Umani Ronchi Red, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, 1997, $5 G
Restrained, with a touch of earth [5/1].
Mendoza Ridge Merlot, Mendoza, Argentina, 1997, $4 G+
Ripe, non-varietal fruit balanced by earth [5/1].
Bodega Lurton Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina, 1997, $4 G+
Rustic fruit and earth [5/1].
Bentivoglio Red, Toscana, 1995, G+
Typical inexpensive Italian wine [5/1].
Hunter Ashby Merlot, California, 1996, $7 G+
Rustic, with varietal fruit [5/1]. A second tasting showed ripe fruit and some spice, perhaps better than currently rated [7/24].
Everett Ridge Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, 1997, $13 VG-
Spicey, jazzy, with nice fruit complemented by oak, but a bit astringent [5/1].
Rabbit Ridge Allure, California, 1996, $6 Fair
Not a fun wine. Light fruit overpowered by tobacco flavors [5/1].
Rabbit Ridge Zinfandel, California, 1997, $7 G+
Rated an 86 by the Wine Spectator, I found this wine to be a disappointment, not just a point behind the impressive Bogle Petite Sirah. Soft, restrained Zin fruit with a touch of tobacco [5/1]. After a few nights of rest (and maybe recovery of my tastebuds), I found this wine pleasing but very restrained. The tobacco was gone, supplanted by ripe if restrained Zin fruit [5/5].
Young's Syrah, Shenandoah Valley CA, 1997, $14 VG+
Restrained, but quite sound. Nice structure, Zin-like fruit, and vanilla oak. Perhaps too much like a Zin and too oaky for a Syrah, but still a nice wine. Could well improve with time [5/2]. Already, only a couple of months later, the oak has integrated into the fruit flavors, providing much better balance. The fruit flavors are now more forward, still quite like a Zin in flavor and ripeness [7/10].
Heitz Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa, 1994, $20 VG+
Tight now, its raspberry color and structure indicate a lot of promise. I'd try drinking it in 3-8 years, or open it in the morning, decant, and let it breath [5/8].
Raymond Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa, 1996, $17 VG+
This is going to be typical of the '96 Cabs: forward fruit and relatively ready to drink. Fun [5/8].
Simi Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma, 1996, $18 VG-
A touch light and acidic, not living up to its ``95-100'' WS barrel rating from a year ago. Might be quite good with food, though [5/8].
Keenan Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa, Spring Mt. District, 1994, $18 VG+
Very similar to the Heitz in style, probably in part because it is the same vintage. Lots of promise for the future [5/8].
Cave de Tain L'Hermitage Red Rhone, Saint Joseph, 1997, $13 VG
Nice fruit and substantial earth and tobacco flavors. Stylistically my favorite of the the Cave de Tain's, but lacking the richness of the Cornas and Hermitage [5/15].
Cave de Tain L'Hermitage Red Rhone, Crozes Hermitage, 1997, $11 VG-
Restrained fruit, a touch of chocolate, with dominant earth and tobacco flavors [5/15].
Cave de Tain L'Hermitage Red Rhone, Cornas, 1995, $19 VG-
Dominant, interesting pepper flavors with fruit in the background [5/15].
Cave de Tain L'Hermitage Red Rhone, Hermitage, 1995, $27 VG-
Tight yet jammy fruit with pepper to match. Has lots of promise, but I wouldn't be drinking it now [5/15].
Alte d'Altesi Red, Toscana, 1995, $24 VG-
This inexpensive ``Super Tuscan'' is restrained now, but nice fruit and earth [5/15].
La Gioia Red, Riecine, Toscana, 1995, $30 VG+
Not yet ready, this Super Tuscan still possesses lots of fruit and earth [5/15].
Morro Bay Chardonnay, California, 1997, $6 VG-
Lemon-tinged fruit, and smooth, rich texture, but restrained in flavor. Light on the oak [5/22].
Brucher Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara, Bien Nacido Vineyard, 1997, $13 G+
Light fruit and color, dominated by earth flavors. Better than most affordable Burgandy's, but not a winner either [5/22]. A touch of damp wood, too [6/12].
Santa Ema Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo, Chile, Reserve, 1995, $7 VG-
A protoypical, rich Chilean Cab, with surprisingly harmonious fruit, earth and tannins for an affordable wine [5/22].
Ravenswood Zinfandel, Napa, 1997, $10 VG
Harmonious, solid, grapey fruit with some tannins and minimal oak. Lighter than the Lodi, but a little more balanced. I think the Lodi has better long-term potential [5/22]. I was underwhelmed when we opened this the other night; I thought the wine was corked! After the remainder sat under gas for a few nights it really showed its stuff: ripe, jammy, syrah, even petite sirah fruit. Dy-no-mite, and promises to get better with time [6/24].
Guigal Red Rhone, Cotes du Rhone, 1995, $8.50 G+
Earthy, light fruit [5/22].
Columbia Crest Merlot-Cabernet, Columbia Valley, 1997, $5.50 G+
Atypical of recent Columbia Crest efforts, not being especially interesting. My guess is that they made the best of a mediocre vintage. The wine is sound, just not a lot of flavor, notably missing the chocolate notes typical in their Merlots and Cabs [5/22]. After a couple of nights under the gas, a real wine has begun to emerge, soft fruit, a touch of tannin, with a little earthy tar. Still quite light in flavor and low in acidity [5/24].