© 2001 by Randy Buckner
Korbel, Brandy, California, $12. 80 proof. A standard, slightly coarse, but tasty Brandy, offering straightforward honey, orange rind and a touch of smoke on the nose and palate. 80/84.
Korbel, Brandy, VSOP, Gold Reserve, California, $16. 90 proof. This is a nice Brandy to bridge the gap between the low-end Brandies and the finer Brandies and Cognacs. The richest flavored and darkest in color of their line. Very smooth on the palate, with honeycomb and smoky aromas and flavors. There is a touch of butterscotch and citrus on the lingering finish. 85/90.
Korbel, Brandy, XS, Extra Smooth, California, $14. 80 proof. Vanilla, honey, orange rind and nutmeg aromas. Sweet on the palate, this Brandy shows the Madagascar vanilla, natural orange essence and spices that are added to the beverage. This is the perfect additive to holiday eggnog. NR.
1999 Callaway, Cabernet Sauvignon, Coastal, California, $11. Blackberry and licorice notes are followed by simple but tasty jammy fruit flavors, with a dash of spice, easy tannins and friendly acidity. 83/86.
1998 Chateau Ste Michelle, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cold Creek Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Washington, $29. The nose screams blackberries, spice and cherry cream. Very elegant on the palate, with seamless tannins, tons of sweet fruit and a beguiling aftertaste. 90/91.
1998 Chateau Ste Michelle, Meritage Red Wine, Artist Series, Columbia Valley, Washington, $50. An initial restrained nose yields blackberry, blueberry and plums with some coaxing. Rich and refined on the palate, flavors mimic the aromas, with a healthy dose of new oak. Silky tannins and lively acidity round out the package. 88/86.
1998 Columbia Crest, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Columbia Valley, Washington, $28. Cassis, black cherry, mint and sandalwood aromas are evident. Rich fruit, mocha, cinnamon, and a healthy dose of American oak are supported by moderate tannins. Lingering aftertaste. Ratings will be higher if the oak loses influence with bottle time. 87/87.
1998 Columbia Crest, Reserve Red, Columbia Valley, Washington, $30. A Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blend. The rich fruit and chocolate aromas carry through to the palate. French oak is obvious but does not dominate the flavor profile. Smooth tannins allow for early consumption. 89/89.
1998 Col Solare, Red Table Wine, Columbia Valley, Washington, $70. Col Solare is a joint winemaking effort between Chateau Ste. Michelle and Piero Antinori of Italian fame. Predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon, with a bit of Merlot and Syrah thrown in. Rich red cherry, plum, and cedar aromas lead to a very polished, rich, fruity wine. Creamy on the palate, the tannins are substantial but rounded. 91/88.
1998 Ecco Domani, Cabernet Sauvignon, Delle Venezie, Italy, $10, 90,000 cases. This wine sees no oak. Light-styled, fruity, with easy drinking tannins. Aromas and flavors are characterized by straightforward blackberry, black cherry and plum fruits. 83/86.
1999 Hedges, Red Wine, Columbia Valley, Washington, $11, 33,800 cases. Predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, this dark ruby wine has black fruit and olive aromas which carry over to the palate. Chalky minerals add interest. Moderate tannins dictate a little bottle aging. 85/88.
1998 Hedges, Red Wine, Red Mountain Reserve, Columbia Valley, Washington, $45, 982 cases. Produced entirely from Red Mountain grapes, 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot. The nose is highlighted by blackberries and black cherries, coffee, and vanilla aromas. Full-bodied, with lush berry, cedar, and vanilla flavors, the silky but substantial tannins will profit from three to four years of aging. 90/88.
1998 Hedges, Red Wine, Three Vineyards, Columbia Valley, Washington, $22, 7,420 cases. A Bordeaux blend. Ripe blackberry, chocolate, vanilla and cedar aromas resound on the palate. The wine is full-bodied, crisp, with moderate tannins that will benefit from bottle age. 87/88.
1998 Kenwood, Cabernet Sauvignon, Jack London Vineyard, Sonoma County, California, $35, 12,300 cases. True to style, the tannins are pretty chewy, but these tame with age. Blackberry, chocolate and oak fill the aroma and flavor profiles. Give this one 3-5 years. 88/87.
1998 Kenwood, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, California, $22, 43,000 cases. This deep ruby offering is packed with aromas of mixed berries, smoke and American oak. Medium-bodied, with modest tannins, the blackberry and blueberry flavors linger on the lengthy finish. 86/87.
2000 McPherson, Cabernet Sauvignon, South Eastern Australia, $8, 40,000 cases. This line of wines is imported by Brown-Forman, and shows well for the price class. Sweet black fruit, mocha and dill aromas and flavors are backed up by soft tannins, vanilla notes and a sweet finish. 82/85.
1999 Petersons, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mudgee, Australia, $20. Imported by Laird and company. This ruby red release has inviting black fruit aromas with a mint kick. Medium-bodied with smooth tannins, the blackberry and mint flavors linger on the crisp finish. 85/86.
1998 Preston, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Columbia Valley, Washington, $22. This award winner is a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Merlot, and 4% Cabernet Franc. Aged in new American oak barrels for 24 months, the wine is not burdened with an overabundance of oak in the flavor profile. Very smooth and full of complex, delicious fruit flavors, you can enjoy this wine tonight or in five years. 90/93.
1999 Stone Cellars by Beringer, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, $8. This is from a new line of wines by Beringer, all priced at $8 retail. Made in a lighter style, the wine displays blackberry and blueberry aromas and flavors. Drink over the short term. 82/84.
1999 Stone Creek, Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Selection, California, $8. Cherry and raspberry jam aromas and flavors, a touch of olive and spice, and light to medium tannins define this early quaffer. 83/86.
1998 Villa Mt. Eden, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grand Reserve, Napa Valley, California, $20. Darkly hued with lots of blackberry, spice and toasty oak aromas. Black fruits, cinnamon, and sweet oak flavors are supported by medium-weight tannins. 85/85.
1998 Villa Mt. Eden, Cabernet Sauvignon, Signature, Napa Valley, California, $54. Mixed red and black fruits, cedar and mint aromas meld with layers of raspberry, cocoa and vanilla. Elegant with sleek tannins noted on a lingering finish. 89/86.
1999 Gallo of Sonoma, Chardonnay, Sonoma County, California, $11, 225,000 cases. A blend of American, French and European oak barrels adds a smoky vanilla component to the nose and palate. Creamy on the entry, citrus and pear fruit shines through. 86/88.
1999 Guenoc, Chardonnay, Estate Reserve, Unfiltered, Genevieve Magoon Vineyard, Guenoc Valley, California, $32, 1886 cases. Spice, pear and smoky nuances highlight this golden offering. The wine is very creamy on the palate, yet maintains an interesting level of acidity. Full-bodied, complex, with generous sweet oak on the prolonged finish. 89/88.
1999 Kim Crawford, Chardonnay, Pia, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand, $30, 600 cases. This golden wine emanates butterscotch and vanilla oak aromas. Full-bodied, creamy, with tropical fruit flavors, toasted oak, roasted nuts, and adequate acidity on the lengthy aftertaste. 87/85.
2000 McPherson, Chardonnay, South Eastern Australia, $7, 65,000 cases. You'll find fig, kiwi and toasty American oak aromas. Easy on the palate, tropical fruit, melon, and butterscotch flavors are appreciated. 82/85.
1999 Petersons, Chardonnay, Hunter Valley, Australia, $20. Ripe apple, fig and buttery aromas are evident. Exhibiting very brisk acidity, the flavors mimic the nose. The aftertaste is long and pleasing. 87/87.
2000 Stone Cellars by Beringer, Chardonnay, California, $8. Soft and creamy on the palate, with tropical fruit and citrus aromas and flavors. 82/84.
2000 Sutter Home, Chardonnay, California, $6, 1,900,000 cases. One of the better mass marketed Chardonnays. You'll find nice aromas of Bartlett pear, apple and lemon. Smooth and creamy, with apple and peach flavors, finishing with adequate acidity. 80/83.
1999 Villa Mt. Eden, Chardonnay, Coastal, Monterey County, California, $10. A straightforward, pleasant drink. Fresh cut apples, pineapple and caramel aromas blend well with fruity flavors. Creamy yet crisp, smoky nuances are found on the lengthy finish. 85/88.
1999 Villa Mt. Eden, Chardonnay, Grand Reserve, Santa Maria Valley, California, $17. Scents of pear, tropical fruit and a whiff of smoke. Creamy vanilla, caramel, and tropical fruit fill the mouth. 85/86.
1999 Villa Mt. Eden, Chardonnay, Signature, Santa Maria Valley, California, $32. Full-bodied, viscous, with loads of fruit, clove, honey, and vanilla on the nose and palate. The finish is long and lush. 89/88.
2000 Beringer, Chenin Blanc, California, $6. Light straw with gooseberry, jalapeno and citrus aromas. This off-dry summer quaffer offers straightforward citrus and white peach flavors, with balanced acidity. 83/85.
2000 Snoqualmie, Chenin Blanc, Columbia Valley, Washington, $7. Off-dry, crisp, simple but tasty, the nose offers a honeydew and lemon perfume. 80/82.
2000 Beringer, Gewurztraminer, California, $7. This simple but tasty summer sipper extends aromas of lychee and peaches. Off-dry, the flavors echo the aromas, with added apricot notes. 83/85.
2000 Chateau Ste Michelle, Gewurztraminer, Columbia Valley, Washington, $8. Lychee, peach and spice highlight this gold colored wine. Flavors are simple but true to the grape. 2% residual sugar. The wine would have scored higher with adequate acidity. 80/82.
2000 Columbia Crest, Gewurztraminer, Columbia Valley, Washington, $7. With 2.53% residual sugar, the wine has just enough acidity to not be cloying. Leaning more to the peach/apricot end of the spectrum than lychee fruit, this will match well with selected Asian dishes. 83/85.
2000 Fogarty, Gewurztraminer, Monterey, California, $14, 3,400 cases. Fogarty always seems to be a sure bet for New World Gewurztraminer. This latest offering is no exception. Lychee and peach aromas start it off, followed by delicate flavors of white peaches, spice and very nice acidity for this grape. Threshold sweetness. 87/88.
2000 Kenwood, Gewurztraminer, Sonoma County, California, $11, 1,500 cases. Off-dry, apricots, lychee and pineapple aromas and flavors highlight this straw colored wine. Match with Thai food. 85/86.
2000 Sutter Home, Gewurztraminer, California, $6, 35,000 cases. Typical floral and lychee aromas and flavors are found in this medium-sweet wine (3% residual sugar), with a crisp, fruity finish. Makes an economical crowd pleaser for those summer parties. 82/85.
1999 Bargetto, Merlot, California, $16, 3,400 cases. Ripe black cherry, cocoa and vanilla on the nose and palate, with a touch of olive. There are easy tannins on the fruity, toasty oak finish. 84/86.
1998 Bella Sera, Merlot, Delle Venezie, Italy, $8, 78,000 cases. This dark ruby sipper has aromas of currants and cherries, with mushroom nuances. Soft and supple, plum and blackberry fruit leads the way. Very approachable now. 83/85.
1999 Callaway, Merlot, Coastal, California, $11. The aromas of this ruby colored wine lean toward black cherries, olives and mint. Full black cherry fruit is backed by food-friendly acidity and easy going tannins. 84/87.
1998 Chateau Ste Michelle, Merlot, Cold Creek, Columbia Valley, Washington, $32. Pleasing black fruit aromas and flavors are enhanced by balanced oak flavors, spice, and refreshing acidity. 86/84.
1998 Columbia Crest, Merlot, Reserve, Columbia Valley, Washington, $28. The nose displays blackberry, dark chocolate and hints of dill spice. Full-throttled yet elegant, replete with fruit, chocolate and mixed oak flavors. This wine needs substantial bottle time for the oak and tannins to tame. 86/86.
1998 Ecco Domani, Merlot, Delle Venezie, Italy, $10, 74,000 cases. Soft and easy on the palate, this wine offers straightforward blackberry and plum aromas and flavors, with a medium-length finish. 83/85.
2000 McPherson, Merlot, South Eastern Australia, $8, 40,000 cases. Ripe plums, cola and spicy notes are evident. Sweet red berries, American oak, and soft tannins intermingle on the palate, with a sweet finish. 83/86.
1998 Northstar, Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington, $50. Winemakers Jed Steele and Gordy Hill bottled this unfined and unfiltered. Blackberries, black cherries, moderate tannins and a long, lush aftertaste best describe this wine. It is built for several years of aging. 89/86.
1998 Petersons, Merlot, Mudgee, Australia, $20. Very ripe plum and cola aromas and flavors, rounded tannins, and snappy acidity make for a pretty tasty wine. This bottling pushes the ripeness envelope. 85/85.
1999 Stone Cellars by Beringer, Merlot, California, $8. Simple but tasty, with black cherry and vanilla aromas and flavors. An easy drinker that should be enjoyed over the next year. 82/84.
2000 Cline, Pinot Gris/Chardonnay, Sonoma County, California, $9.50, 2,596 cases. A blend of 67% Pinot Gris and 33% Chardonnay. Lavender, apple and pear aromas open to straightforward fruit flavors. A touch of French oak is noted on the soft finish. Serve well-chilled as a summer cooler. 83/85.
2000 Hedges, Fume-Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Washington, $10, 11,200 cases. A blend of 55% Chardonnay and 45% Sauvignon Blanc, the marriage works well. You'll find gobs of tropical fruit and gooseberry notes on the nose. Very clean, crisp and fruity, with minimal oak influence, this wine makes a dandy summer sipper. 88/91.
1999 Kim Crawford, Cabernet Franc, Tané, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand, $30, 800 cases. Red cherry, plum, cinnamon, floral notes and smoke enhance this dark ruby wine. Balanced, lush, with layers of ripe red cherries, red berries, and toasty oak, finishing with silky tannins. 88/85.
2000 McPherson, Semillon Chardonnay, South Eastern Australia, $7, 50,000 cases. Fresh cut apples and lemon fruit showcase this unoaked wine. Very fresh, clean, crisp and fruity, this wine makes an excellent party wine that will please a host of palates without breaking the bank. 84/87.
1999 Stone Cellars by Beringer, Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz, California, $8. A somewhat reticent nose opens to blackberry and cassis flavors, with a soft finish. 82/85.
2000 Valley of the Moon, Pinot Blanc, Sonoma County, California, $15, 8,100 cases. Ripe apples, melon, canned pineapple and vanilla aromas are repeated on the palate. You'll appreciate a creamy mouthfeel and a long, fruity finish. 85/85.
1999 Cline, Mourvèdre, Ancient Vines, Contra Costa County, California, $20, 5,899 cases. Eucalyptus, plum, chocolate and smoke intermingle on the nose. There is a lot of jammy berry fruit found here, with sweet oak, spice, mint, supple tannins and brisk acidity thrown in for good measure. The finish is long and lush. 88/88.
1999 Cline, Mourvèdre, Small Berry Vineyard, Contra Costa County, California, $32, 1,291 cases. Not your typical earthy-styled wine. Big eucalyptus aromas leap from the glass, intermixed with berry and floral notes. The aromas are echoed on the palate, along with chocolate, medium-weight tannins and a brisk finish. 87/84.
2000 Cline, Pinot Gris, Sonoma County, California, $12, 2,574 cases. Pretty classic Pinot Gris aromas, with pear and peach undertones. Lean, with lively acidity, he straightforward fruit finishes with a kiss of oak. Drink early on before the 14% alcohol becomes evident. 83/85.
1999 Ecco Domani, Pinot Grigio, Delle Venezie, Italy, $10, 150,000 cases. This simple but pleasant summer sipper offers light tropical fruit and citrus aromas, easy acidity, and soft fruit flavors that will match delicate seafood dishes. 84/84.
1998 Anapamu, Pinot Noir, Central Coast, California, $16, 30,490 cases. Soft and fruity on the palate, ripe cherry fruit prevails. A touch of cracked pepper and vanilla spice adds interest. 84/84.
2000 Kim Crawford, Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand, $28, 200 cases. Intense raspberry, red cherry and toasted oak notes greet the nose. Full-bodied, elegant, balanced with an easy hand on the oak. Very ripe fruit, spice, and silky tannins wrap up the package. 88/88.
1998 Rodney Strong, Pinot Noir, Reserve, Northern Sonoma, California, $30. The light garnet color is not that impressive, but the aromatics and flavors quickly dispel any thoughts of color. This full-bodied wine has lovely earthy, black cherry and smoky notes. The acidity is perfectly balanced with the wine and the finish is long and pleasing. 90/89.
1998 Thomas Fogarty, Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz Mountains, California, $30, 597 cases. Strawberries, cherries, and smoke dominate the nose. Medium to full-bodied, the palate spotlights layers of black cherry, oak toast, moderate tannins and crisp acids. There is a very long ripe berry aftertaste. 88/87 .
1999 Villa Mt. Eden, Pinot Noir, Grand Reserve, Santa Maria Valley, California, $21. A blend of cherries, brown sugar and toasty oak aromas enhance this medium-bodied wine. Flavors of ripe cherry and plum lead to a full finish. 86/86.
2000 Beringer, Johannisberg Riesling, California, $7. Light floral, peach and citrus aromas are appreciated on the palate as well. Off-dry with a refreshing finish. 83/85.
1999 Chateau Ste Michelle, Riesling, Cold Creek Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Washington, $14. You'll find a touch of old world petrol/slate on the nose of this wine, with an added layer of peaches. Delicate sweetness and stone fruit are spotlighted on the fresh finish. 86/86.
2000 Chateau Ste Michelle, Johannisberg Riesling, Columbia Valley, Washington, $8. You'll find straightforward peach and apricot aromas and flavors with a slice of green apple for good measure. Off-dry, with very nice acidity. 84/86.
2000 Snoqualmie, Johannisberg Riesling, Columbia Valley, Washington, $7. A very perfumed nose of honeysuckle pleases the senses. This straightforward summer quaffer offers up apple and peach fruit, finishing with delicate sweetness. NW distribution only. 81/83.
1998 Bella Sera, Sangiovese, di Toscana, Italy, $8, 40,000 cases. This deep ruby quaffer has aromas and flavors of plum, dried currant and spice. Soft acidity and light tannins dictate early drinking. 83/85.
1997 Firefall, Sangiovese, El Dorado County, California, $13, 416 cases. Firefall is one of the newest wineries in the Sierras. The wine is deeply colored with aromas of very ripe cherries and just a touch of wood. Quite flavorful and fruity, the vino shows nice balance, with rounded tannins on the long, fruity finish. Drink over the next 3 years. 87/90.
2000 Chateau Ste Michelle, Sauvignon Blanc, Horse Heaven, Columbia Valley, Washington, $14. This light straw wine is loaded with pear aromas. Crisp, clean, and fruity, with a deft hand on the oak. Pears and peaches persist on the long finish. 89/90.
1999 Columbia Crest, Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Valley, Washington, $7. Very crisp citrus fruit wakes up the palate. The addition of 20% barrel-fermented Semillon does not seem to meld at this point. Match with a pastry-crusted Brie. 83/85.
2000 Kenwood, Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma County, California, $12, 93,000 cases. Lovely tropical fruit and citrus emanates from the glass of this light gold release. Flavors can best be described as casaba melon intermingling with grassy qualities. The lively finish is long and refreshing. 87/88.
NV Mirabelle, Sparkling Wine, Brut, North Coast, California, $16. Toasty, citrus aromas are repeated on the palate. Creamy mouthfeel and zippy acidity. Match this sparkler with your favorite fiery dishes such as Thai Shrimp with Crispy Basil and Indian Kolhapuri Chicken foods. 84/86.
1995 Schramsberg, Napa Valley Champagne, J. Schram, Napa Valley, California, $75. Very fine bubbles highlight this gold beauty, with honey, yeast and citrus aromas. Creamy on the entry and well-balanced. Delicious, complex flavors linger on the crisp, extended finish. A prime example of California Sparkling wine. 92/87.
1994 Schramsberg, Napa Valley Champagne, Reserve, Napa Valley, California, $50. A rich, toasty nose with underlying hints of butterscotch. Elegant and seductive on the palate, the wine is full-bodied, quite flavorful, with hazelnut nuances on the long finish. 90/87.
1999 Cline, Syrah, Los Carneros, California, $23, 2,842. Jammy blackberry and smoky notes lead to a lush, full-bodied, fruity wine. A little leather sneaks in after an hour in the glass. Tannins and acids are in fine balance. 89/89.
1999 Columbia Crest, Syrah, Reserve, Columbia Valley, Washington, $28. Deeply colored with a melange of raspberry, white pepper and French oak aromas. Rich brambly wildberry flavors are supported by sweet vanilla, satiny tannins, and a violet zing on the finish. 88/88.
1998 Firefall, Syrah, Lone Meadow Vineyard, El Dorado County, California, $20, 306 cases. From the less than optimal 1998 vintage, the grapes for this wine were picked on Halloween. Richly colored, with aromas of black fruit, coffee and violets. Tart fruit, medium tannins and brisk acidity makes this a nice match for game. 86/87.
1999 Hedges, Syrah, Sagemoor Farms, Columbia Valley, Washington, $32. Currently made in tiny amounts, the Syrah is only sold at the winery and tasting room. The wine has a full, rich nose of jammy berries and plums. Lush and creamy on the palate and bursting with fruit and sweet oak flavors, you'll find satiny tannins on the long aftertaste. A nice American expression of the grape. 91/89.
1998 Lagier Meredith, Syrah, Mount Veeder, Napa Valley, California, $50, 50 cases. Purple/inky black in the glass. Quite aromatic, with wild berries and white pepper spice. Very elegant and balanced on the entry, this wine is packed with layers of sweet black fruit, chocolate, coffee, peppery nuances and tannins that caress the tongue. The fruity aftertaste seems to linger forever. 92/89.
2000 McPherson, Shiraz, South Eastern Australia, $8, 60,000 cases. Dark berry fruit, pepper and light American oak aromas lead to a palate of cherries, raspberries, easy tannins and vanilla on the finish. 82/85.
1998 Petaluma Bridgewater Mill, Shiraz, Australia, $15. 63% South Australia, 37% Victoria. Jammy fruit and eucalyptus aromas tempt the nose. Black fruits, mint and vanilla flavors are supported by easy going tannins and snappy acidity. A Stimson Lane Import. 86/88.
1999 Petersons, Shiraz, Mudgee, Australia, $20. Smoked meat, berry and mint notes carry over to the palate, with a touch of smoky oak thrown in for good measure. The snappy finish lingers. 86/87.
1999 Terra Blanca, Syrah, Red Mountain, Washington, $20, 1,300 cases. This wine carries the classic earthy, dusty rose Red Mountain characteristics. Complex flavors, plums predominant, are enhanced by spice and well-integrated oak, finishing with a violet display across the palate. The satiny tannins makes this approachable now. 89/91.
2000 Cline, Viognier, Sonoma County, California, $18, 2,998 cases. Packed with floral, ripe nectarine and apricot aromas, the wine delivers on the palate as well. Well-balanced, flavors of nectarine, spice and honey linger on the crisp finish. 90/91.
2000 Carol Shelton, Zinfandel, Monga Zin, Old Vines, Lopez Vineyard, Cucamonga Valley, California, $24, 671 cases. Both of these Zins are very young, recently bottled, still with malo aromas. Putting that aside, this wine is very dense in the glass with deep aromas. Very fruity. The sweet blackberries, mocha, vanilla, moderate tannins and brisk acidity make a real statement. The wine carries the 15.6% alcohol well at this point. 90/89.
2000 Carol Shelton, Zinfandel, Wild Thing, Old Vines, Cox Vineyard, Mendocino County, California, $28, 719 cases. Made with organic grapes, this monster has red fruit, plums and mocha on the nose and palate, with black pepper charging in at mid-palate. Moderate tannins, crisp acids and a long finish wrap up this offering. 16.5% alcohol. 89/87.
1999, Cline, Zinfandel, Ancient Vines, California, $23, 6,953 cases. Raspberry and white pepper spice is followed by tart cranberry fruit and an easy hand on the oak. A good dose of tannins will need time to come around. 84/84.
1999, Cline, Zinfandel, Big Break, Contra Costa County, California, $28, 857 cases. Mixed berries, mint, and spice aromas lead to a full-bodied, juicy wine. Bursting with earthy blackberry flavors, the finish is generous. Be aware this is one for aging due to a healthy dose of tannins. 90/88.
1999, Cline, Zinfandel, Bridgehead, Contra Costa County, California, $28, 861 cases. Very similar in style to the Big Break, but with a pleasing peppery spiciness and a bit more black cherry character. A pretty wine, but again, the tannins need considerable time to tame. 90/88.
1999, Cline, Zinfandel, Live Oak, Contra Costa County, California, $28, 984 cases. This is a big boned wine packed with raspberry aromas and flavors. Firm acids make this a nice BBQ wine; firm tannins make this a candidate for the cellar. 86/84.
1999 Dry Creek, Zinfandel, Heritage Clone, Sonoma County, California, $15, 10,000 cases. Raspberry, black cherry, and dill spice aromas are found in this dark ruby wine. Raspberry jam, light American oak notes, a dash of black pepper and silky tannins delight the palate. 86/89.
1998 Dry Creek, Zinfandel, Reserve, Dry Creek Valley, California, $30, 2,450 cases. In a year that was tough on Zins, this one manages to rise above the pack. Deeply colored, with rich cherry, vanilla, and cedar aromas. Lush jammy fruit, tart cherry, loads of black pepper, chewy tannins and vibrant acidity define this wine. 88/85.
1999 J. Lohr, Zinfandel, Old Vines, Bramblewood, Lodi, California, $20, 2,500 cases. Do you like raspberry extract? This one is for you. Beautiful raspberry, plum and white pepper spice tempt the nose, carrying over fully to the palate. Lush and fruity, the friendly tannins make it hard to age this one. Brambly fruit lingers on the palate. 90/90.
1999 Stone Creek, Zinfandel, Special Selection, California, $8. Raspberry jam defines the nose of this ruby colored wine. Very ripe flavors of raspberry and strawberry preserves stand out, with easy tannins. Drink now. 83/85.
1999 Villa Mt. Eden, Zinfandel, Fox Creek Vineyard, Sierra Foothills, California, $21. Made in the claret style, this wine has raspberry, blackberry, mint and vanilla aromas and flavors, finishing with easy drinking tannins and vanilla cream. 87/87.
1999 Villa Mt. Eden, Zinfandel, Mead Ranch Vineyard, Napa Valley, California, $21. Raspberry aromas tempt the nose, with American oak peering through. Very jammy on the palate with a deft hand on the oak, the sweet fruit finish is lengthy. 88/87.
1999 Villa Mt. Eden, Zinfandel, Monte Rosso Vineyard, Sonoma County, California, $21. Raspberry, cola and spice highlight the nose and palate. Medium-bodied, there is a very sweet, jammy finish, with a touch of clove. 86/86.