Bucko's New Releases

© 2002 by Randy Buckner
June 3, 2002

Late Spring 2002 Releases

Spring is in full bloom across the land and summer is lurking right around the corner. The backyard gourmets have their barbeques white hot, waiting to offer another sacrifice to the briquette gods. The kids could care less, waiting for their hot dog to come off of the grill, and the family mutt is happy for any chance dropping on the lawn. The dual rating system evaluates quality (the first number) and value (the second) on a 100-point scale. As always, enjoy a bottle with dinner tonight.

Cabernet Sauvignon wine glass

2000 Bogle, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, $12. Very aromatic, with raspberry, blackberry, tobacco and spicy notes. Light, easy to drink right now, with friendly tannins. 84/86.

1998 Col Solare, Columbia Valley, Washington, $65, 4,800 cases. Col Solare is a partnership between Tuscany's Marchesi Antinori and Washington State's Chateau Ste. Michelle. Col Solare means "shining hill." Rich aromas of black fruit and sweet vanilla enchant the nose. This wine is intense, with blackberry jam flavors sustained by brisk acidity. The aftertaste seems endless. 92/90.

1999 Columbia Crest, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grand Estates, Columbia Valley, Washington, $11. Aromas of black cherries, mocha, cedar and smoke are evident up front. Black cherry fruit and American oak flavors are unmistakable, with toasty notes on the finish. 84/86.

1999 Columbia Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington, $15. Raspberries and oak spice emanate from this sparkling ruby wine. Nicely balanced. The wine offers non-pretentious, honest fruit flavors, herbaceousness, and delightful acidity. A nice value. 85/89.

1997 Columbia Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Willow Vineyard, Yakima Valley, Washington, $29, 2,514 cases. A melange of blueberry, plum, cedar and mineral notes are presented to the nose. Very elegant on the entry, with the bright acidity enhancing the black cherry fruit, dark chocolate and cedar flavors. 89/90.

2000 Covey Run, Cabernet-Merlot, Washington State, $9, 41,700 cases. The wine has an interesting nose, unveiling blackberries, minerals and smoke. The tannins are a bit coarse, but the berry fruit, vanilla, and zippy acidity provide adequate pleasure. 82/84.

2000 Echelon, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, $12.50, 16,000 cases. Black cherry aromas leap from the glass, with sweet oak and olive notes which repeat on the palate. Tannins are slightly drying. 83/85.

1999 Frei Brothers, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, California, $24. Very dark in the glass, with aromas of black cherry, plum, cedar and vanilla nuances. These repeat on the palate. Generous tannins dictate some bottle aging. 86/86.

1999 Gallo of Sonoma, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Sonoma County, California, $13. Lots of berries and oak barrel aromas are identified on the nose. Cherries and berries are supported by sweet oak, moderate tannins and a long, fruity finish. 86/90.

1996 Gallo of Sonoma, Cabernet Sauvignon, Stefani Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley, California, $26. Very deep in color, with aromas of cassis, cardamom spice, cedar and tobacco. Throwing obvious sediment, the tannins have certainly resolved to a satisfactory level. Complex black fruit lingers on the palate, begging for another sip. Delightful now, but will continue to improve in the bottle. 90/91.

1998 Hahn, Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Lucia Highlands, California, $12, 19,345 cases. This ruby colored release has lots of blackberries, olives and cedar notes to tempt the nose. There are some dusty/earthy flavors right up front, followed by currants, black olives and sweet vanilla. 84/87.

1999 Matthews, Red Wine, Yakima Valley, Washington, $45, 2,700 cases. This is a Bordeaux blend aged in 100% new French oak, and is Matthew's second label. While it may be a second label, it is not second class. The wine is full of plum and blackberry aromas and flavors, with chalky/mineral nuances adding a nice accent. 89/88.

1999 Oakstone, Cabernet Sauvignon, De Cascabel Vineyard, Fair Play, California, $16, 603 cases. Cherries, currants, cedar, and maybe a touch of olive intermingle on the nose. Light to medium-bodied, the wine is made for early consumption. Red cherries, currants and French vanilla linger on the extended finish. 85/87.

1998 Quilceda Creek, Red Table Wine, Columbia Valley, Washington, $36. This is the second label of Quilceda Creek and is very tasty in its own right. Black cherry aromas and flavors are dominant, with a dash of minerals for interest. The tannins are a bit chewy at this point, something that 2-3 years in bottle should help resolve. 87/87.

1999 Reininger, Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, Washington, $32, 524 cases. This wine exudes complex, sweet black fruit on the nose and palate, with a touch of bell pepper, moderate vanilla notes and a lingering aftertaste. 88/88.

1999 Snoqualmie, Cabernet-Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington, $11. Aromas of black cherry, cola, cedar and a hint of dill spice are manifest on the nose. The wine is very soft and fruity, with painless tannins and vanilla notes. These all combine for a tasty, good value wine. 85/88.

2000 Ste. Chapelle, Cabernet Sauvignon, Winemaker's Series, Idaho, $10. Black cherries, spice and dark chocolate highlight the nose. Straightforward flavors of black cherries and herbs finish with slightly drying tannins. 81/82.

1999 Tamarack, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington, $32, 775 cases. This wine continues to evolve in the glass. You'll find lots of juicy berry fruit supported by crisp acidity. The finish is long and elegant. The smooth tannins allow early consumption, but the wine will continue to improve with age. 88/88.

2000 Tapiz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendoza Region, Argentina, $8. Dark ruby, with aromas of cherry cola, chocolate and old wood. You'll find honest flavors of cherries, blueberries, tobacco and cedar. This would make a perfect airlines wine instead of the plonk usually offered. 85/89.

1999 Wineglass, Cabernet Sauvignon, Elerding Vineyard, Yakima Valley, Washington, $45, 136 cases. Raspberries in a Cab? They're here, along with black fruit and mineral notes. This wine has lovely balance and acidity, making for a very nice package. 90/89.

Chardonnay wine glass

2000 Chateau Ste Michelle, Chardonnay, Barrel Fermented, Columbia Valley, Washington, $13. Aromas of pears, ripe apples and lemon drops combine with vanilla spice and butter. Similar flavors are found, with a creamy mouthfeel and long aftertaste. 85/87.

2000 Chateau Ste Michelle, Chardonnay, Canoe Ridge, Columbia Valley, Washington, $20. Toasted oak controls the nose. Very soft and creamy on the palate, with vanilla and caramel dominating, pear and spice peering in. Oak fans will love this one. 84/84.

1999 Columbia Winery, Chardonnay, Woodburne Cuvée, Columbia Valley, Washington, $13, 15,033 cases. Light gold in the glass. Apples, cantaloupe and toasty oak are appreciated on the nose and palate, augmented by crisp acidity and a lengthy finish. 86/88.

2000 Domaine Chandon, Chardonnay, Carneros, California, $19, 1,220 cases. Layers of vanilla, spice, honey and melon dance on the nose. Apples, orange zest, nutmeg and crème brulee are supported by food friendly acids. Nice minerals are noted on the finish. Nice wine for the style. 88/89.

2000 Edmeades, Chardonnay, Anderson Valley, California, $18, 2,757 cases. A host of aromas await the nose, including apple, pear, honey, butterscotch, and toast. All native yeasts and whole cluster pressing was used. Soft on the entry, with flavors of sweet pears, yellow delicious apples and lemon cream. The oak is less prevalent on the palate, working well here. 87/88.

2000 Frei Brothers, Chardonnay, Reserve, Russian River Valley, California, $17. Golden coloration with pear, apple, butter, and toasted oak notes. Very soft, creamy, with similar flavors on the long finish. 85/86.

2000 Gallo of Sonoma, Chardonnay, Reserve, Sonoma County, California, $11. Delightful tangerine and green apple notes reign on the nose and palate, with crisp acidity and a long, lush aftertaste. 86/88.

1999 Hahn, Chardonnay, Monterey, California, $12, 17,000 cases. This is a fair value wine for fans of the style. Pineapple, vanilla, cedar, and butterscotch play out on the nose and palate, with a creamy feel throughout. 84/87.

1999 Ste. Chapelle, Chardonnay, Idaho, $7. The nose is reminiscent of lemon cream. Lemon, vanilla and light toast flavors are backed by snappy acidity. 82/83.

2000 Tapiz, Chardonnay, Mendoza Region, Argentina, $8. Tropical fruit, honeysuckle and oak notes emanate from the glass. Straightforward peach, pear, citrus and vanilla flavors are presented in a tasty value package. 83/86.

2000 White Heron, Chardonnay, Frenchman Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Washington, $10, 500 cases. Cameron Fries has a mission – provide quality wines at a reasonable tariff. He usually succeeds in this goal. This Chardonnay has nice fruit that is not buried under a ton of oak. Although the wine saw 100% MLF, it still maintains a pleasing crispness. 86/89.

Gewurztraminer wine glass

Chateau St Jean 2001 Chateau St Jean, Gewurztraminer, Sonoma County, California, $15. Floral notes fill the nose. Citrus and melon flavors are up front, but no lychee or grapefruit characteristic of the grape. Light acidity and 1.77% residual sugar finishes out the wine. 84/84.

2001 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Gewurztraminer, Columbia Valley, Washington, $8. Straw colored. Very aromatic, with straightforward grapefruit, lychee, and mandarin orange aromas and flavors. Off-dry (2% residual sugar) with balancing acidity. 83/84.

2001 Columbia Winery, Gewurztraminer, Columbia Valley, Washington, $7, 10,000 cases. The wine has a lovely straw yellow color, with nice lychee and honeysuckle aromas. Displaying nice acidity for the grape, the wine is sweet at 2.75% residual sugar. Grapefruit flavors reign. This will make a great summer sipper. 84/87.

2000 Madrona, Gewurztraminer, El Dorado, California, $10, 671 cases. Quite aromatic, with melon, grapefruit and floral notes. The flavors speak of apples and cantaloupe. Threshold sweetness and modest acidity makes this a nice match for a Thai noodle salad. 86/87.

2001 Ste. Chapelle, Gewurztraminer, Winemaker's Series, Idaho, $6. Light straw in color, with a distinctive spicy grapefruit nose. Flavorful, spicy, with moderate acidity. Serve chilled with a fruit and cheese plate. 82/83.

Merlot wine glass

2000 Andrew Will, Merlot, Sheridan Vineyard, Washington State, $38, 473 cases. Chris does a good job in holding the oak in check with this wine. Very fruity, with loads of tasty blueberry fruit, silky tannins and an extended finish. 88/87.

Barefoot 1999 Barefoot, Merlot, Reserve, Sonoma County, California, $17, 1,299 cases. Coffee, blackberries and herbs delight the nose. Velvety in the mouth, the wine is inviting to drink now for the Bing cherry flavors. 86/87.

1999 Chateau Ste Michelle, Merlot, Indian Wells, Columbia Valley, Washington, $32. The wine has an intriguing nose, with black cherries, floral notes, a trace of olive and sweet vanilla unfolding. Very elegant, this Merlot wine reveals layer after layer of black fruit, cocoa, cedar, and well-integrated vanilla. The medium-weight tannins are silky smooth. 91/91.

1999 Chateau Ste Michelle, Merlot, Reserve, Columbia Valley, Washington, $37. Very deeply colored, with cherry, mint leaf and dark chocolate notes. Well-balanced, with bright acidity, this wine is structured for the long haul. The mixed fruits and allspice are pretty tightly wrapped at this point. Give this one three to five years to show its stuff. 90/89.

1999 Columbia Winery, Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington, $15, 14,500 cases. This ruby red offering provides a lot of black fruit and blueberries, with a dash of black olive and mocha for interest. Medium-bodied, nicely balanced, this is a straightforward, no bells and whistles, everyday drinker. 85/87.

1999 Duck Pond, Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington, $11, 12,500 cases. This is a pretty big Merlot for eleven bucks. Full-bodied, with medium-weight tannins, the wine offers a host of black fruit flavors and spices. 83/85.

2000 Dynamite, Merlot, North Coast, California, $17, 37,000 cases. Dark ruby in color, with aromas of cassis and fresh herbs. Medium-bodied, elegant, with ripe tannins. Full Bing cherry fruit and enhancing oak nuances make a lovely wine. 87/88.

2000 Echelon, Merlot, Central Coast, California, $12.50, 40,000 cases. Cherries, oak spice, and herbal notes are found in this ruby red release. Nicely balanced, the flavors speak of cherries, cedar wood and vanilla. 85/87.

2000 Frei Brothers, Merlot, Reserve, Dry Creek Valley, California, $17. Classic aromas of black cherries, cocoa, and black olives emanate from this ruby release. Silky, with sweet cherry/berry fruit, herbs and food-friendly acidity. 86/87.

1999 Gallo of Sonoma, Merlot, Sonoma County, California, $11. Lots of mixed black berries, sweet vanillin, and chalky minerals delight the senses. Easy tannins are noted on the long, fruity finish. 87/90.

2000 Sagelands, Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington, $14.50, 10,545 cases. This nicely balanced wine has aromas and flavors of black cherries, cocoa, and mixed herbs. Chalky/mineral flavors add interest. Give this one a year or two in bottle. 85/86.

2000 Spring Valley Vineyard, Red Table Wine, Uriah, Walla Walla Valley, Washington, $35, 1,200 cases. A Bordeaux blend with Merlot being the main grape. This wine is even better now than when barrel sampled. Very balanced, with juicy black fruit, polished tannins and an extended finish, and is a good value to boot. 90/91.

2000 Tapiz, Merlot, Mendoza Region, Argentina, $8. Plum, black cherry and coffee aromas repeat on the palate. Soft tannins allow for early consumption. 84/85.

Miscellaneous wine glasswine glass

2000 Covey Run, Lemberger, Washington State, $7, 3,248 cases. This purple-hued wine is full of red cherry, plum and forest floor aromas. Tart cherries dance on the palate, amplified by brisk acidity and agile tannins. This wine will work well where any light-bodied is called for, such as grilled chicken or pork chops. 84/86.

2000 Covey Run, Semillon-Chardonnay, Washington State, $7, 16,250 cases. Melon and fig aromas emanate from this straw colored blend. Simple on the palate, yet intriguing enough to hold interest, especially in this price class. Drink now for the youthful fruit. 83/85.

Domaine Chandon 2000 Domaine Chandon, Pinot Meunier, Carneros, California, $29, 2,433 cases. This is the best example of the grape that I have yet encountered. Dried red currants, soy sauce and spice delight the nose. Intense, lush flavors of blueberries, red cherries, mushrooms, ginger and vanilla are in perfect harmony. This will be a great match with roast duck. 90/90.

2000 EXP, Tempranillo, Dunnigan Hills, California, $25, 1,350 cases. Subtle aromas of anise augment the strawberry, cherry and oak barrel notes. The wine is very tannic at this point and needs three to five years in bottle to let the fruit shine. 85/84.

1999 Granite Springs, Petite Sirah, El Dorado, California, $20, 808 cases. A second visit to this wine. A youthful deep purple color, this is a big boy. Intense black fruit and smoked meat aromas repeat on the palate, with an invigorating blast of cracked black pepper. Substantial tannins become obvious on the lengthy finish. Nice effort. 89/90.

2000 Pepi, Barbera, California, $14. Vineyard sources for this wine are Amador County and Lodi. Bright cherry aromas are quite gratifying. Juicy cherry and vanilla cream flavors are followed by silky tannins and nice acids. 87/89.

2001 Sierra Vista, Belle Rose, El Dorado, California, $9.50, 272 cases. A dry, serious Rosé blend from Syrah, Mourvedre and Grenache grapes. The color reminds you of a Tavel, with fresh strawberries on the nose. Soft yet crisp on the palate, the fruit speaks of red plums and Rainier cherries. This wine is made for a picnic basket stuffed full of fried chicken. 89/90.

2000 Tapiz, Malbec, Mendoza Region, Argentina, $8. This light-bodied wine has aromas and flavors of black cherry jam and white pepper. A nice quaffer for the summer BBQs. 84/86.

2001 Yellow Hawk, Muscat Canelli, Columbia Valley, Washington, $12, 243 cases. Here is another terrific wine for those summer parties and picnics. Made in an off-dry style with only 0.7% residual sugar, the wine is very focused. Full of pear and floral notes, the crisp acidity works well here. This is a very fine expression of the grape. Don't miss this one. 90/91.

Pinot Gris wine glass

2001 Chateau Ste Michelle, Pinot Gris, Columbia Valley, Washington, $13. This is their inaugural vintage. Very floral, with mandarin orange and melon notes. Flavors are light and straightforward. Drink over the short term. 84/84.

2001 Echelon, Pinot Grigio, Central Coast, California, $11, 4,100 cases. Their very first Pinot Grigio offers lovely floral aromas. Crisp and refreshing, lemons, spice and sweet pears linger on the aftertaste. Match with grilled shrimp. 85/86.

2000, Gallo of Sonoma, Pinot Gris, Sonoma Coast, California, $13. A very delicate nose and taste of melon and citrus zest is sustained by the crisp acidity, with a lingering finish. 85/85.

2000 Pontin Del Roza, Pinot Grigio, Yakima Valley, Washington, $11. This is a wine to enjoy on your summer outings. The clean, crisp, straightforward fruit will match most picnic fare well, plus the light-bodied wine will refresh the palate on a hot day. 84/84.

Pinot Noir wine glass

2000 Brick House, Pinot Noir, "Cuvee du Tonnelier," Willamette Valley, Oregon, $42.50, 480 cases. A blend of 80% Pommard clone grapes and 20% Dijon clone grapes, with only 1.3 tons per acre vineyard yield. Black cherries, leather, brown sugar and mushroom aromas are coaxed from the wine, with nuances of French vanilla. Tight and built for aging, the wine unveils dusty tannins, elegant balance, a fruit bowl of flavors and very nice acidity. 92/90.

2000 Brick House, Pinot Noir, "Les Dijonnais," Willamette Valley, Oregon, $42.50, 440 cases. A blend of 80% Dijon clone grapes and 20% Pommard clone grapes, with only 1.15 tons per acre vineyard yield. Complex aromas of blackberries, red cherries and French vanilla are enhanced by earthy/mushroom notes. This release is more lean in style and tannic than its sister. You'll find lots of mixed red and black fruit, integrated sweet oak and brisk acidity. The wine will benefit from several years of aging. 90+/88+.

Domaine Chandon 2000 Domaine Chandon, Pinot Noir, Carneros, California, $29, 7,040 cases. There are plenty of adjectives for this wine: black cherries, fig preserves, brown sugar, mushrooms, earth, and French vanilla. Full-bodied and complex, the aftertaste is quite long and fruity. 90/90.

2000 Duck Pond, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $10, 15,000 cases. This is a straightforward wine that does offer a light, flavorful Pinot at a bang-up price. Black cherry, cedar and earthy notes enhance the wine. 84/88.

1999 Edmeades, Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, California, $20, 1,670 cases. Strawberries, raspberries, cedar and spice delineate the nose and palate. Medium-weight and very crisp, this garnet wine is a nice value. 88/89.

2000 Frei Brothers, Pinot Noir, Reserve, Russian River Valley, California, $24. This Pinot offers pretty classic black cherries, earthy notes and toasty oak on the nose. Easy on the palate, the cherry, raspberry, and sweet oak flavors are framed by the invigorating acidity. Sweet fruit lingers on the finish. 87/87.

2000 Valley of the Moon, Pinot Noir, Sonoma, California, $20, 1,800 cases. Ripe strawberries, dried cherries, tea and leather come together on the nose, then repeat in the mouth. Intense, full-bodied, with brisk acidity, this is perfect for your favorite pork tenderloin recipe. 89/90.

Riesling wine glass

2001 Beringer, Johannisberg Riesling, California, $6. While simple, the wine delivers honest aromas and flavors of orange blossoms and peaches, making it an affordable summer drink. 83/84.

Chateau St Jean 2001 Chateau St Jean, Johannisberg Riesling, Sonoma County, California, $15. Delicately sweet at 2.55% residual sugar. Muskmelon and nectarine fruit are balanced by light acidity, with a long, clean, fruity finish. Match with a cheese plate. 86/86.

2001 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Johannisberg Riesling, Columbia Valley, Washington, $8. Very peachy on the nose, with light honeysuckle notes. Off-dry, with nice acidity and simple but pleasant flavors, this will make a nice picnic wine. 84/85.

2001 Columbia Crest, Johannisberg Riesling, Columbia Valley, Washington, $7. Fresh apricot and honeysuckle amuse the senses. There is 2.7% residual sugar, supported by very crisp acidity that pulls this one off. A real steal! 87/90.

2001 Columbia Winery, Cellar Master's Riesling, Columbia Valley, Washington, $7. Nice floral aromas greet the nose, with ripe apricots making a statement. Surprisingly full and rich. Acidity is adequate to match the 5.6% residual sugar, but I would like to see a bit more. Good value. 86/89.

2000 Covey Run, Dry Riesling, Washington State, $7, 7,000 cases. Despite the name, the wine is off-dry at 1.3% residual sugar. Tart tangerine flavors are bolstered by apricot and floral aromas and a crisp, lingering finish. 83/85.

2001 Ste. Chapelle, Johannisberg Riesling, Winemaker's Series, Idaho, $6. Sweet (3.15% residual sugar), with flavors and aromas of peaches and apricots. Match with tart apple slices. 81/82.

Sangiovese wine glass

1999 Jodar, Sangiovese, El Dorado, California, $26, 274 cases. Leather, black cherry and spice notes lead off. The bright acidity showcases the bing cherry and black tea flavors. Tannins are very manageable, the finish endless. 88/88.

1999 Pepi, Sangiovese, California, $14. Red cherries, dried cherries and leather are presented on a firm, acidic backbone, with moderate drying tannins. Cherry vanilla lingers on the finish. Match with pasta and marinara sauce. 86/88.

2000 Yellow Hawk Cellar, Sangiovese, Walla Walla Valley, Washington, $17, 385 cases. A former cellar master for another winery, Tim Sampson is on his own now, turning out some pleasant hand-crafted wines. This Sanjo has a nice peppery streak running through the succulent fruit. The acidity demands food accompaniment. Good value. 88/90.

Sauvignon Blanc wine glass

2000 Pepi, Sauvignon Blanc, California, $11, 13,000 cases. Lots of grapefruit and melon on the nose, with just a touch of oak shining through. Very rounded, with sweet melon and gooseberry flavors, oak well in the background, and borderline acidity to make it work. 85/87.

Syrah wine glass

1999 Duck Pond, Syrah, Wahluke Slope, Columbia Valley, Washington, $35, 500 cases. Inky purple. Duck Pond rolled a strike here. Delightful raspberry aromas leave you salivating. Raspberry fruit commands the palate, with substantial but ripe tannins, sweet vanilla and violet notes. A most delightful wine. 90/90.

1999 Edmeades, Syrah, Eaglepoint Vineyard, Mendocino, California, $23, 467 cases. Deeply colored with violet and blueberry notes. Crisp on the palate, the floral sense carries over to the palate, with white pepper accents. 88/90.

2000 Glen Fiona, Syrah, Bacchus, Columbia Valley, Washington, $20, 1,519 cases. This is a nice New World offering. Plums and black fruit evolve on the nose, while blackberry jam flavors tickle the senses. Friendly tannins, brisk acidity and a long aftertaste give impact to the wine. 90/91.

2000 McCrea, Syrah, Boushey Grande Cote Vineyard, Yakima Valley, Washington, $42, 225 cases. The grapes for this wine come from the very first plantings of Boushey Vineyards, reserved exclusively for Doug. The soil is unique here due to the pumice in the earth. The aromas are replete with dark fruits, white pepper and sweet vanilla. The wine is very intense, fruity and crisp while maintaining impeccable balance. Violets and blueberries unfold with time in the glass and linger on the finish. 93/91.

2000 McCrea, Syrah, Ciel du Cheval, Red Mountain, Washington, $42, 225 cases. This is your big boy, a stunner for fans of the full-blown style. This wine is loaded with aromas and flavors of ripe raspberries, strawberries, and blackberry spice. Very jammy, lush and full. 91/89.

2000 McCrea, Syrah, Yakima Valley, Washington, $32. The aromas are full of mixed black fruit, a touch of earthy funk that I find charming, and light toasty aromas. The acidity brings this wine to life, with very sweet fruit that captivates the palate, plums in the forefront. 90/90.

Viognier wine glass

2001 Echelon, Viognier, Clarksburg, California, $12.50, 7,800 cases. Gold, with a slight green tinge, the nose speaks of spiced peaches and delicate oak. Nicely balanced, fruity, and spicy, there is a touch of apricot on the zippy finish. 84/86.

2001 EXP, Viognier, Dunnigan Hills, California, $14, 16,805 cases. Peach and honeysuckle aromas carry over to the palate, with added tropical fruit. The wine is very soft and creamy, with a touch of heat. 84/84.

Zinfandel wine glass

2000 Edmeades, Zinfandel, Alden Vineyard, Mendocino Ridge, California, $25, 465 cases. A late-harvest Zin that is a powerhouse, with 16.9% alcohol and 2.9% residual sugar. Very dense in color, with pipe tobacco, chocolate and honey nuances on the nose. Dense and fruity , this would match nicely with chocolate mousse or a cigar on the back deck. 88/88.

1999 Edmeades, Zinfandel, Eaglepoint Vineyard, Mendocino, California, $25, 1,278 cases. Brambly, earthy aromas expand on the palate, with huge fruit extraction, 15.6% alcohol, providing fans of the style with a chewy delight. 86/86.

1998 Edmeades, Zinfandel, Mendocino, California, $16, 5068 cases. This wine used native yeast fermentation. Raspberries, plums, licorice and chocolate intermingle on the nose. The Zin is very lush, with old vine fruit exploding on the palate. The tannins are smooth, the acidity brisk. Tasty. 89/90.

2000 Rancho Zabaco, Zinfandel, Dancing Bull, California, $12. This ruby beauty has lively raspberry aromas brimming from the glass, with just a touch of cranberry and tea. Blackberry and raspberry jam dominates the palate, with ripe tannins and soft acidity. This is a fun wine. 88/90.

1999 Rancho Zabaco, Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, California, $18. Very densely colored (11% Petite Sirah added). You'll find straightforward blackberry, raspberry, and cedar flavors and aromas. 85/85.

2000 Rancho Zabaco, Heritage Vines, Sonoma County, California, $16. Very ripe, jammy blackberry aromas encourage taking a sample sip. Sweet black fruit and chewy tannins are right up front, with underlying cocoa, spice and vanilla notes. 86/87.

1999 Lake Sonoma, Zinfandel, Old Vine, Dry Creek Valley, California, $20, 861 cases. This dark ruby wine has pretty classic aromas and flavors of Zinfandel fruit on a bold framework of tannins and acidity. Age a couple of years or so. 85/85.

1999 Latcham, Zinfandel, El Dorado, California, $18, 1,218 cases. A blend of blackberry jam and dill spice fills the nose. This medium-weight wine offers plenty of black fruit, a peppery streak, generous tannins, and American oak flavors. Pleasant overall. 87/88.

2000 Perry Creek, Zinfandel, Zin Man, Sierra Foothills, California, $12, 5,500 cases. The nose was a bit reticent at first, and then gave off lovely raspberry aromas. People who like jammy, peppery Zins will love this one. Terrific acidity makes this one scream for BBQ. Great value. 89/92.

2000 Shenandoah Vineyards, Zinfandel, Special Reserve, Amador County, California, $10, 4,550 cases. Aromas speak of blackberry, cherry and a juniper/mint character that carries over to the palate. Brambly fruit and green peppercorns are noted on the long, dry finish. 85/87.

2000 Shenandoah Vineyards, Zinfandel, Vintners Selection, Amador County, California, $13, 430 cases. You'll find nice, jammy, briary fruit, terrific acidity, and a long, fruity finish. Blackberry and cedar aromas add enjoyment to the wine. Break out the barbeque grill. 87/89.

2000 Sobon Estate, Zinfandel, ReZerve, Shenandoah Valley, California, $24, 740 cases. Blackberries, mocha and vanilla play out on the nose and palate. Very rich and elegant, additional plum flavors add interest. The silky tannins gather steam on the finish. This is a fun Zin. 90/90.

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