Marietta Old Vine Red, California, Lot Number Nineteen, $7 VG
My other favorite of '97, this wine has exceptional depth and balance for a cheap wine. The wine has softened a bit, and the nose is exceptional. Who needs to drink wine when it smells so good [2/11]?
Beaulieu Tapestry, Napa, Reserve, 1994, $17 VG+
Classic Bordeaux blend California style. Yum. The fruit of Cabernet was nicely balanced by punchy Petit Verdot. Lovely bouquet. I tend to prefer something a little more concetrated and darker in flavor, but it's still a winner. We brought this wine to Laurel, which has a great menu and modest pricing. The wine was an excellent complement to the Rabbit Terrine and Duck Confit [2/13].
Markham Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa, 1994, $15 VG
A little tight and rough, but enjoyable in the end [2/14].
Chateau Lavabre Red Languedoc, Pic St. Loup, 1995, $12 VG+
Nice, full fruit, a touch of blueberries. A bit tannic. Probably should have waited another year or two, a little tight compared to last year [2/15].
David Bruce Pinot Noir, Sonoma, 1995, $13 VG
After stellar performances last Summer and Fall, this wine had lost its dark, well integrated character, turning bright, acidic, and choppy. The explosiveness of the fruit saved it, barely. Was it the trip to Santa Barbara? The last one did fine going to Tucson. Best to wait awhile for the next bottle, I suspect, but how long [2/15]? A couple of months later, we found the wine much more better integrated, only turning acidic when drank without food [4/26]. Is it bottle variation, or perhaps a need to breath before drinking? Drinking across a couple of nights with grilled shark and later baked salmon, the wine showed really nice fruit with concentrated flavors, even drinkable alone the second night. Not surprisingly, its elegance didn't stand up to the grilled flavors, which left the wine tasteless [7/19,21].
Hacienda Chardonnay, Cal., Claire de Lune, 1996, $6? G+
Pretty good overall, but heavy and sweet [2/16].
Domaine La Remejeanne Red, Rhone, Les Arbousiers, 1996, VG
Dry, crisp, and refreshing, with fresh melon flavors and a hint of white pepper in the nose [2/16].
Beaulieu Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford, Napa, 1995, $11 VG
Not the best Cab I've had, but it has generous fruit with a peculiar dark streak running through it [2/20]. Drinking from the same bottle a couple of nights later, the peculiarities had dropped out, leaving a more integrated wine [2/22].
Santa Amelia Merlot, Conchagua, Chile, 1995, $4 G+
Not a favorite in a tasting last year, this time I appreciated its fruit and acidity. Dry on the finish [2/21].
Mont Gras Merlot, Conchagua, Chile, 1996, $6 VG-
I'm still not reaching for my wallet, but I liked the darkness of the fruit [2/21].
Tommasi Valpolicella, Vigneto del Campo, Rafael, Classico Superiore, 1993, $9 VG
Sometimes I like this, sometimes I don't. In tastings last year my ratings were up and down. This time up, with fine fruit and body [2/21].
Beaulieu Zinfandel, Napa, 1996, $9 VG
Big, lovely fruit, with nice dark chocolate flavors. Excellent with Italian food at Lorna's. Long finish, too [2/21]. A bottle that we hauled to Idaho was corked--very corky and no fruit [3/19]. Our third bottle was a little hot right at opening [4/12], but was smoother and darker the next night. Still not a match for the Ravenswood Lodi [4/13].
Jaffurs Matilija Cuvee (Red), Santa Barbara, 1995, $14 VG
I tasted this Mourvedre, Syrah, and Cabernet Franc blend last year and was a little less than thrilled. This time the fruit was more generous, with jammy dark notes, and not dry on the finish. Hints of pepper. Probably has a good future [2/21].
Franciscan Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa, Oakville Estates, 1995, $13 VG+
Powerful, full-bodied dark chocolate and fruit flavors. Lovely. Compares well to the Raymond Reserve, with perhaps a little less finesse [2/21]. My second tasting at home was a little less convincing, this time showing less concentrated and brighter varietal flavors. I'm reducing its rating one mark. Still a fine wine [3/17].
Chateau Souverain Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, 1996, $8 VG
Restrained compared to recent Zins, but fine fruit, balance, with a hint of mint. More refined, even. The next day it was even better. I may give the edge to the Beaulieu, but they are just different wines. Take this one if you want refinement and safety [2/22].
Cline Zinfandel, California, Black Label Sp. Ann., 1996, $6 VG-
A bit rough, but still way better than the stuff I was drinking in '96. Strong fruit, darker than the Karly, but just not as much fun [2/24].
Niebaum-Coppola Claret, Napa, 1995, $10 VG
Fine balance and concentration. Lovely Bordeaux quality; the bottle says ``Medoc type''. A little mint on the finish keeps it fresh [2/26].
Rosemount Shiraz-Cabernet, Australia, 1997, G+
Chock-full of fruit and not much else. Interesting for sure, but it had the same problems, albeit with some Cab varietal flavor, as their GSM we had last month [2/27].
Fox Hollow Cabernet Sauvignon, California, 1995, $5? G+
Nice chocolate and fruit flavors, but no ability to stand up to food. Even with a cracker it disappeared, otherwise it gets a high rating [2/27].
Hancienda Cabernet Sauvignon, California, 1995, $5? G
A bit more balanced than the Fox Hollow, but lacked the nice fruit [2/27].
Ravenswood Zinfandel, Lodi, 1996, $10 VG+
Bottom-line, this could be the best wine I've ever had for $10. Dynamic fruit, with citrus, mint, berry, and chocolate flavors. At 14.3% alcohol, not a wine for drinking alone. A little too hot on its own, with food it did a little magic act with everything I ate it with, almost like a Pinot does [3/1]. Following up the David Bruce '95 Cab was a revelation, matching that wine like a pro 15 minutes after opening [4/11].
Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, 1995, $10 VG
A sound, enjoyable wine, with ample sweet fruit and chocolate flavors. Although it had excellent varietal character, it did not distinguish itself with unusual or concentrated flavors. The funkier Beaulieu gets the edge. On the other hand, this wine may gain some character with a little time [2/2]. After a night in the bottle, the wine seemed to pick up a more classical Bordeaux tone, with darker flavors and mint on the finish. A definite improvement [2/3].
Dom. Chante Alouette Red, Cormeil, St. Emilion, 1994, $12 VG
This Grand Cru possesses thick fruit with hints of blueberry. Ample tannins and concentration, worthy of aging for a few years. I drank this wine in Germany at the Dagstuhl conference center [3/9].
Chateau Brehat Red Bordeaux, Castilion, 1995, $7 G+
Unusual, bright fruit, although there was something missing. Not like the other Bordeaux's I've had. I drank this wine in Germany at the Dagstuhl conference center [3/10].
Chateau St. Didier-Parnac Red Bordeaux, Cahors, 1994, $5 G
Dry, mineral and fruit flavors. Typical of inexpensive Bordeaux's. It did improve over a few hours. I drank this wine in Germany at the Dagstuhl conference center [3/11].