I hope I got all this data right; I drank it at Loralei's New Years party. Light, but pleasant fruit flavors, fairly typical of Chilean Cabs, although maybe not as good as some. This winery is operated by Baron Rothschild (Lafite) [12/31/97].
Roederer Brut Sparkling, Anderson Valley, NV, $13 VG
I wasn't overwhelmed, but then again, this is sparkling wine. Wine Spectator gave this a 92. It was crisp, fruity, very clean [1/1/98].
Perrier-Jouet Brut, Champangne, NV, $20 VG
Not as good as the Roederer to my tastes. Had nuttier, earthier flavors that were an interesting contrast [1/1/98].
Val d'Orbieu Merlot, Vin de Pays d'Oc, Reserve St. Martin, 1996, G-
This gift from Jan was a typical inexpensive French wine--dry, earthy, with some fruit. Not much varietal character. For such a young wine I would have expected grapier flavors [1/2].
Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon, North Coast, Coastal, 1995, VG-
What a surprise! Not so long ago this same wine was a huge disappointment. To my palate, this is a dead ringer for the Columbia Crest '94 Cab, one of my favorites of the year. This wine had luscious, chocolatey fruit. Yum! A simple wine, to be sure, but generous [1/3].
Sin Zin Zinfandel, Alexander Valley, 1996, $10 VG+
Yow! This is a blockbuster wine. Explosive Zin fruit and dark chocolate tones. The only flaw in this wine is its 14.7% alcohol level, which burns the nose and is hot on the finish. With food, though, it is perfect [1/4].
Santa Cantabria Cosecha Crianza, Rioja, 1994, $8 VG-
A typical Rioja, worthy of thoughtful drinking. Earthy with pleasant fruit, perhaps not as fun as many California wines [1/6].
Meridian Cabernet Sauvignon, California, 1994, $9 VG
Acidic and wan at first, the fruit and body improved significantly over an hour of drinking. Fun varietal character. Meridian is touted as a top-notch California value wine, matching up with the likes of Napa Ridge and Chateau Souverain. I agree, putting it between the two in quality, maybe better [1/9].
Laboure-Roi Red Burgandy, Gevrey-Chambertin, 1995, $20 VG-
Interesting citrus flavors, but a little on the acidic side. In all fairness, this is a Burgandy, and so may need food to become a complete wine [1/10].
Tenuta Cantagallo Red, Chianti Montalban, 1995, $7 G
Tons of fruit and character. I like this more than perhaps any Chianti I've had in the last year. Our second tasting at home was a disappointment, as it displayed a distinctly corky character that is due to over oaking or perhaps a bad cork [1/10].
Domaine du Pourra Red, Gigondas, 1995, $13 VG
Reminiscent of some Chateauneufdupape's I've had recently, but more fun. Powerful, fruity, with well-integrated pepper flavors [1/10]. On my second tasting, not quite as positive, but this wine has clear potential for aging [2/21].
Unalii Syrah, Mendocino, 1996, $11 VG
Grapey, fruity, and concentrated, with a marvelous dark purple color [1/10]. Our second tasting, at dinner at Lorna's, revealed marvelous chocolate flavors and citrus accents on the attack. No grapeyness was evident, although the abundance of fruit flavors was stunning. An incredible wine for the price [1/16]. Two later bottles were more disappointing. At Verity's, it came across as poorly integrated with bright fruit [3/27]. At home, we had better luck, the wine coming across more integrated, but the chocolate was definitely gone. A night in the bottle didn't help. Chocolate flavors seem so fragile, the first to go with time [4/13,15]. Back at the tasting bar at San Diego Wine Company, I was quite pleased, and detected blackberry [7/18].
Chappellet Sangiovese, Napa, 1995, $18 VG+
Tight, dark, concentrated. Marvelous, but might need some time in the bottle [1/10].
Raymond Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa, Reserve, 1995, $16 VG+
A classic concentrated Cab, with chocolate and dark cherry flavors [1/10]. After trying this at the tasting bar at SDWC, I got to drink it with a meal at Aesop's Tables. Yum! Big, generous, with dark fruit. Not tons of finesse or structure, but pleasurable drinking right now [1/24]. My third tasting back at SDWC was a little less enthusiastic, but I detected minty notes on the finish, so some complexity is emerging [2/21].
Beaulieu Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford, 1995, $11 VG
Nice fruit and varietal character, with some brie-like flavors in the background [1/10].
Azienda Agricola San Filipo , Rosso di Montalcino, 1994, $9 VG-
Way above the average Italian wine, but still not what I look for in a wine. Had pleasant fruit and earth flavors typical of other non-Chianti's I've had, but still not up to a good California or Crozes Hermitage [1/13].
Rutherford Hill Merlot, Napa, 1995, $12/half VG
A very pleasant merlot. Not big and chocolatey like the Columbia Crest, but rather a little leaner, a little more structure, and a little brighter. Drank at Aesop's Tables [1/24].
Mouton Cadet Red Bordeaux, Bordeaux, 1995, $7? G+
This Baron Philippe de Rothschild is better than most bargain Bordeaux's, but no great winner. This one possessed adequate fruit and earth, but was overly acidic in contrast. This might do a lot better to be left alone for a few years or least left in the air for several hours [1/28].
Chateau de Cazeneuve Red Languedoc, Pic St. Loup, 1994, $13? VG
I think someone brought this Languedoc to our house for our Xmas party, because I don't remember buying it and it just showed up on our counter. Concentrated, fruity, with lovely berry flavors. We were drinking it with moderately spicey Italian sausage, so there were fats to enhance the wine, but spice to control any pepper. But I think I would have enjoyed this more on its own [1/29]. Finishing off the bottle a few nights later was instructive. Although I had squirted gas in there and vacu-vin'd the bottle, the wine still matured considerably, taking on much darker, more open flavors and a barely oxidized character. Probably would have been better with one less day in the bottle, but still fun [2/1].
Rosemount GSM, Australia, 1995, $13 VG-
The "GSM" refers to the classic Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre blend of the Rhones, in a 50-40-10 combination. This wine is a total fruit bomb, grapey and fat. I found little complexity in it and could not really enjoy it until the food came. We drank this at Khyber Pass with Becky and Jeremy. It was hard to detect any structure, but if it is there, this wine might age very well [1/30].
Domaine Clavel La Copa Santa, Languedoc, 1995, $14 VG
I tasted this wine last year on SDWC's wine bar, when it still needed some time in the bottle. This time, we tried it with Italian food at Lorna's. It is still a formidable wine, with loads of tannins, but it packs enough fruit to make it worthwhile. The heat of the house this Summer may not have been the best for it, though [2/2].
Hamel Syrah, Russian River Valley, 1995, VG
Enscription on the bottle: ``Vitis Allobrogica?'' This rich wine packs 14.4 percent alcohol. It had lovely fruit and earth flavors, almost perfectly integrated, although the high alcohol level put some heat on the finish. The wine had a lovely, expressive nose as well, especially when swirled incessantly. Lovely. This was a gift from Oona, who got some good advice from Tom at the SDWC. We all drank it together first alone, then with some bread, and finally with butternut squash and spinach tomato sauce. I liked it best all by itself, so that none of the subtle flavors could hide [2/6].
Chateau Souverain Merlot, Alexander Valley, 1994, $13 VG+
Wow! Licorice, Mint, and Eucalyptus. Oak and fruit. What more could you ask for? This opened up quite a bit over an hour, evolving from a Merlot/Cab base to what seemed like Petit Verdot base. Complex, enjoyable, astonishing [2/7].
Karly Zinfandel, Pokerville, Amador Co., 1996, $7 VG
My favorite inexpensive wine of '97, I still love it. The effervescent quality seems to have diminished, and the wine fruit seems a little softer. Wonderful fruit in the nose [2/9].