1996 Tasting Notes

Walnut Crest  Merlot, Chile, 1994, $5  Good

La Playa  Merlot, Chile, 1992, $6  Good

Pine Ridge  Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa, 1991, $12  VG+


Rutherford V.  Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa, 1993, $5  Good+

Bite, cherries. Now, after many bottles of this wine, the bite has dropped away and it is quite drinkable. It's main problem now is an unabashed fruitiness that can come across like grape juice, especially after a more mature wine.

Santa Rita  Cabernet Sauvignon, Chile, 1993, $6  Good

Ravenswood  Zinfandel, California ?, 1994,   Fair


Chalk Hill  Cabernet Sauvignon, California ?, 1991, $14  VG+


Kenwood  Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa, 1992, $10  Good+

Brash, needs time to mature. Too much tannins.

Wolf Blass  Cabernet Sauvignon, Australia, Black Bottle, 1992, $10  Good

Very brash.

Kenwood  Sauvignon Blanc, Napa?, 1994, $6  VG

Semi-dry and pristine.

Callaway  Sauvignon Blanc, Temecula, 1994, $5.50  Good

Sweet, grassy.

Whitehall  Cabernet Sauvignon, ??, Fleur de Helene, 1992,   Good

Black Opal  Shiraz, SE Australia, 1994,   Good


Gaetano D'Aquino  Red, Chianti Classico, Riserva, 1990,   Good

Slightly thin.

Heitz Cellar  Cabernet Sauvignon and Grignolino, California ?, 1991,   Good+

Heitz sells this as a European-styled wine.

Quinta de la Rosa  Ruby Port, Portugal, NV,   Good

I prefer Warres.

Montenero Calliga  red, Greece, NV,   Good

E & J Gallo  Cabernet Sauvignon, California ?, NV, $3.50  Good

The Santa Rita is better.

Callaway  Cabernet Sauvignon, Temecula, 1992, $6.99  Good+

Not brash.

Mazzocco  Zinfandel, California ?, 1993,   Good

Pleasantly peppery.

Sebastiani  Merlot, Sonoma, 1993,   VG

Full, not brash.

Brandiamo  Nebbiolo, Temecula, 199?,   Good+

Peppery, thin.

Woodbridge (Robert Mondavi)  Cabernet Sauvignon, California ?, 1993,   Fair


Carmenet  Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma, 1987,   Exc

Very smooth and rich, with balanced sweetness, but not particularly fruity; I think I'm not used to CS with so little tannins, but it grew on me; 11% Merlot, 9% C. Franc; cork disintegrated so we filtered through a coffee filter; tasted peculiar at first, but became very balanced in about 15 minutes; owned by Chalone, should try sometime. Gift of Madge and Dad.

Sutter Home  Cabernet Sauvignon, California ?, 1992, $4.39  Good

Brash, fruity, yummy. Could improve with age.

McGuigan Brs.  Bk Shir, Australia, 1994, $5  Good+

Fruity, syrupy, soft like CS w/o tannin bite. A second tasting after the Rutherford CS revealved a peppery flavor like a Zin, but retaining the fruit of a CS.

Concannon  Cabernet Sauvignon, California ?, 1993, $5.99  Good+

Maybe not as much cherries as the Rutherford Vineyards CS.

Napa Ridge  Pinot N, Napa, 1994,   Fair+

A little light.

McGuigan Brs.  Merlot, Australia, Bin 3000, 1995, $4.99  Good

Fruity, dry, with bite.

Parducci  Merlot, California ?, 1993,   Good+

Fruity, dry, smooth.

Paolo Toscano  Red, Chianti, (Classico), 1992,   Good

Pleasant, but thin, like most Chianti's.

Cribari  Red, Chianti, 199?,   Poor

Sweet, icky taste, juicy.

Talus  Zinfandel, ??, 199?,   Good+

Dry, smooth, not peppery.

Vendage  Cabernet Sauvignon, ??, 199?,   Fair


Santa Rita  Merlot, Maule Valley, Chile, 120, 1994, $3.79  Good

Black Mountain  Chardonnay, California ?, Gravel Bar, 1994,   Good+

Slightly sweet, smooth, with a touch of grassiness.

Black Mountain  Zinfandel, California ?, 1993, $4.99  Good

Peppery, brusque; heavy in tannins but not complex; might benefit from cellaring.

Kendall-Jackson  Chardonnay, ??, 1994,   VG+

Extremely pleasant, dry, yet fruity. Very drinkable on its own, but also with dinner (Thai curry).

Woodbridge (Robert Mondavi)  Sauvignon Blanc, California ?, 1994,   Good

This inexpensive lacks the depth and complexity of the famous RM Fume Blanc, but it is quite drinkable. A tad on the bland side.

Rene Barbier  Red, ??, 199?, $3  Fair

Tastes corky.

Woodbridge (Robert Mondavi)  Cabernet Sauvignon, California ?, 1993,   Good

How this bottle could be better than the previous is beyond me, but maybe It was because I was eating cookies with it.

Chateau Ste. Michelle  Blanc de Noir, WA?, 1987, $13  VG+

A sparkling wine that tastes like a wine! Real flavor. Blanc de Noir means that it is a white wine made from a red grape. No funny coloring, though.

Chateau Ste. Michelle  Chardonnay, WA?, (Weinbau), 1993, $19  VG

Complex but not overpowering. Apparently like a French Burgandy.

Chateau Ste. Michelle  Chardonnay, Canoe Ridge, 1994, $26  G+

Less complex than the Weinbau, and more body like a CA Chard.

Chateau Ste. Michelle  Chardonnay, Cold Creek, 1994, $20  VG+

A large, full-bodied Chard.

Chateau Ste. Michelle  Merlot, Columbia Valley, 1992, $15  VG+

This is the best Merlot I've ever had (which isn't necessarily saying much). It is full-bodied, smooth, balanced, with subdued tannins. What value! My second tasting of this wine, with dinner and after the David Bruce Petite Syrah suggests that this one is almost overly fruity and one dimensional. I would actually change this wine's rating to VG, but perhaps that's unfair; maybe the wines just disagree. My third tasting of this wine was at Liason, after the '93 Ridge Mataro. Not nearly as cloying as against the Bruce, but the Ridge was not as good in my opinion. The fruitiness was very pleasant, not overpowering; very smooth. I had it with grilled chicken with vegetables. I'll restore this wine to a VG+ rating. Yeah, and still the best Merlot I've ever had.

Chateau Ste. Michelle  Merlot, Horse Heaven, 1993, $25  G+

Much heavier on the tannins than the above, and without the balance. Might mature, but didn't impress.

Chateau Ste. Michelle  Merlot, Canoe Ridge, 1993, $27  G+

Fruity, offsetting the tannins of the above, but still didn't impress.

Chateau Ste. Michelle  Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Va., 1983, $31  VG

For an older wine, this still had a lot of tannins. But maybe my immature palette cannot distinguish acids and tannins well. However, it was quite smooth. On the other hand, I felt this was lacking the richness and body that should come with an older wine.

Chateau Ste. Michelle  Cabernet Sauvignon, Cold Creek, 1987, $26  VG

This was an unusual wine, but not as full-bodied as I'm used to in a Cab. I don't see this getting any better.

Chateau Ste. Michelle  Cabernet Sauvignon, Horse Heaven, 1993, $26  VG/Exc

This wine is still young, packed with tannins. It's also got a lot of fruit and body that suggests that it will be getting much better. I think it could be a great wine in a few years.

R.W. Morris  Chardonnay, California, 1994, $3.50  G+

Once upon a time it seemed that a drinkable Chard cost a minimum of $12. How times have changed! This wine is drinkable, and even has flavor and legs. It's a relatively uncomplex wine, but it stands up to broiled salmon. A second tasting of this wine with chicken liver pate and smoked salmon confirms my first tasting. An excellent wine for the money.

The Monterey Vineyard  Cabernet Sauvignon, California ?, Classic, 1994, $3.50  Fair+

We got what we paid for, or maybe a little bit more. Has tannins without much body, leaving a kind of metallic flavor. For an extra $1.50, I'll definitely take the Rutherford.

Rutherford V.  Merlot, California, 1995, $5  VG

This is the best wine I've ever had for under $10. Delicious cherries, and only modest acid and tannins. Very smooth and delicious. Fruity, but not as excessive as the Rutherford '93 Cab. I don't think it would age that well, but it is so good now that it doesn't matter!

Bel Arbor  Merlot, ??, 1994,   Fair+

This wine is flavorful but heavy on the tannins. Quite a pucker.

Bourgogne Leroy  Red, Burgundy?, 1990,   Good+

This wine is so typically French compared to our fruity American counterparts. This wine had an almost steely taste compared to the typical CA vintage. However, it was delicious, showing reasonable complexity and not very much youth. Having the Rutherford immediately after was humorous, as the R tasted like suped up grape juice rather than wine. BTW, Leroy is the CA importer of this wine. Gift of Larry and Jeanne.

David Bruce  Petite Syrah, Central Coast, 1994, $9  VG+

This is one of the best wines I've drank in recent memory. It is reasonably complex w/ some fruit. We were eating it with chicken liver pate and smoked salmon. Drank with Jeremy and Becky.

Benton Lane  Pinot Noir, Oregon, 1994, $12  VG

This is a yummy Pinot Noir with a cute stamp-like label. I'll be frank and admit that I was paying more attention to the company than the wine (Dad and Madge), but my recollection is that it was delicious. I think the David Bruce was superior, though. Maybe aging would improve it? We drank the wine with grilled Salmon and an eggless, anchovyless Caesar salad. Recommended by Uncle Ronnie.

Ridge  Mataro/Mouvedre, California ?, 1993, $16  VG

This is a classic Rhone French grape grown in CA. However, not French styled as far as I could tell. Not a ``big'' wine, but still lacking a French character. I enjoyed the unique flavors of this wine, but I'm hard pressed to characterize it, except that there was a unique fruitiness shortly after the wine hit the tongue, which then mutated into other, less definite flavors. I think this wine will be much better in a few years; the tannins were a little forward, but not so well offset by this lighter-styled wine. We drank this wine with a French country pate and cheese at Liason. Liason's $8 corkage fee makes bringing your own wines costly unless the wines are exceptional.

Barboursville  Malvaxia/Malvasia, Virginia, 1994,   VG

This is a sweet wine whose ancient grapes are grown and prepared in Virginia. Kevin gave us this wine. The sweetness was smooth, delicious, and not at all cloying. We drank it with a mild Chevre and light smoked salmon. Not a bad choice. Would also make a nice after dinner wine.

Castello Di Querceto  Red, Chianti Classico, 1990,   VG

This was a delicious, smooth wine. I'm not a big fan of Chianti's, but I wouldn't send this one back. I'm told that 1990 was a great year in Europe, and this confirms the claim. Gift of Uncle Ronnie.

Chateau La Vielle Cure  Red, Bordeaux Fransac Grand Vin, 1990,   Exc

Another wine from the famed 1990 vintage, this wine had all the finesse and panache expected from a Bordeaux, although this is a minor appellation. Parker claims it is in ascension as drinkers are looking for bargains and variety. This wine is young and had tannins, but they were well-balanced by a variety of other flavors, including fruit and that typical Bordeaux silkiness. Gift of Uncle Ronnie.

Elysium  Black Muscat, California ?, 1995, $7/half  G+

A yummy dessert wine, although lacking complexity. Gift of Judy and Jim.

Caparone  Zinfandel, California ?, 1994,   VG

Oakey, fruity, tannins, very Cab-like.

Sutter Home  Zinfandel, California ?, 1993,   G

Uncomplex, fruity, tannins.

Angeline  Zinfandel, California ?, 1995,   G

Cartlidge & Brown  Zinfandel, California ?, 1995,   G


Arciero  Zinfandel, California ?, 1993,   G+

Tannins, fruity.

Rosenblum  Zinfandel, California ?, 1993, $12  VG

Tannins, balanced.

Black Mountain  Zinfandel, California ?, Cramer Ridge, 1994,   G

A distinct but hard to characterize flavor almost dominates the Zin characteristics.

San Simeon Cellars  Cabernet Sauvignon, California ?, 1993,   G+

Oakey, rich.

Amador Foothills  Zinfandel, California ?, Ferraro Vineyard, 1992,   G+

Chateau La Renjardiere  Red, Cotes Du Rhone, Pierre Dupond, 1993,   VG

A very typical CDR, light without being weak. Lots of flavor, still strong in tannins, but seemed to improve once the bottle breathed a little. Gift from Ernie.

Pine Ridge  Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa, Rutherford Cuvee, 1983, $26  VG-

Pine Ridge thinks this is a spectacular wine, or will be. Maybe the latter. I didn't like it as much as the plain old 1991. Had noticeable acid, but a kind of hollowness. But maybe 1983 just doesn't match what the '90s have done for CA wine.

Pine Ridge  Chardonnay, Napa, Knollside Cuvee, 1995, $17  G+

This Chard seemed light and simple. Not heavy, but lacking complexity, too.

Pine Ridge  Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa, 1994, $22  G+

Too much tannins to be drunk now; could be much better later.

Pine Ridge  Chenin Blanc, Napa, La Petite Vigne ``TSIFG'', 1995, $12  VG

I have fond memories of Chenin Blanc from the case of wine my Father and Step mother bought me when I turned 19. This wine brought back that memory and won a high rating. Call me sentimental. Balanced, sweet without being cloying. Fish or fruit.

Pine Ridge  Chenin Blanc, Napa, Yountville, 1995, $8  VG

I thought this was as good as the ``little vine'', but perhaps with some ``sugar grit'', but still not cloying. I guess I like sweet wines!

Carmenet  Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma, 1983,   VG

This was a very delicious and enjoyable wine, although only a shadow of the '87, reviewed above. It was more acidic, and somewhat hollow, although it did have moments of greatness, an echo of what the '87 achieved. 10% Merlot, 3% C. Franc; cork was slightly disintegrated so I had to work a little to get the cork out, and had to clean the inside of the neck of the bottle. filtered through a coffee filter; tasted strong at first, but became more moderated in about 15 minutes. Shared with us by Suzanne Sedivec and husband Steve. Ate with goat cheese on bread, followed by Atlantic salmon basted with pesto. Actually, this is not that different than the '83 Pine Ridge I tried (reviewed above), but I think this was better. Also better than the '83 St. Michelle.

Dunn  Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa, 1982,   VG

This was a gift from Jay Moody, who was visiting us on my 34th birthday. We had high hopes for this wine, given its age and maker. However, we found it to be somewhat less than exciting. The tannins had diminished, but rather than being soft, it retained a somewhat acidic flavor. Also, it lacked body that persisted. It had a nice start and an OK finish, but lacked body in the middle of the taste. I would call it ``hollow'' I suppose. In checking Parker's guide, I see that 82 was only a mediocre year, but that this was an ideal time to drink the Dunn. Notably, the wine did improve for the first hour or so out of the bottle. Because the bottle had been brought to the house by bicycle, we filtered it in a coffee filter. A wise choice given the amount of sediment in the bottle. We drank this with grilled Tuna.

La Jota  Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa, Howell Mountain, 1989, $15  VG

This is a delicious Cab, with lots of body and flavor. For wine of this age, I would have expected an oakier, more complex wine, but maybe my high initial expectations compromised my judgment. Maybe 89 wasn't a blockbuster year. Still, a wonderful wine. Hard to tell if aging would improve. Not a whole lot of tannins, but not soft, either. Drank with grilled Salmon. Joe Feeley was our guest. Parker or someone rated this wine a 90. I'd let this bottle go a couple of more years.

My second tasting of this wine was at Christmas dinner in IF with the Feeley family. The main dish was turkey. The wine was still very good, but a much more difficult wine. It was rather harsh and very oakey. I suspect that the wine had not travelled well or had been mishandled that day. Also, the room was quite warm, perhaps 80 degrees.

Grand Cru  Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma, Collector's Reserve, 1988, $9  VG

For the price, this wine is excellent. It has a delicous, fruity flavor, with the supple softness brought by aging. However, it was a rather simple wine, rather two dimensional. As we finished the bottle, I noticed that there was no sediment; apparently this wine was filtered for stability, consequently reducing its complexity. We drank this wine at La Taverna in La Jolla, a traditional Italian restaurant. We had Penne Ragu and Grilled Chicken in Balsamic dressing. Their $7 corking fee makes bringing inexpensive wines a break-even proposition.

Ravenswood  CS blend, California ?, Mountain Claret, 1993,   VG

Ravenswood refrained from calling this a Cab because it has three other grapes blended in: Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and a third grape I wasn't familiar with. This amounts to a ``Bordeaux'' treatment. This was a delicious wine, with substantial body, balance, fruit, and complexity. Tannins were still present, of course, but it was hard to tell whether this wine would age well. Probably for a few more years, at least. We shared this with Paul, Kim and Scott over at Scott's house for Hannakuh.

Jaffelin  Nouveau, Beaujolais, 1996, $8  Good

After drinking every Cab and Merlot we could get our hands on this year, we had branched out successfully, especially to Petite Sirahs. I thought I'd go out on a limb and try a Beaujolais, which is known for being light and fruity. The 96's are supposed to be pretty good, but I wasn't impressed by this wine, which Eron at Barons said was the best one they carried (passing over the Duboeuf's, for example, although I did not see a Villages, which was rumored to be made in a more Burdundian style). What bothered me the most was that it made me pucker. I must say, however, that we served it at 70 degrees, not the recommended 50-55 degrees. That could make a substantial difference.

Napa Ridge  Cabernet Sauvignon, Central Coast, Oak Barrel, 1994,   Good+

I'd heard some good things about Napa Ridge recently, and this wine confirmed those good reports. It was a full-bodied wine with delicious, almost overpowering oak flavors. Still possessed substantial tannins, and could improve for a few years.

Maison Charme  Cabernet Sauvignon, Vin de Pays l'Herault, 1993,   Good

I give this wine a good over the ForestVille because it didn't have that cloying flavor. Being French, it doesn't have that huge California Cab thing going, hence coming across as somewhat thin and acidic, but helped somewhat by a mild pepperiness.

Chateau St. Jean  Chardonnay, California ?, 1994?,   VG+

This Chardonnay was fruity and full of body, but still crisp and very refreshing. One of my favorite Chards for the year. We drank this with appetizers over at Larry and Jeanne's.

Carmenet  Dynamite Merlot, Sonoma, 1994, $14  VG+

Wow! This wine was young, but perfectly balanced, plenty of fruit, minimal tannins, very round with fullness and complexity. I think this is a better wine than the St. Michelle '92 Merlot. It has slightly less fruit, resulting in a finer balance. Drank over at Jeanne and Larry's with Liz Gerber and Skip Lupia. The meal was Salmon in filo with ginger, scallions and capers.

Sonoma Creek  Zinfandel, Sonoma, 1994,   VG

I thought I was burnt out on Zin's, but this was very enjoyable. It's pepperiness was balanced by fruit and full flavor. This was Jeanne and Larry's wine.

Hawk Crest  Cabernet Sauvignon, California ?, 1994, $7  G+

Hawk Crest is the ``second label'' of the famed Stags Leap winery. This wine is a medium-bodied Cab with no real flaws, but nothing outstanding, either. Brought by Judy and Jim. They felt this wine was much better on its own than eaten with food. Maureen made baked Salmon with capers, scallions, and ginger.

Hawk Crest  Chardonnay, California ?, 1995,   G

Compared to the Hawk Cab, this is something of a disappointment. It had a slightly heavy, acidic feel to it.

Bogle  Petite Sirah, California ?, 1994, $7  Fair

Barons had recommended this as a very good inexpensive ``Rhone'' wine. Wrong. This wine was so absolutely bitter--tannins I believe--that I could barely drink it. This was accompanied by an overpowering pepperiness as well. Drinking it with a strong cheese controlled these negatives, but this left the wine basically tasteless. My guess is that this wine might be good in 6-10 years, but that's not the impression I got from the guy at Barons.

Hardys  Shiraz/CS, Australia, Stamps of Australia, 1994,   G

This wine is 55% Shiraz and 45% Cab. Unoffensive, but didn't excite either, lacking the fruit you might expect in a young wine.

McGuigan  Botrytis Semillon, Australia, 1994,   VG

I was pleasantly surprised by this wine. If I'm not mistaken, this wine is made by letting the grapes get infected with Botrytis, which makes them exceptionally sweet. The wine was not only sweet, but quite flavorful.

W&J Grahams  Port, Portugal, NV,   G

This Port was sweet, peppery, and full-bodied.

Grigch  Zinfandel, Sonoma, 1993,   G+

Although I have been burned out on Zinfandels, I did like this one. Maybe I can drink them again. This one was less peppery than some, which probably saved it for me.

Beringer  White Zin, California ?, 1995,   Fair

This wine was sicky sweet and one dimensional. Ick.

Husch  Pinot Noir, Alexander V., Library Reserve, 1991, $11  VG+

This was an absolutely lovely wine. It was balanced, soft, and lush, with subtle fruit and oak. Brought to Mom and Bel's and drank with Filet Mignon smothered in Bernaise sauce. A Barons recommendation.

Barone Cornacchia  Red, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, 1994,   G

This wine was a little disappointing. The tannins were slightly forward, and the other flavors a little thin. Drank with turkey at Christmas dinner at Maureen's Mom's in Idaho Falls. I should note the house was very hot, probably pushing 80 degrees. A gift by uncle Ronnie.

La Playa  Merlot, Maipo Chile, 1994, $3  G+

This wine was rated an 86 by the Wine Spectator, which is consistent with my rating. However, I was a little disappointed, as it came across as slightly thin. On the other hand, it came after the La Jota '89 Cab. The warmth of the room might have been a factor, too. No question that it's a bargain, however.

Domaine Burgaud  Red, Cote Rotie, 1989,   G+

This was a gift of Uncle Ronnie. He was very excited by this wine, but I found it to be something of a disappointment. It was full-bodied and varied, but was somewhat harsh. I suspect the high temperature--again approaching 80 degrees. It may also have been mishandled, raising the sediment. Drank with Maureen's vegetarian lasagna. Note that Rhones are not served in a Bordeaux bottle, so sediment leaves the bottle much more easily.

Brolio  Red, Chianti Classico, 1994,   VG

After learning my lesson with the previous wines, I chilled this wine for a half hour before serving. It actually sat out after the chilling, so I suspect the temperature was pretty close to 70 degrees. But this wine showed none of the flabbiness or harshness of the other wines. What a delight after the previous disappointments! It was smooth and full-bodied with more fruit than I remember in recent Chiantis.

Napa Ridge  Cabernet Sauvignon, Central Coast, Oak Barrel, 1994,   G+

This wine had substantial fruit, slightly offset by tannins and acid. Drank on New Years Eve with Judy and Jim.