Laetitia Pinot Noir, Arroyo Grande Valley, 1997, $17 VG+
Smooth, dark fruit, low acidity. Intriguing but restrained [6/12].
Murphy-Goode Zinfandel, Sonoma, Liar's Dice, 1997, $13 VG+
Outstanding focused fruit and a little jazz. Comes across as a combination of the best of '96 and '97 Zins: '96 fruit flavors with '97 concentration. My favorite of the released '97's so far. You'll see a little earlier in the year that I tasted a barrel sample of this and found the fruit a little green. Quite a transformation. Maybe the ``Liar's Dice'' uses select fruit; the bottle says that the fruit is bought from Tim Murphy's friends [6/12]. I drank this side-by-side with the Young's '97. In contrast, Murphy-Goode was almost overripe, less oaky, and showed some real earth with the ripeness. At first it was turn-off, but it quickly proved its mettle and was wonderful with gourmet pizzas that we were eating [6/15]. A month later, the oak seemed more abundant, but balanced well with strongly flavored food [7/15].
Frog's Leap Zinfandel, Napa, 1997, $14 VG+
I prefer the Murphy-Goode, but this has nice concentration, ripe fruit, and uses oak very well, unlike many of the wines I've had this year [6/12].
Spelltich Bodog Red, Napa, 1997, $19 VG
Earth and fruit in the nose, on the palate very ripe with an earthy complement and some tar. For me, there is something miss here. Maybe tannic structure and acidity. I can't tell what the grapes are; maybe Rhone's [6/12].
Alice White Chardonnay, South Eastern Australia, 1997, $5 VG-
Crisp acidity, nice fruit, vanilla oak. Very sound, although not concentrated [6/13].
Rosemount Grenache-Shiraz, Australia, 1998, $6 VG-
Earthy Grenache and fruity Shiraz combine to make a very nice wine [6/12].
Hacienda Sauvignon Blanc, California, 1997, $5 Fair
Watery fruit and a bit of earth combine for a fairly uninspiring wine [6/12].
Young's Zinfandel, Shenandoah Valley, 1997, $13 VG+
Simply outstanding. Rich fruit, vanilla-chocolate oak, very well balanced. Not overoaked like a lot of the other stuff I've had this year. I'd give it the edge over the Murphy-Goode, but the differences are mostly style [6/15].
Wildhurst Sauvignon Blanc, Clear Lake, CA, 1997, $6 VG
Citrus, creamy texture, and a bit of oak. Very nice [6/26].
Novellum Chardonnay, Vin de Pays d'Oc, Reserve Cuvee, 1997, $7 VG
A real bargain from France. Left on the lees of Viognier apparently, and I can taste it, with exotic spice in the mix. Nice acidity and some oak, too [6/26].
St. Supery Chardonnay, Napa, 1997, $8 G+
An oak bomb with overpowering vanilla flavors. Could be due to being served at room temperature; may deserve a retasting [6/26].
Beckman Chardonnay, Santa Barbara, 1997, $9 VG
Crisp acidity, solid fruit with balanced oak. Very harmonious, the whole package [6/26].
Vina Quintana Red, La Mancha, Spain, 1996, $8 G+
Earth, ripe fruit, fundamentally sound [6/26].
Tinto Roa Red, Ribera del Duero, 1997, $7 VG-
Deep red color, ripe fruit with some earth. Very restrained now, but time promises to take this wine up a couple of notches [6/26].
Lin Court Chardonnay, Santa Barbara, 1997, $10 VG+
Concentrated citrus fruit, rich texture and vanilla oak combine into a really delicious wine [6/26].
Lin Court Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara, 1997, $12 VG-
Light color, cherry varietal fruit and a bit of damp wood. Dry [6/26].
Carmenet Cabernet Sauvignon, North Coast, 1997, $11 VG-
Tight vanilla oak and focused varietal fruit. Time may make it a bit more generous and take its rating up a notch [6/26].
Ravenswood Petite Sirah, Sonoma, 1997, $12 Exc-
Unbelievable for the price. Purple-black in color, tannic and tight, yet yielding gobs of ripe fruit with that classic varietal dusty character [6/26].
Villa Mt. Eden Chardonnay, California, 1997, $6 VG
It is simply obscene to pay this little for a completely delicious wine. Flawless in character. Lovely fruit sporting hints of citrus, completed by buttery and toasty oak. I have to admit a stylistic bias [6/27].
Konrad Petite Sirah, Mendocino, 1993, $10 Exc-
I weep at the loss of this great winery, whose vineyards are now owned by Fife. Every wine I've had is absolutely intriguing, even mysterious. This Petite Sirah is purple-black in color, dark in flavor, revealing blackberry and blueberry in a classic dusty background. I literally got lost in its depths as though in some kind of maze. I think this could have waited a few more years before drinking, when mystery would have been exchanged for complete profoundness. Did I mention that this wine was made from organically grown grapes? I weep [6/27].
Barone Cornacchia Red, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, 1995, $9 Poor
Aromas of tar, tobacco, and toe jam. On the palate it was tasteless and dry [6/30].
Workhorse Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, 1997, $10 VG
Spicey, ripe, forward fruit over oak [5/1]. A bit too much vanilla oak for my tastes [6/12]. Slow out of the gate, this wine improved considerably over an hour. But it's still overoaked. Will likely improve over time as the oak integrates with the rest of the wine [6/30].
Lonetree Syrah, Mendocino, 1996, $11 G+
Restrained aromas of tar with a bit of greenness. It had virtually no effect on the palate. I suppose it might just be closed up, but for all I knew I was drinking water. Wine Spectator gave it a 90; maybe it's bottle variation [6/30].
Charvin Red, Chateauneufdupape, 1993, $21 Fair
French in character, with tobacco in the nose and on the palate. Pretty disappointing, especially for the price. Parker had rated this a 90 on release. It's been downhill from there I guess [6/30].
Wildhorse Pinot Blanc, Monterrey, 1998, $12 VG
Sauvignon Blanc acidity and Chardonnay richness with a slightly bitter finish, perhaps because it wasn't cool enough [7/10].