Bucko's New Releases

© 2002 by Randy Buckner
Sept. 30, 2002

Early Autumn 2002 Releases

As summer fades into fall, cheers from college football stadiums blend with the smells of burning leaves and hot chocolate. A large portion of the U.S.A. is happy to bid this summer adieu after recording the hottest average temperatures since the 1930s. Get out and enjoy the cool fall evenings and take time to hello to your friends and neighbors. 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 below 80 points are rated. As always, enjoy a bottle with dinner tonight.

Cabernet Sauvignon wine glass

1999 Camelia, Cabernet Sauvignon, Dry Creek Valley, California, $45, 336 cases. This wine is more reminiscent of a Syrah than a Cabernet. Full-bodied, intense jammy ripe fruit, sweet oak, chocolate, vanilla and soft herbal notes run the entire length of the wine. 87/86.

1998 Clos Du Val, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Napa Valley, California, $95, 2,000 cases. The wine has an intense red hue, with the nose exhibiting black fruit, cedar and delicate vanilla notes. Aromas echo on the palate, with loads of currants thrown in for good measure. Balanced and layered, the wine will improve over the next five years, allowing for softening of the tannins. 90/87.

1999 Covey Run, Cabernet Sauvignon, Barrel Select, Columbia Valley, Washington State, $13, 8,412 cases. Ruby red in color with cassis, leather and smoke on the nose. Straightforward berry fruit, cherry vanilla flavors and rustic tannins close out the wine. 84/85.

1999 Gallo of Sonoma, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Sonoma County, California, $13, 112,000 cases. Another good value wine from Gallo, displaying a multifaceted nose of black cherries, currants, licorice and Chinese five spice. Very snappy on the entry, the wine is quite fruity with a subtle herbal streak running through the wine. 87/90.

1999 Hess Estate, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, $20. This dark ruby wine has complex aromas and flavors of cassis, cedar, leather, mint, raspberries and sweet oak. Ripe tannins allow early consumption or you can enjoy this release over the next five years. 87/88.

2000 Indigo Hills, Cabernet Sauvignon, North Coast, California, $12, 23,600 cases. This is a very forward wine, offering black cherries, plums, cassis, subtle oak, dill spice, modest tannins and a brisk finish, all at a fair price. 85/88.

1998 Kendall-Jackson, Cabernet Sauvignon, Great Estates, Alexander Valley, California, $49, 4,501 cases. Rich black fruit and integrated oak defines this wine. Maybe a notch better than their Napa version, but it is a tight race. The tannins seem more under control. Lush black fruit lingers on the finish. 89/87.

1998 Kendall-Jackson, Cabernet Sauvignon, Great Estates, Napa Valley, California, $49, 4,659 cases. Full-bodied, with chewy tannins, this Cab is delineated by blackberry, cassis and soft oak nuances. A definite success for the vintage. 88/86.

Kenwood 1998 Kenwood, Cabernet Sauvignon, Artist Series, Sonoma County, California, $75, 4,000 cases. Not showing the depth of fruit of prior vintages, the wine is nevertheless pretty tasty. Blackberries, cassis, mint, leather and cedar ride on a terrific backbone of firm acids. 88/85.

1999 Kenwood, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, California, $20, 55,000 cases. Lots of dark berry fruit, spearmint and American oak flavors are revealed in this medium-bodied wine. Very soft, with a lush mouth feel, the wine is effortless to drink right now with grilled beef. 86/86.

1999 Louis Martini, Cabernet Sauvignon, Monte Rosso Vineyard, Sonoma Valley, California, $50, 1,365 cases. A boatload of cassis, sweet anise, cocoa and cedar present on the nose. The wine is full-bodied, with opulent flavors of blackberry, chocolate and licorice. Substantial tannins become evident on the lengthy finish. 90/89.

2000 Luis Felipe Edwards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Gran Reserva, Colchagua, Chile, $13. This medium-bodied wine offers the consumer lots of vanilla, cedar, leather, chocolate, and berry fruit. Supple tannins allow you to enjoy this one tonight with grilled meats. 84/85. William Grant & Sons, NY.

1999 Raymond, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Napa Valley, California, $40. Lovely aromas and flavors of cassis and raspberries carry through the entire length of the wine. This well-balanced package has sweet oak framed by modest tannins. While inviting now, it should improve for several years to come. 90/90.

2000 Sterling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, $24, 105,000 cases. This easy drinking, dark ruby Cab is full of aromas and flavors of plums, cassis, milk chocolate and rounded tannins. Approachable now. 87/87.

Carmenere wine glass

2001 Luis Felipe Edwards, Carmenere, Colchagua, Chile, $8. Olive, bell pepper and plum aromas are followed by a very up-front fruitiness. Vanilla, chocolate, and brisk acidity enhance the fruit, with an overall lush feel to the wine. 86/88.

2000 Luis Felipe Edwards, Carmenere, Gran Reserva, Colchagua, Chile, $13. The nose is enhanced by plums, spice, tobacco and vanilla. Fruity on the palate, the wine unfolds with layers of vanilla, oak, spice, dark chocolate and cedar. 85/86.

Chardonnay wine glass

2000 Black Opal, Chardonnay, Southeastern Australia, $11. Pear, lemon and creamy vanilla aromas combine with fruity, peach flavors, braced by invigorating acidity. 84/86.

1999 Calera, Chardonnay, Central Coast, California, $18. The nose of this gold-colored wine highlights the butterscotch and pear aspects. The flavors mimic the nose, with a very creamy mouth feel. Match this one with cracked crab. 86/86.

2001 Canyon Road, Chardonnay, California, $9, 85,000 cases. Very consistent and always offering a good value, this wine again delivers for the price. Tropical fruit, citrus, vanilla, toast – it's all there. 84/87.

2000 Clos Du Val, Chardonnay, Reserve, Carneros, California, $39, 450 cases. Here's a wine with a brilliant gold color and a complex nose of tropical fruit, toasted oak and sweet vanilla. Lush and creamy on the entry, the wine is packed with pear fruit, a host of spices, and French vanilla. 88/87.

2000 Covey Run, Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Washington State, $9, 80,000 cases. A tree load of pears takes the nose for a lovely ride. Creamy in texture, the green apple, pear and vanilla flavors combine to make a pretty tasty wine for the less than ten dollar price class. 85/87.

2000 Gallo of Sonoma, Chardonnay, Laguna Ranch, Russian River Valley, California, $24, 11,900 cases. This is pretty classic California Chardonnay that fans of the style will love. Elegant, creamy, and buttery, with a mélange of flavors competing for attention – pears, apples, butter, vanilla, light smoke – it's in there. 88/88.

2001 Glen Carlou, Chardonnay, Paarl, South Africa, $14. Crafted in a fruity, viscous style, with generous oak, the wine offers up a lot of character for the price class. Citrus and apple fruit are the main players here. A Hess Collection import. 86/87.

2001 Kenwood, Chardonnay, Sonoma County, California, $15, 75,000 cases. Pears, green apples and toasted oak take charge of the nose, then echoes across the palate. It's made in a medium-bodied, creamy style. 85/85.

2000 Lockwood, Chardonnay, Monterey County, California, $15. Creamy, buttery and spicy, this wine has interesting fruit that brings you back for another exploratory sip. Valued-priced. 85/87.

McWilliam's 2001 McWilliam's, Chardonnay, Hanwood Estate, SE Australia, $11, 30,000 cases. Fresh sliced pineapple scents waft from the glass, with butterscotch and vanilla in support. These aromas resound on the palate. Nicely balanced. An attractive Australian Chardonnay at an attractive price. 85/87.

1999 Rodney Strong, Chardonnay, Reserve, Sonoma County, California, $30. If you're looking for a California-styled Chard, here it is. Loaded with smoky oak, pineapples, peaches, butterscotch, and nutty notes, the wine finishes with a creamy texture. 87/86.

2001 Sterling, Chardonnay, North Coast, California, $17, 82,500 cases. This shimmering gold Chardonnay has a host of apple, oak spice and caramel aromas. Sweet apples persist on the palate, with the addition of vanilla and a butter cream finish. 85/86.

2001 Valley of the Moon, Chardonnay, Sonoma, California, $15, 10,098 cases. A definite California-styled Chardonnay, with lots of citrus, apple and toasty oak. Pears join in on the soft finish. 84/85.

Merlot wine glass

1999 Clos du Bois, Merlot, Reserve, Alexander Valley, California, $22, 1,200 cases. Raspberry, cherry, French vanilla and clove flavors meld perfectly with black cherry, plum and cocoa aromas to provide a balanced wine, with a long, sweet aftertaste. 86/86.

2000 Gallo of Sonoma, Merlot, Reserve, Sonoma County, California, $11, 105,000 cases. Bright acidity and rounded tannins highlight this value wine. Blackberry, plum, and cola notes are accented by the oak rather than being overwhelmed by same. 86/90.

1999 Geyser Peak, Merlot, Block Collection, Sonoma Valley, California, $26, 360 cases. This medium-weight wine has a complex nose of blackberries, fennel, mint, cedar and black olives. The wine is well-balanced and the ripe tannins flow effortlessly. Sweet berry fruit invites grilled steaks for dinner. 88/88.

1999 Kendall-Jackson, Merlot, Great Estates, Sonoma County, California, $35, 4,274 cases. This is serious Merlot. The rich nose of black cherries, currants and cedar melds well with the deeply fruited, complex palate. Well-balanced and lush, you'll appreciate the silky tannins and the deft use of oak. 90/89.

2001 Luis Felipe Edwards, Merlot, Colchagua, Chile, $8. Smooth and inviting on the entry, you'll find lots of plums upfront, with vanilla and chocolate coming in on the second wave. Drink early for the fruit. 85/88.

2000 Luis Felipe Edwards, Merlot, Gran Reserva, Colchagua, Chile, $13. This medium-bodied wine has quite complex aromas of tobacco, plums, fresh sliced red peppers and vanilla. While the spice and vanilla flavors are obvious, the wine is packed with fruit, mint chocolate and coffee. 86/88.

2000 Sterling, Merlot, Napa Valley, California, $22, 110,000 cases. Here is a fruity, unpretentious Merlot that is pleasurable to drink. Aromas and flavors of blackberries, cedar, vanilla, and dill spice abound, with berry fruit lingering on the finish. 86/86.

wine glasswine glass

2001 Ca' del Solo, Big House Red, California, $10. Thirteen grape varieties are used in the production of this wine. Chewy and rustic, the red instills visions of a sidewalk café, a carafe of wine, and a steaming plate of manicotti. 86/88.

2001 Ca' del Solo, Big House White, California, $10. The six grapes used in this wine offer a calliope of aromas. If colors could be flavors, you'd have a virtual rainbow on the tongue. I love the use of screw caps with these wines. 86/88.

1999 Columbia Winery, Cabernet Franc, Red Willow Vineyard, Yakima Valley, Washington, $23. The black cherry and cedar aromas have an herbal touch to them. Sweet black fruit, generous vanilla, cinnamon and coarse tannins play out on the palate, with a prolonged finish. 86/86.

2000 Covey Run, Chenin Blanc, Washington State, $7, 5,982 cases. There is 11% Muscat blended in, which is reflected in the nose. Floral, lemony and spicy, this wine is made with early consumption in mind. Serve chilled with a delicate cheese. 82/82.

2001 Kenwood, Gewurztraminer, Sonoma County, California, $11, 1,500 cases. I applaud the dry style; I just wish there was a bit more acidity. Typical rose, lychee and spice notes develop on the nose, complemented by flavors of apricots and lychee fruit. 85/86.

Louis M. Martini 2000 Louis M. Martini, Folle Blanche, Monte Rosso Vineyard, Sonoma Valley, California, $17.50, 600 cases. This grape variety was a foundation grape for Armagnac in the past and is now mainly used in the Muscadet region of France. This version is lively and refreshing in the mouth, defined by lemon curd, pear, grass and wet stones. This will be dandy match for clams/mussels/oysters. 87/86.

2001 Stone Wolf, Mueller-Thurgau, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $7.50. Floral aromatics set the stage for a wine packed with a mélange of flavors and delicate sweetness, which should work well with Asian foods. 86/88.

NV Tres Sueños, Red Table Wine, Charter Oak Red, Oklahoma, $12. Tasted blind on a trusted wine friend, he thought it might be a Cotes du Rhone, as did I. I certainly would not have picked Oklahoma if I had 100 guesses. The rustic red fruit and tannins were a nice match for BBQ brisket. 85/85.

2001 Valley of the Moon, Pinot Blanc, Sonoma County, California, $15, 10,438 cases. Pineapples and pears define the nose, with subtle French oak nuances. Similar flavors unfold, heightened by crisp Braeburn apples. Oak plays a minor role here. 86/86.

Pinot Gris wine glass

2001 Bella Sera, Pinot Grigio, Delle Venezie, Italy, $7, 400,000 cases. Straw gold in color, this wine gives off pineapple and honeysuckle notes. Nicely balanced, with pears the dominant flavor, the 12.2% alcohol is refreshing. Nice quaffer. 85/87.

2001 Ecco Domani, Pinot Grigio, Maso Canali Vineyard, Trentino, Italy, $17. Delightful tropical fruit and coconut aromas blend well with the light apricot fruit, floral notes and soft mouth feel. With more acidity, this wine would have been a killer. 85/85.

2001 Gallo of Sonoma, Pinot Gris, Reserve, Sonoma Coast, California, $13, 10,000 cases. Pears and stone fruit on the nose meld with the tropical fruit and lemon peel flavors. 83/84.

2001 Stone Wolf, Pinot Gris, Oregon, $10. This Pinot Gris marches to its own drummer, but I like it. Medium-bodied, with aromas and flavors of citrus, casaba melon, and pear, this wine definitely has food-friendly written all over it. 90/91.

Pinot Noir wine glass

2000 Anapamu, Pinot Noir, Monterey County, California, $16, 29,500 cases. This ruby red Pinot offers up those earthy, funky aromas that fans enjoy. Medium-weight with easy tannins, cherries and dark tea are presented in a balanced package. 84/86.

2000 Beringer, Pinot Noir, Carneros, California, $16. Brown sugar, cherries, black tea, spice and vanilla aromas float across the nose, then echoes in the mouth. Medium-bodied, with nice acidity, this will make a nice food wine. 85/87.

1999 Calera, Pinot Noir, Central Coast, California, $20. Pinot Noir/Burgundy fans will appreciate the funky, chicken manure aromas, augmented by spicy notes. Offering a lot of character for the price class, earthy flavors, black tea and ripe strawberries compete for attention. The finish is a little short. 88/89.

2000 EIEIO, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $26. This is a new winery that I have no information on other than they are located in Gaston, Oregon and that the packaging is creative with all of the farm animals on the capsule. Made in a lean, crisp style, you'll find black cherries, red currants, a touch of smoke, and a light hand on the oak. This is a perfect match for pork tenderloin. 88/88.

Rodney Strong 2000 Gallo of Sonoma, Pinot Noir, Reserve, Sonoma County, California, $13, 33,000 cases. This delightful, value wine has a complex nose of spice, raspberry, strawberry, and pleasing earth tones. Medium-bodied and crisp, this is a lean-styled, food-friendly wine. Strawberries and dried cherries linger on the finish. 87/90.

2000 Marcelina, Pinot Noir, Carneros, California, $32, 6,135 cases. Marcelina produced a nice, food-friendly wine here. This is not your overblown, voluptuous style, but rather a lean, crisp package, with lots of black cherries, spice and French oak. 88/87.

1999 Rodney Strong, Pinot Noir, Reserve, Russian River Valley, California, $30.Aromas of red cherries and strawberries abound, with light forest floor notes. Very balanced and elegant on the entry, red cherry and raspberry fruits take the forefront, with cedary overtones and a long aftertaste. 88+/88.

Sangiovese wine glass

2000 Camelia, Red Table Wine, Diamo Grazie, Dry Creek Valley, California, $42, 176 cases. Diamo Grazie is a Super Tuscan style blend, 60% Sangiovese, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon. Overflowing with notes of black cherries and raspberries, the wine delivers on the palate as well. Elegant and rich are the dominant adjectives here. Loaded with fruit, the French oak and crispness add to the overall package. 90/89.

2000 Camelia Cellars, Sangiovese, Dry Creek Valley, California, $28, 1,010 cases. Very obvious leather and cherry fragrances are found in this well-balanced wine. Full-bodied, crisp, with supple tannins, cherries and strawberries, this wine should match with a spectrum of Italian dishes. 87/87.

2000 Chateau Julien, Sangiovese, Monterey County, California, $10. This is a simple, yet tasty everyday wine for mealtime. It is crisp, medium-bodied, with modest tannins, berry and black cherry fruit, and soft vanilla notes. 84/86.

2001 Ecco Domani, Chianti, Tuscany, Italy, $10. Ruby red in color, with cherry fragrances, this is a light, delicate wine. Cherry cola flavors and soft tannins wrap up the package. Drink with a bowl of minestrone soup. 83/85.

2000 Flora Springs, Sangiovese, Napa Valley, California, $16. Flora Springs uses the Grosso clone of Sangiovese for their wine. Pleasing aromas of strawberries, blueberries, and a hint of cedar are followed by similar flavors. Cranberries linger on the long, lush finish. Clams marinara is the ticket here. 88/90.

1999 Gallo of Sonoma, Sangiovese, Alexander Valley, California, $13, 15,600 cases. Dried cherry and leather aromas and flavors are supported by rustic tannins and zippy acidity that begs for tomato based dishes. 83/85.

1999 Valley of the Moon, Sangiovese, Sonoma County, California, $15, 3,040 cases. This wine opens with appealing blackberry, raspberry and leather aromas. These leathery notes persist on the palate, augmented by cherry fruit, anise and earthy tones. Delightful and a good value. 88/90.

Sauvignon Blanc wine glass

2000 Beringer, Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, California, $12. You'll find citrus and toast scents in this golden straw wine. Melon, fig and vanilla play on the palate, finishing with a modest crispness. 84/86.

2001 Chateau Julien, Sauvignon Blanc, Monterey County, California, $9. Tropical fruit and melon aromas complement the citrus, peach, and orange peel flavors. There is a leesy note on the finish. 84/86.

Dry Creek 2001 Dry Creek, Fumé Blanc, Sonoma County, California, $12.75. Crisp acidity highlights this wine and is refreshing for California winemaking. Pineapple, lemon/lime, and lemongrass intertwine across the senses, delivering a wine that should pair well with your favorite shellfish. 87/88.

2001 Kenwood, Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma County, California, $12, 110,000 cases. Lively acidity, tropical fruit and limes intermingle to make a wine that is an ideal accompaniment to oyster or crab dishes. 86/88.

2000 Lockwood, Sauvignon Blanc, Monterey County, California, $11. Somewhat reticent on the nose, grassy/citrus aromas were coaxed from the wine. Lean in style, tart lemon flavors prevail, with caramel, vanilla and melon zest. 81/81.

2002 Norton, Sauvignon Blanc, Alto Agrelo, Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina, $8. Grapefruit and pineapple notes leap from the glass of this distinctly green-hued wine. Lively acidity enhances this easy to drink quaffer. A Hess Collection import. 84/86.

2000 Raymond, Sauvignon Blanc, Reserve, Napa Valley, California, $12. Lemongrass and herbs are the ticket here. The wine is crisp, yet has a rounded mouth feel. A touch of vanilla lingers on the aftertaste. 86/87.

wine glasswine glass

NV René Barbier, Mediterranean Red, Catalunya, Spain, $6. Not following a cookie cutter formula, this wine is mainly Tempranillo. Exhibiting aromas and flavors of tart mixed berries and delicate oak spice, this would be enjoyable with paella. 83/85.

NV René Barbier, Mediterranean Rosé, Catalunya, Spain, $6. Predominantly Tempranillo and Garnacha, this is a delicate wine that is soft on the palate and ready for immediate consumption. Light berry flavors make this an ideal match for tapas. 83/85.

NV René Barbier, Mediterranean White, Catalunya, Spain, $6. This golden straw wine uses the same grapes as Spanish Cavas. Pineapple and melon aromas lead the way to a clean, fruity, lightly crisp wine that offers big bang for the buck. This will make a great everyday, value quaffer. Hats off. 85/90.

Sparkling Wine wine glass

NV Domaine Ste. Michelle, Blanc de Blanc, Columbia Valley, Washington, $10. Straightforward, crisp, and lightly sweet, this sparkler provides green apples and toast aromas and flavors. 83/85.

NV Domaine Ste. Michelle, Cuvee Brut, Columbia Valley, Washington, $10. Pineapple and green apple accents this crisp, simple sparkler. Coarse bead. Serve well chilled. 81/82.

NV Domaine Ste. Michelle, Extra Dry, Columbia Valley, Washington, $10. Despite what the name might imply, the wine is sweet at 2.2% residual sugar. Leaning towards the tropical fruit spectrum, this uncomplicated sparkler should be fun at large gatherings. 83/85.

Syrah wine glass

2000 Anapamu, Syrah, Paso Robles, California, $20, 6,200 cases. This wine displays aromas and flavors of black cherries, plums and sun dried tomatoes. It is simple, but easy to drink. 80/80.

2000 Black Opal, Shiraz, Southeastern Australia, $11. Plum, cedar and cocoa notes waft from the glass. While the tannins are pretty friendly, the acidity is ripping and this wine is not for everyone. Plums, chocolate, dill and oak flavors round out the wine. 83/84.

2000 Chateau Julien, Syrah, Monterey County, California, $10. Full-bodied and fruity, this is a nice value wine. Intense blueberry, cherry and raspberry flavors unfold, with moderate tannins giving support. This will pair nicely with grilled meats. 86/90.

1999 Clos Du Bois, Shiraz, Reserve, Alexander Valley, California, $16, 5,250 cases. This value wine offers honest aromas and flavors of blackberries, raspberries, spice and vanilla cream. Well-balanced, with soft tannins and a crispy finish. 87/88.

2000 Columbia Valley, Syrah, Columbia Valley, Washington, $15. Typical fragrances of black fruit and smoked meat are noted. Chewy tannins greet the palate, followed by raspberry fruit and healthy oak seasoning. 84/85.

2001 Delicato, Syrah, California, $8. Consistently an overachiever, this wine does not fail to please. Very forward and fruity, the wine brims with raspberries, cherries and a black pepper streak. Buy by the case. 86/90.

2000 Echelon, Syrah, Clarksburg, California, $10, 17,000 cases. Deeply colored, the 9% Viognier blended in is obvious on the nose, along with raspberry notes. Very drinkable right now, the wine has nice balance, is fruity and is not overoaked. 85/88.

2000 McDowell, Syrah, Mendocino, California, $11. This value wine has a lot of character for eleven bucks – berries, spice, smoked meat, silky tannins and great balance. This was a tasty match with smoked brisket. 87/90.

2001 McWilliam's, Shiraz, Hanwood Estate, SE Australia, $11, 36,000 cases. Slight herbal notes, coffee beans, raspberries, tobacco, black cherries and plums all combine to make a soft, rich, value Shiraz. 86/89.

Viognier wine glass

2001 Calera, Viognier, Mt. Harlan, California, $36. An exquisite nose invites lengthy exploration. Honeysuckle flows across the senses, with intense peach flavors. Well-balanced, this wine offers it all and is one of the best New World offerings that I have tried. It competes well with Rhone offerings in the price class. 93/93.

2001 Columbia Winery, Viognier, Red Willow Vineyard, Yakima Valley, Washington, $40. This straw colored wine has a pleasant light peach tinge and a delightful nose of flowers, ripe peaches and mandarin oranges. The mouth feel is full and round, with firm acids. Columbia made a nice Viognier here, but is out of step with the pricing. 88/86.

Zinfandel wine glass

2000 Clos Du Bois, Zinfandel, North Coast, California, $14, 86,000 cases. Light to medium-bodied, this new release has aromas and flavors of blackberries, raspberries, spice, and American oak, with nuances of black pepper. 83/84.

2000 Coulson, Zinfandel, Safari Vineyard, El Dorado, California, $18, 141 cases. This medium-bodied, ruby red release exudes red cherries, chocolate and vanilla. Rich, nicely balanced, and easy on the palate, you can enjoy this one now and for several years to come. 90/90.

2000 Dry Creek, Zinfandel, Heritage Clone, Sonoma County, California, $15. The nose is best described as raspberry infused chocolate. Sweet raspberry fruit and vanilla are supported by ripe tannins and an invigorating finish. A good value. 89/90.

2000 Granite Springs, Zinfandel, Fair Play, California, $30, 820 cases. Almost purple in color, notes of raspberries and allspice charge from the glass. Made in a jammy style, the wine is packed with so much sweet fruit that you would swear there is residual sugar, yet the wine is totally dry. Fans of the style will love it. 87/86.

2000 Kendall-Jackson, Mendocino, Zinfandel, Great Estates, California, $25, 2,890 cases. Advocates of the full-blown style will adore this one. Deeply extracted, rich, jammy and weighing in at 15.5% alcohol, this is your big boy, and not for the faint of heart. 90/90.

2000 Latcham, Zinfandel, Special Reserve, Fair Play, California, $25, 765 cases. You'll find aromas and flavors of black cherry and plum jam, with vanilla and spice intermingling. Rustic tannins and a medium finish round out this wine. 85/85.

1999 Louis Martini, Zinfandel, Gnarly Vine, Monte Rosso Vineyard, Sonoma Valley, California, $40, 900 cases. This is one of your powerhouse Zins. Raspberries, dewberries, plums, coffee, chocolate, oak and spice grab hold of the senses and take them for a wild ride. 14.7% alcohol. 88/86.

Louis M. Martini 2000 Louis Martini, Zinfandel, Monte Rosso Vineyard, Sonoma Valley, California, $20, 800 cases. Black raspberry and vanilla dominate the aroma profile, with nuances of licorice, all of which echo on the palate. Toasty oak flavors linger on the finish. 87/87.

2000 Madroña, Zinfandel, El Dorado, California, $14, 2,919 cases. If you are looking for a tasty, fairly priced Zin, this is it. The nose screams rhubarb, cherries and chocolate, while the flavors lean to sweet blackberries, clove and cocoa. Modest tannins and crisp acidity add to the total package. 86/88.

2000 Perry Creek, Zinfandel, Cellar Select, El Dorado, California, $24, 250 cases. This is a fun to drink, full-blown style of Zinfandel. Weighing in at 16% alcohol, the wine does not seem hot at this point. Big black cherry jam aromas are amplified by cinnamon and vanilla. There is a full-scale assault going on in the mouth, with lush jammy fruit taking the high ground and black pepper, a host of spices and vanilla attacking from the flanks. Nice if you like the style. 90/90.

2001 Rancho Zabaco, Zinfandel, Dancing Bull, California, $12, 96,300 cases. The nose screams “Raspberries!” Very forward, the fruit is ripe, juicy, with lots of black cherries and raspberries. An overachiever for sure, this is a great value. 88/90.

1999 Single Leaf, Zinfandel, Reserve, El Dorado, California, $16, 400 cases. A mélange of licorice, cloves, currants and cherries delights the nose. Fruity, crisp and tannic, the wine needs a couple of years in bottle. Nice match for BBQ fare. 86/86.

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