© 2004 by Randy Buckner
Once again the chill of the autumn air turns our thoughts to a crackling fireplace, college football games, a steaming bowl of beef stew and a glass or three of hearty red wine.
Thanksgiving has sneaked up on us as well. Finding wines to match the dinner can always be a challenge, but several wines listed below fit the bill. Carignane, Muller-Thurgau and Pinot Gris will augment the old standby Gewurztraminer, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel. Time is getting short, so pick up a few bottles for your dinner table today.
Another 100 new and current releases (plus a half dozen bonus sparklers) 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.
2002 Annie's Lane, Cabernet Merlot, Clare Valley, Australia, $13. Sporting a crimson red color, this wine shows a mix of plums, violets and herbs in the aromas and flavors. Its bold acids will please fans of same; 83/84.
2001 Beaulieu, Dulcet Reserve, Napa Valley, California, $35. A blend of 78 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 22 percent Syrah. This crimson-colored wine gives off aromas of cherries, raspberries, herbs and barrel toast. Elegant in its presentation, the fruit is the dominant player here, with oak playing a supporting role. The lush finish seems endless; 90/90.
2001 Beaulieu, Cabernet Sauvignon, Georges de Latour Private Reserve, Napa Valley, California, $85, 10,000 cases. The nose is a complex mix of black cherries, anise, herbs and sweet vanilla. Showing its pedigree, the wine is very polished. Tannins are obvious but ripe. Flavors mirror the nose, with generous oak notes; 89/87.
2001 Beaulieu, Tapestry Reserve, Napa Valley, California, $40, 20,000 cases. Deeply hued, the nose is filled with aromas of black cherries, herbs, cedar, vanilla and dark chocolate, which repeats on the palate. Oak is integrated well, but the tannins are full and drying - will they ever tame? 87+/87+.
2002 Canyon Road, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, $10, 38,100 cases. Aromas of black currants, chocolate, cola, plums and American oak repeat on the palate. The wine is crisp, dry and straightforward; 82/83.
2002 Chateau St. Jean, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, $15, 20,000 cases. Crisp with modest tannins, this dark ruby wine gives off aromas and flavors of blackberries, raspberries, chocolate and old leather; 85/87.
2001 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Columbia Valley, Washington, $33, 1,000 cases. Deep ruby in color. Aromas and flavors speak of cassis, cocoa, vanilla and dill spice. Bright acidity and rounded tannins add structure to the wine; 87/87.
2001 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Meritage Red Wine, Columbia Valley, Washington, $48, 1,500 cases. Impeccably balanced with nice concentration, the wine is packed with aromas and flavors of blackberries, raspberry jam and sweet vanilla; 89/88.
2001 Columbia Crest, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Columbia Valley, Washington, $30, 4,000 cases. Aromas of black cherries, dark chocolate, dill, cedar and vanilla emanate from this ruby red wine. Tannins are obvious but ripe and should age well. Flavors echo the nose. Nice, even if a bit woody; 89/89.
2001 Columbia Crest, Red Wine, Walter Clore Private Reserve, Columbia Valley, Washington, $35, 5,000 cases. Blackberries, black cherries, cocoa and vanilla carry from the nose to the palate. Tannins are very harmonious with the wine. This is a dandy but is a little heavy on the oak; 89/89.
2002 Dynamite, Cabernet Sauvignon, North Coast, California, $17, 74,200 cases. Blackberries, plums, chocolate and American oak intermix on the nose of this deeply-hued Cab. The wine is crisp and fruity, but the tannins are coarse grained and the oak is generous; 83/83.
2000 Folie à Deux, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, $26, 3,280 cases. Black fruit, cedar, herbs and tobacco abound in this wine. Full-bodied in style with chewy tannins. Black fruit and French oak spread out across the palate, with an extended finish; 85/85.
2000 Folie à Deux, Cabernet Sauvignon, Private Reserve, Napa Valley, California, $46, 595 cases. The nose reveals heavy French oak and black fruit notes. While crisp on the palate, the oak in the wine totally overwhelms all else, making it impossible to assess at this point; NR.
2001 Robert Karl, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington, $24, 500 cases. All parts of this wine sing in harmony even if a bit oaky at this point. Black cherry and plum aromas and flavors are augmented by smoky oak notes and silky tannins; 89/90.
2001 Kenwood, Cabernet Sauvignon, Jack London Vineyard, Sonoma Valley, California, $30, 8,500 cases. This nicely-structured wine has friendly tannins which makes it easy to enjoy the wine now for the black cherry fruit, cedar and chocolate flavors. Mint laces its way through the wine, adding additional character; 88/88.
2001 Kenwood, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, California, $18. Black cherries and a host of dill and American oak define the wine. Medium-bodied, with bright acidity, I'd serve this one with stuffed bell peppers; 83/83.
2001 Pellegrini Family, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cloverdale Ranch, Alexander Valley, California, $22, 1,113 cases. The wine is easy to drink now due to the silky tannins. Black currants and cherries are in the forefront, with bay leaf and black pepper spice; 85/85.
2001 Quintessa, Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford, Napa Valley, California, $100, 9,000 cases. The nose is filled with black fruit, chocolate and just a hint of mint. Well balanced with generous but fine-grained tannins. Black cherries, plums, tea and chocolate are evident on the palate; 89/86.
2002 Reynolds, Cabernet Sauvignon, New South Wales, Australia, $9, 8,200 cases. Easy on the palate, this straightforward Cab should be enjoyed early on for the cherry, tobacco, and smoke aromas and for the plumy fruit; 81/82.
2001 Rodney Strong, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, California, $18. Tart, with moderate tannins, black fruit, vanilla, cocoa and cedar define the wine, with a fruity, lingering finish; 85/86.
2001 Rutherford Hill, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, $32, 10,688 cases. Ruby with blue overtones. Blackberries, chocolate, coffee beans and cedar carry from the nose to the palate, lingering endlessly. The tannins are very smooth and encourage early drinking although the wine will age for years to come; 88/88.
2001 Sebastiani, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County Selection, California, $17, 47,500 cases. The wine is very easy on the presentation with plenty of fruit and generous oak flavors. Cassis, blackberries and vanilla echo throughout; 85/87.
2003 Annie's Lane, Chardonnay, Clare Valley, Australia, $13. Lemon, vanilla and honeydew melon aromas follow through on the palate. The wine has nice balance and integrated oak; 85/87.
2003 Bogle, Chardonnay, California, $9. You'll find an equal blend of fruit and American oak here. Pears, apples, spice and oak notes are presented in a crisp package with a sweet feel to it; 82/83.
2003 Canyon Road, Chardonnay, California, $10, 57,000 cases. Always a good value, this one does not disappoint either. Tropical fruit, vanilla, melon and light oak aromas carry through on the palate, with a long, fruity finish; 85/88.
2002 Covey Run, Chardonnay, Reserve, Yakima Valley, Washington, $22, 420 cases. The nose is highlighted by lemon curd and French oak notes. Nice balance and a creamy mouth feel makes for easy drinking. Vanilla, spice and cashew notes linger on the finish; 85/85.
2003 Forgeron, Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Washington, $19, 731 cases. Aromas of pears, green apples and spice waft from this light gold Chard. Elegant on the palate with lively acidity, the wine displays generous oak influence with lovely fruit to match; 86/86.
2002 Huntington, Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, California, $15, 1,500 cases. The nose is a pleasant mix of lemon curd, apple, pear and toasty nuances. Crisp, balanced and fruit forward, the flavors mirror the aromas; 85/87.
2003 Lake Sonoma, Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, California, $15, 2,500 cases. This wine is all about butterscotch, vanilla, smoke and pears. It is made in a soft, creamy style; 84/84.
2002 Meridian Vineyards, Chardonnay, Santa Barbara County, California, $10. What's this - a California Chardonnay with crisp acids and integrated oak? Indeed it is. Aromas and flavors of green apples, melons, vanilla and lemons add to the mix; 85/88.
2003 Pellegrini Family, Chardonnay, Unoaked, Sonoma County, California, $12, 5,100 cases. Here's a crisp, food-friendly Chardonnay to pair with your favorite poultry dish. Showing tropical fruit and orange peel notes, this is a very good value; 85/88.
2003 Red Bicyclette, Chardonnay, Vin de Pays d'Oc, France, $12. Tropical fruit, apples, citrus and light barrel notes define the wine. Crisp, simple, yet appealing; 84/85.
2002 Rutherford Hill, Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California, $18, 12,426 cases. You'll find a delightful nose of peaches, orange peel and nutmeg. Full and viscous in the mouth, the oak does not overpower the citrus and melon fruit. Toasted coconut flavors linger on the finish; 87/88.
2002 Snoqualmie, Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Washington, $11, 12,500 cases. This light gold wine gives off aromas of pears, green apples and buttered toast. Soft and creamy, the wine is fruit driven, with only minor oak influence; 85/88.
2003 Sterling, Chardonnay, Napa County, California, $17, 85,000 cases. Soft and creamy, this wine makes a nice sipper. Barrel char, pears and buttery notes define the nose and palate; 85/86.
2002 Rodney Strong, Chardonnay, Chalk Hill, Sonoma County, California, $18. Light gold, with toasty oak, apples and spice on the nose. Soft, with a creamy mouth feel, the flavors echo the nose; 84/84.
2003 Turning Leaf, Chardonnay Reserve, California, $10. This straightforward wine displays apple, pear and smoky oak notes. Medium-bodied with threshold sweetness, you'll find food-friendly acidity; 80/80.
2001 William Hill, Chardonnay Reserve, Napa Valley, California, $21, 8,000 cases. Soft and fresh on the palate, the wine presents with aromas and flavors of yellow apples, butter and French oak, which resounds on the protracted finish; 85/85.
2001 Chateau Julien, Merlot, Barrel Aged, Monterey County, California, $10, 6,800 cases. This garnet-colored wine gives off aromas of cherries, vanilla and a touch of anise. Straightforward cherry fruit rides on a tart, moderately tannic backbone; 82/83.
2001 Chateau Julien, Merlot, Estate Vineyard, Monterey County, California, $22, 1,169 cases. This is a food wine, not a sipper. Medium to full bodied with laser acidity, the wine has nice oak integration and black cherry and plum fruit to please the senses; 85/85.
2000 Chateau Julien, Merlot, Private Reserve, Monterey County, California, $30, 600 cases. Full bodied with moderate acidity, the wine is packed with cherries, berries, vanilla, licorice and dark wood nuances; 87/87.
2002 Chateau St. Jean, Merlot, California, $15, 18,000 cases. This Merlot is easy to like and easy on the pocketbook. Plums, cola, black cherries and berries delineate the wine. Soft tannins allow for early drinking; 85/87.
2002 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Merlot, Canoe Ridge Estate, Columbia Valley, Washington, $24, 12,000 cases. The nose has an appealing mix of black cherries, bitter chocolate, raspberries and vanilla. Full bodied with tannins that need bottle aging, the wine is chock full of fruit and chock full of oak - a dandy for the style; 88/88.
2002 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Merlot, Cold Creek Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Washington, $33, 1,500 cases. The wine has a nice mix of raspberry liqueur, vanilla and toasted caramel. Tannins are obvious and have a slightly bitter edge to them. Will they age out? 85/84.
2001 Columbia Crest, Merlot, Reserve, Columbia Valley, Washington, $30, 3,000 cases. This Merlot is very lush, with generous oak influence. Blackberries, mocha and vanilla notes abound, supported by fine tannins and bright acidity; 87/87.
2001 Covey Run, Merlot, Reserve, Columbia Valley, Washington, $22, 1,443 cases. Crimson in color, the wine is tart, with rustic tannins. Black cherry, leather and cedar nuances define the wine, with generous oak influence; 83/83.
2000 Geyser Peak, Block Collection Merlot, Shorenstein Vineyard, Sonoma Valley, California, $26, 680 cases. Heady aromas of blackberries, sage and cedar planks assail the senses. The wine is very crisp, with tart cherry flavors and spices. Serve with foods calling for tomato-based sauces to help cut the apparent acidity of the wine; 87/87.
2001 Grgich, Merlot, Napa Valley, California, $46, 3,678 cases. Impeccably balanced, with silky tannins, you'll find a boat load of lush, jammy fruit. Black cherries, tobacco, anise and cedar spice lingers on the palate; 90/89.
2002 Kenwood, Merlot, Jack London Vineyard, Sonoma County, California, $25, 5,900 cases. Three words come to mind - balanced, crisp and smooth. Plums, cigar leaf, mint and American oak notes mingle on the nose while jammy black fruit and vanilla carries the palate; 90/90.
2001 Northstar, Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington, $52, 4,874 cases. Very densely hued, the wine is packed with black fruit, mocha and cedar spice. Velvety tannins and integrated oak completes this tasty package; 89/88.
2001 Pellegrini Family, Merlot, Cloverdale Ranch, Alexander Valley, California, $20, 3,303 cases. Aromas and flavors of cherries, cola, herbs and bitter chocolate are enhanced by the easy tannins and steely acidity. Pair with tomato-based BBQ; 86/86.
2002 Reynolds, Merlot, New South Wales, Australia, $9, 8,200 cases. Soft, simple and fruity, drink this one now with grilled hamburgers before the plumy fruit fades; 80/80.
2001 San Juan Vineyards, Reserve Merlot, Wells Vineyard, Yakima Valley, Washington, $19, 208 cases. Lots of dill spice and smoke greet the nose, with underlying cherry notes. Soft tannins lead to a crisp, fruity wine with a healthy dose of American oak; 85/86.
2000 Sebastiani, Merlot, Sonoma County, California, $17, 42,000 cases. Aromas of black cherries, herbs and toasted oak emanate from this light ruby Merlot. Crisp, with medium-grained tannins, the flavors echo the nose; 85/86.
2000 Rodney Strong, Estate Merlot, Alexander Valley, California, $26. Smoky American oak leaps from the glass, with plum and black cherry fruit vying for attention. While well-structured, the wine needs time to see if the oak ever tames; NR.
2001 Bogle, Phantom, California, $16, 4,200 cases. This is a 55/45/3 percent blend of Petite Sirah, Zinfandel and Mourvedre. Big, bold and jammy, the wine is packed with black fruit, leather and blueberry nuances. Can you say BBQ? 88/90.
2002 Cougar Crest, Cabernet Franc, Walla Walla Valley, Washington, $25, 220 cases. Blackberries and oak battle for dominance of the nose and palate, with underlying herbal notes vying for attention. Crisp and full in the mouth, the blackberry jam finish seems endless. It will score higher if the oak ever integrates; 85+/85+.
2003 Hogue, Chenin Blanc, Columbia Valley, Washington, $8, 4,494 cases. Off-dry, with soft acidity, the wine displays straightforward notes of peaches, lemons, honey and melons; 82/83.
2003 Mad Dogs & Englishmen, Shiraz/Cabernet/Monastrell, Jumilla, Spain, $10, 20,000 cases imported. Who says you can't find a decent ten buck wine? Full-bodied and balanced, this Spanish blend offers up a host of cherry, berry and cola notes. Terrific value; 88/91.
2003 Pellegrini Family, Carignane, Old Vines, Redwood Valley, California, $16, 662 cases. Red berry fruit and spice fans out across the nose and palate, with an undercurrent of earthy notes. This will pair with a wide variety of foods; 86/87.
2002 San Juan Vineyards, Semillon-Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Washington, $11, 542 cases. Aromas of tangerines and vanilla cream emanate form this fruit-forward, well-balanced wine. Flavors of ripe apples and kiwi are upfront, with American oak playing in the background; 85/87.
2003 San Juan Vineyards, Viognier-Roussanne, Yakima Valley, Washington, $14.50. The first duty of a wine is to taste good, and this wine does just that. The aromas and flavors are an interesting mix of pears, apricots and butter creams, riding on a wave of crisp acidity; 88/90.
2003 Snoqualmie, Cirque du Rosé, Columbia Valley, Washington, $7, 5,000 cases. Soft and off-dry, the wine is cranberry in color, with strawberry, spice and herb notes; 83/84.
2004 Stone Wolf, Muller-Thurgau, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $9. Pale straw in color. The nose is complex and full of orange blossoms, apples, pears and melons. Soft and off-dry, the flavors speak of apricots, apples, peaches and orange slice candy; 85/87.
2003 King Estate, Domaine Pinot Gris, Oregon, $25, 3,890 cases. You can't help but smell cotton candy in this wine. Apricots, honey and nutmeg also make a statement. Rich and creamy, you'll appreciate blood orange, fig and citrus flavors; 86/85.
2003 Rancho Zabaco, Pinot Gris, Sonoma Coast, California, $18, 9,000 cases. Weighing in at the middleweight class, this Pinot Gris sports aromas and flavors of peaches, figs and a whiff of smoke. A touch of spice lingers on the finish; 86/86.
2003 San Juan Vineyards, Pinot Gris, Columbia Gorge, Washington, $13, 550 cases. Bright acidity drives this wine. Aromas of Crenshaw melons and a twist of lemon peel morph into lemon cream and melons on the palate, with a long, ripe finish; 87/87.
2002 Kenwood, Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, California, $17. Strawberries, black cherries, dark tea and smoke carry from the nose to the palate, with raspberry flavors lingering on the finish; 84/85.
2001 King Estate, Domaine Pinot Noir, Oregon, $50, 1,060 cases. This is an elegant, silky wine, not at all overstated. Aromas and flavors are a pleasing mix of blueberries, black cherries, strawberry preserves, dark tea and French oak spice; 90/88.
2002 Pellegrini Family, Pinot Noir, Olivet Lane Estate, Russian River Valley, California, $24, 4,047 cases. Well balanced and easy to drink. Aromas of black cherries, sage and pekoe tea carry over to the palate, with a streak of black pepper coursing through the wine; 85/85.
2002 Valley of the Moon, Pinot Noir, Carneros, California, $20, 1,500 cases. Here's another balanced, easy to drink Pinot. Black cherries, blackberries, spice and barrel notes carry from the nose to the mouth, with a slight bitter touch on the finish; 85/85.
2003 Chimney Rock, Fumé Blanc, Napa Valley, California, $18. Citrus aromas drift from the glass of this straw-colored Fumé. The wine reveals tangerine, pear and fresh almond flavors, finishing on a tangy note; 85/85.
2003 Covey Run, Sauvignon Blanc, Washington State, $9, 38,000 cases. The nose is a mix of pineapples, limes and sage. Soft and clean, the straightforward flavors mirror the nose. Pair with shellfish; 82/83.
2003 Grgich Hills, Fumé Blanc, Napa Valley, California, $26, 14,862 cases. This light gold Fumé abounds in aromas and flavors of lemongrass, melons, white peaches and pineapples. Elegant and crisp, with a sense of roundness from the two-year-old oak. Flavors mirror the nose, with a prolonged aftertaste; 90/89.
2002 Kenwood, Sauvignon Blanc Reserve, Sonoma County, California, $15, 2,000 cases. The aromas speak of tangerines, lemons and white peaches, whereas the flavors are lemony, with nuances of sage and cut grass. Nice acidity drives the wine; 84/84.
2003 Lake Sonoma, Fumé Blanc, Dry Creek Valley, California, $14, 3,000 cases. Another crisp, refreshing Fumé that displays limes, lemongrass, tropical fruit and herbs. Melons linger on the finish; 86/86.
2003 Pellegrini Family, Sauvignon Blanc, Leveroni Vineyard, Lake County, California, $14, 615 cases. This is an SB for those who like the lean, tangy, crisp style. Tropical fruit and lemongrass are the dominant players here; 87/87.
2003 Rancho Zabaco, Sauvignon Blanc, Russian River Valley, California, $18, 8,500 cases. The nose is a nice mix of lemongrass, limes and grapefruit. Medium-bodied, with food friendly acidity, the flavors echo the aromas; 88/88.
2003 Sterling, Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, California, $14, 85,000 cases. Tropicals, apricots, and citrus aromas repeat on the palate. Crisp and clean, the wine has a fresh, dry finish; 86/87.
2003 Stone Cellars by Beringer, Sauvignon Blanc, California, $8. Soft, clean and straightforward, highlighted by lemon peel, fig and floral notes; 82/83.
2003 Rodney Strong, Sauvignon Blanc, Charlotte's Home, Sonoma County, California, $12. Citrus, herbs, and modest American oak notes underscore the nose. Soft and viscous in the mouth, the flavors mirror the aromas; 83/84.
2004 Veramonte, Sauvignon Blanc, Casablanca Valley, Chile, $10, 58,000 cases. Huge aromas and flavors of grapefruit, herbs, kiwi and tangerine delight the senses. Soft, clean and fruity, this is a no-brainer for seafood; 88/90.
NV Domaine Ste. Michelle, Blanc de Blancs, Columbia Valley, Washington, $12. Always a big crowd pleaser, this bubbly sports a medium bead and straw gold color. Peachy, citrusy and toasty aromas and flavors ride on a crisp framework; 82/84.
NV Domaine Ste. Michelle, Blanc de Noirs, Columbia Valley, Washington, $12. Small bubbles course their way through this bronze/apricot sparkler. Crisp, creamy and off-dry, the tart red fruit has a hint of strawberry to it; 83/85.
NV Domaine Ste. Michelle, Cuvée Brut, Columbia Valley, Washington, $12. Refreshing in the mouth with a hint of sweetness, the wine displays pear, ripe apple and toasty nuances; 82/84.
NV Domaine Ste. Michelle, Extra Dry, Columbia Valley, Washington, $12. The wine is tart, off-dry and reveals poached pear and kiwi fruit flavors. Straw gold in color with abundant bubbles; 84/86.
1998 Domaine Ste. Michelle, Luxe, Columbia Valley, Washington, $23. Green apple and citrus fragrances unfold on the nose, with the palate expressing more nutty, spicy qualities. Off-dry with soft acidity; 84/84.
2002 Korbel, Natural, Russian River Valley, California, $14, 39,000 cases. Sporting a medium bead, this bubbly is clean on the palate with a crisp feel. Apples, lemons and berries delineate the wine; 84/86.
NV Blue Ice, American Vodka, Idaho, $20. Produced under the guidance of Master Distiller Bill Scott at the Silver Creek Distillery in Rigby, Idaho, this is the only potato spirits distillery in the United States. Less than 3 percent of the world's vodka is produced from potatoes, which many consider the best quality vodka. This one is as clean as polished stainless steel.
2002 Annie's Lane, Shiraz, Clare Valley, Australia, $13. Black fruit, violets, and white pepper aromas stem from this purple-red Australian. Displaying generous amounts of tart acidity, you'll also find straightforward plumy/berry flavors; 82/82.
2002 Canyon Road, Shiraz, California, $10, 7,900 cases. This straightforward offering has smoked plum aromas and flavors, with supple tannins that allows early consumption; 82/83.
2002 Columbia Crest, Syrah, Reserve, Columbia Valley, Washington, $30, 4,000 cases. Ruby red in color with blue overtones. This one is easy on the palate, with nice balance. The plum and blueberry fruit plus the Viognier influence makes a pleasant mix; 87/87.
2002 Columbia Crest, Shiraz, Two Vines, Columbia Valley, Washington, $8, 115,000 cases. Crisp and fruity, the wine displays straightforward flavors of black cherries, cola and strawberry preserves; 83/84.
2002 Covey Run, Syrah, Washington State, $9, 20,500 cases. This straightforward wine has unpretentious blueberry, plum and oak notes, supported by moderate acidity and chewy tannins; 82/83.
2002 Duck Pond, Syrah, Columbia Valley, Washington, $12, 3,500 cases. Inky colored, with black fruit, smoke and vanilla presented to the nose. Medium to full-bodied, the wine has coarse tannins and straightforward fruit that are reasonable for the price class; 83/85.
2003 Red Bicyclette, Syrah, Vin de Pays d'Oc, France, $12. Simple but tasty, with blackberry flavors and threshold sweetness. Blackberry jam lingers on the finish; 82/82.
2002 Reynolds, Syrah, New South Wales, Australia, $9, 15,200 cases. Black fruit, barrel char and warm spices greet the nose. Somewhat disjointed, the black currant fruit is bolstered by vanilla spice; 81/81.
2003 Turning Leaf, Syrah, California, $10. The nose is highlighted by cherry vanilla Coke and blueberries. Fruity, with threshold sweetness, this wine has a lot of stuffing for the price class; 83/85.
2001 Folie à Deux, Zinfandel, Amador County, California, $17, 4,122 cases. Gobs of oak, spice and cherry fruit unfold on the nose. Drying tannins hit the palate upfront, then oak obscures all else, making it impossible to assess at this point; NR.
2002 Geyser Peak, Block Collection Zinfandel, Sandy Lane Vineyard, Contra Costa, California, $30, 623 cases. Here's one of your big boys - lots of fruit, acid and alcohol. Blackberries, crushed mint and Baker's chocolate dance across the palate. The tartness of the wine demands grilled meats with a tomato-based BBQ sauce; 89/88.
2001 Grgich Hills, Zinfandel, Napa Valley, California, $29, 6,256 cases. Full-bodied with silky tannins, this is a nice wine but it has atypical flavors for a Zin. The jammy currants, plums, cherries and American oak work well together; 87/86.
2002 Kenwood, Zinfandel, Jack London Vineyard, Sonoma Valley, California, $20, 6,100 cases. Here's a Zin that still maintains some civility. Weighing in as a middleweight, the wine has nice acidity and rounded tannins. Blackberries, raspberries and currants abound, with minimal oak influence; 90/90.
2002 Kenwood, Zinfandel, Reserve, Sonoma Valley, California, $20, 1,600 cases. In contrast to the Jack London, this middleweight Zin tends to have more of the brambly fruit characteristics, with tobacco and eucalyptus nuances. Perfect balance invites early consumption; 90/90.
2003 Pellegrini Family, Zinfandel, Eight Cousins Vineyard, Sonoma County, California, $24, 561 cases. Ruby in color, with blue highlights. A mix of cherries, raspberries, mocha and vanilla carries from the nose to the palate. Bright acidity and moderate tannins give structure to the wine; 88/88.
2001 Rancho Zabaco, Zinfandel Reserve, Dry Creek Valley, California, $18, 24,200 cases. Briary blackberry and black cherry notes carry from nose to palate. Crisp and bright, the jammy finish is quite lengthy; 86/87.