Columbia Crest Semillon-Chardonnay, Columbia Va., 1997, $4.49 VG-
Extremely dry, lean, and restrained [12/13].
Paul Jaboulet Aine Parallele 45, Rhone, 1996, $5/glass G
Dry, earthy, with a touch of spice. Not the explosive wine of the year before, but a good food wine [12/15].
Konrad Charbono, Mendocino, 1993, $10 VG
Another late-vintage winner from Whole Foods. The wine guy there tells me that Konrad has sold its property to Fife, and so these will be there last vintages. What a tragedy! These unfiltered wines show tremendous character, with complex, rich fruit and terroir. This Charbono was a bit ``turned'' on the first night, but a day in the bottle (vacuumed and gassed) was enough to balance it out and make for a superb, robust bottle of wine. The Charbono grape is Italian, and this wine also has small amounts of Barbera and Sangiovese; excellent balance. Rustic, spicy, dark, with finesse. The only thing holding this wine back is its proud restraint. Yum [12/16-17]!
Martinelli Chardonnay, Russian River, 1996, Exc-
Astonishingly rich, with buttered popcorn flavors, rich fruit, toast, and low acidity. An incredible sipping wine [12/20].
Behrens & Hitchcock Syrah, Napa, 1996, $30 VG-
Astonishingly complex, it reminded me of the Martinelli Jackass Vineyard Zin for its dizzying array of quirky flavors, including orange spice and marzipan in a very long finish. Varietal flavors were a little hard to locate in there, and it lacked the forward fruit of many Western US Syrahs [12/20].
Porto Rocha Tawny Port, Portugal, 1957, VG+
Beautiful chocolatey color, smooth, with caramel cedar spice flavors, and endlessly lingering finish [12/20].
Alexander Valley Syrah, Alexander Va., 1997, $27 (rest) VG+
An outstanding example of California Syrah. Bright, forward, generous varietal fruit with a bit of spice and just a touch of roughness without food. Perfect with food. It's forwardness and softness reminded me of their Cab, which I like, too. Delightful with the Cantonese/Thai food we were eating [12/22].
Phelps Eisrebe, Napa, 1995, $14 (375ml) VG
Beautiful golden color, thick, with sweet orange flavors. Typical of these white dessert wines, it had a slightly turned flavor, keeping it from a top rating. This wine is made in the German Ice Wine style with the Scheurebe grape, a cross between sylvaner and reisling [12/25].
Kiona Lemberger, Washington, NV, $8.80 G+
Very reminiscent of a French wine, with bright fruit and lots of earth, not particularly concentrated. Interesting and enjoyable, but not a style I cotton to. I chose this on a whim while visiting Bellingham Washington because I enjoyed Kiona's Merlot this year. This being an off-beat bargain wine, I couldn't have expected much more [12/27].
Chateau Souverain Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, 1995, $10 VG
Light, forward Zin fruit. The '96 is probably better, but perhaps due to storage conditions, as I picked up this ``older'' wine at a rural Idaho grocery [12/31].
Villa Mt. Eden Zinfandel, California, 1995, $11 VG-
This wine had leaked a bit, suggesting poor storage conditions considering that it was bought at a rural Idaho grocery store and it is a '95. Still, this wine showed good fundamentals, with dark, restrained Zin fruit tending towards cherries [12/31].