Young's Zinfandel, Shenandoah Valley CA, 1996, $11 VG+
Another astounding Zin from the '96 California vintage. Woo, hoo! Rich, flavorful, but not dark; spicy without being the least bit overbearing. Might be better than the Ravenswood Lodi; certainly a compelling alternative [5/30]. At dinner this wine really shined, displaying chocolate fruit flavors with indescribable spices. The bouquet is astonishing. I did find that it clashed a bit with the mousse trouffe, enhancing some of the odder flavors in the pate. On the other hand it worked wonderfully with the moderately spicy sausage served in the pasta [6/6]. Served with a tomato-based pasta with mild sausage, it showed resilience but not a lot of power. Not surprising for a grape with Italian roots. It took a good while to open up, unlike earlier bottles [7/10]. Withstood a challenge from the Ravenswood Sonoma, costing a dollar more. The Young's showed more interesting flavors, including chocolate, and wasn't as hot on the palate [7/17].
Babcock Fathom, Santa Barbara, 1996, $20 VG-
This is a Bordeaux-style blend, but it didn't deliver for me, having that acidic edge that makes a wine a little less fun. I'm looking for a little more darkness, smoothness, and balance. Maybe it was just a bad day [5/30].
Da Vinci Late Harvest Riesling, Sierra Foothills, 1987, $5/375ml VG
Burnt rubber in the nose without offending; syrupy mellow citrus flavors on the palate. Very intriguing [5/30].
Arrowood Chardonnay, Sonoma, 1995, $18 VG+
Being a red wine drinker, my head is often turned by a white wine. Smooth and rich without being overbearing, with a nice attack. Powered by citrusy, lemon flavors in an oaky, complex mineral background [6/6].
Quinta de la Rosa Port, Portugal, Finest Reserve, NV, $14 VG
Parker rated this affordable non-Vintage Port a 92, complimenting its rich fruit flavors and balance. For the price, it is certainly an outstanding wine, rising above the affordable non-Vintage offerings from the better known houses (see my 1997 tasting notes). However, it did not stand up to the 1995 Ports from Fonseca and Taylor Fladgate due to its lighter character, especially the Fonseca, whose smoothness and richness justify its doubled price tag [6/6]. After sitting for over a month under gas and vacuumed, this wine had gained considerable smoothness and harmony. No doubt this Port is still young and could benefit from a few years in the bottle. But there is no harm in quick aging it yourself [7/10]!
Parducci Merlot, California, Old Vines, 1996, $7 G+
Not especially distinctive, nor offensive. Lacks varietal character, although hints of Pinot and Syrah flavors are confusing [6/9].
Tobin James Syrah, Paso Robles, Bull Eye, 1996, $10 VG
Bright fruit, lovely bouquet and color, but not super concentrated [6/13].
Longoria Merlot, Santa Ynez, 1995, $18 VG
Beautifully put together, nice varietal fruit, although tight right now. Probably better in a couple of years [6/13].
Jade Mountain La Provencal, California, 1996, $14 VG
Nice fruit, incredible earth and spice, a bit astringent. Time would likely improve it [6/13].
Kendall-Jackson Zinfandel, California, Grand Reserve, 1994, $17 G+
Tight, unusual fruit, with a burnt rubber flavor on the finish. Paris says this wine improves if left sitting over night, and that it is different every time he tries it [6/13].
Frog's Leap Zinfandel, Napa, 1996, $13 VG
A lightly styled Zin with unique fruit and peppery spice [6/13].
Peachy Canyon Zinfandel, Paso Robles, Dusi Ranch, 1996, $20 VG
Tight and restrained, but there is dark, rich fruit there. What flavors that are coming through now are alien to me, but this is a bottle that cries out for time [6/13].
Penfold's Shiraz, South Australia, Kalinen Bin 28, 1995, $17 VG
Dark, fruity, nicely filled out with tannins and earth. Time should improve this wine [6/13].
Penfold's Cabernet Sauvignon, South Australia, Bin 407, 1995, $17 VG
A rich, darkly fruity Aussie-styled Cab complemented by earth and minerals. The fruit still seems a bit flabby; I give their Shiraz the edge [6/13].
Grgich Hills Zinfandel, Sonoma, 1995, VG+
Exceptionally well-balanced and integrated, with lovely fruit and nice intensity. A rock-solid Zin [6/14].
Szekszardi Voros Kekkrakos, Hungry, 1996, Fair-
Oxidized and thickly acidic on the tongue. Served in Montreal at a workshop reception, this bottle was probably a leftover bottle from a previous soiree, but I've had little luck with inexpensive Hungarian wines [6/16].
Duca di Salaparuta Corvo, Sicily, Rosso, 1996, $10 (rest) VG-
A typical large-production Sicilian wine. Very Italian in character, reasonably well-balanced, fairly light without being wimpy. A fine complement to the foods of Sicily, even seafood (although Sicilians are always drinking white, oh well) [6/22].
Rallo Vesco, Sicily, Rosso, 1996, $10 (rest) VG
This wine is a Cab blend, and the Cab flavors come through nicely while still retaining many of its Italian/Sicilian characteristics. Definitely more concentrated and darker in color than most reds we drank, which was welcome. Well done [6/23]!
Pellegrino Vergine, Marsala, 1962, G-
Quite dry, tasted like medicine [6/30].
Tasca d'Almerita Regaleali, Sicily, Bianco, 1997, $5 G+
The name of this wine is derived from the district in which most of the grapes are grown, although it carries a "Sicily" designation. A light, fruity wine with a little effervescence that is well-suited to Sicily's mild seafood dishes. You could find this wine almost anywhere in Western Sicily, like many of the labelled wines listed below [6/30].
Duca di Castemonte Fiorile, Alcamo Sicily, Bianco, 1997, G+
Nice fruit, but a little dry for my tastes [6/30].
Florio Vecchioflorio Vergine, Marsala, 1990, $9 VG
Full-bodied and rich, with caramel and nutty flavors. Beautiful gold color. Price is at the winery in Marsala, Italy [7/1].
Co'thon Inzolia, Sicily, 1997, G+
This wine is produced by a Marsala cooperative, but I'm using the wine's name, Co'thon, in this case, as the main tag. A bright, refreshing wine with a slight fizz to it [7/1].
Pellegrino Fine Rosa, Marsala, NV, G
Light, sweet, with a bright red color [7/3].
Pellegrino Superiore Oro, Marsala, NV, VG-
A pleasant, full-bodied brew with a lovely golden color [7/3].