© 2006 by Randy Buckner
December 2006

Winter 2006 Releases

Late fall and early winter is an exciting time of the year. Crackling fireplaces and the smell of burning leaves are a rite of passage to the New Year. The roar of college football fans fills the air, along with the smells of steaming hot chili and a fresh mug of coffee. Christmas treats baking in the oven bring back memories of the magic when you were a kid.

The cool weather is also magic for the big kids - it is temperate enough to have all of that wine shipped from the various dealers. Talk about Christmas! I always find a case or two that I forgot about ordering.

It is no surprise that this is the time for the wineries to roll out their new red releases, which make up more than 70 percent of the wines this month. We have heavy hitters from Australia, Bordeaux, California, Portugal, the Rhone and Washington State, as well as an ice wine from Canada.

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 manufacturer's suggested retail price. Vendor prices are often less expensive. As always, enjoy a bottle with dinner tonight.

May your holiday season be the best ever!

Bordeaux wine glass

2003 Chateau Lascombes, Grand Cru Classé, Margaux, France, $50. Deeply colored to the eye and very aromatic on the nose, this wine has a classic Bordeaux fragrance. Full and complex on the entry, there is no hint of overripeness from this very hot vintage. Tannins firm up on the protracted finish and demand several years of patient aging to come around; 91/91.

2002 Chateau Rollan de By, Cru Bourgeois, Médoc, France, $30. Deeply hued to the eye, and herbal and cedary on the nose. Dark fruit, chocolate and herbal notes continue on the palate. The wine is smooth and approachable right now; 82/82.

2002 Chateau Trimoulet, Grand Cru, Saint-Émilion, France, $32. You'll find inviting aromas and flavors of black cherry fruit and cedar shavings. The tannins are firm and drying - will they resolve before the middleweight fruit fades away? 85+/85+.

2005 Premius, Bordeaux Clairet, Bordeaux, France, $10. Sporting a lovely watermelon color, light strawberry and cherry aromas and flavors are presented in a simple but quaffable package; 81/81.

2005 Premius, Sauvignon Blanc, Bordeaux, France, $10. This straw-colored SB has citrus and canned pineapple notes, with a hint of grassiness. Crisp, clean, soft and straightforward - pair with a light, simple dish; 81/81.

Cabernet Sauvignon wine glass

2004 Beaulieu Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Coastal Estates, California, $9. The nose is highlighted by cherry cola, vanilla and blackberry notes. Nicely balanced and fruity, this is a steal for the price class; 84/88.

2004 Chalone Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Monterey County, California, $14, 30,000 cases. Berry, spice and cedary aromas give way to straightforward blackberry fruit and modest tannins; 83/84.

2003 Claar Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon, White Bluffs, Columbia Valley, Washington, $15, 252 cases. This deep-ruby wine gives off aromas and flavors of blackberries and vanilla. It is very tannic and drying; 82/82.

2002 Claar Cellars, Corneauxcopia, White Bluffs, Columbia Valley, Washington, $35, 222 cases. Brick red in color, this wine reveals aromas and flavors of dried cherries, mushroom and toasted coconut. Tannins are firm but ripe; 85/85.

2003 Cosentino, Cabernet Sauvignon, Hoopes Ranch, Oakville, Napa Valley, California, $75. Spicy oak, vanilla, black fruit and licorice notes carry throughout the wine. Tannins are well harnessed. A touch of forest floor becomes evident on the finish; 85/83.

2004 Edna Valley Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, San Luis Obispo County, California, $13, 30,000 cases. Aromas of blackberries, violets, vanilla and smoke come together on the nose. Balanced, with moderately firm tannins, the wine is straightforward and fruity; 83/84.

2004 Estancia, Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, California, $15. Nicely balanced and fruity in the mouth, the wine reveals plums, black cherries, Baker's chocolate, toasty oak and herbal nuances. Easy to drink now; 83/85.

2003 Estancia, Meritage, Paso Robles, California, $33. This intensely-colored wine radiates aromas of black cherry liqueur, licorice, herbs and cedar. It is generous in the mouth, with supple tannins. Flavors echo the nose; 86/86.

2003 Hogue Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Columbia Valley, Washington, $30, 1,832 cases. Almost black in the glass, this Cab gives off black cherry, olive and aged cedar scents. Full and generous in the mouth, the wine is backed by crisp acids and firm tannins. Give this time to integrate; 87/87.

2003 Huntington Wine Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, $14, 2,500 cases. This wine is closed down tight as a drum. Plums and French oak give a hint of presence. NR.

2003 Husch, Cabernet Sauvignon, La Ribera Vineyards, Mendocino, California, $21, 3,144 cases. Plum, black cherry, smoky cedar and earthy notes carry across the board, with chewy tannins noted. The finish is long and fruity; 85/85.

2003 Husch, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Mendocino, California, $35, 338 cases. This wine is underscored by blackberry, chocolate and mint nuances. Full and generous on the palate, the wine is backed by firm but rounded tannins. A nice effort from a tough vintage; 87/87.

2002 Kenwood, Cabernet Sauvignon, Artist Series, Sonoma County, California, $70, 1,708 cases. Black cherries, plums and French oak highlight the nose of this brooding, almost black wine. It is very polished on the entry, with a touch of white pepper adding character. It seems closed down a bit, but there is plenty of stuffing for a decade of aging; 87+/86+.

2004 Legends, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, California, $28, 3,000 cases. Raw oak dominates the nose and palate, with underlying black fruit and chewy tannins; 80/80.

2003 Mandolin, Cabernet Sauvignon, Central Coast, California, $12, 1,462 cases. Straightforward black cherry fruit and oak notes underscore the wine. Firm drying tannins detract; 80/80.

2004 Meridian, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, $10. Cherry cola, vanilla and oak spice highlights this uncomplicated quaffer; 83/84.

2003 Patit Creek Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, Washington, $35, 396 cases. Patit Creek unceremoniously produces excellent wines year after year. This deeply-hued Cabernet gives up aromas of cassis, toasted coconut and black olives. The wine is very polished on the entry, with tannins that sneak up on you. It is balanced, fruity, and has a large yum factor; 91/91.

2004 Sterling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Vintner's Collection, Central Coast, California, $13. The nose is somewhat reserved, but black fruits and cocoa can be coaxed from the wine. Made in an easy-to-drink style, the grapey fruit flavors are inviting - serve with grilled buffalo burgers; 84/86.

2003 Valley of the Moon, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, California, $20, 3,000 cases. This very deeply-hued wine gives off aromas of black cherries, anise and American oak. The straightforward fruit is propped up by crisp acids and very firm tannins; 84/84.

2004 Wolf Blass, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grey Label, Langhorne Creek, Australia, $32. Full in the mouth, the wine has tart acidity and generous ripe tannins. Aromas and flavors are highlighted by a nice mix of berries, juniper, chocolate and toasty oak; 87/87.

Chardonnay wine glass

2005 Canoe Ridge Vineyard, Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Washington, $19, 450 cases. Green apple, citrus and banana notes prevail throughout. The wine is well balanced and fruit forward - a light hand was used on the oak here. Food friendly; 87/88.

2004 Chalk Hill, Chardonnay, Chalk Hill, Russian River Valley, California, $45. Lemon creams, spice and butter define the aroma profile. Soft and creamy on the palate, the flavors are dominated pear, lemon and barrel notes; 85/83.

2005 Chalone Vineyard, Chardonnay, Monterey County, California, $10, 110,000 cases. This wine shows a lot of character for the price class. Nicely balanced in the mouth, you'll find lively citrus, tropical fruit and modest oak notes; 85/88.

2005 Claar, Chardonnay, White Bluffs, Columbia Valley, Washington, $10, 268 cases. Citrus, melon and pear scents radiate from this straw-gold Chardonnay. It is well balanced, fruity, with a sense of sweetness; 83/84.

2005 Cosentino, Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California, $28, 2,243 cases. Toasty French oak dominates the nose, with underlying pear and apple nuances. Butter, roasted nuts, baked peaches and barrel char highlight the palate, finishing long and crisp; 84/84.

2005 Estancia, Chardonnay, Pinnacles Ranches, Monterey, California, $12. Here's a crisp, simple quaffer for your grilled chicken. Enjoy now for the apple and pear notes; 83/83.

2004 Gloria Ferrer, Chardonnay, Carneros, California, $18. Citrus oil and fresh pineapple aromas give way to a very fruity wine, with an undercurrent of butterscotch. Bright acidity and a long aftertaste add to the package. Very nice for the style; 88/89.

2005 Gold, Chardonnay, Barossa Valley, Australia, $20. This wine may be marketing run amok (gold flakes floating in the wine), but they back it up in the bottle. There are a host of aromatics, to include nectarine, white peach and orange blossom notes. The wine is all about juicy fruit, with a nice acid kick. Structured for food, this will pair with everything from crab to chicken; 90/92.

2005 Hardys, Chardonnay, Nottage Hill, South Eastern Australia, $9. Here's a tasty wine that won't break the bank. Soft, creamy and nutty, with a hint of residual sugar, you'll find plenty of lemon and melon flavors to please; 84/86.

2004 Hogue, Chardonnay, Reserve, Columbia Valley, Washington, $22, 1,004 cases. This wine is lemon gold in color, with pear, lemon, vanilla and brioche scents. It is crisp, creamy and fruity, with oak being a secondary player; 87/87.

2005 Husch, Chardonnay, Mendocino, California, $14, 16,265 cases. Sporting pears, limes, orange blossoms and light barrel notes throughout, this medium-bodied wine is crisp and fruit forward; 85/87.

2004 Husch, Chardonnay, Special Reserve, Mendocino, California, $25, 414 cases. Loads of vanilla and barrel spice greets the nose. You'll find more fruit on the palate than the nose, but there are a lot of vanilla and clove accents; 85/85.

2003 Mandolin, Chardonnay, Monterey, California, $10, 1,042 cases. Toasty oak, peaches, pears and butterscotch intermingle on the nose and palate of this straightforward quaffer; 81/81.

2005 Pedroncelli, Chardonnay, Dry Creek Valley, California, $12. This crisp middleweight gives off aromas of lemons, pears and toast, while flavors lean to the butterscotch spectrum; 84/85.

2005 Rodney Strong, Chardonnay, Sonoma County, California, $15. Green apple and lemon notes abound on the nose, with just a touch of vanilla and dill spice. The wine is fruit forward on the palate, with zippy acidity. You can pair this overachiever with a host of foods; 86/88.

Italian wine glass

2005 Da Vinci, Chianti, DOCG, Tuscany, Italy, $16, 250,000 cases. Aromas and flavors of cherries, plums and wood notes radiate from this purple-red Chianti. Tannins are well rounded, making it easy to approach now; 85/86.

2004 Da Vinci, Chianti Classico, DOCG, Tuscany, Italy, $24, 30,000 cases. Black fruit, leather and cedar scents unfold on the nose, and then repeats on the palate. The wine has proper balance, with firm but supple tannins and a long, lovely finish; 87/88.

2003 Da Vinci, Chianti Riserva, Tuscany, Italy, $27, 20,000 cases. Black cherries, plums and vanilla highlight the nose and palate. Tannins are generous but ripe. Tasty; 88/88.

Merlot wine glass

2004 Canoe Ridge Vineyard, Red Table Wine, Columbia Valley, Washington, $15, 7,000 cases. Black cherries, dark chocolate, raspberries, plums and spice underscore this 75/25 blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine is balanced, fruity and easy to drink - a terrific value; 87/90.

2003 Gloria Ferrer, Merlot, Carneros, California, $19, 1,800 cases. Easy tannins and tangy acidity makes this a nice match for BBQ. You'll find blackberries, plums, mint, cocoa and cedar across the board; 85/86.

2003 Hogue, Merlot, Reserve, Columbia Valley, Washington, $30, 1,362 cases. This thick, rich, deeply-hued wine gives off cassis, black cherry and vanilla aromas, while flavors speak of cassis and black olives. Tannins are generous but rounded; 88/88.

2004 Meridian, Merlot, California, $10. Plums, mint and bell peppers carry from the nose to the mouth in this uncomplicated quaffer. Drink early on; 83/84.

Miscellaneous wine glasswine glass

2004 Bridlewood, Arabesque, Paso Robles, California, $24, 970 cases. Cherry and berry aromas lead to flavors of same. It's light, crisp and perfect for grilled pork loin; 85/85.

2005 Canoe Ridge Vineyard, Gewurztraminer, Oak Ridge Vineyard, Washington State, $15, 350 cases. Stainless steel fermentation and aging allows the classic Gewurzt perfume - lychee and roses. The wine shows excellent balance, something often lacking in New World offerings; 86/88.

2003 Cosentino Winery, Cabernet Franc, Reserve, St. Helena, Napa Valley, California, $45, 500 cases. Loads of eucalyptus greets the nose, followed by black fruit and toasty oak. While very fruity in the mouth, the oak is overpowering; 80/79.

2004 Valley of the Moon, Sangiovese, Sonoma County, California, $16, 2,500 cases. The wine is defined by red cherries, plums, smoky oak and tar. It's somewhat simple but very fruity and crisp - pair with tomato-based lasagna; 85/86.

2002 Wolf Blass, Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec, Black Label, Langhorne Creek, Barossa Valley, Australia, $70. This is their 30th consecutive vintage of this wine. The wine is full and rich, with layers of complexity - red and black fruits, Baker's chocolate, mint and smoky oak unfold. Tart acidity and well-harnessed tannins add character; 91/90.

Pinot Gris wine glass

2005 Columbia Winery, Pinot Gris, Columbia Valley, Washington, $14, 5,700 cases. Citrus and melon highlight the nose, while melon notes carry through to the palate. The wine is crisp and light, with a slightly bitter bite on the finish; 82/82.

2005 Estancia, Pinot Grigio, California, $12. Sporting an apricot-tinged coloration, the wine is crisp and straightforward. Drink early on for the peach, pear and citrus notes; 83/83.

2005 Montevina Winery, Pinot Grigio, California, $10. Light and bright, the wine displays straightforward pear, citrus and white peach notes; 83/83.

Pinot Noir wine glass

2004 Bogle, Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, California, $13. Black cherries and smoky oak define the aromas and flavors of this garnet-colored middleweight. Pair with game birds; 84/85.

2005 Drylands, Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand, $18, 3,000 cases. Aromas of cherries, strawberries, spice and French oak abound. Medium bodied and crisp, the flavors echo the nose, with pleasant earthy accents; 87/88.

2004 Estancia, Pinot Noir, Stonewall Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands, California, $25. Oak, warm spices and cherries highlight the nose and palate. This Pinot has the crisp acids and low tannins that match well with an oily fish such as salmon; 85/85.

2005 Estancia, Pinot Noir, Pinnacles Ranches, Monterey, California, $15. This light, crisp quaffer should pair well with pork tenderloin. Enjoy now for the black cherry fruit; 83/84.

2006 Hardys, Pinot Noir, Nottage Hill, South Eastern Australia, $9. Soft, simple and crisp, this is a good red wine for white fish. Strawberry and rhubarb notes prevail; 82/83.

2005 Kenwood, Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, California, $18, 44,700 cases. Mixed red and black fruits highlight the nose of this medium-bodied Pinot. While quite fruity in the mouth, the tannins have a bitter bite; 83/83.

2005 Mandolin, Pinot Noir, Monterey, California, $12, 2,789 cases. Light garnet in color, this one is crisp, light and quaffable. Drink early on before the cherry and raspberry fruit fades; 82/82.

2005 Rodney Strong, Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, California, $20. Light ruby in color, with red fruit, vanilla and cedar aromas and flavors - tangy acidity lends itself well to grilled salmon; 85/86.

Port wine glass

NV Osborne, Porto, 10 Years Old Tawny, Portugal, $30. This smooth, rich, sweet offering has a lovely tawny coloration. Brown sugar and roasted hazelnut aromas give way to flavors of same. Intense hazelnut flavors linger on the finish, with a dash of nutmeg; 88/88.

2000 Osborne, Porto, Late Bottled Vintage, Portugal, $20. This deeply-hued Port is sweet and tannic, with ripe fruit and raisin nuances. This is a good one for you cigar smokers; 86/86.

Rhone wine glass

2004 Bosquet des Papes, A La Gloire de Mon Grand-Père, Chateauneuf du Pape, France, $49. This can be purchased from discounters at $39 a bottle. Made from old Grenache vine fruit, the wine is rich, round and sappy. This is one big mouthful of CdP that pushes the ripeness button, but does not step over the line. Kirsch and Provencal herbs abound, with ripe plums and blackberry jam unfolding on the finish. The tannins are obvious but well rounded. While very drinkable now, I recommend another five to ten years of aging; 92/92.

2004 Domaine Bois De Boursan, Chateauneuf du Pape, France, $36. This ruby-red CdP has earthy black fruit and dried herb notes. Traditionally styled, this is a "pretty" wine with firm tannins that need time in the bottle to resolve; 88/88.

2003 Domaine Jean Royer, Cuvée Tradition, Chateauneuf du Pape, France, $27. While the aromas are full and ripe, with barnyardy notes, the color and flavor intensity is much less than expected from old Grenache vines. Medium garnet in color, the middleweight flavors mirror the nose; 85/85.

2004 Mas de Boislauzon, Chateauneuf du Pape, France, $30. At $25 a bottle from discounters, this is a no-brainer. This is a real value that I enthusiastically recommend. Traditionally styled, this deeply-hued middleweight is packed with black raspberries, black cherries and Provencal herbs. There is nice depth and balance, with tannins that should age out well over the near term. This is the kind of wine you can enjoy now, or let it age peacefully over the next decade; 91/93.

2004 Yann Chave, Crozes-Hermitage, France, $26. This lovely middleweight should probably be consumed over the next two to three years. Sporting excellent balance, the complex aromas and flavors reveal blackberries, meatiness, smoke and a hint of spice. The tannins are very forgiving; the balance impeccable; 88/90.

Riesling wine glass

2005 Columbia Winery, Riesling, Cellarmaster's, Columbia Valley, Washington, $10, 88,000 cases. While very fruity in the mouth, the wine barely covers the 5.8 percent residual sugar with acidity. Enjoy early on for the honey, apricot and spice flavors; 83/83.

2006 Wolf Blass, Riesling, Yellow Label, South Australia, $12. The nose is reminiscent of lemon meringue pie and custard all rolled into one. Very crisp and tangy in the mouth, with lemon, lime and peach flavors - serve with lemon chicken; 84/84.

Sauvigon Blanc wine glass

2005 Chalk Hill, Sauvignon Blanc, Chalk Hill, Russian River Valley, California, $29. Light gold in color, with lemongrass and melon aromas which carry over to the palate. Smoky, spicy flavors become apparent on the finish, with a slightly bitter bite; 82/81.

2005 Dry Creek Vineyard, Fumé Blanc, Sonoma County, California, $13.50, 33,548 cases. This wine is crisp, with straightforward aromas and flavors of grapefruit zest and melons; 81/81.

2006 Drylands, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand, $15, 18,000 cases. Sporting a brilliant straw coloration, this wine displays intense gooseberry and tropical fruit notes. The food-friendly acidity begs for your favorite seafood accompaniment; 88/89.

2005 Husch, Sauvignon Blanc, La Ribera Vineyards, Mendocino, California, $12.50, 8,392 cases. Grapefruit zest and lemon creams underscore the aroma and flavor profile. This middleweight is not very complex, but should pair well with steamed clams; 84/85.

2005 Husch, Sauvignon Blanc, Renegade, La Ribera Vineyards, Mendocino, California, $18, 502 cases. The wine is barrel fermented using wild yeasts, giving a smoky impression on the nose. Quite elegant on the entry, you'll find a nice mix of fruit and oak. Figs and nuts linger on the finish; 87/87.

2006 Kim Crawford, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand, $17, 65,000 cases. True to form, this wine is peachy, melony, and loaded with gooseberries and acidity - a no-brainer for shellfish; 90/90.

Sparkling Wine wine glass

2003 Inniskillin, Sparkling Ice Wine, Niagara Peninsula VQA, Canada, $90 (375 ml). This dessert wine (100 percent Vidal grapes) has intense peach, apricot and honey aromas. Thick and syrupy on the palate, you'll find a very light sparkle to add interest. Acidity more than matches the sugar load. Flavors are powerful and concentrated, with an endless finish. This will make a nice accompaniment to your holiday foie gras; 91/90.

Syrah wine glass

2004 Bridlewood, Syrah, Central Coast, California, $15, 33,000 cases. Black fruits, vanilla and cedar underscore the aroma and flavor profiles. It's very smooth on the entry, but tannins firm up on the finish; 85/87.

2003 Bridlewood, Syrah, Estate, Santa Ynez Valley, California, $40, 780 cases. This deep purple wine gives off aromas of vanilla, cocoa, cassis and anise, which follows through on the palate. Give it a couple of years to let the tannins tame a bit; 87/86.

2002 Gloria Ferrer, Syrah, Carneros, California, $19, 2,900 cases. There are no classic Syrah qualities to be found here, although the wine is fruity. Blueberries, barrel notes and polished tannins underscore the wine; 83/83.

2004 Husch, Syrah, La Ribera Vineyards, Mendocino, California, $28, 400 cases. This wine is smooth and fruity on the palate, with blueberries, white pepper and barrel notes throughout. Tannins are generous but supple. This wine should only get better as the young vines get a few whiskers; 85/85.

2003 Montevina Winery, Syrah, Amador County, California, $12, 1,032 cases. Black fruit, oak and dill spice dominates the nose. While the wine is tannic and oaky, it does have generous fruit; 83/84.

2003 Wolf Blass, Shiraz, Platinum Label, Barossa, South Australia, $85. Elegant, tart and fruit forward, this wine needs cellar time to evolve. Blackberries, coffee, mint and smoky oak underscore the aroma and flavor profile; 90/89.

2004 Wolf Blass, Shiraz, Yellow Label, South Australia, $12. The wine shows a nice blend of raspberries, sage, mint and cedar. Tangy acidity lends itself well to Texas-style BBQ. Good value; 84/86.

Zinfandel wine glass

2004 Dry Creek Vineyard, Heritage Zinfandel, Sonoma County, California, $15, 8,470 cases. This wine displays very ripe black cherry and chocolate aromas. It is medium bodied, fruity, and has a somewhat short finish; 83/83.

2004 Estancia, Zinfandel, Paso Robles, California, $12. Somewhat muted on the nose, the raspberry, currant and caramel notes become apparent with a little coaxing. The wine is very tart, demanding a tomato-based spaghetti sauce. Tannins are drying; 83/83.

2004 Husch, Zinfandel, Old Vines, La Ribera Vineyards, Mendocino, California, $25, 375 cases. You'll find brambly berry and plum fruit and toasty oak across the board. The aftertaste is pure blackberries. The chunky tannins demand BBQ; 85/85.

2004 Kenwood, Zinfandel, Reserve, Sonoma County, California, $20, 2,100 cases. The wine is almost black in the glass. Ripe black fruit presents on the nose and palate, with modest rounded tannins; 85/85.

2004 Lake Sonoma, Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, California, $18, 6,000 cases. Red and black cherry aromas are augmented by vanilla spice. Jammy and fruity in the mouth, you will notice a bit of heat on the finish; 84/84.

2003 Montevina Winery, Zinfandel, Sierra Foothills, California, $10, 12,965 cases. Simple but tasty, the wine displays brambly red and black fruits, tea leaves and American oak; 83/84.

2003 Pedroncelli, Zinfandel, Mother Clone, Dry Creek Valley, California, $14. Sour cherries, berries and American oak notes carry from nose to palate, with a streak of black pepper. Drying tannins become evident on the finish; 84/85.

2002 Pedroncelli, Zinfandel, Pedroni-Bushnell Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley, California, $16. This is a "pretty" style of Zin that really delivers for the price point. Black fruits, vanilla and American oak nuances abound. The tannins need a year or two to calm down; 86/88.

2003 Rancho Zabaco, Zinfandel, Sonoma Heritage Vines, Sonoma County, California, $18, 50,000 cases. While toasty and jammy on the nose, the wine is soft on the palate, with modest berry and spice notes; 85/85.

2004 Rancho Zabaco, Zinfandel, Monte Rosso Vineyard, Sonoma Valley, California, $35, 220 cases. Black currants, cherries and coconut abound on the nose and palate. This is a "pretty" style of Zinfandel that is approachable now, but it will improve with aging; 89/88.

2004 Rancho Zabaco, Toreador Zinfandel, Monte Rosso Vineyard, Sonoma Valley, California, $50, 650 cases. Elegant is the first adjective to come to mind here. Tannins are smooth and the balance is flawless. Aromas and flavors are underscored by raspberries, plums, black currants and warm spices; 90/88.

2004 Rancho Zabaco, Zinfandel, Reserve, Dry Creek Valley, California, $24, 15,000 cases. This deep-ruby Zin is medium to full on the palate, with generous tannins. Aromas and flavors speak of plums and blackberry jam; 85/85.

2004 Rancho Zabaco, Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, California, $28, 950 cases. You'll find a very intense bouquet of cherries, raspberries and plum jam, which carries over to the palate. The firm tannins will benefit from two to three years of aging; 87/87.

2004 Rancho Zabaco, Zinfandel, Stefani Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley, California, $28, 1,609 cases. Very intense fruit presents on the palate, along with firm but supple tannins. The blackberry, black cherry, vanilla and smoke nuances compliment each other well; 88/88.

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