[Image: Bunch of Grapes]
Wine Value Archive

© Copyright 1997 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

Wines of the United States

Chateau Souverain 1994 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($13.99)
Very dark garnet color, clear but almost black, with a jammy black-fruit aroma that plays against a background of oaky vanillins, forward and appealing. Ripe cassis and dark-chocolate flavors over a big structure; tannins are present but easy to take. Oak is certainly present, but it's good oak. (May 31, 1997)

Bonny Doon 1996 Vin Gris de Cigare California Pink Wine ($9.49)
Clear reddish-copper color, dark for a rosé. Light mint and herbal scents, very Provence-like. Crisp, juicy berry fruit, tart and dry, with a citric "snap" and hint of bitter almond that persists in a very long finish. A blend, the back label says (with a couple of misspellings), of Grenache, Zinfandel, Barbera, Cinsaut, Pinot Noir, Charbono, Pinot Meunier, Black Muscat, Mammolo and Canaiolo. Closed with an odd but functional synthetic cork, a glossy gray stopper with a veined, marble-like surface. (May 30, 1997)

Zabaco 1994 Sonoma County Chardonnay
Clear, pale brass color. Light apple scent. Soft, fresh and fruity, simple but well-made. (May 26, 1997)

Indigo Hills 1995 Mendocino County Chardonnay
Clear straw color. Light pineapple and tropical-fruit aromas; oaky and rich on the palate, a real crowd-pleaser. (May 26, 1997)

Gallo Sonoma 1995 Laguna Ranch Vineyard Russian River Valley Chardonnay ($15.99)
With the same caveat as the other day -- this is a gift from the winery's PR department -- I pulled cork on a newly released Gallo Sonoma Chardonnay tonight, and, somewhat to my surprise since I'm not a fan of CalChards in general, gave it two thumbs up. Clear, pale brass color. Smoky and toasty notes add interest to apple and pear aromas. Full, creamy and buttery on the palate, ripe flavors consistent with the nose, big and powerful at 14.5% alcohol. A boatload of fruit, an initial impression of sweetness quickly passes, with firm acidity leaving a dry, cleansing impression in a very long finish. (May 15, 1997)

Freestone 1995 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($9.99)
Very pale greenish-gold color. Pleasant citric aroma with light grassy notes, consistent on the palate with good but discreet grass and green-olive elements over a snappy citric tang. Good, balanced wine. Appears to be a second label of Napa's Von Strasser winery using purchased grapes. (May 14, 1997)

Standing Stone Vineyards 1995 Finger Lakes (NY) Gewurztraminer
Very pale straw color. Lovely litchee and mineral aromas lead into a full-bodied, potent flavor, rich and dry, peaches and spice; very "Alsatian" in style, one of the best U.S. Gewurzes I've ever tasted from any part of the country. Wonderful wine, my wife approvingly declares it "more like a red" than any white wine she's ever tasted. (May 14, 1997)

Shalestone Vineyards 1991 Finger Lakes (NY) Merlot
Clear, dark garnet color. Spicy oak and vanilla play counterpoint without dominating ripe black fruit. Full and ripe, black cherry and spicy oak flavors, with plenty of fruit to punch through still-heavy tannins. (May 14, 1997)

Zaca Mesa 1996 Santa Barbara County "Z Gris" ($7.99)
My friend Anne at the wine shop practically chortled as she shoved this one into my basket. "Never mind the color," she said. "You're going to like this!" It's pink, all right, the bright shade you associate with sweet, bad "blush" wines. But this is neither sweet nor bad. It's apparently a spinoff of Zaca Mesa's gutsy "Z" red, made from the same cuvee of Provence and Rhone red grapes, and it's dry and delightful, a truly excellent pink wine that's suited for spring and summer quaffing but also can earn its place at the dinner table.

It's a clear, bright coral color, with a delicious scent of strawberries and mint, much more forward and complex that you'd expect of an inexpensive California rosé. Crisp and refreshing flavors, full and tart, mighty near dry. A fine rosé and a real stereotype-breaker, it's made from Grenache (78%), Counoise (10%), Mourvèdre (8%), Cinsaut (3%) and a whiff of Syrah (1%). (May 12, 1997)

Gallo Sonoma 1993 Frei Ranch Vineyard Dry Creek Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($17.99 suggested retail price)
Dark garnet color. Spicy oak, cassis and black-fruit aromas lead into a full, extracted berry-fruit flavor well structured with lemon-squirt acidity. Fruit cloaks but doesn't conceal firm tannins, a fruit-tannin balance that suggests good aging potential. (May 11, 1997)

Gallo Sonoma 1993 Stefani Ranch Vineyard Dry Creek Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($17.99 suggested retail)
Opaque garnet, black at the center. Spicy oak and cedar aromas over blackcurrant/cassis. Black fruit and mint on the palate, so extracted that it almost seems sweet, over heavy tannins and gentle but sufficient acidity. (May 10, 1997)

Pine Ridge 1996 California Chenin Blanc ($7.99)
Remember when I ranted about how much I disliked the Beringer 1995 Chenin Blanc, "a repellent little wine" that was no bargain even at the $5.99 toll? Well, the Pine Ridge is much better. In fact, I'd call it one of the best-value white wines I've tasted in the past couple of months. Very pale straw color. Melons and a lovely musky note on the nose with hints of caramel and pumpkin-pie spice. Fresh, luscious fruit flavor, mangoes and pears. Crisp acidity fully masks slight residual sugar (back label claims 1%, but I doubt it). Outstanding wine, very good value. (May 6, 1997)

Beringer 1995 Napa Valley Chenin Blanc ($5.99)
Another very disappointing wine from Beringer, a firm that seems to be hyping the prices of its high-end bottlings and sapping the value from its budget offerings. This one's a pale straw color with strong spearmint and bubble-gum aromas. Tart acidity masks an off-dry sweetness at first, but upon relatively brief airing, it falls apart, turning into something quite literally like bland sugar water. Cheap wine; waste of money. (May 1, 1997)

Bethel Heights Vineyard 1995 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir ($15.99)
This one came highly recommended (by my retailer) for good value in an Oregon Pinot, but I'm not sure -- it's tasty and complex, but a little bit bizarre. Clear ruby color. Unusual scent, rich and complex: Mineral, tar and smoke and herbal notes, with an undertone of something like milk chocolate. Warm, earthy flavors, black fruit and lemony acidity in balance. Mineral flavors and that intriguing whiff of chocolate hang on in a long finish. (April 30, 1997)

Beringer 1995 Alluvium Blanc Knights Valley White Table Wine ($13.99)
Well, I swore I wasn't going to waste my money on Beringer's pricey new Alluvium line, but seeing the white available locally for a relatively affordable toll, I decided to take the risk. Ihouldn't have bothered. This is oaky stuff, folks! No Meritage -- it contains not only the Bordeaux varietals Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon but also Chardonnay and Viognier in undisclosed proportions -- it speaks most strongly of the French oak in which the wine resides for eight months. It's a clear gold in color, surprisingly dark for a young white. Oaky tropical fruit dominates the nose, overwhelming any hint of fruit. Oak and simple fruit flavors, pineapple and vanilla; a hint of natural fruit sweetness is balanced by tart acidity. Could pass for an oaky Chardonnay; no sign of the other varietals. I'll pass on a refill, thanks. (April 28, 1997)

Adelsheim Vineyard 1995 Oregon Pinot Blanc ($11.99)
Following up on Saturday's Alsace Auxerrois with a somewhat similar wine from Oregon, this one's a clear pale greenish-gold color. Musky, earthy melon aromas, tasty and appealing. Crisp, dry flavor follows the nose, full and tart. Simple and fresh; flavors consistent in a long finish. Nice match with pork and 'kraut. (April 27, 1997)

Sanford 1996 Central Coast (California) Sauvignon Blanc ($11.99)
This one's a perennial favorite, so I was eager to get my first taste of the '96, particularly since the '95 had somewhat moved away from the totally "green-chile" and "cat-spray" position that made earlier vintages such a delight. This one, like last year's, is close to the middle of the road in the aroma department, but its huge (14%) alcoholic content makes it big and full, anything but characteristic of Sauvignon Blanc. It's definitely ... interesting. Clear straw color. Good, characteristic Sauvignon Blanc aroma blends green chile-pepper and citrus scents. Full, ripe fruit, rich and round, warming and surprisingly strong for a sauvignon Blanc. Impressive wine, but the body and strength render it almost overbalanced. It may come together more with a little time in the bottle. (April 24, 1997)

Qupé 1994 Santa Barbara County Bien Nacido Cuvée Viognier/50%-Chardonnay/50% ($16.49)
Given that I'm bored with California Viognier and sick of California Chardonnay, this one might seem odd for me to have invested double digits in. But I'm fond of Qupé and smitten by the Bien Nacido Vineyard, so it seemed like a reasonable risk. Good bet! The Viognier and the Chard complement each other, making a whole that's more than the sum of its parts, and the oak is used judiciously and well-integrated. It's a clear pale gold color, with lovely, subtle aromas, pears and pineapple and wildflower notes in counterpoint over a basso ostinato of light, toasty oak. Full, almost unctuous on the palate, ripe fruit follows the nose; tart acidity provides structure, and the flavors linger in a clean, consistent and very long finish. Excellent wine, and made an outstanding match with a cold pate of fresh salmon and smoked trout. (April 22, 1997)

Il Podere dell'Olivos 1993 "Pronto" California Aleatico ($11.99/50 cl)
Clear cherry red color. Lovely strawberry aroma with a touch of mint. Flavors follow the nose, sweet strawberry over tart acidity, with a full body contributed by high (16.5%) alcohol. Warm, fresh and balanced, sweet but not cloying; a very pleasant dessert wine. (April 21, 1997)

Ca' del Solo (Bonny Doon) 1994 "Il Pescatore" California White Wine ($12.99)
Pale gold color. Spearmint and melon in a ripe, forward aroma. Full melon fruit, mouth-filling, over a good tart acidic structure. A good choice for diverse entrees (trout, salmon and pork) in a restaurant setting because its lean acidity married well with the fish while its full body and richness stood up to the pork. According to the back label, it's a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, Riesling, Roussanne, Pinot Bianco and a touch of "Pinot Nero." (April 17, 1997)

Beringer 1993 Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($19.97)
Very dark reddish purple. Ripe cassis and mint and light spicy oak, full aroma rises from the glass. Extracted, almost jammy fruit flavor, so mouth-filling and ripe that the fruit virtually cloaks good lemon-tart acidity and soft tannins. Fine wine, although Beringer's new price structure takes it well out of its long-standing niche as a good value. (April 5, 1997)

Panther Creek 1995 Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Noir ($15.99)
Rather light in color, slightly hazy ruby (unfiltered). Plummy fruit aromas with "tomato-skin" and green, herbaceous notes. Full and bright black-cherry fruit flavor with muted tannins, ripe and consistent in a long finish. It's not really a joke to say it's Burgundian on the nose and Californian in the mouth. Nice wine, though, complex and balanced. Not much of it, either, the label says only 1,180 cases were made. (April 2, 1997)

Horton Vineyards 1993 Orange County Virginia Cabernet Franc (gift)
Clear dark garnet. Delicious cherry-berry aroma with oaky vanilla in a supporting role. Ripe, jammy berry fruit flavor, so extracted that it almost seems sweet; there's ample acidity for balance, but the full fruit dominates, making for a gulpable wine that's lovely to sit and sip. Went well at the table, too, making a surprisingly good match with salmon grilled over hickory coals. The label indicates that it's made with unspecified amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec, and sees 22 months in French and American oak. (April 1, 1997)

Horton Vineyards 1994 Orange County Virginia Norton (Gift, price unk.)
Very dark garnet, almost opaque. Jammy black-fruit aroma jumps out of the glass with pleasant hints of tar and smoke, surprisingly reminiscent of a Rhone. Bright, full and tart on the palate, black fruit and fragrant pepper over lemon-tart acidity. Jammy fruit and citric lemon lingers in a long finish that's almost too tart for sipping alone but that made the wine a perfect match with a rather spicy beef-and-okra gumbo. Fine wine! (March 31, 1997)

Voss Vineyards 1995 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($9.99)
Very pale brass color. Grapefruit scent forward, backed by ripe green chile peppers and a subtle whiff of boxwood or, if you prefer, "cat spray." Tasty citric flavor, full and crisp, with that delicious green-chile flavor lingering in a long finish. Very good Sauvignon indeed, but who's Voss? I can't find the brand in my industry directories, and the label language ("bottled by") suggests a negociant. (March 26, 1997)

Napa Ridge 1995 North Coast Pinot Noir ($9.95)
Clear garnet. Good black-cherry scent with light toasty notes of oak; some green herbaceous elements appear with time in the glass. Flavors consistent with the nose, soft and fresh. There's definitely a hint of Pinot flavor here, but it's lightweight; lemon-squirt acidity apparant in a rather short finish. Not a bad wine, but not up to its reputation for value, and the closer it approaches the $10 mark, the less of a bargain it becomes. (March 12, 1997)

Smith & Hook 1992 Santa Lucia Highlands Cabernet Sauvignon ($14.99)
Smith & Hook may be one of the most reliable names for quality California Cabernet at a rational price. I wonder if the fact that the name sounds more like a law firm than a winery has anything to do with the relative lack of attention it gets. In any case, this one's a goodie: Dark ruby in color, with lovely cassis and dark chocolate aromas. Ripe and juicy black fruit flavors built on a hulking tannic structure. The fruit's so forward that it punches through and makes the wine mighty approachable now, but it will definitely benefit from lots more time. Excellent value. (March 11, 1997)

Rabbit Ridge 1995 California "Barrel Cuvee" Zinfandel ($9.99)
Clear dark garnet color. Warm, spicy oak dominates mixed-berry aromas. Full and grapey on the palate, soft and seemingly lacking in structure at first, although an acidic and lightly tannic backbone shows up in the finish. I keep hoping it'll improve with time in the glass, but it doesn't, much. (Feb. 26, 1997)

Amato's Louisiana Native Winery non-vintage dry strawberry wine ($4.99)
Very clear light-reddish amber color, about the shade of a "blush" wine. Fresh strawberry aroma with a slightly raisiny quality, consistent in the flavor, fresh and fruity raspberry juice, just off-dry. Good fruit wine insofar as it respects the aroma and flavor of the natural fruit. But in a side-by-side comparison, it clearly marks the difference, rather than the similarity, between wines made from grapes and wines made from other fruit. (Feb. 26, 1997)

Laurel Glen Vineyard 1993 Terra Rosa North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon ($8.99)
Dark garnet in color, with black-fruit, plums and dark-chocolate aromas. Full, juicy black-fruit flavor, well structured with tart acidity over muted but substantial tannins. Young yet, showing little evolution in a year's time even under "passive" cellaring. Very fine wine, and a remarkable value. (Feb. 22, 1997)

Cline 1995 Contra Costa County Viognier ($18.99)
Clear gold color. Big, forward fruit aromas with floral Viognier and honey hiding behind dominant oaky tropical fruit. Full, bright fruit flavor, slight residual sweetness masked by steely acidity. Tropical fruit and oak make for a big mouth full of wine, but it's almost more like an oaky Chardonnay than a Viognier. Hedonistic to be sure (the back label actually says so!), and frankly enjoyable, but the Viognier character is hard to find. Just 310 cases made ... I'm surprised any found their way to Kentucky. (Feb. 12, 1997)

Joseph Swan Vineyards 1993 Stellwagen Vineyard Sonoma Valley Zinfandel ($13.99)
Dark, slightly hazy ruby color. Lovely, complex aromas, floral and bramble fruit at first, opening into warm caramel notes and later herbaceous "damp hay" as it airs in the glass. Intense and powerful, firm structure and plummy fruit, almost Port-like, starting to show light, palatable hints of oxidation. Does Zin age? This one certainly does, although a couple of years of on-shelf "cellaring" in the wine shop has probably accelerated its evolution. (Feb. 5, 1997)

Zabaco (Gallo) 1994 Sonoma County Zinfandel ($9.99)
Clear, dark garnet. Oaky vanilla dominates mixed-berry fruit aromas; soft, juicy fruit flavor, warm and fresh, blackberries laced up with lemony acidity and soft but perceptible tannins. A bit on the rough side, a country-style quaffing wine, but definitely in the mainstream of Sonoma Zin. (Feb. 5, 1997)

Silverado Vineyards 1995 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($24/restaurant price)
Pale straw coor. Good grassy and green-chile aromas, consistent on the palate with a touch of oak in a full, dry flavor; grass and green peas persist in a medium-long finish. Plenty of stuffing to stand up to the gently spicy Asian-Creole fusion cuisine at Mike's on the Avenue in New Orleans. (Feb. 1, 1997)

Erath Vineyards 1995 Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Gris ($9.99)
Clear straw color with a faint rosy hue. Light musky melon and citrus scents; fresh, crisp and tart flavor, good clean fruit, with a marked but pleasant bitterness in a long finish. (Jan. 24, 1997)

Gallo Sonoma Releases
It was a pleasure as always to welcome my old pal Carmen Castorina, representing Gallo Sonoma, on his "annual" trip through Louisville bearing new releases. We pulled cork on a handful of 'em over lunch at Timothy's restaurant in Louisville, and I'm more convinced than ever that Gallo is really doing credible things with this line, which is positioned in the $10-$15 range and competes effectively, in production (typically 3,000 to 5,000 cases per label) and quality against its North Coast competitors.

Prices listed (where available) are suggested retail, which Gallo places on the high side; street price should be less.

Gallo Sonoma 1994 Stefani Vineyard Dry Creek Valley Chardonnay ($13.99)
Very pale straw color. Attractive toasty oak aroma; full and bright flavor, apples and tropical fruit, fully dry, finishes crisp and clean. 5,300 cases made. (Jan. 23, 1997)

Gallo Sonoma 1994 Barrelli Creek Vineyard Alexander Valley Valdiguié ($13.99)
Returning to the traditional French name for the grape most California wineries bottle as "Napa Gamay," Gallo makes this one more like a Dolcetto than a Beaujolais. Bright ruby color, with nice red-fruit and tobacco-leaf aromas; full and bright, fresh and juicy flavor, with a good, tart acidic structure. About 3,300 cases made. (Jan. 23, 1997)

Gallo Sonoma 1994 Chiotti Vineyard Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel
Dark reddish-purple with a garnet edge. Pleasant mixed-berry aromas. Juicy and fresh, with an edge of light, spicy (French) oak over bramble fruit on the palate. Not made in a big style, though there's plenty of stuffing; quaffable and accessible Zin. (Jan. 23, 1997)

Gallo Sonoma 1994 Frei Ranch Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel
Clear, dark reddish-purple. Light berries on the nose, perhaps a bit closed, with an odd, organic, almost "cheesy" note that diminishes with time in the glass. Big, tannic, warming; plummy fruit and anise on a large structure; impressive Zin, needs time to come together. Includes 3 percent Petite Sirah; this will be the last Frei Ranch Zin as we know it, as the ancient Zinfandel vines were phylloxera-struck and pulled up after the '94 vintage. (Jan. 23, 1997)

Turning Leaf 1995 Sonoma Reserve Chardonnay Fumé ($9.99)
Pale straw color. Aromatic oaky aroma, distinctively "smoky" with pleasant medicinal notes like witch hazel. Lots of toasty oak on the palate, smooth and full, with threshold sweetness (about 0.5% residual sugar) well balanced by tart, zingy acidity. Not my style, but definitely well-made, and an excellent choice for a restaurant list. (Jan. 23, 1997)

Wild Horse 1994 Monterey (California) Pinot Blanc ($11.99)
I brought high expectations to this one, given my considerable affection for this winery's Pinot Noir of the same vintage; I have to say, though, that I came away from it with a bit of a shrug. It's a pale straw color, with oaky tropical fruit aromas; buttery pineapple and vanilla flavors. Indistinguishable from an oaky, slightly sweet mass-market California Chardonnay. It's tasty enough, but what's the point? (Jan. 11, 1997)

Anapamu 1995 Central Coast (California) Barrel Fermented Chardonnay ($10.99)
Clear brass color. Forward oaky aromas, figs and pineapple. Flavors are consistent with the nose, sweet American oak and crisp fruit, rich and dry (only 0.4% residual sugar, below "threshold"), with a good acidic structure. Definitely oaky, but it's well handled. (Jan. 4, 1997)

Anapamu 1994 Monterey County (California) Cabernet Sauvignon ($10.99)
Inky dark garnet. Black fruit and dark chocolate and the characteristic "weedy dill" aroma of red wine kept in American oak. Full, ripe and soft, easy quaffing. (Contains a bit of Carignane, Zinfandel and Petite Sirah in addition to 81% Cabernet Sauvignon.) (Jan. 4, 1997)

Panther Creek 1995 Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Noir ($15.99)
Slightly hazy light-ruby color. Characteristic Oregon Pinot aromas, ripe cherries and tomato and "leafy" green notes. Earthy and herbaceous on the palate, "barnyard" stopping well short of "merde." Bright cherry fruit and lemony acidity; definitely a Pinot in the Burgundian mode. Went very nicely with tuna steaks in a piquant Genovese sauce. Back label indicates only 1,180 cases produced. (Jan. 3, 1997)

Fetzer Vineyards 1994 Valley Oaks California Cabernet Sauvignon ($8.99)
Clear garnet color. Oaky vanillins and red fruit share the center of attention in the aroma; simple, juicy fruit and sweet oak dance on the palate in a dry flavor with sufficient tangy acidity for balance. Good quaff, decent table wine. (Dec. 25, 1996)

Cline 1994 Contra Costa County Viognier ($22.99)
Clear pale gold color. Lovely scent, honeysuckle and tropical fruit (pineapple, figs and dates) show themselves at first, with more oaky notes appearing as the wine warms in the glass. Crisp, tart fruit flavor at first, warms to an unctuous, rich and buttery character that's reminiscent of Chardonnay. A lot of complexity here, but frankly, I like it best when it's very cold and the oak and "Chardonnay" qualities are masked. Good wine, but a poor value. (Dec. 23, 1996)

Qupé 1993 Central Coast Syrah ($11.99)
Very dark ruby color, characteristic Syrah black-pepper aroma with pleasant overtones of "tree bark" and a whiff of the gamey quality that I associate with older Syrah, both of the latter almost making me wonder if there's some undisclosed Mourvedre in the blend. Good, bright fruit on the palate, crisp acidity and soft but perceptible tannins all in good balance; clean and consistent in a long finish. (Dec. 10, 1996)

Rochioli 1995 Russian River Valley Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc ($12.99)
Clear, pale straw color. Appetizing aromas of melon, figs and dates, with just a whiff of the herbal character of Sauvignon Blanc peeking through. Full and rich, oak evident but not dominant; crisp mixed-fruit flavors and some buttery quality. It's "manipulated," as I said, but to give it due credit, it's well-handled and a fine wine. (Dec. 7, 1996)

Fetzer 1993 California Gewurztraminer ($4.99 in 1994)
Sometimes a wine that's not thought of as "cellarworthy" will surprise you. Fetzer's $5 Gewurztraminer is a great example: Upon release, it's a soft, sweet, marginally interesting aperitif. But sock one away for a year or two, and surprising things happen.

Clear medium-gold color, far darker than when the wine was young, but not at all brown. Very unusual aroma, honeyed apricots with a distinct nuance that's surprisingly reminiscent of fresh green chile peppers. Apricots and honey on the palate, drying out somewhat but still perceptibly sweet, with remarkable richness, complexity and depth. The emergence of tertiary old-wine aromas and richness impart an unexpected kinship with an older Rhine or Mosel white. Amazing! (Dec. 7, 1996)

Il Podere dell'Olivos 1995 Central Coast (California) Tocai Friulano ($11.99)
Clear straw color. Lovely scent -- melon, green-chile, pears and pineapple -- seems to shift subtly as you watch like a flickering fire. Crisp, bright fruit, consistent with the nose. A bit short in the finish, but still, an exceptionally interesting wine and a very good value. (Dec. 4, 1996)

Foxen 1995 Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir ($23.99)
Clear ruby color. Delicious black-cherry and tomato-skin aromas, full and ripe, with the pleasant "candied-fruit" quality of Central Coast Pinot. Ripe and juicy fruit flavor, full and tart. Well balanced, clean and consistent in a lingering finish. A stunning match with Thanksgiving roast goose. Very good wine, appropriate value. (Nov. 28, 1996)

Ferrari-Carano 1993 Sonoma County "Siena" Red Table Wine ($21.99)
Although it's approaching the upper end of my financial comfort level, this California "Italian-style" red is more than competitive with the genre of Italian "super-Tuscans" that run from 50 to 100 percent more. A blend of A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Merlot and Malbec, it is a clear, dark ruby in color. Cherries and dark chocolate, cedar and rosy floral aromas bespeak both fruit and oak in good harmony. Full, extracted fruit flavors, follow the nose, with substantial tannins showing up in mid-palate; luscious chocolate-covered-cherries persist in a very long finish. It gets better and better as it opens up in the glass over the evening; outstanding wine. (Nov. 26, 1996)

Unalii Hillside Estates 1994 Napa Valley Semillon ($11)
Pale straw color. Luscious scents of melons, figs and dates. Rich and buttery, a bit fat, but with ample acidity to hold it together. (Nov. 18, 1996)

Turley 1993 Turley Vineyard Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($15)
Clear straw color. Full grapefruit and green-pea aromas with whiffs of pears and tropical fruit, an amazingly complex "nose" that gets better and better with time in the glass. Full and mouth-filling, some oak present, with plenty of acidic structure. (Nov. 18, 1996)

King Estate 1995 Oregon Reserve Pinot Gris ($15)
Clear, pale straw color. Oaky vanillin and tropical-fruit aroma, full and rich on the palate, with possible threshold sweetness. (Seems oakier than the specs indicate, but it's aged on the lees for six months, perhaps creating a similar impression.) Definitely Chardonnay-style, but handled well. (Nov. 16, 1996)

Beaulieu Vineyard (BV) 1989 Carneros Napa Valley Reserve Pinot Noir
Rather light ruby color, somewhat hazy. Very herbaceous damp hay aromas at first, fades to reveal stemmy, green-pepper qualities with a noticeable but acceptable level of "barnyard." Soft, velvety flavor, pleasant sipping and very good with rare steaks, but the veggies do dominate. (Nov. 15, 1996)

Tulocay 1987 Egan Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Slightly hazy dark-ruby color. Black-cherry aroma, very appealing, with whiffs of the leathery, coffeelike qualities of older CalCabs. Quite acidic, perhaps a tad overbalanced on the tart side, but there's still plenty of fruit to carry it through. (Nov. 15, 1996)

Beaulieu Vineyard (BV) 1992 Napa Valley "Tapestry" Reserve Red Table Wine
Dark garnet. Full cassis and spicy oak aromas, with a subtle but definite "barnyard" element. Full, rich fruit flavor on a big acidic structure with considerable tannin. A Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot in unspecified proportions; young, needs time. (Nov. 15, 1996)

Guenoc 1991 Beckstoffer Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Dark ruby with a purple edge. Sweet oaky vanillins very forward on the nose, but there's good cherry-berry fruit there, too. Sweet oak and ripe fruit on the palate, clean and mouth-filling. It'd definitely focused on oak, but this bottle passed the ultimate test: It's the one we all kept going back to, and the only bottle left empty at the end of the evening. (Nov. 15, 1996)

Verget 1994 Puligny-Montrachet "Les Enseignères," ($22.99)
Clear light gold. Pleasant fresh-apple scent with minty notes. Full, crisp fruit flavor, fresh and intense. Steely, bone-dry, clean and consistent in a long finish. It's a good wine to be sure, but lacks the combination of buttery richness and sturdy structure that elevated last night's "sister" wine, the '93 Puligny-Montrachet "Sous le Puits" from the same maker. Importer: Willett Distributing Co., Alexandria, Ky. (Nov. 12, 1996)

Broad Run Vineyards (Kentucky) 1992 Chambourcin ($8.99)
Clear dark garnet, with a pleasant aroma of raspberries and fresh herbs, reminiscent of Cabernet Franc. Fresh, clean berry fruit flavor with light, palatable vegetal notes and sharp, tart acidity. The label claims estate bottling, but as a wine for sale only in Kentucky, it's exempt from federal labeling regulations and contains no specific information about the source of the grapes. (Nov. 9, 1996)

Bully Hill Vineyards non-vintage "Love My Goat" New York State Red Wine ($6.99)
Dark ruby color. Bubble gum and "foxy" grape jelly scents and a soft, sweet Welch's grape-juice flavor require a paradigm shift for a palate accustomed to dry, vitis vinifera table wines; but in fairness, it's a well-made "soda pop" wine in the old-fashioned Eastern U.S. style. (Nov. 9, 1996)

Two California Pinots
Tasted "blind" tonight in anticipation of the CompuServe Wine Forum's monthly OnLine Tasting with Benziger wine maker Adam Lee:
Sanford 1994 Central Coast (California) Pinot Noir ($17.95)
Light ruby color. Lovely aroma, classic Central Coast wild-cherry fruit with overtones of mint. Explosive cherry-berry flavors, ripe and luscious, open up on the palate like a time-lapse film of a blossoming flower. All-California in style, there's nothing Burgundian about it, but it's a fine wine indeed. (Nov. 6, 1996)

Laurier 1994 Sonoma County (California) Pinot Noir ($13.99)
Clear, bright ruby. Candied cherry aroma; extracted cherry fruit flavor, gives an impression of sweetness on the first sip, but a good, tart acidic structure builds in as it crosses the palate. Clean, fresh and appealing, though a bit short in the finish. (Nov. 6, 1996)

Rabbit Ridge 1994 California "Allure," ($7.99)
This one's billed as a "Rhone-style" wine, made from unspecified proportions of Syrah, Mourvedre, Carignane, Grenache and Cinsaut. I find it light and soft for a "Rhone," but it's good sipping, and made a fetching companion with a piquant Italian-style baked chicken dish. It's a clear, light ruby color, with a ripe cherry scent and a candied quality oddly reminiscent of Maraschino cherries. Dry, crisp red fruit flavor, soft and quaffable, with sufficient acidity to give it structure. More like a cheap Languedoc than a Rhone, but no complaints on the flavor or the value. (Nov. 3, 1996)

Eight Whites in One
This is definitely an interesting white wine with considerable potential, and the price is right. One wonders, though, what's the point to mixing all these varietals (it's a blend of unspecified proportions of Marsanne, Rousanne, Viognier, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Palomino and Muscat Canelli, partly cold-fermented in stainless and partly fermented sur lies in French and American oak) when the oak ends up dominating the flavor profile anyway.
Cline 1995 Cotes d'Oakley Vin Blanc ($7.49)
Clear pale gold. Light, pleasant scent, faint tropical fruit with floral and buttery notes, delicate and subdued. Fresh, crisp fruit flavors, structured with sweet oak and firm acidity. Oak dominates the flavor and pretty much obliterates any varietal character; still, it would make a very interesting "ringer" in a flight with high-end, over-oaked California Viogniers, which it very much resembles. Since it sells for one-fourth the price of those and carries a lot more flavor interest than low-end Chardonnay, it's certainly worth consideration. (Oct. 22, 1996).

Bonny Doon Vineyard 1995 Cardinal Zin ($14.99)
Clear garnet, not overly dark by Zin standards. Light blackberry and blueberry aroma with spicy notes of anise, nutmeg and cloves. Flavors consistent with the nose, a bit lean for a Zin, with a warmth and texture that reveal its high (14.3%) alcohol. Pleasant Zin, but well away from dead-center for the style; frankly went better sipped alone than with our dinner entree of chicken grilled with garlic and rosemary. (Oct. 20, 1996).

Spring Hill Vineyards 1995 "Spirit of Kentucky" Merlot ($7.99)
Clear ruby color. Pleasant black-cherry and dark-chocolate aromas; bright, fresh cherry and raspberry fruit, oaky vanillins and tart acidity in good balance, startlingly "West Coast" in style and an unexpected pleasure. If I hadn't tasted it double-blind, I wouldn't have believed my own palate. (Oct. 6, 1996)

Cline 1995 Contra Costa County Vin Gris Mourvèdre ($5.99)
clear cherry-red, on the dark side for a rosé. Delicious strawberry and "leafy," "green" scent, full and ripe. Aromas carry over in the flavor, dry and tart, with clean berries and a light bitterness in a long finish. (Oct. 5, 1996)

Horton 1994 Orange County Virginia Viognier ($19.69)
. Very pale straw color. Light but lovely floral scent with peach and apricot overtones. Soft, juicy fruit flavor, perhaps a touch off-dry at first, seems to dry out and add a slight, pleasing bitterness in the finish. Quite atypical for a Viognier. This is a varietal that needs to be drunk up fresh, and I wonder if this '94 is already getting a bit past it; I've also been told that the '94 wasn't up to the standard of the '93 Viognier at Horton. (Oct. 2, 1996) Rosenblum 1995 "Chateau La Paws" Contra Costa County "Cote du Bone" Mourvedre ($8.99)
Clear dark garnet. Plummy black-fruit aroma with hints of spice, cinnamon and nutmeg. Full, ripe black-cherry fruit flavor, juicy and fresh, with soft tannins and crisp acidity to give it balance and a light, pleasant bitterness in the long finish. Very tasty table wine, went especially well with grilled strip steaks. I'm sure there's a great story behind this label, but the small print is silent about it. (Sept. 17, 1996)

Zaca Mesa 1994 Santa Barbara County "Cuvee Z" ($12.99)
Clear, dark garnet. Ripe, complex aromas of black pepper, "tree bark" and candied black cherries reveal its mixed-varietal cuvee and speak with an accent that's clearly Californian. Full, "chewy" fruit, mouth-filling and tart; flavor follows the nose, fresh and consistent in a long finish. Contains 42% Grenache, 41% Mourvedre, 16% Syrah and 1% Cinsaut in the cuvee. (Sept. 14, 1996)

Witness Tree 1994 Willamette Valley Oregon Chardonnay ($37 restaurant price)
Rather bright gold in color, with a rich, heady aroma of tropical fruit and oak. Full, buttery and almost unctuous on the palate, powerful and rich, conveying an initial impression of sweetness that dries out in the finish. (Sept. 9, 1996)

Daniel Gehrs 1995 Monterey County Carmel Vineyard Muscadet ($7.99)
Pale greenish-gold. Unusual but appealing scents of bitter-almond and peach pit, aromatic and full, leading into a rich, almost buttery, but dry and crisply acidic flavor, with crisp acidity that becomes more apparent after the first unctuous sensation has passed. Bitter-almond lingers in a very long finish. (Sept. 6, 1996)

Daniel Gehrs 1995 Monterey County Carmel Vineyard "La Cheniere" Dry Chenin Blanc ($7.99)
Pale greenish-gold. Musky melon and grapefruit mingle in a complex aroma with overtones of mint and aromatic pine. Tart, full fruit flavor, consistent with the nose; dry, crisp and pleasantly bitter, fading slowly in a long, consistent finish. (Sept. 6, 1996)

Laurel Glen Vineyards 1994 REDS California Red Table Wine ($5.99)
Despite the protestations of Laurel Glen's affable proprietor Patrick Campbell that his delicious, affordable REDS isn't meant for aging, I've been following the evolutionary profile of a handful of the '94s for 10 months now, and as best I can tell, this stuff is not merely holding up well but hasn't changed a bit. My notes on a bottle tonight, without looking first, virtually mirrored my Dec. 1, 1995 report: Dark garnet color, clear edge. Ripe red-fruit and black-pepper aromas, consistent on the palate with fresh red fruit and fragrant pepper over a firm acidic structure, very much reminiscent of a quality Languedoc red. Good quaffing wine, good at the table, outstanding value. (Sept. 3, 1996)

Clos du Bois 1993 Winemaker's Reserve Alexander Valley Merlot ($20-plus?)
Although I try to make a habit out of not soliciting wine-sample "freebies," a few friends in the business keep sending me stuff, and it's my policy not to throw it back in their faces but to make full disclosure when I'm reporting on gift samples tasted "unblind." This is a nice one. Dark garnet color. Black-cherry and weedy dill aroma, ripe fruit and dominating American oak, reminiscent of Penfolds Bin 707. Mixed-berry "fruit-bomb" flavor with a load of sweet oak, built on a good acidic structure, with the fruit finally outlasting the oak in a long finish. A bit heavy on the wood, but still seems a definite competitor with the big boys in the Merlot sweepstakes. (Aug. 31, 1996)

Sanford 1995 Santa Barbara County Sauvignon Blanc ($9.99)
Clear light gold. Intense Sauvignon aroma, green chiles and bell peppers, fresh and ripe. Big, full flavor, carries through on the nose's promise; tart, citric fruit with good herbaceous complexity, warm and rich (a startling 14% alcohol). Clean and lasting in a long finish. Made a great match with bluefish grilled over hickory. (Aug. 29, 1996)

Callaway 1995 Temecula (California) Viognier ($14.99)
Clear straw color. Pleasant apricot aroma with a subtle whiff of mint. Dry, full and very tart, zingy acidity opening up to a honeyed, almost buttery texture as it warms in the glass. (Aug. 26, 1996)

Peterson & Sons Winery "Naturally Old-Fashioned Wines" non-vintage Michigan Red Raspberry Wine ($11)
When in Michigan, drink as the Michiganders do. I notice that the small but busy wine industry hereabouts, along with a lot of French hybrids and a very few vitis vinifera varietals, makes quite a bit of commercial wine using fruits other than grapes. This is not a bad idea, really, in climates where traditional wine grapes don't thrive. I uncorked this pricey but surprisingly tasty rendition during my short stopover in Lansing. Clear, light amber color, shading to bronze. Pleasant raspberry scent with nutty Sherrylike overtones. Dry, fresh and strong (15% alch) flavor, with the Sherry quality present but muted, not intrusive on good raspberry fruit. I suspect that oxidation is creeping up on this wine, which is billed as "no sulphites added), but at this point, it's a quirky but pleasant after-dinner sipper, sort of like a Manzanilla with a shot of Chambord. (Aug. 20, 1996)

Wild Horse 1994 Central Coast Pinot Noir ($13.99)
Clear bright ruby. Characteristic ripe-cherry scent of Central Coast Pinot, almost "candied" but skitters along the edge without falling over. Bright, juicy fruit, dry but a bit soft on the acid balance. Definitely a fruit bowl if not a fruit bomb; it seems a little softer and less balanced than on my last tasting. (Aug. 18, 1996)

Chateau St. Jean 1994 Sonoma County Fumé Blanc ($7.99)
Clear, light greenish-gold. Musky melon, fig and tropical fruit aromas, redolent of oak. Fresh citric flavor, dry and tart, with a full, almost buttery quality that's more in the Chardonnay style than classic Sauvignon Blanc. Why in the $#@% do they feel that they have to DO this!? It's a well-made wine, but if I wanted Chard, I would have asked for Chard. Some Semillon in the cuvee, partially barrel-fermented in French and American oak. (Aug. 7, 1996)

Pine Ridge 1992 Napa Valley "Rutherford Cuvee" Cabernet Sauvignon ($14.99)
Very dark garnet color. Full blackcurrant fruit and spicy oak; a dank note at first soon blows off, fortunately. Mouth-filling black fruit flavors with tart acidity and firm but accessible tannins, clean and consistent in a long finish. Excellent wine now, sure to benefit from a little more time. (A blend of 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot and 4% Cabernet Franc.) (Aug. 6, 1996)

Washington Hills 1994 Columbia Valley (Washington) Cabernet/66%-Merlot/34% ($8.99)
Dark garnet color. Black-cherry fruit and a whiff of blueberries, with a spicy cinnamon note that suggests time in oak (although the label doesn't say so). Ripe, juicy cherry-berry fruit flavor laced up with lemony acidity. Appealing and accessible, no reason to age it, but delicious for quaffing now. (Aug. 5, 1996)

Montevina 1993 Amador County "Brioso" Zinfandel ($5.99)
Clear garnet color. Strawberries and spicy oak aromas. Full berry fruit and herbal notes (a little green and sappy, typical of Amador Zin, but not at all out of bounds), over a good acidic structure. The back label calls it "Beaujolais-style," which is ridiculous, but no matter ... it's really quite an appealing Zin for a low-end price. (Aug. 4, 1996)

Chateau St. Jean 1994 Sonoma County Gewurztraminer ($8.99)
Clear bright gold, with a luscious scent of honeysuckle and melon and a whiff of aromatic pine. Crisp, just off-dry, with fresh-fruit acidity holding the natural sweetness in balance. Clean and fresh in a long finish. First-rate wine! (July 31, 1996)

Columbia Crest 1995 Columbia Valley (Washington) Gewurztraminer ($5.99)
Clear gold with a faint coppery tinge. Very slight minty aroma, almost no scent at all. Soft and sweet, undifferentiated fruit. Not so much flawed as boring. (July 31, 1996)

Beringer 1995 California Gewurztraminer ($6.59)
Second recent notes, re-tasted in a three-way "blind" tasting (see two reports above) because of my very negative reaction to it two weeks ago (see July 17, below). Very pale greenish-gold. I still get a spearminty hint of bubble gum, but it's much less offensive than when I last tasted this wine two weeks ago and blows off a bit with breathing, adding an appealing scent of apricots and peaches that I didn't find before. Soft, definitely on the sweet side, but there's good structure there, and a light, pleasing bitterness in the finish. It's still not my favorite Gewurz; the St. Jean blows it away. But it's definitely better than the bottle tasted July 17, suggesting diminishing travel shock. (July 31, 1996)

Sanford 1994 Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir - Vin Gris ($11.29)
Clear pale salmon color. Lovely fresh-fruit cherry-berry aroma with elusive herbal overtones. Similar pleasant herbaceous qualities ("herbes de Provence"?) mingle with a delicious mixed-berry flavor, tart, crisp and dry. This is no cloying "blush" wine but a very serious vin gris, with lots of flavor and complexity. Full Ohio retail price, should be available in many areas for a dollar or two less. (July 25, 1996)

Callaway 1994 Temecula Dolcetto ($15)
Clear ruby color. Spicy red-fruit aroma with a whiff of vanilla. Flavors consistent with the nose, bright and fresh, good red-fruit balanced by tangy acidity, with just a touch of tannic astringency lurking behind the fruit. Bears a good resemblance to a Northwestern Italian Dolcetto, good for quaffing and washing down food (in this case, a melange of fresh summer vegetables and herbs sauteed in olive oil and dumped on pasta). (July 21, 1996)

Cline 1995 Contra Costa County Vin Gris Mourvèdre ($5.99)
Light cherry red with an orange glint, veers toward the red side of vin gris. Delightful herbal and wildflower scent, invites a taste. Crisp and full, fresh cherry-berry flavor with tangy lemon-squirt acidity. A real paradigm-shifter for those who don't think a modest pink wine can be "serious." (July 20, 1996)

Beringer 1995 California Gewurztraminer ($6.59)
Very pale greenish-gold. Light, perfumed scent, unfortunately reminiscent of bubble gum. Soft and sweet, pleasant fruit juice, but pales into insignificance alongside the Alsatian rated above. (July 17, 1996)

Bonny Doon Ca' del Solo 1995 "Big House White" California White Wine ($8.29)
Clear straw color, with a fresh, perfumed grassy scent. Mouth-filling and tart flavor, grass and melons and a bitter-almond edge that becomes more evident on the finish; racy and cleansing, goes very well with seafood. (July 9, 1996)

Bonny Doon Ca' del Solo 1994 Malvasia Bianca Monterey White Table Wine ($8.99)
Clear, pale greenish-gold. Litchees and heady tropical flowers -- jasmine -- so intense that when I opened the bottle, my wife thought the datura outside our dining-room window had opened early! Crisp, juicy tropical-fruit flavor, follows the nose, dry and tart and very long-lasting. Exceptional wine! (July 3, 1996)

Vichon 1994 Napa Valley Chevrignon ($9.99)
Clear, light brass color. Grassy aroma with a whiff of lemon-lime. Round, ripe flavor, full melon fruit, with a bit of a "buttery" quality that seems odd in a Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon blend. Good tart-citric acidity shows up in the fairly short finish to bring it into balance. A bit awkward, but it made a good food wine, an excellent match with pasta topped with smoked salmon and Parmigiano. (July 1, 1996)

Bonny Doon 1995 Pacific Rim Monterey County Gewurztraminer ($11.99)
Clear, pale greenish-gold. Ripe scent of litchees, leading into a full-bodied, unctuous flavor of litchees, mangoes and peaches, tart and clean, with a marked bitter-almond flavor showing in a very long finish. Seems a bit pricey for California Gewurz, but it's certainly in line with the price point, and the quality, of the Alsatian style. I believe it would hold up, and even improve, with a couple of years in the bottle. (June 30, 1996)

Clos du Bois 1993 "Winemaker's Reserve" Sonoma County Cabernet Franc ($20)
Clear dark-garnet color. Blueberries and oaky vanillins on the nose; ripe berry fruit and sweet oak in a mouth-filling, warm flavor, full-bodied and strong (13.9% alcohol), with soft but perceptible tannins and crisp acidity providing structure. (June 28, 1996)

Markham 1994 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($8.99)
Clear, light greenish-gold. Light green-chile and lemon-lime, a good blend of the citric and "green" styles of Sauvignon Blanc. Fresh, crisp flavor, well balanced and clean, with cleansing citric tartness in a long finish. Last tasted exactly 12 months ago; little changed, but a "cat-spray" element then present seems to have muted into green-chile and green-olive. (June 22, 1996)

Shenandoah Vineyards 1993 Amador County (California) "Zingiovese" ($9.99)
Inky dark reddish-purple. Spicy oak and black-fruit aromas, very forward; ripe, juicy fruit flavor with toasty, vanilla oak that almost evokes a sense of well-aged Bourbon. Strong, hearty, a little rough, a country-style quaffing red that went very nicely with baby back ribs from the grill. The "Zingiovese" blend is 73% Zinfandel, 27% Sangiovese. (June 21, 1996)

Facelli Winery 1993 Columbia Valley (Washington) Merlot ($12.99)
Dark reddish-purple. Deep black-cherry fruit, chocolate and spicy oak aromas. Ripe, juicy fruit almost explodes on the palate, but there's plenty of acidity to hold it together, with soft tannins suggesting aging potential. Good structure, good balance; impressive wine. (June 17, 1996)

Facelli Winery 1994 Columbia Valley (Washington State) Fume Blanc ($7.99)
Clear straw color with a greenish glint. Pleasant citrus and melon aromas with a light whiff of grass. Full, crisp and dry, good citric flavor, consistent with the nose. Remarkably stylish for the price point; good value! (June 9, 1996)

Pacific Rim (Bonny Doon) 1995 Monterey Sauvignon Blanc ($9.49)
Clear, pale brass color. Grapefruit, green-olive and green-pepper notes play in a fresh, complex aroma; flavors consistent with the nose, full and ripe, almost a Technicolor example of Sauvignon Blanc flavors, nothing subtle here, but well-balanced and appealing. Those who know my taste for herbaceous, "catty" Sauvignon will be reassured to know that this one is closer to the middle of the road. But it's a fine mouth full of flavorful white all the same, made an excellent match with linguine in a garlicky white clam sauce. (June 7, 1996)

Cline Cellars 1994 Big Break Contra Costa County Zinfandel ($13.99)
Inky dark-purple color. Deep, brooding black-fruit and dark-chocolate aromas, a bit tight at first, opening up to add nuances of leather and mint. Ripe, intense flavors, full and rich, with firm tannins hiding behind massive fruit. If California Zin-makers ever establish a 'grand cru' system, this one has to be a first-growth. Just 854 cases made. (June 5, 1996)

Topolos 1994 Sonoma County Zinfandel ($9.99)
Clear garnet color. Pleasant black-raspberry aroma over oaky vanillins. Forward, jammy fruit flavor, quaffable and soft. Easy drinking, without any of the "earthiness" that Topolos is known for. (June 5, 1996)

Wild Horse 1993 Central Coast Pinot Noir ($28.50/restaurant price)
Bright reddish-purple, very clear. Rather closed in the nose, but wide-open on the palate, with the trademark candied character of Central Coast Pinot held in restraint by tart acidity and ripe, dry black-cherry fruit. (June 4, 1996)

Benziger 1994 Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc ($8.99)
Very pale straw color. A whiff of citrus at first, but the dominant aroma is a pleasant but oak-laden scent of pears. Rich and full and slightly buttery on the palate, with that oaky-pear quality following through in a fairly long finish. It's certainly clean and competently made, but it comes across with more of a Chardonnay style than Sauvignon Blanc, and what's the point of that? (May 31, 1996)

Rabbit Ridge 1994 San Lorenzo Reserve Sonoma County Zinfandel ($20.95)
Back from vacation, and my first post isn't a budget wine by any standard, but it does represent excellent value. Very dark reddish-purple. Luscious black-raspberry fruit with a significant component of oaky vanillins. Big, mouth-filling, jammy blackberry fruit flavor, full and rich; the fruit is so forward that it overwhelms the structure at first, but with airing in the glass, it moves toward a tightrope-walker's balance among fruit, acidity, tannin and alcoholic heat. (May 29, 1996)

Il Podere dell'Olivos 1994 California Riserve Ragazzo Legnoso ($17.95)
Dark garnet. Intense bing-cherry nose. Tart-cherry and sweet oak flavors, mouth-filling, big and clean. Good wine, but based on my experience with others in this line, I was expecting something less oaky and more multi-dimensional. Contains 60% Barbera and 40% Nebbiolo. (May 26, 1996)

St. Innocent 1993 O'Connor Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir ($17.95)
Clear garnet, with good Pinot/black-cherry aromas with well-integrated spicy oak and a desirable hint of earthy terroir. Ripe fruit flavor, consistent with the nose, full and clean; seems to gain complexity with airing. Excellent wine. (May 26, 1996)

Sanford 1994 Santa Barbara County Sauvignon Blanc ($9.99)
Previously tasted September 1995; hasn't changed significantly in eight months. Clear straw color. Lovely jalapeno pepper aroma, opens up in the glass to reveal more complex notes of figs and grapefruit. Big, mouth-filling flavor, with the green-chile quality forward, with good round citrus flavors to back it up. The jalapeno notes are so intense, I almost expect it to "burn" going down; but it doesn't, of course ... it's just full and dry and crisp and lasting. I love this wine! (May 10, 1996)

Sanford 1993 Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir ($16.99)
Clear ruby, not too dark. Lovely Pinot nose, black-cherry and tomato, rich and full. Flavors consistent on the palate, smooth and dry over a firm acidic structure. Soft tannins present but cloaked by the extracted fruit. Gulpable wine, but it would be a shame not to savor it. Very different from my last tasting notes in July '95, when the fruit was so candied and juicy that it rendered an almost Beaujolais-like quality; I like it much better now. (May 6, 1996)

Clairvaux 1993 Sonoma County Pinot Noir ($9.99)
Hazy reddish-purple (retailer says it's unfiltered and unfined). Odd perfumed quality to the aroma, candied fruit, spicebox oak and floral notes unfortunately reminiscent of funeral-parlor lilies. Perfume and floral notes carry over in the flavor in a soft impression that seems slightly sweet, although tart acidity dries it up in the finish. Idiosyncratic wine. (May 6, 1996)

Ken Wright Cellars 1994 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir ($16.99)
First Oregon Pinot of the ballyhooed '94 vintage to make it east to Kentucky; no bargain, but certainly appropriate for the price point, fit for a Derby Eve feast. Clear deep garnet, no apparent haze despite its unfiltered and unfined status. Ripe bing-cherry nose, full and rich, invites a taste; huge, extracted tart-cherry fruit, seems soft at first, but the structure is there, and it comes into focus in a long finish. Develops a little more complexity (including a touch of Pinot "tomato-skin") as it airs in the glass. (May 3, 1996)

Kunde 1994 Sonoma Valley Viognier ($14.99)
Pale brass color. Lovely peach, honey and wildflower aromas, rich and complex. Full, juicy and tart, delicate flavors -- pineapple and grapefruit -- worn rather oddly on a big structure of acidity and alcoholic warmth (14.1%, the label claims). It's flavory and intense, but there's a strange discrepancy between its delicacy and size, sort of like a beefy fella donning a calico skirt to get laughs at a party. (April 30, 1996)

Wild Horse 1994 Barrel Fermented Monterey Malvasia Bianca ($12.99)
Very pale color, faint greenish hue. Amazing tangerine aroma, clean and fresh, like a bowl of Christmas fruit. Bone-dry, crisp and tart flavor, tangerine, peach and melon qualities remaining consistent in a very long finish. Oak handled with great finesse, doesn't dominate the luscious fruit. Drink this one soon; an excellent match with pork chops in a simple French-style saute. (April 28, 1996)

Hogue Cellars 1994 Columbia Valley Fumé Blanc ($5.99)
Clear greenish-gold. Melon and fig and a whiff of citrus, very nice. Crisp and dry flavor, fresh and simple fruit, consistent in a long finish. Excellent value. (April 22, 1996)

Callaway 1992 Temecula, California Sauvignon Blanc ($7.49)
Clear bright gold, very dark for a Sauvignon Blanc. Canned asparagus fills the nose, vegetal and strong. Unctuous, soft, with that same overwhelming asparagus flavor on the palate. I do like grassy and peppery Sauvignon Blanc, but this one's off in a different, and less appealing, direction. (April 22, 1996)

Beringer 1991 Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (about $11 in 1994)
Very dark garnet color. Plummy fruit and a good shot of that "weedy dill" aroma that we've been talking about in the forum lately. Ripe cherry-berry fruit flavors with muted oaky vanillins; good acid balance, and tannins still evident. Surprisingly youthful still, with all the ingredients for happy evolution over several more years in the cellar. (April 21, 1996)

Bernardus 1993 Monterey County Sauvignon Blanc ($8.99)
Clear, light greenish-gold. Green peppers and lemon-lime scents, bridges the gap between the vegetal and citric styles. Round and fully, fresh fruit with a marked "buttery" quality; more fat than lean, an unfortunate characteristic in an otherwise appealing Sauvignon Blanc. Barrel-fermented, contains an undisclosed proportion of Semillon. (April 20, 1996)

Louis M. Martini 1993 North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon ($12)
Dark garnet color. A whiff of somewhat dank oak intrudes, but blows off to unveil good cassis and dark-chocolate aromas. Full, appealing cherry-berry fruit flavor, with tart acidity and modest tannins. Very good wine. (April 15, 1996)

Louis M. Martini 1992 California Barbera ($10)
Clear, dark ruby color. Spicy black-cherry aroma. Tart-cherry fruit and soft tannins, built on a sturdy structure of fresh-fruit acidity. Nicely balanced, good food wine. (April 15, 1996)

Badger Mountain 1994 "Sevé" Dry White Table Wine ($5.49)
Clear pale gold color. Fresh melon and citrus scent. Ripe, juicy fruit, fresh and clean if a bit on the neutral side, with good tart acidity for balance. Varietal? Hard to say; I'd guess Chenin Blanc, but not with huge confidence. In any case, it's a good table wine, went very well with spaghetti in a garlicky white clam sauce. (April 10, 1996)

The Hogue Cellars 1995 Columbia Valley (Washington) Gewürztraminer ($5.99)
Very pale straw color. Wonderful, aromatic scent, grapefruit, pineapple and mangoes. Mouth-filling fruit flavor, just off-dry (1.13% residual sugar), with a bracing jolt of fresh-fruit acidity (0.70 gm/ml) to give it structure and balance. A hint of pleasant bitterness in a long finish that follows the nose and palate. One of the best U.S. Gewurztraminers I've ever tasted, and a remarkable value at this price. (April 8, 1996)

Judd's Hill 1992 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($24.95, on sale for $16.95)
Definitely not low-end, but still, even without the sale price, one of my favorite California Cabernets for quality and value. Dark, almost opaque ruby color. Oak forward, fruit back, but it's still impressive: Cassis (blackcurrant) and dark chocolate on the nose; juicy black-fruit flavors, tart and tannic, with vanilla and blackberry jam lingering in a very long finish. Last tasted 11 months ago; still needs cellar time. (April 6, 1996)

Lane Tanner 1992 Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir ($17.99)
Clear, bright ruby. Rich and complex aromas -- earthy, tobacco leaf, forest floor, rather Burgundian, but with a ripe undertone of candied cherries that's definitely California. Full, tart black-cherry fruit, so extracted that it almost seems sweet. (March 26, 1996)

Il Podere dell'Olivos 1994 Central Coast (California) Tocai Friulano ($11.99)
Clear, bright gold color. Green chile-peppers play around the edges of melon fruit on the nose, and the chilies follow through and linger into a long finish with full, tart melon flavors, dry and well-structured, if not overly acidic. It has calmed down a little from the "outrageous" aromatics when first tasted last July, but still, very enjoyable, good table or sipping white. (March 17, 1996)

Beaulieu Vineyard (BV) 1992 Napa Valley "Rutherford" Cabernet Sauvignon ($10.59)
Dark garnet in color. Weedy dill, chocolate and vanilla, oaky aromas predominate, but there's some Cabernet cassis there too. Fruit is more forward on the palate, with appropriate acidity, clean and consistent. Drops off a little in the finish, but there's definite Cabernet character present. (March 16, 1996)

Ivan Tamas 1993 Livermore Valley Trebbiano ($6.99)
Clear straw color. Melon and pineapple aromas and a whiff of caramel; crisp, dry and tart flavors, simple and fresh, nothing fancy but clean and well-balanced. Good value. (March 12, 1996)

Niebaum-Coppola 1993 "Edizione Pennino" Napa Valley Zinfandel ($13.99)
Dark garnet color. Intense dried-cherry flavor, tight at first, opens up with time. Fully dry, tart, tannic flavor, with that same dried-fruit, black- cherry character, remains consistent across the palate and into a very long finish. Typical Zin blackberry appears after extended breathing, but it's definitely muted and claret-style rather than the standard exuberant fruit-bomb Zinfandel. Atypical, but a very fine wine. (March 8, 1996)

Fetzer Vineyards 1993 "Bonterra" Mendocino County Chardonnay ($11.79)
Clear straw color. Wham! Oaky vanillins make the first impression, like a whack with a 2-by-4. Apples and pineapple and a hint of allspice follow, leading to a full, buttery tropical-fruit flavor; dry and tart. Definitely oaky, but the fruit's there, too. (March 6, 1996)

Fetzer Vineyards 1994 California "Sundial" Chardonnay ($6.99)
Clear light-gold color, with a fresh aroma of cooking apples and rising bread dough. Crisp apples on the palate, with a hint of sweetness well balanced by fresh-fruit acidity. Short in the finish, but still, a nice quaffing and table wine. (Feb. 28, 1996)

Bonterra (Fetzer) 1993 Mendocino County Cabernet Sauvignon ($11.79)
Clear, dark-garnet color. Weedy dill predominates the aroma, the signature of American oak; but there's good black-currant fruit showing through. Forward fruit flavor, well balanced by fresh, crisp acidity, with soft but evident tannins to suggest at least mid-range cellar-worthiness. (Feb. 25, 1996)

Shooting Star 1994 Sonoma County Pinot Noir ($11.99)
Clear ruby color. Pleasant aromas, black cherry and something that goes beyond characteristic Pinot "tomato skin" to evoke ripe, juicy beefsteak tomatoes. Full, soft black-cherry fruit with light, accessible tannins. Perhaps a bit short on acidity for perfect balance and structure, but still, it's a round and complex red table wine, went extremely well with grilled duck with Chinese spices. (Feb. 24, 1996)

De Lorimier 1993 Alexander Valley "Spectrum" Meritage ($8.99)
Clear straw color, with a perfumed pineapple aroma surrounded by whiffs of musk. Consistent flavors, dry and tart, with a full, almost oily texture. Aromatic piney notes in a long finish. Classic White Bordeaux cuvee, 77% Sauvignon Blanc, 23% Semillon. Great match with salmon from the grill. (Feb. 23, 1996)

Fetzer 1992 Mendocino County "Barrel Select" Zinfandel ($7.99)
Clear ruby color. Blackberry and spicy oak aromas. Soft, juicy fruit flavor, blackberry jam; a little light on the acid side of the balance, though that makes it an easy quaff. Shows increasingly evident tannins as it airs in the glass, an unusual evolution. (Feb. 22, 1996)

Quivira 1993 Dry Creek Valley "Dry Creek Cuvee" ($8.99)
Clear bright ruby color. Attractive red-fruit aroma with whiffs of black pepper and the "tree bark" character that's the trademark of Mourvedre. Crisp, tart and juicy red fruit flavors, full and ripe; dry and structured with fresh-fruit acidity. (Feb. 19, 1996)

Orleans Hill 1994 Amador County Clockspring Vineyard Zinfandel ($6.99)
This item was displayed at the local wine shop under a big yellow sign hand- lettered, NO SULFITES. An inaccurate statement, of course, since sulfites appear naturally in wine as a by-product of fermentation; but the maker claims that no sulfites are added during processing, and the wine comes in with a low enough level that the government-mandated sulfite warning label is not required.
The label carries the following language: "Produced from grapes organically grown in accordance with the California Organic Foods Act of 1990 ... With no added sulfites, it should be kept cool and treated as high quality fresh fruit."
I'm instinctively annoyed by merchants who take advantage of the consumer hysteria and hypochondria provoked by the silly government warning label to create a product to make a profit from an uneducated market; I consider it at least borderline sleazy to take advantage of people's ignorance and fear to make a buck.
All that being said, the wine's at least OK. It's dark ruby in color, showing a light, plummy aroma; soft and simple fruit on the palate with a prickly hint of carbonation on the tongue and a slight tannic astringency; juicy and fresh, but undifferentiated fruit flavor, without any of the berry-like exuberance that I associate with quality Zinfandel. (Feb. 18, 1996)

Rabbit Ridge 1994 Heartbreak Hill Sonoma County Viognier ($13.99)
Clear, pale straw color. Good fruity-floral Viognier scent with a pleasant overtone of peach nectar. Clear, bright though simple fruit flavor; much of the glory of Viognier, frankly, is in the nose. Fresh and crisp with a pleasant bitter-almond quality in a long finish. (Feb. 17, 1996)

Chateau Ste. Michelle 1994 Barrel Fermented Columbia Valley (WA) Semillon ($5.99)
Clear, pale straw color. Toasty oak and light melon aroma. Full, simple honeydew melon flavor, dry and crisp, with significant oakiness, sort of a Chardonnay-style white, but pleasant enough; very good value. (Feb. 11, 1996)

Joseph Swan Vineyards 1994 Russian River Valley "Cotes du Rosa," ($8.99)
Very dark ruby color, almost opaque. Ripe red-fruit aroma, plummy and full, with an aromatic overtone of menthol. Juicy, plummy fruit flavor, so fruity that it conveys an impression of sweetness; a prickly sensation on the tongue seems almost like borderline carbonation. Idiosyncratic wine, but pleasant; it went very well with a rosemary and garlic-scented chicken from the grill. (Feb. 10, 1996)

Gallo Sonoma 1994 Stefani Vineyard Dry Creek Valley Chardonnay ($15.99)
READERS NOTE: This and the following four Gallo Sonoma wines were tasted at a special event with a winery representative. For the record and in a spirit of full disclosure, I did not taste the wines "blind," and the winery paid for the samples. I made every effort to rate them with journalistic objectivity, but the notes are presented with that caveat. This one is a clear, straw colored wine, with very pleasant chestnut and toasty oak aromas leading into lean, fresh apple fruit with oaky overtones. (Feb. 8, 1996)

Gallo Sonoma 1994 Laguna Ranch Vineyard Russian River Valley Chardonnay ($15.99)
Ripe, figgy tropical fruit aromas; ample oak flavor, but it's good and complex, accenting but not overshadowing fresh, juicy fruit with toasty, almost smoky overtones. Clean and full, brings you back for more. (Feb. 8, 1996)

Gallo Sonoma 1993 Northern Sonoma Merlot ($14.99)
Very dark ruby in color, with a pleasant, deep black-cherry aroma and lush tart-cherry fruit flavor, laced up with firm acidity and a surprising load of astringent tannins, suggesting excellent aging potential. (Feb. 8, 1996)

Gallo Sonoma 1993 Frei Ranch Vineyard Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel ($13.99)
Tight and closed at first, didn't seem to be much there, but with time in the glass, it opens to reveal good, brambly berry fruit. (Feb. 8, 1996)

Gallo Sonoma 1992 Frei Ranch Vineyard Dry Creek Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($16.99)
Attractive berrylike aromas, blueberries and a herbal hint of tarragon; ripe, extracted fruit flavor backed by crisp acidity and firm tannins. Accessible now, but will surely reward cellar time. (Feb. 8, 1996)

Chateau Souverain 1992 Alexander Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon ($10.99)
Clear, jewel-like dark-ruby color. A strong vanilla scent, the trademark of oak, is pleasant but dominates the fruit in this wine's aroma; fresh and vibrant cherry-berry fruit punches through the oak on the palate in a rich flavor with firm acidic structure to hold it in balance. Opens up and adds cassis (blackcurrant) notes with time in the glass. (Feb. 7, 1996)

Columbia Crest 1993 Columbia Valley (Washington) Merlot ($9.99)
Clear ruby in color, this wine's aroma is focused on spicy oak with hints of black cherry peeking through. It's soft on the palate, almost conveying a touch of sweetness, soft and round; a slight vegetal "green bean" quality at first becomes more evident with time in the glass. (Feb. 7, 1996)

R. H. Phillips 1994 EXP Dunnigan Hills (California) Viognier ($11.99)
Clear, pale-gold color. Melon, peach and fresh citric fruit, characteristic Viognier. Crisp, simple fruit, clean and fresh, almost a creamy texture, with tart acidity to back it up. (Jan. 13, 1996)

Louis M. Martini 1993 North Coast Merlot ($9.50)
Very dark garnet color. Spicy oak dominates black-cherry aromas. Juicy, tart-cherry fruit and sweet oak flavors show good acidic structure and soft tannins that probably bespeak the 24 percent Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend. Unfortunately, it falls apart quickly, softening and developing a prunelike, raisiny quality in the glass. (Jan. 9, 1996)

Montevina 1993 Amador County Zinfandel ($6.99)
Dark ruby color. Ripe blackberry aroma and oaky vanillins, clean and full. Extracted mixed-berry fruit, the characteristic "bramble fruit" quality of old-style Zinfandel. New oak contributes vanilla and soft tannins, but it's kept well in balance by exuberant fruit. Exceptional price-quality ratio for a low-end Zin. (Jan. 6, 1996)

Covey Run 1993 Yakima Valley (Washington) Merlot ($8.99)
Clear garnet color. Black-cherry and spicy oak aromas with a whiff of barnyard. Juicy fruit and sweet oak flavors, fruity and approachable; a whiff of barnyardy, "horsey" flavors adds complexity, although these "Rhone" qualities signaling the presence of wild Brettanomyces yeast seem mighty strange in a Pacific Northwest Merlot! (Dec. 31, 1995)

Adelsheim Vineyard 1994 Oregon Pinot Gris ($9.99)
Clear straw color. Rich melon and citric scents; ripe, full-bodied fruit flavor, consistent with the aroma, clean and refreshing though rather short in the finish. Fine match with fresh mussels in a curry fried rice, but seems to serve better as a food wine than alone, where it's a bit on the neutral side for a 10-buck wine. (Dec. 29, 1995)

Argyle 1994 "Vintage Select" Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Noir ($8.99)
Dark ruby color. Nice tomato-skin and cherry fruit aromas, tight at first but open up with time in the glass. Flavors consistent on the palate, tomato and tart cherry fruit, rather soft and fruity but easy quaffing. Went very nicely with a roast duck for Christmas Eve. (Dec. 24, 1995)

Cain 1993 "Musque" Monterey Sauvignon Blanc ($11.99)
Clear straw color. Potent aromas almost knock your head back from the glass: green olive, damp grass, grapefruit, and a whiff of the oddly pleasant musky Sauvignon character that can only be described as "cat spray." Clean and bright flavor, round and mouth-filling; citric fruit and crisp acidity. Lemony citrus and grass hang on in a very long finish. (Dec. 22, 1995)

Laurel Glen Vineyard 1993 Terra Rosa North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon ($8.99)
Very dark ruby color, almost opaque. Herbaceous Cabernet aroma, weedy and cedary, light cassis, dark chocolate and spicy oak. Flavor follows the nose, extracted and ripe, backed by lemony acidity and soft tannins. Quite a mouthful of wine, definite aging potential and an excellent value. (Dec. 21, 1995)

Firestone Vineyard 1992 Santa Ynez Valley Johannisberg Riesling ($7.99)
Very pale brass color. Musk and pine and that intriguing Riesling quality that's often described as "mineral" or "petrol." Quite sweet, but the sugar is well balanced with steely acidity and a prickly touch of petillance on the tongue, with a fresh applelike quality lingering in a long aftertaste. (Dec. 3, 1995)

Columbia Crest 1992 Columbia Valley (Washington) Cabernet Sauvignon ($7.99)
Inky dark garnet. Delicious cherry-berry and oaky vanillin scents. Sweet oak and blackcurrant fruit flavor, more than sufficient to punch through accessible but significant tannin. (Dec. 3, 1995)

Laurel Glen Vineyards 1994 REDS California Red Table Wine ($5.99)
Very dark garnet color. Fragrant black pepper, apple-skin and red fruits in a good, complex aroma that carries over intact to the palate, full and ripe, with loads of red fruit well balanced by fresh acidity. Reminds me a lot of a very good Languedoc red. One of the best wine values of the year! (Dec. 1, 1995)

Haywood 1994 California Chardonnay ($8)
Clear, pale-gold color. Tropical fruit and a blast of new oak, as blatant as a whack on the head with a 2-by-4, evolves into dominant pineapple with breathing in the glass. Sweet oak and pineapple flavors and marked alcoholic warmth (13.7% claimed), full and fat; hard to believe there's not a little residual sweetness, although the spec sheet claims it's fully dry. Not my favorite style of Chard, but a winner at the price point. (Nov. 29, 1995)

Fetzer 1994 California Johannisberg Riesling ($5.95)
Clear, pale-gold color. Fresh apricot aroma carries over intact into a juicy fruit flavor, with fresh sweetness held in balance by a crisp acidic structure. Falls off in the finish, but overall, it's quite a pleasant quaff. (Nov. 23, 1995)

Robert Pecota 1995 North Coast Gamay Beaujolais ($7.99)
Clear, dark cherry color. Strawberry aroma with a definite edge of fragrant black pepper, odd in a Beaujolais, but pleasant. Tart, juicy fruit, fresh and appealing, strawberries and a good tart citric quality in a long finish. (Nov. 22, 1995)

Louis M. Martini 1994 Napa Valley Chardonnay ($9)
Clear straw color. Ripe pineapple scent. Buttery, malolactic fruit, with a touch of a prickly, almost petillant quality on the tongue, apples and peaches and just a hint of residual sweetness. Definitely a Chardonnay in the California style, but it manages to stay in balance. (Nov. 20, 1995)

Bonny Doon 1994 "Pacific Rim" California Riesling ($7.99)
Clear straw color. Luscious mango aroma framed by peaches and pine and floral notes -- a delight! Tart acidity builds a firm structure that almost conceals light, fresh-fruit sweetness. Mangoes and tropical fruit hang on in a very long finish. Outstanding wine! (Nov. 13, 1995)

Elk Cove Vineyards 1993 Willamette Valley (Oregon) Riesling ($6.99)
. Clear, light brass color, with just a hint of a rosy hue. Apples, pine, musky melon and that characteristic Riesling "petrol" dance in a very complex aroma. Bone-dry and crisply acidic on the palate, juicy fruit well balanced by cleansing acidity; melon and "diesel" flavors linger in a long finish. (Nov. 13, 1995)

Beringer 1995 California Nouveau Gamay "Beaujolais" ($4.99)
Bright cherry-red. Strawberry cotton-candy nose; tart-sweet strawberry fruit flavor, soft and simple. It's no wine for the ages, and quite different in style (low-acid, perceptibly sweet) from the French original. Still, it's a luscious and quaffable jug-o-juice, and went quite well with a not-too-spicy curry made of leftover lamb. (Nov. 12, 1995)

Rosenblum Cellars 1993 "Old Vines" Sonoma County Zinfandel ($11.99)
. Clear, dark ruby color. Big nose, intense mixed-berry and vanilla aromas jump from the glass. Extracted blueberry fruit on a firm acidic structure, with light but perceptible tannins; fresh blueberries in a long finish. (Nov. 11, 1995)

Rosenblum Cellars non-vintage "Vintners Cuvee X" California Zinfandel ($8.99)
Clear, dark-ruby color. Ripe raspberry jam aroma, clean and fresh, with soft, juicy fruit flavor, soft but luscious and quaffable. Good buy! (Nov. 11, 1995)

Rabbit Ridge 1994 Sonoma County Zinfandel ($10.99)
Dark ruby color. Pleasant blackberry aroma with oaky vanillins. Big, full and juicy fruit, classic mixed-berry Zin; a bit on the soft side, quaffable. (Nov. 10, 1995)

DeLoach 1993 Sonoma County Russian River Valley Zinfandel ($12.19)
. Clear ruby color, simple plummy fruit nose. Ripe, plummy fruit, low acid. OK table wine, but surprisingly short on Zin character. (Nov. 10, 1995)

Dry Creek Vineyard 1993 Sonoma County Old Vines Zinfandel ($11.49)
Bright ruby color, with a ripe, jammy blackberry aroma and fresh, juicy and tart flavor of blackberry jam, very approachable and tasty. Went very nicely indeed with a home-built Pizza Napoletana; the spicy tomato sauce and cheese, and even the anchovies didn't faze it. (Nov. 8, 1995)

Seghesio 1993 Sonoma County Zinfandel ($7.99)
I'm departing from my usual practice of reporting GOOD values because this one is widespread enough, and inexpensive enough, to require a warning. Dank, earthy, salamander-and-wet-wood qualities on the nose and palate reeks of raunchy old barrels that should have been discarded. This is not random corkiness but a more serious flaw. Pass. (Nov. 8, 1995)

Clos du Bois 1994 Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc ($5.99)
Clear straw color. Grapefruit and grass, characteristic Sauvignon aromas; full, fresh fruit, mouth-filling and round, definitely a California style made (using French oak) to evoke the spirit of Chardonnay; there's plenty of structure here to save it, though (also contains 12% Semillon), and it went very well indeed with an asparagus risotto. (Nov. 5, 1995)

All my wine-tasting reports are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores.

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