Blackstone Merlot, California, 1997, $9 VG-
Dark, restrained, with varietal fruit that has a slightly chemical flavor [1/1]. Opened up quite a bit the second night, giving it a fighting chance [1/2].
Borges Vintage Port, Oporto, Portugal, 1982, $11 VG
Bright clear red in color, with nice cherry flavors, a bit of spice and almond, and reasonable legs. Not a blockbuster, but not the disappointment I expected from such an affordable, older Port [2/7].
Swanson Merlot, Napa, 1996, $18 VG+
Rich and deep with marvelous varietal character. One of the best Merlot's I've ever had. A revelation with skirt steak at Montana's [2/12].
Villa Mt. Eden Chardonnay, California, 1996, $7 VG
Remarkably rich fruit and buttery oak for an inexpensive wine. A touch of spicy, citrus on the attack, and pretty citrus in the nose. Pure joy, low acidity, not much complexity [2/13].
Edna Valley Chardonnay, San Luis Obispo, Edna Valley, 1997, $10 VG+
Buttery oak and spicy fruit. Yum [2/15]. Excellent balance of minerally acidity and buttery oak. A great food wine [2/16].
Bonterra Chardonnay, Mendocino, 1997, $8.50 VG-
Not as fat as the Villa Mt. Eden or as complex as the Edna Valley, this is still a fine wine. A bit of citrusy toast in the nose, smooth oak and citrus on the palate. This wine is made with organically grown grapes [2/17].
Clos du Bois Chardonnay, Sonoma, 1997, $9 VG
Zippy fruit over oak [2/20].
Chateau Puech Haut Rose Languedoc, Saint Drezery, 1997, $6.50 G+
Not a commercially styled wine. Viscous texture and sweetness contrasted against spicy earth [2/20].
Rodney Strong Merlot, Sonoma, 1996, $11 VG
Rich varietal fruit with spicy oak [2/20].
Fattoria Paradiso Sangiovese, Romagna, Riserva superiore vigna delle lepri, 1995, $16 G+
Orange in color, oaky and lacking in fruit [2/20].
Arzuaga , Duero, Spain, 1994, $16 VG
Rich, ripe fruit complemented by earth [2/20].
Rosemount GSM, McLaren Vale, Australia, 1996, $15 VG+
A combination of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre. Purple-black in color, rich, ripe, and grapey, with some oak and earth underneath. I give the edge to the Pirramimma [2/20].
Bogle Petite Sirah, California, 1997, $7 VG
Packed with jammy berry fruit. Great with food or on its own. A super bargain [2/20]. A second bottle confirmed my previous impressions, ripe and dark fruit [3/1].
Canet Valette Red Saint Chinian, Saint Chinian, 1996, $9 VG
Lots of potential, with focused fruit and layers of peppery earth. Ultimately, the earth won out and it wasn't as enjoyable as hoped. Unusually high alcohol level, at 14.5% [2/21]. A few months later, I enjoyed the power and focus of the peppery earth, and the super-ripe fruit impressed. Basically a bargain Chateauneufdupape [5/22].
Santa Cristina Sangiovese, Toscana, 1997, $7 G+
This Antinori creation is an excellent creation for the price. I've paid $12 for Chianti's this good. Unfortunately, that's just not good enough, with light, dry fruit, with substantial earth and oak tones [2/24].
Cypress Cabernet Sauvignon, Central Coast, 1996, $6 G+
Way over-oaked relative to the fruit concentration, just like their Chard. Although it imparts nice vanilla flavors, it's just overbearing. No finesse, just fruit and vanilla [2/25].
Borges Vintage Port, Oporto, Portugal, 1980, $11 VG-
Bright clear orange-red in color, with cherry flavors and a bit of spice. A little disappointing against the 1982 that that we so enjoyed [2/25].
Shale Ridge Chardonnay, Monterey, 1997, $6 VG-
Restrained, a little bitter on the finish, touches of oak and orange citrus [2/27].
Rutz Chardonnay, Monterey, 1997, $10 VG
Very low acidity, high glycerin, restrained fruit with buttery oak [2/27].
Alderbrook Chardonnay, Dry Creek Valley, 1997, $9 VG-
Very ripe, with late harvest tones. Nice acidity, light citrus fruit [2/27]. With some extra time in the bottle, this wine has balanced out into a more typical Chard. When cooler, was light and crisp, turned oakier as it warmed up [6/19].
Alderbrook Pinot Noir, Russian River, 1996, $10 G+
Nice fruit, but dominated by stale tobacco [2/27].
Cristom Pinot Noir, Willamette, Mt. Jefferrson Cuvee, 1996, $18 G
Light orangish in color, dry, restrained fruit, earth and tobacco [2/27].
Nominee Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, 1996, $6 G+
Intriguing ``Italian'' fruit, firm acidity and tannins [2/27].
Randall Harris Merlot-Cabernet, Washington, 1997, $7 VG-
Spicy nose, nice chocolately Merlot varietal fruit. Chewy texture. I give this the edge over the Bogle [2/27]. With dinner, it proved to be a rugged, dark, restrained wine. Not as much ``fun'' as the Bogle, but definitely an interesting quaff. Not as Merlot-like as I found in the first tasting [3/9].
Alderbrook Zinfandel, Sonoma, OVOC, 1997, $10 VG
Vanilla nose and nicely oaked fruit. In the Seghisio and Vigil style [2/27]. Not as impressive at home, with the fruit not holding up [2/29]. Another tasting at SDWC put me on the fence again, impressed with the fruit, but still feeling it's a little over-oaked [5/22]. Well, like many of these oaked Zin's, it seems to be coming together with a little time, so I'm upgrading it a little [6/30].