© 2007 by Randy Buckner
The crisp bite of the morning air; the smell of burning leaves floating on a gentle breeze; blankets of fog caressing the valley below me; the maple trees adorned in their finest reds and golds - these are some of the simple pleasures of fall that I truly adore.
The little hobgoblins are preparing their holiday rounds, and the Red Sox sweep the World Series, trying to divert our attention from the battle of the top college football teams.
What is a good football tailgate party (or a sofa party for that matter) without a hearty red to match the time of year? You'll find several wines this month that may fit the bill.
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. All wines are tasted from Riedel Vinum glasses. 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.
2004 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cold Creek Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Washington, $26, 5,000 cases. This smooth, elegant wine is defined by blueberries, chocolate and cedar, and is supported by firm but silky tannins; 86/86.
2004 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Meritage, Artist Series, Columbia Valley, Washington, $48, 1,200 cases. Aromas and flavors speak of black fruit, cedar and a twist of licorice. It is elegant, layered and complex, with moderate rounded tannins; 88/87.
2004 Donedei, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington, $38. Rich and opulent, this Cabernet possesses complex blackberry and black cherry flavors, with just a touch of herbs from the Cabernet Franc blend. Tannins are rounded and the oak is well integrated. The wine will easily age for 10 years; 90/90.
2004 Dry Creek Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Dry Creek Valley, California, $22, 9,310 cases. Smooth, balanced and fruity on the entry, the wine is highlighted by black cherries, plums, tobacco leaf and American oak; 86/87.
2004 Eaton Hill, Cabernet Sauvignon, Konnowac Vineyards, Yakima Valley, Washington, $32. The wine is ruby red in color, with black fruit, tobacco and generous American oak on the nose and palate. The oak tends to dominate the wine; 83/82.
2004 Estancia, Meritage, Paso Robles, California, $33. This wine is highlighted by black cherries, sagebrush, oak and chocolate. It's well balanced in the mouth, with zippy acidity and rounded tannins; 86/86.
2004 Franciscan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, $28, 120,000 cases. The nose is underscored by blackberries, plums, spice and generous oak, which also dominates the palate at this point. Tannins are firm and drying; 82/82.
2005 Hahn, Meritage, Central Coast, California, $20, 18,450 cases. Deeply hued, with cedar, vanilla, black cherries and berries highlighting the nose. Oak flavors overwhelm the pretty underlying fruits of this otherwise nicely-balanced wine; 83/83.
2003 Jordan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, California, $50. This deeply-hued Cabernet is highlighted by cassis, old leather, anise and dill spice. Pair this one with a vegetable beef stew to cut some of the steely acidity and chewy tannins; 86/85.
2005 Kendall-Jackson, Cabernet Sauvignon, Vintner's Reserve, California, $18. Simple but well balanced and varietally correct, with black cherries, cassis and cedar throughout. Soft tannins allow early enjoyment; 84/84.
2004 Kendall-Jackson, Meritage, Vintner's Reserve, California, $12. Underscored by blackberries, violets and toasty oak, this straightforward wine has more than ample fruit for the price class; 83/84.
2004 Mettler, Cabernet Sauvignon, Lodi, California, $25, 4,300 cases. Black cherries, cedar and toffee underscore the nose, while in the mouth the generous oak overwhelms the lush fruit; 82/82.
2004 Mount Veeder Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, $40, 27,000 cases. Aromas of blackberries, tobacco leaf, toasty oak and violets arise from this purple/red Cabernet. While well balanced, crisp and lush, the firm tannins demand bottle aging; 87/87.
2004 Robert Mondavi, Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville District, Napa Valley, California, $45. The nose is highlighted by blackberries, blueberries, cedar and warm spices. Black fruits, dark chocolate and hefty tannins present on the palate, finishing with a long berry aftertaste; 86/85.
2005 Smith & Hook, Cabernet Sauvignon, Central Coast, California, $25, 3,541 cases. This deeply-hued Cabernet delivers aromas and flavors of berry jam, oak and toast. Balanced, with modest tannins; 85/85.
2005 Woodbridge, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, $9. Offering a pretty decent quaff for the price class, you'll find violets, blackberries and oak spice throughout. Easy-drinking tannins round out the wine; 83/85.
2006 Alice White, Chardonnay, South Eastern Australia, $7. Cotton candy, green apples and toast greets the nose. Soft, simple and balanced, the wine has adequate fruit for the tariff; 82/82.
2005 Argyle, Nuthouse Chardonnay, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $32. Pear, white peach and Melba toast aromas are augmented by lemon and green apple notes in the mouth. Nice balance; 86/86.
2006 Barossa Vines (Grant Burge), Chardonnay, Barossa, Australia, $15, 3,000 cases. You'll find a mélange of aromas and flavors - melons, peaches, kiwi fruit and a hint of butter. Medium bodied, creamy and displaying nice balance, the wine has a very fruity finish. Good value; 87/90.
2005 Buena Vista, Chardonnay, Carneros, California, $19, 16,726 cases. Aromas of lemons, vanilla, tangerines and smoke are mirrored on the palate. Made in a soft, creamy style; 84/84.
2006 Chateau St. Jean, Chardonnay, Sonoma County, California, $14. Here's a nicely-priced wine that really delivers. The nose reveals pears, citrus and smoke, but the palate shows less obvious oak than the nose portends. Medium bodied, creamy and well balanced; 86/89.
2005 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Chardonnay, Cold Creek Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Washington, $25, 4,700 cases. Well balanced and elegant on the presentation, the nose is dominated by butterscotch and smoky nuances. Apples, oak and leesy notes linger on the palate; 88/89.
2005 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Chardonnay, Ethos, Columbia Valley, Washington, $32, 2,400 cases. Nuances of roasted nuts, smoke and lees unfold on the nose. Harmonious and creamy on the palate, with lemon fruit adding to the smoked hazelnuts; 87/87.
2005 Crow Canyon, Chardonnay, California, $7. Straw gold with peach and smoke nuances on the nose. Crisp, balanced and fruity, this quaffer far outstrips its competition. Case buy for those big parties; 84/88.
2005 Cupcake Vineyards, Chardonnay, Central Coast, California, $NA. Gold in color, with nuances of apples, pears, citrus and butterscotch, presented in a simple, balanced package; 83/NA.
2006 De Loach, Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, California, $16, 30,000 cases. Here's a dandy value Chard from De Loach. Oak is only a bit player here, letting the pears, green apples and lemons shine through. Bright acidity makes this a terrific food wine - think lemon chicken; 87/90.
2005 Franciscan, Chardonnay, Cuvee Sauvage, Napa Valley, California, $35, 5,677 cases. This is wild yeast fermented. Pears, honey and generous toasty oak aromas and flavors ride on a creamy framework. Well made and elegant if you are a fan of the style; 88/88.
2005 Jordan, Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, California, $27. A complex nose of pears, crème Brulee, lemons and green apples leads to flavors of same. Very harmonious and food friendly. Pair with fettuccine; 89/90.
2006 Lindemans, Chardonnay, Bin 65, South East Australia, $8. This is a light, drink-me-now Chardonnay that is soft and creamy, with pears, figs and smoky nuances; 81/81.
2005 Robert Mondavi, Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California, $20. This wine is balanced and viscous in the mouth, with a mélange of aromas and flavors - lemons, green apples and butter creams; 87/88.
2006 3 Blind Moose, Chardonnay, California, $10. Butterscotch, toast and stone fruit carries throughout. It's balanced, simple, but quaffable; 82/83.
2005 Wild Horse, Chardonnay, Central Coast, California, $17, 49,336 cases. Made in a soft, creamy style, the wine displays pears, green apples and butterscotch aromas and flavors; 85/85.
2004 William Hill, Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California, $21, 27,143 cases. You'll find ripe peaches, toasty oak and leesy characters throughout the wine, with a soft, creamy presentation; 85/85.
2006 Woodbridge, Chardonnay, California, $9. Enjoy this soft, simple quaffer over the near term before the citrus peel and lemon curd nuances fade; 80/80.
2005 Chateau de la Greffiere, Macon-La Roche-Vineuse Blanc, "Sous le Bois", France, $14. Apples, pears and smoke highlight the nose, but the oak seems to disappear on the palate. You'll find a lean, crisp wine that is very food friendly, and is friendly on the wallet as well; 86/88.
2006 Domaine Alary, La Grange Daniel, Vin de Pays de la Principaute d'Orange, France, $14. Wearing the purple/red color of youth, this Vin de Pays is defined by plums, red cherries and a hint of smoke. Supple tannins and zippy acidity give structure; 84/86.
2005 Domaine des Aubuisieres, Cuvee de Silex, Vouvray, France, $18. Fig aromas are upfront, with citrus peel and baked peach nuances. Brisk acidity adds character to the wine. Long and flavorful, this is a nice Vouvray at an affordable price; 88/90.
2006 Domaine la Bastide, Viognier, Vin de Pays d'Hauterive, France, $14. Sporting a brass hue, the wine does not have a classic Viognier nose, but you'll find white peach and citrus rind nuances. Lean and crisp, this one begs for shellfish; 85/87.
2006 Domaine des Cassanoles, Vin de Pays des Cotes de Gasgogne, France, $9. This straw-gold wine smells and tastes exactly like a Sauvignon Blanc, but the grapes making up the blend are Ugni Blanc, Colombard and Petite Manseng. Crisp and food friendly, the wine is a good value to boot; 85/88.
2004 Domaine du Pegau, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, France, $60. While expensive, this wine is undoubtedly the star of vintage. The wine is big, bold and deep, with layers of black fruit, earth, garrigue, Baker's chocolate and coffee. Balance is impeccable. The wine was tasted from magnum; 95/95.
2004 Mourchon, Cotes du Rhone Villages Seguret, Grande Reserve, France, $18. This is a serious Cotes du Rhone and a terrific value to boot. The wine is packed with blackberry and currant aromas and flavors, with traces of earth and garrigue. Buy by the case; 89/90.
2004 Vieux Telegraphe, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, La Crau, France, $45. This wine exudes kirsch and raspberries on the nose and palate, augmented by a nice streak of minerality. Tannins are silky smooth, with balancing acidity and a long finish. This was tasted from magnum; 93/93.
2006 Altanuta, Pinot Grigio, Alto Adige DOC, Italy, $12. Citrus and melon aromas and flavors highlight this well-balanced, medium-bodied quaffer. The lovely fruit is supported by tangy acidity; 88/89.
2004 Andrianer Kellerei Tor di Lupo, Lagrein Riserva, Alto Adige DOC, Italy, $NA. This wine is almost black in the glass. A mélange of aromas and flavors combine to delight the senses - black cherries, violets, old wood, a whiff of smoke and a dash of black pepper. It is extremely fruity and flavorful and will pair well with a variety of pasta dishes and meats; 91/NA.
2005 Borgianni, Chianti D.O.C.G., Italy, $13, 10,000 cases. Bright red fruit and wormwood accents carry from the nose to the palate. Tannins are obvious but ripe. This is a good-value quaffer for your next plate of spaghetti; 85/87.
2004 Castello di Volpaia, Chianti Classico D.O.C.G., Italy, $23, 12,000 cases. Red cherries, vanilla and floral accents underscore this medium-bodied, tannic Chianti. Give it a little bottle time; 86/86.
2004 Castello di Volpaia, Chianti Classico Riserva D.O.C.G., Italy, $34, 6,500 cases. The wine is very tight right now, but the aromas and flavors expanded with prolonged airing - mixed red and black fruits, spice and a hint of wood. Medium bodied, crisp and tannic - give it bottle time to round out; 88+/88+.
2004 Kellerei Cantina Terlan, Pinot Bianco Riserva, "Vorberg", Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy, $NA. Light gold in color, this Pinot Bianco is defined by apple, melon, citrus and cotton candy notes running the length of the wine. It is full and fruity, with bright acidity and a lengthy finish; 90/NA.
2005 Kupelwieser, Pinot Nero, Alto Adige DOC, Italy, $NA. Red cherry, plum and leather aromas radiate from this light-garnet food wine. It is lean, crisp and fruity, with modest flavors echoing the nose; 87/NA.
2005 Tiefenbrunner, Gewurztraminer, Castel Turmhof, Alto Adige DOC, Italy, $34, 1,000 cases. If you think Alsace has a lock on Gewurztraminer, guess again. Aromas of lychee fruit and rose petals leap from the glass. Medium to full bodied, the wine has nice acidity for this notoriously low-acid grape. Flavors mirror the nose, with a lush, spicy, lengthy finish; 90/90.
2006 Balboa, Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington, $20. The wine leads off with lovely black cherry, cedar and tobacco aromas, followed by juicy cherry fruit that lingers endlessly on the finish; 87/88.
2004 Donedei, Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington, $38. This is not your wimpy Merlot. While assertive, the wine maintains an air of elegance. The black fruit flavors are backed by bright acids and friendly tannins. Drink over the next eight years; 90/90.
2005 Woodbridge, Merlot, California, $9. Red cherries, berries and oak spice aromas morph into juicy black fruits on the palate, backed by brisk acidity and easy tannins; 82/83.
2005 Big House Pink, California, $10. Highlighted by sand plums, red cherries, herbs and strawberries, this soft, simple quaffer will pair with delicate food dishes; 82/82.
2005 Big House Red, California, $10. Plums, cherries, herbs and new leather highlight the nose. Balanced and fruity, this will make a nice burger wine; 83/84.
2006 Big House White, California, $10. Melon and citrus aromas and flavors are presented in a crisp, straightforward package; 83/84.
2006 Kyra, Chenin Blanc, Columbia Valley, Washington, $12. Green fig and grapefruit zest scents greet the nose. Off-dry, crisp and fruity, this is a refreshing quaffer at a fair price; 86/87.
2005 Kyra, Sangiovese, Wahluke Slope, Washington, $20. Light garnet to brick in color with a delicate nose of dried cherries and old leather. It's light on the palate and ready to drink right now. This is a good light red to serve with grilled salmon or tuna; 85/85.
2006 Lindemans, Semillon Chardonnay, Bin 77, South Eastern Australia, $8. Simple, balanced and very drinkable. Enjoy now for the white peach and melon fruit flavors; 83/84.
2004 Mettler, Petite Sirah, Lodi, California, $25, 2,500 cases. Almost black in the glass, the wine radiates aromas of blackberries, plums, toasty oak and dark chocolate. Modest flavors mirror the nose; 84/84.
2005 Valcantara, Old Vine Garnacha, Cariñena, Spain, $10. Berries, cherries and leather carry from the nose to the palate. The wine is medium bodied and fruity, with rounded tannins; 84/86.
2007 Zolo, Torrontes, Mendoza, Argentina, $10. This wine is very similar to Muscat on the palate, and it is a nice change of pace. Crisp, dry and fruity, at a killer price; 87/90.
2006 Alice White, Lexia, South Eastern Australia, $7. This one is pale straw in color and very aromatic - typical for the Muscat grape. It is soft, sweet and simple, yet a fun wine to drink. Pair with Indian dishes; 82/82.
2006 Eaton Hill, Orange Muscat, Yakima Valley, Washington, $10. A light brass color adds character to the very aromatic tangerine and honeysuckle scents. Soft, sweet (3.6 percent RS) and very fruity; 85/86.
2006 Quady, Electra, California, $13. A frizzante, with a very floral Orange Muscat nose and a sweet, fruity palate. There is only 4 percent alcohol, so it has the potential for light desserts; 85/87.
2006 Quady, Red Electra, California, $13. Made from Black Muscat, the wine is very sweet, fruity and spritzy, with 5 percent alcohol. This will make a fun party wine served as a slushy; 85/87.
2006 Estancia, Pinot Grigio, California, $12. Citrus peel, pear and apple notes carry from the nose to the palate. Balanced, fruity and tasty; 85/87.
2006 Lindemans, Pinot Grigio, Bin 85, South Eastern Australia, $8. Defined by citrus and tropical fruit, the wine is simple, balanced and very quaffable; 82/83.
2006 3 Blind Moose, Pinot Grigio, California, $10. This straw-gold wine delivers citrus and pears throughout. Simple, quaffable; 80/80.
2004 Argyle, Nuthouse Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $45. The nose is a mix of red cherries, tea and a tad of oak. Medium bodied, crisp and smooth, with tart cherry flavors and a modest finish; 87/86.
2006 Cooper Hill (by Cooper Mountain), Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $16. Who says Oregon does not make any drinkable inexpensive Pinots? Here's a fun wine to drink at an affordable price. Straightforward, fruity and fun to drink for the black cherry and vanilla highlights; 85/88.
2006 De Loach, Pinot Noir, California, $12, 16,800 cases. Defined by red cherries, cranberries and smoky oak, the wine is light and very flavorful for the price class. Excellent value; 84/88.
2005 De Loach, Pinot Noir, OFS, Russian River Valley, California, $38, 878 cases. You'll find a generous nose of black cherries, dark tea and spice. Medium to full bodied, with impeccable balance, the luscious fruit is not overblown; 91/91.
2006 De Loach, Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, California, $20, 17,000 cases. Black cherries, spice and French oak greet the nose and follow through on the palate. The wine is medium bodied, crisp and smooth on the palate, with cola notes on the finish; 87/88.
2005 Estancia, Pinot Noir, Stonewall Vineyards, Santa Lucia Highlands, California, $25. Nuances of cherries, oak and mushrooms unfold on the nose and palate. You'll find food-friendly acidity and long finish of cherries and vanilla; 84/84.
Rhone-style (New World)
2005 Barossa Vines (Grant Burge), Shiraz, Barossa, Australia, $15, 15,000 cases imported. The aromas are a pleasant mix of raspberries, red cherries, old leather and smoke. Well balanced, fruity and very crisp - perfect for that backyard barbeque; 86/89.
2005 Crow Canyon, Syrah, California, $7. The nose has a nice mix of smoke, berries, white pepper and oak. While very fruity in the mouth, the oak load is significant; 81/81.
2004 McCrea, Sirocco, Washington State, $30, 481 cases. This is their third vintage of Sirocco, a Southern Rhone blend. Raspberries grab you upfront, followed by dark berries and a touch of earth. Tannins and acids are in perfect balance; 90/90.
2006 McCrea, Sirocco Blanc, Boushey Vineyard, Yakima Valley, Washington, $NA. What a delightful surprise! This blend of Southern Rhone varieties (Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Picpoul, Roussanne) is fruity and harmonious. The acidity is brighter than the French versions and much more to my liking; 91/NA.
2005 McCrea, Mourvèdre, Ciel du Cheval Vineyard, Red Mountain, Washington, $30, 298 cases. This inky-colored mourvèdre has eight percent syrah added to the blend. Earthy and meaty, the wine has a host of black fruits and just a touch of pepper spice and licorice. Moderate tannins can use a couple of years in bottle. Delightful; 90/90.
2005 Walter Dacon, Appanage, Columbia Valley, Washington, $45, 43 cases. The fruit comes from Boushey Vineyards and it is stunning. Intense aromas of violets, road tar and black fruits follow through on the palate. Very harmonious and not overblown; 93/93.
2005 Walter Dacon, C'est Syrah Beaux, Columbia Valley, Washington, $35, 206 cases. Highlighted by aromas of black cherries, blackberries, caramel and smoke, the wine is full, lush and fruity in the mouth, with cedary oak and well-managed tannins; 89/89.
2005 Walter Dacon, C'est Syrah Belle, Columbia Valley, Washington, $28, 291 cases. Black and blue fruits and chocolate highlight the wine. It is well balanced and fruity, with firm rounded tannins and a long finish; 89/90.
2005 Walter Dacon, C'est Syrah Magnifique, Columbia Valley, Washington, $38, 237 cases. Aromas and flavors are a pleasant mix of blackberries, plums, dark chocolate and sweet oak. Intense, balanced and fruity, the wine has a lot yet to give; 91/91.
2006 Alice White, Riesling, South Eastern Australia, $7. Soft, off-dry and passable for the tariff, I'd enjoy this one early on for the lemon-lime and melon highlights; 81/81.
2006 Eaton Hill, Riesling, McGuire Vineyards, Yakima Valley, Washington, $9. Aromas of peaches and melon rind morph into ripe pear and peach flavors. Sweet (3.5 percent RS), with minimal acidity; 82/82.
2006 Eroica, Riesling, Columbia Valley, Washington, $22, 27,000 cases. Aromas of peaches and wet stones continue on the palate, augmented by limes and orange blossoms. Off-dry and nicely balanced; 89/89.
2006 Lindemans, Riesling, Bin 75, South Eastern Australia, $8. Simple, balanced and quaffable, the wine is highlighted by minerals and apple; 82/83.
2006 Saint M, Riesling, Pfalz, Germany, $12, 85,000 cases. Aromas and flavors reveal white peach and wet stone accents. Off-dry (2.19 percent RS), crisp and refreshing; 87/89.
2006 Chateau St. Jean, Fume Blanc, Sonoma County, California, $13, 31,161 cases. Nicely balanced and fruity, the wine delivers lemongrass, grapefruit zest and melon accents, with a persistent aftertaste; 86/87.
2006 De Loach, Sauvignon Blanc, O.F.S., Russian River Valley, California, $22, 250 cases. Well balanced, fruity and food friendly, with tropical fruit and citrus displayed on the nose, while limes dominate the palate - break out the shellfish; 88/88.
2006 De Loach, Sauvignon Blanc, Russian River Valley, California, $14, 720 cases. Highlighted by melon, citrus peel and ripe apple accents, the wine shows a nice sense of balance; 85/85.
2006 Lake Sonoma Winery, Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Creek Valley, California, $14. Straightforward, crisp and varietally correct, the aromas and flavors are underscored by pineapple, lemon and grassy highlights; 85/85.
2006 Lindemans, Sauvignon Blanc, Bin 95, South Eastern Australia, $8. Soft, simple and marginal, you should drink this one right now before the citrus, apple and herbal notes fade away; 80/80.
2005 Robert Mondavi, Fume Blanc Reserve, To Kalon Vineyard, Oakville, California, $35. Loaded with aromas and flavors of tangerines, peaches, toast and gooseberries, the wine is crisp, with a creamy lushness that expands and lingers on the palate. Very lovely for the style; 91/90.
2006 Rodney Strong, Sauvignon Blanc, Charlotte's Home, Sonoma County, California, $14. Aromas of melons, pears and herbs radiate from this soft, straightforward quaffer. Pear fruit dominates in the mouth; 84/84.
2005 Bogle, Old Vine Zinfandel, California, $11. Nuances of blueberries, blackberries, chocolate and American oak are backed by rounded tannins and lively acidity; 85/88.
2005 De Loach, Zinfandel, Nova Vineyard, Lake County, California, $32, 405 cases. Very jammy red and blue fruits run the length of the wine, augmented by mocha highlights. It's crisp and tannic - give it a couple of years to calm down; 88/88.
2004 Dry Creek Vineyard, Zinfandel, Somers Ranch, Dry Creek Valley, California, $30, 626 cases. Defined by mixed berries, plums, cracked pepper and vanilla, the wine is fruity, with chewy tannins that need bottle time; 85/85.
2005 Ravenswood, Zinfandel, Sonoma County, California, $15, 10,000 cases. This straightforward Zin displays nuances of raspberries, blackberries and vanilla. Tannins are approachable now, but the wine will improve with a year or two in the cellar; 84/85.