Bucko's New Releases

© 2005 by Randy Buckner
August 2005

More Summer 2005 Releases

With North America in the throes of a heat wave, the vineyards are no more immune than we are to the blazing heat. At least we can escape to air-conditioning. The 2005 vintage may go down as a very ripe, high-alcohol wine year. Let's keep our fingers crossed for a lingering cool front to take the stress off the vines.

I find myself leaving the reds in the rack and reaching for rosé, Riesling, Pinot Gris or Sauvignon Blanc. Light, cool and crisp, they are the perfect summer wines to enjoy on the deck or at poolside. You'll find a few nice ones listed below.

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 wine glass

2002 Beaulieu, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, $17. Blackberries, herbs, American oak and vanilla aromas repeat on the palate. Straightforward and easy to drink right now with grilled foods; 83/83.

2002 Beaulieu, Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford, California, $25. Deeply hued, with aromas of cassis, cherries, cocoa, sage and American oak. The wine is polished on the entry but then the tannins firm up quickly, needing at least three years of aging; 85/85.

2001 Chateau Julien, Cabernet Sauvignon, Monterey County, California, $22. This deeply-hued wine has interesting black fruit, olive, chocolate and vanilla aromas which carry over to the palate. Tannins are generous and drying, which detract from the wine; 84/84.

2001 Chateau Julien, Cabernet Sauvignon, Private Reserve, Monterey County, California, $36. Deep ruby in color, the wine gives off aromas of blackberries, cassis and sweet oak. The wine has complex fruit flavors, generous oak and firm but somewhat rounded tannins; 87/87.

2002 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington, $16, 175,000 cases. Here's one of the year's better values. Blackberries, herbs, licorice, cola and oak notes all combine to make a lip-smacking package. Taste and structure top the price point; 85/88.

2002 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Cabernet Sauvignon, Canoe Ridge Estate, Columbia Valley, Washington, $22, 6,500 cases. Berries and barrel notes unfold on the nose. This is a big Cab with very generous tannins that are astringent. Will they ever come around? I can't reasonably rate the wine at this point. NR.

2002 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cold Creek Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Washington, $25, 10,000 cases. Deeply hued, with aromas of blackberries, Baker's chocolate and barrel notes. Full in the mouth, the tannins are firm but I think they'll age out in 3-5 years. Berries linger on the finish; 87/87.

2002 Clos Du Bois, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Alexander Valley, California, $22, 15,000 cases. Cassis, berry and oak notes carry from the nose to the mouth. Crisp acids and modest tannins give structure to this medium-bodied wine; 86/86.

2002 Dashe Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, California, $38, 253 cases. The wine has nice aromas and flavors of blackberries, cocoa, vanilla and plums, however the tannins are hard, drying and bitter which obviously detracts from the wine. Will they ever resolve? 82/80.

2001 Guenoc, Cabernet Sauvignon, North Coast, California, $17, 13,838 cases. Giving off aromas of black cherries, vanilla and dill, the wine is pretty tart on the entry. Straightforward fruit flavors are supported by modest tannins; 82/82.

2000 Guenoc, Victorian Claret, North Coast, California, $20, 10,019 cases. Pretty tasty for the price class, this wine is smooth and polished, with a nice mix of cherries, olives, leather, vanilla and floral notes defining the wine; 87/88.

2003 Hoodsport, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington, $9. This deeply-hued wine has black cherries and cedar running the length of the wine. Another straightforward wine for those grilled burgers; 81/81.

2003 Hoodsport, Cabernet Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington, $9. Berries highlight the wine, with a touch of chalky minerals. Tannins are a bit rustic; 80/80.

2001 Louis Martini, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Alexander Valley, California, $35, 4,000 cases. Full and elegant in its presentation, you'll enjoy the mix of plums, black cherries, olives, sage and oak. Fine tannins insure graceful aging. Tasty; 89/89.

2003 Ravenswood, Cabernet Sauvignon, Vintners Blend, California, $10, 166,000 cases. Pretty tasty for a big-production, low-cost wine. The wine is defined by cherry jam, chocolate, vanilla and French oak. The wine is designed to drink early on with its soft tannins and easy acidity; 83/84.

2003 Reilly's, Cabernet Sauvignon, Barking Mad, Clare Valley, Australia, $13. Pretty decent juice for the price point. Bright acidity gives lift to the red fruit and cola flavors. Easy tannins allow early consumption; 86/88.

2002 Sebastiani, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, California, $17, 52,000 cases. Aromas speak of blackberries, herbs, vanilla and toasty oak. There is nice underlying fruit here; unfortunately the oak overwhelms an otherwise nice wine. I wish Sebastiani would lose the timber; 80/80.

2002 Silver Lake, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington, $12, 4,000 cases. Aromas of blackberries, black cherries and cedar waft from the glass. Balanced, with easy tannins, I'd drink this one now with grilled foods; 82/82.

2002 Snoqualmie, Cabernet Sauvignon, Rosebud Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Washington, $15. This purple/red wine displays aromas of red fruit, sage and chocolate which carry over to the palate. Crisp and balanced, the tannins are smooth but slightly bitter; 85/87.

2002 Toasted Head, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, $17, 26,800 cases. Another straightforward, easy-drinking wine that displays blackberries, plums, anise, cedar and tobacco notes; 83/83.

2001 Valley of the Moon, Cuvée de la Luna, Sonoma County, California, $30, 3,400 cases. The nose displays a lovely mix of blackberries, sandalwood and spice. The wine is very polished, with a nice balance of fruit, oak and acidity. Berries linger on the lengthy finish; 88/88.

2001 William Hill, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Napa Valley, California, $36, 2,376 cases. Blackberries, cedar, spice and leather unfold on the nose. Silky smooth with a firm acidic backbone, the flavors display blueberry, blackberry, vanilla and cedary notes; 88/88.

Chardonnay wine glass

2004 Avery Lane, Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Washington, $20, 3-liter cask. This is the best of the box wines that I tried. Pears, apples and citrus notes float on a crisp, creamy background. This is perfect for those block parties; 83/85.

2003 Barossa Valley Estate, Chardonnay, Barossa Valley, Australia, $12. Straw gold in color, the wine delivers peaches, melons and tangerine on the nose. Nicely balanced and refreshing, the flavors are atypical for a Chardonnay but tasty nevertheless; 84/85.

2004 Block Wine, Chardonnay, California, $10, 1.5-liter box. Straw colored, crisp and clean, the wine offers apricot, pear and oak aromas and flavors. This will make an ideal, inexpensive beach party quaffer; 80/80.

2004 Bogle, Chardonnay, California, $9. Here's a simple, easy quaffer under ten bucks. Tropical fruit, citrus zest and butterscotch carry from nose to mouth, with a sweet feel to the wine; 82/82.

2003 Bouchaine, Chardonnay, Carneros, California, $25, 3,800 cases. Here's a good food-friendly Chard. Citrus, pineapple and light butterscotch notes open up on the nose. Fruit forward, with oak more apparent on the finish, the acidity really kicks this wine up a notch; 88/88.

2003 Chalone, Chardonnay, Chalone Estate, California, $25, 15,451 cases. Stone fruit, hazelnuts and vanilla aromas emanate from this light gold beauty. The wine shows complexity, balance and elegance; 88/88.

Chateau St. Jean 2002 Chateau St. Jean, Chardonnay, Belle Terre Vineyard, Alexander Valley, California, $22, 4,900 cases. The nose is filled with aromas of spicy oak, peaches and melons. Creamy and oaky on the palate, flavors repeat the nose. Nice if you are a fan of the style; 88/88.

2004 Clos Du Bois, Chardonnay, North Coast, California, $12, 1,000,000 cases. Apples, pears and oak dominate the nose. The wine is soft, simple and balanced, but very drinkable; 84/85.

2002 Franciscan, Chardonnay, Cuvee Sauvage, Wild Yeast, Carneros, Napa Valley, California, $35. This light gold wine gives off aromas of stone fruit, brioche and vanilla. Creamy and elegant, the complex flavors mirror the nose; 89/89.

2003 Frei Brothers, Chardonnay, Reserve, Russian River Valley, California, $20, 60,000 cases. Creamy, with threshold sweetness, the wine shows lots of wood, citrus, peaches and spice; 83/83.

2003 Hoodsport, Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Washington, $9. Here's a soft, straightforward poolside quaffer. Enjoy early on for the melon and floral notes; 81/81.

2004 Shingleback, Chardonnay, McLaren Vale, South Australia, $20, 1,800 cases. Peaches, lemons, vanilla and oak intermingle on the nose and carry over to the palate. Brisk acidity makes this a perfect match for steamed crab and drawn butter; 87/87.

2003 Silver Lake, Chardonnay, Reserve, Columbia Valley, Washington, $12, 1,300 cases. Buttery, nutty nuances drift from the glass, while on the entry the wine is creamy, spicy and oaky. You'll find a touch of mango and peach fruit as well; 83/83.

2003 Toasted Head, Chardonnay, California, $14, 408,000 cases. Not bad for a mass-produced wine. Balanced and easy to drink, pears, tropical fruit and modest oak delineates the wine; 83/83.

2004 Wild Horse, Chardonnay, Central Coast, California, $17, 40,500 cases. Floral notes, peaches and generous oak unfold on the nose. Nicely balanced in the mouth, the wine is oaky but likeable; 85/85.

Gewürztraminer wine glass

Chateau St. Jean 2004 Chateau St. Jean, Gewürztraminer, Sonoma County, California, $15, 3,845 cases. This wine has the typical lychee, grapefruit and orange zest aromas and flavors, but the acidity is lacking to carry the residual sugar; 83/83.

2004 Silver Lake, Gewürztraminer, Columbia Valley, Washington, $9, 1,100 cases. Somewhat atypical for the grape, there is a bit of grapefruit to go along with the spiced pears. Soft and simple; 80/80.

2004 Snoqualmie, Gewürztraminer, Naked, Columbia Valley, Washington, $11. Light gold, with grapefruit zest on the nose. Soft, sweet, with marginal acidity and a slightly bitter bite; 80/80.

Merlot wine glass

2002 Beaulieu, Merlot, Napa Valley, California, $18. Cherries, herbs and American oak define this Merlot. Tannins are rustic and the wine seems a little disjointed at present; 82/82.

Beringer 2002 Beringer, Merlot, Founders' Estate, California, $11. Soft, balanced and rounded in the mouth, the aromas and flavors suggest cherries, plums, vanilla and brown spice. Simple but tasty; 83/85.

2002 Chateau Julien, Merlot, Monterey County, California, $10. Black cherry, licorice and French oak aromas morph into fruity, berry flavors, loads of vanilla and drying tannins; 81/81.

2001 Chateau Julien, Merlot, Private Reserve, Monterey County, California, $36. This is a big wine that needs a hearty meal. Intense black fruit, cedar and brown spices are supported by crisp acids and generous tannins; 87/87.

2002 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington, $16, 178,000 cases. A serviceable Merlot, with straightforward aromas and flavors of cedar and cherries, finishing with rustic tannins; 83/83.

2002 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Merlot, Reserve, Columbia Valley, Washington, $36, 1,000 cases. Black cherries, coffee beans, anise and cedar present in layers of complexity. Silky on the entry, the generous oak becomes apparent on the finish. Firm tannins are fine grained and will age out; 88/88.

2002 Dashe, Merlot, Potter Valley, California, $26, 411 cases. Plums, cherries, herbs and cocoa define the wine, however, just like their Cab, bitter, hard tannins detract from the wine. Will they ever resolve? 82/81.

2003 Frei Brothers, Merlot, Reserve, Dry Creek Valley, California, $20, 33,000 cases. Aromas of strawberry preserves, black cherries, anise and cedar are less impressive in the mouth. The tannins need more resolution; 83/82.

2003 Hoodsport, Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington, $9. Plums and berries highlight the nose. Soft and simple on the palate, the wine is made to drink now with grilled fare; 82/82.

2003 Ravenswood, Merlot, Vintners Blend, California, $10. Plums, cherries, vanilla, oak and leather are presented in an easy-drinking package at a fair price; 83/84.

2002 Silver Lake, Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington, $12, 7,500 cases. The nose gives off blackberry, black cherry and wood scents. Simple but fruity, I'd drink this one now for the plumy/cherry fruit; 82/82.

2001 Silver Lake, Merlot, Reserve, Columbia Valley, Washington, $19, 2,000 cases. This wine is defined by black cherry, blueberry, olive and oak nuances. Tannins are generous but rounded, with lively acidity giving the wine some kick; 84/84.

2002 Snoqualmie, Merlot, Reserve, Columbia Valley, Washington, $23. Inviting aromas of black fruit, leather, tobacco and oak repeat on the palate. The wine is elegant, smooth and finishes on a crisp note; 88/89.

2002 Toasted Head, Merlot, California, $17, 48,000 cases. Plums, black cherries, herbs and vanilla run the length of the wine. Crisp and simple, finishing with chewy tannins; 82/82.

2003 Wild Horse, Merlot, Paso Robles, California, $20, 27,422 cases. Plums, cherries and cedary barrel notes spread out on the nose and carry over to the palate. Crisp, moderately tannic and straightforward; 83/83.

Miscellaneous wine glasswine glass

NV Avery Lane, Red Blend, Columbia Valley, Washington, $20, 3-liter cask. A blend of four red grapes, the wines gives off aromas and flavors black cherries, berries and vanilla. Crisp acids and soft tannins make it an easy quaffer; 81/81.

2003 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Semillon, Columbia Valley, Washington, $9, 5,000 cases. Aromas of melons, figs and lemon curd radiate from the glass and carry the length of the wine. Impeccably balanced, this is a lot of wine for nine bucks; 86/90.

NV El Paseo, Valencia Red, Spain, $16, 3-liter cask. The wine is 100 percent Tempranillo. It's a simple but easy quaffer, with raspberry and blackberry fruit and smooth tannins; 80/80.

NV El Paseo, Valencia White, Spain, $16, 3-liter cask. Pale yellow in color, you'll find floral aromas and pineapple nuances on the nose and palate. Nutty, figgy characters linger on the finish. Simple but slurpable; 80/80.

2001 Lungarotti, Rubesco DOC, Umbria, Italy, $18. A blend of 70 percent Sangiovese and 30 percent Canaiolo, the wine delivers dried cherry and new leather nuances. Crisp, medium bodied, with harnessed tannins, the wine is ready to drink now with a variety of foods; 86/87.

2003 Montevina, Barbera, Amador County, California, $10, 5,400 cases. The nose displays a nice mix of black cherries, plums, spices and wood notes. Straightforward cherry and cola flavors are presented in a balanced package; 83/83.

2004 Silver Lake, Chenin Blanc, Columbia Valley, Washington, $7, 1,250 cases. Soft and off-dry, drink this simple summer quaffer early on for the melon and citrus fruit; 80/80.

2004 Wild Horse, Viognier, Central Coast, California, $20, 1,747 cases. Aromas of honeysuckle, nectarines and vanilla reverberate in the mouth in this nicely-balanced Viognier; 85/85.

Petite Sirah wine glass

2003 Bogle, Petite Sirah, California, $10. Ripe plums and berry jam carry the wine. Tannins are well managed and this one is ready to go with a big plate of smoked ribs; 85/87.

2003 Rosenblum, Petite Sirah, Heritage Clones, San Francisco Bay, California, $20, 5,000 cases. You won't read print through this inky beast. Blackberry jam, dark chocolate and barrel notes abound on the nose. Elegantly structured for a Petite Sirah, this is your big boy. The huge, ripe fruit and generous but ripe tannins demands a big food accompaniment; 89/89.

Pinot Grigio wine glass

Beringer 2004 Beringer, Pinot Grigio, Founders' Estate, California, $11. Floral notes, peaches and lemongrass aromas arise from this light straw wine, and then they expand in the mouth. Simple, light and crisp; 82/82.

2004 MacMurray Ranch, Pinot Gris, Russian River Valley, California, $20, 16,400 cases. This apricot-tinged Gris is balanced and easy to enjoy for the peach, melon and spice nuances. The finish is long and fruity; 86/86.

2004 Montevina, Pinot Grigio, California, $10, 50,000 cases. Pale straw in color, the wine radiates aromas of canned pineapple and fresh apricots. The wine has threshold sweetness but is balanced overall. A nice, simple summer sipper; 83/83.

Pinot Noir wine glass

2003 Bouchaine, Pinot Noir, Carneros, California, $25, 5,700 cases. Aromas of cherries, strawberries and warm spices radiate from this garnet-colored Pinot. Medium bodied, crisp and sporting easy tannins, this is a no-brainer for grilled salmon; 87/87.

2003 Chalone, Pinot Noir, Chalone Estate, California, $25, 6,971 cases. This nicely-balanced package offers up aromas and flavors of cherries, strawberries, integrated oak and brown spices; 86/86.

2003 Migration, Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, California, $28, 3,061 cases. Avoiding the overripe flavors of many ‘03's, this medium-bodied Pinot is true to the grape. Strawberries, cherries, tea and earth combine to form a very tasty package; 90/90.

2003 Orogeny, Pinot Noir, Green Valley, Sonoma County, California, $30, 2,964 cases. When I first tasted this, I thought this is pretty classic Oregon Pinot. But wait, this is California. Aromas speak of black cherries, earth, raspberry preserves and Chinese five spice. Tannins are well managed and the bright acidity makes this a sure bet with your favorite duck dish; 90/90.

Port wine glass

NV Dow's, Reserve Porto, Trademark, Portugal, $17. Brown sugar, raisins and ripe plums are displayed here. Not overly sweet, the fruit carries the 19.5 percent alcohol well at this point. This is the perfect Port to enjoy with your favorite cigar; 86/86.

Riesling wine glass

Chateau St. Jean 2004 Chateau St. Jean, Johannisberg Riesling, Sonoma County, California, $15, 1,429 cases. Aromas and flavors deliver peach, apricot, pear and honeysuckle notes. The acidity is barely adequate to balance the 2.96 percent residual sugar; 83/83.

2004 Leasingham, Riesling, Bin 7, Clare Valley, Australia, $15. This is a nice example of Australian Riesling. Slate, floral notes and citrus rind define this lean, well-balanced wine. There is a creamy feel on the finish; 88/88.

2004 Leasingham, Riesling, Magnus, Clare Valley, Australia, $12. Lovely slate notes augment the pear and yellow apple aromas. Well balanced in the mouth, the wine is lean, balanced and tart; 86/86.

2004 Reilly's, Riesling, Barking Mad, Clare Valley, Australia, $13. The nose is a pleasant mix of slate, wet stones, white peach and ginger aromas. Lean, crisp and off-dry, the flavors mirror the nose; 84/84.

2004 Saint M, Riesling, QBA, Pfalz, Germany, $12. Peaches, figs and minerality are noted on the nose and palate. The residual sweetness is handled well by the wine's acidity. Pretty nice for a QBA; 85/86.

2004 Snoqualmie, Riesling, Nearly Naked, Columbia Valley, Washington, $NA. Off-dry, with balancing acidity, the straightforward green apple and pear flavors should marry well with a cheese plate; 83/NA.

2004 Snoqualmie, Riesling, Winemaker's Select, Columbia Valley, Washington, $8. Peaches, pears and floral notes are upfront. Soft, sweet, and lacking acidity, the wine is quaffable, nothing more; 80/80.

Sauvignon Blanc wine glass

Beringer 2004 Beringer, Sauvignon Blanc, Founders' Estate, California, $11.This simple but tasty wine sports lemongrass and guava notes, with threshold sweetness and modest acidity; 84/84.

2003 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Valley, Washington, $10, 55,000 cases. Clean and bright, with zippy acidity, the straightforward melon and citrus peel flavors deliver for the price class; 84/85.

2003 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Sauvignon Blanc, Horse Heaven Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Washington, $15, 15,000 cases. Showing less wood than previous offerings, this is a welcome change. The citrus fruit and floral notes are allowed to shine while crisp acids breathe life into the wine. A second tasting with similar notes; 88/88.

2004 Hoodsport, Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Valley, Washington, $9. Grapefruit and pears intermingle on the nose. Nicely balanced, with a sweet feel, the flavors offer honest value; 83/83.

Syrah wine glass

2002 Barossa Valley Estate, Shiraz, Spires, Barossa Valley, Australia, $12. Cherries, plums and coffee beans present on the nose and palate, with chocolate nuances on the long, crisp finish. Ready to drink with your favorite BBQ; 85/87.

2003 Beaulieu, Syrah, Napa Valley, California, $15. Smoke, blackberries, plums and vanilla cascade across the nose. Very smooth in the mouth, the wine is not terribly complex but it is likeable and food friendly; 85/87.

2003 Beringer, Shiraz, Founders' Estate, California, $11. This straightforward package delivers plums, nutmeg, vanilla and floral notes. The finish is round and crisp; 82/82.

2002 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Syrah, Reserve, Columbia Valley, Washington, $29, 3,000 cases. Purple/red in color, the wine gives up smoke, black fruit and spice. Elegant, well structured and easy to drink, this is pretty classic Washington Syrah; 90/90.

2002 Leasingham, Shiraz, Bin 61, Clare Valley, Australia, $21. Deeply hued, with lots of blue and black fruit, smoked game and balanced acidity. There's nice balance of oak, but the tannins have a slightly green edge. Tasty overall; 87/87.

2002 Leasingham, Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon, Magnus, Clare Valley, Australia, $12. A touch of smoked meat augments the dark fruit and balanced oak. Olives become apparent on the medium-length finish. Good value; 85/87.

2002 Wild Horse, Syrah, Paso Robles, California, $18, 1,777 cases. Tart acidity and drying tannins lead to straightforward meaty, cherry/berry fruit flavors and light smoky notes; 83/83.

Zinfandel wine glass

2003 Beaulieu, Zinfandel, Napa Valley, California, $14. Not overly complex, the wine is very fruity, displaying raspberries, cocoa and American oak, with a delightful black peppercorn streak running throughout; 85/87.

Beringer 2003 Beringer, Old Vine Zinfandel, Founders' Estate, California, $11. Aromas and flavors reveal blackberry jam, white pepper spice and brambly notes in an inexpensive package; 84/86.

2002 Dashe, Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, California, $22, 4,195 cases. A major wine rag really trashed the 2002's from Dashe, but I don't see it. The Cabernet and Merlot are less than stellar, but all of the Zins are tasty. This wine has a lovely nose of raspberries, chocolate, oak and vanilla. Medium bodied and fruity, the flavors mirror the nose. Tannins are generous but rounded; 87/87.

2002 Dashe, Zinfandel, Louvau Vineyard Old Vines, Dry Creek Valley, California, $28, 313 cases. You'll find intense aromas of Bing cherries, raspberries and tomato leaf. Full in the mouth, with ripe tannins, the cherry, cocoa and cinnamon flavors ride on an acidic backbone; 89/89.

2002 Dashe, Zinfandel, Todd Brothers Vineyard, Alexander Valley, California, $28, 522 cases. Blackberries, chocolate, coffee, anise and floral notes define this wine. Nicely balanced, the wine carries the 14.8% alcohol well at this point; 88/88.

2003 Kuleto Estate, Zinfandel, Napa Valley, California, $30, 604 cases. Plums and berries abound on the nose. The wine is full, sweet and jammy in the mouth, with rounded tannins. Red raspberries, plums and peppery notes linger on the long finish; 91/91.

2002 Montevina, Zinfandel, Sierra Foothills, California, $10, 20,000 cases. Raspberries, strawberries and wood underscore the nose, followed by straightforward brambly fruit flavors. Another nice burger wine; 83/83.

2003 Ravenswood, Zinfandel, Vintners Blend, California, $10, 400,000 cases. Soft and ready to drink now, the wine offers up raspberries, chocolate-covered cherries, oak and peppery nuances at a fair price; 83/84.

2003 Rosenblum, Zinfandel, Carla's Vineyards, San Francisco Bay, California, $28, 3,627 cases. Full in the mouth, with tangy acidity, the wine speaks of jammy black cherry fruit, vanilla and American oak nuances. You'll notice some heat from the 15.5 percent alcohol. Fire up the grill; 87/87.

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