Bucko's New Releases

© 2006 by Randy Buckner
July 2006

Summer 2006 Releases

With the nation in the grip of a record heat wave, people are reaching for a cold brewsky rather than a glass of wine. But don't write off wine just yet. There are plenty of crisp, light whites and sparkling wines that are just made to beat the heat.

Even with the sun pounding down, those barbecue grills are being manned by thousands of intrepid souls. You still need a fruity red to accompany that hunk of beef you just charred.

This month we have quite a variety of wine reviews to offer, ranging from huckleberry fruit wine all the way up to Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.

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. All prices are the manufacturer's suggested retail price. Vendor prices are often less expensive. As always, enjoy a bottle with dinner tonight.

Cabernet Sauvignon wine glass

2003 Atlas Peak, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, $42, 4,989 cases. Aromas of black fruit, dried herbs, and dark wood unfold on the nose. The wine is medium to full bodied, tannic, with ripe fruit and a long aftertaste; 86/85.

2002 Beringer, Cabernet Sauvignon, Private Reserve, Napa Valley, California, $116, 14,200 cases. The nose is a pleasant mix of cassis, cedar, vanilla and brown sugar. The wine is impeccably balanced in the mouth. Bing cherries, vanilla and French oak linger on the finish; 89/87.

2003 Bogle, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, $11. Fruity and balanced - there's a lot of bang for the buck here. You'll find black cherries, berries, leather and dill notes throughout; 84/87.

2003 Chateau St. Jean, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, California, $27, 13,167 cases. The wine is purple/red, with lots of smoky oak and mixed red and black fruits across the spectrum. Drying tannins are more evident on the long finish; 85/85.

2003 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Cabernet Sauvignon, Canoe Ridge Estate, Columbia Valley, Washington, $22, 6,000 cases. The wine is very elegant on the entry, then wham - the tannins say hello. This definitely needs cellar time, which should then reward you with its black cherries, cedar, and warm spice flavors; 88/89.

2003 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cold Creek Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Washington, $25, 8,500 cases. The wine is defined by black fruit, currants, a hint of anise, and new oak. Tannins are pretty hearty, but manageable; 87/87.

2002 Clos Du Val, Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District, California, $62, 2,000 cases. Purple/red in color, the wine oozes black fruit, dried herbs, cedar and earthy notes. It is elegant, dense and extracted, with ripe tannins; 87/85.

2003 Franciscan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, $28, 143,000 cases. Cassis, chocolate and modest oak aromas continue onto the palate as well, but the generous, drying tannins detract from the wine; 84/84.

NV HMR Rex Goliath, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, $8. Raspberry, plum and coffee aromas radiate from this deep ruby wine. Simple, balanced, with decent fruit for the tariff; 82/82.

2003 Kenwood, Cabernet Sauvignon, Jack London Vineyard, Sonoma County, California, $30, 12,800 cases. Loads of blackberries, tobacco and cedary aromas delight the nose, with just a twist of mint. Medium to full on the palate, the fruit, acid and tannins all sing in harmony here. Black fruit echoes on the lengthy finish; 89/89.

2003 Kenwood, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, California, $18, 69,000 cases. This deeply-hued wine gives off aromas of black fruit and generous American oak. There is less obvious oak on the palate. The wine is very crisp and fruity in the mouth, with modest tannins and a dab of chocolate; 85/86.

2003 Pedroncelli, Cabernet Sauvignon, Three Vineyards, Dry Creek Valley, California, $14.50, 7,800 cases. Cassis, leather, vanilla and American oak notes underscore the wine - a straightforward quaffer for grilled meats; 83/83.

2003 Robert Mondavi, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, $25. The wine is deep ruby with a purple tinge. Blackberries abound, with modest wood notes and a hint of chocolate. The tannins are firm, but I think they will age out with time; 87/87.

2003 Robert Mondavi, Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville, California, $40. Blackberries, dark chocolate and warm spices delight the nose. Full on the palate, the wine is very tannic and drying, which detracts from the complex flavors. I don't know if the tannins will ever resolve; 85?/84?

2003 Smith & Hook, Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Lucia Highlands, California, $25, 9,700 cases. Plums, raspberries and smoky oak unfold on the nose, while plums and chocolate delineate the palate. Tannins are very firm and drying; 83/83.

2003 Sterling Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, $25, 104,000 cases. This is a medium-bodied, balanced wine, with rounded tannins and pretty black fruit, cedar, coffee bean, and toasty oak nuances; 86/87.

2004 Tintara, Cabernet Sauvignon, McLaren Vale, South Australia, $18, 4,000 cases. Plums, berries, herbs, vanilla and dark wood notes highlight the nose and palate. The wine is medium bodied, very crisp, with ripe tannins; 85/85.

2002 Wattle Creek Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, California, $50, 1,100 cases. The nose is a pleasant mix of cassis, raspberries and humidor notes. Very crisp in the mouth and meaty, with juicy berry fruit and a healthy dollop of oak; 86/84.

2003 Wild Horse Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, California, $20, 19,052 cases. Aromas of black cherries, spice and floral notes intermingle on the nose. Drying, bitter tannins detract from the attractive fruit. Will it ever come into balance? 80+/80+.

Chardonnay wine glass

2004 Buena Vista, Chardonnay, Carneros, California, $19, 16,093 cases. Apples, pears, limes and toasty oak aromas repeat on the palate, with a buttery feel and finish; 84/84.

2004 Chalone, Chardonnay, Chalone, California, $25, 24,777 cases. Aromas and flavors speak of peaches, pears, baked bread and vanilla, which are not overstated. You'll find delightful acidity and a touch of minerality; 87/87.

2004 Covey Run, Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Washington, $9, 59,608 cases. Straw gold in color, this wine is well balanced, straightforward, and will make a good picnic quaffer. Drink now for the melon and green apple fruit, before the buttery, toasty oak takes over; 83/84.

2003 Covey Run, Chardonnay, Reserve, Yakima Valley, Washington, $22, 420 cases. Sweet cream butter and oak pretty well dominates this wine - nice acidity and a lemony finish give some character; 82/82.

2004 Cycles Gladiator, Chardonnay, Central Coast, California, $10, 15,000 cases. White peaches and subtle oak underscores the wine. This is a crisp, straightforward summer quaffer for a fried-chicken picnic; 82/82.

2004 Franciscan, Cuvée Sauvage, Carneros, California, $33, 6,000 cases. Straw gold with a green tinge, the wine radiates aromas of pears, vanilla and toasty oak. Full bodied on the palate, you'll find crisp, creamy, leesy notes, with pears and vanilla underscoring the finish; 87/87.

2005 HMR Rex Goliath, Chardonnay, California, $8. Here's a crisp, simple quaffer that offers up notes of melons, citrus and wood; 81/81.

2004 Kim Crawford, Chardonnay, Gisborne, New Zealand, $20. Oak dominates the nose, with apple fruit underlying the wood. The wine is crisp on the palate, with butterscotch, oak and peach flavors; 85/85.

2005 Kim Crawford, Unoaked Chardonnay, Marlborough, New Zealand, $17. Peach, ripe apple and buttery scents abound. The wine is crisp, viscous, balanced, with similar flavors; 86/87.

2005 Meridian, Chardonnay, Santa Barbara County, California, $10. Threshold sweetness adds to the pineapple, lime and oak nuances. Crisp, straightforward, but pretty tasty for the price point; 83/85.

2005 Red Belly Black, Chardonnay, South Australia, $12, 12,500 cases. Peach, lemon-lime and oak notes carry throughout the wine, with a crisp finish; 80/80.

2004 Robert Mondavi, Chardonnay, Carneros, California, $20. Apples, pears, and light French oak aromas highlight the nose. Medium bodied, with terrific acidity, the wine is fruit forward, with subtle underlying oak. The finish is full and satisfying; 90/91.

2004 Solaris, Chardonnay, Monterey, California, $12, 20,000 cases. This wine is characterized by apples, melons, spice, and buttery oak. Creamy, with adequate acidity, this is a decent quaff for 12 bucks; 84/86.

2004 Wattle Creek Winery, Chardonnay, Mendocino County, California, $26, 1,500 cases. Melons, citrus and French oak aromas dance on the nose. The wine has nice acidity, however the fruit battles the oak for attention; 84/84.

2004 Wild Horse Winery, Chardonnay, Central Coast, California, $20, 30,935 cases. The nose is pretty muted, but does eventually reveal buttery oak and nectarines. Medium bodied, lean and crisp, it is less oaky on the palate, revealing lemon curd and flinty notes; 86/86.

2004 William Hill Estate, Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California, $21, 27,143 cases. This is a very balanced, creamy wine, with a mix of lemon creams, leesy notes and generous sweet oak; 85/85.

2004 William Hill Estate, Chardonnay, Reserve, Napa Valley, California, $27, 4,480 cases. Pear, citrus and toasty oak notes radiate from the glass. Soft, creamy, and balanced, you'll find pears and tropicals, along with generous oak; 85/85.

Chenin Blanc wine glass

2005 Bogle, Chenin Blanc, California, $9. Straw in color, with aromas of pears, honeydew melon and oranges. The wine is light, crisp, and uplifting, with delicately sweet fruit of apricots and pineapples; 84/86.

2005 Silver Lake, Chenin Blanc, Yakima Valley, Washington, $7, 494 cases. Fresh pears and citrus define the nose and palate. The wine is sweet at 2.65 percent residual sugar, with too little acidity to support the sugar; 80/80.

Fruit Wine wine glass

NV Huck, Huckleberry Wine, Columbia Valley, Washington, $8, 2,914 cases. This is a dandy wine for fans of the genre. Obvious aromas and flavors of huckleberries delight the senses. It is quite sweet but has the acidity to back it up; 88/90.

Gewürztraminer wine glass

2005 Chateau St. Jean, Gewurztraminer, Sonoma County, California, $15, 3,295 cases. The wine displays classic Gewurzt aromas of lychee fruit and roses. It is a soft, sweet, straightforward summer quaffer; 83/83.

2005 Silver Lake, Gewurztraminer, Yakima Valley, Washington, $9, 1,251 cases. Straw colored with an apricot hue, the nose delivers hints of roses, lychee fruit and pears. Sweet, straightforward, and lacking acidity; 81/81.

Italian wine glass

2004 Da Vinci, Chianti, Tuscany, Italy, $16, 160,000 cases. Red fruits and white pepper notes define the wine. It is medium bodied and tannic; 83/83.

2003 Da Vinci, Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy, $20, 15,000 cases. Deeply hued, with ripe, almost pruney notes that carry over to the palate as well. Quite crisp, with firm tannins, I can't get past the pruney notes from this very hot vintage; 80/80.

2002 Da Vinci, Chianti Riserva, Tuscany, Italy, $24, 16,000 cases. Deep ruby in color, you'll find a delightful mix of aromas, ranging from black fruits and vanilla, to warm spices. The wine is thick and rich on the palate, with tangy acidity and manageable tannins; 87/87.

Merlot wine glass

2003 Chateau St. Jean, Merlot, Sonoma County, California, $25, 13,000 cases. This deeply-hued Merlot displays loads of plum, tobacco, cedary oak and vanilla aromas. It is rich, lush, and bursting with flavor; 89/89.

2003 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington, $16, 157,000 cases. Ripe red cherries, cedar and vanilla best describe the aromas and flavors here. Balanced, with modest tannins, this is the perfect burger wine; 83/83.

2003 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Merlot, Cold Creek Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Washington, $25, 1,500 cases. The nose is immediately filled with scents of blackberries, black cherries, smoky oak and vanilla. Full in the mouth, the wine is packed with black fruit and smoky oak. Tannins are generous but ripe; 89/89.

2003 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Merlot, Indian Wells, Columbia Valley, Washington, $17, 35,500 cases. The nose in underscored by Bing cherries, vanilla, and dusty notes. You'll find plenty of black fruit in a crisp package; 85/85.

2002 Columbia Winery, Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington, $15, 4,928 cases. Cherries, berries and dried herbs underscore the wine. This is a balanced, straightforward quaffer for grilled fare; 84/85.

2003 Covey Run, Merlot, Quail Series, Washington State, $9, 27,813 cases. The nose is a mix of American oak, dried herbs and cherry fruit. Ripe fruit and coarse tannins unfold on the palate; 80/80.

2003 Franciscan, Merlot, Oakville Estate, Napa Valley, California, $22, 65,000 cases. A mix of black cherries, plums and American oak combine with black cherry and barrel toast flavors to make a tasty package, but firm, drying tannins detract from the experience; 84/84.

NV HMR Rex Goliath, Merlot, California, $8. Bright acids and soft tannins support the black cherry, dried herb and American oak aromas and flavors; 82/82.

2003 Sterling, Merlot, Napa Valley, California, $22, 104,000 cases. Very smooth on the entry, the wine is defined by black cherries, spice, oak, cocoa and vanilla, presented in a straightforward package; 84/84.

2002 Rodney Strong Vineyards, Merlot, Sonoma County, California, $19. Aromas of plums, blueberries and generous American oak leap from the glass. Full in the mouth, with moderate tannins, the fruit more than carries the oak at present. Tangy acidity begs for Texas-style BBQ ribs; 86/87.

Miscellaneous wine glasswine glass

2005 Alice White, Cabernet-Shiraz, South Eastern Australia, $7. Cherries, plums and generous oak are presented in a simple, fruity, moderately tannic package; 80/80.

2003 Bogle, Phantom, California, $16. This is a blend of Petite Sirah, Zinfandel and Mourvèdre. Well balanced and very fruity, this wine should be a welcome guest at any BBQ; 86/87.

NV Domaine Ste. Michelle, Frizzante, Columbia Valley, Washington, $12. In Italy a Frizzante is slightly sparkling, whereas a fully sparkling wine is called Spumante. Well, this is more of a Spumante, but it is a fun wine nevertheless. You'll find pears, melons and lemons presented in an off-dry package with plenty of acidity. Serve well chilled; 85/86.

2005 Folie à Deux, Ménage à Trois, California, $10. A blend of Chardonnay, Muscat, and Chenin Blanc - the wine is very floral from the Muscat, with some tropical fruit and melons on the palate. This is a crisp, refreshing sipper that should be well chilled; 84/86.

2003 Glen Fiona, Cuvee Parallel 46, Walla Walla, Washington, $25, 224 cases. A blend of four red grapes, Syrah predominant, the wine has a Rhone-styled nose - mixed ripe black fruits and a touch of pepper. Very crisp, with moderate tannins, this one is made for those upcoming BBQs; 85/85.

2002 Pedroncelli, Petite Sirah, Dry Creek Valley, California, $14.50, 1,250 cases. The wine is inky purple in color, with black fruit, plums, a pinch of pepper and toasty oak unfolding on the senses. Tannins are obvious but pretty well harnessed for a Petite Sirah. This one begs for Texas-styled BBQ brisket; 84/84.

Pinot Gris wine glass

2005 HMR Rex Goliath, Pinot Grigio, California, $8. Pear and honeysuckle notes carry from nose to mouth, in a crisp, rounded package; 83/83.

2005 Kim Crawford, Pinot Gris, Marlborough, New Zealand, $16. Full in the mouth and viscous, this straw-gold wine gives off a mix of pears, oranges and white flowers throughout the length of the wine; 86/86.

2005 Sterling Vineyards, Pinot Grigio, Central Coast, California, $13, 35,000 cases. Citrus zest carries throughout the wine. A crisp, simple summer sipper; 80/80.

2004 WillaKenzie, Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $18, 3,173 cases. There is a lot going on here, with peaches, apricots, citrus fruit, papayas and floral notes doing a tap dance on the nose and palate. Balanced and expressive, this should pair well with lobster bisque or crab cakes. The 2005 version is due out shortly; 90/90.

Pinot Noir wine glass

2003 Benton-Lane, Pinot Noir, Oregon, $20, 17,000 cases. I'm not a fan of the 2003 vintage in Oregon overall, but of course there are exceptions. Benton-Lane managed to do a good job at a very fair price with this wine. Lots of red berries fan out on the nose, with a dash of spice and oak. Crisp and generous in the mouth, the flavors speak of red fruit as well, with just a touch of warm spice on the lengthy finish. Drink now; 87/89.

2004 Buena Vista, Pinot Noir, Carneros, California, $23, 14,000 cases. Aromas of red cherries, strawberries, nutmeg, and a touch of earth radiate from this medium-garnet wine. Very fruity and earthy on the palate, the wine is supported by bright acidity and friendly tannins; 87/87.

2004 Chateau St. Jean, Pinot Noir, Sonoma County, California, $22, 23,500 cases. Aromas and flavors speak of black cherries, smoke, floral notes and forest floor nuances. Nicely balanced; 85/85.

2004 Domaine Coteau, Pinot Noir, Yamhill County, Oregon, $27, 1,350 cases. This is a new wine for me, and considering how pricey Oregon Pinot has become, this is a very good value. You'll find lots of berries and spice on the nose, while the flavors exhibit currants, red berries, and judicious oak notes. Elegant, yet lively; 90/91.

NV HMR Rex Goliath, Pinot Noir, California, $8. Crisp, clean, and straightforward, with pleasant enough cherry, berry and dark tea flavors; 82/82.

2005 Kim Crawford, Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand, $17. You'll find lots of plums and red cherries on the nose, with a touch of mushroom on the nose of this crisp, fruity wine. It shows nice complexity without being overdone; 88/90.

2005 Meridian, Pinot Noir, Central Coast, California, $11. Aromas of cherries and strawberries carry over to the palate, with nuances of black tea and toasty oak. You'll appreciate the crisp finish; 83/84.

2004 Rodney Strong Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, California, $19. Cherry fruit, earthy notes and French oak define the aroma and flavor profile. The wine shows nice balance of components; 85/85.

2004 Whitehaven, Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand, $20, 60,000 cases. Aromas of black cherries, spice and dark wood radiate from this garnet/brick-colored wine. Medium to full bodied in the mouth, the wine has a crisp, moderately tannic backbone. Black cherries and plums underscore the palate; 87/87.

2004 Wild Horse, Pinot Noir, Central Coast, California, $25, 30,855 cases. You'll find pretty classic aromas of dried cherries, earth, tea, and vanilla, which carry over to the palate. This middleweight shows nice balance, and sports food-friendly acidity; 87/87.

Riesling wine glass

2005 Chateau St. Jean, Riesling, Sonoma County, California, $15, 2,300 cases. Peach and mango scents radiate from this straw-colored wine. Soft and sweet (2.53 percent residual sugar), the straightforward flavors mirror the nose; 82/82.

2005 Lalla Gully, Riesling, Tasmania, $20. On the nose you'll find plenty of citrus, slate and floral notes. This wine is lean, with plenty of limes and laser beam acidity - best served with a tray of oysters on the half shell; 85/85.

Rosé wine glass

2005 Folie à Deux, Ménage à Trois Rosé, California, $10. Strawberry and raspberry aromas abound. Soft and sweet on the palate, this will satisfy those looking for a sweet pink; 83/83.

2005 Pedroncelli, Zinfandel Rosé, Dry Creek Valley, California, $10, 3,000 cases. This one is very restrained on the nose and palate, with hints of red berries and threshold sweetness; 82/82.

2005 Red Bicyclette, French Rosé, Vin de Pays d'Oc, France, $11, 27,000 cases. Sporting a light cranberry color, the wine gives off delicate strawberry and melon notes. This is a crisp, simple summer drink to pair with grilled veggies or seafood; 82/82.

2005 Valley of the Moon, Rosato di Sangiovese, Sonoma County, California, $16, 1,600. Raspberries, melons and floral aromas morph into peachy/raspberry flavors in a straightforward, delicately sweet package; 83/83.

Sauvignon Blanc wine glass

2004 Covey Run, Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Valley, Washington, $9, 21,532 cases. Straw colored, this crisp, straightforward wine delivers grapefruit peel and melon notes across the board; 83/83.

2005 Kim Crawford, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand, $16. This straw-gold wine has gobs of gooseberries on the nose, with underlying citrus and kiwi. Very full and juicy in the mouth, the aromas reverberate across the palate; 90/90.

2004 Rancho Zabaco, Sauvignon Blanc, Reserve, Sonoma County, California, $18. Citrus peel and grassiness highlight the aromas and flavors. This is a generous, crisp, well-balanced wine, with a lengthy aftertaste; 87/87.

2004 Robert Mondavi, Fumé Blanc, Napa Valley, California, $18. You'll find a nice mix of grassiness and tropical fruit on the nose. Melons and citrus abound in the mouth, with a pleasantly crisp finish; 88/88.

Spain wine glass

2000 Bodegas Montecillo, Rioja Reserva, Rioja Alta, Spain, $19. Mixed fruit, leather, and oak highlight the nose of this light ruby wine. The wine sports nice balance, with very ripe red and black fruit flavors; 85/86.

1998 Bodegas Montecillo, Rioja Gran Reserva, Rioja Alta, Spain, $26. Aromas cover the dark fruit spectrum, with new leather and oak spice thrown in for good measure. Leathery notes and mixed fruits dominate the palate, with friendly tannins noted; 86/86.

Syrah wine glass

2004 Cycles Gladiator, Syrah, Central Coast, California, $10, 12,000 cases. Displaying a deep purple hue, plums dominate the nose, with hints of red berries and cedary oak. Oak is the dominant player in the mouth, with respectable underlying fruit striving for attention; 81/81.

2003 Glen Fiona, Basket Press Syrah, Walla Walla, Washington, $30, 212 cases. The wine contains a 19 percent blend of Cinsault, Counoise and Merlot. Medium to full on the palate, the wine provides crisp acidity and modest drying tannins to support the crushed berry fruit and floral notes; 85/85.

NV HMR Rex Goliath, Syrah, California, $8. Purple/red in color, the wine radiates berries, plums and American oak. This is a crisp, balanced, fruity quaffer for those grilled burgers; 83/83.

2004 Jade Mountain, Syrah, Monterey County, California, $15, 2,495 cases. This purple/red Syrah speaks of plums, floral scents and American oak. Balanced, with manageable tannins, this medium-bodied wine is easy to like; 84/86.

2004 Jade Mountain, Syrah, Snows Lake Vineyard, Lake County, California, $17, 3,029 cases. Raspberries, smoky oak and vanilla define the wine. Tannins are manageable. Oak and berries linger on the palate; 83/84.

2004 Tintara, Shiraz, McLaren Vale, South Australia, $18, 13,000 cases imported. This wine is highlighted by plums, currants, coffee, and spicy oak, wrapped up in a medium-bodied, well-balanced package; 85/85.

Zinfandel wine glass

2003 Dry Creek, Old Vine Zinfandel, Sonoma County, California, $25, 3,386 cases. Blackberries, raspberries, and warm spices make a lovely bouquet. The wine is full on the palate, with ripe, brambly fruit, blackberry jam, and chewy tannins that linger endlessly; 90/90.

2004 Kendall-Jackson, Zinfandel, Vintner's Reserve, California, $12. Plum and raspberry aromas follow through on the palate. Fruity, jammy, and well rounded, this light to medium-bodied wine is a good value that lingers on the finish; 85/88.

2003 Mariah, Zinfandel, Mendocino Ridge, California, $25, 1,500 cases. The nose is a lovely mix of raspberries, licorice, dried herbs, and cedary oak. Medium to full in the mouth, the tangy acidity demands a tomato-based barbecue sauce; 88/88.

2004 Rancho Zabaco, Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, California, $28. Cherries, berry jam, French oak and coffee scents highlight the nose. Medium to full on the palate, the wine is loaded with juicy fruit flavors that finish on a crisp note; 88/88.

2003 Rodney Strong, Zinfandel, Knotty Vines Estate Vineyards, Sonoma County, California, $19. Jammy berry fruit with a dash of pepper highlights the nose and underscores the palate; 84/84.

2004 Sebastiani, Zinfandel, Sonoma County, California, $15, 3,500 cases. This one is pretty generic - not much of the classic Zinfandel flavors - but tasty enough, with berries vanilla and generous oak; 83/83.

2004 Solaris, Zinfandel, Mendocino County, California, $14, 4,700 cases. The wine is very generic on the nose - red fruit. It is more Zin-like on the palate, with some brambly notes and a touch of raspberries; 84/85.

2003 Wild Horse, Zinfandel, Paso Robles, California, $18, 3,389 cases. The 15.3 percent alcohol is not obvious here. Light to medium bodied, this Zin doesn't beat you up with extraction. Mixed berries, raspberry jam, and dried herbs delight the senses; 87/88.

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