Bucko's New Releases

© 2002 by Randy Buckner
August, 2002

Summer 2002 Releases

The dog days of summer have settled in across a large portion of the nation, leaving many looking for relief. Even the horned toads are walking on stilts. We remain cool in the Pacific Northwest and tourists are flocking here in droves looking for respite from the heat.

This is the perfect time to open up a crisp, refreshing Sauvignon Blanc or Riesling, and then relax under your favorite shade tree. 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 wine glass

2000 Buena Vista, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, $9. Easy to drink and tough to beat in the price class. Lots of cherry cola notes and vanilla spice are balanced on a soft tannin framework. Drink over the next year or so. 84/87.

1999 Chateau Julien, Cabernet Sauvignon, Monterey County, California, $22, 1,187 cases. Fruit is the name of the game here, ranging from black currants to blueberries. Chocolate and vanilla nuances add interest. Substantial tannins dictate several years of bottle aging. 86+/86+.

Rex Goliath NV HRM Rex Goliath, Cabernet Sauvignon, 'free range,' Central Coast, California, $8, 5,000 cases. Cassis, cedar and chocolate echo throughout this value wine. The tannins are noticeable but are certainly manageable. 83/85.

1999 Kenwood, Cabernet Sauvignon, Jack London Vineyard, California, $35, 10,500 cases. The nose and palate agree on the black fruit, cedar, tobacco, and earthy notes. A deft hand on the French oak is refreshing. Impeccably balanced, the wine is approachable now but will be better in 3-4 years. 88/88.

1998 Langtry, Meritage Red Wine, 59% Napa/41% Lake County, California, $55, 4,081 cases. Guenoc managed to do well with this Cabernet predominant Meritage from a difficult vintage. Lacking the depth of some prior vintages, this wine nevertheless offers lovely dark fruit flavors, oak spice and mocha mix, with an ever so slight bit of earthiness. Match with pork tenderloin and mushroom risotto. 88/86.

1999 Lockwood, Cabernet Sauvignon, Monterey, California, $18. Dark garnet in color, with aromas and flavors of cherries, blueberries, vanilla, and cedar. Generous oak is found on the brisk finish. 84/86.

2000 Mettler, Cabernet Sauvignon, Lodi, California, $24. My first bottle from the Mettler Family was a pleasant one. There are enough black cherries, plums, raspberries and mocha to please most everyone. The tannins are ripe and hearty. A nice value in today's market. 88/89.

2001 Reynolds, Cabernet Sauvignon, New South Wales, Australia, $10, 31,240 cases. Both nose and palate exhibit cherry, cassis, licorice, tobacco and delicate oak notes. Light-bodied, with easy going tannins, this wine should be enjoyed over the next year or two. A Trinchero import. 84/86.

R.H. Phillips 2000 R.H. Phillips, Cabernet Sauvignon, Dunnigan Hills, California, $10, 37,000 cases. This is another nice wine in the ten buck price class. Offering up a bundle of cherry flavors, the nuances of herbs, spice and toasty oak add character to the wine, finishing very crisp. The modest tannins allow for current consumption. 84/86.

1999 Robert Mondavi, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, $30. Stepping up on the soap box for a moment, I have noticed Mondavi wines being maligned by various critics recently. This may be due to the fact that the wines (as a whole) are not made in a full-extract, overblown, oaky, high alcohol, low acid style. I find it very refreshing to work my way through the Mondavi line, which displays lean to medium-weight wines, with crisp acidity, 13.5% alcohol and modest oak flavors. You can actually drink these wines with food. I say hurrah for Mondavi making food wines, not critic wines. Now, on to the tasting note. This ruby red new release is bursting with aromas of violets, cassis, spice and chocolate, made in a medium-bodied style. Aromas echo on the palate, with a touch of dark roast coffee. The wine is very harmonious and has no heat from the alcohol, which is welcomed. 90/90.

1999 Robert Mondavi, Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville AVA, California, $50. Bottled without fining or filtering, this dark ruby wine presents cassis, blackberries, Asian spices and French oak to the senses. A muscular wine, this one needs a few years in the bottle to tone down the tannins and allow the wine to show its stuff. 92+/90+.

1999 Robert Mondavi, Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District, California, $50. A complex nose of black currants, licorice, violets and mint is followed by flavors of same, with added cedar nuances. Like the Oakville, this one needs bottle time. While my wife liked this wine the best, I give the nod to the Oakville. 91/89.

2001 Rothbury Estate, Cabernet Sauvignon, South Eastern Australia, $7. Aromas of black fruit, spice and mint support the simple but honest fresh fruit flavors. The tannins are smooth and the acidity is refreshing. Good bang for the buck. 84/88.

1998 Simi, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Alexander Valley, California, $70, 4,601 cases. Just simply beautiful aromas of blackberries, blueberries, vanilla and chocolate cherries highlight this purple-hued wine. Flavors of blueberries, black cherries, vanilla and cedar are balanced by ripe tannins. The elegant finish is endless. Not bad for the ignored 1998 vintage. 90/87.

1999 Smith & Hook, Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Lucia Highlands, California, $18, 8,610 cases. Delightful aromas of black cherries, chocolate and mint set the stage for this medium-bodied wine. The flavors are dominated by juicy black cherries in this overall balanced package. Vanilla nuances add interest. 85/87.

Chardonnay wine glass

2000 Arrowood, Chardonnay, Grand Archer, Sonoma County, California, $18, 22,000 cases. Pear, lemon and spice aromatics are followed by similar flavors, with apples and toast throw in for good measure. 100% barrel fermentation adds to the creamy texture. 86/87.

2000 Buena Vista, Chardonnay, California, $8. Soft and creamy, this one has aromas and flavors of vanilla, toasty oak and light pear. The crisp acidity gives some character to the wine. 83/84.

2000 Callaway, Chardonnay, Coastal, California, $9. Lots of toasty oak and apples take the forefront, with pineapple nuances, finishing soft and sleek. 82/84.

2000 Chateau Julien, Chardonnay, Monterey County, California, $22, 1,254 cases. The nose is highlighted by toasty oak, tropical fruit and citrus peel. Made in a creamy, buttery style, the wine still maintains very crisp acidity which accentuates the tastes of lemon grass and hazelnuts. 86/86.

2001 Clos Du Bois, Chardonnay, Sonoma County, California, $14. This is a fruity Chardonnay with a good acidic kick. Generous toasty oak becomes evident with breathing, balanced by the apple and citrus notes. 85/87.

2000 Duck Pond, Chardonnay, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $8, 5,000 cases. This is a simple, unpretentious quaffer at a nice price. Yellow delicious apple and spicy oak flavors unfold, with a soft palate feel. Drink now for the fruit. 84/86

2000 Handley, Chardonnay, Handley Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley, California, $18, 1,470 cases. This golden beauty is packed with apple, tropical fruit and toasted coconut. Very clean and crisp, a subtle hand was used on the oak here, which is refreshing. Pair with crab cakes or coconut shrimp. 90/91.

2000 HRM Rex Goliath, Chardonnay, 'free range,' Monterey, California, $8, 6,000 cases. There is a lot of character here for eight bucks. Soft and creamy, with decent tropical fruit and butterscotch. Worth a try if this is your style. You have got to love the label (from an original Texas circus banner). 83/85.

2000 Holly's Hill, Chardonnay, El Dorado, California, $15, 250 cases. Pears, nutty qualities, oak and creamy vanilla entertain the senses, with an extended finish. There was no malolactic fermentation. A nice wine for the style. 85/87.

2000 Lake Sonoma, Chardonnay, Russian River, California, $15, 5,120 cases. Gold in color, with oak barrel and leesy aromatics which carry over to the palate. There are some nice underlying pineapple and pear flavors, finishing with a clean, medium-length finish. 85/87.

1999 Meridian, Chardonnay, Limited Release, Santa Barbara County, California, $22. While this is not my style of wine, this is nevertheless a very good, well-made wine. The nose is loaded with toasty, smoky, honey/toffee scents. Very lush and elegant on the palate, you'll notice an oily mouth feel. Layers of flavors unfold, ranging from honey butter to tangerine zest. 91/92.

1999 Meridian, Chardonnay, Reserve, Edna Valley, California, $14. Fans of the Meridian style will enjoy this wine. There's lots of butterscotch, pineapple, and smoke in the nose. Creamy on the palate while maintaining tangy acidity, the flavors mimic the aromas. 86/87.

2001 Reynolds, Chardonnay, New South Wales, Australia, $10, 37,900 cases. Layered with aromas and flavors of pineapple, citrus and toasty oak, this wine is pretty tasty for the price class. Crisp acidity adds zip to the wine and it is ready for current consumption. 84/87.

2000 Robert Mondavi, Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California, $22. Brimming with pears, tropical fruit, spice and light toasty oak nuances, the zippy acidity ties it all together. It is refreshing to find a Chardonnay with crisp acidity and alcohol at only 13.5%. Hats off to the winemaker. 90/91.

2000 Robert Mondavi, Chardonnay, Reserve, Napa Valley, California, $38. This is not a wine for fans of the soft, creamy style of Chardonnay, as it proudly shows off its ample acidity. Nice for the style, with lots of baked apple, toasted oak, coconut, vanilla, and hazelnut characteristics. 91/90.

2001 Rothbury Estate, Chardonnay, South Eastern Australia, $7. You'll find generous aromatics of tropical fruit and white peaches. Lively acidity and pleasant fruit are provided at a give away price. Oak only plays a minor role here. 84/88.

2001 Wolf Blass, Chardonnay, South Australia, $12, 3,000 cases (US export). A brilliant straw yellow in color, this wine exudes peach and honeydew melon aromas. Tropical fruit, modest oak and vibrant acidity combine to make a very quaffable Chardonnay. 85/87.

Chenin Blanc wine glass

2001 Callaway, Chenin Blanc, Coastal, California, $7, 8,988 cases. Aromas of grapefruit, ripe peaches and guava play out on the nose. Off-dry at 0.88% residual sugar, the wine is soft, with simple but tasty tropical fruit. Serve well-chilled with picnic fare. 82/84.

2001 Dry Creek, Chenin Blanc, Clarksburg, California, $8.75. Stone fruit aromas become evident on the palate as well, with delicate apricot and peach notes. The wine is crisp, balanced, with threshold sweetness (0.68% R.S.) and always seems to be a California front-runner. 88/90.

Italian/Italian Varieties wine glasswine glass

1999 Barone Ricasoli, Chianti Classico, DOCG, Brolio, Italy, $16. This ruby red wine is pleasantly aromatic, with crushed violets and blackberries in the forefront and vanilla in the background. Medium-bodied, fruity, with modest ripe tannins, the wine is imminently drinkable now but will be better in a couple of years. A William Grant & Sons import. 87/88.

1998 Barone Ricasoli, Chianti Classico, DOCG, Castello di Brolio, Italy, $40. Deeply colored, with violet and black fruit aromas which are augmented by light vanilla and sandalwood notes. Full-bodied, with tannins that need bottle time, the lush fruit provides plenty of pleasure. Oak accentuates the wine rather than dominating it. 90+/89+.

1998 Barone Ricasoli, Chianti Classico Riserva, DOCG, Rocca Guicciarda, Italy, $19. Aromas of red cherries, berries and aged wood invite further exploration. Medium-weight, polished, and fruity, this wine begs to be paired with your favorite veal dish. 88/88.

2000 Barone Ricasoli, 1141 Chianti Classico, DOCG, Italy, $14. This wine only saw stainless steel. The bouquet is very fragrant, cherries predominating. It is very harmonious on the palate and surprisingly tasty for the price. Tannins are smooth and the acidity brisk; drink now for the fruit flavors. 85/88.

2000 Barone Ricasoli, Formulae IGT 2000, Tuscany, Italy, $10. This is 100% Sangiovese. This simple but tasty wine offers very fruit-forward aromas and flavors, with a bit of earthiness. Made in a drink early style. 83/85.

2001 Ca' del Solo, Malvasia Bianca, Monterey, California, $12. Another fun wine from Randall Graham. Lime and lychee fruit scents accent this Malvasia, also known as Moscato greco in Piemonte. Flavorful, clean, crisp, and fruity, the wine almost seems dry despite the 1% residual sugar. This was a delightful match with Dungeness crab cakes. 88/90.

2001 Campanile, Pinot Grigio, Friuli del Grave, Italy, $10. Very citrusy on the nose, with a touch of peach. Refreshingly crisp, the wine is fairly fruity, with a lingering aftertaste. A Beringer Blass import. 87/88.

1999 Castello Di Gabbiano, Chianti Classico, Riserva, Tuscany, Italy, $17. A core of concentrated cherry flavors is followed by coarse tannins and earthy flavors. Needs time but is approachable now with a strong cheese. 85/85.

1999 La Famiglia (di Robert Mondavi), Colmera, Napa Valley, California, $40. Colmera is the flagship wine of La Famiglia. Reflecting a super-Tuscan philosophy, the wine is a blend of 75% Sangiovese, 22% Syrah and 3% Teroldego. Violets and black cherries battle for dominance of the nose, with cedar nuances sneaking in. Very focused, with brisk acidity, the tart cherry/berry flavors and integrated oak linger on the lengthy finish. 90/89.

Travaglini 2000 Luna, Sangiovese, Napa Valley, California, $18. Compared to the 99, the 00 is more tightly wound and more tannic. Ultimately, the 00 may be the better wine, but only time will tell. Either way, the 00 is a nice wine that needs time to tame the tannins. It is a nice match for grilled pork chops. 89/90.

2000 Marchetti, Barbera, California, $25. This is a new Washington winery that used California grapes for this wine. Very fruity, with lots of berry flavors, crisp acidity, and a leesy character. Bring out the spaghetti and meatballs. 87/87.

1998 Travaglini, Gattinara, DOCG, Italy, $30. The wine is 100% Nebbiolo, notorious for dense tannins; however the tannins here are quite manageable. Berries, leather, modest vanilla and earthy tones delight the senses. The wine will continue to develop for many more years. A Beringer Blass import. 88/88.

Merlot wine glass

1998 Arrowood, Merlot, Sonoma County, California, $42, 6,911 cases. This ruby red wine is unfined and unfiltered. The nose reveals black cherries, spice and subtle tobacco leaf notes. Flavors of berries, chocolate, cedary spice and plums are evident, with silky tannins flowing effortlessly throughout. 87/85.

2000 Buena Vista, Merlot, California, $9. Smooth, simple, with cherry flavors and a light herbal streak running throughout the wine. A pleasant enough quaffer. 83/84.

1998 Claar, Merlot, White Bluffs, Columbia Valley, Washington, $18. Dark garnet in the glass, with mixed red fruits, coffee and oak barrel notes. Plums dominate the flavor profile, with supple tannins and a pleasing finish. 85/85.

Dry Creek 1999 Dry Creek, Meritage, Dry Creek Valley, California, $28. Merlot predominant, this dark ruby release offers up a bowl full of mixed berry and humidor notes. Very polished on the entry, the tannins caress rather than bite. The complex fruit makes quite a statement. 90/91.

1998 Dry Creek, Merlot, Reserve, Dry Creek Valley, California, $35. Complex aromas of cherries, blueberries, mint and tobacco leaf vie for attention. The wine is medium-weight with polished tannins and flavors that mimic the nose. Not bad for the notorious 1998 vintage. 88/88.

1999 Geyser Peak, Merlot, Reserve, Sonoma County, California, $40, 1,200 cases. This is a pretty big Merlot, with a broad range of aromas and flavors to include cherries, chocolate, coffee beans, smoke and vanilla. Moderate, ripe tannins will soften will a few years in the bottle. 88+/87.

1998 Guenoc, Victorian Claret, 53% Napa/47% Lake County, California, $21.50, 2,464 cases. This is their first release of this Merlot predominant blend. The nose is rich and full. Black cherries, vanilla, mint and spice are supported by tangy acidity. Tannins should smooth out with a couple of years in bottle. 86/87.

NV HRM Rex Goliath, Merlot, 'free range,' Central Coast, California, $8, 5,000 cases. A full nose of cassis, black cherries and cedar opens to a soft palate feel. With very forgiving tannins, this wine should be consumed now for the plum and berry fruit. 84/86.

2000 Huntington, Merlot, Alexander Valley, California, $18, 2,500 cases. You'll discover lots of black fruit and chocolate on the nose, with hints of mint and oak. Juicy plums, currants, dark chocolate, dill spice and vanilla intermingle to make a tasty presentation. 86/87.

1999 Lockwood, Merlot, Monterey, California, $18. Aromas of blackberries, briary red fruit, cedar and chocolate repeat on the palate, with a dollop of vanilla. The finish is brisk and fruity. 85/87.

2001 Reynolds, Merlot, New South Wales, Australia, $10, 34,000 cases. This simple but pleasant wine offers plums, blueberries, toasted oak, modest tannins and tangy acidity. 83/86.

1999 Robert Mondavi, Merlot, Stags Leap District, California, $35. A nice Merlot with more oak than I personally care for, but it certainly does not dominate the wine. Satiny tannins usher in the black cherry, plum, chocolate and spicy vanilla flavors. Match with a nice veal shank. 88/87.

2000 Stone Creek, Merlot, California, $8, 39,000 cases. Pleasant aromatics of black currants, pepper spice and subtle mint leaf notes emanate from the glass. Very soft, balanced, and designed for current consumption, this value wine delivers non-pretentious fruit flavors. 85/89.

Miscellaneous wine glasswine glass

2000 Arrowood, Pinot Blanc, Saralee's Vineyard, Russian River Valley, California, $33, 243 cases. This is a certified Pinot Blanc clone, not the lesser Melon de Bourgogne. Citrus and vanilla are appreciated on the nose, followed by floral flavors best described as a cross between honeysuckle and jasmine. The acidity is soft, the finish of medium-length. 88/85.

2000 Handley, Pinot Meunier, Anderson Valley, California, $21, 430 cases. Garnet colored, medium-bodied and quite tart. Earthy black cherry notes are also found on the palate, with a touch of black peppercorn coming in later. Tannins are slightly coarse. Match with grilled pork tenderloin. 86/86.

2001 Handley, Pinot Noir Rose, Anderson Valley, California, $13, 217 cases. This wine has ripe watermelon coloration, yielding aromas and flavors of fresh-picked strawberries. Here is another delightful wine to consume over the summer months. 86/86.

2000 Marchetti, Cabernet Franc, Washington, $33. Dark fruit, dill spice and cedar notes play out on the nose, followed by very lush fruit that leans towards the red spectrum. A very interesting wine. 89/88.

NV Segura Viudas, Sparkling Wine, Reserva Heredad, Penedès region, Spain, $20. Medium bodied and off dry at 1.1% RS, this sparkler delivers aromas and flavors of apples and pie dough, balanced with tangy acidity. 86/86.

2001 Thomas Fogarty, Gewurztraminer, Monterey, California, $15, 3,532 cases. Aromatic and crisp, this is yet another in a string of nice Gewurztraminers from winemaker Michael Martella. Delicately sweet (0.5%), with lots of lovely grapefruit and peach notes. There is a bit of heat on the finish (14.5% ETOH). 88/88.

Pinot Noir wine glass

1999 Boeger, Pinot Noir, Reserve, El Dorado, California, $25, 210 cases. Intense cherry, dried cherry, and black tea aromas echo on the palate. Medium-bodied and impeccably balanced, this wine is delicious to drink right now. 88/88.

2000 Handley, Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands, California, $25, 490 cases. Imminently enjoyable right now, this medium-bodied wine will only get better with time. Aromas match the flavors, with black cherries and tea predominating. Peppery spice adds complexity. The oak is well integrated, the tannins very polished, and the finish long and lush. 89/90.

1999 King Estate, Pinot Noir, Oregon, $22, 15,200 cases. This ruby Pinot exhibits raspberry, black cherry, plum and tea aromas, with a touch of mushrooms. Flavors match the nose, with well-integrated oak and silky tannins playing a supporting role. 88/89.

2000 Robert Mondavi, Pinot Noir, Carneros, California, $40. Wild yeasts were exclusively used for fermentation. Black cherries, plums and spices cascade across the senses in a focused package. Smoky nuances linger on the finish. 87/85.

2000 Robert Mondavi, Pinot Noir, Reserve, Napa Valley, California, $50. This complex wine is best defined by the plum, black cherry and delicate raspberry fruit. Earthy notes and vanilla add interest while tangy acidity gives character to the wine. Lightly fined with egg whites, no filtration. 90/88.

Rhone/Rhone Varieties wine glasswine glass

2000 Arrowood, Viognier, Russian River Valley, California, $30, 1,660 cases. The nose radiates a delicate perfume of honeysuckle and orange zest. Full-bodied flavors of dried apricots, spice, pear and lychee linger on the lengthy finish. 88/87.

1998 Ferraton, Chateauneuf du Pape, Le Parvis, France, $29. Made in the gamy, peppery style, this CdP has a lot to offer. The wine is 90% Grenache, which adds black currants and blueberry fruit, along with pepper spice. There is a bit of earthiness from the Mourvèdre. Light French vanilla rounds out the wine. 88/88.

1999 Ferraton, Cotes du Rhone, Samorens Rouge, France, $10. You'll get a lot of bang for the buck here. Fruit, fruit and more fruit delights the palate. The wine is in perfect harmony with the acidity and tannins. This is a nice match for hearty chicken dishes. 87/88.

2000 Ferraton, Le Matiniere Blanc, Crozes Hermitage, France, $15. Imagine biting into an apple seed or peach pit and getting those flavors that remind you of almonds. You'll find that and much more in this value wine. The lively acidity of this 100% Marsanne begs for a bowl of clam chowder. 89/91.

Riesling wine glass

2001 Claar, Johannisberg Riesling, White Bluffs, Columbia Valley, Washington, $9. Off-dry at 2.2% residual sugar. Lots of peach and apricot flavors delight the nose. Straightforward flavors are balanced by adequate acidity. 83/85.

2001 Claar, Late Harvest Riesling, White Bluffs, Columbia Valley, Washington, $9. Extremely floral, with peach and apricot flavors most pronounced, along with banana nuances and soft acidity. 7.7% residual sugar. 83/85.

2001 Chateau Ste Michelle, Dry Riesling, Columbia Valley, Washington, $8. Very pretty peach, apricot and floral notes lead off. Up front acidity livens the straightforward fruit. Drink in its youth for a refreshing interlude. 84/86.

Sauvignon Blanc wine glass

2001 Buena Vista, Sauvignon Blanc, California, $7. The aromas speak of tropical fruit, citrus and floral notes. Melons, pears and light grapefruit flavors unfold, with a soft mouth feel and a long aftertaste of citrus peel. Good value. 85/88.

2000 Callaway, Sauvignon Blanc, Coastal, California, $8. Straw in color, yielding nectarine, melon and light herbal notes. Moderate acidity adds to the stone fruit, citrus and grassy flavors. Good value. 85/87.

Chateau Souverain 2001 Chateau Souverain, Sauvignon Blanc, Alexander Valley, California, $12. This is delicious California Sauvignon Blanc that would be stunning with a tad more acidity. The nose and palate display a host of cut grass, grapefruit, and melon notes, with just a suggestion of oak spice. Good value. 89/91.

2001 R.H. Phillips, Sauvignon Blanc, Dunnigan Hills, California, $9, 45,000 cases. This is an easy to like wine, especially in this price class. Lots of melon, grapefruit and mown hay delight the senses, while tangy acidity gives it nice balance. Good value. 86/88.

2000 Robert Mondavi, Fume Blanc, Napa Valley, California, $19. You'll find a host of aromas ranging from gooseberries to pineapples. Definitely not for those who want a soft entry, this wine is bursting with acidity and lemon peel. 87/87.

2000 Robert Mondavi, Fume Blanc, Reserve, To Kalon Vineyard, Napa Valley, California, $35. Reserve usually means oak, oak and more oak, but not with this wine. Oak is an accent here rather than taking over command. Fruit forward, with excellent acidity, the aromas and flavors of pineapple, citrus and jasmine linger for an extended period of time. 90/88.

2000 Robert Mondavi, Sauvignon Blanc, Stags Leap District, California, $23. The grapes came from the Wappo Hill Vineyard. Displaying a lovely nose of lemongrass, melon and citrus peel, this straw colored wine has a firm acidic backbone. Flavors mimic the nose, with flinty mineral nuances. Delicious. 90/89.

2000 Novelty Hill, Sauvignon Blanc, Klipsun Vineyard, Red Mountain, Washington, $19, 330 cases. Citrus and melon notes are appreciated on the nose and palate. The wine was barrel fermented and aged sur lie, so obvious creamy oak is noted, with modest acidity. 85/84.

Syrah wine glass

1999 Chateau Ste Michelle, Syrah, Reserve, Columbia Valley, Washington, $29. Very densely colored. The aromas speak of smoked meat, plums and vanilla. Nicely balanced, with satiny tannins. Flavors of plums, cherries, vanilla and minerals cascade across the tongue, begging for a grilled t-bone. 88/88.

1999 Firefall, Syrah, Lone Meadow Vineyard, El Dorado, California, $20, 337 cases. You're not going to read the newspaper through this inky new release. Each sip reveals another layer of ripe berries, chocolate and spice. Lean, balanced, with polished tannins, this wine is definitely a match for BBQ fare. 86/87.

Hess Select 2000 Hess Select, Syrah, California, $14. We need more of these fun to drink, good value wines. Blackberries, blueberries, cherries, vanilla and spice intermingle with the ripe tannins to provide a wine that is perfectly drinkable tonight or over the next two to three years. 88/91.

2000 Marchetti, Syrah, California, $35. Soft, lush, with red cherries and a black pepper streak running the length of the wine. Tannins are smooth, allowing early consumption. 88/87.

2001 Reynolds, Shiraz, New South Wales, Australia, $10, 63,500 cases. Black fruit and ground white pepper aromas carry through to the palate, with French oak spice and moderate acidity. 85/87.

2000 R.H. Phillips, Syrah, Dunnigan Hills, California, $9, 14,900 cases. This value wine offers plenty in the price class. Dense in color from the 15% Petite Sirah, the Syrah has nice raspberry jam, toasty oak and spice flavors, with soft tannins and brisk acidity to round it out. 84/86.

2001 Rothbury Estate, Shiraz, South Eastern Australia, $7. Youthful purple in color, the plums, spice, and mixed berries come together in a straightforward, drink me now presentation. 83/86.

Wolf Blass 1999 Valley of the Moon, Syrah, Sonoma County, California, $15, 3,570 cases. This Syrah features black cherries, pomegranates, generous vanilla, and cedar nuances. Very fruit forward with easy going tannins, you can drink this one now or over the next three years or so. 86/88.

2000, Wolf Blass, Shiraz, Green Label, South Australia, $12, 25,000 cases (US). While very appealing right now, this wine should drink well for 2-3 years. Loads of berry fruit are presented upfront, with nuances of menthol, cedar and vanilla shining through. Soft tannins and crisp acidity makes for a fun wine. 85/88.

2000 Wolf Blass, Shiraz Cabernet, Red Label, South Australia, $12, 45,000 cases (US). Aromas of berries, peppery spice and oak give way to straightforward ripe plum and spice flavors. 83/85.

Zinfandel wine glass

2000 Buena Vista, Zinfandel, California, $9. The wine is somewhat simple yet easy to like. Jammy fruit, spices and crisp acidity made it a nice match for an Italian sausage and basil pizza. 84/86.

2000 Chateau Souverain, Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, California, $15. Raspberry and strawberry jams intermingle on the nose, carrying over to the palate. French oak and spice add nuances to the wine, finishing with lots of fruity flavors. 86/88.

2000 Marchetti, Zinfandel, California, $33. This wine is for those who like the very jammy style of Zinfandel. Packed with red fruit jam, the acidity holds the wine together. 89/87.

2000 Robert Mondavi, Zinfandel, Napa Valley, California, $21. This is pretty classic Zinfandel, just exuding with blackberries, black cherries and raspberries. The tannins are well under control and the whole package is supported by balanced acidity and French oak nuances. 89/89.

1999 Single Leaf, Zinfandel, El Dorado, California, $13, 470 cases. Ripe blackberry aromas bound from the glass, augmented by cedar nuances. The straightforward blueberry and blackberry fruit is sustained by zesty acidity. 84/86.

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