Classic French styling with nice fruit and mineral components. I'd give it the edge over last year's California Roederer (which was $6 less) [1/1/99].
Marietta Old Vine Red, California, Twenty Two, $7.50 VG
Restrained, smooth, and balanced, with slightly jammy, sweet Zin fruit opening up after about a half-hour. This wine continues to show its mettle bottle after bottle, although occasionally one will fail to impress [1/2].
Stony Hollow Merlot, Rapel, Chile, 1997, G+
Slightly sweet and under tannic, with undistinguished but pleasant fruit on top of earthy tobacco flavors that add some character [1/3].
Bogle Merlot, California, 1997, $7 VG-
Forward, focused, pure Merlot fruit flavors rarely found in an inexpensive wine. Surrounded by spicy green berry flavors. Great drinking with food or alone [1/6].
Columbia Crest Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, 1994, $7 VG
A couple of years after release, this wine is still a friendly quaff. Although it has lost its youthful chocolate flavors, it is now showing young, solid Cab fruit softened by time with a nice long finish [1/7].
Duca Leondardo Red, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, 1997, $10 (rest) Fair-
Light, lacking fruit, acidic, with a slightly ``turned'' flavor [1/8].
Taylor Fladgate Tawny Porto, Portugal, NV?, $4.25/glass G+
Light red in color and simple tawny flavors slightly overpowered by vanilla flavors. All vanilla in the nose [1/8].
Clos du Bois Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma, 1995, G+
Soft, light, slightly chocolate varietal fruit typical of 1995 Cabs [1/9].
Glen Ellen Chardonnay, California, 1997, VG-
Solid, rich varietal fruit with a good dose of oak [1/8].
Indigo Hills Sauvignon Blanc, Mendocino, 1996, G+
A little thin and restrained for my tastes, but pretty typical of Sauvignon Blancs, with good acidity [1/8].
David Bruce Zinfandel, San Luis Obispo & El Dorado, 1994, $10 VG+
Two to three years older than the current releases, this is still a hands-down winner, with solid, forward Zin fruit and enough structure to stand out. Every sip brings a smile to my face. It would be interesting to see how this ages even more, given its structure and yong fruit [1/8].
Beringer Chardonnay, Napa, 1996, $10 VG
In the past this wine showed remarkable body and fruit, with oak and butter in evidence. However, over-chilling killed the fruit and butter flavors until the bottle was nearly finished. Refrigerator temperatures are simply too low [1/10]. With the onset of the warm temperatures of Summer, I decided that a reprise of last Summer's Beringer Chard would be appropriate. The wine had markedly changed, turning darker in color and flavor, including grassy and a loss of fruitiness. Quite interesting, if a tad over the hill. It's possible that the wine's low acidity had set it up for quick aging, particularly in our warm home. It could also be bottle variation, which we have some experience with here [7/12].
Konrad Zinfandel, Mendocino, 1992, $10 VG+
I picked up this older, well-priced Zin from Whole Foods, which has surprised me with its older, offbeat wine bargains. This is another great success. The Konrad is an unfiltered organic Zin. There was tannin crystalization on the cork. A winner, with unusual darkness and complexity for a Zin. A real experience. I'm told that this winery has sold its vineyards to Fife, so this is it. That's really disappointing, because these wines show more character than your typical commercial production. [1/10].
Konrad Petite Sirah Port, Mendocino, Admiral's Quinta, 1992, $10/half VG
Not as unusual as the Zin, but showing lots of balance and refinement. The restraint of the Petite Sirah grape balanced by the higher alcohol level and sweetness was interesting. More aging might have been in order [1/11].
Columbia Crest Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, 1997, $5.50 VG
An incredible wine for the price. Refreshing acidity balanced by fruit and modest buttery oak. Not a big wine, but its leanness actually reflects refinement, consisting of lemon-citrus fruit and mineral notes. Silky texture. Great with cheeses, pate, cream sauces, and salads [1/12,4/19]. Months later, I'm still loving this wine, even compared with the remarkable California 97's. The balance of fruit, oak, and acidity makes it a winner [7/17].
Chateau Greysac Red Bordeaux, Medoc, 1995, $11 VG-
Dry, restrained fruit, and earthy. Nicely balanced, typical of an inexpensive Bordeaux [1/14].
Chante Alouette Red Bordeaux, Cormeil, Saint Emilion, Grand Cru, 1994, $12 VG
This Grand Cru possesses forward fruit and rustic tannins; more interesting than your typical inexpensive French Red. I bought this wine in Germany at the Dagstuhl conference center [1/15].
Cottonwood Creek Chardonnay, Napa, 1997, $11 VG+
This affordable, limited-production wine is a crowd pleaser. Creamy, rich, buttery fruit, and a total joy. Another sign of a great vintage [1/16]. Its low acidity favors sipping over drinking with a meal [1/29].
Franciscan Chardonnay, Napa, Oakville Estate, 1997, $12 VG
Similar to the Cottonwood, but darker in tone [1/16]. Big oak flavors with bite [2/20].
David Bruce Pinot Noir, Sonoma, 1996, $15 VG+
Rich, concentrated, and ripe Pinot fruit with spice. Typical David Bruce and a style I like [1/16]. The jamminess is a lovely contrast to most Pinot's [2/20]. Soft, jammy, with dark earth and smoke. Very intriguing [6/19].
McDowell Syrah, Mendocino, 1997, $7 VG
Bright, rich in color, with dark, peppery Syrah fruit. More typical of a Syrah than the '96, showing more spice and richness. Wine Spectator gave it an 88 [1/16]. A delight with a meal, lots of body, fairly dry, and some structure [1/20]. Drinking this over a few nights, it gradually smoothed out, lost its grapiness and its fruit flavors darkened. It should continue to improve over the next year or two. A real charmer, if not complex [1/28]. A few months later, my predictions have already become true. Dark, ripe fruit, touches of earth and spice. A classic Syrah. I'm upgrading this wine's rating [5/5].
Daniel Gehrs Cabernet Franc, Santa Barbara, 1996, $11 VG
Excuse me? Eleven dollars for a full-bodied, solid Cab Franc? I can't wait to have this with a meal. Nice varietal fruit, with signature dusty earthiness. This is the best Cab Franc I've had since the Coppola a couple of years ago; better than Coppola's last release, at least for immediate drinkability [1/16]. With a meal it seemed to take a while to open up and was a little lighter than I might have hoped, but after a while with salmon it developed some interesting complex flavors on the rustic side [2/4]. A third tasting at SDWC confirmed that it is relatively light, lacking the desired body [4/10].
La Suffrene Mellisme, Bendol, 1996, $12 VG+
This is a dead-ringer for a Chateauneufdupape, but check out that price! Concentrated, focused fruit, earthiness, and dry. Should be awesome with rich, grilled, or spicy food [1/16].
Marietta Zinfandel, Sonoma, 1995, $10 VG
This is actually from the previous vintage, and is now selling at a bargain. It has alreay lost its bright color and is showing some benefits of aging, displaying smooth ripe fruit and nice spiciness in a typically Marietta style [1/16].