© 2008 by Randy Buckner
November 2008

Autumn 2008 Releases

Just as the fall foliage is changing to its cloak of brilliant colors, my wine preference changes from white to red. While I still enjoy my Riesling and Gewurztraminer wines with Asian foods, fall usually invites heavier entrees at our homestead, served with a hearty red.

This month's reviews have no shortage of reds or whites, ranging in price from $10 to $119, and representing seven countries. There is something to fit everyone's pocketbook and taste preference.

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 after breathing for one hour. 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.

Cabernet Sauvignon

2005 Artesa, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Napa Valley, California, $45, 8,891 cases. Defined by blackberries, raspberries, Baker's chocolate and cedar, this is a mouthful of wine - intensely fruity, elegant, well balanced and easy to drink; 90/90.

2005 Beringer, Cabernet Sauvignon, Private Reserve, Napa Valley, California, $119. This deep-ruby Cabernet radiates aromas of cherries, chocolate and cedar. Very polished on the entry, with nice complexity and firm but rounded tannins. Blackberries, cherries and currants linger on the finish. Give this a few years in the bottle; 91/89.

2005 Joseph Carr, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, $20. Medium bodied, fruity, with generous oak flavors and rounded tannins, the wine displays an undercurrent of blackberries, cassis, leather and dill spice; 85/86.

2006 Clayhouse Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, California, $15, 11,400 cases. Rich aromas reveal cherry liqueur, violets, plums and toast. Very polished on the entry, this fruity little wine offers terrific value; 86/90.

2005 Clayhouse Vineyard, Hillside Cuvée, Paso Robles, California, $28, 401 cases. Defined by plums, berries, dark chocolate and cedar, this Bordeaux blend is full, fruity and oaky, with food-friendly tannins; 86/86.

2005 Edna Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon, San Luis Obispo County, California, $14. Blackberries, vanilla and cedary notes present on the nose and palate - a straightforward, easy drinker at a value price; 83/85.

2005 Faust, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, $50. Blackberries, black cherries and French oak underscore the nose, while juicy black fruits and cedary notes highlight the palate. Firm tannins will benefit from cellaring; 87/86.

2005 Lake Sonoma, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, California, $24, 4,200 cases. Aromas and flavors of black fruits, licorice, dark chocolate and cedar are presented in a straightforward package; 84/84.

2004 Markham, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, $30. Aromas of cassis, cedar and vanilla radiate from this deep-ruby wine. It is smooth and elegant on the entry, but tannins firm up on the back end. Complex black fruit lingers on the finish; 89/89.

2004 Owl Ridge, Cabernet Sauvignon, Brigden Vineyard, Sonoma County, California, $48. This deep-ruby wine radiates aromas of blackberries, black cherries, cigar leaf and cedary oak. Complex, polished and silky, with a long finish; 90/90.

2004 Owl Ridge, Cabernet Sauvignon, T.R. Passalacqua Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley, California, $42. Cherries, vanilla and cedar abound on the nose and palate. Tannins are firm but ripe, with food-friendly acids giving verve; 88/88.

2006 Penley Estate, Cabernet Sauvignon, Phoenix, Coonawarra, South Australia, $20. Highlighted by blackberries mint, cedar and licorice, this deep ruby wine is very polished. Medium bodied and fruity, it is easy to drink now. Good value; 89/91.

2006 Rosenblum, Cabernet Sauvignon, Vintner's Cuvée, California, $12. Cherry cola, plum, spice and cedar accents carry from the nose to the palate, in a straightforward package with slightly bitter tannins; 83/83.

2005 Sterling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, $24. The wine is underscored by red cherries, currants, vanilla, cedar and dark chocolate. Lean, crisp and tannic, with modest fruit flavors; 84/84.

2005 Sterling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Vintner's Collection, Central Coast, California, $13. Blackberry, cassis and light cedar aromas lead to a light, simple, fruity, easy-to-drink wine that is quite a value to boot; 84/87.

2006 337, Cabernet Sauvignon, Lodi, California, $15, 80,000 cases. Plums and berries define the aroma and flavor profile here. Supple tannins allow for early consumption; 85/88.

2005 Valley of the Moon, Cuvée de la Luna, Sonoma County, California, $30, 2,500 cases. Very polished on the entry, this medium-bodied Bordeaux blend displays aromas and flavors of black cherries, eucalyptus, dark chocolate and cedar; 87/87.


2006 Acacia, Chardonnay, California, $10. Here's an excellent value Chardonnay that is lean, balanced and fruity. Enjoy now for the pineapple, citrus and light toast notes; 85/89.

2006 Alma Rosa, Chardonnay, El Jabalí Vineyard, Santa Rita Hills, California, $30, 1,450 cases. This light-gold Chardonnay is balanced and fruity, with nicely integrated oak. White peaches and floral notes linger on the finish. It pairs well with rotisserie chicken; 88/88.

2007 Alma Rosa, Chardonnay, Santa Barbara County, California, $18, 6,305 cases. The shy nose does reveal some pear and vanilla notes. Oak is a minor player here. The lemon and pear fruit is framed by food-friendly acidity; 87/89.

2006 Artesa, Chardonnay, Reserve, Carneros, California, $26, 3,068 cases. Smoke, butter, lees and pineapple notes are evident on the nose. Full and creamy in the mouth, the wine is well structured, with a butterscotch finish. Very tasty if you are a fan of this style; 90/91.

2006 Joseph Carr, Chardonnay, Carneros, California, $18. Aromas of pineapples and citrus zest are augmented by a light oak influence. Medium bodied, well balanced, and nicely integrated - the fruit and minerals are refreshing; 87/89.

2006 Dry Creek Vineyard, Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, California, $20, 15,118 cases. Highlighted by green apples and spice, the wine is light, balanced and easy to drink. Apples and butter linger on the finish; 85/85.

2006 Edna Valley, Chardonnay, Paragon Vineyard, Edna Valley, California, $12. Smoky oak, peaches and butter carry throughout. Crisp, fruity and oaky; 83/84.

2006 Frei Brothers, Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, California, $20, 115,000 cases. Aromas and flavors reveal toasty oak, butter, lemon and green apple nuances. Very soft and creamy; 85/85.

2006 Grgich Hills, Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California, $42, 25,144 cases. Lemons, minerals and light toast highlights the aroma and flavor profiles. Bright acidity breathes life into the wine. Pair with grilled halibut topped with mango salsa; 89/88.

2007 Lake Sonoma, Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, California, $17, 6,000 cases. Aromas of butter, cloves, pear and vanilla radiate from this light gold wine, and then repeat on the palate. Butterscotch lingers on the finish; 84/84.

2006 Markham, Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California, $21. This wine has a mélange of aromas and flavors - caramel, oak, cream, butter, baked apples and peaches, all backed by zippy acidity. Tasty for the style; 87/88.

2006 Michel-Schlumberger, Chardonnay, La Brume, Dry Creek Valley, California, $32. Green apples and vanilla blend with a hint of butter on the nose. Crisp and elegant on the entry, the flavors are underscored by pears, butter and citrus peel; 87/87.

2007 Rosenblum, Chardonnay, Vintner's Cuvee, California, $12. Radiating aromas of lemon creams, citrus peel and a hint of tropicals, this very fruity and well-balanced wine offers terrific value; 87/90.

2006 Sebastiani, Chardonnay, Appellation Selection, Carneros, California, $25. Apples, toasty oak and butter highlight the nose and palate. The wine is very harmonious; 86/86.

2007 Sebastiani, Unoaked Chardonnay, Appellation Selection, Russian River Valley, California, $18. Apples, apricots and white flowers highlight the nose, while pears and apples are expressed on the palate, but the wine is very soft in the mouth; 84/84.

2006 Sonoma Vineyards, Chardonnay, Sonoma County, California, $15. Highlighted by lemon and green apple notes, this wine is soft, smooth and fruity - pair with steamed crab; 85/87.

2007 Taz, Chardonnay, Santa Barbara County, California, $20, 9,000 cases. Lemons, pineapples, minerals and toasty oak accents are presented in an elegant, creamy package, that finishes long and satisfying; 87/88.


2006 Kaiken, Malbec, Ultra, Mendoza, Argentina, $25. Aromas of berries, cherries and peppery spice arise from this purple/red wine. Full and juicy in the mouth, this is just the ticket for those BBQ ribs; 88/88.

2007 Layer Cake, Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina, $16. Aromas of black fruits, smoke and warm spices morph into flavors reminiscent of a Crozes-Hermitage. Unusual, but interesting; 85/86.


2005 Markham, Merlot, Napa Valley, California, $25. Cherries, coffee, vanilla and cedar nuances unfold on the nose and then repeat on the palate, backed by crisp acids and modest tannins; 86/86.

2004 Michel-Schlumberger, Merlot, Dry Creek Valley, California, $28. The bouquet is a mélange of aromas - black cherries, mint, cedar and a hint of licorice. Medium bodied, with modest tannins, you'll find plum and cherry cola accents lingering on the finish; 85/85.

2004 Sonoma Vineyards, Merlot, Sonoma County, California, $15. Aromas and flavors speak of black cherries, plums and oak spice. Straightforward, crisp and fruity - pull this one out for grilled burgers; 84/85.

2004 Sterling, Merlot, Napa Valley, California, $22. Aromas speak of blackberries, vanilla, leather and dill spice. Smooth and crisp on the entry, the wine has modest fruit flavors and a medium finish; 83/83.


2005 Bridlewood, Arabesque, Central Coast, California, $24, 4,118 cases. This Southern Rhone-Style blend has aromas of cherries, raspberries and earthy nuances, which repeat on the palate. Light and tasty; 85/85.

2007 Bridlewood, Viognier, Reserve, Central Coast, California, $24, 17,500 cases. Tropical fruit and honeysuckle aromas open to a mélange of flavors - mango, passion fruit, ripe peach and citrus zest. You'll notice a touch of heat on the back end; 87/87.

2005 Clayhouse Vineyard, Estate Cuvee, Paso Robles, California, $32, 490 cases. Somewhat shy on the nose, this Rhone blend does give up mixed berries and a hint of smoked game. Light to medium bodied, with impeccable balance, the wine has a nice Rhone flavor profile; 88/88.

2007 d'Arenberg, Viognier Marsanne, The Hermit Crab, McLaren Vale, Australia, $16. A mélange of aromas and flavors are presented - melons, baked pears, dried herbs and cotton candy. Full and elegant on the palate, this value wine will pair well with Dungeness crab and drawn butter; 89/91.

2007 Dry Creek Vineyard, Chenin Blanc, Clarksburg, California, $11.50, 14,764 cases. Shy on the nose and palate, the wines does give up some citrus and orange blossom nuances; 83/84.

2006 Layer Cake, Cotes du Rhone, Rhone Valley, France, $16. Highlighted by blue and black fruits and dried herbs, the wine is straightforward and approachable; 83/83.

2006 Leeuwin Estate, Sauvignon Blanc Semillon, Siblings, Margaret River, Western Australia, $20. This straw-colored wine is highlighted by limes and gooseberries, with a touch of fig. Well balanced, crisp and lively, this will compliment a variety of seafood dishes; 88/88.

2007 Pietra Santa, Gewurztraminer, Central Coast, California, $15, 645 cases. Bold lychee fruit and floral notes carry from nose to palate. Bright acidity gives the wine zip. This will work well on the Thanksgiving table; 86/88.

Petite Sirah

2005 Clayhouse Vineyard, Petite Sirah, Estate, Paso Robles, California, $23, 1,082 cases. Almost black in the glass, the wine is characterized by black fruits, pepper, smoke and a hint of brown sugar. Structured to go the distance, the tannins are well managed. Think BBQ; 86/86.

2006 Clayhouse Vineyard, Petite Sirah, Late Harvest Estate, Paso Robles, California, $25 (375ml), 411 cases. Raspberry liqueur, Baker's chocolate and brown sugar aromas and flavors are presented in a dense, sweet, tannic package that needs to lay down a few years; 86/86.

2006 Michael-David, Petite Petit, Lodi, California, $18. A blend of Petite Sirah and Petit Verdot, this deeply-hued wine gives off aromas of blueberries, cherry liqueur and spicy oak. Full, fruity and well balanced, a mélange of ripe fruit flavors greets the palate; 87/89.

Pinot Blanc

2006 Alma Rosa, Pinot Blanc, Santa Rita Hills, California, $18, 822 cases. Lovely melon and citrus aromas lead to a crisp, lean wine with ample fruit. This is an ideal match for shellfish; 88/88.

2007 Michel-Schlumberger, Pinot Blanc, La Bise, Dry Creek Valley, California, $18. Green apples, lemon curd and white flowers highlight the nose. The wine is lean and nicely balanced, with flavors echoing the aromas; 88/88.

Pinot Gris

2007 Alma Rosa, Pinot Gris, Santa Barbara County, California, $18, 1,429 cases. Underscored by pear, peach, melon and citrus peel accents, this wine is smooth and fruity in the mouth, with a long finish. Serve with orange roughy; 88/88.

2007 Cooper Mountain, Pinot Gris, 20th Anniversary Reserve, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $15. Straw gold in color, with melon and citrus aromas. Light, crisp and refreshing, the flavors mirror the nose; 88/89.

2007 Estancia, Pinot Grigio, California, $12. This straw-gold wine gives off aromas and flavors of pears, blood oranges and melons. Balanced and easy to drink; 86/87.

2007 Lake Sonoma, Pinot Gris, Russian River Valley, California, $17, 840 cases. Nuances of citrus, melons, pineapples and orange blossoms are apparent on the nose and palate, backed by balancing acidity; 85/85.

2007 Kenwood, Pinot Gris, Sonoma County, California, $16, 1,760 cases. Citrus, melons and tropical fruits unfold on the nose. Crisp, balanced and fruity in the mouth, the flavors echo the nose; 86/86.

2007 MacMurray Ranch, Pinot Gris, Sonoma Coast, California, $20, 8,000 cases. Stone fruit and floral notes unfold on the nose and palate. Light, balanced and refreshing - I'd serve this with white fish; 88/88.

2007 Pietra Santa, Pinot Grigio, Amore, Cienega Valley, California, $24, 238 cases. Grapefruit zest and white peaches characterize the wine. Light, crisp and fruity, this will pair well with crab cakes; 87/86.

2007 Sterling, Pinot Grigio, Vintner's Collection, California, $10. Peaches, honeydew melons and floral notes define this simple, balanced quaffer - serve with steamed shellfish; 84/86.

2007 Taz, Pinot Gris, Santa Barbara County, California, $15, 2,940 cases. This straw-gold wine radiates aromas of grapefruit zest and limes. Crisp, refreshing and fruity - peel a plate of steamed shrimp; 88/89.

Pinot Noir

2006 Acacia, Pinot Noir, California, $16. This straightforward quaffer has aromas and flavors of black cherries, tea and mushrooms; 83/84.

2006 Alma Rosa, Pinot Noir, La Encantada Vineyard, Santa Rita Hills, California, $49, 1,300 cases. This wine speaks of black plums, earth, cedar and warm spices. Smooth and elegant on the entry, there's plenty of stuffing to age gracefully, yet the wine already shows well; 89/88.

2006 Alma Rosa, Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills, California, $36, 1,704 cases. The nose is highlighted by black cherries, dark tea and earth. Medium bodied, well balanced and very food friendly, you'll find black cherries and mushrooms lingering on the finish; 88/88.

2006 Artesa, Pinot Noir, Reserve, Carneros, California, $38, 4,633 cases. Deep garnet in color, with aromas and flavors of black cherries, berries, smoke, earth and warm spices. Medium to full in the mouth, the generous tannins need two or three years of cellaring; 89/89.

2006 Edna Valley, Pinot Noir, Edna Valley Vineyard, Edna Valley, California, $16. This simple, fruity quaffer displays spicy oak, cherries and earthy notes on the nose and palate; 84/86.

2006 Frei Brothers, Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, California, $30, 29,000 cases. The nose is an interesting mix of black cherries, vanilla, sweet oak and mushrooms. Medium bodied and balanced, the straightforward flavors reveal cherries and vanilla notes; 85/85.

2005 Giant Steps, Pinot Noir, Sexton Vineyard, Yarra Valley, Australia, $35. Red currant, earth, mint leaf and French oak nuances carry from nose to palate. Medium bodied, crisp and lean, the fine-grained tannins allow for early consumption. Tart cherries linger on the finish; 87/87.

2006 MacMurray Ranch, Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, California, $37, 2,607 cases. Sand plums, cherries and spicy oak highlight the nose. Tangy, lean and made for food, this will pair well with grilled salmon topped with tarragon butter; 87/87.

2006 MacMurray Ranch, Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, California, $24, 74,975 cases. Cherry, tomato leaf and forest floor aromas lead to mixed fruit and mushroom flavorss on the palate, all backed by bright acidity; 86/86.

2006 Pietra Santa, Pinot Noir, Cienega Valley, California, $18, 2,422 cases. Dark tea, mushrooms and red cherries highlight this wine. Medium bodied, crisp and fruity, the tannins can stand a year or two in bottle; 86/87.

2006 Sterling, Pinot Noir, Vintner's Collection, Central Coast, California, $13. Underscored by black cherries and earthy notes, this straightforward quaffer has enough fruit and acids to be food friendly; 83/85.

2006 Taz, Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County, California, $25, 8,500 cases. The nose is underscored by cherry cola, vanilla and white pepper accents. In the mouth, the black cherry fruit is backed by food-friendly acidity and supple tannins; 86/86.


NV Dow's, Trademark Finest Reserve, Oporto, Portugal, $20. This deeply-hued reserve radiates aromas of berries, strawberry jam and spiced raisins. Sweet and very polished, the silky tannins make this wine easy and fun to drink; 89/91.

NV Graham's, Six Grapes, Reserve, Oporto, Portugal, $23. Characterized by ripe plums, cherries and brown sugar, this Port is rich, sweet, fruity and elegant in the mouth. Tannins are noticeable on the long finish; 86/87.

NV Smith Woodhouse, Lodge Reserve, Oporto, Portugal, $20. Highlighted by plums, spice and cashews, the wine is intensely flavored, rich and sweet, with friendly tannins and a long finish; 88/90.


2007 Tsillan, Riesling, Dolcezza d'Oro, Columbia Valley, Washington, $35. This late harvest wine has honey, pear, white peach and orange slice candy aromas and flavors. While rich and sweet in the mouth, it maintains a sense of balance; 90/90.

2005 Tsillan, Riesling, Estate, Columbia Valley, Washington, $18. The nose is a pleasant mix of limes, grapefruit and wet stones. Delightfully crisp and fruity, this food-friendly wine will pair with a host of foods; 90/90.

2006 Tsillan, Riesling, Estate, Columbia Valley, Washington, $22. Green apples and floral notes carry throughout, but slate notes are more evident on the palate. This is a little softer and sweeter than their 2005 version; 88/88.

2006 Tsillan, Dry Riesling, Estate, Columbia Valley, Washington, $22. The nose has a nice blend of peaches, wet stones and melons. Lemon, lime and apricot fruit is framed by food-friendly acidity. Delicately sweet, this is a perfect wine for Asian dishes; 90/90.


2006 Vaza, Cosecha, Rioja, Spain, $12. Tart cherry and berry aromas and flavors are augmented by earth and tobacco nuances. Very crisp acidity lends this wine to a tomato-based dish; 85/87.

2004 Vaza, Crianza, Rioja, Spain, $15. The nose is a mix of raspberry, plum and humidor accents. The wine is lean and crisp, with tart berry flavors; 84/86.


Cabernet Sauvignon

2007 Pedroncelli, Dry Rosé of Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, California, $10, 2,000 cases. Cranberry in color, with mixed berries and rhubarb aromas, the wine is balanced, crisp and fruity. Think grilled chicken; 86/88.

2007 Pietra Santa, Rosato, Cienega Valley, California, $15, 293 cases. Strawberries dominate the aroma and flavor profile. Acidity is adequate for grilled salmon and chicken. Made from 100 percent Dolcetto; 85/86.

2006 Red Guitar, Old Vine Rosé, Navarra, Spain, $12. Light cranberry in color, the wine radiates strawberry, red cherry and dried herbs accents. Very soft on the entry, with a hint of sweetness, it is straightforward and fruity; 85/85.

Sauvignon Blanc

2007 Clayhouse Vineyard, Sauvignon Blanc, Paso Robles, California, $14, 3,600 cases. This straw-gold wine is lean and crisp, with modest tangerine, lime and lemongrass flavors; 85/85.

2007 Grgich Hills, Fumé Blanc, Napa Valley, California, $30, 12,493 cases. Straw gold in color, with aromas and flavors of tropical fruit and a complementary grassiness. Very crisp and lively in the mouth, this is a perfect match for anything from lemon chicken to grilled shrimp with lemon butter; 91/90.


2004 Bridlewood, Estate Syrah, Santa Ynez Valley, California, $40, 658 cases. Cassis, smoked meat, toasty oak and herbs are presented in this elegant, balanced wine, augmented by a bit of Old World funk; 88/88.

2005 Clayhouse Vineyard, Syrah, Paso Robles, California, $15, 2,213 cases. Here's a value wine to buy by the case. Sporting excellent balance and silky tannins, you'll find lovely cherry/berry fruit with a meaty undercurrent; 87/90.

2005 d'Arenberg, Shiraz, The Footbolt, McLaren Vale, South Australia, $19. Black cherries, plums, mocha and a hint of oak define this wine. Elegant on the entry, with lovely balance, but there is not a lot of depth; 87/89.

2005 Estancia, Shiraz, Central Coast, California, $12. This is an excellent value wine that is made for food. The wine is understated - not your fruit bomb but rather Rhone-like in nature, with earthy, meaty fruit and delightful balance; 86/90.

2006 Frei Brothers, Syrah, Russian River Valley, California, $24, 6,000 cases. Mixed berries, smoke and spice characterize the aromas and flavors. Crisp in the mouth, but pretty tannic at this point; 85/85.

2005 Innocent Bystander, Shiraz Viognier, Victoria, Australia, $20. Plums, smoke, earth and Chinese five spice nuances merge on the nose and palate. Modest tannins and crisp acids make this a food-friendly wine; 88/90.

2006 Kendall-Jackson, Syrah, Vintner's Reserve, California, $12. This deeply-hued wine is underscored by blackberries, blueberries and white pepper. Fruity, polished and very approachable, this is a killer value; 86/90.

2004 Meyer Family, Syrah, Mendocino County, California, $30, 2,200 cases. Purple-red in color, with aromas and flavors of raspberries blueberries, vanilla and cedar. Smooth on the entry, but tannins firm up on the back end. Very food-friendly acidity; 87/87.


2006 Layer Cake, Primitivo, I.G.T. Puglia, Italy, $16. Aromas of berries, cherries, spice and cigar box lead to very ripe, jammy fruit backed by firm tannins; 83/83.

2006 Pedroncelli, Zinfandel, Mother Clone, Dry Creek Valley, California, $15, 7,000 cases. Mixed red berries and barrel notes unfold on the nose, followed by a crisp, tannic wine with straightforward flavors; 84/84.

2006 Rancho Zabaco, Zinfandel, Sonoma Heritage Vines, Sonoma County, California, $15, 20,938 cases. The nose displays cherry jam, vanilla and toasty oak accents. Very crisp and fruity in the mouth, this wine is structured for Texas-style BBQ with red sauce; 88/89.

2006 Sebastiani, Zinfandel, Appellation Selection, Dry Creek Valley, California, $24. Aromas and flavors speak of berries, plums, dark chocolate and oak. Well balanced and fruity; 86/86.

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