Bucko's New Releases

© 2002 by Randy Buckner
Nov. 23, 2002

Autumn 2002 Releases

The all-California World Series has now been put to bed and our thoughts turn back to the college football struggles. The Democrats feel like their wine is corked as the Republicans sip on first growths. The smells of soul-warming stews and chili waft through the air, causing an unconscious buttoning of the coat. Wood piles are being neatly stacked, readying for the oncoming winter months. The big reds and Ports are getting dusted off, all but forgotten during the warm summer months, and the bubblies are standing ready for the holiday assault. Another 100 new and current releases are presented for your inspection. The dual rating system evaluates quality (the first number) and value (the second) on a 100-point scale. No wines below 80 points are rated. As always, enjoy a bottle with dinner tonight.

Cabernet Sauvignon wine glass

Beringer 1999 Beringer, Cabernet Sauvignon, Knight's Valley, California, $26. This dark ruby wine emits aromas of black fruit, licorice, cedar, black olive and smoke. Sweet dark fruit greats the palate, with light herbal notes, moderate chewy tannins, and a long blackberry finish. 86/86.

1999 Buena Vista, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carneros Estate, California, $20, 13,265 cases. Blackberries, vanilla, dill spice, and cedar intertwine across the senses. Sweet fruit is enhanced by crispness and forgiving tannins. I see this wine pairing with a steaming bowl of beef stew. 85/85.

1999 Geyser Peak, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Sonoma County, California, $40, 5,200 cases. Inky deep in color, the nose is filled with black cherries, cassis, cedar, leather, dill and vanilla. True to style, the wine is packed with sweet fruit, unfolding in layers of complexity. Classic California Cab. 91/91.

1999 Guenoc, Cabernet Sauvignon, North Coast, California, $18, 13,655 cases. Blackberries, black cherries, licorice, chocolate and American oak are obvious from start to finish. Herbal/dill notes and sweet oak linger on the fruity finish. 85/86.

1999 Rutherford Ranch, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, $14. Black fruit and herbal notes repeat on the palate, with lots of chalky minerals and bright acidity adding character to the wine. 85/88.

2000 Wolf Blass, Cabernet Sauvignon, Presidents Selection, South Australia, $20, 7,500 cases. Dark berry fruit and Baker's chocolate are quite obvious. The berry fruit continues in the mouth, finishing with soft tannins. Very tart, the wine needs an acidic food dish to diminish the impact. 82/81.

Chardonnay wine glass

2001 Atlas Peak, Chardonnay, Atlas Peak, Napa Valley, California, $16, 5,263 cases. Brilliant straw in color, with bright tropical fruit and light toasty oak aromas. Creamy and lush on the palate, peaches and spice flavors reign, with a smooth, lengthy finish. 85/86.

2000 Bargetto, Chardonnay, Regan Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains, California, $20, 1,600 cases. Butterscotch, vanilla and pears highlight this golden straw colored wine. Soft and creamy on the entry, the wine is quite fruity, with sweet smoky oak nuances and a full finish. 85/85.

2001 Bogle, Chardonnay, California, $9. Simple but quaffable. Tropical fruit and American oak notes blend well with the apples, pears, dill spice and sweet oak, finishing with a crisp bite. 83/84.

1999 Buena Vista, Chardonnay, Carneros, California, $18, 11,000 cases. Pineapple, peach and butterscotch aromas flow over to the palate. Tropical fruit, generous oak, and butter are maintained by snappy acidity. 83/83.

2000 Chateau Julien, Chardonnay, Sur Lie, Private Reserve, Monterey County, California, $30. This is an elegant Chardonnay, with a silky mouth feel and an acidic backbone. Butterscotch, pears, nuts, and French oak all share equal billing. Delightful for the style. 87/86.

2001 Geyser Peak, Chardonnay, Sonoma County, California, $12, 54,000 cases. Pears and sweet cream butter mingle on the nose, then carries over to the palate. Soft and easy to drink, the pear notes integrate well with the vanilla nuances. 84/86.

2001 Kendall-Jackson, Chardonnay, 20th Harvest, Limited Release, California, $16. Tropical fruit driven, this is pretty classic California Chardonnay at a fair price. Creamy, with sweet vanilla, the citrus and pear fruit seeks attention of the taster. 85/86.

2001 Kenwood, Chardonnay, Reserve, Russian River Valley, California, $20, 2,300 cases. This is a very soft, creamy, complex Chardonnay that really delivers if this is your style. Bursting with pears, cashews, vanilla, citrus and butter, it is fairly priced as well. 89/91.

Jeffrey Patterson 1999 Mount Eden, Chardonnay, Estate, California, $45, 2,771 cases. Yield was only 2.1 tons per acre for this golden-hued wine. Honeysuckle, citrus, butterscotch and pie dough notes evolve in the glass. Complex, very well balanced and elegant, California Chardonnay simply does not get much better than this. Photo is winemaker Jeffrey Patterson courtesy of their web site. 92/91.

2001 Mount Eden, West Slope Chardonnay, Edna Ranch, Edna Valley, California, $12, 4,362 cases. Fermented and aged entirely in French and American oak, the wine displays tropical fruit, butterscotch, and lemon drops. Creamy, yet with a crisp bite, the wine finishes with a healthy dose of oak. 83/84.

2000 Mount Eden, Chardonnay, MacGregor Vineyard, Edna Valley, California, $18, 15,995 cases. Light gold, displaying aromas of butterscotch, coconut and lemons. Creamy and crisp, this is a well-balanced, lush wine, with lemon curd and a touch of mango on the lingering finish. Good value. 87/89.

2000 Windsor, Chardonnay, Murphy Ranch, Alexander Valley, California, $15.75. Gold in color, you'll find a host of toasty oak, pears and nutty scents. Creamy on the palate, this medium-bodied wine delivers canned pears, vanilla, and toasty oak on the palate, while managing to maintain a crisp touch. Pretty yummy if you are not adverse to oak. 86/88.

2001 Wolf Blass, Chardonnay, Presidents Selection, South Australia, $15, 1,500 cases. Tropical fruit, melon and oak are obvious on the nose and palate. Creamy while maintaining respectable acidity, vanilla and peaches linger on the finish. 83/83.

Gewürztraminer wine glass

2000 Bargetto, Gewurztraminer, Monterey, California, $10, 1,500 cases. A very delightful bouquet, filled with lychee fruit, grapefruit and floral notes. Off-dry at 1.6% residual sugar, the wine offers honest fruit flavors and decent acidity for the grape. 85/86.

2001 Washington Hills, Gewurztraminer, Columbia Valley, Washington, $7. True to the grape, delicate honeysuckle notes, grapefruit and lychee fruit are appreciated on the nose and palate. Delicately sweet, there is enough acidity to prevent the wine from being cloying. Good value. 84/86.

Italian/Italian Varieties wine glasswine glass

1999 Altamura, Sangiovese, Napa Valley, California, $30, 1,200 cases. Dark wood and dried cherry aromas proliferate in the glass. Lush sweet jammy cherry fruit, chocolate, and vanilla are adorned on a backbone of modest tannins and bright acidity. 88/88.

2000 Atlas Peak, Sangiovese, Atlas Peak, Napa Valley, California, $16, 24,000 cases. Bright berry fruit, spices and oak barrel notes resound on the palate. Medium-bodied, with modest tannins, this one needs a pizza or pasta with red sauce. 86/87.

1998 Attilio Ghisolfi, Barbera d'Alba, D.O.C., Monforte d'Alba, Italy, $18. Violets, red fruit, licorice and vanilla aromas open to a medium-bodied wine with good acid and tannin structure. Dried cherries, ripe plums, cedar and subtle vanilla resound on the protracted finish. A William Grant & Sons import. 87/88.

1997 Attilio Ghisolfi, Barbera d'Alba "Vigni Lisi," D.O.C., Monforte d'Alba, Italy, $29. This medium-full bodied wine is intensely colored, with aromas of ripe cherries and light toasted oak. Concentrated, bright cherry fruit abounds, supported by zippy acidity. Leather and cedar play bit parts. 87+/87.

1998 Attilio Ghisolfi, Barolo Bricco Visette, D.O.C.G., Monforte d'Alba, Italy, $50. The grapes for this 100% Nebbiolo come from the Regione Bussia. Complex, balanced, with nice breeding, there are a host of ripe black fruit flavors, sweet vanilla, and a hint of mint on the long aftertaste. 87/85.

1997 Attilio Ghisolfi, Langhe Rosso "Carlin," D.O.C., Monforte d'Alba, Italy, $27. They blended 60% Nebbiolo and 40% Freisa for this wine. Very ripe cherry fruit and sandalwood notes radiate from this deeply colored wine. The black fruit pushes the ripeness level. Tannins are firm but supple, the acidity brisk, and an easy hand was used on the oak. This one begs for pasta with a heavy red sauce. 85/85.

2001 Bargetto, Pinot Grigio, California, $16, 2,800 cases. White peaches and spice open to a light wine with delicate sweetness. Peach fruit, floral notes and soft acidity rounds out the profile. 82/81.

1999 Cascina Chicco, Barbera d'Alba Bric Loira, D.O.C., Piedmont, Italy, $28. Very easy to drink right now, this Barbera was a perfect match for veal meatloaf, with its fruity, earthy flavors. Moderate acids hold it all together. A William Grant & Sons import. 88/88.

2001 Cascina Chicco, Roero Arneis, D.O.C., Piedmont, Italy, $15. The wine contains 100% Arneis, a very floral grape with apricots abounding. Light-medium bodied, the wine is soft, viscous and rich feeling on the palate. It should match well with antipasti and light fish dishes. 86/86.

1997 Cascina Chicco, Roero Valmaggiore, Piedmont, Italy, $25. Brick red in color, the wine is 98% Nebbiolo and 2% Arneis. Violets, cherries, menthol, old wood, mushrooms and clove spice run the entire length of the wine. Wild game or roast beef should make an ideal match here. 87/87.

2001 Castello di Tassarolo, Gavi "S," Piedmont, Italy, $14. Castello di Tassarolo is a Gavi specialist. Somewhat reticent on the nose, this light straw wine finally yielded subtle floral and citrus notes. Lightly-styled, very forward, fruity, with an easy crispness, the finish displays citrus and white peaches. This wine needs a delicate fish dish such as Orange Roughy. 86/86.

1998 La Vita (Bargetto), Red Table Wine, Santa Cruz Mountains, California, $50, 680 cases. 32% Dolcetto, 34% Nebbiolo, 34% Refosco. Brick red in color, with pleasant leather and cedar notes. Very smooth and balanced, with layers of complex fruit which are enhanced by a streak of black peppercorn that lingers on the endless finish. 88/86.

2001 Marco Negri, Moscato d'Asti, D.O.C.G., Piedmont, Italy, $14. This frizzante has classic Muscat aromas to delight the nose. Sumptuous sweetness is soundly balanced by the sparkle and acidity. Weighing in at 7.1% alcohol, this Moscato will make a great aperitif. Delightful. 90/90.

Merlot wine glass

2000 Barefoot, Merlot, Reserve, Sonoma County, California, $17, 1,329 cases. The tannins are a little coarse at present and need time. Plums, chocolate, raspberries and vanilla flavors meld with similar aromas to provide a tasty match for a pasta and pesto dish. 85/86.

2000 Bargetto, Merlot, California, $12, 2,000 cases. Aromas of cherries, cedar, American oak and bacon echo on the palate. Medium-bodied, the tannins allow early consumption. 82/83.

1999 Bargetto, Merlot, Reserve, Santa Cruz Mountains, California, $30, 725 cases. Still disjointed, this one needs bottle time to tame the substantial tannins. Cassis, chocolate, licorice, dill, vanilla, herbs, acidity – it's all there. 85+/85.

1999 Buena Vista, Merlot, Carneros Estate, California, $22, 10,159 cases. The aroma profile leans to the herbal, bell pepper, American oak side, while flavors show more fruit. Black cherries, dill spice and vanilla are balanced by supple tannins and brisk acidity. This wine needs a meatloaf or stuffed bell peppers to shine. 84/84.

1999 Buttonwood, Merlot, Santa Ynez Valley, California, $18, 1,920 cases. The aromas are suggestive of black cherries, tobacco leaf and aged leather. Cherries, berries, cinnamon spice, French oak and ripe tannins meld together to create an easy to drink wine. 86/87.

Dry Creek 1997 Buttonwood, Trevin, Santa Ynez Valley, California, $30, 392 cases. Buttonwood's proprietary wine is a Merlot predominant blend with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Densely colored, the nose is overflowing with black cherry, coffee, and cedar overtones. Very fruity on the entry, the wine has solid but agile tannins and a nice bite. The black fruit, spice and light herbal notes demand grilled beef/buffalo steak. 86/86.

1999 Dry Creek, Merlot, Sonoma County, California, $19. Chocolate, cherries, American oak and cloves intermingle on the nose of this brilliant ruby wine. Very brisk acidity adds interest to the black cherry fruit, light herbal notes and ripe tannins. This is a nice match for hearty beef stew. 87/88.

2000 Rutherford Ranch, Merlot, Napa Valley, California, $12. Crisp, straightforward, and flavorsome, black cherry fruit and herbal notes triumph. Easy tannins allow early consumption. Pair with grilled meats. 84/85.

Miscellaneous wine glasswine glass

2002 Beringer, Nouveau, Red Table Wine, California, $8. A sure hit for the holiday tables, you'll appreciate the ripe berry fruit that is displayed across the senses. Light to medium-bodied and loaded with Bing cherry fruit that lingers on the finish, this one will please a wide range of palates. 86/88.

2001 Hogue, Sangiovese Rosé, Genesis, Columbia Valley, Washington, $13, 120 cases. This is a pleasant quaffer that should pair well with red meat or fish. Straightforward aromas and flavors of cranberries and raspberries finish with a refreshing crispness. 86/86.

2001 MacMurray Ranch, Pinot Gris, Russian River Valley, California, $23, 6,000 cases. Rich aromas of figs, yellow peaches and tropical fruit provide the opening for this creamy wine. With just a hint of sweetness, peaches and pears intermingle, supported by bright acidity. Cracked crab and drawn butter comes to mind. 86/85.

Petite Sirah wine glass

Guenoc 2000 Bogle, Petite Sirah, California, $10. Chocolate, tobacco and berry notes rise from the bouquet, then fills the mouth. Plums and toasty oak are thrown in for good measure. Tannins are very manageable. Great BBQ wine. 85/87.

1999 Guenoc, Petite Sirah, North Coast, California, $20, 11,522 cases. You can almost cut the rich raspberry and blackberry aromas of this inky beast. Generous fruit is augmented by dark chocolate and sweet oak. Always notorious for rugged tannins, Guenoc has done a great job taming this grape. You can drink this one tonight with grilled meats or game. 90/90.

Pinot Noir wine glass

2001 Barefoot, Pinot Noir, Reserve, Sonoma County, California, $15, 2,363 cases. This is another tasty, very aromatic wine from Barefoot. Medium-bodied with soft tannins, the wine exudes mixed cherries, raspberries and cedar. Match with a fresh grilled salmon or yellowfin tuna. 85/88.

1999 Beringer, Pinot Noir, Stanly Ranch, Los Carneros, California, $30. Dark ruby. Cranberries, black cherries and smoke pleasure the nose. Ripe black cherries dominate the flavor profile. Vivid acidity and ripe tannins round out this medium-weight wine. 86/85.

2000 Buena Vista, Pinot Noir, Carneros, California, $22, 6,294 cases. Strawberries, raspberries and black tea aromas repeat in the mouth. Light-bodied, with soft tannins, you'll enjoy the crisp mouth feel. This is a perfect match for Crimini mushroom soup. 86/86.

2000 Deerfield Ranch, Pinot Noir, Cohn Vineyard, Russian River Valley, California, $48, 342 cases. You'll find a classic Pinot Noir nose here, with layers of cherries, spices and light barrel toast. Very elegant, smooth, and easy to sip, rich fruit and sweet oak flavors persist on the prolonged finish. 88/86.

1999 King Estate, Pinot Noir, Reserve, Oregon, 2,500 cases, $35. Deep garnet in color, this Pinot is intensely aromatic, with blackberry, cherry, blueberry, and forest floor notes. Well-balanced and fruity on the entry, the wine delivers complex flavors of blueberries, ripe plums and mushroom notes. The tannins are silky smooth, while brisk acidity breathes life into the wine. Charming. 91/91.

2000 MacMurray Ranch, Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, California, $32, 4,000 cases. Rich aromas and flavors of black cherry fruit, smoke and spice are augmented by a healthy dose of toasty oak. There is nice complexity to this wine. 86/85.

Port wine glass

NV Quinta do Noval, Ruby Port, Raven, Very Superior, Portugal, $13. This new bottling from a venerable Port house comes in a square, 500 ml bottle. Vinified in the traditional way, the Port is then aged four years in cask. The result is a balanced, fruity wine that is pleasurable to drink right now with a blue-veined cheese. A William Grant & Sons import. 86/88.

NV Sandeman, Porto, Founders Reserve, Portugal, $17. Selected lots for this wine were aged for five years, which add to the finesse. Elegant, with rich red fruit and nutty nuances, this is certainly a very quaffable, everyday Port. My favorite match, believe it or not, is a jalapeno cheese from Washington State University. Delightful. 86/88.

Riesling wine glass

2001 Bridgeview, Riesling, Blue Moon, Oregon, $7. This is a simple, tasty, easy to drink Riesling that is also easy on the pocketbook. Melon and honeysuckle flavors are supported by adequate acidity. There is just a hint of sweetness on the finish. 85/87.

2001 Wolf Blass, Riesling, Gold Label, South Australia, $14, 3,000 cases. Who says you don't find petrol/slate in Riesling outside of Germany? This one displays slate and citrus on the nose and palate, and with a little more concentration this would be a dandy. There is potential for the future. 85/86.

Sauvignon Blanc wine glass

Barefoot 2001 Barefoot, Sauvignon Blanc, Reserve, Dry Creek Valley, California, $13, 587 cases. Barefoot has made my kind of Sauvignon Blanc – no oak! Unburdened by layers of wood, the lemon, lime, pear and honey notes stand out. Crisp and refreshing, this should couple well with Asiago cheese, or grilled sea bass. 87/89.

2001 Chinook, Sauvignon Blanc, Yakima Valley, Washington, $17. Mainly displaying citrus on the nose, lemon/lime flavors are likewise prevalent, with modest acidity. There is a light caramel character to the wine that adds interest. The wine paired well with rosemary baked chicken. 85/85.

2001 Guenoc, Sauvignon Blanc, Lake County, California, $14, 6,213 cases. Brilliant straw gold in color, aromas and flavors of lemon/lime, tart apples and white peaches are predominant. While there is too little acid for my liking, many will enjoy the soft mouth feel. 84/84.

2001 Kenwood, Sauvignon Blanc, Reserve, Sonoma County, California, $15, 5,225 cases. Barrel fermented and aged on the lees, it is no surprise that the wine has a creamy mouth feel with smoky oak aromas. While not my style, the wine is well made and will have many fans. Pineapple and kiwi fruit are up front, with cashew and vanilla flavors on the finish. 87/87.

2001 Pedroncelli, Sauvignon Blanc, East Side Vineyards, Dry Creek Valley, California, $10, 3,158 cases. Displaying lovely aromas of lemongrass, mandarin orange and casaba melon, the flavors mimic the nose. Moderately crisp, the finish unveils a slight doughy taste. 85/87.

2001 Rutherford Ranch, Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, California, $10. Grapefruit and crisp acids great the palate. Straightforward and clean, this one should pair well with steamed mussels. 82/82.

Spanish Wines wine glasswine glass

1997 Marques de Arienzo, Reserva, Rioja Alavesa, Spain, $15. This brick red wine is simple, yet charming and consists of 95% Tempranillo. Medium-bodied, with aged black cherry fruit, earthiness and a streak of black pepper, this wine should match well with Bistro food. An Allied Domecq import. 85/87.

2000 Montecillo, Blanco, Rioja, Spain, $8. 100% Viura. Baked apples, pineapples, and melon are displayed both on the nose and palate. Laser acidity makes this a nice quaffer for shellfish. 83/85.

1997 Montecillo, Crianza, Rioja, Spain, $10. Made from 100% Tempranillo, spicy cherry fruit prevails here, with a streak of mint for interest. A rustic wine, this is a perfect complement for wild game. 84/86.

1997 Montecillo, Reserva, Rioja, Spain, $17. This is a mouthful of wine that paired well with pepper crusted beef. Full of red cherries, dried cherries, berries, oak and herbs, the tannins are very manageable now. Black pepper weaves its way through the wine, adding further complexity. Good value. 100% Tempranillo. 89/91.

2000 Osborne, Solaz, Tierra de Castilla, Spain, $7. While the wine is simple, you'll be hard-pressed to find a wine that delivers this much for seven bucks. Raspberries, old wood and earthy notes combine to make a nice match for simple pasta dishes with red sauce. 84/87.

1999 Ramon Bilbao, Tempranillo, Edición Limitada, Rioja, Spain, $13. This is a food-friendly, well-priced wine. Aromas remind you of dried cherries, sandalwood and herbs. These repeat on the palate, with black pepper nuances and rounded tannins. 85/87.

1996 Ramon Bilbao, Reserva, Rioja, Spain, $15. Cocoa, coffee, and dried fruit aromas expand to reveal cherry and berry fruit. Medium-bodied with easy tannins, this should be a dandy match with beef stew. 86/86.

1995 Ramon Bilbao, Gran Reserva, Rioja, Spain, $20. Cherries, sandalwood, and tobacco leaf enchant the nose. Well-balanced, with flavors echoing the aromas, the finish displays a light Kahlúa nuance. 87/87.

1998 Segura Viudas, Mas D'Aranyó, Reserva, Penedès, Spain, $15. A blend of 75% Tempranillo and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, the wine has an almost Port-like richness. A complex mixture of berries, chocolate, herbs, deft use of oak, moderate ripe tannins and a lengthy finish unite to deliver a terrific value priced wine. From the Heredad Collection. 88/91.

1999 Valdubón, Crianza, Ribera del Duero, Spain, $18. 100% Tempranillo. Medium-bodied, with nice balance, the wine offers a host of aromas and flavors. Black cherries, vanilla, coffee beans, dill spice, and chocolate blend together in a tasty package. This is a worthy match for lamb shanks. From the Heredad Collection. 87/88.

2001 Vionta, Albariño, Rías Baixas, Spain, $16, 1,200 cases imported to the U.S. Citrus zest with Riesling type nuances highlights this straw colored wine. Refreshing and brisk, the wine exhibits a host of flavors that are difficult to pin down, but green apple is in the mix. This is a nice match for shellfish. From the Heredad Collection. 87/88.

Sparkling Wine wine glass

NV Chandon, Sparkling Wine, Blanc de Noirs, California, $17. Predominantly Pinot Noir, this bubbly has a pale salmon color and a fine bead. Cherry aromas and flavors are complimented by strawberry nuances and a crisp bite. 86/86.

NV Chandon, Sparkling Wine, Brut Classic, California, $17. Exhibiting a fine to medium bead, this straw colored bubbly provides aromas and flavors of tart green apples, pears and almonds. Match with a fresh Caesar salad. 85/85.

NV Chandon, Sparkling Wine, Extra-Dry Riche, California, $17. Chandon introduces a new sparkler, Riche. Delicately sweet, the wine is endowed with nectarine, apricot, peach and honey notes. Apricots linger on the finish. 85/85.

NV Chandon, Rose Sparkling Wine, étoile, Napa-Sonoma Counties, California, $40. More than a match for its French counterparts, this sparkler has a lovely light salmon coloration. Red currants, mixed berries, and roasted hazelnuts enchant the senses. Very elegant, the finish is both complex and lingering. 90/90.

NV Chandon, Sparkling Wine, étoile, Napa County, California, $35. Just a notch below their Rose, you'll enjoy the aromas of apples, citrus peel and almond nuances. Quite elegant, complex, with a medium grip, this sparkler will make a nice aperitif, or served with grilled scallops and lemon butter. 89/89.

NV Chandon, Sparkling Wine, Reserve, Napa-Sonoma Counties, California, $24. Light gold in the glass, with a fine bead, the aromas are reminiscent of sugar cookie dough, cherries, and hazelnuts. Soft and creamy, the flavors mimic the nose. 86/86.

NV G.H. Mumm, Champagne, Carte Classique, Extra Dry, Champagne, France, $35. Light gold with a medium-fine bead. Fruity and toasty on the nose, this bubbly is very effervescent with definite sweetness at a 2.4% dosage. Tough to beat for those looking for a sweet Champagne. 86/86.

NV G.H. Mumm, Champagne, Cordon Rouge, Champagne, France, $35. Green apples and bread dough are the best adjectives to describe the aromas of this value Champagne. Off-dry at 1% dosage, ripe apples and toast linger on the long finish. 86/86.

NV G.H. Mumm, Champagne, Mumm de Cramant, Champagne, France, $60. You'll appreciate the fine bead in this straw-colored beauty. This bubbly is very aromatic, with tart green apples and fresh bread dough. Crisp and refreshing, with an ever so slight sweetness, apple fruit is complimented by lemon/lime notes. 90/89.

1997 Perrier Jouët, Fleur de Champagne Rosé, Belle Epoque, Champagne, France, $140. A very distinctive bronze in color, the Champagne has a fine bead. Currants and strawberries waft across the senses, giving a indication of things to come. Complex on the palate, the wine unfolds with flavors of baked bread, currants, and honeyed nuances on the finish. Expensive, but with a lot of breeding. 91/89.

1995 Perrier Jouët, Fleur de Champagne, Belle Epoque, Champagne, France, $120. Straw colored with a medium-fine mousse, the wine emanates hazelnut, bread dough and pear aromas. Very crisp and invigorating, with flavors of ripe pear, roasted nuts and cookie dough. 90/88.

NV Perrier Jouët, Grand Brut, Champagne, France, $40. A fine bead works its magic in this light gold beauty. Fruity and toasty on the nose, the fresh sliced apple fruit, lemons and baked pie dough makes quite a statement. 88/88.

Syrah wine glass

2000 Geyser Peak, Shiraz, Sonoma County, California, $17, 14,000 cases. Densely colored, the nose is filled with aromas of plums, spice, and smoke, with raspberries coming in at the end. Well-balanced with fine tannins, the fruit delivers the goods. Juicy, intense, and easy to drink now as accompaniment to grilled meats, this is a good value. 87/90.

1999 Hogue, Syrah, Genesis, Columbia Valley, Washington, $25, 200 cases. Too bad this is such a small production wine. Deeply colored, the wine emanates gamey, smoked meat aromas, with violet and plum nuances. Full-bodied and flavorful, the ripe tannins invite consumption tonight, but will provide pleasure for many years. 88/88.

1999 Windsor, Syrah, Private Reserve, Dry Creek Valley, California, $15.75. Displaying the characteristic funky, gamey aromas, this ruby-colored Syrah delivers blue and black fruits on an easy drinking framework. 85/87.

2000 Wolf Blass, Shiraz, Presidents Selection, South Australia, $20, 7,800 cases. Aromas of plums, spice and chocolate chips carries over to the palate. Fruity but very sharp on the opening, this wine needs an acidic food dish to diminish the tartness. 83/82.

Viognier wine glass

2001 Callaway Coastal, Viognier, Reserve, California, $15, 2,925 cases. Very aromatic, with floral notes abounding. Medium-bodied, the wine is crisp and tasty, with lots of honeysuckle and nectarine flavors. 85/87.

2001 Hogue, Viognier, Genesis, Columbia Valley, Washington, 122 cases, $13. Too bad more of this wine was not produced. Run, don't walk to your local wine shop and request this wine. Straw gold in color, this Viognier delivers classic aromas of peaches and honeysuckle, augmented by delicate vanilla notes. Delightfully crisp, the flavors resound on the lengthy aftertaste. Very good value. 87/90.

Zinfandel wine glass

1999 Beringer, Zinfandel, Founders' Estate, California, $12. Blackberry, cinnamon and American oak aromas open to a straightforward, pleasant, fruity wine that has easy tannins. Great burger wine! 84/86.

2000 Peachy Canyon, Zinfandel, Eastside, Paso Robles, California, $15, 3,747 cases. Strawberries, raspberry jam and vanilla aromas entice the nose and give a hint of what's to come. Crisp acidity ushers in tart fruit flavors with a very modest oak influence. Red fruit lingers on the finish. 86/88.

2000 Peachy Canyon, Zinfandel, Especial Bottled, Paso Robles, California, $30, 1,127 cases. This one is right on track, with bright acidity, a mouth full of raspberries, and cracked pepper and vanilla adding subtle notes. Moderate tannins are rounded in nature and the finish is full. 90/89.

2000 Peachy Canyon, Zinfandel, Mustang Springs, Paso Robles, California, $26, 1,055 cases. A touch of spearmint adds interest to the strawberry, vanilla and tobacco leaf aromas. Chocolate and vanilla notes become evident on the finish. With a tad more acid this one would be a killer. 89/88.

Pedroncelli 2000 Peachy Canyon, Zinfandel, Old School House, Paso Robles, California, $26, 1,038 cases. You can almost spread the strawberry jam aromas on sourdough bread. Well-balanced with silky tannins, this is an easy Zin to like. Soft acidity and full fruit make it alluring right now. 88/88.

2000 Peachy Canyon, Zinfandel, Westside, Paso Robles, California, $19, 4,335 cases. Oodles of ripe red fruit greet the nose, with spicy vanilla nuances adding depth. Medium to full-bodied, with plenty of acidity, cherry fruit controls the flavor profile, with a streak of black pepper fighting for recognition. The finish is slightly hot (15.5% alcohol). 86/87.

1999 Pedroncelli, Zinfandel, Midnight Run, Dry Creek Valley, California, $20, 680 cases. This wine is easy to drink right now and will only get better with a couple of years of age. Classic Zinfandel aromas open to charming flavors of blackberry, raspberry, and spice. 86/86.

2000 Rutherford Ranch, Zinfandel, Napa Valley, California, $14. Pretty classic Zinfandel aromas unfold on the nose. Raspberry jam reigns on the nose and palate, with sweet oak persisting on the long finish. 85/86.

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