OK, I cheated, I had this with New Year's Eve dinner, but it was too good to leave it hiding in 1999. Velvety with lovely fruit. Just divine. Suitably complex. Aged beautifully. A look at the price says ``bargain'' by today's standards, but this was a fair price back in '94. Wonderful with earthy beef Wellington [1/1].
Villa Mt. Eden Chardonnay, California, 1997, $6 VG
A winner week after week in our home. The price says ``heavily processed bargain wine'', and indeed it may be, but this wine has delicious fruit and buttery oak flavors with a bit of glycerin texture. No doubt the wine was left on oak chips or worse, but the result is really impressive [1/4].
Cline Cotes D'Oakley, California, 1997, $5.50 VG-
Lovely fruit and earth, well balanced, and great with food. A great bargain [1/8].
Marietta Old Vine Red, California, Twenty Four, $10 VG-
OK, I'll admit it. I have virtually no memory of drinking this wine. Take this rating for what it's worth [1/11].
Ravenswood Cabernet Franc, Sonoma, 1997, $14 VG
A typical Cab Franc; mysterious, dark, and rustic. Also more reserved than I would have like. We probably drank it too young [1/15].
Wooden Valley Merlot, Suisun Va., 1998, VG-
Light, balanced, and reserved. A good food wine [1/22].
Chateau Souverain Zinfandel, Dry Creek Va., 1997, $10 VG-
Chateau Souverain is one of my favorite wineries, but their Zin's do not top my list. Lacking generosity and piquancy in the fruit [1/26].
Ravenswood Zinfandel, Alexander Va., 1996, $13 VG+
A different kind of Zin. Dark, chocolately, mysterious. You might think there's Cab or Cab Franc in here. Lovely [2/4].
Ravenswood Icon, Sonoma, 1995, $16 VG+
I'd put this signature Syrah blend down to age a couple of years to see how Syrahs do in my closet, which runs well into the 70's in the summer. Fortunately, we were not disappointed. The fruit was still lovely, and some mushroomy flavors had snuck in to make it interesting. No regrets! By the way, this is worth buying just for the raven-circle etched bottle [2/5].
Domaine Combier Red, Crozes Hermitage, 1998, $28 (rest.) G+
Dry, earthy, typically French [2/11].
Meridian Cabernet Sauvignon, California, 1997, $10 G+
Certainly OK, but a tad light and unbalanced [2/12].
Columbia Crest Chardonnay, Columbia Va., Estate Series, 1997, $8 VG
The texture of this wine was downright slippery; it must have had more glycerin than any wine I've ever had. You might expect butter, then, but this was actually reasonably tight and racy. A nice switch from the Villa Mt. Eden [2/12].
Bogle Petite Sirah, California, 1998, $9 G+
We served last year's vintage at our wedding and felt like we were getting away with something. I think we did. This year's lacked the focused fruit and balance of the '97 [2/16].
Chateau Souverain Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Va., 1993, $12 VG-
I stashed a few bottles of this a while back and this was the last one. The rest were special bottles (rating VG). This one was a touch over the hill, having lost that piquant fruit and minty, focused touch as it touched the tongue. Not surprising given this wine's bargain status and the warm conditions in which it's been stored [2/19].
Callaway Dolcetto, Temecula, CA, 1996, $7 G
This is a wine that Callaway ought to be able to get right, its Italian heritage well-suited to the hot, dray climate. This was a fairly light and uninteresting bottle with a touch of earth [2/22].
Lake Sonoma Zinfandel, Alexander Va., 1996, $8 G
Heitz Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa, 1994, $9 (glass) Exc-
Perfect. Gorgeous fruit, pleasant structure, concentration, with bits of earth and mint [3/5].
Beaulieu Napa Tocai Friulano 1997 $15 VG Signet
A truly unique white. Dry an nutty. Probably great with food, but I had it at the winery. The grape is Italian in origin [3/5].
Beaulieu Pinot Gris, Napa, Signet, 1997, $16 VG
I'm not a big Pinto Gris fan, but BV had done something unique here, producing a racy but nutty wine [3/5].
Beaulieu Sangiovese, Napa, Signet, 1996, $16 VG+
Forward, fruity, jazzy. Everything a Sangiovese can be. I brought a bottle home [3/5].
Beaulieu Syrah, Napa, Signet, 1996, $25 VG-
This wine just didn't touch me, coming across somewhat flat and one dimensional after the Sangiovese, which it should have been able to dominate [3/5].
Beaulieu Port, Napa, Signet, 1996, $25 VG+
Explosive, concentrated, yow! I could have easily mistaken this for a young top-of-the-line Vintage Port. This will be fabulous in 10-20 years [3/5].
Beaulieu Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa, 1997, $18 VG
This is BV's workhorse. At the winery, I didn't fall in love with it. It tasted dampy and oaky to me; I suspected corking. They said it was ``Rutherford dust''. They brought out another bottle and it had less--but not none--of the same thing; bottle variation they said. I'm convinced, but it wasn't my cup of tea [3/5]. Different bottle, social setting, different result. The wine was concentrated, mysterious, with flavors of dark fruit, oak, and earth. I'd seek this out [5/7]!
Villa Mt. Eden Pinot Noir, Napa, Grand Reserve, 1998, $22 VG-
Spicy, light, dry. Reminds me of Oregon and French Pinot's [3/5].
Villa Mt. Eden Merlot, CA Coastal, 1997, $12 G
Light, a little flat [3/5].