Georges Duboeuf Merlot, Vin d'Pays d'Oc, 1995?, G+
Lacks varietal character, but pleasant fruit and reasonable concentration. Served on United Airlines from Frankfurt [3/13].
Chasse Cellars Zinfandel, California, 1994, $6 VG-
Impressively rich fruit and nose for so little money [3/14]. Drinking it with sausage and pasta, it seemed a little on the thin and generic side, not worthy of a high rating [3/30]. After sitting in the vacuvined bottle for 24 hours, however, it had taken on richer, deeper Zinfandel flavors and wasn't yet showing problems with oxidation [3/31].
Marietta Old Vine Red, California, Twenty One, $7 VG
Unusual fruit and spice, surprising refinement and concentration [3/14]. At dinner a few nights later, the first impressions were very similar. My feeling about this wine, after drinking it for a few years, is that it slips too easily into the background for my tastes. This is a good quality when you want to emphasize the food, no doubt, but I want my wines to stand out as well as complement. Still, one of the best bargains in quality wine; there is no flaw to be found. It will be interesting to see how this wine develops over time [3/18].
Chateau St. Germain Red, Languedoc, 1995?, $8 VG
Ultra spicey and concentrated fruit without being too peppery. Gorgeous purple color and overpowering nose. Very French. A winner [3/14]. Drinking this at dinner was an interesting experience. It's concentration and berry flavors were wonderful, but some of its most intense fruit qualities burned off relatively quickly. It also came off as over oaked to the point of almost tasting corked [4/1]. The next night, it tasted much the same (it had been gassed). It did not fair well against a soft blue cheese, as it was completely overpowered despite its intensity, but reinvented itself against chocolate sorbet. The fruit and structure reemerge. Wow! Who would have guessed [4/2]?
Estancia Red Meritage, Alexander Valley, 1995, $17 VG+
My first response to this wine was that it was another winner, perhaps better than last year. Delightful balance, with friendly chocolate flavors. Maybe not as refined or concentrated as the Beaulieu Tapestry, but it's more ready to drink now--much more open [3/14]. At home with Mousse Truffee on Ciabatta, this wine proved to be superlative winner. Exceptional balance, openness, and chocolate flavors. Might be worth taking up a tick [3/16]. The second bottle, with Mike, was very good but lacked the depth that the first one delivered, losing some of its chocolate edge already. We double-decanted this wine, so that might have taken off the blush. Hard to say [4/16].
Fife Old Vine Zinfandel, Napa, 1996, $16 VG-
Refined, but not possessing that big fruit that I look for. The color had some browns in it; surprising for such a young wine [3/14].
Bettinelli Merlot, Napa, 1995, $25 VG
Big, bright fruit with rich, distinctive cherry cough drop flavors. Probably ``objectively'' better than I've rated it, since I'm not the biggest fan of cherry flavors [3/14].
Bonny Doon Cassis, California, NV, $10 G+
Described as the ``platonic idea of raspberries'', this dessert wine tasted more like a dessert topping. So we poured it on our chocolate sorbet and were quite happy [3/16].
Columbia Crest Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, 1994, $2/187ml VG-
Still has those chocolate flavors, but now some citrus flavors are starting to show. Less wowed than in the Sierras, but still like it better than in early '97 [3/26].
Silverado Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa, 1995, $31 (rest.) VG
Very friendly chocolate flavors, nice body and balance, but nothing especially distinctive, not that concentrated. We drank this at Sullivan's Rococo Steak House in St. George, Utah. It looks to me that '95 is shaping up to be a very good, but not a great, year; lots of friendly wines, but few shockers. We'll see, as the more slowly developing wines come out later in the year [3/28].
Les Tres Domaine Red, Guerronde, Morocco, 1996, $20 (rest) G
Lacking structure and acid, yet not that heavy on the fruit, either, this wine was in desperate need of more. Not a bad match with the Moroccan food at Marrakesh, but I think a Pinot or Cab would have been just fine [4/3].
Lungarotti Sangiovese, Umbria, 1995, $6 G+
Corky, oaky, fruity, and acidic, but possessing a good nose. Rather light [4/4].
Chateau Mayne-Cabanot Red Bordeaux, Bordeaux, 1995, $7 VG-
Classic French Cab, even has the fruit to back up the mineral and earth flavors. Not that concentrated. Mo was less favorable than I. But a bargain for seven bucks [4/4].
Preston Faux, California, 1996, $7 G+
Heavy fruit and pleasant tannins, but something is definitely missing. Maybe acid, but just not a balanced wine. This is a Rhone-style blend with Mourvedre dominating [4/4].
Shenandoah Spec. Reserve Zinfandel, Amador Co., 1996, $6 G+
Very restrained in flavor and nose, but classic Zin when can find them [4/4].
Domaine Marquise des Mures Red, St. Chinian, 1995, $9 VG
Jammy, heavy, with deep earth. Might be in need of some structure [4/4]. Drank at Liason with the gang, quite satisfying [4/8].
Wyndham Estate Shiraz, SE Autralia, Bin 555, 1996, $8 G+
Sigh. I keep looking for that Australian wine that I'll love. But here again I find a wine in desperate need of structure, yet full of candy fruit flavors. Little nose to be found, either, unless you are very patient [4/4].
Spelltich Cellars Bodog Red, Lake & Napa, 1996, $18 VG
Well, for this money, it ought to be this good. A solid Cab, but nothing special that I could find [4/4].
Delas Freres Red, St. Esprit, Rhone, 1996, $6 VG-
A worthy contender in the Rhone category. Mo really like it, but I felt we had better Rhones and other French wines in the closet (for more money, to be sure). White pepper and earth nose, with jammy fruit flavors underneath. It might do well with years in the cellar or a peppery steak right now [4/4].
Chateau La Joya Cabernet Sauvignon, Colchagua Valley, 1996, $6 G
This Chilean wine is as disappointing as many of its predecessors. For this paltry sum, I can get California wines that are twice as good. Fruit, sure, but not the balance, flavor, and structure that I've come to expect. Better after a night in the bottle [4/5-6].
Rabbit Ridge Montepiano, California, 1995, $7 VG-
This Tuscan styled red is light but very well balanced, composed of Sangiovese, Barbera, Lambrusco, and Cabernet Franc (of all things). It is twice as good as most Italian Tuscans I drink, which is remarkable given that it is cheaper than most of them as well. Nice fruit and chocolate flavors. I personally prefer the Karly Zin for the price, but there is a remarkable similarity in their balance and flavor (besides the Zin part, I grant) [4/6].
Chateau Camplong Red, Corbieres, 1995, $5 VG
Could it be true? A very good wine for five bucks? Yes, if you grant that a French wine is an acquired taste. I personally prefer the fresh open flavors of the California wines, but I can objectively say that the fruit, earth, and minerals in this wine are ounce for ounce competitive with what I'm getting for eight dollars or more in the California market. Nice nose, too. This is no super-processed bargain-basement wine. Drink up [4/7]!
Delas Freres Red Rhone, Crozes Hermitage, Les Launes, 1994, $10 G
What a disaster. Flavors of tobacco pervaded this bottle, completely unlike a bottle we had only a few months earlier. I think the bottle was corked, the second in a month [4/8].
David Bruce Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mtns, 1994, $15 VG
Very nice, but maybe not worth the price. It may not have opened up enough. More time in the air could have really helped. Drank with appetizers with Lisa and Jamie [4/11].
KWV Vintage Port, S. Africa, W.O. Boberg Lib. Res., 1969, $30 VG+
Nearly 30 years old, this Port still possesses incredible concentration and fruit. Very smooth, but a slight sensation of ``turning'' in some sips, but still a pleasant smoothness overall. Virtually unchanged between the two nights (with gas sitting on top of it) [4/16,17]. A week later with the bottle nearly empty (but gassed), the wine had become much darker in flavor, but had lost its ``turned'' flavor. It had clearly taken on some oxygen, however, and was perhaps not quite as pleasant [4/26].