© 2005 by Randy Buckner
As a child, I always viewed September with mixed emotions. I hated to say goodbye to my favorite swimming site, water skiing at the lake and dropping a hook in our beloved fishing hole that summer vacation encompassed; but I welcomed the start of the college football season, the roar of the crowd and the steaming mug of hot chocolate. I shamelessly admit I still root for the Oklahoma Sooners somehow the Washington Huskies fail to stir the same passion in me for the game.
September still remains a transition month for our family. We go from a predominance of white wine consumption to more reds and Port. There is something comforting about sharing a Partagas Robusto and a glass of Warre LBV Port with friends while sitting around the fire pit. Come on over and pull up a chair.
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.
2003 Beaulieu, Cabernet Sauvignon, Coastal Estates, California, $11. Here's my value Cab of the year thus far. Berries, cherries, toasty oak and vanilla grace the nose. Crisp, with soft tannins, this wine delivers a lot of fruit for the price point; 85/90.
2001 Beringer, Alluvium Red Table Wine, Knights Valley, California, $30. Lots of barrel notes present upfront, with some underlying cherry and berry fruit. Tannins are generous, with raw oak flavors lingering on the palate; 83/82.
2001 Clos Du Bois, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Napa Valley, California, $95, 1,000 cases. This wine is a little bit of a mystery to me. The nose is stunning exotic aromas of cassis, herbs, coffee, and blackberries are enchanting. However, the wine seems to be in a dumb phase currently. It promises but does not deliver. I think this will come around in three or four years and provide real enjoyment; 89+/87+.
2002 Cosentino, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, $45, 2,500 cases. Inviting aromas of black fruit, sage and toasty French oak carry over to the palate, supported by tangy acidity and firm but ripe tannins; 88/88.
2003 Goundrey, Cabernet Sauvignon, Western Australia, $16, 7,000 cases. Here's an easy to drink Cab at a decent price. Plums, cherries, mint and herbs define this medium-bodied, fruity, crisp wine; 85/87.
2002 Hess Estate, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, $20, 16,000 cases. The bouquet is made up of ripe cherry, cassis, plum and cedar notes. Tart on the entry, with generous but rounded tannins. Tasty, but not a lot of depth to the wine; 85/85.
NV HMR Rex Goliath, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, $9, 125,000 cases. Aromas and flavors reveal plums, chocolate, vanilla and cedar, with slightly green tannins; 82/82.
2002 Kenwood, Cabernet Sauvignon, Jack London Vineyard, Sonoma Valley, California, $30, 12,800 cases. Black fruit, mint, cedar and tobacco leaf notes intermingle on the nose. Tannins are firm but rounded. Spicy oak competes with the blackberry fruit for preeminence; 85/85.
2002 Kenwood, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, California, $18, 55,000 cases. The nose is highlighted by black fruit, blueberries, mint and American oak. Lean, crisp and tannic, the flavors vie with the oak for dominance at this point; 82/82.
2002 Ridge Crest, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington, $10, 455 cases. Mixed red and black fruit, barrel notes and herbs highlight this value wine. You'll find modest drying tannins and loads of fruit for the price point; 84/86.
2001 Silver Lake, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Columbia Valley, Washington, $19, 1,500 cases. Generous smoky oak, spice and rustic tannins define the wine, with a cherry and plum fruit underpinning; 82/82.
2001 Simi, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Alexander Valley, California, $60, 3,930 cases. Deep ruby in color, with charming aromas of blackberries, new leather and toasty oak. Spotless balance lends itself well to the complex black fruit and integrated oak; 90/89.
2003 Sterling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Vintner's Collection, Central Coast, California, $15. The nose is a mix of black fruit, herbs, wood and milk chocolate. This is another well balanced, simple quaffer for those grilled burgers; 83/83.
2001 Valley of the Moon, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, California, $20, 2,800 cases. This dark ruby Cabernet gives off aromas of blackberries, currants, American oak and a twist of mint. Medium to full in the mouth, the tannins are silky smooth, with plenty of black cherry fruit to stand up to the oak notes; 87/87.
2002 William Hill, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, $20, 24,601 cases. Blackberries, cassis, tobacco, herbs and cedar carry the length of the wine. Tannins are rustic but may age out sufficiently; 84/85.
2001 Wolf Blass, Cabernet Sauvignon, Presidents Selection, South Australia, $19. Currants and mint leap from the glass, with underlying American oak notes. The wine is very crisp in the mouth, with rounded tannins and generous sweet oak. Flavors mirror the nose; 84/84.
2003 Beaulieu, Chardonnay, Reserve, Carneros, California, $28, 4,000 cases. You'll find a pleasing nose of pears, apples, toast and vanilla. The wine is very soft and creamy, with nice complexity, but it lacks the acidity to really make it sing; 85/85.
2003 Chateau Souverain, Chardonnay, Winemaker's Reserve, Russian River Valley, California, $30, 700 cases. Creamy French vanilla, spiced pears, apples and a twist of citrus unfold on the nose. The wine is full bodied and creamy, with loads of barrel influence upfront and on the finish. Pear and crème brulee flavors fight for attention; 86/86.
2004 M. Cosentino, Chardonnay, The Chard, California, $16, 1,218 cases. Soft, balanced and easy to drink, enjoy this one now for the pears, citrus and delicate wood notes; 84/84.
2004 Delicato, Chardonnay, California, $12. Here's a value wine for Chard lovers that don't care for boatloads of oak. Aromas of melons, citrus and pineapple carry over to the palate, with lively acidity breathing life into the wine; 84/86.
2003 Dry Creek, Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, California, $16, 11,000 cases. Loads of spicy wood, butterscotch, peach and pear aromas unfold on the nose. Flavors are a repeat of the nose, with a creamy body and long finish; 86/87.
2003 Goundrey, Chardonnay, Western Australia, $16, 7,000 cases. Crisp, balanced and creamy, the wine is highlighted by peaches, citrus, nuts and toasty oak; 84/84.
2004 HMR Rex Goliath, Chardonnay, Central Coast, California, $9, 74,000 cases. Ripe fruit and butterscotch aromas are evident in this soft, creamy wine. Pears, limes and toasty oak present on the palate; 83/84.
2004 Huntington, Chardonnay, Sonoma County, California, $12, 5,000 cases. Here's a steal for Chardonnay fans. Green apples, pears, and nuances of toasty oak radiate from the glass. Very focused and crisp on the palate, the flavors speak of tart green apples; 85/87.
2004 Kenwood, Chardonnay, Reserve, Russian River Valley, California, $20, 2,300 cases. This is pretty classic California Chardonnay. While not my style of wine, it is very well made. Creamy, with impeccable balance, the wine is highlighted by butterscotch, vanilla and lemon creams; 90/91.
2004 Matua, Chardonnay, Gisborne, New Zealand, $11. Only 20 percent of the wine underwent malolactic fermentation, which helps to maintain its crispness. The oak is well integrated with the creamy pear, apple and melon fruit, with a lingering finish; 88/90.
2004 Red Bicyclette, Chardonnay, Vin de Pays d'Oc, France, $10. A serviceable wine for the price point. Peach, vanilla and toasty aromas and flavors are augmented by threshold sweetness; 82/82.
2003 Silver Lake, Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Washington, $9, 3,400 cases. Oak and tropical fruit are offered in a straightforward package; 80/80.
2003 Simi, Chardonnay, Reserve, Russian River Valley, California, $25, 18,472 cases. Straw gold in color, with apple, citrus and toasty oak aromas. The wine is very creamy, yet maintains an acceptable level of acidity. Apricot and mango flavors add to the toasty, buttery notes; 87/87.
2004 Sterling, Chardonnay, Vintner's Collection, Central Coast, California, $13. This one is soft, simple, and easy to drink, with apples, pears, vanilla cream, butter and fig nuances; 83/84.
2002 William Hill, Chardonnay, Reserve, Napa Valley, California, $20, 2,217 cases. Pleasing aromas of honeyed pears and delicate oak notes follow through on the palate in a well-balanced package; 85/85.
2003 Wolf Blass, Chardonnay, Presidents Selection, South Australia, $14. Nicely balanced and creamy in the mouth, the wine speaks of peaches, melons and subtle barrel notes; 84/86.
2003 Gabbiano, Chianti DOCG, Tuscany, Italy, $10. Dried cherries, violets and new leather notes waft from the glass. Tart and lean, with simple fruit flavors riding on an acidic backbone; 81/81.
2002 Gabbiano, Chianti Classico DOCG, Tuscany, Italy, $13. Garnet in color, the nose is reminiscent of cherries, tobacco and flowers. Showing more character than their regular Chianti, the tannins are less rustic as well; 84/85.
2002 Gabbiano, Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG, Tuscany, Italy, $17. This Chianti is more refined on the palate and shows more depth of fruit and taste pleasure than the others listed above. Cherries, leather and violets prevail throughout; 86/88.
2003 Gabbiano, Sangiovese Merlot, Tuscany, Italy, $10. Cherries, leather and wormwood carry from the nose to the mouth. Tart, with chewy but manageable tannins, this will make a simple quaffer for pizza; 83/84.
2004 Alamos, Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina, $11. Black fruit and smoky notes waft from this ruby red Malbec. Medium bodied, with nice balance, the wine reveals earthy/mushroom nuances that add character to the black fruit, chocolate and coffee overtones; 85/87.
2003 Clay Station, Malbec, Lodi, California, $13, 5,000 cases. Aromas speak of blackberries, blueberries and vanilla. Well balanced in the mouth, with the modest fruit echoing the nose. Drink now with BBQ or a mushroom risotto; 84/85.
2003 Felipe Rutini, Encuentro, Malbec-Merlot, Mendoza, Argentina, $NA. A 53/47 percent blend, this purple-red wine gives off aromas of black fruit, cigar box and cedar spice. Very crisp, with generous tannins, the flavors echo the nose; 87/NA.
2004 Trumpeter (Familia Rutini), Malbec, Tupungato, Chile/Argentina, $10. Ruby in color, with aromas and flavors of bright berry fruit and smoke. The wine has lovely balance, all wrapped up in a food-friendly package; 86/88.
2004 Trumpeter (Familia Rutini), Malbec-Syrah, Tupungato, Chile/Argentina, $10. Rich blue and black fruit evolves on the nose and palate, with just a whiff of smoke. Soft tannins glide across the tongue, with lovely acidity giving lift to the fruit. All of the Argentine wines are imported by Billington Imports; 86/88.
2002 Cosentino, Merlot, Napa Valley, California, $34, 767 cases. You'll find complex aromas and flavors of black fruit, licorice and toasty French oak. Smooth and tart, with a lengthy finish; 87/87.
2004 Delicato, Merlot, California, $7. This is a soft, simple Merlot with plum, cherry cola, vanilla and generous oak notes. Drink now; 82/83.
NV HMR Rex Goliath, Merlot, California, $9, 120,000 cases. Plum, black cherry and cedar notes carry from the nose to the mouth, all in an easy-to-drink, straightforward package; 83/84.
2002 Ridge Crest, Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington, $10, 455 cases. Ruby/brick in color. The wine shows a nice mix of black cherries, cedar, dried herbs, modest tannins and generous oak; 84/85.
2003 Sterling, Merlot, Vintner's Collection, Central Coast, California, $15. This ruby-colored wine gives off aromas of blackberries, toasty wood notes and a hint of chocolate. Balanced, with soft tannins, the wine provides straightforward black cherry flavors; 83/83.
2002 2820 Wine Co., Merlot, Napa Valley, California, $22, 330 cases. The nose is an inviting mix of cherries, sweet oak and sage. Modest tannins and tangy acidity lend support to the bright red fruit; 86/87.
2002 2820 Wine Co., The Ghost, Napa Valley, California, $42, 111 cases. A 60/37/3 percent blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. This is an elegant wine, with silky tannins and great balance. Complex aromas and flavors reveal cherries, blueberries, cedar, vanilla and anise; 89/89.
2003 Beringer, Alluvium Blanc, Knights Valley, California, $16. Defined by citrus, vanilla, toasty oak and butterscotch, the wine is well balanced and crisp; 84/84.
2004 Black Swan, Chardonnay & Semillon, South Eastern Australia, $9, 100,000 cases. Straw yellow with a green tinge. Very tangy, with straightforward lemon, citrus zest and melon notes; 80/80.
2004 Black Swan, Shiraz & Cabernet, South Eastern Australia, $9, 125,000 cases. Smooth, simple and ready to drink right now for the black fruit, cedar and smoky nuances; 80/80.
2004 Black Swan, Shiraz & Merlot, South Eastern Australia, $9, 155,000 cases. Soft, simple and quaffable, enjoy early on with a grilled burger for the plum fruit and smoky notes; 80/80.
2004 Covey Run, Chenin Blanc, Columbia Valley, Washington, $8, 2,923 cases. Here's a soft, off-dry Chenin that is effortless to drink. Peaches, melons and grassy notes run the length of the wine; 84/85.
2004 Encore, White Medley, Monterey County, California, $18. Unlike their Red Medley which is overwhelmed with oak, this blend of five white grapes is pretty well balanced overall. A mélange of aromas and flavors assail the senses, to include green apples, citrus, grapefruit, melons and toasty vanilla. Refreshing; 85/86.
NV René Barbier, Mediterranean White, Catalunya, Spain, $6. This straw-colored blend gives off citrus, melon and apple notes. It's a light, crisp, simple summer quaffer that is hard to beat for the price point; 82/84.
2004 Covey Run, Pinot Grigio, Columbia Valley, Washington, $9, 1,700 cases. The wine is lean, clean and crisp, with straightforward but pleasing tangerine and lemon qualities; 83/84.
2004 HMR Rex Goliath, Pinot Grigio, California, $9, 34,000 cases. Simple, tart and tangy, this is quaffable at best. Enjoy now for the citrus and melon fruit; 80/80.
2004 Beaulieu, Pinot Noir, Coastal Estates, California, $11. Defined by cranberries, raspberries and vanilla, this is a soft, simple quaffer to enjoy with mushroom risotto or grilled fish; 82/83.
2003 Beaulieu, Pinot Noir, Reserve, Carneros, California, $39, 3,000. Cherries, berries, smoke and coffee aromas open on the nose. While impeccably balanced, there is not a lot of complexity, and the tannins finish with a bitter edge; 83/81.
2004 Beringer, Pinot Noir, Napa Valley, California, $16. The nose starts out right lots of strawberry, cherry, spice and smoke nuances however the flavors fail to deliver at the same level; 83/83.
2002 Cosentino, Pinot Noir, Napa Valley, California, $35, less than 200 cases.’ A tad atypical but tasty nevertheless. Full-bodied and tangy, the wine gives off a nice mix of black cherries, French oak, coffee, cocoa and a whiff of smoke; 88/88.
NV HMR Rex Goliath, Pinot Noir, California, $9, 50,000 cases. Here's a steal for less than ten bucks. Jammy and fruity, with cherries, berries and cedar presented in a smooth, inviting package; 85/90.
2003 Matua, Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand, $11. Here's a good value wine from our Southern neighbors. Cherries, berries and floral notes fill the nose and expand on the palate. Smoky oak and spice adds complexity to the mix. Easy to drink now or hold for a couple of years; 87/89.
1998 Cockburn's, Late Bottled Vintage Port (LBV), Portugal, $20. This is a fine example of LBV Port. Impeccably balanced, with smooth tannins, the acidity carries the 10 percent residual sugar with ease. Aromas and flavors speak of plums, ripe red fruit, warm spices and raisins, which linger on the finish; 87/87.
2001 Cockburn's, Quinta dos Canais, Single Quinta Vintage Port, Portugal, $56. Obviously young, the wine shows very good potential for a long life. Nicely balanced and intense, rich fruit and floral notes radiate from stem to stern; 90/90.
NV Cockburn's, Special Reserve Porto, Portugal, $16. The Special Reserve is a Vintage Character’ Port. Mixed ripe red fruit and warm spices define the wine. Nicely balanced and showing a bit of heat, the Port should pair well with aged cheese, or enjoy out on the deck with a favorite cigar; 85/85.
NV Cockburn's, 10 Years Old Tawny Port, Portugal, $30. I have a soft spot for Tawny Port. Few of us have the luxury of waiting 50 years for a Vintage Port to mature. Tawny Port is ready to drink upon release. This one is rich, with sweet raisins and hazelnuts throughout the length of the wine. Intense hazelnut flavors linger on the finish; 88/88.
NV Cockburn's, 20 Years Old Tawny Port, Portugal, $50. Sporting a classic tawny color, the aromas reveal sweet, rich fruit and hazelnut nuances. The wine shows lovely balance, with good concentration of fruit. Hazelnuts expand on the palate and linger on the lengthy finish; 91/91.
2004 Claar Cellars, Johannisberg Riesling, White Bluffs, Columbia Valley, Washington, $8, 740 cases. This straw-colored Riesling is off-dry, with balancing acidity. Peaches, pears and a twist of citrus peel delineate the aromas and flavors; 85/87.
2004 Covey Run, Dry Riesling, Columbia Valley, Washington, $8, 7,500 cases. The name is a misnomer given the 1.5 percent residual sugar. Peaches, honeysuckle and minerals highlight the wine, with balancing acidity; 83/84.
2004 McWilliams, Riesling, Hanwood Estate, South East Australia, $11, 10,000 cases. Aromas of wet stones, melon and musk are more interesting than the lean, simple flavors; 82/82.
2002 Silver Lake, Riesling, Late Harvest Reserve, Roza Hills Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Washington, $15, 400 cases. You'll find typical late harvest Riesling aromas, with lots of peaches, apricots and flower blossoms. Soft, sweet, and loaded with flavors, the wine lacks the acidity to handle the 10.2 percent residual sugar; 86/86.
2004 Red Bicyclette, Rosé, Vin de Pays d'Oc, France, $8. Soft, refreshing and simple, the wine offers up strawberry and plum notes, with noticeable threshold sweetness; 80/80.
NV René Barbier, Mediterranean Rosé, Catalunya, Spain, $6. An interesting strawberry/copper color. Red fruit aromas carry over to the palate in a simple but tasty presentation. Pair with rotisserie chicken; 83/85.
2004 Beaulieu, Sauvignon Blanc, Coastal Estates, California, $11. Citrus and tropicals unfold on the nose. Easy on the palate, the wine has crisp citrus fruit upfront, with hints of mango and cut grass; 83/83.
2004 Beringer, Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, California, $12. Aromas of lemongrass, melon and tropicals leap from the glass. Crisp, with threshold sweetness, the wine has plenty of stuffing to stand up to your favorite shellfish dish; 85/86.
2004 Dancing Bull, Sauvignon Blanc, California, $10, 72,000 cases. The nose is packed with grassy/jalapeno pepper notes. Rounded in the mouth, you'll find simple gooseberry, melon and lime flavors; 81/81.
2004 Delicato, Sauvignon Blanc, California, $7. The wine is light, crisp and simple, but eminently drinkable for the lemon/lime fruit. Pair with seafood; 83/85.
2004 Kenwood, Sauvignon Blanc, Reserve, Sonoma County, California, $15, 2,200 cases. Very grassy on the nose, with limes, pears and herbal notes adding to the mix. Creamy and rounded in the mouth. The flavors don't deliver quite as much as the nose promises, bit it is tasty nevertheless; 87/87.
2004 Matua, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand, $10. Seemingly soft, but the pH is 3.5. Stone fruit, gooseberries, peas and stony minerals carry the length of the wine, finishing with grassy notes. Good value; 88/90.
2002 Silver Lake, Sauvignon Blanc, Late Harvest Reserve, Columbia Valley, Washington, $19, 600 cases. Fruity, grassy, sweet notes highlight the nose and palate, with barely enough acidity to support the 11.6 percent residual sugar; 85/85.
NV Domecq, Sherry, Medium Dry Amontillado, Spain, $14. Tawny in color, with nice sherried aromas and flavors. The wine is delicately sweet, balanced, and sports nutty nuances on the finish. Pair with hard cheeses, bisques and nuts; 88/90.
NV Domecq, Sherry, La Ina, Spain, $14. Aromas of apples and almond paste really leap from the glass. Bone dry, with flavors that mirror the nose, you'll find a hint of nuts on the lengthy finish. Serve with cheese and olives; 87/89.
NV Domecq, Sherry, Manzanilla, Spain, $14. Light, dry and delicate, you'll find baked apples, leesy notes and nutty nuances throughout. Pair with almond-stuffed olives; 88/90.
NV Harveys, Bristol Cream Sherry, Spain, $14. Dark tawny in color, the wine follows their classic house style lots of sweet sherried flavors, hazelnuts and brown sugar; 87/89.
2003 Ballentine, Syrah, Betty's Vineyard, Napa Valley, California, $22, 450 cases. This purple-red Syrah emits a lovely bouquet filled with blue and black fruit, smoke and peppery notes. Balanced and juicy in the mouth, the wine is packed with ripe black cherry fruit, smoke, vanilla and pepper spice; 88/89.
2003 Barrelstone, Syrah, Columbia Valley, Washington, $10, 3,000 cases. Cherries and berries carry from the nose to the mouth, with a subtle white pepper nuance. Supple, simple and ready to drink with grilled fare; 82/83.
2003 Covey Run, Syrah, Columbia Valley, Washington, $9, 25,227 cases. Sporting a purple-red hue, the wine gives off aromas of berry fruit and smoky oak. This is an easy-to-drink wine, with mixed berry fruit and nice structure; 83/84.
2003 Goundrey, Shiraz, Western Australia, $16, 10,000 cases. Cherries, berry jam and American oak notes define the wine. Crisp and easy to drink, this quaffer offers good bang for the buck; 85/87.
2003 Kelly's Revenge, Shiraz, South Eastern Australia, $6. Soft, easy drinking and passable for the price point, drink early on for the plum and smoked wood notes; 80/80.
2004 Red Bicyclette, Syrah, Vin de Pays d'Oc, France, $10. Consistent with their line, the wine is soft, simple and quaffable. Drink now before the blue and black fruit fades; 80/80.
2003 Wolf Blass, Shiraz, Presidents Selection, South Australia, $17. Aromas of black cherries, plums, warm spices and cedar unfold on the nose. Sporting bright acidity, this is a simple, easy quaffer to pair with grilled foods; 83/83.
2004 Beringer, Viognier, Napa Valley, California, $16. Citrus, honeysuckle and mango aromas and flavors prevail, in a well-rounded, crisp package. The finish shows some heat; 85/86.
2004 Clay Station, Viognier, Lodi, California, $13. The wine is very aromatic, with musky/floral notes. Soft on the palate, with threshold sweetness, the wine delivers pretty good bang for the buck; 84/86.
2003 Artezin, Zinfandel, California, $15, 5,000 cases. Raspberries and spice highlight the nose. Brambly fruit and cracked pepper are presented on a medium framework with zippy acidity. Good value; 86/89.
2003 Ballentine, Zinfandel Port, Napa Valley, California, $40 (500 ml), 187 cases. Their inaugural release of Zin Port is quite tasty. Raspberry liqueur and blackberry jam aromas follow through on the palate. Very intense and sweet, this is a dandy example of the genre; 91/90.
2003 Beaulieu, Zinfandel, Coastal Estates, California, $11. You'll find characteristic Zinfandel aromas and flavors. Brambly red and black fruit delivers quite a punch for the price point; 85/88.
2004 Clay Station, Zinfandel, Lodi, California, $13. Jammy black cherries, plums and toasty notes are presented in a straightforward package with threshold sweetness; 83/84.
2004 M. Cosentino, Zinfandel, CigarZin, California, $27, 9,138 cases. Jammy berries, brambly fruit and American oak carry throughout the length of the wine. Full on the palate, the wine shows more American oak on the finish; 85/85.
2003 Gallo of Sonoma, Zinfandel, Sonoma County, California, $13, 10,000 cases. Jammy berry fruit and wood notes radiate from this dark ruby Zin. Well balanced, with easy tannins, this straightforward quaffer will make a nice match for those grilled meats; 83/83.