© 2005 by Randy Buckner
November 2005

Late Autumn 2005 Releases

You'll notice a plethora of Petite Sirah wines this month. Petite Sirah has been shrouded in mystery, further complicated by statements from noted wine writers such as Jancis Robinson. In her book Vines, Grapes and Wines, Robinson states, "The mystery about Petite Sirah is how it got its name. There is nothing particularly petite about it, and it has no connection whatsoever with the noble Syrah of the Rhône valley ..."

Through the efforts of Dr. Carole Meredith, Professor Emeritus, Department of Viticulture and Enology, University of California and her colleagues, DNA profiling has revealed the true lineage of Petite Sirah.

We now know Petite Sirah is the result of cross-pollination between Peloursin (an obscure variety found in the South of France) and Syrah, one of the world's great red grapes.

You'll also find several wines this month for your Thanksgiving Day dinner table. Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Beaujolais and Muscat Canelli we be highlighted on our sideboard server. Enjoy the holidays and please drive sensibly.

Another 100 new and current releases are presented for your inspection. The dual rating system evaluates quality (the first number) and value (the second) on a 100-point scale. No wines scoring below 80 points are listed. All prices are the manufacturers suggested retail price. Vendor prices are often less expensive. As always, enjoy a bottle with dinner tonight.

Cabernet Sauvignon/Blends wine glass

Chateau St. Jean 2002 Chateau St. Jean, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, California, $27, 5,740 cases. The nose is defined by black fruit, mint, mocha and barrel notes. Sporting nice overall structure, the fruit is dominated by heavy-handed oak; 84/84.

2003 Chateau St. Jean, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, $15, 39,100 cases. Deep ruby/purple in color. Black fruit, cigar leaf and licorice aromas morph into flavors of oak, vanilla, chocolate, coffee and black fruit. Soft tannins allow early drinking; 84/84.

2002 Clos du Bois, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, California, $17. Ruby with a blue tinge. The wine is defined by blackberries, licorice, cedary oak and herbs. This Cab is smooth and easy to drink right now; 85/87.

2002 Clos du Bois, Briarcrest, Alexander Valley, California, $36, 2,500 cases. Deep ruby in color, with a bouquet that reveals cassis, licorice and oak spice. The wine is full in the mouth, with lovely balance, but the oak overwhelms the rich underlying fruit. Will it ever tame down? 85/85.

2002 Clos du Bois, Marlstone, Alexander Valley, California, $50, 5,800 cases. Oak, mixed black fruits and tobacco leaf aromas radiate from the glass. While elegant on the entry, the wine is carrying a heavy oak load that obscures the lovely fruit underpinning; 85/85.

2002 Clos du Bois, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Alexander Valley, California, $22, 15,000 cases. Currants, berries, chocolate and barrel notes intermingle on the nose. The wine is silky on the entry, with tannins firming up with time. Again, someone needs to tame down the oak profile, which overwhelms the fruit; 84/84.

2000 Columbia Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Otis Vineyard, Yakima Valley, Washington, $25, 2,440 cases. Black fruit, herbs, chocolate and mint notes unfold on the nose, then expand on the palate. Full, very ripe and juicy, with a touch of tomato leaf; 85/85.

2002 Frei Brothers, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, California, $24, 33,000 cases. A pleasant mix of berries, cassis, eucalyptus and tobacco leaf delight the senses. Full, crisp, and packing moderate tannins, this is made for grilled beef; 86/86.

2003 Hayman & Hill, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve Selection, Napa Valley, California, $14. Blackberry, chocolate and barrel notes underscore the nose of this soft, balanced wine. Drink over the next couple of years for the tart currant fruit; 85/87.

2002 Hogue, Cabernet Sauvignon, Terroir, Red Mountain, Washington, $40, 69 cases. You'll find generous aromas of black fruit, tobacco, herbs, chocolate and barrel notes. Full in the mouth, the flavors mirror the nose, with oak dominating the flavor profile; 84/83.

2001 Lake Sonoma, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, California, $22, 2,500 cases. Deep ruby in color, with a fragrance of black fruit, crushed mint leaf and chocolate. Full in the mouth, with generous tannins and oak. Flavors mirror the nose; 85/85.

2002 Louis M. Martini, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, $24, 30,000 cases. The nose conveys juicy berry, pipe tobacco and toasty oak notes. The wine is elegant on the entry, with modest tannins and tangy acidity. The fruit is full and generous without being overdone. Coffee and mint nuances add character; 86/86.

2002 Stags' Leap, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, $45. This intensely-hued wine gives off blackberry, olive, wood spice and leather aromas. Crisp on the entry, with a nice acidic bite, the flavors echo the nose, with just a hint of rhubarb; 88/88.

2002 Three Rivers Winery, River's Red, Red Table Wine, Columbia Valley, Washington, $15, 1,344 cases. This affordable Bordeaux blend is defined by aromas and flavors of black cherries, dark chocolate, strawberry preserves and barrel notes. Enjoy this crisp wine early on for the tart fruit; 86/87.

2003 Trinchero, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chicken Ranch, Napa Valley, California, $30, 1,250 cases. Deep ruby in color, with cassis, black plums, new leather and cinnamon presented on the nose. The wine is well balanced, medium bodied and not overdone at all. Flavors echo the aromas, with the oak becoming more prominent with time in the glass; 86/86.

2003 Waterbrook, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington, $23, 2,968 cases. Mixed red/black fruit and toasty oak aromas radiate from this deep ruby wine. Medium bodied and well balanced, the wine sports blackberry, plum, cedar and dark chocolate flavors; 86/86.

2002 Whitman, Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, Washington, $36. You'll find a host of black fruit on the nose, with French oak nuances. The wine has a lovely mouth feel, rounded tannins and a brisk finish. Impeccably structured, the wine has a long future; 90/90. (Tasted twice with similar notes)

2002 Whitman, Narcissa Red, Walla Walla Valley, Washington, $24, 2,500 cases. This is a fun blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. The wine is well balanced, with integrated oak and accessible tannins. Vibrant cherry fruit and blackberries linger on the lengthy finish; 89/89. (Tasted twice with similar notes)

Chardonnay wine glass

2004 Blackstone, Chardonnay, Monterey County, California, $11. Light gold in color, with lemon drops, oak and vanilla on the nose. Threshold sweetness is more than handled by the tangy acidity. Flavors mirror the nose; 84/86.

2004 Canyon Road, Chardonnay, California, $10. This light gold wine displays aromas of baked apples, lemon creams and light toast. Full bodied, crisp and creamy, the flavors speak of lemons, apples, peaches and red plums; 85/87.

2004 Chateau St. Jean, Chardonnay, Sonoma County, California, $14, 196,000 cases. Smoky oak and butter are right upfront, with underlying pear and floral scents. The wine is creamy, while maintaining a crisp feel; 83/84.

2003 Columbia Winery, Chardonnay, Wyckoff Vineyard, Yakima Valley, Washington, $19, 2,803 cases. Light gold, with toasty oak aromas upfront, followed by vanilla, herbs and hazelnuts. The wine is crisp and creamy on the entry, with lots of spicy oak and vanilla cream to the exclusion of the fruit; 84/84.

2003 Foolish Oak, Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Washington, $11, 5,000 cases. Green apples, lemons, vanilla and oak unfold on the nose, then carries through to the palate. Soft and creamy, with decent fruit for the price class; 82/83.

2004 Hayman & Hill, Chardonnay, Reserve Selection, Russian River Valley, California, $14. Loads of melons, peaches, citrus zest and almonds abound in this medium to full-bodied wine. The finish is crisp and refreshing; 85/87.

2004 Lake Sonoma, Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, California, $16, 5,600 cases. Well balanced, buttery and creamy, with generous green apple, apricot, lemon and barrel characteristics; 85/87.

Panther Creek 2003 Panther Creek, Chardonnay, Celilo Vineyard, Washington, $18. Light to medium gold in color, the wine gives off aromas of apricots, melons and green apples. Full in the mouth, with food-friendly acidity. Flavors are a nice mix of melons, roasted hazelnuts, lemon zest and toasty oak; 87/88.

2004 Stags' Leap, Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California, $24. The nose delivers a pleasant blend of melons, sliced tangerines and floral notes. Creamy and spicy on the entry, the wine displays flavors of melons, citrus, vanilla and clove spice; 88/88.

Gewurztraminer wine glass

2004 Columbia Winery, Gewurztraminer, Columbia Valley, Washington, $9, 9,901 cases. Classic Gewurztraminer aromas of lychee and honeysuckle carry from nose to palate. The acidity barely covers the 3.1 percent residual sugar; 82/82.

2004 Thomas Fogarty, Gewurztraminer, Monterey, California, $17, 3,101 cases. Always a solid performer year in and year out, this one delivers the goods as well. Plenty of acidity breathes life into the wine, which displays tropical fruit, rose petals, melon and spice. Think Thanksgiving table; 88/88.

Merlot/Blends wine glass

Chateau St. Jean 2003 Chateau St. Jean, Merlot, California, $15, 45,400 cases. Aromas of berries, red cherries, cinnamon and oak emanate from this dark ruby Merlot. Medium bodied, crisp, with easy-drinking tannins, the wine is showing generous oak and mixed black fruit; 84/84.

2002 Chateau St. Jean, Merlot, Sonoma County, California, $25, 20,500 cases. This wine is characterized by berries, chocolate, licorice and barrel notes. Medium to full bodied, with easy tannins, but oak dominates overall; 84/84.

2001 Columbia Winery, Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington, $15, 21,823 cases. The nose is a nice mix of cherries, berries, cedar and herbs. Well balanced, with soft tannins, you should drink this one early on for the sweet blackberry and cherry fruit. Good value; 86/89.

2002 Foolish Oak, Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington, $11, 7,700 cases. Heavy oak aromas are augmented by cherry and cocoa notes, which carry over to the palate. Excluding the timber, the wine is pretty well balanced; 80/80.

2002 Gallo of Sonoma, Merlot, Sonoma County, California, $11, 115,000 cases. Straightforward but tasty, with aromas and flavors of cherry cola, berries, vanilla and cedar. Smooth tannins allow early consumption; 84/86.

2002 Stags' Leap, Merlot, Napa Valley, California, $31. Here's a crisp, rich wine, with all of the adjectives - black fruit, cola, herbs, dark chocolate, cedar and toasted vanilla beans; 87/87.

2003 Three Rivers Winery, MC2, Columbia Valley, Washington, $11, 705 cases. Here's an affordable, easy to drink, Merlot predominant Bordeaux blend. Black cherries, berries, spice, tomato leaf and oak delineate the wine's aroma and flavor profile; 85/88.

2003 Waterbrook, Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington, $21, 3,024 cases. Black cherries, plums, spice and cedar combine on the nose and palate, riding on a medium framework with modest tannins; 87/87.

2002 Whitman, Merlot, Walla Walla Valley, Washington, $32. This has all of the stuffing to make a nice wine, but it is totally closed down right now, making it impossible to fairly rate; NR. (Tasted twice with similar notes)

2002 William Hill, Merlot, Napa Valley, California, $18, 12,912 cases. The nose is highlighted by aromas of mixed berries, plums, anise and cedar. Medium bodied, crisp, and oaky, the flavors mirror the nose; 85/85.

Miscellaneous wine glasswine glass

2004 Aura, Verdejo, Rueda, Spain, $18. Gooseberry, pear and apple aromas leap from the glass and fan out on the palate. Full bodied, crisp and fruity, this is a great match for shellfish, bisque, and smoked turkey; 90/90.

2003 Cosentino, Sangiovese Il Chiaretto, California, $18, 2,443 cases. Plums, black cherries and anise highlight the nose. Tannins are well managed here. Mixed red and black fruits are delivered in a full package, with nuances of tomato leaf and oak; 86/86.

NV Hoodsport, Bella Cranberry, Washington, $16 (375 ml). What more can be said? The wine has the color, smell and taste of, well, cranberries. Intense, crisp and slightly sweet on the palate, this should pair well with holiday foods; 86/86.

2003 Panther Creek, Melón, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $24. Wow! Considering how tough the 2003 vintage was for Oregon (extremely hot), this wine is a rousing success. Peach, pear and baked apple notes swirl around on nose and expand on the palate. You will pick up some heat on the finish, as would be expected from a hot vintage; 87/87.

2004, Powers, Muscat Canelli, Columbia Valley, Washington, $10, 2,500 cases. This value wine is loaded with aromas of rose petals, tangerines and peaches. Flavors repeat the nose, with nutmeg spice thrown in the mix. Moderately sweet and crisp, this one is the perfect match for that slice of sweet potato or pumpkin pie; 88/90.

2004 Waterbrook, Mélange, Columbia Valley, Washington, $14. A blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese and Syrah. Easy to drink now with its soft tannins, but it will hold. Plumy, cherry vanilla notes prevail throughout; 87/89.

2004 Whitman, Viognier, Columbia Valley, Washington, $19. Whitman Cellars always seems to do a good job with this wine. The wine is placed in three-year-old barrels and does not undergo malolactic fermentation, resulting in a crisp, refreshing wine, melon fruit predominant; 90/90. (Tasted twice with similar notes)

Petite Sirah wine glass

2003 Bogle, Petite Sirah, California, $10. Fruit is sourced from Lodi and Clarksburg. Ruby/purple in color, the wine emits aromas of berries, pepper, toasty wood and cocoa. Soft tannins and acids make it easy to drink now. Jammy tones linger on the finish; 85/87.

2002 Bogle, Petite Sirah Port, Quick Ranch, Clarksburg, California, $18, 1,700 cases. Black in the glass, with aromas of raspberries, plums and raisins. Full, rich and sweet, the wine is chock full of fruit flavors, chocolate and pecans. Lovely; 88/90.

Concannon 2003 Concannon, Petite Sirah, Selected Vineyard, Central Coast, California, $15, 50,000 cases. The nose is filled with cherry, berry and aged wood notes. Tannins are firm but rounded. Pretty complex for its price point. You'll enjoy berry fruit, chocolate and vanilla, finishing with tart cherry nuances; 86/88.

2001 Concannon, Heritage Petite Sirah, Livermore Valley, California, $45, 340 cases. Jammy fruit aromas and vanilla overtones leap from the glass of this inky beast. The wine is elegant and intense on the palate, with fruit jam, vanilla and earthy notes; 88/87.

2003 Ehrhardt, Petite Sirah, Clarksburg, California, $26, 1,400 cases. The nose and palate are a pleasant mix of black fruit liqueur, olives and barrel notes. The wine is full, lush and crisp, with impeccable balance; 88/88.

2002 Foppiano, Petite Sirah, Bacigalupi Vineyard, Russian River Valley, California, $17.50, 1,200 cases. Purple/red in color, with aromas of brown spices, black fruit and toasty oak. Very tart on the entry, the wine shows berry fruit and cracked black pepper nuances, finishing with Bing cherry notes. This needs a tomato-based sauce to show its stuff; 87/89.

2002 Foppiano, Petite Sirah, Russian River Valley Estate, California, $23, 7,000 cases. This inky-colored Petite gives off aromas of warm spices, black fruit, sweet oak and tea. Full on the palate, the wine is tart, with generous, supple tannins. Berry and toasty oak flavors linger of the protracted finish; 88/88.

2001 Guenoc, Petite Sirah, North Coast, California, $18, 5,053 cases. Easy to drink right now, this purple/red Petite exhibits lots of cherry and berry aromas and flavors, laced with a layer of sweet oak. Crisp acidity lends ample support; 86/88.

2001 Judd, Petite Sirah, Cranston Vineyard, Lodi, California, $26, 200 cases. You won't read print through this inky beast. Ripe blueberries, plums, spice and cedar unfold on the nose and then do an encore on the palate. A hint of black pepper sneaks in on the finish. Tannins are well managed here; 88/88.

2003 La Storia (Trentadue), Petite Sirah, Alexander Valley, California, $NA, 1,400 cases. Almost black in the glass, the wine delivers aromas of dark fruit, herbs and barrel notes. Full bodied, with generous tannins and a touch of heat (15 percent alcohol). The palate shows a nice mix of herbs, black fruit and coffee, with a long blackberry finish; 87/??.

2002 Lolonis, Petite Sirah, Orpheus, Heritage Vineyards, Redwood Valley, California, $35, 1,200 cases. This deeply-hued wine is packed with aromas of berry jam, spice and sweet oak. Full on the palate, with generous tannins, the rich, jammy fruit lingers endlessly on the finish, with a pecan (?) nuance; 88/87.

2001 Marr, Petite Sirah, Cuvée Patrick, California, $13, 300 cases. Sporting a deep ruby color, the aromas are a pleasing blend of raspberries, strawberry preserves, vanilla and a dash of herbs. The wine delivers pretty good bang for the buck. It is ready to drink right now with your favorite grilled foods; 85/88.

2002 Marr, Petite Sirah, Tehama Foothills, California, $27, 200 cases. This wine has a nice sense of balance. Aromas of berries, smoke, warm spices and oak morph into flavors of cherry fruit, smoky notes and plumy undertones. Delightful; 88/88.

2002 Silkwood, Petite Sirah, Stanislaus County, California, $36, 960 cases. The wine takes after its name - silky smooth with obvious wood notes. Black fruit, toasty oak, mint and cigar leaf highlight the nose and carries over to the palate. The finish is long and underscored by black currant notes and sweet oak. Check out the unusual velvet packaging. An elegantly-styled Petite that can be enjoyed now; 89/88.

2002 Spellbound, Petite Sirah, California, $15, 2,500 cases. This wine is designed to drink right now. Built on a medium framework with soft tannins, you'll appreciate rich cherry and coffee aromas and flavors; 85/87.

2002 Stags' Leap Winery, Petite Sirah, Napa Valley, California, $35. Almost black in the glass, the aromas are all about black fruit, spice and American oak. The wine shows impeccable balance, with firm, rounded tannins giving support. Currants, blueberries, chocolate and spices evolve on the palate, with a long blackberry finish, 88/87.

2002 Victor Hugo, Petite Sirah, Paso Robles, California, $18, 1,194 cases. Aromas of plums, blue fruit and American oak radiate from this deep purple-red Petite. Very elegant on the entry, the wine is rich, with lots of sweet oak to match the fruit. Will the oak integrate? 87+/89+.

Pinot Grigio wine glass

2004 Campanile, Pinot Grigio, I.G.T. delle Venezie, Italy, $10. This crisp, medium-bodied wine has aromas of melons, lemongrass peaches and apples, which repeat on the palate. A hint of pineapple lingers on the finish; 84/85.

2004 Columbia Winery, Pinot Gris, Columbia Valley, Washington, $10, 2,952 cases. Aromas and flavors speak of citrus rind, peaches and melons. Light to medium bodied, tart, with a matchstick note that finally blew off; 83/83.

2004 Cosentino, Pinot Grigio, Lodi, California, $14, 414 cases. Lemons, melons, grass and orange blossoms swirl from the glass. Medium bodied, with a sweet impression, you'll find apples and citrus overtones; 84/83.

2004 Maso Canali, Pinot Grigio, Trentino, Italy, $23, 12,000 cases. Aromas speak of peaches and fresh honey. The soft acidity barely carries the wine, which is defined by canned tropical fruit. Quaffable; 83/82.

Pinot Noir wine glass

2004 Blackstone, Pinot Noir, Monterey County, California, $11, 40,000 cases. This garnet-colored Pinot gives off aromas of red cherries, plums and vanilla. You'll find soft tannins, crisp acids, with lots of vanilla and spice upfront and underlying generic red fruit; 82/83.

Chalone 2004 Chalone, Pinot Noir, Monterey County, California, $15. This is a terrific value for your Thanksgiving table. Aromas speak of black cherries, warm spices and vanilla. Very elegant on the entry, the wine shows nice complexity, with layers of fruit, spice and wood all singing in harmony; 88/91.

2004 Hayman & Hill, Pinot Noir, Reserve Selection, Santa Lucia Highlands, California, $14. This garnet-colored Pinot radiates cherry, plum, vanilla and cedar aromas. Cherries, strawberry preserves and crushed tomato leaf notes are supported by a medium framework with rounded tannins; 85/87.

2004 Kendall-Jackson, Pinot Noir, Vintner's Reserve, California, $14. There's a lot going on here for the price class. Light to medium bodied, the wine delivers a mélange of flavors ranging from raspberries to cherry cola. Soft tannins allow early consumption; 85/88.

2003 King Estate, Pinot Noir, Signature Collection, Oregon, $25, 15,100 cases. Another nice Pinot from a difficult vintage. Smooth, with silky tannins, the earthy aromas and flavors are underscored by blueberries, black cherries, spice and integrated French oak; 88/88.

2003 Panther Creek, Pinot Noir, Winemaker's Cuvée, Oregon, $25. Beginning with the 2000 vintage, the Winemaker's Cuvée is Panther Creek's only blended Pinot noir. A blend of Pinot noirs from the Willamette Valley and the Umpqua Valley, the wine showcases red fruits, blackberries, earthy/forest floor notes and toast. A real success for the '03 vintage; 88/89.

2003 Taz, Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County, California, $25, 3,200 cases. The nose is a mélange of scents - strawberry preserves, rhubarb, cola and smoky oak. Sporting nice balance, you'll find generous fruit and generous oak on the palate, with silky tannins on the finish; 85/85.

Riesling wine glass

2004 Covey Run, Late Harvest Riesling, Winemaker's Collection, Columbia Valley, Washington, $13, 3,037 cases. Green apple and honeysuckle scents radiate from the glass. Somewhat cloying and sweet (5.6 percent residual sugar), the wine needs an acidic backbone. Straightforward flavors mirror the nose; 80/80.

2004 Mirassou, Riesling, Monterey County, California, $10, 10,000 cases. The nine percent blend of Gewurztraminer makes this one atypical for my tastes. Soft and off-dry, you find nectarine, citrus and floral aromas and flavors; 82/82.

Rosé wine glass

2004 Chateau de Lascaux, Rosé, Coteaux du Languedoc, France, $12. Delicate aromas and flavors of cherries, cranberries, plums and almonds swirl about on the senses. Pleasantly tart, thoughts of the Thanksgiving table readily come to mind; 90/91.

2004 Domaine Beaumont, Rosé, Tavel, France, $17. A lovely melon pink color, with light cherry/berry aromas and flavors. A dash of herbs adds character. The finish is light, long and crisp; 88/88.

2004 Domaine de Fontsaint, Rosé, Gris de Gris, Corbières, France, $12. Here's a delightfully balanced, medium-bodied Rosé. Hints of red plums, strawberries and herbs define the wine throughout; 87/88.

2004 Domaine du Joncier, Rosé, Lirac, France, $13. This is a deeply-colored Rosé that is full, rich, balanced and ever so easy to drink. Aromas and flavors unfold in layers of red cherries, berries and a smidgen of white pepper. Delicious; 91/93.

2004 Domaine Tempier, Rosé, Bandol, France, $26. A lovely peach red color leads in to aromas of Casaba melons and rose buds. Intense in flavor, the wine seems pretty rounded, with modest acidity compared to others in the crowd, but then the acids magically appear. Lemon grass nuances come in on the aftertaste; 88/87.

2004 Hogue, Sangiovese Rosé, Terroir, Columbia Valley, Washington, $13, 114 cases. Pink/orange in color, with a mélange of aromas and flavors - pomegranate, apple, red cherry and a hint of vanilla. The wine is crisp and has just a hint of sweetness; 85/86.

2004 Mas Champart, Rosé, Saint-Chinian, France, $14. A pale Rosé with delicate aromas and flavors that deliver modest sand plum notes. Soft structure demands a delicate accompaniment; 85/86.

2004 Red Beret, Rosé, Côtes du Rhône, France, $11, 4,000 cases. Lightly colored, with an orange tinge. Cherries, berries and a kiss of herbs unfold on the nose and carry over to the palate. Soft, but reasonably balanced - drink now; 82/82.

Sauvignon Blanc wine glass

2004 Blackstone, Sauvignon Blanc, Monterey County, California, $11. This value-priced wine has enticing aromas of grapefruit, cut grass and tropical fruit. It is steely, clean, and has a lot of youthful fruitiness; 87/89.

2004 Chateau St. Jean, Fumé Blanc, Sonoma County, California, $13, 17,700 cases. Lemongrass, grapefruit zest, spice and wood notes carry the length of the wine, in a smooth, balanced package; 84/84.

2004 Viña Santa Carolina, Colección Especial, Rapel Valley, Chile, $7. Triple S here - soft, simple and serviceable. Drink early on for the lemongrass and pineapple notes; 80/80.

Sparkling Wine wine glass

Domaine Ste. Michelle NV Domaine Ste. Michelle, Blanc de Blancs, Columbia Valley, Washington, $12. Here's a very crisp, effervescent sparkler that delivers good value. Apples, pears, citrus and toasty notes run the length of the wine; 85/87.

NV Domaine Ste. Michelle, Blanc de Noirs, Columbia Valley, Washington, $12. This value sparkler is copper colored, with apple and raspberry notes and a crisp, acidic bite; 85/87.

NV Domaine Ste. Michelle, Cuvée Brut, Columbia Valley, Washington, $12. A medium-fine bead shimmers in the straw-colored medium. The bubbly is defined by peach fruit and toasty, doughy nuances; 84/85.

NV Domaine Ste. Michelle, Extra Dry, Columbia Valley, Washington, $12. Off-dry, crisp and creamy, this straw-colored bubbly sports a medium mousse. Pears and tropical fruit dominate the flavor/aroma profile; 84/86.

1999 Domaine Ste. Michelle, Luxe, Columbia Valley, Washington, $23. Lemons, citrus zest and ginger draw attention to the aroma profile. Sporting a vigorous, medium-fine bead, the wine has a creamy mouth feel, with almond, pear and yellow apple flavors; 87/88.

Syrah wine glass

2003 Clos du Bois, Shiraz, Sonoma County, California, $14, 55,000 cases. The wine is very tart and lean, with aromas of black cherries, tobacco and smoky cedar. Straightforward flavors echo the nose; 84/85.

2002 E&E, "Black Pepper" Shiraz, Barossa Valley, Australia, $85. Deep ruby/black in color, the wine exhibits blue and black fruit, smoke, dark chocolate, spice, oak and humidor aromas. Fully extracted, intense and silky smooth in the mouth, the flavors mirror the nose. Black cherries linger on the protracted finish. Oak is evident but does not dominate the wine at this point; 93/91.

2002 Hayman & Hill, Shiraz-Viognier, Reserve Selection, Monterey County, California, $14. Chocolate-covered cherries, warm spices and cedar notes underscore the nose. Very tart and lean, the flavors speak of red cherries. Atypical; 83/83.

2003 Whitman, Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, Washington, $28. I judged this wine at the Northwest Wine Summit where it won a gold medal. Terrific acidity makes this a great food wine. The bright cherry fruit is starting to close down, so I would not be quick to pull a cork; 89/89. (Tasted twice with similar notes)

Zinfandel wine glass

2003 Hayman & Hill, Zinfandel, Reserve Selection, Dry Creek Valley, California, $14. Plums, pomegranates and brambly notes underscore the nose. Peppery, brambly fruit rides on a medium framework; 87/88.

2003 Kenwood, Zinfandel, Jack London Vineyard, Sonoma Valley, California, $20, 6,900 cases. The nose is a pleasant mix of plums, pomegranates and French vanilla. Medium to full bodied, jammy and fruity, with flavors echoing the nose; 88/89.

2003 Kenwood, Zinfandel, Reserve, Sonoma County, California, $20, 1,700 cases. Medium ruby in color, with berries, mint, American oak and licorice unfolding on the nose. Full on the delivery, with lots of typical Zin fruit and a nice peppery streak throughout. Oak is only a seasoning; 87/88.

2003 Rancho Zabaco, Zinfandel, Heritage Vines, Sonoma County, California, $18, 50,000 cases. This deeply-hued Zin gives off aromas of plums, black cherries and vanilla. Full bodied, nicely balanced, with friendly tannins, you'll find typical Zin flavors that make this a fun wine to drink; 87/88.

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