Rosenblum Zinfandel, California, Vintner's Cuvee XVI, 1996, $7 G+
Nice Zin fruit, a little on the sweet side. A little rough and hollow [8/1].
Estancia Chardonnay, Monterey, Pinnacles, 1995, $7 VG
Yum! This was left over from last year's Summer buying, and we just pulled it from the fridge on a whim. Despite a year's cold storage, the wine had wonderful body, acidity, and fruit. Pleasant citrus tones with a full flavor approaching butteriness. Despite the warnings of my wine sellar, I'm not going to be worrying about storing wines in the fridge, at least whites [8/5-6].
Columbia Crest Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, 1995, $8 VG-
Not a perfect wine, but astounding for a Cab at this price. Nice fruit, acidity, and tannins, with enough chocolate to keep me happy [8/7].
Saint Marc Cabernet Sauvignon, Somontano, Argentina(?), Vinas de Vero, 1990, $15 (rest) VG-
This Cab was exceptionally soft and low in acidity, exhibiting a kind of emptiness. However, it did develop some character over the meal, with mint and licorice in particular coming to the surface [8/8].
Lockwood Chardonnay, Monterey, 1996, $10 G
Kind of disappointing after the hoopla from SDWC, this wine was, well, bitter. It had plenty of flavor of all kinds, but I couldn't really get past the bitterness. Perhaps I got a bad bottle; it was rated 85 in the Wine Spectator, but the review wasn't negative [8/9].
Estancia Chardonnay, Monterey, Pinnacles, 1996, $7 VG-
Not as rich as the '95, but still a wonderful bargain, with a pleasant sharp acidity and adequate fruit. Nicely balanced. Rated 88 in the Wine Spectator [8/9]. Drinking this next to Martinelli's blockbuster Sauvignon Blanc with Jambalaya was even more impressive. Its full-bodied oak flavors burst through [8/22].
Turley Zinfandel, Contra Costa, Duarte Vineyard, 1996, $22 VG
Our first Turley! Right out of the bottle, the best we could say was ``inocuous''. However, given a couple of hours in the air, it became the red-blooded Zin that we had hoped for. Wine Spectator gave this one an 85, which suggests to me that they didn't give it the time it needed to open up. Turleys are rather light in color for Zins, which is surprising given the intensity of flavor and a 15.4 percent alcohol level. Don't be fooled! I'd seen the same thing in the Young's Zinfandel, but thought it anomalous [8/15].
Martinelli Zinfandel, Russian River, Jackass Vineyard, 1996, $30? VG
Except for the alcohol level, this wine is the Hegelian antithesis of the Turley Duarte. Deep purple-red, concentrated, and bursting with all sorts of bizarre, un-Zin flavors. Peculiar fruit, menthol, iodine, earth, and citrus come to mind. Quite dry on the finish. Fascinating to drink, and much better with food than on its own. Still, I valued it as much for its uniqueness as its positive qualities. Like the Turley Duarte, it took a while to come around. I'd love to see what this wine is like in 5 to 10 years. It could be really remarkable [8/15]!
Martinelli Pinot Noir Rose, American, 1997, VG-
This Rose is made from the leftovers of Martinelli's Pinot production in California and Oregon. Crisp and light, with a little effervescence [8/16].
Landmark Chardonnay, Sonoma, Overlook, 1996, $16 Exc-
Creamy, full, and very smooth, with perfectly integrated fruit and refreshing crispness on the finish. If I were a white-wine drinker, I might be giving this an Excellent-. OK, I'm giving it an Excellent-. Wine Spectator loved it too, giving it a 92 [8/16].
Chasse Cellars Chardonnay, California, 1995, $6 G+
At nearly half the price of the Lockwood, I found this to be a real bargain. Not bursting with flavor, but reasonably well put together. A little rough and unfocused at first, it came together and rounded out when drank with baked salmon and caesar salad. What else! Still, for a buck more I'd take the Estancia [8/17].
Echelon Chardonnay, Central Coast, 1997, $9 VG
Between the Estancia Pinnacles and the Landmark in style, with nice citrus flavors and acidity, butteriness, and a little sweetness on the palate. What a great year for Chardonnay [8/18,30].
Martinelli Sauvignon Blanc, Russian River, 1997, $10 VG+
Rich, intense, and alcoholic, this is like no other SB that I've had before. The fruit and fullness (probably due to oaking) are reminiscent of a Chard. One awesome bottle of wine [8/22]. Very harmonious and an excellent complement to strong cheeses and grilled salmon. I savored every sip [9/6].
Hart Grenache Rose, Cucamonga Valley, 1997, $6.50 G
Too sweet and grapey for my tastes. Slightly effervescent [8/22].
Hawk Crest Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa?, 1995, $6.50 G+
This wine, Stag Leap's second label, is very good for the price. Nice fruit [8/22].
La Caumette d'Oc Merlot 1994 $5? G+
Surprisingly good the first, with a fine balance of varietal fruit and minerals. After sitting a couple of days in a vacuumed, gassed bottle, less pleasant tobacco flavors emerged [8/24,28].
Chanson White Burgandy, Bourgogne Aligote, 1995, $8 VG-
Light and empty at the start, this wine was a good complement to baked salmon, developing more substantial citrus and mineral flavors throughout the meal. Definitely not an oakey California wine [8/22].
Chateau Souverain Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexandar Valley, 1995, $5.75/gl VG
This is my idea of the perfect cab. Tight, varietal fruit complemented by chocolate, mint, and eucalyptus flavors. Good aging potential [8/23].
Joseph Drouhin White Burgandy, Rully, 1996, $14 VG-
Light and crisp with mineral in the backbone. Very dry, bordering on bitter without food [8/30].
Beringer Chardonnay, Napa, 1996, $10 VG+
Remarkable body and fruit, with oak and butter in evidence. Could be a match for the Landmark. I think I'd have to taste them side by side [8/30]. With a meal it was an absolute delight, nicely balancing the acid and butter flavors. However, it did take a full hour to reach its apparent potential [9/3].
Bodega Lurton Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina, 1996, $4 G+
Dark cherry fruit complemented by ample earth [8/22].
Chateau St. Germain Red, Languedoc, 1996, $8 VG
Packed with fruit, earth, and tannins. Dry [8/22].
Chateau de la Negly Red, Languedoc, 1997, $8 VG-
Darker, more oxidized, dryer, and softer than the St. Germain. But not as good [8/22].
Chateau Greysac Red, Medoc, 1995, $11 VG
Dry, fruity, and earthy. Nicely balanced, typical of an inexpensive Bordeaux [8/22].
Carmenet Cabernet Sauvignon, North Coast, Dynamite, 1996, $11 VG
Explosive fruit in the nose, simpler and softer on the palate [8/22]. A couple of months later, I can sense there is something more there, but it feels closed yet [10/25].
Niebaum Coppola Claret, North Coast, 1996, $12 VG-
A little disappointing, I have to wonder how well Cabs drink on the tasting bar, as compared with a steak dinner [8/22].