Spelltich Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa, 1995, $20 Exc-
Wow! Soft, jammy fruit, almost sweet with hints of darker chocolate. I wonder what this was like on release [8/18].
Ravenswood Petite Sirah, Sonoma, 1997, $12 VG+
Gorgeous berry flavors and nicely balanced. I was perhaps a little less impressed than on release, but the restraint and balance gained over the year makes it more compatible with normal food [8/19].
Morgan Chardonnay, Monterey, 1998, $34 (rest.) VG
Rich fruit with buttery oak [8/19].
Callaway Chardonnay, Temecula, 1998, $9 VG
This lacked the signature grassiness of earlier releases, signalling a transition to a more international style. This was carried off reasonably well, with nice fruit and crisp acidity [8/24].
Marietta Old Vine Red, California, Twenty, $7 VG
Very interesting. Having been aging (or you might say cooking, in our place) for two/three years, this OVR still had nice fruit with a bit of earthy tar in the background, this diminished, leaving a well-balanced, soft, fruity wine. For seven bucks [8/28]!
Pirramimma Shiraz, McLaren Vale, Australia, 1996, $16 VG+
Yum! I bought a bottle of this over a year ago, and it had smoothed out and lost some power in the interim. Lovely berry fruit, classic Aussie Shiraz [8/31].
La Jota Petite Sirah, Napa, 1993, $15? VG+
An oldie, but still a goodie. A lot of the fruit was gone, balanced by earthy flavors. Very complex, very interesting [8/31].
Rancho Zabaco Zinfandel, Sonoma, Heritage Vines, 1997, $8 VG
A really delicious ``internationally styled'' Zin, with rich fruit, heavily oaked with strong vanilla overtones. A super bargain if you like the mainstream [9/6].
Galway Pipe Tawny Port, Australia, S. Smith and Son, NV, $20 Exc-
Another really outstanding dessert wine from Australia. Smooth, rich, sweet with a nutty caramel finish. Unreal when taken with aged Emmanthaler cheese [9/6].
Schuetz Oles Zinfandel, Napa, 1996, $10 G+
I'm a huge S.O. fan, but this didn't impress like their more expensive offerings. Then again, this is a '96, which was a tough Zin vintage [9/6].
Rosenblum Zinfandel, California, Millennium, Cuvee MM, $10 VG-
Not a typical Rosenblum. Overripe, unbalanced, a little turned. Its richness and brashness barely save it [9/9].
Estancia Meritage, Alexander Valley, 1994, $14 Exc-
Wonderful young, beautiful aged. Geez Cabs are good aged. I'm short on adjectives on these older ones because they are so subtle and complex [9/10].
Joseph Phelps Le Mistral, California, 1995, $14 VG
Not the monster that it was in '97, this was soft, fruity, with modest complexity. I'd say this was a tad over the hill, although maybe it should have been served cooler to give it some body. My warm "cellar" probably didn't help either [9/22].
Hidden Cellars Zinfandel, Mendocino, 1995, $10 G+
A little funky, not very rich. I think the extra years in the bottle diminished the fruit and brought out other nuances [9/24].
Baron Thomieres Red, Gaillac, 1997, $?? (500ml) G+
Earth and tar dominating rich, tight fruit [10/7].
Marietta Old Vine Red, California, Twenty One, $7 VG-
Classic OVR, but not as rich as others tasted this year. Maybe a bit over the hill [10/14].
Robert Mondavi Zinfandel, Napa, 1997, $17 VG+
Really nice. Lovely fruit balanced by oak. Quite polished [10/21].
Veritas Tawny Port, Barossa Valley, Australia, 10 Year, $17 VG
Delicious, albeit a bit on the light side. Sweet caramel and oak flavors [10/21].
Chateau de Plassan Red Bordeaux, Premieres Cotes de Bordeaux, 1990, $13 VG
Not the least bit over the hill despite its modest roots and old age. Complex, with tar, tobacco, mint, and typical Bordeaux fruit. Nicely balanced [10/25].
Clos du Muriel Viognier, South Coast, 1997, VG
Floral fruit, with lots of movement and complexity [11/3].
Belvedere Cabernet Sauvignon, Dry Creek Valley, 1997, VG
Nice fruit, not over oaked. Tannins provide some punch [11/10].
Ravenswood Icon, Sonoma, 1997, $19 VG+
This Rhone-style blend, primarily Syrah, was outstanding. Dark fruit, tarry earth, with soft tannins. Very balanced, elegant [11/19].
Marietta Old Vine Red, California, Nineteen, $7 VG
Despite the long aging in our warm closet, this wine still possessed bright, albeit soft, fruit well-balanced by darker earth tones. Almost unbelievable in a wine this price [11/20].
Markham Petite Sirah, Napa, 1993, $10 Exc-
Hear me now and believe me later. This may be the best wine I've ever had for $10. I bought this wine several years ago, drank a bottle then, and found it far too tannic to be enjoyable. Expecting the worst, but having nothing to lose, I decided to cellar it for a few years. Eureka! What emerged from the bottle was gorgeous, rich raspberry fruit, dusty texture, dark earth, concentrated, black-purple wine. Divine. Perfect. This is why we drink wine [11/22].
Estancia Duo, Alexander Valley, 1997, $20 VG+
This super-Tuscan styled Sangiovese/Cab blend took a while to come together in the glass, but it was worth the wait. Bright Sangiovese fruit tones filled out by darker chocolate Cab fruit, complemented by earth coming from who-knows-where. Super-friendly, not super-concentracted, but perfect with a Thanksgiving dinner [11/23].