Seppelt Tawny Port, Barossa Valley, Australia, Trafford D.P. 30, NV, VG-
Light and straightforward, but quite good for an inexpensive tawny. Not quite competitive with the Benjamin [11/08].
Barbaresco Red Barbaresco, Barbaresco, Riserva Che Storia, 1997, $10 VG-
Light, acidic, and typically woody on opening, this improved dramatically over several nights in a vacuum corked bottle, gaining dark fruit and earth to provide substantial balance and depth. I'm guessing this wine would benefit from more time in the bottle. Based on the labelling, I'm guessing this wine was produced by a commune. The bottle had an "Albeisa" stamp on it. [11/09].
Peachy Canyon Zinfandel, Paso Robles, Incredible Red Bin 112, 2001, $9 VG-
More substanial than last year's, and I think better, but otherwise classic Incredible Red [11/16].
Franciscan Zinfandel, Napa, Oakville Estate, 1998, $14 G+
Light, straightforward fruit overpowered by vanilla oak. Some time in the bottle improved the balance, but ultimately couldn't save this production. Disappointing considering the price [11/23].
Marquis Philips Shiraz, Mclaren Vale Australia, #9, 2001, Exc-
This is the essence of Australian Shiraz: generous mouthfilling berry fruit with smokey earth undertones. This is one of those wines that goes down slowly because each sip, each breath, is so satisfying. Thanks to Joe McCarthy for his generosity in sharing this with us [12/4].
Pope Valley Zinfandel, Napa, 1999, $10 VG-
Straight out of the bottle, peppery overtones overpowered the fruit, but time resting in the bottle softened the pepper and yielded a classically styled ``old school'' Zin like I haven't had in years. I'm gonna stash a few bottles and see what they're like in a year [12/14].
Charles Shaw Cabernet Sauvignon, California, 1999, G+
This Trader Joe's special has been all the rage. It's fine--real Cab and vanilla oak flavors with no unpleasant flavors--but it is two-dimensional and a bit over-oaked [12/21].
Spelletich Zinfandel, Amador, Alviso Vineyard, 2001, $20 VG+
With 12 months on American and French oak, 16% alcohol, and a relatively light color, I was pleasantly surprised to find sweet, focussed fruit tempered with a little vanilla. Not giant, but rather elegant. Not really a food wine per se, although it wasn't going to disagree with anything. It actually surprised me how well it went with asparagus and egg with a vinegar dressing. Might be suitable for aging [12/23].
Foxen Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley, 2000, $20 VG-
When served at a "traditional" temperature, this came across very green. As it warmed up, it became more balanced, showing lots of berry fruit and a touch of earth [12/24].
Burgess Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa, 1999, $30 VG+
Classic Cab, through and through. Superb balance between fruit and structure, with firm chocolate and earth undertones. If it were a little less restrained, it would have rated an excellent. I think its youth held it back [12/25].
Poca Vintage Port, Oporto, Portugal, 1997, VG
Very smooth and delicious, with full cherry fruit, pepper, and some structure to hold it together. Wonderful with Stilton cheese [12/25].
McDowell Syrah, Mendocino, 2000, $8 VG-
Really impressive. Well balanced, nice varietal fruit with some darkness, and a superb match with food [12/29].