Cline's bargain Zin has gone elegant over rustic. Not as bursting with fruit, and more tannic, but still a good everyday wine [1/17].
Thomas de Clairvillet Viognier, Vin de Pays Portes Mediterranee, 2003, VG
For a bargain Viognier, a surprisingly delightful blend of varietal fruit, racy acidity, and buttery oak [1/19].
Penfolds Tawny Port, South Australia, Club Reserve, NV, $7 VG
The Australian's once again show their mettle in dessert wines. This inexpensive Tawny is a real pleaser. Excellent balance between fruit and woody flavors, yielding caramel. If you pay three times as much, it won't be twice as good [1/19].
Borsao Red, Campo de Borja, 2003, $5 VG-
This was a hard wine to rate. It has an insane amount of flavor, bursting with fruit and earth. But it's also rather unbalanced, not in an unpleasant way, just not a great way [1/22].
Rosenblum Zinfandel, Paso Robles, Richard Sauret Vineyard, 2002, $13 VG+
Oh, my. Sweet, focussed berry fruits, an absolute delight. And what a bargain [2/10].
Ridge Zinfandel, Sonoma, Three Valleys, 2002, $14 VG
This Zin is a very elegant blend of Zinfandel, Carignane, Petite Sirah, and Mourvedre. The additional grapes add subtle structure and elegance without detracting from the gorgeous Zinfandel fruit. Lovely with grilled salmon. A great leap year wine [2/28]!
Lustau Sherry, Spain, East India Solera, NV, $18 Exc-
Amazing depth and complexity. A blend of dry Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez. Pruny, with a touch of orange and spicy wood. Dark flavors emerge when drank with sweets [3/1].
Nine Stones Shiraz, McLaren Vale, 2003, $10 VG
A class Australian Shiraz fruit bomb with lots of earth to hold it up. Not everyone's taste, but definitely tasty. Lacking in integration, it improved a day after opening [3/15].
Lustau Pedro Ximenez Sherry, Spain, San Emilio, NV, $18 VG+
Very sweet and thick, with very nice pruny flavors [3/18].
Solis Zinfandel, Santa Clara Valley, 2000, $6 G-
Light and undistinguished [3/19].
Mazzocco Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, Quinn Vineyard, 1998, $3 G
Quite a bargain for three bucks, but I won't be rushing back for more [3/22].
Gold Rush Zinfandel, Amador County, Old Vine, 2002, $6 G+
Made by Renwood for Trader Joe's, this is a pretty tasty wine, with lots of rustic fruit. Good enough to be an everyday wine and fine for noisy parties or barbeques. It does "feel" like a manipulated wine, though [3/24].
Trader Joe's Cabernet Franc, Sonoma, 2001, $5 VG-
The later batches of this wine, which I'm just finishing now, were not as good as the earlier ones. Most notably, the oak was not integrated into the wine, providing a clear vanilla overtone. The fruit was also lacking the darkness that the earlier batches had. Time in the bottle helped substantially in integrating and darkening the flavors [4/9].
Columbia Crest Merlot, Columbia Valley, Grand Estates, 2001, $7.99 VG
Very nice the first night, it bordered on stunning the third night, with rich, earthy fruit [4/17].
Perrin Red Rhone, Cotes du Rhone, Reserve, 2001, $7 G
Dry, earthy, but a little thin on the fruit, leaving a slightly acidic imbalance [4/20].
Columbia Crest Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Grand Estates, 2001, $7.99 VG
Impressive in its richness and balance. The major knocks are that the buttery oak is a little over the top, and that the wine is fairly mainstream [4/22].
Louis Jadot Red, Beaujolais-Villages, 2003, $7 VG-
I've never been a big fan of Beaujolais, but they said this vintage was different, and they're right! Structured fruit and earth, with hints of citrus. Nice with lighter dishes, but not a fading flower in the least [4/30].
Folie a Deux Menage a Trois, California, 2002, $7 G+
This red is a blend of Zin, Merlot, and Cab. Although it has lots of flavor, it tastes unidimensional, with simple fruit and vanilla oak flavors [5/2].
Pope Valley Sangiovese, Napa, 2000, VG-
This inexpensive classic Italian red grape is another animal here, with dark, full, and complex flavors. A super pleasure for the price [5/7].