Tasca d'Almerita Villa Tasca, Sicily, Bianco, 1996, G+
This wine is also grown primarily in the Regaleali district, and showed very similar characteristics to the above. It might be intended to be an upscale version of the Regaleali [7/4].
Firriato Primula, Sicily, Rosso, 1996, VG-
One of the more full-bodied reds that we drank in Sicily, and reasonably well-balanced as well. More Italian than Sicilian in character; that is, it didn't taste like it was made from grapes intended for Marsala production [7/7].
Florio Terre Arse Vergine, Marsala, Oro, 1986, $10 VG
A real delight to sip, full of burnt caramel and smokey flavors with fruit. A beautiful gold color. A tad more complex than the Florio Vecchioflorio, but otherwise very similar [7/10].
Ravenswood Zinfandel, Sonoma, 1996, $12 VG
A fine bottle of wine, but not really a match for the Ravenswood Lodi. A little hot on its own [7/17].
Il Podere Dell' Olivos Barbera, California, Riserva Ragazzo Legnoso, 1995, $12 VG
A very satisfying bottle of wine. Full-bodied, with fruit balanced by pleasant pepper and smokey flavors [7/17].
Sobon Estates Syrah, Shenandoah Valley CA, 1996, $9 VG
Not as exciting as the cheaper McDowells, but its darker, meatier flavors suggest a fun wine is trying to get out [7/18]. Given some time to open up and served with a meal, I was really impressed with the integration of dark fruit, chocolate, subtle earth, and classic Syrah flavors. With the chocolate, it actually reminds me of the Unalii Syrah on release, but favorably darker [7/22].
Dalla Valle Pietre Rosso, Napa, Sangiovese, 1996, $20 VG
A sleeper with real potential with some time in the bottle [7/18].
Stonestreet Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, 1995, $20 VG+
Almost black in color, with deep fruit and wonderful chocolate flavors. Everything I hunger for in a Cab [7/18].
Vino de Eyzaguirre Cabernet Sauvignon, San Fran. de Mostazal, Cachapoal Valley Chile, Reserva Especial, 1995, $5 VG-
Pretty much a syrupy loser last year (a '93), this year's release is a real wine, full of fruit and earth. A Cab, for sure, but not your California variety; more like an Eric Solomon selection. It seemed uninteresting to me the night of opening, rating good, but a few nights later it came across as a complete wine, full of body and flavor. Either the wine disappears with food or the time left under gas transformed the wine. I vote for the latter [7/18,22].
Canoe Ridge Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, 1996, $9 VG
Served a bit on the warm side, it came across as thick, rich, and buttery, although the SDWC write-up referred to it as Burgundian in style [7/25].
Estate Baccala Merlot, Napa, 1995, $12 VG
A fine wine, but not as rich as I was hoping for [7/25].
Canoe Ridge Merlot, Columbia Valley, 1996, $15 VG+
Big, structured, with deep, rich fruit and chocolate for balance. This is my kind of Merlot! Another winning Merlot from Washington [7/25]. At home with pate and brie, it proved again to be a winner. The style is of a meritage blend, coming across more like a Cab then a Merlot. The liver pate somewhat overwhelmed the wine, but it actually did quite well with the cheese and later with a Caesar salad. I think their acidity softened the wine and helped bring out the fruit [10/2].
Ravenswood Merlot, Sonoma, O'Donnell, 1996, $16 VG
A fine wine, but lacks the richness and chocolate that I look for in a Merlot [7/25].
Ravenswood Zinfandel, Russian River, Wood Road Belloni, 1996, $19 VG
Deliciously rich and fruity, but a little hot at the tasting bar at 14.9%. Would probably benefit from time [7/25].
Glen Fiona Syrah, Columbia Valley, Bacchus Vineyard, 1995, $24 Exc-
Everything I dream for in a wine! Giant concentrated fruit, lovely pepper and earth with chocolate and smoke. This should improve for years to come [7/25]. It also proved its mettle with a delicious dinner at the Belgian Lion, complementing the home-smoked salmon as much as the lamb and duck. Wow [10/11]! Given some time in the air on Thanksgiving, this wine was a blockboster sipping experience, with jam and earth flavors screaming for my eager attention [11/26].
Merryvale Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa, Hillside, 1996, $14 VG
Fine concentration and color with nice balance, but more restrained than I would have liked. It probably needed more time to open up or a few years to develop [7/26].
Ridge Zinfandel, California, Sonoma Station, 1996, $12 VG+
Yummy! Full-bodied with big, friendly Zin fruit. Definitely a match for the Young's and Lodi, but maybe not as ``interesting'' as these wines. Followed the Merryvale Cab amazingly well, probably because of the 14.4% alcohol level and forward fruit [7/25]. Three months later at Lorna's, it's still a winner, with fine structure, ripe fruit, and satisfying chocolate flavors [10/18].
Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, 1996, $11 VG-
Pleasant, but lacking enough concentration to avoid an acidic taste at times [7/26].
Monthaven Chardonnay, Monterey, 1996, $7 VG-
Unusual grass and lemon flavors in a nice fruit base [8/1].
Gabriel Pinot Noir, Paso Robles, 1996, $7 G+
Initial tasting exposed a dry, acidic wine, very light in color and light in flavor [8/1]. But a couple of months later, I found it orangish in color, with intense cherry fruit and a bit of syrupiness [10/25]. A third tasting revealed a medicinal nose and fruit [11/21].
Bonny Doon Big House Red, California, Ca' del Solo, 1997, $7 G+
Very Rhone-like, jammy and a little sweet, pretty rough and tumble. Could improve with time [8/1].
Marietta Old Vine Red, California, Twenty Two, $7.50 VG-
Very restrained, smooth, and balanced, with slightly jammy fruit. A little light. Might open up a little a couple of months after release [8/1]. A few weeks later with a meal, this wine really showed its stuff. Shortly after opening, Zinfandel and Petite Sirah fruit emerged with some genuine structure to back it up. Every bit as enjoyable as I had hoped [8/27].
Domaine Salvat Merlot, Fenouilledes, 1996, $7 G
Light, earthy, with fruit underneath [8/1].
Domaine Clavel Mas de Clavel, Languedoc, Terrior de la Mejanelle, 1996, $6 G+
Rich, earthy mineral flavors with fruit underneath. A little on the rough side, but definitely has potential [8/1].
Monthaven Cabernet Franc, Napa, 1996, $7 G+
Interesting dark fruit, but a little acidic and light [8/1].