claims made by the glass company are impressive, but do they hold up?
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.
2005 Beaulieu Century Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, $6. Here's a smooth, balanced, fruity wine at a killer price. Enjoy now for the cherry, cola and chocolate overtones; 82/84.
2005 Chateau St. Jean, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, California, $27, 26,500 cases. Underscored by blackberries, cedar and dill spice, the wine is very fruity and tannic, with generous oak; 84/84.
2004 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington, $16. Blackberries, vanilla and sawn cedar dominate the nose, but the wine is very fruit forward on the palate, with loads of juicy black fruits. Good value; 85/88.
2004 Dynamite, Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Hills, Lake County, California, $15, 64,700 cases. Plums, berries and cedar present on the nose and palate. Supple tannins and crisp acids make this a nice burger wine; 83/84.
2005 Frei Brothers, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, California, $24, 43,000 cases. Almost black in the glass, the blackberry, cassis, tobacco and toasty oak aromas repeat on the palate. The tannins are firm and drying; 84/84.
2005 Ghost Pines, Cabernet Sauvignon, Winemaker's Blend, Napa/Sonoma County, California, $23, 19,000 cases. The nose is characterized by blackberries, cigar leaf and herbal notes. Juicy black fruit jam unfolds on the palate and lingers on the long finish. Oak is obvious but is not the dominant player here; 87/88.
2004 Grgich, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, $60, 14,000+ cases. This deeply-hued wine yields aromas and flavors of blackberries, cherries, milk chocolate and French oak. Very intense and elegant on the entry, the tannins firm up on the finish. Give this one several years in the cellar to come together; 90/89.
2005 Kendall-Jackson, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grand Reserve, Sonoma County, California, $26. Almost black in the glass, this medium-bodied, elegant wine has silky tannins and black fruit flavors; 87/88.
2005 Moon Mountain, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, California, $15. The black fruit, violet and vanilla aromas do an encore on the palate. Tannins are somewhat drying; 83/83.
2005 Nicholas Cole, Michele, Columbia Valley, Washington, $55. This is a Cabernet Sauvignon-predominant Bordeaux blend. Intense ripe black cherry aromas are augmented by cedar spice. Full and ripe on the palate, the tannins are firm but forgiving. Very ripe black fruit flavors linger on the finish; 88/87.
2005 Pedroncelli, Cabernet Sauvignon, Block 7 Estate Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley, California, $25, 1,000 cases. Very deeply hued, with aromas of blackberries, cassis, cedar and sweet vanilla. Moderate tannins frame the black fruit, smoke and cigar leaf flavors; 85/85. 2005 Roth, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, California, $35, 5,500 cases. Black cherries, vanilla and spice define this wine. It is elegant on the entry, with ripe tannins that firm up on the finish. Give it cellar time; 88/88.
2004 Robert Skalli, Cabernet Sauvignon, Vin de Pays d'OC, France, $16. Berries, currants and cracked pepper nuances unfold on the nose and palate. Friendly tannins and bright acidity makes this medium-bodied wine a nice match for that grilled steak tonight; 87/90.
2005 Sebastiani, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, California, $30. Deeply hued, with aromas of black cherries, berries and sweet French oak. The wine is well balanced in the mouth, with deft use of oak. Flavors are complex and mirror the nose; 89/90.
2005 Sebastiani, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, California, $18. This nicely-balanced package reveals aromas and flavors of black cherries, tobacco, cedary oak and chocolate; 86/87.
2005 Sebastiani, Secolo, Sonoma County, California, $35. Secolo is a Bordeaux blend. Blackberry, chocolate and cedar aromas are followed by rich layers of black fruits and nicely integrated oak; 89/89.
2005 Shafer, One Point Five, Stags Leap District, Napa Valley, California, $70, 9,500 cases. The nose is complex and inviting - blackberries, violets, dusty earth and cedar. Impeccably balanced, with firm but silky tannins, the flavors are full and engaging. There is a little heat from the 14.9 percent alcohol, but the wine carries it well at this point; 91/91.
2005 Solaire (Robert Mondavi), Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, California, $17, 23,000 cases. Blackberries, cassis and vanilla highlight the nose of this elegant, well-balanced wine. Flavors echo the nose; 85/87.
2004 Two Mountain Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Yakima Valley, Washington, $25, 410 cases. Well structured, with supple tannins, the aromas and flavors speak of blackberries, tobacco and toasty oak; 87/87.
NV Two Mountain Winery, Hidden Horse IV, Red Table Wine, Rattlesnake Hills, Washington, $15, 356 cases. A Cabernet Sauvignon-predominant blend of four red grape varieties. The wine is soft and fruity and has a lot going on for the price class. Enjoy now for the bright cherry, berry and plum fruits; 86/90.
2005 Wild Horse, Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, California, $20, 37,000 cases. This deeply-hued wine is underscored by blackberry, chocolate and vanilla highlights. Tannins are firm and drying; 83/83.
2006 Beaulieu Century Cellars, Chardonnay, California, $6. There's a lot going on here for a six-buck wine. The wine shows nice balance, with tropical fruit and citrus highlights on the nose and palate; 82/84.
2005 Chalone, Chardonnay, Chalone Estate, Chalone, California, $25. Apples, pears, lemon drops, vanilla and buttered toast describe this elegant, expressive Chardonnay. Layers of flavors unfold in the mouth; 88/88.
2006 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Washington, $13. You'll find toast and butter on the nose, with underlying citrus and apple notes. The palate is dominated by toasty oak; 83/83.
2006 De Loach, Chardonnay, Ritchie Vineyard, Russian River Valley, California, $38, 308 cases. Light gold in color, with lemon curd, green apple and toasty aromas. Crisp and refreshing on the palate, the flavors reveal apples, butter and toasty oak accents; 86/86.
2005 Donati Family, Chardonnay, Paicines, San Benito County, California, $18, 1,215 cases. The nose is highlighted by apples, pears and a hint of oak, whereas the palate reveals pears and butter. Crisp and smooth; 87/88.
2006 Dynamite, Chardonnay, North Coast, California, $11, 5,500 cases. Soft and straightforward, the wine has modest apple and pear fruit; 81/81.
2006 Gallo Family Vineyards, Chardonnay, Sonoma Reserve, Sonoma County, California, $15, 35,000 cases. Soft and fruity, this golden wine gives off aromas and flavors of lemons, pineapples, toast and butter; 84/85.
2006 Ghost Pines, Chardonnay, Winemaker's Blend, Sonoma County, California, $23, 23,000 cases. Straw gold in color, with aromas of apples, lemons and toasty oak. The wine is crisp and fruity in the mouth, with an underpinning of oak. Flavors mirror the nose; 85/85.
2006 Kendall-Jackson, Chardonnay, Grand Reserve, California, $21. Toasty oak, limes and lemon zest unfold on the nose. The wine is well balanced in the mouth, with layers of toast, mango, lemon and butter nuances; 88/89.
2006 Michael David, Chardonnay, 7 Heavenly Chards, Lodi, California, $17. Oak and allspice dominate the nose and palate, with underlying pear notes, 83/83.
2006 Moon Mountain, Chardonnay, Sonoma County, California, $13. Apple, pear and light buttery aromas repeat on the palate. Simple, balanced and friendly; 85/87.
2005 Robert Skalli, Chardonnay, Vin de Pays d'OC, France, $16. This fruit-forward, food-friendly Chardonnay reveals aromas and flavors of flowers, pears, peaches and spicy vanilla; 86/88.
2006 Solaire, Chardonnay, Santa Lucia Highlands, California, $15, 37,000 cases. Well balanced and creamy, this light-gold wine is highlighted by pears, pineapples, French oak and butter; 85/87.
2006 Waterbrook, Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Washington, $12, 17,640 cases. Straightforward and balanced, with green apple and lemon highlights throughout; 83/83.
2006 Wild Horse, Chardonnay, Central Coast, California, $17, 40,572 cases. Light gold, crisp and balanced. Green apples, pears and toasty oak carry the nose, while caramel and oak flavors define the palate; 84/85.
2005 Aia Vecchia, Lagone, Toscana, Italy, $15. Aromas and flavors of blackberries, tobacco and mint are backed by firm but fine-grained tannins. The wine is lush and fruity in the mouth and a value to boot; 87/90.
2004 Castello di Gabbiano, Alleanza, IGT, Tuscany, Italy, $35. A blend of 95 percent Merlot and 5 percent Sangiovese. The wine is rich and elegant in the mouth, with crisp acids, silky tannins, juicy red cherries and raspberries, and just a touch of mushrooms; 89/90.
2005 Fattoria la Valentina, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, DOC, Italy, $13. Black cherry and currant accents unfold on the nose and palate. The wine is very tight at the moment and needs bottle time; 85/87.
2005 Li Veli, Salento Passamante, IGT, Italy, $16. You'll find dark fruit and earthy accents across the board, with nice balance and food-friendly acidity; 84/85.
2006 Majus Bianco, Ajello, IGT, Sicily, $10. The nose is a delightful mix of citrus peel, pears, pineapples and minerals. Crisp and refreshing in the mouth, the aromas do an encore in the mouth. Good value; 86/89.
2005 Majus Rosso, Ajello, IGT, Sicily, $10. This value food-friendly wine is light bodied and very drinkable. Plums and peppery spice provide underpinning; 85/88.
2004 Marco Felluga, Merlot, Collio, Italy, $16. The nose is a lovely mix of red cherries, plums and wormwood, while the palate reveals a well-rounded, fruity, silky wine; 85/86.
2005 Beaulieu Century Cellars, Merlot, California, $6. Cherry, strawberry and cedar aromas and flavors are presented in a simple, fruity package. Very good value; 82/84.
2006 Blackstone, Merlot, California, $12. Here's one for the summer BBQs - inexpensive, fruity and easy to drink. Blackberries, plums and cedary oak underscore the wine; 85/88.
2005 Chateau St. Jean, Merlot, Sonoma County, California, $25, 25,472 cases. Aromas of black cherries, herbs and American oak waft from the glass. The wine is smooth in the mouth, with dark berry flavors; 85/85.
2004 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington, $16. Here's a wine to buy by the case for those summer BBQs. Ripe black cherries, cedar and vanilla underscore the wine, backed by food-friendly tannins; 85/88.
2004 Clos Du Bois, Merlot, North Coast, California, $18, 345,000 cases. Very juicy and fruity, the wine is full of black cherry and plum nuances, augmented by easy-going tannins and a long finish; 87/88.
2004 Clos Du Bois, Reserve Merlot, Alexander Valley, California, $22, 13,500 cases. This dark ruby wine displays aromas and flavors of blackberries, dark chocolate and oak, backed by firm tannins; 86/86.
2005 Donati Family, Claret, Paicines, San Benito, California, $22, 3,500 cases. This Merlot predominant, easy-to-like blend, is chock full of juicy plum and cherry fruit, augmented by herbs and cedary nuances; 87/88.
2005 Ghost Pines, Merlot, Winemaker's Blend, Napa/Sonoma County, California, $23, 21,000 cases. Aromas of black cherries, vanilla and herbal notes follow through on the palate, with juicy cherries and generous oak noted on the finish; 86/86.
2005 Kendall-Jackson, Merlot, Grand Reserve, California, $26. Chock full of fruit, the aromas and flavors reveal a delightful mix of black cherries, plums, chocolate and cedar. Tannins are firm but rounded; 88/88.
2004 Nicholas Cole, Camille, Columbia Valley, Washington, $48. A Merlot predominant Bordeaux blend, this purple/red wine is packed with aromas of blackberries, cherries, black olives and cedar. Full and lush on the palate, the wine reveals layers of fruit complexity, backed by generous but ripe tannins; 90/90.
2004 Nicholas Cole, Reserve, Columbia Valley, Washington, $105. Here's another Merlot-predominant Bordeaux blend from Nicholas Cole. The nose has intense ripe black fruit aromas, with underlying French oak nuances. The wine is very intense in the mouth, bursting with ripe blackberry fruit flavors. Silky tannins are revealed on the endless finish; 91/90.
2005 Pedroncelli, Merlot, Bench Vineyards, Dry Creek Valley, California, $14, 7,000 cases. The nose is an unusual mix of black fruits, tar and almond paste. Medium bodied and well balanced, you'll find judicious use of oak, with a cherry/berry finish; 85/88.
2004 Provenance, Merlot, Napa Valley, California, $35. This crisp, fruity wine will benefit from a couple of years of cellar time to tame the tannins. Blackberries, black cherries, cedar and cigar leaf notes carry across the sensory spectrum; 86/86.
2006 Red Rock Winery, Reserve Merlot, California, $12, 100,000 cases. Here's a balanced, fruity, good-value wine, with plum, cherry and raspberry characteristics; 83/85.
2005 Sebastiani, Merlot, Sonoma County, California, $17. Black cherry and plum aromas abound, however oak spice battles the fruit for attention on the palate; 84/84.
2004 Two Mountain Winery, Merlot, Yakima Valley, Washington, $20, 410 cases. You'll find berries, cherries, cocoa, black olives and toasty oak nuances throughout the length of the wine, backed by crisp acids and silky tannins; 86/86.
2005 Waterbrook, Merlot, Reserve, Columbia Valley, Washington, $22, 3,053 cases. The wine is defined by modest aromas and flavors of plums, black cherries, tobacco and dusty earth; 85/85.
2005 Wild Horse, Merlot, Paso Robles, California, $20, 52,727 cases. Ruby red, smooth and straightforward, the berry, cherry, oak and spice highlights carry from the nose to the palate; 84/84.
2004 Beringer, Nightingale, Botrytised, Napa Valley, California, $40, 375 ml. Intense aromas of honey, apricots and botrytis are followed by a thick, lush, very sweet wine with flavors mirroring the nose; 91/91.
2004 Clos Poggiale, Vin de Corse, AOC Corse, France, $20. Made entirely from Vermentino grapes, the aromas are a lovely mix of floral notes, gun flint and peaches. Soft, round and fruity in the mouth, this wine paired well with squash soup; 86/86.
2006 Enamore, Red Wine, Mendoza, Argentina, $36. This is an effort by Marilisa Allegrini and Patricio Reich to produce an Amarone-styled wine. The wine was made using the ancient "appassimento" technique, where grapes are air-dried until they lose about one-third of their moisture. The result is an almost black wine with intense flavors of black cherries, raspberries and a dollop of raisins; 88/88.
2001 Domaine Ste. Michelle, Luxe, Sparkling Wine, Columbia Valley, Washington, $23. A medium bead courses through this light-gold sparkler. The wine is crisp, off-dry and creamy, and it is underscored by citrus, apple, toast and warm spices; 87/89.
2005 Maison Bouachon, Châteauneuf du Pape, France, $36. Modest berry aromas open on the nose, with a hint of floral notes. Medium bodied and fruity, you'll find a peppery streak coursing through the black fruits; 85/85.
2006 Waterbrook, Mélange Noir, Columbia Valley, Washington, $15, 11,930 cases. A blend of six red grape varieties, the aromas and flavors speak of black cherries, plums, cocoa and toast. This easy-to-drink wine is perfect for those summer BBQs; 85/87.
2007 Waterbrook, Sangiovese Rosé, Columbia Valley, Washington, $12, 962 cases. This light cranberry-colored wine is defined by notes of raspberries, citrus peel and tangerines. It is balanced, fruity and easy to drink; 87/88.
2006 Cooper Mountain, Pinot Gris, Reserve, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $15, 4,250 cases. This straw-gold wine radiates aromas of melons, figs and tropical fruit. Crisp, viscous and full on the entry, with layers of fruit mirroring the nose; 90/91.
2006 MacMurray Ranch, Pinot Gris, Sonoma Coast, California, $20, 12,000 cases. Crisp, with threshold sweetness, the wine is highlighted by aromas and flavors of green figs, peaches and toast; 86/86.
2006 Acacia, Pinot Noir, Napa Valley - Carneros, California, $26. Aromas of black cherries, earth and dark tea emanate from this garnet-colored Pinot. The wine is medium bodied, crisp and friendly, with flavors repeating the nose; 86/86.
2006 Chateau St. Jean, Pinot Noir, Sonoma County, California, $20, 27,414 cases. Nuances of red cherries, earth and cedar carry from the nose to the palate. Tannins are generous but ripe; 84/84.
2006 Cooper Mountain, Pinot Noir, 'Mountain Terroir', Willamette Valley, Oregon, $45, 110 cases. For fans of Oregon Pinot on the elegant side, this medium-bodied wine is just the ticket. Aromas of red cherries, earth and vanilla continue to the palate. Bright acids and silky tannins make it hard to leave this one in the cellar; 91/91.
2006 De Loach, Pinot Noir, Green Valley of Russian River Valley, California, $45, 1,591 cases. Aromas of berries, cherries and plums radiate from this light-ruby Pinot. The wine is medium bodied, elegant and quite complex. You can drink now or over the next six years; 90/90.
2006 De Loach, Pinot Noir, Masút Vineyard, Redwood Valley, California, $42, 390 cases. Medium bodied, elegant, with soft acidity and tannins, this garnet-colored wine is characterized by black cherry and strawberry nuances; 86/85.
2006 Pedroncelli, Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, California, $18, 3,500 cases. Straightforward but pleasant, this soft, medium-bodied wine is underscored by strawberry, plum and tobacco highlights; 84/85.
2006 Valley of the Moon, Pinot Noir, Carneros, California, $20, 5,400 cases. Medium bodied, fruity, with easy tannins, this Pinot is defined by red cherries, vanilla and warm spices; 84/84.
2006 Wild Horse, Pinot Noir, Central Coast, California, $25, 56,408 cases. Highlighted by pomegranates, cherries and sandalwood, this Pinot is well balanced, straightforward and tasty; 84/84.
2006 Beaulieu, Riesling, Coastal Estates, California, $9, 19,000 cases. Soft and off-dry, this straightforward wine delivers peach and wet stone notes; 82/82.
2006 Eroica, White Riesling, Ice Wine, Columbia Valley, Washington, $75, 530 cases. This is an excellent New World dessert wine. Weighing in at 26 percent residual sugar, the wine is intensely sweet on the palate, but it does show good balance. Concentrated aromas of apricots and honey morph into stone fruit and honeycomb on the palate. The finish is endless; 92/91.
2007 Two Mountain Winery, Riesling, Rattlesnake Hills, Washington, $13, 226 cases. Off-dry, balanced and refreshing, the white peach, citrus peel and floral aromas morph into peach and melon flavors; 85/86.
2007 Waterbrook, Riesling, Columbia Valley, Washington, $12, 6,010 cases. Off-dry, simple and balanced, the wine is underscored by citrus, melon and nectarine nuances; 83/83.
2006 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Valley, Washington, $10. Crisp, clean and refreshing, the aromas and flavors speak of melons, lemon zest and grassy notes; 84/86.
2006 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Sauvignon Blanc, Horse Heaven Hills, Washington, $15. Very soft, creamy and fruity, this wine is highlighted by honeysuckle, citrus peel and a dash of herbs; 86/86.
2006 Dynamite, Sauvignon Blanc, Lake County, California, $11. Here's a soft, straightforward quaffer with melon and lime accents; 81/81.
2006 Fortress, Sauvignon Blanc, Red Hills, Lake County, California, $18. Crisp and bright, this Sauvignon is quite fruity, with lingering lime and melons overtones; 86/86.
2006 Moon Mountain, Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma County, California, $11. Aromas and flavors are underscored by tropical fruit and citrus zest. Straightforward and refreshing; 84/85.
2007 St. Supéry, Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, California, $20. Brilliant straw gold. Grapefruit and limes abound on the palate and palate. The wine is crisp and dry, with a very fruity finish; 90/90.
2004 Kenwood, Syrah, Jack London Vineyard, Sonoma Valley, California, $25, 500 cases. Aromas and flavors speak of black cherries, blueberries and bay leaves. Fine-grained tannins are firm at this point; 85/85.
2004 Two Mountain Winery, Syrah, Yakima Valley, Washington, $22, 380 cases. Black fruits and game caress the nose, morphing into flavors of blackberries, cherries and sweet vanilla, which have a seemingly endless finish; 88/89.
2006 Waterbrook, Syrah, Reserve, Columbia Valley, Washington, $22, 1,714 cases. Purple/red in color, with aromas of black cherry jam, red berries, vanilla and cedar. The wine is smooth and elegant, with mixed black fruit flavors and silky tannins; 88/89.
2005 Dry Creek, Zinfandel, Beeson Ranch, Dry Creek Valley, California, $34, 435 cases. The nose of this deeply-hued Zin is filled with aromas of blackberry jam, black cherries and warm spices. Full black fruit flavors are augmented by cracked black pepper and sweet French oak. Let it rest to tame the tannins; 90/90.
2006 Dry Creek, Zinfandel, Heritage, Sonoma County, California, $17, 11,595 cases. Straightforward, fruity, and short on the back end, this Zin is highlighted by blackberries, chocolate, dill spice and vanilla; 84/84.
2005 Dry Creek, Zinfandel, Old Vine, Dry Creek Valley, California, $28, 2,855 cases. The average age of the vines used in the production of this Zin is more than 80 years old. On the entry, the wine is very polished, with a peppery streak coursing through the mixed berry fruits. The finish is long and satisfying. Give it a year or two of cellar time to soften the tannins; 90/90.
2005 Dry Creek, Zinfandel, Somers Ranch, Dry Creek Valley, California, $34, 614 cases. This deeply-hued Zin is full of berry, cherry and warm spice aromas. It is quite elegant in the mouth, with bright acidity and juicy fruits. Tart berries linger on the finish; 90/90.
2005 Dynamite, Zinfandel, North Coast, California, $11, 11,855 cases. Light, simple and fruity, I'd enjoy this one early on for the cherry and plum fruit; 83/83.
2005 Lake Sonoma, Zinfandel, Saini Farms, Dry Creek Valley, California, $22, 1,600 cases. This Zin is medium bodied and fruity, with nuances of mixed black fruits, cedar and spice; 84/84.
2005 Mazzocco, Zinfandel, Maple, Dry Creek Valley, California, $36, 450 cases. For fans of big-styled Zins, this one is for you. Full and rich, with layers of jammy cherry and strawberry fruit, the wine carries the 16.8 percent alcohol well at this point, but I would drink it over the next couple of years; 90/90.
2005 Mazzocco, Zinfandel, Pony, Dry Creek Valley, California, $27, 490 cases. Here's another dandy Zin by Mazzocco if you like the full-blown style. The wine is extremely fruity in the mouth, with layers of berries, plums, cracked pepper and floral notes. While the wine carries the 16.2 percent alcohol well at this point, I would not age for more than two years or so; 90/90.
2006 Michael David, Seven Deadly Zins, Lodi, California, $17. Oak spice and berry aromas prevail on the nose, while barrel influence dominates the palate, burying the underlying berry fruit; 82/82.
I was recently provided a "breathable" Bordeaux wine glass produced by Eisch Glaskultur. The claim is that a wine poured into this glass for just two to four minutes will show signs of aeration equivalent to the same wine that has been decanted and aerated for one to two hours.
I did side-by-side testing of super-premium wines in the Eisch Bordeaux glass and a Riedel Bordeaux Grand Cru glass. I did not find that the Eisch glass performed any better than the Riedel glass, however it should be noted the Eisch glass is significantly less costly. I can recommend the Eisch glass on this basis alone.