A small group of friends enjoyed an impromptu gathering with great food and our own wines at Spiedini in Walnut Creek, Calif., recently. Here are my quick notes taken on the Palm VII:

Domaine Grand Veneur 1997 La Fontaine Chąteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc - Bright straw color. Almonds, herbs and crisp white fruit, full and rich. Just about as good as white wine gets. 100% old vines Roussanne.

Pierre Barge 1995 Cote-Rotie - Clear garnet. Plummy, smoky, structured. Leather, earth, abundant fruit. This would surely rank as the wine of the evening, but for ...

Chateau Musar 1981 - Clear cherry red. Earth and leather, tart-cherry fruit on the nose and palate. Showing beautiful balance, still seems almost youthful. Wonderful wine.

Castello della Paneretta 1997 Terrine Vino da Tavola di Toscana - Very dark reddish-purple. Perfumed and deeply fruity, sweet and spicy oak. Lou Kessler's gift to the group, it's an excellent Tuscan (Sangiovese and Canaiolo, Lou says), in a clean and correct "international" style that he intended to serve as a foil to Stuart's earthy Rhone.

Storrs 1997 BXR San Francisco Bay Red Table Wine - Dark reddish-purple. Very ripe fruit and spicy oak. Big cherry-berry and sweet oak flavors. The name (for "Bordeaux red") and the insane back-label hype likening it to Entre-deux-Mers to the contrary, it's much more of a California wine than French-style. But I like it. I really do.

Chateau la Rouvière 1997 Bandol - Inky dark garnet. Perfumed and leathery, ripe fruit and earth. I had been hoping for more complexity when I chose this one, but it's young, very young. Lots of potential, though.

All my wine-tasting reports are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I accept no free samples from wineries or distributors, purchasing all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores.

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