Bucko's New Releases

© 2003 by Randy Buckner
July 7, 2003

Summer 2003 Releases

You'll notice a significant amount of Washington wines reviewed this month. I just returned from visiting three wine appellations and tasted a lot of lovely new releases, many offering very good value. While many people are chasing California cult wines at exorbitant prices, Washington is turning out wines with more character than the cults at a fraction of the price. Take notice.

The hot summer weather has everyone looking for a cool thirst quencher. There are several wines evaluated this month that will take the edge off of that parched throat and let a little steam out of your collar. 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 below 80 points are rated. As always, enjoy a bottle with dinner tonight.

Cabernet Sauvignon/Bordeaux blends wine glass

2000 Baer, Red Wine, Ursa, Columbia Valley, Washington, $26. A delightful effort at a very fair price. The nose is filled with aromas of red and black fruit, violets and a hint of herbaceousness. The oak is well-integrated with the fruit, with ripe tannins rounding out the wine. 90/91.

2001 Beringer, Cabernet Sauvignon, Vintner's Collection, Central Coast, California, $13. Zippy acidity and mellow tannins give structure to the blackberries, cocoa, vanilla and oak notes. While straightforward, this is another everyday quaffer from Sterling that succeeds. 84/87.

2000 Chateau Julien, Cabernet Sauvignon, Barrel Aged, Monterey County, California, $10. While simple, this is a respectable quaff for the price class. Black cherries, cassis, and generous vanilla are the operative words here. Crisp, with medium tannins, this one is ready now. 82/83.

1999 Chateau Julien, Cabernet Sauvignon, Private Reserve, Monterrey County, California, $36. Blackberries, coffee and French oak aromas open to a complex, full-bodied wine that has a long aftertaste. If the obvious drying tannins come into balance, this will be a dandy. 85+/85+.

1998 Claar, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington, $18. Bright cherry fruit, cassis, spice and a dash of herbs all combine to make for a tasty package, supported by modest acidity and moderate, ripe tannins. 86/86.

1999 Deerfield Ranch, DRX Meritage Red Wine, North Coast, California, $100. Ruby hued, the wine yields complex aromas of black fruit, cedar, olives and dark chocolate. Balance is impeccable, with substantial tannins that caress the palate rather than dry it. Flavors mirror the nose. 90/88.

Dry Creek 1999 Dry Creek, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Dry Creek Valley, California, $35, 1,600 cases. Deep ruby in color, exhibiting complex aromas of cassis, chocolate, cedar and Chinese five spice. Full-bodied with graceful tannins. The aromas reverberate on the palate, with black olive notes adding another layer of complexity. 88/88.

2001 Forgeron, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington, $29, 1,268 cases. Their first release is right on track. Dark ruby, with aromas of black fruit, smoke and spice. Black cherries and brown spices unwind in the mouth, bolstered by bright acidity. 90/91.

1999 Guenoc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Beckstoffer Vineyard, Napa Valley, California, $55, 1,482 cases. The nose has a complex array of scents ranging from blackberries and black cherries, to licorice and cedar. This wine has beautiful fruit and silky tannins, but the acidity is overwhelming to all but the acid heads. Not rated.

1999 Guenoc, Victorian Claret, North Coast, California, $21.50, 3,867 cases. Aromas of black cherries, chocolate and licorice greet the taster. Very crisp, with modest tannins that are a bit drying. Fruity and oaky, this is a wine for summer BBQ. 83/83.

2001 Hahn, Meritage, Central Coast, California, $18, 5,000 cases. Black cherries, cassis, herbs and cedar radiate from this purple brew. Full in the mouth, the acidity is quite brisk, with rounded tannins. Lush cherries, raspberries and a healthy dose of French oak round out the wine. Lots of character for the price class. 86/88.

2001 Huntington, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, $18, 900 cases. Medium-bodied with moderate tannins and crisp acids, this densely colored wine gives up aromas and flavors of black fruit, chocolate, cedar and mint in a straightforward package. 83/84.

2001 Isenhower, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sundance Vineyard, Wahluke Slope, Columbia Valley, Washington, $22, 200 cases. This is my favorite wine of their line due to the great structure, fruit and balance. Although 100% new oak was used, it does not overwhelm the wine. You'll find lots of black fruit and raspberries to enjoy. 90/91.

1999 Kiona, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Red Mountain, Washington, $35, 716 cases. This Cab has all of the adjectives – balance, refreshing acidity, moderate but ripe tannins, elegance, and good depth of fruit. Enjoyable to drink now, it should cellar well for many years. 90/90.

1999 Louis Martini, Cabernet Sauvignon, Ghost Pine Vineyard, Chiles Valley, California, $30, 600 cases. This deep ruby offering has aromas and flavors of black cherries, ginger, cedar and a brambly character. Pushing my limits for acidity in a red wine (0.7g/100ml), this should work well with tomato-based food dishes. 86/86.

2000 Sandhill, Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain, Washington, $25, 900 cases. Dense black fruit and sweet vanilla caress the nose. Sweet black cherries, blackberries and violets provide layers of pleasure. Give this one some time in bottle to let the tannins tone down a bit. Very good value. 90/92.

1999 Seth Ryan, Jessica's Meritage, Red Mountain, Washington, $37. A blend of five noble grapes, this is a nice wine that needs time to strut its stuff. Of medium weight, the nose and palate show a lot of complexity. Slap that NY strip on the grill. 88/88.

1999 Terra Blanca, Onyx, Red Mountain, Washington, $40. Terra Blanca's upscale blend of five red grapes has classic cigar box aromas, with mixed red and black fruit notes. Extremely fruity, the wine is especially elegant, with a dash of sweet oak. A nice package. 90/90.

2001 Vierra, Claret, Columbia Valley, Washington, $22. A 50/30/20 blend of Cab Franc/Cab/Merlot. The nose displays a host of black fruit, berries, and cinnamon notes. Elegant, well-structured, with smooth tannins, the wine has black fruit, sweet vanilla and American oak flavors. 89/90.

2000 Viña Santa Carolina, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserva, Colchagua Valley, Chile, $9. Ruby red in color, this wine speaks of cherries, chocolate, cedar and vanilla. Medium-bodied, with nice acidity, this straightforward wine is ready to drink now. 83/84.

1999 White Heron, Red Wine, Mariposa Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Washington, $15. Made in a Meritage style, this wine has layers of black fruit, menthol, leather and old wood on the nose. Very crisp and fruity, the wine is easy to drink now with its silky tannins. Menthol carries over to the palate, adding a layer of interest to this value wine. 88/91.

1999 Wineglass, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Yakima Valley, Washington, $28. A mélange of aromas and flavors await the taster. Cherries, raspberries, chocolate and cassis are propped up by nice acids. Pair with grilled beef. 87/87.

1999 Wineglass, Rich Harvest, Yakima Valley, Washington, $50. A 50/33/17 blend of Cab/Merlot/Cab Franc, this is their flagship wine. Elegant and built for years of aging. Black cherries, raspberries, integrated oak and crisp acidity all work in harmony. The lengthy aftertaste is quite fruity. 90/89.

Chardonnay wine glass

2001 Arrowood, Chardonnay, Grand Archer, Sonoma County, California, $15. Balance is the initial impression here. Crisp, with a rounded mouth feel, the wine speaks of citrus, ripe pears, lemongrass, mango and toasty oak. 87/89.

Guenoc 2002 Guenoc, Chardonnay, Guenoc Valley, California, $17, 14,360 cases. Hey! There is fruit on the nose, not wood. That is a positive start. This Chard is all about fruit and crisp acidity. Apples and limes dominate the profile. This is definitely a food wine for your favorite chicken dish. 86/87.

2001 Hess Collection, Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California, $19. For fans of French oak, this one will give plenty of delight. Aromas of orange peel, apricots and vanilla open to buttery flavors, green apples, vanilla cream and toast, all supported by moderate acidity. 85/85.

2001 Huntington, Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, California, $15, 3,000 cases. The nose of this pale gold wine yields peaches, pears, and light caramel notes. Soft, creamy and viscous, the three-year-old wood does not dominate the baked pear, pineapple, and green apple fruit. 86/88.

2000 Robert Mondavi, Chardonnay, Reserve, Napa Valley, California, $38. 100% barrel-fermented in 50% new Burgundian barrels. Gold in color, the wine gives off huge aromas of tropical fruit, hot butter, and toasty oak. Quite crisp for a new world Chard, the wine maintains an air of elegance. Flavors mirror the nose, and dare I say somewhat Burgundian in style. 88/87.

2001 Rulo, Chardonnay, Sundance Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Washington, $20, 460 cases. Here is a Chardonnay that is easy to warm up to. Nicely balanced, without a heavy burden of oak, the wine is lean with racy acidity. Stone fruit and minerals dominate the palate, with a dab of smoky oak on the finish. 91/92.

2001 Rulo, Chardonnay, Vanessa Vineyard, Walla Walla Valley, Washington, $20, 325 cases. Another fine Chardonnay from this relatively new producer. Driven by tropical fruit, pears and melons, the acidity is invigorating, as is the ability to taste fruit instead of layers of wood. 90/91.

2001 Viña Santa Carolina, Chardonnay, Reserva, Rapel Valley, Chile, $9. This light gold Chard offers up a host of pineapple and pear notes. Medium-bodied with brisk acidity, you'll find a lot of character here for nine bucks. Seafood fettuccini comes to mind. 86/90.

2001 White Heron, Chardonnay, Frenchman Hill, Columbia Valley, Washington, $10. Straw in color, the wine exudes aromas of apples and pears. Crisp and clean, the wine is very fruity, unburdened by layers of obscuring oak. Delightful. 87/90.

2001 Woodbridge, Chardonnay, California, $8. Lemon curd, pear and vanilla aromas fill the nose. Soft and lush, the wine has a surprising amount of pear and tropical fruit flavors for an $8 Chard, and is not an oak bomb to boot. Good value. 83/86.

Gewurztraminer wine glass

2000 Seth Ryan, Gewurztraminer, Red Mountain, Washington, $8. You'll find a typical nose of lychee fruit in this off-dry wine (1% residual sugar). Loads of fruit flavors are supported by nice acidity for this grape. Think Thai food. 86/88.

2002 Ste. Chapelle, Gewurztraminer, Winemaker's Series, Skyline Vineyard, Idaho, $6. Spicy, floral aromas open to a simple but pleasant quaff. Relatively crisp, with threshold sweetness, the citrusy flavors will lend themselves to grilled sausage with brown mustard. 81/82.

Italian wine glasswine glass

2001 Borgianni, Chianti, D.O.C.G., Italy, $10. Ruby red, and like the color, red berries dominate the nose. Lean in structure with tart acidity, red cherries , and earthy notes, this one demands food. A William Grant & Sons import. 83/85.

1999 Tiziano, Chianti Riserva, D.O.C.G., Tuscany, Italy, $10. Ruby red, with fruity aromas and a touch of spice. Smooth, fruity, and crisp, the wine is simple but should pair well with a first course of aged cheese. A William Grant & Sons import. 83/85.

1999 Volpaia, Balifico Toscana I.G.T., Italy, $46. 65% Sangioveto, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon. Impeccable balance is the story here. Blueberries, blackberries and licorice charm the nose, while the layered fruit unfolds in an array of flavors. Tannins are obvious but ripe and rounded. 90/88.

2000 Volpaia, Chianti Classico, D.O.C.G., Italy, $19. Charming aromas of cherries, vanilla and leather emanate from this dark ruby Chianti. Tannins are obvious but well-rounded. Balanced, with elegant fruit, this is a nice wine to drink now. 86/87.

1999 Volpaia, Coltassala Chianti Classico Riserva, D.O.C.G., Italy, $46. 95% Sangioveto and 5% Mammolo. This wine is elegantly styled, with lots of cherries, leather and vanilla on the nose, which then expands on the palate. There is good depth of fruit and flawless balance, with caressing tannins. 89/87.

Merlot wine glass

2001 Canyon Road, Merlot, California, $10, 60,200 cases. Cherry cola, plums, black olives and oak define the wine. Simple, but true to variety, this should pair well with sun-dried tomato pizza. 83/86.

2000 Chateau Julien, Merlot, Barrel Aged, Monterrey County, California, $10. A simple everyday drinker that speaks of blueberries, cherries, vanilla and soft tannins. Ready to pull the cork now. 82/83.

1997 Claar, Merlot, Reserve, Columbia Valley, Washington, $20. The grapes are sourced from 23 y/o vines. Red and black cherries, minerals, and light oak work well together. Very elegant on the entry, the wine is full-bodied with nice layers of complexity. 88/89.

1998 Kiona, Merlot, Red Mountain, Washington, $25. This is a pretty classic, well-balanced Merlot, with easy tannins and nice acidity. Complex layers of berries, cherries, plums, and leather unfold in the mouth. Tasty. 88/88.

2000 Sandhill, Merlot, Red Mountain, Washington, $20, 300 cases. Big, densely colored, with lush red and black fruits, silky tannins and snappy acidity. Oak is kept in perfect harmony with the wine. Good value. 89/90.

1999 Sebastiani, Merlot, Sonoma County, California, $NA. This deep ruby wine is nicely balanced, with ripe tannins. Packed with aromas and flavors of black cherries, blackberries, smoke and cedar, there is also a pretty healthy dose of vanilla at this point. 86/?

2001 Ste. Chapelle, Merlot, Idaho, $7. Aromas and flavors of cherries, cola, black olives and cedar are augmented by brisk acids and easy tannins. Obvious threshold sweetness detracts. 80/81.

2001 Sterling, Merlot, Vintner's Collection, Central Coast, California, $13. This wine is characterized by plums, black cherries, Baker's chocolate and toasty oak. With soft tannins and brisk acidity, this fighting varietal delivers for the price class. 84/86.

1998 Tapteil, Merlot, Red Mountain, Washington, $29. A wonderful nose of layered black fruit and leather awaits the consumer. Very polished tannins, snappy acidity, intense fruit and cedar notes all sing in harmony to provide a nice wine. Too bad they sell the majority of their grapes to other wineries. 90/91.

Wineglass Cellars
Wineglass Cellars, Yakima Valley
1999 Terra Blanca, Merlot, Red Mountain, Washington, $20. A mixed bag of red and black fruit is augmented by cedar and vanilla nuances. Well-structured and tasty, but not a lot of depth. 87/87.

2000 Viña Santa Carolina, Merlot, Reserva, Colchagua Valley, Chile, $9. Aromas of black cherries, herbs and plums emanate from this ruby wine. Balanced, with soft tannins and straightforward fruit, this one is made for early consumption. 83/84.

2000 Wineglass Cellars, Merlot, Yakima Valley, Washington, $22. This crisp, medium-bodied wine displays gobs of dark fruit, with nuances of sandalwood and black olives. Match with grilled meats. 87/88.

Miscellaneous wine glasswine glass

2002 Beringer, Chenin Blanc, California, $6. Serve this one well-chilled at your summer deck parties. With a light straw hue, the aromas and flavors speak of peaches and citrus. Simple, crisp, steely, and slightly sweet. 80/81.

2001 Clay Station, Malbec, Lodi, California, $13, 1,250 cases. Here's a wine ready for tonight's barbeque. Plum, raspberry, and chocolate aromas and flavors are augmented by brisk acids and silky tannins. Very fairly priced. 87/89.

2001 Clay Station, Petite Sirah, Lodi, California, $16, 1,250 cases. Inky in the glass. A host of black plum and blueberry aromas are enhanced by light oak notes that carry over to the palate. Medium-bodied, with substantial but rounded tannins, the wine is approachable now with a hearty beef stew. 87/89.

2001 Covey Run, Morio Muskat, Yakima Valley, Washington, $7, 2,400 cases. Gold with a green tinge, the wine is very aromatic, with lots of peaches, honeysuckle and lychee notes. Off-dry at 1.95% residual sugar. While straightforward, this is a fun quaff with a wild grapiness. This should pair well with aged cheese or Asian food. 84/84.

2001 Duck Pond, Semillon, Ice Wine, Fries' Desert Wind Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Washington, $35/375 ml, 400 cases. This intensely gold wine gives off aromas of ripe peaches and figs. Viscous in the mouth, the wine maintains enough acidity to stand up to the 10.5% residual sugar. Layers of peaches, figs, Crenshaw melons and pears unfold on the palate, with no noticeable heat from the 17.5% alcohol. 86/86.

2002 Isenhower, Dragonfly, Columbia Valley, Washington, $18, 200 cases. This is an interesting blend of Viognier and Rousanne. Tropical fruit and orange zest highlights the wine, with nice structure. Seeing only stainless steel, the bracing acidity makes this a no-brainer for Asian foods. 88/88.

2001 Jade Mountain, Mourvedre, Contra Costa County, California, $18, 1,645 cases. The fruit for this wine comes from 111 year-old vines. Aromas of raspberries, chocolate and oak barrel notes open to a nicely balanced wine with modest tannins. You won't find any of the earthy, barnyard notes here. White pepper comes across on the aftertaste. Serve with grilled meats. 85/85.

2001 Joseph Swan, Côtes du Rosa, Russian River Valley, California, $14, 188 cases. This red wine blend has long been a favorite of savvy consumers due to real character that is so often missing in new world wines. Fruity, earthy, leathery aromas expand on the palate, with a pleasant peppery streak coursing through the wine. Bright acidity adds verve. 90/92.

2001 Kiona, Lemberger, Washington State, $12. Here's a grape that is not on the top of everyone's list, but certainly deserves to be on the list somewhere. Made for food, the tannins are soft and the acidity is invigorating. You'll enjoy the cherry fruit, spiciness and leather notes. 88/90.

2002 Woodbridge, White Zinfandel, California, $5. Pleasant enough for the genre. Sporting the color of watermelon candy, the aromas have a berry and apple quality. Soft in the mouth, with light sweetness, you'll find strawberry and apple flavors. 80/81.

Pinot Gris wine glass

2002 Clay Station, Pinot Grigio, Lodi, California, $13, 2,500 cases. Lots of white peach aromas greet the nose. Made in a lean, crisp style, the fruit and floral notes are quite pleasing. The wine sees no oak and is especially food-friendly. 87/87.

2002 Duck Pond, Pinot Gris, Oregon, $12, 10,500 cases. Sporting a lovely wheat straw hue, the lemon and lime aromas are quite apparent. You'll find a lean wine with citrusy flavors and just a hint of vanilla. 83/83.

2002 Ecco Domani, Pinot Grigio, Tre Venezie, Italy, $10. Light straw in color, giving off delicate aromas of citrus and tropical fruit. Crisp and lean, the wine offers straightforward citrus fruit. 82/82.

2001 Joseph Swan, Pinot Gris, Saralee's Vineyard, Russian River Valley, California, $14, 75 cases. Peach and floral aromas waft from the glass. Crisp, refreshing and very fruity, this is definitely structured with shellfish in mind. Lovely. 90/91.

2002 Ridgefield, Pinot Gris, Red Mountain, Washington, $9. Produced by Sandhill Winery and named after the owner's town of residence. Very fruity on the nose and palate, with white peaches upfront and a crisp finish. This will make a nice summer sipper. 88/90.

Pinot Noir wine glass

2001 Acacia, Pinot Noir, Carneros, Napa Valley, California, $20, 28,385 cases. Plums, cherries and tea make their statement here. Crisp and full in the mouth, the bright fruit flavors are augmented by cinnamon and cedar. 85/85.

2001 Edna Valley, Pinot Noir, Edna Valley, California, $15, 14,000 cases. This straightforward wine has earthy, leathery, black cherry and tea aromas and flavors, supported by easy tannins and brisk acids. 83/84.

2001 Gold Digger, Pinot Noir, Okanogan Valley, Washington, $20, 650 cases. The wine has a light garnet hue, with beautiful aromas of black cherries and tea. Designed in a light style, this is a perfect red wine for fish/white meat Impeccably balanced, the flavors mirror the nose. 88/89.

2000 Joseph Swan, Pinot Noir, Saralee's Vineyard, Russian River Valley, California, $25, 503 cases. Garnet in color, this Pinot is brimming with aromas of cherries, plums, tea, cranberries and vanilla. Easy on the palate, with delightful balance, the black cherry fruit and tea flavors are easy to warm up to. 88/89.

2000 Joseph Swan, Pinot Noir, Trenton Estate Vineyard, Russian River Valley, California, $42, 276 cases. Red cherries, leather and earthy notes are the correct adjectives here. Brisk and moderately tannic, there is noticeable heat on the finish. This wine is very tight right now and difficult to judge. 85+/83+.

2001 Turning Leaf, Pinot Noir, Coastal Reserve, North Coast, California, $10. Light garnet in color, with delicate cherry and spice aromas, the wine has threshold sweetness. Balanced, with soft tannins, you'll find straightforward cherry and strawberry flavors. 81/82.

Riesling wine glass

Beringer 2002 Beringer, Johannisberg Riesling, California, $6. Beringer seems to have put it all together here – taste, value, and interest. You'll find nice balance and acidity, with a nose of honeysuckle and white peaches that carries over to the palate. Delicately sweet, you'll get a lot of bang for the buck here. 85/88.

2002 Columbia Winery, Cellarmaster's Riesling, Columbia Valley, Washington, $8, 65,000 cases. Aromas of peaches, honeysuckle and green apples are up front. I'd like to see more acidity to balance the 6.15% residual sugar. While straightforward, the wine should drink well with a fruit plate on the deck. 81/81.

2001 Covey Run, Riesling, Ice Wine, Washington State, $21, 1,582 cases. This is a dessert unto itself with the syrupy 28% residual sugar. Aromas of botrytis, honey, and apricots are quite concentrated. Intensely fruity, the honey and candied apricots linger on the palate. 86/86.

2002 Kiona, Dry White Riesling, Columbia Valley, Washington, $8. Straightforward and made in a light style, the floral and peach notes hold some interest. Despite the name there is slight residual sugar. 84/85.

2000 Seth Ryan, Riesling, Red Mountain, Washington, $7. Made in an off-dry style at 1.6% residual sugar, this is a steal at seven bucks. There are plenty of floral notes, minerals, and slate to hold your interest. Quite crisp, this is a perfect match for Thai salad. 86/88.

2002 Ste. Chapelle, Riesling, Special Harvest, Idaho, $10. Pleasant aromas of ripe apricots and peaches and found in this light gold wine. Very sweet at 6.4% residual sugar, the wine is quite soft to the point of being cloying. More acidity would give life to the lovely fruit flavors. 81/82.

Sangiovese wine glass

2000 Columbia Winery, Sangiovese, Red Willow Vineyard, Yakima Valley, Washington, $20, 1,317 cases. Warm aromas of cherries, coffee beans, hazelnuts and chocolate are charming. Well-constrained tannins and a crisp mouthfeel augment the exquisite fruit. Imminently drinkable now, this will compliment a variety of foods. 88/89.

2000 Valley of the Moon, Sangiovese, Sonoma County, California, $15, 2,600 cases. Aromas of wild cherries and earthy notes are also appreciated on the palate, along with tart raspberries, leather and smoke. Firm but ripe tannins beg for cellaring. Tasty and a good value to boot. 86/88.

Sauvignon Blanc wine glass

2002 Canyon Road, Sauvignon Blanc, California, $9, 32,500 cases. Canyon Road always seems to get it right with this particular wine. Lemongrass is immediately apparent with undertones of yellow peaches. The wine is very steely and displays grapefruit and melon flavors. This will make a great party wine. 85/88.

2002 Guenoc, Sauvignon Blanc, Lake County, California, $14, 5,336 cases. Displaying a sparkling straw coloration with a green tinge, aromas of peaches and grapefruit waft from the glass. Very crisp and clean, the flavors are reminiscent of canned pineapple and lemongrass. Straightforward but tasty. 84/84.

Norton 2002 Huntington, Sauvignon Blanc, Earthquake, Napa County, California, $12, 1,400 cases. Aromas of citrus fruit, muskmelons and lemongrass highlight this light gold wine. Very bracing and exhibiting purity of fruit since it only saw stainless steel, this is a natural match for shellfish. A dandy value. 90/92.

2002 Norton, Sauvignon Blanc, Barrel Select, Argentina, $8. This Hess import has a lovely gold color with a green-tinged rim. Light to medium-bodied, the grapefruit and light herb aromas are also appreciated in the mouth, along with tropical fruit notes. Terrific value. 85/88.

Sparkling Wine wine glass

NV Domaine Ste. Michelle, Blanc de Blanc, Columbia Valley, Washington, $10. Pleasantly tart, with 0.95% residual sugar. Ripe green apples and peaches underscore this crowd pleasing sparkler. 83/83.

NV Domaine Ste. Michelle, Cuvée Brut, Columbia Valley, Washington, $10. The nose speaks of green apples and toast. Off-dry at 1.05%, the wine has nice zip. Simple but proper, there's plenty of green apple and pineapple fruit. 81/81.

Syrah wine glass

2002 Clay Station, Shiraz, Lodi, California, $13, 8,000 cases. Dark ruby in color, with layers of youthful dark fruit and smoked game notes unfolding on the senses, the easy tannins and bright acidity are conspicuous, as is the deft use of oak. 87/90.

2001 Edna Valley, Syrah, Paragon, Central Coast, California, $14, 6,750 cases. Youthful red/purple colors shimmer in the glass. A complex nose of plums, black cherries and white pepper don't deliver as much as promised. While nicely balanced, the wine is straightforward, with plums, cherries and a hefty dose of vanilla. 84/86.

2001 Forgeron, Syrah, Columbia Valley, Washington, $29, 395 cases. Blueberries, currants and light smokehouse aromas emanate from this inky black Syrah. While still very young yet, the wine is already showing terrific structure, balance and depth of fruit. Lovely. 91/91.

2000 Terra Blanca, Syrah, Block 8, Red Mountain, Washington, $35, 340 cases. The wine is from a single clone Syrah, with 2% Viognier blended in. Smokehouse aromas and blackberries greet the nose. More intense than their regular Syrah, this one sports crisp acidity and grace. Think shish kabob. 90/90.

2001 Vierra Vineyards, Syrah, Columbia Valley, Washington, $22. Very floral on the nose, you'll find black fruit and a nice smoky streak. Of medium weight, the tannins are quite smooth, the acidity crisp. Sporting black fruit, pepper and wood notes, the aftertaste is fruity and prolonged. 89/90.

2001 White Heron, Syrah, Mariposa Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Washington, $13. The wine has a pleasingly dark hue, with aromas and flavors of black fruit, eucalyptus and cracked pepper. The wine is well-structured, with moderate but rounded tannins and food-friendly acidity. Killer value. 88/91.

2000 Woodbridge, Syrah, California, $9. Simple but pretty tasty for a nine buck wine. Crisp, with soft tannins, the wine speaks of blueberries, cherries, chocolate, and vanilla, with undercurrents of white pepper. Made for early consumption. 82/84.

Viognier wine glass

2002 Clay Station, Viognier, Lodi, California, $16, 4,000 cases. The wine is so well-integrated and balanced that you hardly notice the 0.91% residual sugar. Very floral, the honeysuckle and sweet fruit are seamless. This should pair well with lobster bisque and Mandarin dishes. Terrific value. 88/90.

2002 Rulo, Viognier, Columbia Valley, Washington, $18, 770 cases. Typical of the grape, this wine is very aromatic, with lots of honeysuckle and citrus. Stone fruit and citrus unfolds in the mouth, with lots of minerality on the protracted finish. 91/92.

Zinfandel wine glass

2001 Forgeron, Zinfandel, Columbia Valley, Washington, $25, 252 cases. Deeply hued, with lots of brown sugar and warm spices on the nose. Full of fruit and brown spices, this is a fun wine to drink, with an aftertaste that lingers on and on. 89/89.

1999 Joseph Swan, Zinfandel, Lone Redwood Ranch, Russian River Valley, California, $25, 379 cases. You'll appreciate cherry and cedar notes on the nose. Jammy red berries, smoke and vanilla expand in the mouth, supported by bright acidity. 87/87.

Rodney Strong 1999 Joseph Swan, Zinfandel, Mancini Ranch, Russian River Valley, California, $35, 540 cases. Pomegranate aromas take the forefront, with underlying notes of currants. Medium-bodied, with straightforward flavors mirroring the nose. 85/85.

2000 Rodney Strong, Zinfandel, Knotty Vines, Sonoma County, California, $18. An absolutely enchanting nose of raspberries, strawberries, vanilla cream and anise reverberates on the palate, with additional cinnamon, brown sugar and wood notes. Very crisp, this one is ready for the BBQ. 87/88.

Batch 00 Wineglass, Zinfandel, American, $19. This is your big boy, with no subtleties. Fans of the style will enjoy the big, fruity, cherry and raspberry jam flavors, with licorice nuances. The aftertaste never quits. Alcohol is a whopping 16.5%. 90/90.

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