Bucko's New Releases

© 2004 by Randy Buckner
June 2004

Late Spring 2004 Releases

We have quite an array of international wines this month, especially from our Southern Hemisphere friends. There are 10 wines from Australia, seven from New Zealand, five from Chile, three from South Africa, six from Italy and two from France. California, Washington, and Oregon wrap up the new releases. There are lots of tasty wines this month, so pour yourself a glass or three - it may help drown out the political rhetoric assaulting our airways.

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 wine glass

2001 Beringer, Cabernet Sauvignon, Founders' Estate, California, $12. Aromas of cassis, olive, cedar, and hints of licorice unfold on the nose. Tart, with rounded tannins, the wine has straightforward black fruit and herbal notes; 83/83.

Bleasdale 2001 Bleasdale, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mulberry Tree, Langhorn Creek, Australia, $16. This medium-ruby red wine has aromas of ripe (bordering on overripe) plums, Kirsch, and toasty American oak barrel notes. Medium in weight, jammy, with soft, silky tannins, you can enjoy this one now for the youthful fruit or over the 4-5 years; 87/89.

2001 Clos Du Val, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, $28, 37,500 cases. Balance is the name of the game here. You can drink this one now or for many years to come. Layers of mixed red and black fruit are enhanced by nuances of chocolate, vanilla, and coffee; 87/87.

2001 Geyser Peak, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, California, $18, 49,400 cases. Bold aromas of blackberries, cassis, and American oak leap from the glass. Full, balanced, and moderately tannic. Black cherry and blackberry fruit plays in harmony with the 20% new American oak. Tasty; 87/88.

2001 Geyser Peak, Cabernet Sauvignon, Block Collection, Kuimelis Vineyard, Alexander Valley, California, $32, 1,200 cases. Lively aromas of black cherries, blackberries, cedar shakes, and vanilla carry over to the palate. Bold on the entry with plenty of ripe tannins, the 14.5% alcohol leaves a bit of heat on the finish; 88/88.

2002 Hahn, Cabernet Sauvignon, Central Coast, California, $14, 16,000 cases. Aromas of black cherries, anise, and cedar start off the wine. In the mouth tannins take a firm grip, with flavors of black fruit, cedar, and cigar leaf; 85/86.

2001 Hogue, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Columbia Valley, Washington, $30, 1,149 cases. Almost black in the glass, the wine has rustic tannins and bright acidity to back the core of black cherries, chocolate, cedar, and vanilla. Very long finish; 87/87.

2002 Hoodsport, Cabernet Sauvignon, Yakima Valley, Washington, $27, 200 cases. Medium-bodied with rustic tannins, you'll appreciate the bright acidity. Cherry, plum, and mixed spice aromas expand on the palate, with lingering berry notes; 85/85.

Symmetry 2002 Huntington, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, $20, 2,400 cases. Almost black in the glass, this wine delivers aromas and flavors of plums, black cherries, cedar, spice, and vanilla in a medium to full-bodied wine with well-managed tannins; 85/85.

1999 Rodney Strong, Symmetry, Alexander Valley, California, $55, 6,082 cases. Purple/red in color with blue highlights. Firm but rounded tannins give structure to this full-bodied Bordeaux blend. The wine is defined by a complex blend of blackberries, ripe plums, brown sugar, and Chinese Five Spice; 88/87.

2001 Smith & Hook, Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Lucia Highlands, California, $20, 5,765 cases. The wine is deep ruby in color with very rich aromas of cassis, raspberries, dried herbs, and French oak. Full in the mouth with rounded tannins and a lot of extraction. Dense black cherry, blueberry, chocolate, and cedar flavors linger on the palate; 89/91.

Chardonnay wine glass

2002 Anapamu, Chardonnay, Monterey County, California, $16, 6,926 cases. Butterscotch, toasty oak, pears, and citrus delineate this wine, with a creamy, buttery, full finish; 84/84.

2002 Buty, Chardonnay, Conner Lee Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Washington, $25, 213 cases. A rich nose of green apples, apricots, and Crème Brule arise from this light gold wine. Viscous, crisp, and fruity, the French oak is noticeable but not heavy-handed. Pretty harmonious overall; 89/89.

2002 Clos Du Bois, Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California, $21, 14,900 cases. 100% barrel fermented and aged 10 months in 25% new French oak. Baked pears, citrus, and vanilla cream aromas tempt the nose. A nicely balanced wine, with a mélange of flavors that that ends with notes of butterscotch and vanilla, it should pair well with Fettuccine Alfredo; 87/87.

2002 Frei Brothers, Chardonnay, Reserve, Russian River Valley, California, $20, 70,000 cases. Fruit forward in the California style, the nose and palate show a host of pear, peach, citrus, and vanilla notes. Nicely balanced; 86/86.

2002 Geyser Peak, Chardonnay, Reserve, Alexander Valley, California, $24, 2,500 cases. Very well-balanced and made in the classic California style, the wine is 100% barrel fermented and aged in 30% new oak. Aromas and flavors speak of green apples, caramel, vanilla, and spice, with a touch of ripe figs on the finish; 88/88.

2002 Geyser Peak, Block Collection Chardonnay, Ricci Vineyard, Carneros, California, $21, 1,200 cases. Green apples and butterscotch define the nose of this well-balanced wine. Flavors of figs, mango, and a pleasant leesy quality linger for some time; 87/88.

2002 Geyser Peak, Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, California, $13, 2,500 cases. Medium-bodied, crisp, creamy, and fruit forward, you'll find citrus, pear, vanilla, and a touch of smoke on the nose and palate. Good value; 86/88.

2002 Geyser Peak, Chardonnay, Sonoma County, California, $12, 45,000 cases. Lots of pears, melon, and green apple notes greet the nose. The wine is well-balanced, fruity, with considerable vanilla, toast, and oak spice; 84/86.

2002 Hogue, Chardonnay, Reserve, Columbia Valley, Washington, $22, 479 cases. Lots of peach, pear, butter, and smoky oak aromas arise from this gold-colored Chardonnay. Creamy while maintaining brisk acidity, flavors speak of pears, vanilla, and lots of smoky butterscotch. Oak fans will love it; 86/86.

2002 Kenwood, Chardonnay, Reserve, Russian River Valley, California, $20, 2,100 cases. This is a soft, creamy wine. Tropical fruit, lemon, and vanilla vie for attention over the butterscotch and smoky oak; 85/85.

2002 Kim Crawford, Chardonnay, Tietjen-Briant, Gisborne, New Zealand, $23. This light gold wine has a lot of toasted oak and butterscotch dominating the nose, with peach fruit striving to be noticed. Creamy with terrific balance, the oak continues to dominate in the mouth with a lot of clove spice. For oak fans only; 84/84.

2002 Mirassou, Chardonnay, Central Coast, California, $11, 90,000 cases. Peaches, green apples, butterscotch, and vanilla carry from the nose to the mouth. Medium-bodied with brisk acids, the wine has a lengthy finish; 84/85.

Rodney Strong 2002 Pedroncelli, Chardonnay, F. Johnson Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley, California, $14, 586 cases. Made in a crisp, lean style, the aromas and flavors highlight roasted hazelnuts and cedar shakes; 83/83.

2001 Rodney Strong, Chardonnay, Reserve, Chalk Hill, Sonoma County, California, $30, 650 cases. Made in the classic California style, this wine has a host of baked apple, hazelnut, and vanilla aromas. Thick and silky on the palate, you'll appreciate flavors of stone fruit, roasted nuts, and toasty oak; 87/87.

2002 Vendange, Chardonnay, California, $5. This Chardonnay is soft and creamy, with aromas and flavors of toasted oak, hazelnuts, and pears. Not bad for a five-buck wine; 80/80.

2003 Viña Santa Carolina, Chardonnay, Colección Especial, Rapel Valley, Chile, $7. A decent enough quaff, this straw colored wine has aromas of pears, pineapples, and banana chips. Straightforward fruit flavors are acceptable for the price class; 80/80.

Fruit Wine wine glasswine glass

Hoodsport NV Hoodsport, Bella Cranberry, Washington State, $17 (375ml), 188 cases. Very crisp and sweet (7.5% residual sugar), you'll find obvious cranberry flavors along with orange zest and a spicy component. Serve with glazed ham; 85/84.

NV Hoodsport, Loganberry Dream, Washington State, $17 (375ml), 322 cases. The nose is filled with intense aromatics of blackberries and raspberries. Bright acids balance the 4.5% residual sugar with ease. Flavors are a repeat of the nose with a squeeze of lemon juice. Pair with a cheese and fruit plate; 86/86.

NV Hoodsport, Rhubarb, Washington State, $13, 6,300 cases. Hoodsport always manages to do a nice job with this fruit wine. My favorite way to serve it is chilled, with a plate of baby oysters sautéed in a reduction sauce of the Rhubarb and butter. Delicately sweet with lots of fresh rhubarb and floral notes; 88/88.

Merlot wine glass

2001 Beringer, Merlot, Founders' Estate, California, $12. Modest acids and supple tannins give support to plum and red cherry fruit. The 0.8% residual sugar comes across as part of the fruit instead of being disjointed like many wines. Pretty tasty for the price class; 84/85.

2002 Canyon Road, Merlot, California, $10, 50,010 cases. Here's a simple but fruity Merlot that is easy to like and will make a nice quaffer for those grilled burgers. Plums, cherries, and vanilla are supported by bright acids and modest tannins; 84/86.

2001 Clos Du Val, Merlot, Napa Valley, California, $25, 8,500 cases. This dark ruby Merlot has a nose of black fruit, Provencal herbs, and menthol. Full on the palate, with firm, ripe tannins, the flavors mirror the nose; 86/86.

2002 Hahn, Merlot, Monterey, California, $14, 25,000 cases. The wine has pleasant aromas of cherries, cola, raspberries, and cedar which carry over to the palate. The tannins are hard to get around here, being firm and drying. Cedar char becomes apparent on the finish; 81/81.

2001 Hogue, Merlot, Reserve, Columbia Valley, Washington, $30, 1,007 cases. This purple/red wine exudes mixed berries, leather, anise, mint, and an earthy/herbal character. Full in the mouth, the tannins are generous and a little coarse. Will they settle down with time? 86/86.

2001 Kenwood, Merlot, Sonoma County, California, $17, 28,000 cases. You'll find tempting aromas of blackberries, plums, American oak, and tobacco leaf. Silky on the entry, the wine delivers yummy Merlot fruit, cocoa, herbs, and vanilla; 85/86.

2001 Northstar, Merlot, Walla Walla Valley, Washington, $60, 665 cases. Very deeply hued, this is an intense wine. Cherry liqueur, plums, cedar, and vanilla notes intermingle on the nose. The wine is elegant on the entry, with firm tannins that will benefit from aging. Black cherries, plums, and milk chocolate linger on the finish; 88/86.

2001 Stella Maris, Red Wine, Columbia Valley, Washington, $29, 2,650 cases. The complex nose reveals plums, cherries, vanilla, cedar, and coconut. Charming fruit marries well with the mostly new French and American oak. You can enjoy now or for several years to come; 88/88.

2002 Viña Santa Carolina, Merlot-Cabernet Sauvignon, Valle Central, Chile, $9. Here's another one of those crowd pleasers. Medium-bodied, with a soft, easy approach, you'll appreciate black cherry fruit, dried herbs, and spicy notes; 81/82.

Miscellaneous wine glasswine glass

2002 Barton & Guestier, Vouvray Tradition, France, $9. Delicately sweet with refreshing balancing acidity. Green apples and pears on the nose continue in the mouth, with a tart finish. Simple but tasty; 81/81.

2003 Black Swan, Chardonnay & Semillon, South Eastern Australia, $8. Straw gold with green highlights, the wine emits aromas of hazelnuts, figs, and pears. Balanced, fresh, with sweet flavors of pear, fig, Granny Smith apples, the wine finishes on a tart note; 82/83.

2003 Black Swan, Shiraz & Merlot, South Eastern Australia, $8. Cherry cola, plums, and wood notes best describe this wine. It is soft, fruity, and presented in a drink-me-now style; 82/83.

Heart of Darkness 2001 Bonny Doon, Heart of Darkness, Madiran, France, $18, 2,100 cases. The label inspires flashbacks from the sixties and the wine inspires you to fire up the BBQ. A blend of Tannat (67%) and Cabernet Franc, you'll find black fruit, earth, and smoked meat across the spectrum. As you might expect, tannins are quite rustic; 85/85.

2002 Buty, Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Valley, Washington, $18, 215 cases. This light gold wine has a fig prevalent nose. Very viscous with zingy acidity, it is complex in the mouth, with enhancing oak flavors and a lingering finish; 86/86.

2003 Covey Run, Gewurztraminer, Washington State, $7, 19,700 cases. Typical aromas of citrus and lychee are enhanced by Muscat scents. Soft, off-dry, with straightforward fruit and spice flavors; 80/80.

2002 Hoodsport, Madeleine Angevine, Lopez Island, Washington, $13, 202 cases. Soft, smooth, and delicate, you'll find grapefruit, pineapple, and dried herbs highlighted here. Pair with grilled seafood or mild cheeses; 83/83.

NV R.L. Buller & Son, Victoria Tawny, Australia, $12, 5,000 cases. Baked brown sugar and cherry aromas herald in flavors of hazelnuts, cashews, and strawberries. Well-balanced and sweet, but not a lot of depth. Value priced; 85/87.

2001 Sebastiani, Barbera, Appellation Selection, Sonoma Valley, California, $15, 1,500 cases. This deeply hued wine gives off aromas of raspberries, vanilla, and a whiff of smoke. Full on the palate, with rounded tannins and brisk acidity, the flavors echo the nose. The rich aftertaste is quite prolonged; 86/87.

Simonsig 2003 Simonsig, Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch, South Africa, $8, 30,000 cases. Straw with a green sheen, the wine gives off aromas of pears, honey, and green apples. Modest acidity leads to refreshing flavors of white peaches, almonds, and floral notes. Tasty; 86/87.

2001 Viña Santa Carolina, Carmenère, Barrica Selection, Rapel Valley, Chile, $13. Emitting aromas of plums, spice, dried herbs, and licorice, this wine is bold on the palate with plenty of ripe tannins. Match with BBQ fare; 84/86.

2003 Viña Santa Carolina, Chardonnay-Sauvignon Blanc, Valle Central, Chile, $9. Medium-bodied and very quaffable, the wine is characterized by gooseberries, peaches, and pears; 81/82.

Pinot Gris wine glass

2003 Bella Sera, Pinot Grigio delle Venezie, Italy, $7, 600,000 cases. Decent enough for a mass produced wine. Apricot and melon are highlighted on the nose. The wine is light and balanced, with straightforward baked pear/apple flavors; 82/82.

2003 Ecco Domani, Pinot Grigio delle Venezie, Italy, $10. This medium-bodied wine is crisp, with lovely tropical fruit and floral scents. Lemon and tropical fruit linger on the palate. Refreshing; 84/85.

2003 Echelon, Pinot Grigio, Clarksburg, California, $11, 5,400 cases. The wine has a lovely straw color with an apricot tinge. Modest acids and delicate sweetness lead to flavors of pear and canned pineapple; 82/82.

2003 Hogue, Pinot Grigio, Columbia Valley, Washington, $10, 16,285 cases. Straw colored with a peach tinge. Lovely aromas of pears, orange zest, and lemon cream fill the nose. Soft, with threshold sweetness, you'll find similar flavors as well. More acidity would make this wine sing; 83/83.

Pinot Noir wine glass

2002 Clos Du Val, Pinot Noir, Napa Valley, California, $24, 2,900 cases. Here is a Pinot that is easy to drink now or over the next few years. Bright black cherry fruit, tea, clove spice and vanilla carry across the full spectrum. Tasty; 87/87.

2001 Dunnewood, Pinot Noir, Mendocino County, California, $9, 3,300 cases. This straightforward Pinot offers aromas and flavors of cherries, plums, dark tea, and spice, leaving a soft impression in the mouth; 83/84.

2002 Frei Brothers, Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, California, $24, 35,000 cases. Tannins are well-managed in this tasty Pinot. Aromas of black cherries, raspberries, black tea, and vanilla follow through on the palate along with a peppery spice; 86/86.

2002 Hoodsport, Pinot Noir, Oregon, $27, 181 cases. Hoodsport obtained grapes from Red Hills Vineyards for this wine. Earthy black cherries and dark tea aromas give way to flavors of cherries, toasty oak, and spice. Crisp acids and supple tannins round out the package; 85/85.

2002 Kendall-Jackson, Pinot Noir, Vintner's Reserve, California, $14. K-J turned out an overachiever here. Black cherries, smoke, dark tea, and vanilla delight the nose. The wine is well-balanced, with rounded tannins and a lot of complexity for the price class. Cherries, plums, and nutmeg linger on the lengthy finish; 87/90.

2001 Kenwood, Pinot Noir, Reserve Olivet, Russian River Valley, California, $25, 2,000 cases. Strawberries, currants, and a bit of earthiness unfold on the nose. Medium-bodied and displaying characteristic Pinot flavors, the new French oak is not too heavy-handed here; 88/88.

2001 MacMurray Ranch, Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, California, $32, 3,785 cases. The wine is very silky on the palate, with nice balance and fruit. Ripe red cherries, ginger, vanilla, and oak combine to make a pleasant presentation; 88/88.

2002 MacMurray Ranch, Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, California, $20, 34,700 cases. The nose is a pleasant mix of strawberries, black cherries, tea, and earth. Well-balanced, crisp, and fruity, flavors echo the nose with an additional hint of tomato leaf; 87/88.

2002 Mirassou, Pinot Noir, Central Coast, California, $11, 28,000 cases. Soft and fruity on the palate, this one should be consumed early on for the yummy plums, cherries, and peppery spice; 85/88.

2002 Orogeny, Pinot Noir, Green Valley, Sonoma County, California, $25, 2,443 cases. This deep ruby red wine gives off aromas of cherries, berries, nutmeg, ginger, and cedar. Well-structured and full in the mouth, you'll find deep, lush fruit mirroring the nose, with added raspberry and cocoa nuances; 90/90.

2003 Sherwood, Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand, $16, 8,000 cases. There's a component of sun-dried tomatoes blended in with the cherry and raspberry fruit. This middleweight wine has a tart, jammy, fruity presentation; 86/88.

2002 Turning Leaf, Pinot Noir, Coastal Reserve, North Coast, California, $10. Soft and light with a touch of sweetness, this straightforward wine offers up aromas and flavors of strawberries and tea; 80/80.


2002 Whitehaven, Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand, $29, 2,000 cases. This wine is full-bodied, with rounded tannins and nice balance. Aromas of plum, black cherry, earth, and toasty oak follow through on the palate, with ripe strawberry and cinnamon nuances; 86/86.

Riesling wine glass

2003 Claar, Late Harvest Riesling, Columbia Valley, Washington, $14, 1,700 cases. The wine has a lovely nose of orange zest, honey, and ripe peaches. Viscous in the mouth and sweet at 9% residual sugar, the melon and sweet pear flavors are delightful. This would be a killer with more acidity; 85/87.

2003 Bonny Doon, Riesling, the Heart Has its Rieslings, Washington State, $15, 1,800 cases. The nose has typical apricot, peach, and honeysuckle aromas, with an odd sage spice component. Quite sweet at 9% residual sugar, the wine has soft acidity with flavors mirroring the nose; 84/84.

Rosé wine glass

2003 Bonny Doon, Vin Gris de Cigare, California, $11, 6,900 cases. Envision watermelon fading into a burnt orange sunset. Imagine Yukon River salmon grilling over hot coals with alder smoke filling the air. You now have a no-brainer reason to reach for this rosé from Bonny Doon. Produced from six Rhone grapes varieties, the wine provides a mélange of enticing aromas and flavors. Serious stuff; 89/91.

2003 Kim Crawford, Pansy! Rosé, Gisborne, New Zealand, $17, 2,000 cases exported. If you have ever smelled crushed mulberries, this is it. Made mostly from Merlot grapes, the wine is soft, fruity, and off-dry, with juicy blueberry and ripe red watermelon flavors; 85/85.

2003 Pedroncelli, Zinfandel Rosé, Sonoma County, California, $8, 2,375 cases. This is one of those crowd pleasing summer deck wines which is delicately sweet and crisp, with a simple but fruity presentation of mixed berries; 84/85.

Sauvignon Blanc wine glass

2003 Bogle, Sauvignon Blanc, California, $8. Here's another value wine from Bogle. Attractive aromas of lemongrass and tropical fruit give way to tropical fruit and citrus peel flavors. Refreshing acidity gives backbone to the wine; 84/87.

2003 Canyon Road, Sauvignon Blanc, California, $9, 26,100 cases. Lemongrass and grapefruit are upfront, with a touch of tropical fruit. Straightforward flavors have a soft, modest finish; 82/82.

2003 Claar, Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Valley, Washington, $11, 840 cases. The wine is straw-colored with an apricot tinge, sporting aromas of pears, apricots, grassiness, and a hint of exotic tropicals. Medium-bodied and crisp, the wine delivers pears and gooseberries; 84/85.

2003 Geyser Peak, Sauvignon Blanc, California, $12, 75,000 cases. You'll find no oak and no malolactic fermentation here. This is what an SB should be - crisp, clean, and fruity. Resembling a New Zealand offering, you'll find plenty of gooseberry and citrus. Good value; 88/90.

2003 Helderberg, Sauvignon Blanc, Stellenbosch, South Africa, $9. On the nose you'll find lemon/lime upfront with tropical nuances in the background. On the palate you find just the opposite, with tropical fruit dominating. Soft, balanced, tasty; 87/90.

2003 Huntington, Sauvignon Blanc, Earthquake, Sonoma County, California, $14, 3,000 cases. The wine is medium-bodied and crisp, with aromas and flavors of lemongrass, melon, and gooseberries; 84/85.

Konrad 2003 Konrad, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand, $15, 8,000 cases. Tangy acidity highlights this lovely Marlborough wine. Lime, tomato leaf, green apple, and pear aromas and flavors are presented in a fresh, lively package. This is a no-brainer for poultry and seafood dishes; 90/91.

2003 Viña Santa Carolina, Sauvignon Blanc, Colección Especial, Rapel Valley, Chile, $7. Tart and refreshing, this value-priced wine offers up aromas and flavors of peaches, citrus zest, and a touch of grassiness; 83/84.

2003 Whitehaven, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand, $17, 8,000 cases. Lots of jalapeno pepper and gooseberry aromas are given off by this straw-colored NZ SB. Bright acidity breathes life into the lovely citrus and gooseberry flavors. Passion fruit lingers on the finish. Yummy; 90/91.

2003 Zenith Vineyards, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand, $12. There's no mistaking this varietal wine. Gobs of gooseberries, jalapeno peppers, and citrus peel greet the nose. Nice acidity gives balance to the upfront citrus and melon flavors. Gooseberries linger on the finish; 88/90.

Sicily wine glasswine glass

2003 Donnafugata, Anthilia, White IGT, Sicily, $15. This is a 50/50 blend of Ansonica and Cattarratto. Light gold in color with floral scents and white peaches. Delicate, with light peach flavors, the wine is very soft to a fault; 81/81.

2001 Donnafugata, Chiarandà, White DOC Contessa Entellina, Sicily, $36. 50% Chardonnay, 50% Ansonica. This golden wine gives off aromas of peaches, smoke, and butterscotch. In the mouth the flavors show lots of clove spice and peaches, but again, is soft to a fault; 81/80.

2002 Donnafugata, Sedara, Red IGT, Sicily, $15. 100% Nero d'Avola. Plums, tobacco, and warm spices arise from this ruby red offering. Tannins are easy in the mouth, with plenty of blackberry and tart cherry fruit; 84/85.

2002 Donnafugata, Tancredi, Red DOC Contessa Entellina, Sicily, $30. A 70/30 blend of Nero d'Avola and Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a full-bodied wine with brisk acidity and firm tannins. Aromas of cherries, berries, anise, and cream evolve into flavors of ripe sand plums and cocoa; 85/85.

Syrah wine glass

2003 Alice White, Shiraz, South Eastern Australia, $7. Another over-achiever from our southern hemisphere friends, this one is smooth, brisk, and fruity. Plums, berries, and menthol aromas evolve into plum and cherry cola flavors; 84/86.

2002 Gallo of Sonoma, Syrah, Sonoma County, California, $13, 16,000 cases. Here's a solid Syrah at a competitive price. The nose is underscored by blackberry, blueberry, spice, and oak notes. Quite fruity, black cherry predominant, the wine has nice structure going for it; 85/87.

2002 Hahn, Syrah, Central Coast, California, $14, 7,800 cases. Crimson in color with blue highlights, the wine gives off aromas of raspberries and raisins with a dollop of cedar. Lots of blackberries, plums, and cocoa flavors are presented in a jammy style with a smooth finish; 84/86.

2002 Hoodsport, Syrah, Yakima Valley, Washington, $27, 157 cases. Lovely aromas of plums, currants, cedar, and smoke arise from this purple/blue Syrah. Very elegant and silky on the presentation, the flavors echo the nose. The finish is long and smooth; 87/87.

2001 Kendall-Jackson, Syrah, Vintner's Reserve, California, $12. Ruby with blue highlights, the wine is medium-bodied with chewy tannins. Blackberries, smoke, and pepper aromas morph into fruity flavors of no particular varietal characteristic; 83/84.

2002 Margan, Shiraz, Hunter Valley, Australia, $15, 3,000 cases. There have been mixed reviews on this wine, but I like it. The nose is complex, with a mélange of ripe black fruit, Baker's chocolate, coffee, mint, and aged wood. Although there is not a lot of depth, the wine is balanced, with tasty fruit. Drink over the next three years; 87/90.

Ross 2002 Nugan Family, Shiraz, Third Generation, South East Australia, $12. This crimson-colored wine gives off pleasing aromas of black cherries, bitter chocolate, berries, spice, mint, and American oak. It is full in the mouth, with smooth tannins. Flavors are bold and fruity, with American oak being quite obvious in the profile; 88/92.

2002 Ross Estate, Shiraz, North Ridge, Barossa Valley, Australia, $17. An interesting mix on the nose of ripe blackberries, pomegranate, black pepper, and American oak. Loaded with bright fruit and well-rounded tannins, the acidity is very brisk - this is a red wine for Loire fans; 89/91.

2002 Water Wheel, Memsie, Bendigo Region, Australia, $14, 7,000 cases. This is a new one for me - a Shiraz blend in a screw cap bottle. You'll find delightful aromas of ripe blackberry fruit, licorice, mint, and barrel notes. Full on the palate, the wine is packed with blackberries, blueberries, and a dash of spice; 89/92.

Syrah/Cabernet Sauvignon Blend wine glass

2003 Black Swan, Shiraz & Cabernet, South Eastern Australia, $8. Aromas of plums, cherries, wood, and menthol arise from this ruby red blend. Easy in the mouth with sweet fruit, the wine is produced in a straightforward drink-me-now style; 82/83.

2001 Kumkani, Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon, Stellenbosch, South Africa, $13. A complex nose of blackberries, Baker's chocolate, mint, dried herbs, dill, and oak awaits you. Tannins are well-managed, with a crisp mouth feel. Lush berry fruit, dark chocolate, and an earthy/mushroom component unfold in the mouth. Good value; 88/91.

Zinfandel wine glass

2002 Bogle, Zinfandel, California, $11. Grapes for this wine come from old head-trained vines and there is a lot packed into this Zin for eleven bucks. Big raspberry aromas and American oak nuances carry right on over to the palate, with a jammy aftertaste. The wine does show a little heat from the 14.9% alcohol; 85/88.

2001 Talus, Zinfandel, Lodi, California, $8, 20,000 cases. This ruby red Zin gives off aromas and flavors of blackberries and cherry cola. Straightforward in approach, the wine is soft with easy tannins; 83/83.

2001 Valley of the Moon, Zinfandel, Sonoma County, California, $15, 8,400 cases. Boysenberry aromas lead to jammy red and black berry fruit flavors and dried herbs. Tannins are well-rounded; 84/85.

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