Rancho Zabaco Zinfandel, Dry Creek, Stefani Vineyard, 1999, $48 (rest.) VG+
Powerful and moody, this is up there with the elite Zins [5/18].
Markham Merlot, Napa, 1999, $48 (rest.) VG
Disappointing side-by-side with the Rancho Zabaco Stefani. Certainly sound, but lacking richness and complexity [5/18].
Osborne Sherry, Jerez, Pedro Ximenez 1827, NV, $13 VG+
Deep opaque brown in color, loaded with flavor, and over-the-top sweet, this sweet sherry is a surprisingly satisfying after dinner drink. Flavors of prunes and cedar, almost gritty in consistency. And did I mention that quality of mystery that all good sweet sherries posess? I want more [5/20]!
Caymus Conundrum, California, 2000, $22 Exc-
This blend of Viognier and a bunch of other white grapes is complex, rich, silky, and balanced. One of those wines that is so richly satisfying that you have to drink it slowly. This is no fading flower, but no fruit or oak bomb either. Lots of finesse [5/25].
Ridge Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, Lytton Springs, 2000, $22 VG+
This full Zin gets its focus from an ample dose of Petite Sirah. A real winner [5/25].
Yalumba Viognier, South East Australia, 2001, $10 VG
Focussed sweet fruit, a little mystery, and some oak to give it some legs [5/27].
Bonterra Chardonnay, Mendocino, 2000, $10 VG-
Sound, but a tad on the bitter side. I like the fact that they use organically grown grapes [6/3].
Clayton Zinfandel, Lodi, Old Vine, 1998, G+
At first this tasted a tad corked, but a night in the bottle helped the fruit round out a bit [6/8].
Villa Mt. Eden Chardonnay, Monterey County, Coastal, 1999, $7 VG-
Deep in color and full of flavor, this is a fine bargain. This is a food wine, with enough oak to give it some silkiness, but enough acidity that it'll make you pucker if you're in a sipping mood [6/18]. After some time to mature in the bottle, exotic fruit was noticeable, reminiscient of Viognier. Wow [7/7].
Echelon Syrah, California, 1999, $10 VG
A very sound wine, excellent with meats, a little tough on its own. Not complex, but sufficiently rich to liven the palate [6/25].
Marietta Old Vine Red, California, Lot Number Twenty Nine, $9 VG
Wow, another outstanding release from Marietta in the Old Vine Red series. Poignant fruit back by a bit of mysterious earth, this is hard to be beat for the dollar. The Zin seems strong in this release with its forward ripe fruit flavors, and I have no complaints [7/6].
Peachy Canyon Zinfandel, Paso Robles, Incredible Red Bin 111, 2000, $9 VG-
Light and spicy, this wine is fun to drink, great with Italian food [7/11].
Lustau Sherry, Spain, Pedro Ximenez San Emilio, NV, $14 VG-
Very sweet and thick, best with sweet desserts. A bit monolithic, not very complex, but definitely unique in its round fruit and earthy tones [7/20].
Ranch Zabaco Zinfandel, Sonoma, Heritage Vines, 2000, $10 VG
This was a bit woody straight out of the bottle, but a couple of nights rest brought the fruit out and was a superb match with food [7/24].
Charles Back Goats do Roam, South Africa, 2001, $7 G+
Very earthy in the French Rhone style, but with enough fruit to balance it out [7/28].
Rosenblum Viognier, Lodi, Ripken Vineyard, 2001, $13 VG
Full exotic fruit, leggy, acidic, and a touch on the sweet side, this was lovely with food but not so good for sipping [8/3].
Marquis Philips Sarah's Blend, South Eastern Australia, 2001, $12 VG
Bursting with ripe fruit and structure appropriate to a young wine, this was great with food and nice on its own after it had been open for a while. I'm guessing this is a Shiraz/Cab blend; very nicely integrated and balanced [8/3].
Chateau Souverain Chardonnay, Sonoma, 2000, $9 VG-
Straightfoward and typical, but well-built, this is a reliable daily Chard, plus some. Definitely improved a bit after being open for a while [8/8].
Paolo Masi Chianti, Chianti, 2000, $5 G+
Lots of minerally Chianti earth and light on the fruit, this is sound but simple [9/1].
Miner Sangiovese, Mendocino, 2000, $18 VG
Luscious fruit and ample vanilla oak, but not complex. A nearly heavenly food match with a seafood tomato sauce [9/7].
Bonair Cabernet Sauvignon, Yakima Valley, Chateau Puryear Vineyard, 1991, Exc-
This Washington Cab, a gift from my former student Lee Carver, had aged beautifully. The cork was stained nearly black, and the wine poured a lovely dark red. It possessed ample fruit and structure, while having taken on the earthy mushroom flavors of age. A tremendous match with grilled steak, despite it's age. A wine--and winery--worthy of attention [9/8].
Rancho Zabaco Zinfandel, California, Dancing Bull, 2000, $7 VG-
A nice wine at a super price. Typical of the RZ's, nice clean fruit with vanilla oak overtones [9/14].
Lustau Sherry, Spain, Capataz Andres, NV, VG-
This inexpensive blend of Oloroso sherry and Pedro Ximenez is well balanced in contrast to the San Emilio, but not as complex, either. Excellent with sweet desserts [9/14].
Hetszolo Tokaji Aszu, Hungary, 3 Puttonyos, 1997, $9/500ml VG-
Exotic orange flavors typical of a Tokaji, although rather light [10/12].
Galway Pipe Tawny Port, Australia, S. Smith and Son, NV, $20 VG
A good value. Fairly complex and rich, and goes well with hard cheeses. I gave this an VG+ last year, and and Exc- the year before. Perhaps they've lost their edge, or depleted their prime barrels [10/19].