Bucko's New Releases

© 2005 by Randy Buckner
July 2005

Summer 2005 Releases

One of the hardest things for a wine critic to do is to set aside personal biases when evaluating wine. Tolerance for extraction, oak levels, alcohol and acidity is very subjective. However, when you taste nothing but raw tannins, oak, heat and overripe fruit, then that is a flaw. When wine feels watery in the mouth, then that is a flaw. Wines exhibiting those traits should and will be downgraded.

Setting aside personal bias is shown in the evaluation of Carol Shelton Zinfandels in this article. I do not favor the blow-your-hair-back style of wines she makes, however they are well-made wines that many people adore and earn their high ratings.

It seems that some wines critics are taking things to the extreme today. If the wines are not super ripe, fully extracted and aged in 100 percent new oak, they do not garner high points. Delicate, well-balanced wines that display regional characteristics are going the way of the dodo bird. Hopefully this trend will turn around.

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/Blends wine glass

2002 Beaulieu Century Cellars, California, $7. Lots of wood aromas and herbs compete with the black cherry fruit for attention. Simple but palatable; 81/82.

2002 Cinnabar, Mercury Rising, California, $18.50. Here's a fun blend of four Bordeaux varieties. The bouquet is a lovely mix of blackberries, warm spices, vanilla and toast. Very balanced on the entry, the wine provides a lot of bang for the buck. Grill that steak; 87/90.

2002 Dog House, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, $9. Berries, cherries, chocolate and cola notes are presented in a simple package. Fifty cents of each bottle of the Dog House line of wines is donated to Guide Dogs for the Blind; 80/80.

2002 Forgeron, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington, $30, 1,067 cases. This deep ruby wine gives off intense aromas of black fruit, oak spice and dark chocolate. Full in the mouth with bright acidity, the bold flavors mirror the nose. Break out that porterhouse; 90/90.

2002 Geyser Peak, Cabernet Sauvignon, Kuimelis Vineyard, Alexander Valley, California, $42, 1,231 cases. Almost black in the glass, the wine gives off cassis, blackberry, vanilla and smoky oak aromas. It is full bodied, with firm but silky tannins and dark fruit flavors; 87/86.

2001 Geyser Peak, Reserve Alexander Meritage, Alexander Valley, California, $49, 2,500 cases. This is a blend of the five classic red Bordeaux varieties. The wine is almost black in the glass, giving off aromas of black cherries, mint, toasty oak and a splash of blueberries. Made in a full, jammy style, the tannins are firm but supple. The finish of black cherry preserves lingers endlessly; 89/89.

2002 Mettler, Cabernet Sauvignon, Lodi, California, $25, 4,880 cases. Full, jammy and oaky, with ripe tannins, black cherry fruit and cedary vanilla nuances; 85/85.

2001 Rodney Strong, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alden Vineyards, Alexander Valley, California, $30. Blackberries and dewberries mingle with chocolate and spice on the nose. Tart and chewy in the mouth, the flavors echo the aromas; 84/83.

2002 Rodney Strong, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, California, $19. Blackberry and cedar aromas and flavors are supported by tart acids, finishing with slightly bitter tannins; 82/82.

2002 Sebastiani, Secolo, Sonoma County, California, $30, 920 cases. I cannot rate this wine. A boatload of oak on the nose and palate totally overwhelms the underlying black fruit - will it ever integrate? NR.

Beringer 2002 Stone Cellars by Beringer, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, $8. Here's another summer quaffer for those grilled burgers. Plums, berries, baking spices and oak present on the nose and palate in a soft, simple package; 81/81.

2002 Three Thieves, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, $7 (liter). The wine is packaged in a one-liter Tetra Pak. You'll find chocolate-covered cherries and plums on the nose, with crisp acids and manageable tannins in the mouth. Simple but quaffable; 80/80.

2002 Wild Horse, Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, California, $20, 19,051 cases. The wine is full in the mouth, with rustic tannins exerting themselves. Black cherries, vanilla and cedar are apparent on the nose and palate; 84/85.

2001 William Hill, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Napa Valley, California, $36, 2,376 cases. Very elegant on the entry, the tannins tend to firm up on the finish and should age out well. Berries, cherries, licorice, French oak and cocoa define the profile of this well-balanced package; 88/88.

Chardonnay wine glass

2003 Beaulieu Century Cellars, Chardonnay, California, $7. The nose displays peach and oak notes. Soft and simple, with a touch of spice; 80/80.

2003 Camelot, Chardonnay, California, $8. Light bodied and soft, with straightforward aromas and flavors of apples, pears, vanilla and toast; 82/83.

2003 Chateau Ste Michelle, Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Washington, $13, 250,000 cases. This has to be one of the better Chardonnay values in the market. Light gold in color, the wine gives off aromas of hazelnuts, vanilla, almond paste and peaches. Peach and pear fruit is more obvious on the palate, all wrapped up in a balanced, easy-to-drink wine; 85/87.

2003 Chateau Ste Michelle, Chardonnay, Canoe Ridge Estate, Columbia Valley, Washington, $20, 5,500 cases. French oak is upfront in this wine, with underlying apple fruit and citrus zest. Creamy, buttery and oaky in the mouth, the wine shows citrus flavors and a bit of red fruit quality similar to Rainier cherries; 86/86.

2003 Chateau Ste Michelle, Chardonnay, Cold Creek Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Washington, $22, 3,800 cases. Tart apples, citrus and French oak greet the nose and then follow through to the palate. Crisp, rich and rounded, this is perfect foil for Dungeness crab with drawn butter; 89/90.

2003 Chateau Ste Michelle, Chardonnay, Ethos, Columbia Valley, Washington, $30, 1,200 cases. This is always a hard wine for me to judge. While it is always well made and complex, I'd like to see more fruit balance out the oak and nutty nuances. Peaches and pears show in the mix; 87/87.

2003 Chateau Ste Michelle, Chardonnay, Indian Wells, Columbia Valley, Washington, $17, 20,000 cases. Pineapple and citrus take charge on the nose, with French oak apparent. Creamy, rounded and spicy on the entry, the wine shows very good balance and plenty of tasty fruit; 88/89.

2002 Cinnabar, Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains, California, $25, 696 cases. This light gold wine has aromas of toasty oak, butter, citrus and apple fruit unfolding in layers of complexity on the nose, then repeating on the palate. The wine is very creamy, with nice balancing acidity. Tasty for fans of this style; 88/88.

2003 Clos du Bois, Chardonnay, Calcaire, Russian River Valley, California, $20, 6,200 cases. The wine maintains nice balance while delivering aromas and flavors of peaches, apples, limes and toasty oak; 87/87.

2004 Dog House, Chardonnay, Mendocino, California, $9. Green apple and lemon zest notes underscore the nose. Creamy and balanced, with simple green apple and caramel notes; 82/82.

2003 Geyser Peak, Chardonnay, Ricci Vineyard, Carneros, California, $23, 580 cases. Citrus, pear and American oak unfolds on the nose. Crisp, creamy and balanced, the citrus, butterscotch and pear flavors meld seamlessly; 87/87.

2004 Kenwood, Chardonnay, Sonoma County, California, $15, 74,000 cases. A mélange of aromas greet the nose and palate - apples, tangerines, butter and oak. The wine is soft and creamy, with spicy notes on the long finish; 86/87.

2004 Nobilo, Chardonnay, East Coast, New Zealand, $12. Sparkling gold in color, this Chard gives off a lovely bouquet of nectarines and subtle vanilla. The nectarine fruit carries over to the palate, with nuances of cream, allspice and brioche giving additional character, finishing on a crisp note; 89/91.

2004 Pepi, Chardonnay, California, $9. Fermented and aged in 100 percent stainless steel. Tart apples and pineapples underscore the nose. The wine is tart and lean, with simple fruit flavors; 81/81.

2003 Rodney Strong, Chardonnay, Sonoma County, California, $15. This light straw wine had a lot of wood up front, with citrus and apple fruit underneath. Creamy, with easy acidity, wood and spice dominate the palate, with pear and tangerine fruit struggling for attention; 84/85.

2003 Sebastiani, Chardonnay, Sonoma County Selection, Sonoma County, California, $13, 45,500 cases. Aromas of butterscotch and oak are upfront, with underlying apple and guava nuances. Soft and creamy in the mouth, the flavors repeat the aromas; 85/86.

2003 Vendange, Chardonnay, California, $4. The wine comes in a 500 ml Tetra Prisma container and is actually passable as a simple drink for crowds. Straightforward citrus and apple notes prevail; 80/80.

2003 William Hill, Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California, $13, 35,268 cases. Pears, tropicals and buttery oak notes carry from the nose to the mouth. Nicely balanced, this will pair well with a shrimp pasta dish; 85/87.

Italian/Varieties wine glasswine glass

2004 Bella Sera, Pinot Grigio, Delle Venezie, Italy, $8. The wine offers decent bang for the buck, sporting lovely tart apple, pear, lemon and almond notes, with a lively mouth feel; 83/84.

2003 Bonello, Cabernet Sauvignon/Primitivo, Puglia, Italy, $9. Ruby red in color with aromas of plums and pepper spice. The overall package is light, crisp, and sporting simple fruit flavors; 82/83.

2003 Bonello, Merlot/Nero d'Avola, Sicily, Italy, $9. Here's a nicely balanced wine offering straightforward aromas and flavors of black raspberries, leather and oak; 83/84.

2003 Bonello, Pinot Grigio/Chardonnay, Delle Venezie, Italy, $9. This is designed for summer quaffing - light gold, threshold sweetness, with apples, melons and lemons throughout; 83/84.

2004 Ecco Domani, Pinot Grigio, Delle Venezie, Italy, $11. This is a light, crisp summer quaffer. You'll find delicate tropical notes on the nose and palate; 82/82.

2004 Pepi, Pinot Grigio, California, $11. The wine is light and very crisp, with straightforward aromas and flavors of melons and tart apples, finishing with a slightly bitter bite; 83/83.

2003 Pepi, Sangiovese, California, $11. Light ruby in color, the wine gives off aromas of black cherries, dark chocolate and warm spices. Tart, simple and fruity, this will pair well with a lasagna dish; 83/83.

Merlot wine glass

2002 Beaulieu Century Cellars, Merlot, California, $7. The nose is underscored by black cherry fruit and barrel toast. Balanced, with soft tannins, the wine offers decent fruit flavors for the price point; 82/83.

Beringer 2001 Beringer, Merlot, Napa Valley, California, $19. The nose is a nice mix of black fruit, coffee, spice and cedar. Medium bodied and showing a little heat (14.6 percent alcohol), the fruit is nicely layered, with a prolonged finish; 87/88.

2003 Blackstone, Merlot, California, $11. Aromas of blackberries, black cherries and subtle oak emanate from this ruby red Merlot. The wine is crisp and round, with straightforward jammy fruit and chewy tannins; 82/82.

2002 Dog House, Merlot, California, $9. Here's another wine for your grilled burgers, sporting cherry cola, olives and toasty notes. Soft, straightforward, but quaffable; 81/81.

2001 Sebastiani, Merlot, Sonoma County Selection, Sonoma County, California, $17, 42,500 cases. Like their Secolo, the oak obscures the fruit, although a little black cherry fruit fights its way to the top. An E for effort; 80/80.

2003 Stone Cellars by Beringer, Merlot, California, $8. The wine is soft and simple, but pretty tasty for eight bucks. There's plenty of strawberries, red cherries and oak to provide a bit of character; 81/81.

2002 Sterling, Merlot, Napa Valley, California, $22, 99,000 cases. The nose is a pleasant mix of red cherries, nutmeg, cocoa and cloves. Blackberry fruit and milk chocolate are upfront, with a dollop of toasty vanilla coming on strong. Tannins are soft and approachable; 85/85.

Miscellaneous wine glasswine glass

2003 Barton & Guestier, Beaujolais, France, $9. Aromas of strawberries and cherries emanate from this garnet-colored wine. Light bodied, with soft acids and tannins, the wine does offer decent fruit for the price point - a perfect quaffer for hamburgers; 82/83.

2003 Barton & Guestier, Vouvray, France, $9. Straw in color, the nose displays floral scents, melons and green apples. The acidity is very soft, giving little lift to the straightforward fruit; 80/80.

2004 Bogle, Chenin Blanc, Clarksburg, California, $7. The nose displays lovely honeysuckle and tangerine aromas. Delicately sweet at 1.2 percent residual sugar, the wine offers straightforward melon and orange fruit; 83/84.

2003 Ca' del Solo, Big House Red, California, $10, 168,000 cases. This ruby-colored wine has pleasant aromas of plums, cherries and black olives. Medium bodied, with easy tannins, the wine is not shy on fruit and has a pleasing peppery streak to boot; 85/87.

2003 Ca' del Solo, Big House White, California, $10, 62,000 cases. Muted aromas of citrus zest and melon give way to straightforward melon flavors. Nice acidity; 82/82.

2004 Ca' del Solo, Malvasia Bianca, California, $13, 9,500 cases. Exotic aromas of grapefruit, lychee fruit and tropicals repeat on the palate. This Malvasia is crisp, refreshing and what wine is supposed to be - fun. Pair with Asian dishes or Mexican seafood dishes; 86/87.

2004 Carol Shelton, Sweet Caroline, Late Harvest Trousseau Gris, Russian River Valley, California, $NA. Also known as Chauche Gris and Grey Riesling. Shelton did a good job with this late harvest offering. She managed to keep the acidity at a level that balances the peachy sweetness. This one begs for a fruit tart; 88/NA.

2002 Cosentino, Gewurztraminer, Barrel Aged, Napa Valley, California, $22. This light gold wine gives off aromas of grapefruit and light toasty notes. Showing nice acidity for the grape, the wine is fruit forward, with a touch of wood on the finish. A nice summer sipper; 84/83.

Georges Duboeuf 2004 Folie a Deux, Menage a Trois, White Table Wine, California, $11. Light straw in color, with very aromatic honeysuckle and limes coming from the Moscato, Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc mix. The wine is light, off-dry and relatively crisp, making it a nice summer sipper. Fruit cocktail lingers on the finish; 84/85.

2004 Georges Duboeuf, Côtes du Rhône, France, $8. Made from a blend of Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre, the wine is light, simple and crisp. This should be consumed early on for the red cherry/berry fruit; 81/81.

2004 Geyser Peak, Viognier, Preston Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley, California, $19, 470 cases. The nose displays the typical honeysuckle, lychee and pear notes. Bright and balanced, there is nothing fat about this food-friendly wine. Pair with Asian foods; 88/90.

Petite Sirah wine glass

2001 Guenoc, Petite Sirah, North Coast, California, $18, 5,053 cases. Guenoc always seems to shine with this wine. Cherries, crushed berries and sweet oak carry from the nose to the palate. Tannins are reigned in well, making this perfect foil for BBQ ribs; 88/90.

2002 Mettler, Petite Sirah, Lodi, California, $25, 1,000 cases. Tannins are well managed here. Aromas and flavors are defined by very ripe blackberries and blueberries, augmented by barrel notes; 84/84.

Pinot Noir wine glass

2003 Camelot, Pinot Noir, California, $8. Cranberry colored, with aromas of cherries, vanilla and sandalwood. Made in a drink-me-now style, this light-bodied wine offers straightforward flavors mirroring the nose; 83/84.

2002 King Estate, Domaine Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $50, 1,060 cases. Here is a pretty classic example of what Oregon Pinot Noir can achieve. The nose is a mélange of complex plum, blueberry, black cherry, nutmeg and cedar aromas. Full and rich, layers of complexity unfold in the mouth then linger endlessly on the finish; 92/92.

2003 Nobilo, Pinot Noir, Icon, Marlborough, New Zealand, $22. The nose is a delightful mix of black cherries, plums, wood spice and tomato leaf. Well balanced and medium bodied, the aromas do an encore in the mouth, presented in a dandy overall package; 88/90.

2003 Valley of the Moon, Pinot Noir, Carneros, California, $20, 1,000 cases. The wine is elegant on the entry, with silky tannins and a touch of heat. Aromas and flavors speak of black cherries, sandalwood, allspice and French oak; 85/85.

2002 Waterstone, Pinot Noir, Carneros, California, $18, 1,644 cases. Here's a pretty tasty Pinot at a fair price. Jammy in style, the aromas and flavors speak of black cherries, plums, new leather and integrated oak. Soft tannins and bright acids make the wine food friendly. There is a bit of heat on the finish; 86/88.

Portugal wine glasswine glass

W. & J. Graham's Ten Year Aged Tawny, Portugal, $29. Classic amber/gold color. Aromas of maple syrup, raisins and hazelnuts abound. Full on the palate and not overly sweet, the wine is as smooth as a baby's backside. Cashews, hazelnuts and rum raisins linger endlessly on the finish; 90/90.

2001 Quinta de Roriz, Douro Reserva, Portugal, $24, 1,320 cases. Here's a killer value from our Portuguese friends - a dry red blend of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Tinta Roriz. Medium to full bodied, the wine is packed with black plums, coffee, chocolate and truffles. Impeccably balanced, the silky tannins tend to firm up on the finish; 91/93.

2003 Quinta de Roriz, Prazo de Roriz, Portugal, $13. The nose is highlighted by plums, earthy notes and black cherries. Modest tannins and crisp acids give lift to the wine. Tasty flavors echo the nose; 84/85.

2002 Quinta de Roriz, Vintage Porto, Portugal, $52, 2,000 cases. Gorgeous aromas of blackberries, violets and brown sugar unfold on the nose. Very intense and complex in the mouth, the wine is sweet, with black cherry jam, pecans and warm spices. This one has a long future; 91/91.

Riesling wine glass

2003 Bloom, Riesling, Qualitatswein, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany, $7. Here's a simple pool-side quaffer that offers up straightforward peach nuances. Very soft; 80/80.

2003 Bloom, Riesling, Signature, Qualitatswein, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany, $12. You'll find more character with their Signature bottling. Slate nuances augment the peach and apple notes. The wine is clean and crisp, with enough acidity to balance out the two percent residual sugar; 84/84.

Rosé wine glass

2004 Bonny Doon, Vin Gris De Cigare, California, $11, 9,500 cases. Copper/salmon in color, this is a Provencal-styled wine made predominantly from Grenache and Mourvèdre. The wine is crisp, dry and fruity, bringing back memories of sidewalk cafés in Lyon and Avignon, France. Pair with Salad Lyonnaise, leek and potato soup, grilled shrimp or Thai fare; 88/89.

2004 Ca' del Solo, Big House Pink, California, $10, 24,000 cases. A fun blend of six grapes, this wine sings summer. Pear, red cherry and apple aromas morph into cherry, cranberry and almond flavors. Crisp acids give the wine zing; 85/87.

2004 Carol Shelton, Rendezvous Rosé, Dry Rosé Wine, Mendocino County, California, $12. A relatively dry Rosé made from Carignane grapes, the wine has nice balance and strawberry fruitiness - perfect for the summer deck outing; 87/88.

2004 Folie a Deux, Menage a Trois, Rosé Table Wine, California, $11. A blend of Merlot, Syrah and Gewurztraminer. Sporting a watermelon coloration, the aromas and flavors suggest red berries and lychee notes. It is very soft, off-dry and simple; 80/80.

Sauvignon Blanc wine glass

2003 Beaulieu Century Cellars, Sauvignon Blanc, California, $7. The nose displays light lemongrass and citrus notes. Very soft and simple, with acceptable flavors; 80/80.

2004 Bogle, Sauvignon Blanc, California, $8. Pretty simple, but tasty nevertheless. Citrus aromas expand into lime and cut grass flavors, supported by bright acidity; 83/84.

2004 Chateau Souverain, Sauvignon Blanc, Alexander Valley, California, $14, 9,468 cases. Fruit driven, this SB is packed with gooseberry and citrus aromas and flavors. Crisp, with an ever so slight bitter bite, the older barrels used with this wine add roundness without the oak burden. Ed Killian hit a home run here; 90/90.

2003 Dry Creek, Fumé Blanc, Sonoma County, California, $13, 30,000 cases. Lean and crisp, the wine displays aromas of limes, lemongrass and grapefruit, while flavors speak of lemon-lime and melons; 85/85.

Dry Creek 2003 Dry Creek, Sauvignon Blanc, Taylor's Vineyard Musqué, Dry Creek Valley, California, $25, 500 cases. While not recognized as a true varietal by the TTB, growers agree that the Musqué clone is unique. I fail to see any marked distinction from SB, but the wine is tasty nevertheless. Lemons and melons present from nose to mouth, with a very creamy mouth feel; 86/85.

2004 Fauna, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand, $12. This light straw wine presents with aromas of gooseberries, citrus and lime. Lean and refreshing, the straightforward fruit offers lime and light grassy notes; 84/84.

2004 Geyser Peak, Sauvignon Blanc, River Road Ranch, Russian River Valley, California, $21, 860 cases. When initially tasted, the wine seemed overripe. After sitting in the glass for an hour, I no longer got the overripe taste. Instead, a host of lovely grapefruit, melon and grassy notes flowed from the glass to the palate, lifted by the lively acidity; 87/87.

2004 Guenoc, Sauvignon Blanc, Lake County, California, $13, 1,797 cases. Soft, simple and rounded in the mouth, the lemongrass and pear aromas repeat on the palate; 84/84.

2004 Kenwood, Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma County, California, $13, 77,000 cases. Kenwood always seems to do an admirable job with this wine. Bright aromas of grapefruit, lime and herbs carry over to the palate, where crisp acidity gives the wine pizzazz; 88/89.

2004 Nobilo, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand, $12. Intense gooseberry and jalapeno aromas energize the nose. The palate explodes with passion fruit, gooseberries and white peaches, finishing full and crisp; 90/91.

2004 Nobilo, Sauvignon Blanc, Icon, Marlborough, New Zealand, $22. Concentrated aromas of gooseberries and citrus highlight this full, crisp SB. Rich tropical fruit unfolds in the mouth, with gooseberry notes adding character. Complex and lovely; 93/93.

2004 Pepi, Sauvignon Blanc, California, $9. Delightful aromas of grapefruit, casaba melons and tangerines carry through to the palate. All stainless steel fermentation and no malolactic fermentation allow the fruit flavors to sing. Good value; 85/87.

Syrah wine glass

2002 Camelot, Shiraz, California, $8. Plums, mushrooms and wood nuances highlight the nose. The wine is light and crisp, with simple fruit flavors; 82/83.

2002 Forgeron, Syrah, Columbia Valley, Washington, $30, 718 cases. This deeply-hued wine gives off aromas of smoked meat, black cherries and French oak. Full throttled, with excellent tannin management, the rich cherry fruit and smoky notes linger for some time; 91/91.

2001 Glen Fiona, Red Table Wine, Cuvée Lot 57, Walla Walla Valley, Washington, $40, 333 cases. Intense aromas of black fruit, toasty oak and a splash of anise encourage a sip or three. A blend of five Rhone grapes, Syrah predominant, the wine is medium bodied with very crisp acidity. The dark fruit is enhanced by a white pepper streak; 87/87.

2000 Glen Fiona, Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, Washington, $20. Co-fermented with Viognier in the spirit of Côte-Rôtie, this Syrah displays aromas of juicy blue and black fruit, sweet oak and a hint of licorice. Crisp acids give lift to the fruit, with a peppery streak giving the wine added appeal; 88/90.

2001 Hardys, Oomoo Shiraz, McLaren Vale, Australia, $12. A nice mix of plums, cherries, blueberries and toast stem from this deep ruby release. Very drinkable now, the wine offers decent fruit for its price point and is perfect for grilled fare; 85/87.

2003 Vendange, Syrah, California, $4. Like their Chardonnay, the wine comes in a 500 ml Tetra Prisma container and is actually passable as a simple drink for crowds. Straightforward currant fruit and berry notes prevail; 80/80.

Zinfandel wine glass

2003 Bonny Doon, Cardinal Zin, Beastly Old Vines, California, $20, 18,000 cases. The nose is a nice mix of plums, berries, dried cranberries and dark chocolate. Fruity and peppery, this is a no-brainer for BBQ ribs, or be a little more adventurous and serve with Chinese orange beef; 89/90.

2002 Camelot, Zinfandel, California, $8. Ruby red in color, with spicy berry fruit and wood on the nose. In the mouth the vanilla and spice flavors overlay the simple fruit; 80/80.

2002 Carol Shelton, Zinfandel, KarmaZin, Old Vines, Russian River Valley, California, $30, 672 cases. This deep ruby Zin displays aromas of mixed red and black fruit, tomato leaf, oak and Chinese Five Spice. Big but elegant, the 15.0 percent alcohol does not show heat at this point. Complex flavors mirror the nose. Blackberry preserves linger on the finish; 91/91.

2002 Carol Shelton, Zinfandel, Monga Zin, Old Vines, Cucamonga Valley, California, $24, 640 cases. The nose is highlighted by concentrated aromas of black fruit, earthy notes and cedary spice. Very distinct from the other Zins in her line, this one brings back memories of Zins from yesteryear. The old vines (planted in 1918 and dry-farmed in sand and rocks) really show through. My rating is in direct contrast to another noted rater; 92/93.

2002 Carol Shelton, Zinfandel, Rocky Reserve, Dry Creek Valley, California, $32, 420 cases. Crimson red in color, the wine presents jammy red and black fruit on the nose and palate. This full-bodied wine is made in a blow-your-hair-back style that many will appreciate; 90/90.

2002 Carol Shelton, Zinfandel, Wild Thing, Mendocino County, California, $28, 840 cases. Showing heat in the mouth from the 16.2 percent alcohol, this really is a wild thing. Cherries abound, with jammy spice and wood notes. Tannins are pretty chewy at this point; 88/88.

2002 Jessie's Grove, Old Vine Zinfandel, Westwind, Lodi, California, $19, 550 cases. This purple/red Zin is almost port-like on the nose, with ripe plums, spice and Baker's chocolate. Fruit comes from 65-year-old vines and is full-throttled in the mouth. The wine grabs your senses and gives it a good shake - hang on for the ride; 89/90.

2003 Sebastiani, Zinfandel, Old Vines, Sonoma Valley, California, $24, 700 cases. Jammy red berries, warm spices and American oak carry from the nose to the palate, with underlying peppery notes. Oak is obvious but not obtrusive; 87/87.

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