© 2004 by Randy Buckner
The Eighteenth Annual International Pinot Noir Celebration was held in McMinnville, Oregon, July 23-25. Producers presented wines from around the globe, including Canada, Chile, France, Israel, Italy, New Zealand, Switzerland and U.S. wines from California and Oregon. Such an event is always hurried, but I did manage to scribble down abbreviated notes on almost 40 wines which are included here. Prices listed on these wines are per IPNC exhibitors.
A total of 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.
2001 Camelot, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, $7. Light ruby in color, with aromas of plums, cola, berries, and oak. Balanced and light on its feet, this is made to drink right now for the cherry/berry fruit; 83/84.
2001 Hogue, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington, $17, 24,891 cases. Moderately tannic and quite tart, the wine is characterized by black cherry, cranberry, violet and vanilla notes; 84/84.
2000 McWilliam's, Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra, South Australia, $25, 1,000 cases. This deeply hued wine gives off aromas of plums, blackberries, Baker's chocolate and aged cedar. Full-bodied and round, the flavors lean toward black currants and sand plums. The oak is seamless with the fruit; 88/88.
2001 Sagelands, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington, $12, 16,500 cases. This wine shows nice overall balance, with lots of aromas and flavors of chocolate covered cherries, vanilla and herbs. The oak influence becomes more apparent on the aftertaste; 85/87.
2001 Sebastiani, Secolo, Sonoma County, California, $30, 850 cases. This is the inaugural release of their proprietary Bordeaux blend. Black cherries and loads of new oak pervade the nose. Very elegant of the entry, with layers of black fruit and barrel influences. Pretty tasty for the style; 87/87.
2002 Silver Lake, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington, $13, 4,200 cases. Easy on the entry, this wine is designed for near-term consumption. Straightforward blackberry and black cherry flavors linger on the modest finish; 83/84.
2002 Silver Lake, Cabernet-Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington, $10, 8,300 cases. Gobs of cherry cola, cedar, and olive aromas unfold on the nose. Modest tannins greet the palate, with brisk acidity giving life to the tart cherry flavors; 83/84.
2001 Waterbrook, Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain, Washington, $24, 513 cases. Purple/red in color, with oodles of black cherries, plums, and a touch of olives. Red Mountain fruit is notoriously slow to open and this wine is no exception I expect it to score higher with time. Black fruit lingers on the aftertaste; 86/86.
2000 Waterbrook, Meritage, Red Mountain, Washington, $28, 597 cases. As with their Cabernet above, this wine is pretty tight. A mélange of black fruit, cedar, mint and tobacco carries across the length of the wine, with a protracted aftertaste; 87/87.
2001 William Hill, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, $22, 24,517 cases. This dark ruby Cab offers up aromas and flavors of cassis, juicy black plums and berries. Medium-full bodied with firm, rounded tannins and a long finish; 86/87.
2002 Beringer, Chardonnay, Private Reserve, Napa Valley, California, $35. Beringer is amazingly consistent with this impeccably balanced wine. Loads of creamy, buttery, nutty aromas repeat on the palate, with pineapple and barrel char thrown into the mix. Very stylistic; 89/89.
2001 Chateau St. Jean, Chardonnay, Robert Young Vineyard, Alexander Valley, California, $25, 8,670 cases. Pears and crème brulee present on the nose, with nuances of roasted nuts. Very viscous on the palate, this nicely balanced wine displays a host of flavors ranging from ripe stone fruit to spicy, toasted oak; 88/88.
2002 Greg Norman, Chardonnay, Victoria, Australia, $14. Very fruit forward and crisp. The oak is a background player here, allowing the peach, melon, and citrus fruit to shine. Quite tasty and a value to boot; 87/89.
2002 Hogue, Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Washington, $16, 9,788 cases. Soft and fruit forward, you'll find that the oak is pretty well integrated. Aromas and flavors are highlighted by green apples, pineapples and butterscotch; 86/87.
2003 R.H. Phillips, Chardonnay, California, $9, 150,000 cases. Light, simple, but very quaffable. The apple butter and toasty oak aromas repeat on the palate. Drink now; 83/84.
2003 Kenwood, Chardonnay, Sonoma County, California, $15, 38,000 cases. While the toasted oak takes the forefront on the nose, it is less of a player in the mouth. Very fruity and easy to drink, the apple, pear and citrus flavors rise to the top; 86/88.
2002 Stevenson-Barrie, Chardonnay, Hyland Vineyard, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $17. Aromas are reminiscent of Granny Smith apples and pineapples. The wine is medium-bodied, crisp, with nice balance and integrated oak. Hazelnuts and Crème Brule linger on the finish; 88/89.
2002 Waterbrook, Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Washington, $11, 17,746 cases. This is an oaky style of Chardonnay with loads of butter and toasty barrel notes upfront. Crisp acidity breathes a little life into the underlying pear and melon fruit; 86/87.
2002 William Hill, Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California, $15. Light gold in color. Buttery, smoky notes are upfront, with nuances of nectarines, tangerines and yellow apples. Buttery vanilla flavors linger on the palate; 84/84.
2003 Silver Lake, Gewurztraminer, Roza Hills Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Washington, $10, 1,510 cases. Soft, sweet (2.5 percent residual sugar), and displaying aromas and flavors of pears, peaches, grapefruit and spicy herbs, the wine needs more acidity to hold the interest; 82/82.
2003 Beringer, Pinot Grigio, California, $7. Simple but tasty, the wine delivers aromas and flavors of white peaches and limes in a balanced package; 83/84.
2003 Beringer Stone Cellars, Pinot Grigio, California, $8. Soft in the mouth, with a light structure, you'll find tropical fruit, peaches, and a twist of citrus peel; 82/82.
2000 Domini Veneti, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico, Italy, $39. Plumy, raisiny notes leap from the depths of this deeply hued Amarone. Delightfully balanced with tannins that sneak up on you and say Hello!’ Flavors mirror the nose, with an extremely long finish; 88/88.
2002 Domini Veneti, Ca' de Napa, Soave Classico, Italy, $17. Light gold in color and giving off aromas of green apples and quince, this Soave is suave in the mouth. Complex fruit flavors linger for an extended period; 86/86.
2000 Domini Veneti, La Casetta, Valpolicella Classico Superiore, Italy, $24. Aromas of dried cherries and smoke meld well with the peppery, tart cherry fruit and wormwood nuances. The tannins are manageable, the finish crisp; 87/87.
2001 Leonardo da Vinci, Chianti Classico, Italy, $17. Highlighted by aromas of black cherries, plums and cedar, the wine is crisp, with ripe tannins. The plum and dried cherry fruit melds seamlessly with the French oak; 85/86.
2003 Leonardo da Vinci, Chianti D.O.C.G., Italy, $12. This is a simple but tasty Chianti that has a sense of softness. Cherries and new leather aromas carry over to the palate, then linger on the finish; 84/86.
2000 Leonardo da Vinci, Chianti Riserva, Italy, $20. Purple/red in the glass with aromas of cherries, sweet vanilla and spice. Tannins have been well-managed. A lovely peppercorn streak courses its way through the lush black cherry fruit. Delightful; 89/90.
2001 Leonardo da Vinci, Santo Ippolito, Tuscany, Italy, $40. This inky black wine is an equal blend of Merlot and Syrah. Very full and rich on the palate, with firm but pliable tannins. The intense nose opens on the palate to reveal cherries, aged leather, and peppery nuances; 90/90.
2001 Valley of the Moon, Sangiovese, Sonoma County, California, $15, 1,300 cases. The wine speaks of blackberries, mint, vanilla, pepper, smoke, and cedar. Though well-managed, the tannins do make a statement here. Pair with hearty foods; 86/88.
2000 Beringer, Alluvium, Red Table Wine, Knights Valley, California, $30. This dark ruby wine (75 percent Merlot) gives off aromas and flavors of blackberries and barrel char. Medium-bodied with modest tannins, there is an off-taste difficult to describe; 84/83.
2001 Camelot, Merlot, California, $7. Soft, simple, and fruity, there is enough plum and raspberry flavors to hold the interest. Drink now; 82/83.
2001 Geyser Peak, Merlot, Sonoma County, California, $18, 53,000 cases. Aromas of cherry jam, black raspberries, tobacco and cedar make a lovely bouquet. The tannins are a little clunky but you can forgive that for all of the sporty fruit that livens the palate; 87/88.
2000 Godwin, Red Table Wine, Moss Oak Vineyard, Alexander Valley, California, $35, 650 cases. This is a Merlot-based proprietary red table wine. Showing a host of black cherry, plum, licorice, and smoky aromas, the wine is quite refined. Flavors mirror the nose; 88/88.
2001 Hogue, Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington, $17, 32,525 cases. The nose is a pleasant mix of cassis, dewberries, and sage. Tart, with chewy tannins. Plum and black cherry flavors rise to the forefront, followed by light American oak nuances; 84/84.
2001 Rutherford Hill, Merlot, Napa Valley, California, $25, 72,000 cases. The nose is a pleasant mix of black cherries, berries, tobacco, and herbs. Exceptionally elegant on the entry, there is great tannin management. Very fruity with a lingering finish, you can enjoy this one now or over the next 3-4 years; 86/86.
2002 Trinchero, Merlot, Family Selection, California, $10, 20,000 cases. Light to medium-bodied, with soft tannins and acidity, this one is ready to drink now for its plum, cherry and cedary vanilla flavors; 82/82.
2002 Waterbrook, Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington, $20, 1,312 cases. Highlighted by aromas of plums, sun-dried cherries and cedar, the wine shows impeccable balance. Plum and black currant fruit is augmented by vanilla, chocolate and spicy nuances; 87/87.
2002 Beringer, Alluvium Blanc, White Table Wine, Knights Valley, California, $16. Citrus and fig notes are dominated by the heavy barrel influence. There is a nice mouthfeel, but the oak char and spice overwhelms all else; 80/80.
2003 Black Swan, Chardonnay-Semillon, South Eastern Australia, $9. Here's a pretty tasty wine for less than ten bucks. You'll appreciate citrus, honey and fig on the nose, followed by melon and citrus flavors. Off-dry at 0.65 percent residual sugar; 84/85.
2003 Black Swan, Shiraz-Cabernet, South Eastern Australia, $9. Light, fruity, and easy to drink with burger fare, enjoy it now for the blackberry/raspberry mix; 83/84.
2003 Black Swan, Shiraz-Merlot, South Eastern Australia, $9. The wine is defined by plums, berries, and cola notes. Soft, slightly sweet (0.7 percent residual sugar) and easy to drink; 82/82.
2003 Chimney Rock, Rosé of Cabernet Franc, Stags Leap District, Napa Valley, California, $21, 500 cases. Watermelon in color and giving off aromas of red cherries, strawberries and light French oak notes, the wine is well-rounded, fruity and has a lengthy aftertaste; 86/86.
NV Forgeron, Red Table Wine, Walla Walla, Washington, $15, 465 cases. This is a fun, very fairly priced blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Zinfandel. The aromas and flavors are packed with blackberries, cola, cedar, herbs and chocolate cigars. It is easy to drink right now with grilled foods; 87/90.
2001 Forgeron, VinFinity, Columbia Valley, Washington, $45, 380 cases. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and Zinfandel. The nose displays a lot of smoky oak and a mélange of red and black fruit. On the palate the wine is full, intense, with ripe tannins. The oak is less evident as the lush black fruit takes the forefront; 89/88.
2003 Waterbrook, Mélange, Columbia Valley, Washington, $13. A blend of five red grapes, this is always a fun wine to drink. Very fruity on the palate, with easy going tannins that allow early consumption; enjoy it now for the berry fruit, eastern spices, and dark chocolate; 87/90.
2001 Adelsheim, Pinot Noir, Elizabeth's Reserve, Yamhill County, Oregon, $35. The nose of berries, cherries, leather and smoke carries over to the palate, with brown sugar thrown into the works. Good acidity and balance; 88/88.
2001 Airlie, Pinot Noir, BeckenRidge Vineyard, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $26. Black cherries and sweet oak compose the framework of this nicely balanced Pinot; 86/87.
2002 Akarua, Pinot Noir, Central Otago, New Zealand, $39. A nice wine that is crisp, fruity, and balanced, with good persistence. Showing well right now; 88/88.
2002 Maison Ambroise, Corton, Le Rognet, Burgundy, France, $90. This has the stuffing to go the distance. While showing very tight right now, you get a sense of what is to come with its complexity, acidity, and balance; 91/89.
2001 Arcadian, Pinot Noir, Fiddlestix, Santa Rita Hills, California, $36. Built in a lean, crisp style, the nose speaks of spice, black cherries and oak, whereas the palate is black fruit predominant; 86/86.
2001 Charles Audoin, Marsannay, Les Longeroies, Burgundy, France, $26. This is a lean, crisp wine, with aromas and flavors of black fruit and integrated oak; 86/87.
2002 Brandborg, Pinot Noir, Barrel Select, Umpqua Valley, Oregon, $33. This Pinot has a classic blend of black fruit, mushrooms, crisp acidity, depth and a long finish. Yummy; 90/90.
2002 Brickhouse, Pinot Noir, Les Dijonnais, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $42. I've had earlier vintages of this wine that were terrific, but this one is so tight right now that I can't rate it. It is well-balanced, with a sense of more to come from what fruit is showing; NR.
2002 Broadley, Pinot Noir, Claudia's Choice, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $42. Here's another classic style of Oregon Pinot, with rich black fruit, mushroom/earth, nice balance and acids, and a long aftertaste; 88/87.
2002 Chehalem, Pinot Noir, Reserve, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $50. Deeply hued, this wine has a lot of black fruit, smoke and earthy aromas. Full-bodied, crisp, with lots of sweet fruit, brown sugar and a long finish; 88/87.
2002 Cristom, Pinot Noir, Eileen Vineyard, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $45. Balance is the name of the game here. Packed with aromas and flavors of black cherries, brown sugar and earthy/mushroom notes, the wine is very harmonious; 90/89.
2001 Domaine Alfred, Pinot Noir, Califa, Edna Valley, California, $42. Complex aromas reveal black cherries, plums and a dollop of oak. Multifaceted fruit is supported by bright acidity, finishing long and sweet; 90/89.
2001 Domaine Drouhin, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $40. You'll find bright red cherry and black cherry aromas and flavors, with earthy, leathery notes. Balanced, with a rich impression; 88/87.
2001 Domaine Serene, Pinot Noir, Evenstad Reserve, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $47. Leather, earth and black cherries dominate the nose. The wine is full in the mouth, displaying lush red and black cherry fruit, with sweet oak persisting on the finish; 90/89.
2002 Elk Cove, Pinot Noir, Roosevelt Vineyard, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $48. Black cherry and mushroom aromas meld well with the black fruit, earth, brown sugar and mushroom flavors. Full-bodied and dense; 90/89.
2001 Firesteed, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $18. This is a lightly-hued, medium-bodied Pinot with food-friendly acidity. Leather, smoke and black cherries define the wine; 87/88.
2001 Foley Estates, Pinot Noir, Barrel Select, Santa Barbara County, California, $50. The wine has a mélange of aromas and flavors, to include ripe strawberries, black cherries, brown sugar and generous sweet oak. Full-bodied with a long finish; 87/86.
2002 Fougeray de Beauclair, Bonnes Mares, Burgundy, France, $85. Quite a lovely perfume emanates from this Grand Cru. Highlighted by firm but ripe tannins, impeccable balance and complex fruit, the question is whether there is enough stuffing for the long haul? 89/87.
2002 Fromm, Pinot Noir, Clayvin Vineyard, Marlborough, New Zealand, $45. This is a full, rich, crisp wine with lots of merde, earth and black fruit aromas that carry over to the palate as well. Generous oak lingers on the lengthy finish; 89/88.
2001 Goldeneye, Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, California, $48. The wine has a beautiful nose of leather, smoke, brown sugar and black fruit which carry over to the palate. This one is a mouthful; 90/89.
2001 Hamacher, Pinot Noir, Oregon, $35. This wine has a lot of nice acidity but is not showing much depth presently. Black cherries and smoke persist on the long finish; 86/86.
2001 Hitching Post, Pinot Noir, Highliner, Santa Barbara County, California, $40. Big, lush and plush, the wine is loaded with spicy oak, black fruit and brown sugar. This is a dandy if you like the style; 90/89.
2001 J.K. Carriere, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $36. Loaded with earthy black fruit and smoke, the wine is medium-bodied, with very nice balance and persistence; 90/90.
2003 Kingston Family, Pinot Noir, Casablanca, Chile, $28. This is a delightful Pinot, showing impeccable balance, with sweet red and black fruit that has persistence; 87/87.
2001 Maysara, Pinot Noir, Estate Cuvée, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $32. Made in a big, fruit forward, cherry jam style, the wine shows lovely balance and a long, lush finish; 88/88.
2002 Panther Creek, Pinot Noir, Anden Vineyard, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $40. Deep ruby in color, with lots of black cherries, earthy notes and sandalwood. The wine is full-bodied, with zingy acidity and rounded tannins. The fruit is a lovely mix of the red and blue spectrum; 91/90.
2002 Panther Creek, Pinot Noir, Shea Vineyard, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $40. Aromas of blackberries, black cherry jam and aged wood emanate from this deep ruby Pinot. Full-bodied and balanced, this one makes a statement. Flavors mirror the nose; 90/89.
2002 Henri Perrot-Minot, Gevrey-Chambertain, Burgundy, France, $63. Lush, ripe black fruit, generous sweet oak and impeccable balance defines this Burgundy; 87/85.
2001 Marc Roy, Gevrey-Chambertain, Burgundy, France, $20. Here's a value-priced wine from Burgundy. There is a nice mix of cherries and merde on the nose. Nicely balanced, the wine has rich red and black cherry flavors, with just a touch of earth. Yummy; 88/90.
2001 Scherrer, Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, California, $35. This is another one of the jammy, in-your-face Pinots with lots of sweet fruit and barrel notes; 88/88.
2002 Siduri, Pinot Noir, Rosella's Vineyard, Santa Lucia, California, $42. This deeply hued wine has a concentrated nose of black fruit, mushrooms, and earth. Displaying nice overall balance, the wine is made in a full-blown, in-your-face style, with lots of jammy fruit. Nice for this style of Pinot; 91/90.
2001 Skewis, Pinot Noir, Demuth Vineyard, Anderson Valley, California, $35. Lots of fruit jam and sweet oak highlight this wine, augmented by some earthy complexity and crisp acids. Easy to drink now; 88/88.
2001 Sokol Blosser, Pinot Noir, Old Vineyard Block, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $50. Black cherries and earthy wood notes highlight the nose. Nice overall balance and crisp acids give structure to the flavors mirroring the nose; 88/87.
2002 Stevenson-Barrie, Pinot Noir, Freedom Hill Vineyard, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $30. Cherries and plums underscore the nose of this medium-bodied wine. Terrific balance and ripe tannins set the stage for the mixed red and black fruit. The wine is very restrained at the moment, which is typical of this vineyard, needing years of bottle time to blossom; 89+/89+.
2002 Stevenson-Barrie, Pinot Noir, Shea Vineyard, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $30. Lots of cherry aromas are upfront, with hints of plums and blueberries. Impeccably balanced, with easy to drink tannins, this medium-bodied wine can be enjoyed now or over the next five years; 90/90.
2002 Taupenot-Merme, Mazoyères-Chambertin, Burgundy, France, $120. I believe there is some nice potential here. The wine is very tight right now and difficult to judge. There is a sense of complexity and balance; NR.
2003 Trinchero, Pinot Noir, Family Selection, Napa Valley, California, $10, 11,300 cases. Weighing in at the lightweight division, the wine manages to deliver a punch or two with its Bing cherry fruit, spice, and vanilla flavors; 83/84.
NV Ramos Pinto, Collector, Porto Reserva, Portugal, $17. For Ruby Port fans, this one delivers for the price class. Plums, raisins, and cracked peppercorns unfold on the nose. Rich, soft and sweet, you'll find generous fruit and a persistent finish; 88/90.
2002 Silver Lake, Riesling, Late Harvest Reserve, Roza Hills Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Washington, $13, 562 cases. Straw gold in color. Apricot and light peach notes follow on the palate, but lack depth. Sweet (10.5 percent residual sugar), with very soft acids; 81/81.
2002 Chateau St. Jean, Fumé Blanc, La Petite Etoile Vineyard, Russian River Valley, California, $20, 3,780 cases. One-hundred percent barrel fermented and aged in 57 percent new French oak. You'll find a lot of butterscotch, lemongrass, and Crenshaw melons on the nose, whereas flavors lean to the lime and vanilla spectrum. Tasty for the style; 87/87.
2001 Dry Creek, Fumé Blanc, Reserve, Dry Creek Valley, California, $18, 2,700 cases. If you like the barrel fermented and barrel aged style of Sauvignon Blanc, you'll enjoy this one. Aromas of grapefruit, figs, and toasty oak intermingle on the nose. Flavors speak more of lemons and buttery oak, with a tart finish; 87/87.
2003 Kenwood, Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma County, California, $11, 76,000 cases. Always dependable to buy, this vintage is no exception. Citrus, melon, and grassy aromas repeat on the palate, with just a touch of tropicals. Very nice acidity; 87/88.
2002 Silver Lake, Sauvignon Blanc, Late Harvest Reserve, Columbia Valley, Washington, $18, 773 cases. This wine would be a killer if it had balancing acidity for the 12.3 percent residual sugar. The nose has rich honey and mown hay nuances, with similar intense flavors. The finish is endless. A big E for effort; 85/85.
2003 Trinchero, Sauvignon Blanc, Family Selection, California, $9, 7,000 cases. The wine is aged in 100 percent stainless steel. Aromas are clean and fruity, with a touch of grassiness. Light and crisp, you'll find straightforward but tasty citrus fruit; 83/84.
2003 Waterbrook, Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Valley, Washington, $12, 1,120 cases. The nose is a blend of casaba melons, citrus, and mown hay. Crisp with a rounded mouth feel, the flavors mirror the nose. A dollop of vanilla expresses itself on the aftertaste; 86/87.
NV Mumm Napa, Blanc de Noirs, Napa Valley, California, $18, 25,000 cases. The wine has a lovely coral coloration. The nose is highlighted by strawberry and cherry notes, while the flavors lean to wild berries and strawberry fruit tarts; 85/86.
NV Mumm Napa, Brut Prestige, Napa Valley, California, $18, 175,000 cases. Medium sized bubbles rise through this apricot tinged sparkler, bringing with them aromas of apples, rose petals and vanilla. There is a nice, crisp, rounded feel to the wine and the fruit lingers for some time in the mouth. A nice everyday sparkler; 87/89.
2002 Forgeron, Syrah, Columbia Valley, Washington, $29, 700 cases. Intense black fruit, spice, and smoke emanate from the depths of this inky beast. The entry is elegant, showing terrific tannin management. Oak is obvious but pretty well integrated. The lush flavors echo the nose. Delicious; 91/91.
2000 McWilliam's, Syrah, Coonawarra, Australia, $25, 500 cases. Sporting a crimson red color, the plum and smoky oak notes carry over to the palate, augmented by chocolate nuances. Quite elegant and balanced; 87/88.
2002 R.H. Phillips, Shiraz, Dunnigan Hills, California, $9, 15,000 cases. Here's a soft, fruity, quaffable, inexpensive Syrah that offers dark berry fruit a touch of oak. Drink now; 83/85.
2001 Valley of the Moon, Syrah, Sonoma County, California, $15, 4,500 cases. Here's a fairly priced Syrah that is ready to consume now. Black cherries, boysenberries, vanilla and cedary oak define the wine, with gentle tannins that glide easily across the tongue; 85/87.
2002 Waterbrook, Syrah, Columbia Valley, Washington, $20, 518 cases. The wine presents with a lot of sweet oak flavors upfront, followed by jammy berry flavors and barrel char. Crisp, with supple tannins, you can enjoy this one now; 85/85.
2002 Forgeron, Zinfandel, Columbia Valley, Washington, $27, 295 cases. Balance is the name of the game here. Brown sugar, spice and mixed berry fruit aromas carry right over to the palate, with a long, sweet, fruity finish; 89/89.
2002 Geyser Peak, Zinfandel, Block Collection, Lopez Vineyard, Cucamonga Valley, California, $30, 501 cases. This big boy is full-bodied, tannic, with 14.9 percent alcohol. Loads of berry liqueur, cherry jam and briary notes expand on the senses. Give this one some time to harness the tannins; 87/86.