© 2006 by Randy Buckner
As we ride on the cusp of summer and fall, many of us are reluctant to retire that barbeque grill just yet. In fact, I'm smoking a brisket today. This is a wonderful time of the year, where reds, whites and pinks all work equally well.
We have a hodgepodge of wines this month for your perusal, hailing from Australia to France. Prices range from $5 to $55 - we all have our own price classes and individual needs. I have also cherry-picked some of the top wines from this year's International Pinot Noir Celebration for you.
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. All prices are the manufacturer's suggested retail price. Vendor prices are often less expensive. As always, enjoy a bottle with dinner tonight.
2002 Beringer, Cabernet Sauvignon, Knights Valley, California, $27. Deep ruby in color. The lovely aromas of black cherries, vanilla, pipe tobacco and coconut do an encore on the palate. Firm tannins need time to settle down; 85/85.
2003 Canoe Ridge Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington, $28, 4,730 cases. Deep black fruit aromas are augmented by nuances of Baker's chocolate and modest oak. Well balanced, with elegant tannins, the flavors are complex and lasting; 87/87.
2003 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Cabernet Sauvignon, Ethos, Columbia Valley, Washington, $36, 900 cases. Blackberry, chocolate and vanilla scents swirl about on the nose and palate, with generous fruit flavors and firm but ripe tannins. Pipe tobacco lingers on the finish; 87/87.
2003 Clos Du Bois, Marlstone, Alexander Valley, California, $50. This Cabernet Sauvignon predominant blend of five grapes is both fruity and oaky on the nose. The wine is elegant on the entry, with terrific balance; however it seems to lack depth - not bad considering the vintage; 85/84.
2003 Dancing Bull, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, $12, 84,520 cases. This ruby-red wine displays a lot of ripe black fruit qualities, augmented by chocolate nuances and moderate oak - a simple quaffer for those grilled foods; 82/82.
2003 Dry Creek Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Dry Creek Valley, California, $20. Purple/red in color, with lots of berries, currants, cedar and menthol on the nose. The wine is full in the mouth, with generous dark fruit and generous oak. Tannins are a bit coarse; 84/84.
2003 Genesis (Hogue), Cabernet Sauvignon, Washington, $16, 15,786 cases. This Cabernet Sauvignon predominant blend is deeply hued. American oak overwhelms the underlying black cherry fruit aromas. The oak is less evident on the palate, but generous, as are the tannins; 83/83.
2003 Rodney Strong, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, California, $19. Dill from the American oak overwhelms the aromas of this deeply-hued wine. While the wine is fruity, the heavy oak and tannins detract; 81/81.
2003 St. Clement, Cabernet Sauvignon, Oroppas, Napa Valley, California, $50, 3,002 cases. Deep purple/red in color, with aromas of cassis, raspberries, chocolate and vanilla. The wine is rich on the entry, with firm but fine-grained tannins. Berries, plums, vanilla and coffee expand on the finish; 89/89.
2003 Sanctuary, Cabernet Sauvignon, Usibella Vineyard, Rutherford, California, $32, 2,950 cases. This debut release is very ripe and oaky on the nose, with cherry fruit and cedary notes. Very elegant on the entry, the Cab displays full flavors of cherry jam and vanilla. Nice for the style; 86/86.
2004 Silver Lake, Cabernet-Merlot, Rattlesnake Hills, Washington, $9, 4,000 cases. This is a light, simple, fruity, good-value wine displaying cherries, raspberries and light oak notes across the board - grill those burgers; 84/85.
2003 Stags' Leap, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, $48. Almost black in the glass, the aromas are a mélange of cherry, berry, violet and humidor notes. The wine is very elegant on the entry, with firm but rounded tannins. Flavors echo the nose, augmented by dark chocolate - a decent wine from a tough vintage; 87/86.
2004 337, Cabernet Sauvignon, Lodi, California, $15, 3,370 cases. The nose is a mélange of aromas ranging from plums and black cherries to dried herbs and coconut. It is nicely balanced, moderately tannic, with straightforward cherry and cranberry flavors; 83/83.
2002 William Hill, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Napa Valley, California, $52, 3,500 cases. Aromas of blackberries, raspberries, dark chocolate and generous oak radiate from this purple/red bottling. The fruit is deep, lush and complex, but the tannins are generous and drying. Give this one several years to come around; 87/86.
2004 Wolf Blass, Cabernet Sauvignon, Yellow Label, South Australia, $12. Tart, tangy, fruity and inexpensive sums up this wine. Dark fruit, moderate oak and mint abound on the nose and palate; 84/87.
2005 Banrock Station, Chardonnay, South Eastern Australia, $5. Here's one for those summer finale deck parties that won't break the bank. This straw gold wine has green hues and radiates caramel, peach and fig aromas. Simple, with threshold sweetness, this is one to quaff without contemplation; 82/84.
2005 Bogle, Chardonnay, California, $9. Aromas of green apples and toasty oak radiate from this straw-gold Chardonnay. Soft and creamy in the mouth, with lots of pineapple, green apple and butterscotch flavors. Good value; 85/88.
2004 Dancing Bull, Chardonnay, California, $12, 84,050 cases. Buttery notes, vanilla and citrus fan out on the nose, followed by flavors of apples, peaches and loads of butterscotch; 81/81.
2004 Frei Brothers, Chardonnay, Reserve, Russian River Valley, California, $20, 80,000 cases. Butter, toasty oak, pears and vanilla delineate the aromas. Medium bodied, with nice balance, the wine is fruit forward, with flavors echoing the nose; 85/85.
2004 Godwin, Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, California, $28, 450 cases. Butter, pear, lemon curd and generous oak aromas repeat on the palate. Tangy acidity gives character, but the wood is pretty heavy; 83/82.
2005 Huntington, Chardonnay, Sonoma County, California, $14, 7,500 cases. Neutral oak cooperage allows the nectarine, pear and apple fruit to shine through. The wine is very forward on the palate, with bright acidity; 86/88.
2005 Kenwood, Chardonnay, Reserve, Russian River Valley, California, $20, 2,800 cases. Soft, rich and creamy, the wine is a mouthful of tropical fruit, butterscotch and spicy oak notes. Nice for the style; 87/87.
2005 Kenwood, Chardonnay, Sonoma County, California, $15, 104,000 cases. Toasty oak, butterscotch, pears and tropical fruit underscore the wine, wrapped up in a soft, creamy package; 84/84.
2004 Lockwood Vineyard, Chardonnay, Monterey County, California, $10. Caramels, toasty oak, butter and nectarines unfold on the nose and repeat on the palate. Crisp, with straightforward flavors; 83/83.
2005 Oomoo, Unwooded Chardonnay, McLaren Vale, Australia, $15. Figs, melons and limes delineate this straw-gold Chard. Fruity and crisp, this summer quaffer should pair well with white fish and delicate cheeses; 86/88.
2004 Rodney Strong, Chardonnay, Chalk Hill, Sonoma County, California, $20. Stone fruit, butter and French oak underscore the nose. The wine is soft and viscous, with the aromas reverberating on the palate; 83/83.
2005 Simi, Chardonnay, Sonoma County, California, $17. Aromas of green apples, toasty oak and vanilla unfold on the nose and repeat on the palate. Sporting nice overall balance, the wine is spicy on the finish; 86/87.
2004 Simi, Chardonnay, Reserve, Russian River Valley, California, $25. The nose speaks of dried pineapple, mango and honey. French oak is more evident on the palate, with flavors echoing the aromas. Full and elegant, with a spicy, buttery finish; 87/87.
2005 Talus, Chardonnay, California, $8, 102,083 cases. Here's another simple summer quaffer to beat the heat. The wine is underscored by citrus and apple fruit, with a touch of vanilla; 82/83.
2005 Wolf Blass, Chardonnay, Yellow Label, South Australia, $12. The color is an attractive straw gold with a green sheen. Melon rind, peaches and modest toasty oak underscore the wine. It's easy to like; 84/85.
2005 Valley of the Moon, Chardonnay, Sonoma County, California, $16, 10,800 cases. This light-gold wine has pleasant aromas and flavors of nectarines, lemons, vanilla and barrel spice. Crisp and fruit forward, the flavors linger effortlessly on the finish; 87/88.
2004 Cosentino, Gewurztraminer, Napa Valley, California, $22, 150 cases. Very delicate scents of lychee fruit and toast delineate the nose. The wine is balanced and creamy, but does not show typicity. Vanilla lingers on the finish; 84/83.
2005 Husch, Gewurztraminer, Anderson Valley, California, $14, 1,555 cases. You'll find a typical Gewurzt nose of roses, honeysuckle and ginger spice. Soft, with threshold sweetness, the flavors are straightforward, with a short finish; 83/83.
2005 Jekel, Gewurztraminer, Monterey, California, $13, 6,000 cases. This wheat straw-colored wine gives off aromas and flavors of lychee fruit, tangerines and spice. Off-dry at 1.32 percent residual sugar, you'll find enough acidity to keep the wine from being cloying; 85/85.
2004 Bogle, Merlot, California, $9. This deep ruby Merlot gives off black cherry and American oak notes. Balanced and fruity in the mouth, it is a jammy, straightforward wine just made for grilled burgers; 84/86.
2003 Canoe Ridge Vineyard, Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington, $25, 17,100 cases. This ruby-colored wine is underscored by plum, coffee, toasty oak and coconut aromas and flavors. It is well balanced on the entry, with all components singing in harmony; 86/86.
2003 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Merlot, Ethos, Columbia Valley, Washington, $36, 1,000 cases. Oak dominates the nose, with underlying black cherry fruit and humidor nuances. In the mouth it is a different story. The fruit shines over the oak, with berry/cherry flavors lingering on the protracted finish; 86/86.
2004 Dancing Bull, Merlot, California, $12, 42,000 cases. This straightforward wine delivers aromas and flavors of cherries, berries, herbal notes and dill spice, with a sweet aftertaste; 81/81.
2003 Genesis (Hogue), Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington, $16, 14,730 cases. Blackberries, raspberries and very generous American oak notes carries throughout the wine, finishing with bitter tannins; 80/80.
2003 Kendall-Jackson, Merlot, Vintner's Reserve, California, $18. The nose is a pleasant mix of black cherries, coffee and vanilla. Well balanced, moderately tannic, with very ripe fruit flavors; 84/84.
2002 Lockwood, Merlot, Monterey County, California, $12. The nose is filled with ripe black fruit, liberal barrel notes and dried herbs. In the mouth the wine is tart, moderately tannic, with straightforward flavors mirroring the aromas; 82/82.
2004 Silver Lake, Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington, $12, 4,250 cases. Medium bodied in style, with drying tannins that detract. Black cherry and oak aromas morph into a dark fruit finish that lingers for some time; 83/83.
2004 Wolf Blass, Merlot, Yellow Label, South Australia, $12. Plums, dark chocolate, generous oak and dill spice carry from nose to palate. For wood lovers; 80/80.
2005 Banrock Station, Semillon Chardonnay, South Eastern Australia, $5. Straw colored with a green hue. Aromas speak of tropical fruit and limes. The wine is very crisp, simple, but quite tasty for five bucks; 83/86.
2004 Beringer, Alluvium Blanc, Knights Valley, California, $16. Toasty oak leads the way, with lemon curd and leesy notes. The wine is balanced and creamy, with butterscotch flavors prevailing; 83/83.
2002 Beringer, Alluvium Red Table Wine, Knights Valley, California, $30. Smoke and cedary oak aromas bury the black cherry fruit. Tannins are somewhat coarse, with nice fruit and generous oak flavors; 83/82.
2005 Cosentino, The Novelist Meritage White Wine, California, $18, 2,518 cases. You'll find a very generic nose here. While well balanced and tasty, the wine is also generic in the mouth - it could be anything; 84/84.
2005 Husch, Chenin Blanc, Mendocino, California, $11, 1,565 cases. Aromas and flavors of white peaches, honey and melons radiate from this straw-colored wine. Adequate acidity balances out the 1.7 percent residual sugar; 84/86.
2005 Husch, Muscat Canelli, Mendocino, California, $14, 463 cases. You'll find a typical Muscat nose - lots of terpenes, orange slices and peaches. The wine is very sweet on the palate, with acidity barely supporting the sugar; 84/84.
2005 Valley of the Moon, Pinot Blanc, Sonoma County, California, $16, 10,000 cases. Straw gold in color, with lemon-lime aromas and a hint of toast from the 10 percent fraction of wine aged in French oak. Flavors speak of lemons, oranges and melons; 85/85.
2005 Vionta, Albarino, Rías Baixas, Spain, $14. Zippy acidity is the hallmark of this wine, which is characterized by green apples, lemon curd and ripe pears; 85/85.
2004 Wolf Blass, Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon, Yellow Label, South Australia, $12. Berries, cherries and cedary oak highlight the aroma profile. You'll get a blast of fruit tarts in the mouth, with a long berry aftertaste; 84/85.
2004 Bogle, Petite Sirah, California, $11. Bogle did an admirable job of taming the tannins here. Juicy berries and American oak are displayed on the nose and palate, balanced by bright acidity. Think BBQ; 85/88.
2003 Stags' Leap, Petite Sirah, Napa Valley, California, $38. Aromas and flavors speak of blackberries, currants and pipe tobacco. Tannins are generous, but rounded, and need time to drop out. This is a lovely Petite Sirah from a tough vintage; 87/87.
2005 Talus, Pinot Grigio, Lodi, California, $8, 66,404 cases. This straw-colored, straightforward quaffer offers up citrus, pear and melon notes; 80/80.
2005 3 Blind Moose, Pinot Grigio, California, $10. This crisp, simple sipper delivers citrus, melon and peachy notes; 81/81.
2004 Adelsheim, Pinot Noir, Elizabeth's Reserve, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $43. This wine is back on track after the poor showing of the 2003. A little bit of earthy funk adds to the mixed red and black fruit. It is well balanced, with crisp acidity. Tannins are reigned in well. A pretty wine; 90/90.
2004 Craggy Range, Pinot Noir, Te Muna Road Vineyard, Martinborough, New Zealand, $40. Here's another dandy Pinot showing the earthy, mushroomy, black fruit style of wine. Full and rich on the palate, the wine leans towards the jammy side without quite getting there - it should please fans on both sides of the fence; 90/90.
2004 Domaine Marc Roy, Clos Prieur, Gevrey-Chambertin, Burgundy, France, $55. The wine has a lot earthy notes to accompany the black fruit spectrum displayed on the nose and palate. Just a touch of barnyard; 90/90.
2003 Domaine Michel Gros, Clos des Reas, Vosne-Romanée, Burgundy, France, $82. The wine has a typical Burgundian nose with modest barnyard funk that carries over to the palate. Extremely well balanced, with reasonable tannins, the wine displays a solid core of red and black fruits. This was the best of the 2003s tasted at IPNC; 90/88.
2004 Domaine Pascal Bouley, Clos des Chênes, Volnay, Burgundy, France, $60. Lots of blackberry fruit and mushrooms underscore the nose and palate. A very well-structured wine. There are lots of tannins, but they are rounded and should age out nicely. Pretty classic; 91/90.
2005 Kendall-Jackson, Pinot Noir, Vintner's Reserve, California, $14. The black cherry nose also displays a whiff of white pepper. Straightforward and pleasant, with plums, berries, vanilla and tea; 84/85.
2005 Kenwood, Pinot Noir Rosé, Russian River Valley, California, $15, 2,900 cases. Strawberries and spice delineate the nose, while generous strawberry flavors abound. Dry and refreshing; 87/87.
2004 MacMurray Ranch, Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, California, $35, 5,777 cases. This medium-bodied Pinot has a crisp bite, which augments the cherry fruit and earthy accents. Black cherries and mushrooms highlight the aroma profile; 87/87.
2004 Panther Creek, Pinot Noir, Shea Vineyard, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $40. Showing black fruit and sweet vanilla on the nose, the wine is very elegant on the entry. Tannins seem soft, but they sneak up on you. They will drop out with proper cellar time. The wine is showing perfect balance of components for this stage on evolvement; 91/91.
2004 R. Stuart & Co., Pinot Noir, Autograph, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $30. There is a nice mix of red and black fruit here, well structured, with oak held in check. The overall balance is just lovely; 90/90.
2005 Banrock Station, Riesling, South Eastern Australia, $5. This value wine has a lovely nose of slate, limes and flowers. The sweet fruit is not overly complex, but is really delivers for the price point; 84/87.
2005 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Dry Riesling, Columbia Valley, Washington, $8, 8,000 cases. Aromas and flavors speak of peaches, pears and tangerines. Balanced, straightforward, but very quaffable; 83/84.
2005 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Riesling, Cold Creek Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Washington, $14. With more acidity, this would be a dandy - the flavors are there. Mangoes, peaches and wet stones cascade across the senses. Residual sugar stands at 2.35 percent; 84/84.
2005 Genesis (Hogue), Riesling, Columbia Valley, Washington, $16, 3,084 cases. Light gold in color, with peach and orange blossom scents. The acidity barely carries the 1.5 percent residual sugar. You'll find a touch of pineapple on the finish; 84/84.
2005 Jekel, Riesling, Monterey, California, $11, 25,000 cases. This off-dry Riesling (1.9 percent residual sugar) has plenty of acidity to balance it out. Peaches and tangerines underscore the nose and palate; 86/88.
2005 Night Owl, Riesling, San Bernabe Vineyard, Monterey County, California, $12, 4,000 cases. The wine is loaded with peach and fresh ginger root notes. Balanced, with bare threshold sweetness, the straightforward flavors echo the nose; 83/83.
2005 Saint M, Riesling, Pfalz, Germany, $12, 30,000 cases. Soft, off dry (1.89 percent residual sugar), with straightforward aromas and flavors of pears and white peaches; 83/83.
2006 Angove's, Nine Vines, South Australia, $10, 3,500 cases. Composed of 70 percent Grenache and 30 percent Syrah, the wine is round and fruity, with threshold sweetness and plenty of acidity. You'll find strawberry, currant and raspberry notes; 85/86.
2005 Banrock Station, White Shiraz, South Eastern Australia, $5. Salmon pink in color, with strawberries and dried herbs on the nose. Made in an off-dry style, this is a simple quaffer for those who need a sweet pink to serve; 80/80.
2005 Fra Guerau, Montsant Rosé Wine, Spain, $14. This watermelon-colored wine gives off aromas and flavors of strawberries and roses, but is very soft in the mouth; 80/80.
2004 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Valley, Washington, $10, 28,000 cases. This one is made to quaff without contemplation. It is simple, yet balanced, with citrus and cut grass notes; 82/82.
2004 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Sauvignon Blanc, Horse Heaven Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Washington, $15, 6,300 cases. The wine is underscored by grapefruit, lemon and dried herbs, with a crisp, creamy mouth feel; 85/85.
NV Gallo Family, Sauvignon Blanc, Twin Valley, California, $5. From Gallo's value-priced line, this one actually delivers for five bucks. The wine is very crisp, with citrus rind flavors and threshold sweetness; 80/80.
2005 Hippolyte Reverdy, Sancerre, France, $23. Full, crisp and fruity are the first adjectives that come to mind. Aromas and flavors speak of quince, lime and pear. The finish is very persistent. Break out the shellfish platter; 93/93.
2005 Huntington, Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma County, California, $14, 5,000 cases. This straw-gold wine is tart and tangy, with straightforward lemon and cut grass notes; 83/83.
2005 Husch, Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc, Postre, Mendocino, California, $20 (375 ml), 400 cases. The melon, spice and orange peel notes are very inviting, however the wine lacks the acidity to do the 15 percent residual sugar justice; 84/84.
2005 Kenwood, Sauvignon Blanc, Reserve, Sonoma County, California, $15, 2,700 cases. Very grassy on the nose, with a twist of lemon for interest. This balanced middleweight delivers flavors of gooseberries, limes and citrus oil; 86/86.
2005 Lake Sonoma, Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Creek Valley, California, $16, 4,500 cases. Crisp, balanced and straightforward, this wine delivers grapefruit and melon notes across the spectrum; 83/83.
2005 Lockwood, Sauvignon Blanc, Monterey County, California, $10. Here's a light, crisp, straightforward quaffer that radiates melon, grapefruit zest and pineapple aromas and flavors; 81/81.
2005 Premius, Sauvignon Blanc, Bordeaux, France, $11. Cut grass, figs and white peaches underscore the nose. The wine is soft and rounded, with straightforward flavors that linger on the finish; 83/83.
2005 Provenance Vineyards, Sauvignon Blanc, Rutherford, California, $19, 5,250 cases. Balanced, with moderate acidity and a slightly bitter bite, this SB delivers pineapple, peach and cut grass notes; 85/84.
2005 Rodney Strong Vineyards, Sauvignon Blanc, Charlotte's Home, Sonoma County, California, $14. Grassy/herbal notes unfold on the nose and palate, supported by crisp acidity. Jalapenos and stone fruits linger on the finish; 85/85.
2005 Simi, Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma County, California, $15. This one is light, lively and well balanced, with good typicity. Grapefruit, tangerine and melon nuances abound; 87/87.
2000 Domaine Ste. Michelle, Luxe Sparkling Wine, Columbia Valley, Washington, $23, 4,200 cases. Almonds, toast, ginger and leesy notes carry from the nose to the palate. Sporting a medium bead and bright acidity, the wine has 1.1 percent residual sugar; 85/85.
NV Freixenet, Cava, Brut de Noirs, Spain, $10. This sparkler has a lovely copper-orange coloration. Off-dry, with a medium bead, the wine displays cherries and red berries on the nose and palate; 83/84.
2003 Bonterra, Syrah, Mendocino County, California, $19, 4,779 cases. You'll find a mélange of aromas on the nose - blueberries, smoke, French oak and brown sugar. The tannins are drying but the acidity sings, giving life to the long berry aftertaste; 84/84.
2002 Bridlewood, Syrah, Estate, Santa Ynez Valley, California, $40, 1,400 cases. Inky in color, the wine gives off aromas of black fruit, Baker's chocolate and dill spice. Heavily oaked on the palate - the black fruit strives for attention. The lengthy aftertaste shows nice berry fruit; 84/83.
2003 Bridlewood, Syrah, Reserve, Central Coast, California, $24, 12,000 cases. The wine is underscored by tart cherries, barrel notes and dill spice. Tannins are well rounded, and cherry fruit lingers on the finish; 85/85.
2002 Genesis (Hogue), Syrah, Columbia Valley, Washington, $16, 3,896 cases. Black fruit, smoke and generous oak aromas radiate from this deeply-hued Syrah, which repeat on the palate. A jammy, fruity BBQ wine; 83/83.
2004 Lockwood, Syrah, Monterey County, California, $12. Black fruits, raspberries and moderate oak delineate this purple/red Syrah. Soft and straightforward, the finish is quite short; 83/83.
2004 Night Owl, Shiraz, San Bernabe Vineyard, Monterey County, California, $12, 12,000 cases. The nose is a mix of plums, currants, coconut and oak. Simple, fruit forward, with bright acidity; 82/82.
2003 Oomoo, Shiraz, McLaren Vale, Australia, $14. Plums, currants, chocolate and spice carry from the nose to the palate, with a hint of pepper on the finish; 83/83.
2005 Bonterra, Viognier, Mendocino County, California, $18, 5,100 cases. Produced from certified organically grown grapes, the wine is quite floral and peachy on the nose. Well balanced, the stone fruit and tangerine flavors are enlivened by the bright acidity; 87/88.
2005 Bridlewood, Viognier, Reserve, Central Coast, California, $24, 10,000 cases. The nose is a pleasant mix of melons, honeysuckle and orange slices, all wrapped up in a full, rich, creamy package with threshold sweetness (0.59 percent). All stainless steel fermentation and aging lets the fruit shine; the acidity lets it sing; 90/90.