© 2001 by Randy Buckner
1998 Blackstone, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, $10. This ruby colored wine has lovely black cherry, plum, and spicy aromas that carry over to the palate. Lightly styled, with silky tannins and integrated oak. 84/88.
1998 Clos Du Val, Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District, Napa Valley, California, $55, 2,000 cases. Big aromas of blackberry and spearmint, with subtle cedar notes frame this deep ruby wine. Very refined on the palate, with silky tannins and balanced acidity. Flavors of blackberry, blueberry, a touch of spice and moderate French oak define this wine. Despite the cool, wet vintage, this is another fine 1998 Cabernet. I am not convinced that 1998 is as bad as some allude to, for Cabernet anyway. 89/86.
1998 Clos Du Val, Cabernet Sauvignon, Vineyard Georges III, Rutherford, Napa Valley, California, $55, 2,000 cases. Deeply colored, with aromas of blackberry, mint and perhaps a touch of blueberry. Full-bodied and quite elegant, the tannins are substantial yet glide over the palate with a velvety touch. Black fruit, coffee, mint, and an ever so slight amount of herbaceousness define the flavor profile. An excellent effort from a "tough" vintage year. 92/89.
1998 Columbia, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington, $15, 6,021 cases. Berry notes, chocolate and light herbal aromas carry over to the palate, with moderate rounded tannins and friendly acidity. 85/87.
1999 Dunham, Cabernet Sauvignon V, Columbia Valley, Washington, $45, 1,776 cases. Rich red and black fruits on the nose and palate, with supple tannins, nice acidity and plenty of spice and new oak flavors. 88/85.
1997 Fetzer, Cabernet Sauvignon, Barrel Select, North Coast, California, $17, 28,000 cases. Blueberry, blackberry, and light vanilla notes are appreciated on the nose and palate, supported by soft, satiny tannins and lively acidity. 87/89.
1999 Guenoc, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, $13.50, 16,810 cases. Straightforward sweet cherry fruit, spice and a touch of herbs define the flavor profile. Soft tannins and easy acidity on the finish. 84/87.
1999 Monterra, Cabernet Sauvignon, Monterey County, California, $10. You'll find a host of aromas and flavors, including blackberry jam, plums, mocha, black olive and vanilla. Silky tannins are noted on the long, crisp finish. 85/88.
1999 Paul Thomas, Cabernet-Merlot, Washington, $8. A blend of 50 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 42 percent Merlot and 8 percent Cabernet Franc. Cherry, raspberry, olive and cedar fragrances intermingle on the nose. Straightforward but interesting fruit, nice acidity and soft tannins makes for a nice quaffer. 85/90.
1998 Trinchero, Cabernet Sauvignon, Family Selection, California, $13, 51,169 cases. Bing cherry, olive, cedar and mint define the nose. Flavors mimic the nose, with added currant and coffee complexities. Medium tannins and nice acidity round out the wine. 85/88.
1999 Vina Tarapaca, Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate Bottled, Maipo Valley, Chile, $9. Lush aromas of cassis, blackberry, and French oak. You'll find lots of berry fruit, chocolate, coffee and a crisp, fruity finish. 85/89.
1997 Windsor, Meritage, Stockhausen Signature Series, Sonoma County, California, $23.50. The nose displays blackberry, plum and a touch of eucalyptus. Black fruit, clove and vanilla dominate the palate, finishing with substantial but supple tannins and a brisk finish. 85/85.
1999 Cascade Cliffs, Barbera, Columbia Valley, Washington, $28. Aromas and flavors of lush red and black fruit, earthy notes, new oak spice, finishing with stimulating acidity. 89/87.
1998 Montevina, Barbera, Amador County, California, $14, 14,200 cases. Plum, leather and earthy aromas and flavors are backed up by very crisp acidity that invites a steaming plate of spaghetti and meatballs with tomato sauce. 86/87.
1997 Terra d'Oro, Barbera, Amador County, California, $18. An interesting wine that blends a juicy, blackberry jam nose with black fruit, leather and earthy flavors. The finish is long and brisk. 90/90.
1999 Buffalo Ridge, Chardonnay, Bien Nacido Vineyard, Reserve, Central Coast, California, $20, 150 cases. Butterscotch, citrus and green apple aromas highlight this sparkling gold wine. Creamy on the palate, full green apple fruit prevails, with lemon zest and light oak on the long finish. 86/87.
1999 Buffalo Ridge, Chardonnay, French Camp Vineyard, Central Coast, California, $13, 2,000 cases. Lemon and pear aromas are followed creamy citrus flavors, a touch of oak, and snappy acidity. 84/87.
2000 Clos Du Val, Chardonnay, Sonoma County, California, $14. Fresh cut green apple aromas leap from the glass, with pear and light vanilla notes. Crisp and refreshing, green apple, citrus and modest vanilla flavors finish out the package of this value wine. 87/90.
1999 Columbia, Chardonnay, Otis Vineyard, Yakima Valley, Washington, $24. Pear and creamy vanilla are found on the nose and palate, with added caramel and ripe apple flavors. Soft acids are found on the creamy finish. 83/82.
1998 Columbia, Chardonnay, Wyckoff Vineyard, Yakima Valley, Washington, $19. This golden wine has green apple and caramel aromas, creamy, spicy vanilla oak and butterscotch flavors, with minerals and yellow delicious fruit coming through at the end. 83/83.
1998 Covey Run, Chardonnay, Reserve, Yakima Valley, Washington, $15, 3,412 cases. Light gold, with toasty oak and pear aromas. Creamy, with easy acids on the palate, spicy oak flavors prevail, with minerals and pears on the finish. 83/84.
1999 Fetzer, Chardonnay, Barrel Select, Mendocino County, California, $13, 62,000 cases. Very obvious tropical fruit, green apples and light to moderate vanilla notes on the nose and palate. Nice acidity makes this a good match for pasta, white sauce and aged cheese. 85/87.
2000 Guenoc, Chardonnay, California, $12, 16,961 cases. A veritable fruit bowl of aromas and flavors, with pineapple, melon and crisp green apples in the forefront. Minimal oak influence lets the fruit shine. Enjoyable now. 86/90.
1999 Handley, Chardonnay, Anderson Valley, California, $17, 1,783 cases. The nose is brimming with pear, yellow delicious apple and light vanilla notes. These aromas are echoed on the palate. Light to medium-bodied, with nice acidity and a delicate touch of oak. 88/90.
1999 Handley, Chardonnay, Dry Creek Valley, California, $19, 1,783 cases. The nose is highlighted by pineapples and vanilla. Full-bodied, the wine is enhanced by citrus and orange blossom flavors, finishing with a soft touch. 86/86.
1999 Hess Collection, Chardonnay, Napa Valley, $19. Toasty French oak, pear and fresh cut apple aromas are followed by flavors of same. There are added pineapple and smoky notes on the soft, sweet fruit finish. Nice for the style. 87/87.
1999 Kenwood, Chardonnay, Reserve, Sonoma, California, $20, 1,425 cases. Lovely green apple aromas are supported by French oak notes. Rich and creamy on the entry, full green apple and vanilla flavors are balanced by ample acidity. 88/88.
2000 Kim Crawford, Chardonnay, Tietjen Gisborne, New Zealand, $22. Gold, with a green tinge. Peaches and pineapples define the nose, with butterscotch hiding in the background. Creamy on the palate, medium-bodied, with sweet peaches dominating the flavor profile. Light toast and delicate acidity are appreciated on the finish. 87/87.
1999 La Crema, Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, California, $20. Green apples, citrus and butterscotch define the nose of this latest release. Nicely balanced. Creamy, pear, fig and nutty flavors dominate, with moderate sweet oak notes on the aftertaste. 87/88.
1999 Lake Sonoma, Chardonnay, Russian River, California, $15, 3,226 cases. Lovely gold in color, with pear, apple, and toasted oak aromas. Creamy on the palate, with easy acidity. The flavors echo the aromas, with a touch of clove on the medium-length finish. 86/87.
1999 Mirassou, Chardonnay, Coastal Selection, Monterey County, California, $13, 11,700 cases. The nose spotlights green apple, tropical fruit and vanilla spice. Crisp on the palate, banana, pineapple and caramel flavors prevail. 84/86.
1999 Monterra, Chardonnay, Monterey, California, $10. Tropical fruit flavors abound, with ripe pear accents. Creamy yet crisp, the rich pear and ripe apple flavors are enhanced by toasty vanilla notes on the long finish. 85/88.
1999 St. Clement, Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California, $16, 7,000 cases. A brand new label adorns this deep gold presentation. Tropical fruit, pear, and French oak notes are followed by flavors of apples and spicy oak, all on a soft, creamy background. 86/88.
1999 Ste. Chapelle, Chardonnay, Reserve, Idaho, $14, 995 cases. Apple, melon and light toast highlight the nose of this light gold wine. You'll appreciate green apple and mixed toasted oak flavors on a creamy background and soft acidity. 83/84.
1999 Ste. Chapelle, Chardonnay, Winemaker's, Idaho, $12. Pears, apples, figs and vanilla highlight the nose of this pale gold wine. Crisp yet smooth on the palate, with citrus flavors prevailing on the medium-length finish. 82/83.
2000 Stone Creek, Chardonnay, Special Selection, California, $8. You'll find big tropical fruit aromas here, especially pineapple, with added butterscotch nuances. These aromas are repeated on the palate of this lightly styled wine. The finish has lingering citrus and pineapple qualities. 83/87.
1999 Trinchero, Chardonnay, Selection, California, $11. Gold with a green tinge, the wine has caramel cream, green apple and toasty oak aromas and flavors, a creamy mouthfeel, and easy acids. 82/84.
1999 Trinity Oaks, Chardonnay, California, $10, 100,000 cases. A new brand from the Trinchero family. Green apple, lemon drops and smoke define the nose. Very crisp, with lemon zest and toasty oak flavors. 83/85.
2000 Vina Tarapaca, Chardonnay, Estate Bottled, Maipo Valley, Chile, $9. Floral and tropical fruit aromas abound. Flavors of pineapples, pears, vanilla, and allspice are supported by nice acidity on the fruity finish. 86/90.
2000 Callaway, Chenin Blanc, Coastal, California, $7.50, 8,600 cases. Pineapple, peach and guava tempt the nose. Light, clean and crisp. The wine is well-balanced, fruity, with peach and citrus predominating. The 0.85 percent residual sugar adds body to the wine rather than standing out as disjointed sweetness. 85/88.
2000 Dry Creek Valley, Dry Chenin Blanc, Clarksburg, California, $8.75, 10,000 cases. Big tropical fruit aromas up-front, with a hint of herbaceousness in the background. Very food-friendly acidity greets the palate, with citrus, melon and white peach flavors. A nice example of California Chenin Blanc. 87/90.
2000 Handley, Gewurztraminer, Anderson Valley, California, $14, 1,659 cases. Light gold in color, with grapefruit and lemon zest aromas and flavors, finishing with a touch of spiciness and tart acidity. 85/85.
1999 Blackstone, Merlot, Napa Valley, California, $16. Blackberry and chocolate aromas and flavors, brisk acidity, smooth tannins, and well-integrated oak are framed on a long, fruity finish. 84/85.
1998 Columbia, Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington, $15, 14,788 cases. Black cherry, chocolate and light olive aromas carry over to the palate, with vanilla cream, easy tannins and nice acidity on the medium-length finish. 84/85.
1997 Columbia, Merlot, Red Willow Vineyard, Yakima Valley, Washington, $24, 3,300 cases. Dark ruby. You'll find black fruit, mint, tobacco, and sweet vanilla aromas and flavors, backed by smooth tannins and adequate acidity. This medium-bodied wine is approachable now. 85/84.
1998 Covey Run, Merlot, Barrel Select, Columbia Valley, Washington, $15, 7,996 cases. Deep ruby, with flavors and aromas of plum, blackberry, chocolate and toasted oak. The tannins are very smooth, allowing for early consumption, and the finish is long and fruity. 86/90.
1998 Fetzer, Merlot, Barrel Select, Sonoma County, California, $13, 24,000 cases. Blueberry, spice, cedar and light vanilla notes are repeated on the palate, with some coarse tannins that will benefit from a couple of years in bottle. 85/87.
1998 Geyser Peak, Merlot, Reserve, Alexander Valley, California, $40, 1,220 cases. Purple in the glass, with chocolate covered cherries, coffee and cedar on the nose. The palate has similar flavors, with brisk acidity and chewy tannins. Overall, nicely balanced. Not up to their 1997 beauty, but tasty nevertheless. 88/85.
1997 Kestrel, Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington, $28. Dense blackberry and earthy aromas repeat themselves on the palate. Very rich, with silky tannins, the wine is enhanced by 30 percent Hungarian oak which adds an addition layer of interest. 90/90.
1998 Monterra, Merlot, San Bernabe Vineyards, Monterey, California, $10. Black cherry and spicy aromas and flavors, finishing with moderate tannins and crisp acidity. 85/87.
1998 St. Clement, Merlot, Napa Valley, California, $26, 2,000 cases. This lovely ruby colored wine has black cherry, cedar, and vanilla cream aromas, which are repeated on the palate. Elegant, balanced, with satiny tannins on the finish, this is a nice effort from a difficult vintage. 90/90.
1998 Trinity Oaks, Merlot, California, $10, 45,000 cases. Cherries, black olive and vanilla aromas are repeated on the palate, with a quite tart finish. 83/85.
1998 Windsor, Merlot, Stockhausen Signature Series, Sonoma County, California, $25.00. This dark ruby, medium-bodied wine is highlighted by blackberry and vanilla aromas and flavors. The tannins are chewy and will benefit from a couple of years in bottle. There is nice acidity on the long finish. 84/83.
1997 Bargetto, LA VITA, Red Table Wine, Santa Cruz Mountains, California, $50, 350 cases. The inaugural release of LA VITA ("the life" in Italian), a blend of 40 percent Dolcetto, 33 percent Nebbiolo and 27 percent Refosco. The wine was aged for two years in oak puncheons and then aged for an additional two years in the bottle prior to release. Very focused, with terrific acidity, the bright red fruits stand up well to fresh tomato bisque. Medium tannins are easy on the palate. 89/84.
1998 Bodegas Balbi, Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina, $8. Blackberry, cherry and black pepper notes are recognized both on the nose and the palate. The tannins are soft, the acidity respectable. This wine is ready to enjoy tonight with your favorite grilled meat dish. An Allied Domecq Wines import. 84/89.
2000 Cline, Oakley Vin Gris, California, $8.50, 8,768 cases. Floral notes prevail, with peach and apricot overtones. Nice acidity and a spectrum of flavors. 82/82.
2000 Cline, Oakley Vin Rouge, California, $8.50, 5,947 cases. Lush black cherry, hints of black pepper and damp earth highlight the nose and palate. A 'big crowd' pleaser. 85/86.
1999 Clos Du Val, White Wine, Ariadne, Napa Valley, California, $25. A marriage of 70 percent Semillon and 30 percent Sauvignon Blanc. Tropical fruit, green apple, and toasted oak aromas highlight this very opulent, creamy wine. Lovely flavors of melon and fig are supported by moderate French vanilla notes that do not overwhelm the fruit at this time. The finish is long and crisp. 90/89.
2000 Covey Run, Morio Muskat, Washington State, $9, 2,770 cases. Big aromas of ripe peaches and honeysuckle, with similar flavors, and a soft, sweet finish. 2.85 percent residual sugar. Serve this one well-chilled as a summer deck wine. 83/83.
1999 Handley, Pinot Meunier, Mystère, Anderson Valley, California, $20, 402 cases. Black cherries, black pepper spice and earthiness best describe the aromas of this dark ruby wine. Intensely fruity and spicy, with underlying forest floor flavors. Match this one with a beef curry dish. 87/87.
1996 Marques de Arienzo, Reserva, Estate Bottled, Rioja, Spain, $15. Black cherry fruit, black pepper, and a light touch of vanilla highlight the nose and palate, with very food-friendly acidity. 87/87.
1999 Shenandoah, Zingiovese, Amador County, California, $13, 627 cases. Cherry, dried cherry, earthiness and cedar aromas and flavors are enhanced by chocolate, coffee and lively acidity. A real mouthful for the price. 87/90.
1998 Terra d'Oro, Sangiovese, Amador County, California, $18. Bright red cherry aromas are followed by lush red fruit, olive, and American oak flavors. Rounded tannins and a long, snappy finish round out this nice New World expression of the grape. 90/90.
2000 Bargetto, Pinot Grigio, California, $16, 2,500 cases. Peach, fig, and floral notes are appreciated on the nose. Off-dry at 0.6 percent residual sugar, with very ripe fruit flavors, spice and lively acidity. 83/81.
2000 Campanile, Pinot Grigio, Friuli, Italy, $10. Crisp, refreshing lemon, green apple and white peach flavors are enhanced by a floral nose. A Beringer Wine Estates import. 85/86.
2000 Handley, Pinot Gris, Anderson Valley, California, $16, 619 cases. An appealing apricot color, with floral and Mandarin orange notes. Light peach and citrus flavors dominate, with a dash of citrus oil and spice on a lightly acidic background. 84/82.
1999 Fetzer, Pinot Noir, Barrel Select, California, $13, 9,000 cases. Dark tea, cedar, cherry and tomato skin aromas are echoed on the palate, with zippy acidity and a long cherry aftertaste. 86/88.
1998 Handley, Pinot Noir, Estate Reserve, Anderson Valley, California, $48, 278 cases. Dark ruby, with bing cherry, cocoa and tea emanating from the glass. Full-bodied, satiny tannins and flavors similar to the nose. The finish is long and crisp. 89/84.
1999 La Crema, Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, California, $22. This medium weight wine has black cherry, plum and light smoky oak notes, which are followed by similar flavors, a touch of cocoa, and integrated vanillin. Easy tannins and snappy acidity wrap up the wine. 88/89.
1998 Mirassou, Pinot Noir, Coastal Selection, Monterey County, California, $13.50, 8,068 cases. This overachiever displays aromas of lush cherry fruit, smoke, brown sugar spice and vanilla. Cherry and plum flavors integrate well with the snappy acidity. 86/89.
NV Peachy Canyon, Zinfandel Port, Paso Robles, California, $40, 495 cases. A very lovely New World offering that does not show heat, despite the 19.8 percent alcohol. Nicely balanced, with rich fruit and a nutty/cashew flavor on the very long finish. 88/86.
2000 Ste. Chapelle, Johannisberg Riesling, Dry, Idaho, $6, 10,000 cases. Actually off-dry at 0.88 percent residual sugar, with aromas of apricots and peaches. Peach fruit prevails in this straightforward quaffer, with an adequate underpinning of acidity. 83/86.
2000 Cline, Oakley Vin Gris, California, $8.50, 1,255 cases. Strawberry coloration. Red cherry and strawberry aromas enhance this slightly off-dry wine. Firm acidity, fresh strawberry fruit, and a touch of earthiness define this fine summer sipper. A nice match for grilled salmon with tarragon butter. 86/89.
2000 Handley, Rosé, Anderson Valley, California, $12, 288 cases. 50 percent Pinot Noir, 50 percent Pinot Meunier. The wine has a lovely dark salmon color, with red cherry, strawberry and banana aromas. Straightforward tropical punch flavors are supported by threshold sweetness and brisk acidity. 83/83.
2000 Montevina, Nebbiolo Rosato, Amador County, California, $7.50, 1,600 cases. Pink salmon in color, the wine has watermelon and red berry aromas and flavors. Crisp on the finish, serve this one well-chilled. A decent summer quaffer for those who like some sweetness in their wine (1.4 percent residual sugar). 82/83.
2000 Clos Du Bois, Sauvignon Blanc, North Coast, California, $10. Grapefruit and cut hay aromas lead the way with this light gold wine, followed by straightforward grapefruit, melon and light oak flavors, finishing crisp and clean. 84/86.
2000 Dry Creek Vineyard, Fume Blanc, Sonoma County, California, $12.75, 33,500 cases. Lemon grass is defined by this wine. Both aromas and flavors make this quite evident. Additional citrus notes are followed by a nice acid structure and gooseberries on the long finish. 86/87.
2000 Guenoc, Sauvignon Blanc, California, $11.75, 11,650 cases. Crisp, clean and light. Fragrances of citrus, melon and vanilla are echoed on the palate, with a modest finish. 84/85.
1999 Handley, Sauvignon Blanc, Ferrington Vineyard, Anderson Valley, California, $14, 337 cases. While replanting their own vineyard in Dry Creek, Handley sourced these grapes from Anderson Valley. Aromas of grapefruit, pineapple and vanilla are echoed on the palate, along with tart lemon flavors and an unusually acidic finish. 84/84.
2000 Stone Creek, Sauvignon Blanc, Special Selection, California, $8. 81 percent Sauvignon Blanc and 19 percent Semillon blend. Light straw in color, with tropical fruit and gooseberry aromas. Lightly styled, with refreshing acidity, citrus fruit, and a medium-length finish. 84/89.
2000 Vina Tarapaca, Sauvignon Blanc, La Isla, Maipo Valley, Chile, $13.50. Grapefruit dominates the nose of this wine, with a touch of apple lurking in the background. These highlights are echoed on the palate, along with French vanilla, herbal notes, and light acidity. 84/84.
1996 Handley, Brut, Anderson Valley, California, $29, 647 cases. A blend of 55 percent Chardonnay and 45 percent Pinot Noir. Light toast on the nose with fine bubbles. Clean and quite crisp, doughy flavors prevail, with green apple flavors on the finish. 86/84.
1998 Bodegas Balbi, Syrah, Mendoza, Argentina, $8. Big raspberry aromas tempt the nose, with added earthy and black pepper notes. The pepper is much more evident on the palate, melding seamlessly with the pleasant raspberry fruit. Rounded tannins allow early enjoyment. 85/90.
1998 Columbia, Syrah, Yakima Valley, Washington, $18. A pretty classic nose of smoked meats, black cherry and cedar is found in this dark ruby release. These aromas are repeated on the palate. Satiny tannins allow early consumption. 87/89.
1998 Covey Run, Syrah, Barrel Select, Yakima Valley, Washington, $15, 9,797 cases. The nose of this wine defines leather aromas. Dark fruit, pepper and cedar notes lurk in the background. These aromas are repeated on the palate, with moderate but silky tannins and a long, lovely finish. 88/92.
1999 Hogue, Syrah, Vineyard Selection, Columbia Valley, Washington, $18, 10,383 cases. The nose manages to cover the entire red fruit spectrum, with added floral highlights and a dash of black pepper. Full-bodied, with supple tannins, you'll find similar flavors as on the nose, with oak spice on the finish. 86/87.
1999 Montpellier, Syrah, California, $7. Juicy berry aromas and a bit of earthiness play on the nose. Mixed berry jam, delicate American oak flavors, and firm but supple tannins round out this overachiever. 86/91.
1999 Silver Ridge, Syrah, Barrel Select, California, $10. Plum jam and berries highlight the nose and palate of this deep ruby wine. You'll find a touch of smoke and medium tannins on the fruity finish. 83/87.
2000 Callaway, Viognier, Reserve, Coastal, California, $15, 3,814 cases. Peaches, honeysuckle and rose petals vie for dominance on the nose. Full and rich on the palate, the wine has a creamy mouthfeel, tropical fruit and floral qualities. 87/89.
2000 Hogue, Viognier, Columbia Valley, Washington, $16, 1,244 cases. Very floral, with added apricot and vanilla highlights. Soft and rich on the palate, apricot and cinnamon flavors predominate, followed by nectarine fruit on the lingering finish. 86/87.
2000 Sobon Estate, Viognier, Estate Bottled, Shenandoah Valley, California, $15, 1,800 cases. Very floral, honeysuckle dominant, with hints of white peach. Full-bodied, crisp, with rich peach, tropical fruit and spicy flavors on the long aftertaste. 88/90.
1999 Clos Du Val, Zinfandel, Palisade Vineyard, Stags Leap, Napa Valley, California, $28, 1,000 cases. Black fruit and leather notes tease the nose. Very rich and elegant on the entry, cranberry fruit expresses itself big time, along with black pepper and easy tannins. Long aftertaste. 88/86.
1998 Fetzer, Zinfandel, Barrel Select, Mendocino County, California, $12, 9,000 cases. Blackberry jam, black pepper, light vanilla, cedar, moderate tannins and brisk acidity all combine to make an interesting package. 85/87.
1998 Guenoc, Zinfandel, North Coast, California, $13.50, 4,653 cases. Plums and earthy aromas and flavors, vanilla, dill spice, modest tannins and crisp acidity sum up the package. 83/85.
1999 Montevina, Zinfandel, Amador County, California, $12, 39,000 cases. Blackberry, cinnamon and anise highlight the nose of this medium-bodied, nicely balanced wine. Lush fruit and delightful black pepper flavors stand out, with modest tannins and fruit jam on the finish. Drink early before the 15.5 percent alcohol becomes more apparent. 87/90.
1999 Shenandoah, Zinfandel, Special Reserve, Amador County, California, $10, 6,700 cases. Dark ruby, with brambly black fruit, cocoa and light vanilla aromas and flavors. Moderate but supple tannins and nice acidity round out this good value wine. 86/90.
1999 Sobon Estate, Zinfandel, Cougar Hill, Shenandoah Valley, California, $15, 690 cases. Big licorice, chocolate, mint and black cherry aromas. Full-bodied, with medium tannins, rich blackberry fruit and a healthy dose of oak vanillin. Give this one 2-3 years to mellow the tannins. 85/87.
1999 Sobon Estate, Zinfandel, Fiddletown, Shenandoah Valley, California, $18, 1,065 cases. Lovely cherry, vanilla and spice aromas and flavors, with floral and earthy components that enhance the wine. Moderate but supple tannins are found on the long, fruity finish. 88/89.
1999 Sobon Estate, Zinfandel, Rocky Top, Shenandoah Valley, California, $15, 1,460 cases. Juicy raspberry and oak aromas are repeated on the palate, with a touch of coffee. The wine will benefit from a couple of years in the bottle to soften the tannins. 85/87.
1999 Trinity Oaks, Zinfandel, California, $10, 40,000 cases. Brambly, jammy fruit aromas carry over to the palate, along with blueberry, raspberry and clove flavors. Light to medium-bodied, the easy tannins invite early drinking. 85/88.