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UNITED STATES
Author:  M.A. de la Mata
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Click on link below to go to wine type.
  GEWURZTRAMINERPINOT GRISRIESLINGSAUVIGNON BLANCSEMILLONOTHER WHITESCABERNET FRANCCABERNET SAUVIGNONMERLOTPINOT NOIRSYRAHZINFANDELOTHER REDSDESSERT



The rating System:  O - Orgasmic,  VHR - Very Highly Recommended, HR- Highly Recommended, R - Recommended, NR - Not Recommended, LC -Liquid Crap, ??? - I don't know about this one...




CHARDONNAY

1990 Chardonnay La Boheme, Elk Cove, OR.
This was a beautiful, and elegant wine with butterscotch and concentrated ripe canteloup flavors that followed through the finish.

1991 Semillon, L'Ecole #41, WA ($??)(Revisited 7/97).
  100% Semillon, barrel fermented, 6 months in oak, 13% Alc. By Vol., 750 ml bt.  Smoky vanilla aromas with a touch of herbal spice.  It feels lighter than I recall, and perhaps a bit simpler.  I think that signs of aging are setting in, thus drink now. R.

1992 Chardonnay, L'Ecole #41, WA.
This was one lush, plush and flavorful wine. Plenty of roundness, well balanced acidity with figs, cinnamon, melon and ripe pineapple. Extremely aromatic and profound in the finish. Did I find bliss in this wine?

1992 Chardonnay, Elk Cove, OR.
This is one smooth and well made Chardonnay from the Pacific North-West. It offers excellent tropical fruit character with seamless transitions between volatile and structural components never losing the grip on the essence of its namesake. Can't go wrong with this one. 

1992 Chardonnay Reserve, Estancia, California ($14.99). 
100% Chardonnay, aged in oak (period unknown).  It was a nice fleshy wine with very pronounced smoky oak flavors, if you like oak in your Char, this is a good one.  Fish, shellfish.

1992 Chardonnay, Groth Vineyards, California ($N/A).
This has to be among one of the top California Chardonnays ever to hit my palate. It offered clearly defined layers of ripe white fruit flavors with a very interesting finish, not unlike a good 1992 Saint Veran, but more concentrated and duller acidity.

1992 Chardonnay Willamette Valley, Evesham Wood, OR
. This is quite a nice effort from this tiny winery. It is unfiltered and lush, with butterscotch and peach flavors. An excellent match for veal, shrimp, lightly seasoned pork ("the other white meat"). 

1992 Chardonnay, Ventana Winery, Monterey ($9.99).
  100% Chardonnay, no wood aging?  Starts very light, with typical Chardonnay aromas of peaches.  In the palate its is light and simple, at least initially, with not much to it.  However, the finish is very nice and full, with lasting fruity feel.  Pasta. 

1992 Anderson Valley Chardonnay, Christine Woods, CA ($14.99). 
A different type of Chardonnay, specially appealing to those that love wood in their wine, lots of it.  Its aromas are of smoky, spicy bacon.  In the palate it is chewy and continues offering that distinct country ham/roasted pork flavor with no hint of wood at the beginning.  The finish turns into a 2x4 solid red pine.  Weird, but interesting. 

1993 Chardonnay, Plam, CA
. Another great value form Napa. It is a classic Chardonnay with vanilla-oak, subtle peach and clean butter scotch flavors. This is a great sipping wine. The other half of a perfectly affordable pair. 

1993 Evesham Wood Chardonnay, Oregon ($14.99). 
Perhaps the scare of the previous vintage with a bit much residual sugar gambled the opposite end result for this release.  The 1991 release is still in my mind (and my cellar), Russ’ best release yet, and perhaps one of the best ever Oregon Chardonnays. 

1994 Chardonnay Willamette Valley, and 1994 Estate Reserve Chardonnay, Evesham Wood, OR
. Both Chars are made with ripe Chardonnay grapes and fermented with his own yeast concoction (which are not commercially available in the U.S. any longer). These two are exemplary Pacific North-West Chars with clean, defined fruit flavors, and lasting finish. Both wines exhibit considerable weight in the palate with gentle roundness and fine concentration, with the Reserve being the most concentrated of the two.

1994 Chardonnay Willamette Vly., Evesham Wood, Oregon ($16.99). 
100% Chardonnay, barrel fermented, aged in French oak barrels, and fined with egg whites.  Rich and round, very much in the same manner as his best ever, the 1991 release.  It offers melon and pear flavors with intermingled notes of citrus and honey, very well balanced and, if tasted blindly, a hell of a Montrachet!  Enjoy by it self or with clams, halibut. 

1994 Chardonnay Reserve, Seven Springs Vineyard, Evesham Wood, Oregon  ($25.99)
.  100% Chardonnay, barrel fermented in French oak barrels, and fined with egg whites.  This is Evesham Wood’s first release of a the Seven Springs vineyard  Chardonnay as a single vineyard varietal.  The wait was worth it.  It is layered with delicate nuances of mint, camellia and lavender.  Deeply floral and aromatic, with a lasting and complex finish that does not rely in the ripe banana flavors so typical of Napa Valley equivalents.  Tuna Spring Rolls. 

1994 Chardonnay, Plam, CA, $9.99**. 
100% Chardonnay, 3 month in French oak.  This is a typical California Chardonnay with fine and round palate feel that emulates its aromas to perfection.  Good peachy and tropical fruit flavors with a medium finish that emphasizes fruit and a hint of cotton candy.  Best with creamy soups. 

1994 Chardonnay Walla-Walla Valley, Waterbrook, WA ($17.99)**. 
100% Chardonnay, 100% barrel fermented to 100% complete malolactic, 7 months in new, 1 and 2 year-old French oak, with 2.5 months Sur Lie.  I have had this wine for a short time before I ventured this week to pop the cork and gauge if it really was as good as the press claimed (although it is my own brand, I reserve the right to make the final decision for my own taste).  Elegant and fragrant nose, with balanced palate richly textured with layers of flavors.  Very long and exotic finish.  It is indeed as good as the press claims, and perhaps better.  It represents a piece of Americana from a region none other than Washington.  California, eat your heart out!  Does this wine remind you of Sonoma Cutrer?…For 30% less money?…And available in Stores?  Highly recommended with caviar topped pate de foi-gra on sour-dough toast. 

1994 Chardonnay, Martz Vineyards, Mendocino, CA ($12.99)
.  100% Chardonnay, barrel fermented and 4 months aging in French oak on the leess.  Very elegant aromas of melon and pear.  In the palate is a bit light, but flavorful.  It offers nice fig, honey, vanilla and pineapple flavors that last in a medium finish.  Recommended.  Shellfish, fish, chicken. 

1994 Chardonnay Estate Reserve, Mayo Family, Sonoma ($??)(7/97). 
100% Chardonnay, unknown wood aging period, 13% Alc. By Vol., 750 ml bt.  Pungent nose with generous and obvious oak tones.  In the palate it displayed heaviness, with evident oak, smoke, residual sugar and acidity.  The finish although long, is a bit alcoholic and unbalanced.  This type of wine will be very popular in our market if available, yet not a style that I personally enjoy. ???

1994 Chardonnay, Wild Horse, CA ($15.99)(7/97).
  100% Chardonnay, unknown wood aging/fermentation period, 12.5% Alc. By Vol., 750 ml.  A typical "cookie-cutter" CA Chardonnay, simple, with the usual smoky, oaky, sugary palate feel disguising the fruit to a meager hint in the finish.  R, although for the price you can do better with Burgundy, Argentina, or Chile.

1995 Chardonnay Clonal Selection, Willamette Valley, Elk Cove, Oregon  ($16.99). 
100% Chardonnay, Dijon Espigette, barrel-fermented, and aged for 6 months in French oak.  A very nice effort, with tangerine and butterscotch aromas that follow in the palate.  It offers just a touch of oak flavor with smoky hints, good balance, and a creamy lingering long finish.  Very elegant and well made, pointing out the trend of Oregon Char, which is moving away from the excessively gamy Char style and toward a more Burgundy alike style than California.  The problem with this wine is its marketability at the price offered.  It cuts right through the mid-section of equivalent California offerings that are backed with tremendous amounts of cash and marketing personnel, thus its market presence is difficult to maintain at both levels, distributor and retailer/restaurateur.   Recommended.  Creamy soups and steamed shellfish. 

1995 Chardonnay O.F.S., De Loach, Sonoma ($??).
  100% Chardonnay with evident wood aging of unknown length.  Smoky nose with creamy and peachy notes.  Fruitful palate, complexly layered, with fleshy feel, and a woody and smoky long and pleasant finish.  A hell of a Chardonnay in anyone’s book.  Highly Recommended.  Veal, but not with bad risotto. 

1995 Chardonnay, Peterson, Dry Creek** ($18.99). 
100% Chardonnay, 6 months in French oak barrels barrels (Very limited availability - NC Allocation 14 cases. Scavenger Hunt Hint: on-premise).  Rich smoky and fruity aromas, a very typical premium California Chardonnay.  It is elegant and complex in the mouth with a lingering papaya and tropical fruit finish. Recommended.  Seafood, veal and pasta. 

1995 Chardonnay Cottonwood Creek, Waterbrook, WA ($16.99)**.
100% Chardonnay, 100% barrel fermented to 100% complete malolactic, 7 months in new, 1 and 2 year-old French oak, with 2.5 months Sur Lie.  This wine is the bottled replica of their 1994 release, but with significantly higher concentration and an even longer finish.  It also offers a lingering citrus flavor that is just delicious.  Complex and age-worthy.  Try it with blue crab bique.  Highly recommended. 

1995 Chardonnay, Mission View, Paso Robles, CA ($8.99).  
100% Chardonnay, some wood aging?.  Not my favorite style.  It is concentrated and a bit oxidized.  The finish resembles the aftertaste of emesis.  Kibbles ‘n Bits. 

1995 Chardonnay Columbia Valley, L’Ecole #41, Lowden WA ($19.99)**.
  100% Chardonnay, 100% barrel fermented unknown type of wood, unknown yeast type, for unknown period Sur Lie.  This release is one of the best, if not the best I have ever had from L’Ecole.  I have vineyard-designated Mersaults in my portfolio that will cost you double the price of this wine, yet do not have much more to offer than L’Ecole’s does.  True to French character and terroir.  Of course, Marty please do not rise the prices again after the reviews come in, since the beauty of this is that at least we have a category in America that can match the best in Burgundy, yet it costs you half.  Recommended with leek soup, crab filled clams. 

1995 Chardonnay Columbia Valley, Waterbrook, WA, $10.99**.
  100% Chardonnay, with 50% malolactic fermentation, 6 months in oak barrels with 2 months "sur lie".  Another fantastic wine from a winery apparently started by wheat farmers.  It is full, complex and rich with banana-peach flavors and aromas that culminate in a long vanilla-pear finish.  This wine has been voted among the top 100 Best Wines, and among the top 10 best values for 1996 by the Wine Molestator magazine.  Best with crepes, steamed mussles, oysters, and grilled fish. 

1995 Chardonnay Bandeira , Sonoma ($??).
  100% Chardonnay with evident wood aging, but of unknown length of aging.  This was a nice little Char, with the typical butterscotch and peach flavors of California Char.  A short finish, but pleasant.  If under $12.00, a fine finding.  Seafood and pasta.  Recommended. 
 

GEWURZTRAMINER 
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1993 Washington Gewurztraminer, Hoodsport Winery, WA.
This and old reliable and one of my personal favorites from this tiny winery on the Hood canal in WA. State. It shows the typical gewurz spice and white fruit flavors without being overpowering. Once more, a bi tof spritziness and a bit of residual sugar add a touch of palatability to the wine. The wines are not sweet, however, the alcohol and a less than 1% residaul sugar make it feel that way. 

1993 Gewurztraminer, Elk Cove, OR (12/95). 
This wine delivers true leachy nut, pecan and spice flavors and bouquet. The ideal match for Gewurztraminer is...Indian (as in the country) food. 

1993 Gewurztraminer, Elk Cove, Oregon. ($14.99) (5/96)
. Although not as concentrated as my bench mark Gewurtz, 1983 Dopffs Gewurzt, Alsace, France, it is way up there in flavor, authenticity and value. To put it in a perspective that you may understand if you have had a chance to taste other Gewurzts from Alsace, it offers more Gewurzt flavor, concentration and potency than the very highly rated 1992 Zind Humbrecht for half the price. As far as aging potential, it is difficult to assess if one would out last the other. The Elk Cove Gewurzt was perfectly paired with a Roquefort-endive salad. It was heavenly… 

1994 Gewurztraminer Exceptional, Willamette Valley, Elk Cove, Oregon  ($14.99). 
100% Gewurztraminer, barrel fermented.  Unfortunately, this wine sucks.  It is uncharacteristic of their previous truly Alsatian style, perhaps one of the best around.  Although the palate was impeccable and easily mistaken for a grand imported Gewurzt, it offered sweaty, steamy, cheesy flavors that were, although passable, undesirable and out of character.  I was surprised to see a rating in the mid 80’s from  the  Wine Molestor  for this wine.  That goes to show you how much do those dudes know once you take them out of the Big California Cab arena.  Not recommended. 

1995 Gewurztraminer, Hoodsport, WA, $8.99**.
  100% Gewurztraminer, no wood aging.  One of the best values in Gewurtz available in our market.  It is far from the varietal unlike character of many domestic Gewurtzs.  It is made in the true Alsatian style of dryness and flavors.  It is spicy and flavorful, as Gewurtz should be.  Best with blackened fish and shellfish dishes and Indian cuisine. 

1996 Gewurztraminer Early Harvest, De Loach Sonoma ($??).
  100% Gewurztraminer.  A light-bodied quaffing white wine, although one-dimensional and completely devoid of Gewurzt character (I think that I found another varietal to jump on CA’s chops here).  Perhaps   the  "Early Harvest"  took place too early, thus no Gewurzt character was harvested at the time.  Why call it Gewurtz ??? 

PINOT GRIS   
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1993 Pinot Gris, Elk Cove, Oregon.  
This is truly an excellent example made from the Tokay Gris grape and without wood aging. It is flavorful, with figs, grape and citrus flavors that persist through a very delightfully long finish. For those of you that love the taste of Pinot Grigio, but complain about the lack of concentration and the finish you will find that the Pinot Gris will fulfill the void that cheap Pinot Grigios can't. Try it, there is no monogamy when it comes to wines...do them ALL! Hey, you may find something you really like...but only if you go out on a limb... 

1993 Pinot Gris Willamette Valley, Evesham Wood.
This was a pleasant surprise (upon opening the pallet). It seems that I always have a vague idea of what is coming from Evesham Wood. I know that I will not be disappointed quality-wise, but I do not know how much I will get, or as in this case what I was getting. However, eureka!!! this is an excellent example of the wines that the Pacific Northwest is raving about. It has depth, character, complexity and good fruit. Further, I am not afraid to say that his is perhaps the best Oregon Pinot Gris I have ever tasted. This wine is an excellent match for scallops, oysters, clams and lobster. Just boil them critters, add some lemon, a bottle of this beautiful Pinot Gris, and of course your significant other across a candle-lit table...Hey! I brought the wine, the rest is up to you.  

1994 Pinot Gris Willamette Valley, Evesham Wood, OR.
This wine is what I consider "the best" American-made Pinot Gris. It is perfumed and elegant, delicate and pleasant, long finish with complex fruit and floral tones. Our allocation is 4 cases (1 goes to my cellar).

1995 Pinot Gris, Elk Cove, Oregon ($14.99)
.  100% Tokay D’Alsace, no wood.  Another great Pinot Gris from Elk Cove.  Deeply floral, and generously round, with a lasting finish, well structured and complex.  Their Pinot Gris keep gaining popularity as Chardonnay drinkers start searching for other things to drink.  Lobster, soft shell crab, oysters, clams. 

1995 Pinot Gris Willamette Vly., Evesham Wood, Oregon ($13.99). 
100% Tokay D’Alsace, no wood aging.  Truly Alsatian in style with minty, spicy flavor and aromas that follow in a long finish.  It is generous and possesses great weight and body.  Not recommended for the faint palate, nor CSS (Chardonnay Sucking Society) members.  Heavier seafood, clam chowder, chicken and pork dishes. 

1996 Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, Elk Cove, Oregon ($14.99). 
100% Pinot Gris, cold fermented in stainless steel, no wood aging.  This is wine worth seeking.  It has nice floral and fruity aromas along the lines of pear and peach with a touch of spice.  In the palate it offers good weight, roundness, and texture with fleshy fruit and a bit of sweetness that lingers through a long finish.  If you liked their 1995 release (obviously many did, since our sales numbers for Pinot Gris were record high for that vintage), I would recommend that you snatch up as much as you can of this vintage. The 1995 vintage sold out 5 months before the release of their 1996, an unprecedented event.  Indeed, the 1996 release is their best ever, and perhaps one of the finest American-made Pinot Gris,, with the exception of Evesham Wood’s.  Highly Recommended.  Best with seafood, salmon, grilled chicken and pastas. 

RIESLING  
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1991 Johanisberg Riesling, Hoodsport Winery, WA.
An excellent American-made wine with true German style and a peasant's price. Good concentration, spice and ripe flavors dominate this wine. Some roundness and a slight hint of residual sugar make it ideal for lightly seasoned dishes such as salmon, trout, squab.
 

1994 Riesling, Hoodsport Winery, WA
. Another bargain from Hoodsport. It is fruity and flavored in line with the varietal leaving a delicious impression on your palate. It is a bit-tiny-whinny sweet in the finish, which makes it just right for seafood dishes. 

1994 Riesling "KGB Select", Topolos, Sonoma
. The aromas are those of spicy-tarry Riesling with grapy nuances finely complimenting the sweet almond background. Once in your palate, this wine's depth and complexity, coupled with its unmistakably Riesling flavor, will make many friends, among those who dare, leave Chardonnay aside for just 1 night. Try it with shellfish or pastas.

SAUVIGNON BLANC 
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1994 Sauvignon Blanc Russian River, Topolos, 500 cases made ($10.99).
This is a rich and beautiful example of organically produced Sauvignon Blanc. Intense, multi-layered and crisp with grassy notes and citrus finish. Unfortunately, I did not listen to him when he said it was his best ever (I hear that so many times a day, that when somebody is telling you the truth and without sampling the wine, it barely phases you). All I purchased was 5 cases. It is all gone from the warehouse floor. However, we are bringing more in about one month time. I am not sure if it will be the 1994 or the even more exciting 1995 release. Exciting because it is very much the same, but with the added bonus of having 20% of the blend aged in French oak. Michael promises that early tastings have evidenced an even more complex Sauvignon Blanc than he anticipated, and than the previous 1994 release. It took me nearly five years to find an American-made Sauvignon Blanc that is worthy of my portfolio, and this one is it, Eureka! 

1995 Sauvignon Blanc, Waterbrook Winery, WA ($11.99). 
This is a solid piece of Americana.  It is delicious, fruity, round and with enough fruit to satisfy a monkey.  It is barrel-fermented in the very American style.  It has roundness, weight and a complex long finish. Try this wine with pan seared shrimp and scallops and basil/lemon. 

1995 Sauvignon Blanc, Hoodsport Winery, WA ($9.99).   
100% Sauvignon Blanc, no wood aging.  This is a crisp and refreshing Sauvignon Blanc with power, depth and interesting herbal flavors.  It offers a complex nose of cool mint, thyme, all spice with a palate that emphasizes, fruit and the Sauvignon Blanc character of herbs.  The finish is long a tasty with intense spearmint and cinnamon flavors.  This wine is not unlike $14,00 Sancerres in our market, thus a bargain!  Ideal with pumpkin seed and shrimp soup. 

1996 Sauvignon Blanc, Prima Di Martino, CA ($??).
  100% Sauvignon Blanc and unknown wood aging period, although evident. Woody-creamy aroma, almost Chardonnay-like.  Good acidity and clean palate feel, although one-dimensional.  Quite bitter palate finish and lacking Sauvignon Blanc character.  Not Recommended. 
 

SEMILLON 
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1994 Semillon, Hoodsport Winery, WA
. This Pacific North-West winery keeps putting out these delicious white wines at an incredibly low price. If you are looking for a bargain try this one. 

1994 Semillon, L’Ecole #41, WA.
Fuller than L’Ecole’s previous releases with more roundness and fruit. This is a full and muscular white wine that can be drunk now or in 3 years. This is another wine which I consider among the very best, if not the best Semillon varietal offered from an American winery.

1994 Semillon, L’Ecole #41, Winery, Washington ($17.00) Revisited.
This is a new vintage arrival to the warehouse. I briefly tasted the wine during Christmas, as it got of the truck. With the rush of the holiday season, I did not have a chance to stop and appreciate this wine. At the time, it tasted similar to Marty’s previous releases. However, after settling down for a few months, and unfortunately after my allocation is almost gone, I tasted the wine again. This is without a question, the best Semillon that Mr. Clubb has ever sold me, possibly made, and undoubtedly the best American-made one. It is generous with its fruit and flavors. The finish is long and results in sweet and vanillin flavors emanating from the back of your palate. As I mention on the section regarding yeast (part III), this is a prefect example of a bone-dry wine that because of the alcohol (13.8%++) level and type(s), gives you the impression of light sweetness. The trick is to mesh that alcohol in with the rest of the wine’s character, thus giving it distinction and elegance. May be, "it’s in the wood..." 

1995 Semillon, L’Ecole (notice spelling) #41, Washington ($14.99).
  100% Semillon, with barrel fermentation and subsequent maturation on the lees for 6 months.  Just arrived and in very tight supply.  A full and robust white, as always a "Great White".  This vintage release offers more fruit in the nose with a creamy vanilla touch.  In the palate it is balanced, with more ripe peach flavors and a bit of residual sugar, something that was never achieved in the past.  It is big, yet elegant and enjoyable for the next 5 to 6 years, if not longer.  Salmon, smoked rainbow trout stuffed with bacon and cheese. 
 

OTHER WHITES/ROSE 
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N/V Rhubarb, Hoodsport Winery, WA.
YES! Rhubarb wine. If you do not like white Zinfandel, you will love this wine. It is made from rhubarb, 100%. It is fermented and bottled. It looks nearly shocking pink, and tastes a hell of a lot better than any white Zinfandel I have ever tried. In fact, in a blind tasting it beat Santion's Dry Zinfnadel by a mile. It is off-dry style with nice fruitiness. A great wine for the beach, mountains, camping, cooking out and any other informal ocassion you may want to use it for.
 

1994 Conundrum, Caymus Vineyards, California ($17.00 -$20.00+ ?)
. This wine is a blend of several grape varietals, some claim 4 some claim 5. I have been asking around, and nobody seems to know precisely which varietals are utilized in the making of this wine. By the label’s fermentation description, as well as the taste and feel, I venture to say that Chardonnay, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc are part of it. Riesling and/or Gewurztraminer seem to be present because of the spicy and tarry character, although I have been told that Viognier is part of the final blend in later releases. The Viognier would explain the spicy part. At any rate, the wine was excellent and complex. 

CABERNET FRANC  
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1991 Cabernet Franc, Nelson, Sonoma ($18.99). 
90% Cabernet Franc, 10% Merlot, unknown wood aging period.  This wine offered very little in the way of aromas and flavors.  It may be its youth, or it may never open up.  I had to try quite hard to find a defined character and flavor.  A positive aspect of this wine is that although its Cabernet Franc, it did not offer the typical bell pepper flavors of poorly made ones.  May want to wait a few years and see if it opens up. 

1994 Cabernet Franc, Iron Horse, California ($13.99).
This was one potent wine years away from being ready. It was opulent and concentrated, with spearmint tonalities and a licorice finish. Tannin were powerful and balanced with plenty of acidity. Try it with a T-bone.

1994 Cabernet Franc Shooting Star, Steele, California ($12.59).
This was a bit richer and bit better balanced than the Iron Horse above. However, the flavors were unmistakably Cabernet Franc and California. Heavily extracted with a lasting finish and in serious need of some bottle aging. Another T-bone match.

CABERNET SAUVIGNON  
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1978 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Simi Alexander Valley btl # 2762.
This was a gamey and earthy wine with velvety tannins, soft fruit, long finish with very firm acidity. I found this wine to be similar to Portteus 1990 Cabernet Sauvignon in character, but significantly lighter, due to the age difference. If the fruit level remains (which I doubt), this wine may actually improve over the next few years.

1980 Cabernet Sauvignon, Mt. Veeder, CA ($??). 
Cabernet Sauvignon and, likely small amounts of either Merlot and/or Cabernet Franc with nice wood aging.  Earthy, and ready to drink.  Olive aromas that follow in the palate with complex creamy, plum and spice flavors.  Long finish with soft tannin.  Fully open and ready.  If you got ‘em - drink ‘em.  Highly Recommended.  Best with duck l’orange. 

1981 Cabernet Sauvignon, Groth, Napa
. Another tired old dude. Perhaps one year ago this wine may have been the talk of the tasting, but today it was not. Pitch 'em if you got 'em.

1982 Cabernet Sauvignon, Jordan, Alexander Valley.
This bottle was an excellent gesture from my friend Harry (the nicest guy, particularly after we share a few bottles). Unfortunately, we either had a bad bottle, or the wine was way over the hill. I have seen where this wine was stored upon purchase, and it was not a cellaring problem (Harry is even nicer to his wines). There was a meager trace of fruit which was overshadowed by alcohol, tannins and obvious/copious oxidation. The wine improved a bit after being open for 1 hour, but we could not get ourselves to finish the damned bottle. This brings several questions to mind, Do California big Cabernet Sauvignon wines age graciously for more than 15 years? if not, why not? is it the low acidity?, perhaps, technique? I have had some older California Cabs which are very good, but in so far the dogs take the credit. Is that what French wine makers are eluding to when they call American wines "Ketchup"? Prevailing among older, big name, California Cabs recently tasted, by older I mean 1978, 1979, 1982...(not that old), was a watered-down feeling in the palate and a lack of umpf! in the finish, flatness, etc. Big names, big wines and big prices when they are young, but do they have the stamina to last that extra mile? the very long aging mile, that is. 

1984 Cabernet Sauvignon, Burgess, CA.
This wine is ready to drink. Beautiful earthy and mineral aromas emanated from the glass. It was abundant and wholesome in the palate with cassis, spearmint, black currant and earthy flavors. Drink ‘em if you got ‘em. 

1986 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley-cuvee, Caymus , Napa ($NA).
One tight wine, opened perhaps 6 years too early. Focused minty-spearmint flavors with a streak of intense blueberry, tannic as hell. The tannins should melt away given time allowing the fruit to evolve. 

1986 Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Vly., Silver Oak, CA
. Opulent, fragrant wine. I am only sorry that I followed the benefactor’s (R. Miller) recommendation and opened it now instead of 3 to 5 years from now. If you have them, wait for at least two more years.

1990 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa, Markham, CA.
This is an excellent example of Bordeaux look-alike from California. It felt pretty much like a tight Ch Meney. It was very well balanced, with soft tannin, earthy/mineral tones and a minty long finish. Recommended. 

1990 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Reserve, Portteus vineyards, Washington, Revisited ($28.00).
A bottle of this magnificent wine surfaced at a dinner recently. What a wonderful unknown! I am yet to taste a Cabernet from Washington, and/or California that matches the weight and concentration that this wine offers, although Caterina’s Cab comes close. It is rich and full of flavors such as tobacco, licorice, figs, coffee and ripe blackberry. It is unctuous, not elegant but a mouthful that screams WHERE IS THE MEAT! Just as I remember it. 

1991 Cabernet Sauvignon L'Ecole #41
. What a wine! It is well made and refined . Powerful as the 1990 with good extract, well balanced and beautifully structured, the essence of Cabernet. You should wait at least 5 years before popping the cork on this baby.

1991 Cabernet Sauvignon, Martz Vineyards, Mendocino, CA ($16.99).
  100% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20 months in American & French oak barrels.  It has a beautiful aroma of ripe raspberry, creamy strawberry and plum.  It is generous and balanced in the palate with cassis, Mendocino terroir, and earthy finish that lasts for several minutes.  I have tasted many big name Cabs lately, all similar, but at $4.00 to $8.00 more per bottle.  Hearty beef dishes. 

1992 Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma, B.R. Cohn ($9.99)
.  A bit closed-in in the nose.  The palate is spicy and fruity, with an alcoholic middle and a long creamy finish.  Recommended. 

1992 Cabernet Sauvignon, Maacamas Creek, CA ($14.99). 
100% Cabernet Sauvignon, with an unknown period in oak.  A hell of a wine! Particularly for the price.  It is complex, with velvety soft tannin and a very long cassis loaded finish.  Highly recommended.  Beef 

1992 Cabernet Sauvignon, Paradigm, Napa ($??). 
  100% Cabernet Sauvignon? (I, maybe mistakenly, detect some Cabernet Franc in the blend), unknown wood aging period.  It offers a nice nose of wild berries and roasted coffee.  It has a deep purple color evidencing its youth.  In the palate it has a medium weight with firm tannin and a heady feel full of fruit.  It must age for another 3 years, although acidity is very low.  The only concern that I have is with a bitter finish, similar to when you bite into a burned grilled piece of meat.  It could be for one of two reasons, excessive sulfites, or a bitter tannin that will likely subside in the next couple of years.  Grilled tenderloin. 

1992 Martin Ray Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.
I opened a bottle of this wine during our "leap of faith" party last July 1, 1995. It has a deep and complex aroma of fruit, and peppermint with overtones of camphor and oak. In the palate, this wine may very well be the most elegant American-made Cabernet Sauvignon that I have ever tasted. It is delicately balanced with fine tannin and good acidity, thus asurring its longevity. It posseses a myriad of flavors seamless layered to a euphemeric finish that is clean, powerfull, yet elegant. Truly Exceptional!

1992 Plam Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.
This wine is a monster with an appealing label. It is tighlyt packed with bountyfull fruit and tannin. The finish will stick around for several minutes. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of it to go around, so if you see it on display, grab it. It is a wine that will sort the many things it is packing sometime within the next 10 years. Definetly a cellar selection.

1992 Cabernet Sauvignon Plam California ($9.99).
This is a very good value from California's Napa Valley. It is tasty, fruity and straight forward. The quarterly review of Wines magazine rates this as an excellent wine of exemplary character and quality - a bench mark of its type. This wine will require another 6 months of bottle ageing. 

1992 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa, Pine Ridge, CA.
Very little nose with a restrained palate perhaps due to its youth. It did not say much to me. The mid-palate showed hints of a Nutrasweet-like flavor. Perhaps some time will allow it to develop, although I doubt it.

1992 Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Vly., Caterina, WA.
Unctuous fruit, fully open and ready to drink. Low acidity and excellent ripe fruit, chocolate and licorice flavors. A big Cab from a tiny winery. Do it!

1992 Cabernet Sauvignon, Kendal Jackson, Sonoma
. This winery makes very popular Chardonnays for a variety of palates. However, with this Cabernet the thought that this winery should stick to Chardonnay is very strongly reinforced. Don't even think about it.

1992 Cabernet Sauvignon, L'Ecole #41, WA.
Typical of the Portteus vineyard in the Columbia Valley. It is unfiltered, rich, concentrated, opulent, complex, and almost unctuous. What do you do with a wine like this?…Pair it with the biggest damned piece of meat you can find, season it well and feast up! (you may not want to call your acquaintances over, only your best friends).

1992 Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma, Leeward, CA
. After tasting so many Cabernets, I felt compelled to taste the Leeward once more. This wine is a beast! It should age well for another 10 years. Tannin are still quite powerful. Quite flavorful and with a lasting finish of spicy oak, blackberry, and mint. Try it with beef dishes.

1992 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa, Joseph Phelps, CA.
Beautiful and elegant Cab with aging potential. It offers plenty of spicy fruit up-front, in the middle and in the finish. A bit tannic in the finish, but nothing that a few years in the bottle won’t take care of. Recommended.

1992 Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards Estate Reserve, Napa, CA
. It was difficult to assess this wine after La Mission. A perfumed nose of floral quality with a palate of the same character was predominant. Several layers of flavors enhanced the wine and helped its finish. It was almost sweet. I recommend this wine, although it is not one of my favorite styles.

1992 Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma Vly., Kunde, Sonoma ($NA).
Earthy-mineral nose with little fruit aroma. Tannic with mint and camphor flavors. Earthy finish with casis notes, a bit alcoholic. Very long finish - Very good overall. 

1992 Cabernet Sauvignon, Turnbull, Napa ($18.99). 
Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, unknown wood aging period.  Spicy aromas with ripe fruit and cassis.  It is a solid Cab with dense tannin and minty flavors that persist in a very long finish.  Recommended.  Beef, Tandoory lamb. 

1992 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Stevenot, Calaveras County,  CA ($13.99). 
Cabernet Sauvignon, although there seems to be a bit of Merlot and Cabernet Franc in the blend.  Wood aging evident, yet unknown length.  A fine cassis nose with spice and blueberry.  In the palate, this wine has the feel of a nice very Listrac-Medoc Cru Bourgeois with depth, balanced tannin and very elegant weight and finish.  It will definitely become a good addition to anybody’s 5 year cellar shelf, and at a great price too!  Highly recommended.  Blackened fish, filet mignon. 

1992 Cabernet Sauvignon, Seavey, Napa ($??).
  92 % Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, 8 months in oak barrels.  Quite nice aromas of spice, and red ripe fruit.  It offers a palate comparable to very nice unclassified Margaux red, with a long and elegant finish.  This is a wine worth getting and either drinking now or setting aside for between 5 and 8 years.  Seavey was the wine maker for the Grace Family Vineyards winery, some of the most fantastic wines made in California and always eluding the NC market.  Here is your chance to taste something very similar.  Recommended.  Steak, duck, wild boar. 

1992 Cabernet Sauvignon, Philip Togni, California ($??). 
Cabernet Sauvignon and perhaps a bit of Cab. Franc?, unknown type of wood/period of barrel aging.  Another mind-boggling, huge  New World-styled Cabernet Sauvignon.  Big aromas of berries and licorice with velvety smooth tannin and rich palate feel.  Weight, depth and finish make this one of the best Cabs of 1997, so far.  Match it with red meat!  Wait another 5 years.  Courtesy of Paul W. 

1992 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley, Silver Oak, Napa ($??)(8/97).
  Cab. Sauv., unknown wood aging period, 12.5% Alc. By Vol., 750 ml.  Smoky, and deep red fruit aromas.  Elegant, delicate, yet powerful, with figs, tarragon, and spicy berry flavors.  Long elegant and balanced finish.  This wine will age very well indeed for the next 15 years.  Beef.  O.

1992 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Plam, Napa ($39.99)(8/97).
  100% Cab. Sauv, 16 months in oak American/French, 13.5% Alc. By Vol., 750 ml.  Very aromatic with spicy cab fruit and cream.  Round  palate with wholesome fruit, rich and deep.  Best with beef.  VHR.

1993 Cabernet Sauvignon, Ventana Winery, California ($9.99). 
Cabernet Sauvignon and possibly some Merlot and Cabernet Franc.  A light weight wine not quite defined and lacking focus, character and finish.  Not recommended. 

1993 Cabernet Sauvignon (50% Napa-50% Sonoma), Topolos, Sonoma
. This is an interesting blend of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. It offers medium body, balanced acidity, medium-soft tannins and the typical Topolos' give-away spearmint presence in the palate. The fruit is unrestrained and follows through in the palate with hints of dry figs and casis. This wine is a bargain folks. (This does not mean that you should increase the price Michael). Try this one with a roast or grilled steak.

1993 Cabernet Sauvignon, Waterbrook Winery, WA ($26.99). 
A classic and from Washington state of all places.  Minuscule amounts of this fine "BIG RED" are available in our market, so go seek!  Balanced tannin and acidity, with generous blackberry and coffee tones.  Long lasting finish.  Try it with roasted pork loin with red wine and-mushrooms sauce. 

1993 50% Cabernet Sauvignon/50% Cabernet Franc, Williamsburg Winery, VA ($??). 
Very nice aromas of ripe currants and cassis.  Good weight in the palate with the aromas following through the finish.  If under $10.00 a good value. 

1994 Cabernet Sauvignon, Biltmore Estate, NC ($??).
Nice aromas of currants and cherry fruit.  Closed in palate, quite a bit young and with a deep aspirin flavored finish.  Not recommended. 

1993 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Mondavi, Napa ($??)(7/97). 
91% Cab Sauv, 6% Merlot, 3% Cab Franc,  months in oak, 13% Alc. By Vol., 750 ml bt.  Interesting aromas of green, spicy fruit.  Light in the palate with obvious tannin content, and medium finish.  It needs to age.  ???

1994 Cabernet Sauvignon, Plam, CA, $9.99**.
  100% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1 year in French oak.  Beautifully made, on the lighter side of the spectrum with fine Cab character and flavors that last in a long finish, even some cassis hints…and for this price! Great with fowl, and grilled red meats. 

1994 Legacy, Stonestreet, Alexander Vly, CA ($??)
. (Courtesy of Mr. Paul W.)85% Cab Sauv, 9% Merlot, 6% Cab Franc/Petite Verdot, unknown wood aging period and type, 13.5% Alc. By Vol., 750 ml bt. Lavender and sweet cherry aromas, quite nice and pretty. In the palate it displayed nice weight and thoroughness, yet very little fruit was evident, and perhaps the result of being quite young. The finish was medium in length, with firm acidity and soft tannin. I will have to wait an see how it develops over the next 5 years. ??

1994 Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley, Waterbrook, WA ($24.99)**.
  90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, from Portteus, Klipsun & Gordon Brothers Vineyards, fermented 8 days on the skins, 100% complete Malolactic fermentation, 24 months in new, 1 and 2 year-old 50% French and 50% American oak barrels, fining - egg whites, bottled 8/1995.  This is a very elegant wine,  and along the lines of a very good 5th to 4th  growth in Haut-Medoc (if there is such a thing).  Waterbrook’s exhibits fine tannin and clean/elegant feel in the palate.  A very rare quality in U.S.-made Cabs, and a quality to learn from.  I can taste the soil, the grapes, and the Washington environment in this fine Cab, with a very long finish and without wiping the skin off of my teeth.  Congratulations on very well done job Waterbrook.!!  Wait 5 to 8 more years. 

1994 Cabernet Sauvignon Bradford Mountain, Peterson, Dry Creek** ($28.99). 
90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 16 months in small French oak barrels (Very limited availability - NC Allocation 28 cases. Scavenger Hunt Hint: on-premise).  Clean and elegant aromas hinting at a nice Haut-Medoc, or perhaps St. Estephe.  In fact, this wine reminds me of the 1990 Ch Potensac or 1989 Ch Moucaillou quite a bit. Fleshy palate with much to offer after 45 minutes of swirling.  Complex and spice-filled, with elegant and fine tannin and several layers of flavors from lush fruit to licorice and vanilla, all seamless and in harmony.  Very long finish.  Highly Recommended.  Beef, Lamb.  Wait three to five years. 

1994 Affinity, Robert Craig, Napa ($??)(8/97).
  Blend of Cab Sauv, Merlot and Cab Franc, unknown wood aging period, red table wine-no Alc. By Vol. written on bt, 750 ml.  Very little aromas, closed in. Rich and heavy palate, tannic, yet lacking a defined blend character, with very low acidity.  Most guessed Petite Syrah/Syrah, I guessed Cab Franc since blend is not written on the bottle.  Medium finish with chocolate and spicy notes.  It may improve over the next 2 to 3 years. I have to disagree with Wine Spectator on this one.  I just couldn’t find a justification for a score in the mid 90’s as given by the publication.  The wine lacked significant definition and offered almost one-dimensional character that I doubt will ever progress to any splendor or beauty.  Were we drinking the same wine as WS?  Beef.  ??

1994 Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville Ranch, Napa ($??).
  Cab Sauv, unknown wood aging period, 13.0% Alc. By Vol., 750 ml.  Minty aromas with cassis.  Tight, a bit green and sappy, good underlying fruit structure.  Drunk way too young.  It will improve over the next 4 years.  Beef. HR.

1995 Cabernet Sauvignon, Bandeira, Sonoma ($??). 
Cabernet Sauvignon and perhaps some Merlot and Cabernet Franc, unknown wood aging period.  A correct Cab with the right spicy and fruity aromas.  In the palate it displays nice fruit and a bit mint with the vanilla from the oak aging.  Medium length finish, with pleasant chocolate and spice notes.  Beef.  Recommended. 
 

MERLOT  
   BACK TO THE TOP

1992 Merlot, L'Ecole #41, Washington. 
It blew every other Merlot out of the water. In one tasting it was the top scorer. In the other tasting it was the top seller, outpacing two very expensive Bordeaux, and one very expensive and reputable California Merlot. This current release from L'Ecole #41 although lighter than the 1990 (according to Martin, the wine maker), is still a big, rich and full-bodied ball-busting wine. The wine ain't cheap, but it is for those people that want only the best! Washington State continues to excell. 

1992 Merlot, Alexander Valley, Alexander Valley, CA ($12.99).
  100% Merlot, unknown wood aging period.  A decent Merlot with closed-in nose and palate.  Very faint and light feel in the palate, with a very short finish.  Good for everyday drinking if you run out of everything else. 

1992 Merlot, Cosentino, Napa ($11.99??).
  Merlot and likely a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon.  Unknown wood aging period.  Beautiful aromas that say Merlot.  In the palate, this wine is a mouth full of Merlot character with soft tannin and rich fruit that lasts in a very long finish. It is well balanced, elegantly styled and enjoyable now.  Highly recommended.  Grilled meat and fish dishes. 

1992 Merlot Bancroff Ranch Howell Mt., Beringer, Napa. ($??)(8/97). 
Mostly Merlot, but perhaps some Cab Sauv, unknown wood aging period, 13.0% Alc. By Vol., 750 ml.  Not much aromas, thin alcoholic and tannic.  However, this wine may develop nicely over the next 6 years, with emphasis in "may". ??

1993 Merlot, Nelson, Sonoma ($19.99??).
  100% Merlot, unknown wood aging period.  A very nice effort from a very small winery in Sonoma.  It offers the spicy Merlot fruit nose in a generous manner.  The palate exhibits nice fruit levels with balanced tannin and acidity.  It also offers a nice minty and cassis dimension with a long lingering finish of roasted coffee bean.  Lamb.  Recommended. 

1993 Merlot, L'Ecole #41, Washington
. This is a well balanced and richly packed wine. It offers generous black fruit and sage aromas that follow in the palate with rich licorice, vanillin, raspberry, coffee and spice. L'Ecole #41 has evolved its wine making style into a more refined and elegant end-product. Their earlier efforts were indesputably among the very best that America had to offer. The fine tuning of the elements in the final wine with better balance between fruit, tannins and acidity as well as the gentle, yet persuasive, and at times obsessive, incorporation of multi-layered aromatics into the volatile character of his wines make his newer releases more along the lines of a fine, unclassed, heavy Lalande de Pomerol. Keep it up Dude!

1993 Merlot, Martz Vineyards, Mendocino, CA ($14.99). 
100% Merlot, 18 month in French oak.  Still closed aromas that will surface a bit better in a few months.  However, the wine offers a chewy, dense, concentrated wine with plenty of spicy Merlot flavor, and creamy nuances than enhance a very long finish.  At under $15.00, this pedigreed Merlot wine should substitute very nicely the long gone Blackstone Napa Co.  Note: Blackstone Napa Co. Merlot 1994 and 1995 releases, if and when they become available, will reflect a 58% increase in price at the wholesale level due to price increase from the winery.  Blackstone produces a California Merlot, which with the new price increase, should retail at $12.99.  EBRO, Ltd. chose not to offer the wine to the market because it was pretty damned lousy, and still is. 

1993 Merlot Reserve Blackstone Napa Valley.
Performed very well indeed. It came into a flight with some pretty powerfully marketed wines and held its own, while coming second to L'Ecole's Merlot in both tastings and voted best value in one tasting. The balance, wholesomeness and lingering flavorful finish contributed to the success of this wine. Besides the affordability factor (quality to price ratio) played a significant role. 

1994 Merlot, Stevenot, CA ($12.99).
  100% Merlot, unknown wood aging period.  I think that the "not" part of Stevenot is very appropriate for this wine.  Ripe aromas and flavors lacking limpidity.  The finish is bitter, medium in length with alcoholic overtones and a lack of focus and definition, a wine that you will think of as "this will do…".  Not recommended. 

1994 Merlot, Canoe Ridge Vineyard, Washington ($ ??).
  100% Merlot.  Some wood aging is evident, although its period in the barrel is unknown.  Very fruity and spicy nose with a touch of clove.  Good palate feel, although a bit light.  Lush and jammy red fruit flavors with a long lasting fruity and vanilla finish.  Ready to drink.  Grilled chicken. 

1994 Merlot, L’Ecole #41, Columbia, WA, ($26.00).
  90% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc, 18 months in French oak barrels.  With this release’s  inclusion of Cabernet Franc in the blend, we can readily see an interesting approach to a fine Pomerol from a few thousand miles west of the Dordogne river.  It would be an interesting experiment to see what a little Malbec, the pungent and spicy one, and/or Petit Verdot would do for the blend.  This release, however, is compelling and glorious, with elegance, balance and depth.  It is approachable and enjoyable, with marked allspice, licorice, blueberry and plum flavors that continue in the finish for long lasting pleasure. Steak Tartar. 

1994 Apogee, L’Ecole #41, WA (priceless)**.
  60% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, unknown period in oak.  It took me nearly 2 years to get 1 case of this fine red due to simple miscommunication between Marty and I.  However, the man came through for me, and as promised…My hat is off to him, as well as my thanks.  If you think that the L’Ecole Merlot is it, think again, L’Ecole outdid itself with this blend.  A very fine wine with all the elegance of fine Lalande de Pomerol and the body and soul of America in the extra-long lasting finish (in excess of 7 minutes!!!).  The rest is history, as well as in my cellar.  Also, you will have to go to the winery and perhaps beg a little (as I did) to get some of this wine. 

1994 Merlot, Duckhorn, CA ($??).  
Merlot and some other grape, perhaps Cabernet Sauvignon, and/or Cabernet Franc, and/or Petite Verdot.  Unknown wood aging period, although evident. Spicy and creamy with a touch of green and sappy aroma.  In the palate it showed very nice creamy and peppermint flavors.  Quite tannic with the peppermint following in the finish.  A bit short and tannic finish.  It will improve greatly with another two years of bottle aging.  Highly Recommended. 

1994 Merlot, Peterson**, Dry Creek ($28.99).
  88% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petite Verdot, 18 months in oak (Very limited availability - NC Allocation 20 cases.  Scavenger Hunt Hint: on-premise).  Closed-in nose.  Yet, after 30 minutes, or so, an opulent, rich and densely colored wine reveals itself from the swirling glass.  It offers a very elegant, not in any way different from a nice St. Emilion Cru Classe, style of Merlot that I have never seen made in the US.  Profound and rich, with notes of cassis, plum, tobacco, fine tannin, excellent balance and a very long finish.  Where the L’Ecole Merlot ends in elegance, this wine begins.  Wait 5 more years (at least, that is if you want to have a truly ephemeral experience). 

1994 Merlot Napa Valley (green Label), Pahlmeyer, Napa ($??)(8/97). 
Merlot, and likely Cab Sauv, unknown wood aging period, 14.4% Alc. By Vol., 750 ml.  Nice nose of spice, although light and no mid-palate, with caraway and blueberry fruit, tannic with alcoholic hot finish.  May improve over the next 5 years. ??

1995 Merlot, Waterbrook, Washington ($27.99)(8/97).
  100% Merlot from Portteus, Kilpsun and de Ciel vineyards, 12.5% Alc. By Vol., 18 months in French oak, 750 ml.  Spicy nose with blueberries, a bit closed in.  Rich and full fruit palate with excellent density and mid-palate, low acidity and very fine tannin.  Long finish, with hints of chocolate, berries, anise and mint.  Beef, Lamb. O.

1995 Merlot, L’Ecole #41, Columbia V. ($28.99)**.
   90%  Merlot,  4%  Cabernet  Franc,  6% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18 months in small French oak barrels (NC yearly allocation - 42 cases.  Available in very limited supply - Scavenger hunt hint: on-premise).  Concentrated and focused spice and  red  fruit  aromas.   This  is  one  heavy sucker!  It is the heaviest L’Ecole Merlot I have tasted since  the  1989  release.   It  has  generous  fruit,  acidity, coffee and licorice flavors, almost sweet from all the fruit.  Very long finish.  Wait 2 more years, but if you must…throw a good piece of meat at it. 

1995 Merlot Estate Bottled, De Loach, Sonoma ($??).
  Merlot and possibly something else.  Wood aging evident but of unknown length.  Rosy aromas with oak and plum hints.  However, it was quite tight, lean and metallic.  I doubt that it will ever open the fruit up.  Not Recommended. 
 

PINOT NOIR  
   BACK TO THE TOP

1989 Pinot Noir "Wind Hill Vineyard", Elk Cove, Oregon ($NA).  
I revisited this wine recently by taking one of the 6 bottles left in my cellar to asses what Joe Campbell (Elk Cove’s other wine maker, the original one, like Coke Classic, always there) wrote in the back label. "It will drink well for another 8 to 10 years". There is something good about being honest and humble. You rarely disappoint people by not building their expectation to unreasonable levels, a lesson to be learned by many of us. I opened the bottle one year before Joe’s predictions, just in case. I knew that I would not be disappointed, but you never know…I was right and he is wrong! The wine drunk fine and it will drink nicely for 8 to 10 more years from 1996! So Joe, if you are reading this, I think that you should change the back label from "8 to 10 years" to 15 to 18 years, at least. The 1989 Pinot Noir Wind Hill Vineyard release is a hell of a wine! Its aromas were deep and generous with ripe blossoms of watermelon and lush peppery waves. Color wise it was barely turning bright red on the edges. In the palate this wine was still concentrated, dense and chewy with gobs of fruit and an impeccable finish that lasted several minutes. One of those finishes that makes you "Uhh and Ahhh". The people on the next table were wondering what Teresa (my better half) and I were doing with our feet under the table. I wonder if Bo Pee has a wife as pretty as mine? Sorry, a Lapsus Mentis. We paired this wine with John Toler’s (Bloomsbury Bistro) Spring Rolls (you must try those rolls if you go there) and a very interesting and exciting Tandoori lamb (I have made Tandoori Chicken before, but I have never heard of Tandoori lamb, thus I could not resist). John has a very exciting cuisine style that blends Southern styles and Middle-Eastern/Indian seasoning. It is almost erotic. A great wine pairing with the complex flavors and spices from these dishes. When we left Teresa said "that guy can cook!", and I quietly thought "Yeap! and Joe can make wine!". 

1989 Pinot Noir "La Boheme", Elk Cove, Oregon
($NA). Paired with a pork dish. The 1989 was suppler, softer and more complex. Obviously, the extra aging in the bottle is showing its benefits. It was perfectly balanced with an ephemeral mouth feel and complex earthy and ripe red fruit flavors. The tannin was velvety soft and the finish lasted and lasted. That is the way of making American Pinot Noir, with elegance and emphasis in the clean flavors of the fruit without overwhelming the palate as with the gritty/woody California Pinot Noir style. 

1990 Pinot Noir Estate Reserve Elk Cove (6/92)
. What a challenge this American wine had to match, and for a fraction of the price. I paused for a second...then inhaled the aromas and sipped this gorgeus wine. It was f_cking unbelievable! The same aromas and flavors as the two previous Pinot Noirs. Generous blackberry, cherry and black pepper falvors were predominat. Although it lacked the elegance that comes from long periods of bottle ageing, as with the 1983 Clos de Roi, it had the very same elements. Given the proper cellaring and time this wine will blow your socks off. Sorry, the 1990 Elk Cove Estate Reserve is sold out because I am keeping it all! I want to sample this beauty for the remaining of my living birthdays (and every other occasion that I can think of). 

1990 Pinot Noir Estate Reserve, Elk Cove, Willamette Valley ($??)(8/94).
  100% Pinot Noir, 18 month in French oak.  This wine is progressing very nicely, with the beginning of an aromatic phase becoming evident a few minutes after opening the bottle.  It is all charm and balance, with elegant spice, blueberry and black pepper character.  Tannin is still present, but evolving into a smoother presence.  The finish is long and delightfully fruity, complex and reminiscent of rose blossoms.  Give it another 5 to 8 years to allow the splendor of this fine Pinot exert it presence.  Pork, beef. 
 
1991 Pinot Noir "La Boheme", Elk Cove, Oregon.
A
wine that still has about five to seven years before reaching its peak. It was paired with a spicy clam and bacon dish to prove that reds are not only for meats. With the right dish at hand and an excellent Pinot Noir, you could not ask for a better outcome. The Pinot offered rich and balanced peppery-raspberry flavors that finished in a lengthy and harmonious feel and flavors of nutty mocca. 

1991 Pinot Noir Seven Springs Vineyard, Saint Innocent, OR
. A decent Pinot Noir with just the right flavors. Good body and density meshed well with the black pepper and raspberry character. The finish was somewhat a bit short but pleasant. Try it with turkey.

1991
Pinot Noir Willamette Valley Evesham Wood, Unfiltered.
It was a nice wine, quite young! It was big and full, with a lot of cherry and black pepper flavor that will become more defined with some cellaring, approximately 3 years. The finish was rich and hinted pepper and cherry notes. My thanks go to Bill, Helen and Maxine for a deliciously prepared dinner and great wines to share with us. 

1992 Pinot Noir Willamette Valley, Evesham Wood, Unfiltered.
Another winner from Russ. This is one potent Pinot. It is going to need ageing, but...It is tight and focused with broad cherry and blackberry bands that start with the aromas and do not end with the last sip. Generous tannins and acidity make this Pinot Noir a worthy addition to any body's medium term (7-10 yrs) ageing rack. 

1992 Pinot Noir Estate Reserve Elk Cove.
One monster wine with true concentration, generous extract, typical Pinot character in the true Burgundian style of a Grand Cru, and for a fraction of the price. This wine will need quite a bit of ageing, about 8 years to be exact. Let those tannins and acidity sort it all out, then enjoy what these people have been able to achieve with this beauty of a wine. However, for those of you that like your Pinot too young (maybe because you can not tell the difference between a $6.99 bottle of LaForet and a $100 bottle of Faiveley Mazis Chambertin, you may leave it in your car during the hottest day of summer just the same and then blame a faulty cork) buy two bottles. Try the first one and when you had enough put the second one away and be thankful that somebody told you to buy two bottles instead of one. 

1992 Pinot Noir, Buehler, California ($??). 
100% Pinot Noir, with unknown period in oak.  This is exactly the wrong style of Pinot Noir that I discussed in my previous issue.  It is even sweet???!!!  AVOID. 

1992 Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz Mountains, Santa Cruz, CA ($16.59).
100% Pinot Noir, some oak aging.  A nicely done California Pinot (for a change).  Although not as profound as previous releases, and lighter than usual, still a good Pinot, with spicy, crisp flavors and a medium finish.  Pork, beef, lamb. 

1992
Acacia Pinot Noir.
This wine is the worst Pinot I have tasted this year. It was fizzy, flabby and totally devoid of Pinot Noir character. All I can say is keep trying... 

1993 Pinot Noir Willamtte Valy., Elk Cove Pinot Noir, Oregon
. Another successful vintage from Elk Cove. This wine reminds me of their 1991 release, one of our all time best sellers. It is elegant and smooth, full of classic Pinot Noir flavors of black pepper and raspberry. A delicious lingering creamy and fruity finish make a very sexy effort from the Pacific North-West. Try it with grilled chicken, seafood, and pork (the other white meat).

1993 Pinot Noir "La Boheme", Elk Cove, Oregon ($35.99) (6/95).
This is one to put away. This wine was fantastic with complex aromas and flavors of blueberry, coffee bean and hints of spice and mint in the finish. Once more the La Boheme excels, and rightfully so by being the ultra-premium label of Elk Cove. If you see a bottle of this wine around, please ask where is the rest of the case, take it all and enjoy it over the next 12 years. By the way, a Magnum of this wine fetched the highest bid at the silent auction in the show, out bidding a double magnum of Argyle Sparkling by twice the amount. It’s no wonder that La Boheme Pinot Noir has been the wine of choice at the White House’s special events dinners. 

1993 "La Boheme" Pinot Noir, Elk Cove, Oregon (Formerly $30.00 - NOW $15.99)(5/97).
  100% Pinot Noir, 18 months in French oak.  Folks, this is the bargain of the year.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with this wine.  The folks at Elk Cove are generous indeed, particularly to the NC market.  This wine is served at the white house on regular basis.  It is the ultra-premium label of Elk Cove vineyards, with a production of less than 600 cases per year.  It is elegant and well balanced, with concentrated black pepper, raspberry, vanillin and smoky flavors that last in a long finish.  It is a through and through wine that will age nicely for another 12 years.  If you see it get it.  You just got to have this bargain!  Lamb, grilled pork ribs. 

1993 Pinot Noir Estate Reserve,
Elk Cove, Oregon.($23.99)(6/95)
This is another winner. It has more elegance and complexity than the 1992. The 1992 will likely out last its children, grand children and everything else in your cellar. It just needs time, lots of it. The 1993, however is lower in tannin and has more acidity. A cleaner, more defined-wine with classier flavors. It is not going to be called the "expresso of Pinot Noirs", but then again, it may be easily confused with a 1990 Rully Rouge or a villages Vosne Romanee (for half to a third of their price). All elegance, charm and complexity. 

1993 Pinot Noir Estate Reserve, Elk Cove, Willamette Valley ($22.99)(12/96).  In Depth Review. 
  100% Pinot Noir, wood aging in French oak.  Somebody asked me the other day if this Estate Reserve was better than their La Boheme Pinot release.  My answer, was no. Unfortunately, I was speaking of my previous experiences with previous vintages of both releases.  However, I had not tasted this release of Estate Reserve.  I bought it and put it in a corner of the warehouse and completely forgot about it.  It is a wine that has never failed me in the 4 years that I have carried it, so buying it without tasting was not a concern at all.  The reason is simple, Elk Cove’s upper end releases need a little bit of time before they start exerting their superior qualities, so I figured 6 to 8 months before I would even consider opening a sample of this wine and sharing it with the "buyers" out there.  The time has come and the wine could wait another 6 more months.  When you open a bottle of Elk Cove Estate Reserve, everybody knows it because of the enticing and compelling aromas that emanate from this grand wine.  I personally, enjoy the hell out of seeing people’s expression when they place the glass under their noses and take their first sip of this wines. 

The 1993 Estate Reserve release, much maligned by the country’s press, and for a good reason which I will explain latter, is a profound wine that offers quality from the aroma to the finish.  You will need between 1 and 3 hours to let it settle and open up once you uncork it.  Initially, it is tannic and offering a great deal of acidity together with gobs of spice and fruit, a massive wine.  After 1 hour, the tannin tames and the acidity balances giving away ground to the deep flavors and complexity that this wine has to offer.  Concentrated cherry, clove, allspice, and a peppery background that could easily be mistaken for a Nuit St. Georges 1er Cru, for about half the price (thank Baccus that this wine is a true red, white and blue release, and not one from Nuit St. Georges, otherwise most of us could not afford it).  The finish is perhaps one of the longest that I have experienced from a Pinot in a long time.  I was walking through my living room nearly 45 minutes after tasting the wine and still felt its presence in my palate.  This is a wine that becomes engraved in your vinous memory and will not let go, a bench mark!  The maladies of Elk Cove and the national press are simple, my suspicion is that David O’ (AKA Mr. Smooooth Zin)  sent the sample too early to the press, way before the wine was ready to be released.  Not an unusual ocurance since those dudes at the Wine Molestator take about 14 to 22 months to review a wine, after which the wine is usually sold out.  However, sometimes they don’t, particularly if they are hard pressed to release their notes on a big Pinot Noir tasting.  I think that that is the case here.  The wine was tasted way too early in its age, thus its character was not evident.  I must challenge anybody out there to taste the wine now, or preferably 6 to 8 months from now, and tell me that the wine is not a Ball-Busting-All-American-Best-of-its-kind-Pinot. 

To answer the question, now in a factual manner, is the Estate Reserve a better wine than La Boheme?  I am going to do as a lawyer, or politician, and say that they are different in their concept and purpose.  The difference, lies in the inherent character of each wine.  Is a 1er Cru better than a Grand Cru, sometimes, but they are two different wines for different purposes, tastes, elegance and longevity.  In my mind, La Boheme is a Grand Cru and the Estate Reserve is a 1er Cru.  Of course, the basic problem now is price.  With the fantastic offering of 1993 La Boheme Pinot Noir currently in our market, it is tough to pay attention to anything else, and for that matter (and to put the ball in your court), if price is the real question, is La Boheme better than the Clos des Muches from Drouhin?  Mind you that La Boheme, under the current promotion, is about $30.00 less per bottle…I will not release this wine from my ware house for another 6 to 8 months. 

1993 Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara
, Leeward, Ventura
. This is one brightly fruited Pinot. It is young and vibrant. There is raspberry and cherry flavors throughout. It persist in the finish with hints of smoky oak and glazed cherries. It is delicious, and one of the best Pinots to come out of Santa Barbara in 1993. Au Bon Climat eat your hart out! 

1993 Pinot Noir Willamette Valley, and 1993 Cuvee "J" Pinot Noir, Evesham Wood, OR.
This pair of unfiltered blossoming Pintos are among the very best that Oregon will yield. The 1993 vintage produced elegant and aromatic wines, which with proper cellaring and a few years, will provide some of the prettiest Pinot Noirs that this country will ever see. Both offerings are well structured with generous Pinot Noir fruit and moderate tannins. Both wines are effusively aromatic with hints of minerals, earthy notes, black pepper and spicy fruit. The Cuvee "J", called so after Mr. Jayer, one of the most prominent Burgundy producers, is a wine that should be cellared for longer periods in order to allow for it to flourish (~8 years). 

1994 Pinot Noir Willamette Valley, Elk Cove, Oregon.  
($13.99). It is a good Pinot Noir, but that is it. Believe me, it pains me to say that down to my "tutty-nuttys", but it is true. Perhaps the hype about this release built up unreasonable expectations of this wine. What I found was a good Pinot Noir, very light in color and flabby. It lacked the focus, character, depth and intensity that sets Elk Cove eons apart from everything else in Oregon. 

1994 Pinot Noir, Rochiloi, Russian River Vly. ($??).
A very nice red with complex flavors, However, as with many CA Pinot Noirs, the fruit is raisiny and the cream-vanilla flavors of the wood dominate the finish.

1994 Pinot Noir, King Estate, OR ($14.99). 
100% Pinot Noir, unknown wood aging period.  Very good indeed.  Nice bright. cherry and  a spicy, leathery middle with character and depth, as well as a  very elegant and pleasant finish.  Comparable to a very nice, light and soft Savigny-le-Beaune.  One of the best 1994 Oregon releases in the market, and at the price above claimed by the distributor, an excellent value. 

1994 Pinot Noir, Cosentino, CA ($??). 
100% Pinot Noir, unknown wood aging period.  In the classical classless California Pinot Noir style, this wine offers strong vanilla (almost pasty) aromas with hints of black pepper.  In the plate, it starts with a nice feel of undefined varietal red wine, a hint of Pinot character, but goes downhill in a hand basket by turning tastelessly vegetable and bitter.  I suspect that the grapes utilized in the making of this wine were crushed a bit too enthusiastically, thus a bitterness similar to that of chewing a grape seed is quite evident.  Not recommended. 

1994 Pinot Noir Seven Springs Vineyard, Adelsheim ($??). 
100% Pinot Noir, unknown wood aging period.  Enticing nose with black pepper, cherry and leather aromas.  However, the palate is quite austere, acidic, disjointed and a tannic medium-short finish.  It may improve with another year, although I doubt it.  Not recommended. 

1994 Pinot Noir, Benton Lane, OR ($ ??).
  An intriguing Pinot with harsh initial tannin and a bit of fruit.  However, after 15 minutes the tannin had practically disappeared and the wine gave away this elegant and delicious Pinot Noir character of creamy cherry and black pepper.  Good palate feel with wholesome weight and a long finish.  Age for another 2 years.  Lamb. 

1994 Pinot Noir Willamette Vly., Evesham Wood, Oregon  ($N/A). 
100% Pinot Noir.  Unfiltered/unfined and aged in French oak barrels for 18 months.  This is perhaps one of their finest "Willamette Vly." releases.  It is opulent and concentrated with complex nuances of roasted coffee bean, black pepper, and spicy raspberry.  The finish is long and expansive with lingering cherry and vanilla.  At the time of printing, all this wine was allocated to two local restaurants, thus the only place you can find this phenomenal wine is when you dine there.  Where? Just look at wine lists a bit more closely.  It will be a fine wine hunt with a worthy reward at the end. 

1994 Pinot Noir Seven Springs Vineyard, Evesham Wood, Oregon  ($31.99)
.  100% Pinot Noir.  Unfiltered/un-fined and aged in French oak barrels for 18 months.  What do we do with just one case of this quintessential wine?  I guess just talk and write about it…Also, I have my own 1 case allocation to fulfill…This awesome wine with nearly 1.5 inch-wide streak of sediment in the bottle already, will likely never see the light of a shelf or wine list.  It is color-saturated with a deep purple core clueing the lucky holder of a glass of this blockbuster wine to the power to come with the first sip.  It has the depth, smokyness and character of a Corton (believe me, I used to represent in our market one of the finest releases of Corton Clos des Cortons ever, so I know what I am writing about) with the unmistakably American spice and black pepper tones easing their way through the tannin and bountiful flavor.  The 7 Springs Vineyards release is without a question the fullest, chewiest, deepest American-made Pinot Noir that I have ever tasted..  At present, I will not match this wine with any food, too young to waste on a quick fix!  Wait at least 8 years.  RIGHT ON EVESHAM WOOD! 

1994 Pinot Noir "High Noon", Tobin James, Monterey County, CA ($14.99). 
100% Pinot Noir, unknown wood aging period.  This is exactly the kind of Pinot that many California wineries produce and completely miss the spot.  It has some hints of black pepper, and cherry in the aroma, but palate wise…It is nearly unacceptable, one-dimensional, flabby, mercky, gritty, sweet and disgustingly unctuous.  Lacks the charm, finesse and sensuality inherent to the Pinot Noir grape. Liquid crap.  Alpo. 

1994 Pinot Noir Octagon, Delhinger, Russian River ($??)(8/97).
  100% Pinot Noir, unknown wood aging period, 14.5% Alc. By Vol., 750 ml.  We can add one more to the few California Pinot Noirs that are worth trying.  Excellent, clean aromas of spice, clove and raspberries.  Bright palate with cherry, licorice and vanilla.  Medium-long finish with depth.  It needs bottle aging - 5 years.  Best with pork and fowl.  VHR.

1994 Pinot Noir Arroyo Grande, Aubon Climat, Russian River ($??)(8/97).
  100% Pinot Noir, unknown wood aging period, 13.5% Alc. By Vol., 750 ml.  Closed in nose with heavy alcoholic notes and not much fruit, other than a heavy scotch alike note.  Unbalanced soft tannin with alcoholic-bitter finish.  I doubt if it will ever improve.  NR.

1995 Pinot Noir, Yamhill County, Torii Mor, Oregon ($18.99)(8/97). 
100% Pinot Noir, unknown wood aging period, 13% Alc. By Vol., 750 ml.  Cola and cream aromas, with spicy Pinot character.  Nice fullness in the palate with berries, and vanilla, with a medium length finish.  This wine is very similar to William Seylem’s Pinot, yet offers better balance, and the fruit is not overtaken by the wood and cream aspects of the wine..  Smoked oysters, trout, Grilled meats.  HR.

1995 Pinot Noir, William Seylem, Russian River ($??)(8/97). 
100% Pinot Noir, unknown wood aging, 13.6% Alc. By Vol., 750 ml.  Cream and vanilla aromas with no evident fruit.  The typical creamy-murky crap Pinot that California is so famous for.  Nothing to write home about. LC.

1995 Pinot Noir "Garnet", Saintsbury Winery, Napa, CA ($10.99). 
100% Pinot Noir, unknown wood aging period.  A typical California Pinot with strong vanilla flavors, yet balanced and focused.  It is obviously a wine from perhaps too warm of a region for proper Pinot grape production.  However, it is passable and holding significant similarities with the expected Pinot flavors.  Hesitantly recommended. Bar b-q ribs. 

1995 Pinot Noir, Saintsbury, Carneros (??). 
100% Pinot Noir, unknown wood aging period. Spicy nose, almost vinegar-like, with cream, and pronounced gamy aromas.  In the palate it display nice cherry, cream, low tannin, medium body , with a bit of an alcoholic and hot finish.  Actually this wine was one of the few decent, and perhaps, very good efforts Pinot Noir-wise coming out of California.  Recommended.  Best with seafood bisque, rosemary seasoned lamb. 

1995 Pinot Noir, Willamtte Valley, Elk Cove, Oregon  ($12.99). 
100% Pinot Noir, 16 months in  French oak barrels.  The color of this wine is quite deceiving.  It looks like a very dark rose.  The aromas are correct with bright cherry, black pepper and a bit of cassis.  In the palate it is clean and elegant with the same aromas following through in flavor.  The finish is medium in length and quite pleasant, with spice and fruit as the lasting impressions.  It is still a good value considering that the price remains the same as that for the 1993, two vintages ago.  Recommended.  Pasta with red sauces, pesto, Cajun dishes. 

1995 Pinot Noir Willamette Vly., Evesham Wood, Oregon ($19.99)(7/97). 
100% Pinot Noir, 18 months in French oak, 13% Alc. By Vol., 750 ml bt., Unfiltered.  Beautiful raspberry aromas, quite effusive.  It is a mouthful of raspberry and nuances of black pepper, and a bit of spice.  The fruit does not quit!, long finish, with lingering notes of sweet oak.  Try it with Chateaubriand or roasted duck. O.
 

SYRAH 
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1993 Bistro’s Syrah, McDowel, CA
. A flabby red with white wine palate feel and a buzz marketing name. I can not recommend it. 

1994 Syrah, Peterson, Dry Creek ($20.99). 
85% Syrah, 10% Grenache, 5% Carignane, 12 months in oak (Very limited availability - NC Allocation 8 cases.  Scavenger Hunt Hint: on-premise).  Another young and powerful wine from this  wine  maker.   This  is one of those rare wines that shows a different taste with every sip.  Starts with chewy red fruit, turns into a fleshy cherry and finishes with an earthy, Northern Rhone, almost Cornas-like feel.  Quite interesting and Highly Recommended.  Wait 2 more years. 

ZINFANDEL 
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1992 Zinfandel Scherrer, California.
nice and light, delicate and creamy with aromas of roses, a bit short in the finish.

1992 Zinfandel Richoli, California.
A bit more concentrated than the previous wine with excellent balance and depth, better finish, a bit closed-in.

1992 Zinfandel St. Francis Old Vines, California.
A big wine with plenty of fruit and velvety soft tannins, great complexity and gamey overtones, sweet oak lingering in the long finish.

1992 Zinfandel Limerick Lane, California.
Will age well, big, bold and tannic, lots of spearmint.

1992 Zinfandel Roseblum, Maggies Samsel, California.
Bitter finish and lacking weight and wholesomeness.

1992 Zinfandel Rafanelli, California.
Straigh forward, with depth, complexity, soft tannins and balanced acidity, fruit to boot.

1992 Zinfandel Ravenswood Belloni, California.
Beautiful wine, well made and quite rich, almost overwhelming.

1992 Zinfandel Ridge, Lytton Springs, California.
I did not like this wine that much, a bit green and hollow in the middle.

1992 Zinfandel Topolos, Rossi Ranch, Unfinned, California (2/95).
It is a different style of Zin, more on the earthy and camphor style than on the lush and ripe side. Eucalyptus, black pepper and mineral nuances were noted. It definitely could use some ageing (about 10+ years), tannins are still ragging on this baby.

1992 Zinfandel Rossi Ranch (Revisited), Topolos, Sonoma ($18.99)(8/96). 
100% Zinfandel, 11 months in American oak.  A monster Zin that is slowly becoming tamed.  Wait 5 more years.  Still densely packed, tannin is getting just a tad softer, but not much, with rich and spicy fruit flavors that last in the long finish.  Beef. 

1992 Zinfandel Richardson, Nora, California.
A bit dry and one dimensional I hope the fruit survives the tannins, it seemed to show early maturing signs.

1992 Zinfandel Old Vines Cuvee Angeline, Blackstone, CA.
This fleshy and full Zinfandel will satisfy those who look for chewy fruit and abundant palate feel. At this price this wine is a bargain waiting to be discovered.

1992 Zinfandel Swan, Frati, California.
I found this wine different but very interesting because, as the Topolos, it did not rely on overwhelming the drinker with massive up-front fruit, but more on the complexity of nuances and variety of flavors ranging from coffe-nut to tobacco and pepper, all mingled with berries and red fruit flavors.

1992 Zinfandel Coturri Chauvet,
California.
This is not my style of wine, it is a massive and bold, but undefined wine. However, both Paul and Dick mentioned that that was the old style of California Zinfandels, unspoiled, so please give it a shot!

1992 Zinfandel, Frick, CA ($??). 
Another nicely aromatic wine with little body, excessively high acidity and meager fruit.  Perhaps in two years it will open up a bit, although doubtful.  Not recommended. 

1992 Zinfandel, Sineann, Oregon.
My friend David O’Rilley, wine maker at Elk Cove, has ventured into Zinfandel wine making under his own label Although he promised me a few cases of his baby in his drunkenness last year at a dinner at The Angus Barn, all I got was one bottle. At least he was kind enough to bring the bottle himself. Of course, the promise was made before Parker gave his wine a 92 pt. rating…He makes this Zin from the oldest patch of Zinfandel vines (65 years old) in the Columbia Valley, part of which lays in Northeastern Oregon. It was a very good Zinfandel, like few that I have tasted, with the exception, of course, of Topolos’. His wine is made from 100% Zinfandel grapes and it is another one of those rare Zinfandels (the ones that I like and applaud) devoid of sappy green flavors, as found in many poorly made Zinfandels. It was a bit light in the palate, but very bright and truly in character, with a long elegant finish. Keep it up dude. I paired this wine with a delicious scallops and pasta dish at the Humble Pie restaurant, and it worked very well. Also, I could not resist but to bring out a bottle of Topolos’ 1994 Rossi Ranch Zinfandel (one of my bench marks). That "Big Boy" will make any other Zin feel like "quaffing" wine, so do not feel bad about it David, just give Michael a call, 1-800-TOPOLOS. 

1992 Zinfandel, Canard, California ($??).
  100% Zinfandel, unknown wood aging period.  It offers a typical Zinfandel nose of spicy fruit, almost jammy.  The palate is a different story.  Although it has the classic Zinfandel flavors of spice and mint, at least up-front, a deep stewed fruit flavor with an awkward pestilent finish along the lines of subtle hints of rotten eggs totally puts me off.  Not Recommended. 

1994 Zinfandel Sonoma County, Topolos, 700 cs made .
You get an introduction into his style of red wines with a very elegant Zinfandel, full of fruit, charm, without rough edges. A wine made to be enjoyed over the next 3 to 5 years. Also, it must be noted that the 1994 release represents his last Sonoma County release, at least for a very long time. It is bright and agreeable, light in color with a lot of flavor, low tannin and high in pleasure. Try it before it is all gone. Besides, it is a collector’s item since, once again, there is no more Sonoma County Zinfandel from Topolos... 

1994 Zinfandel "Rossi Ranch", Topolos, 1,700 cases made (12/95).
It is a generously rich, deeply colored, fragrant Zin that should age well for another 10+ years. It offers medium tannin (Michael explained his secret of making an extremely tannic wine without giving the feel of tannin to the palate, a trade secret that I will not reveal because its his secret). I find this release of his Rossi Ranch Zin to be among his very best (1991) if not the best ever. 

1994 Zinfandel Rossi Ranch (Revisited), Topolos, Sonoma ($20.99)(4/97).
  100% Zinfandel, 11 months in American oak.  Deeply colored and extracted, the Topolos trade mark.  Wait 8-10 more years.  It basically took 3 days for this wine to open up! even though it is organic (CCOF certified).  I guess nobody told Topolos that organic wines should not last more than four hours after opening...I am glad nobody told him…Complex and profound, with deep spice and cherry flavors that culminate in a long (very long folks) finish of ripe cherry, vanilla and roasted coffee bean.  Beef, lamb. 

1994 Zinfandel Hendry Vineyard, Franus, Napa ($12.99). 
100% Zinfandel, wood aging evident but of unknown length.  Not much aroma, yet a bit of spice is evident.  Good weight, soft tannin, very fine indeed.  A full mouth of wine, with very long, fruity, spicy, white chocolate-alike, and vanilla finish.  I enjoyed the hell out of this wine!  Highly Recommended.  Best with Mo’s Dinner rack of Lamb. 

1994 Zinfandel Bradford Mountain, Peterson** ($28.99).
  100% Zinfandel, 19 months in small French oak barrels (Very limited availability - NC Allocation 14 cases. Scavenger Hunt Hint: on-premise).  Another powerful California Zin that can withstand the test of time.  It is way to early for this "monster Zin", but early signs indicate a block buster wine with depth, elegance and underlying finesse only as achieved by the legendary 1994 Topolos Pagani Ranch Zin.  Richly textured, with full flavors of Zin fruit from beginning to end, with spearmint and camphor notes that linger in the long finish.  Quite a bit of extraction was achieved on this wine.  Highly Recommended. 

1995 Zinfandel Dry Creek, Peterson**, Dry Creek ($18.99). 
100% Zinfandel, 14 month of aging in small French oak casks barrels (Very limited availability - NC Allocation 28 cases Scavenger Hunt Hint: on-premise).  Very nicely balanced with ripe Zin flavors, generous spice and good palate feel.  Also, quite extracted, yet lighter than the Bradford Mountain Zin from this winery (also, quite more affordable).  It offers an earthy and balanced finish that lingers on with the sweet oak touch.  Highly Recommended.  Best with Roasts, grilled T-bone. 

1995 Zinfandel, Ravenswood, CA ($??). 
100% Zinfandel, although I think that a bit of other grape may have made its way into this wine, wood aging is evident, although its period is unknown.  Delicious aromas of spicy red ripe fruit.  Very complex and layered palate from pure fruit to complex flavors of roses, gammy and earthy nuances.  However, its weight, concentration  and finish are both very light and short.  Once again, Topolos has the upper hand in those areas, thus aging potential may be questionable for the Ravenswood.  Roasted chicken, pastas. 

1995 Zinfandel Estate Bottled, De Loach, Sonoma ($??). 
100% Zinfandel, and a good dose of oak.  Coffee,  raspberry and ripe fruit from aroma to finish.  Light in body and a touch unbalanced.  Recommended if under $12.00.  Best with steak, but not with Chocolate Torte. 

1995 Zinfandel, Rafanelli, Dry Creek ($??)(8/97). 
100% Zinfandel, unknown wood aging period, unfiltered, 14% Alc. By Vol., 750 ml bt.  This is perhaps one of the finest Zinfandels that I have ever tasted.  Deeply aromatic with chocolate, cassis,  raspberry.   Rich  palate,  through and through, powerful, yet manageable tannin and medium acidity.  The aromas follow in the palate nuance by nuance, with a medium finish.  It will improve with another 5 years in the bottle. Try it with lamb or beef. O.
 

OTHER REDS 
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1994 Charbono Sonoma, Topolos, 700 cases made ($14.99).
This wine is all beauty. It is fuller than the 1993 release with forward fruit flavors that linger into a raspberry-clove finish. It is low in tannin and acidity, thus ready to enjoy now. It is made with grapes grown in the oldest Charbono patch in California and formerly belonging to the Inglenook winery. I suggest to those members of the "Merlot-Sucking Generation" (MSG) society (basically, Chardonnay graduates venturing into the red wine world) to try a bottle, or two, or three or more of this wine. It is guaranteed to please, and you will not sound like an scratched record with the old Merlot…Bump!…Merlot…Bump!…Merlot... 

1993 Alicante Bouschet, Topolos, 500 cases made ($18.99).
This has to be the inkiest, fullest, biggest, chewiest, thickest, youngest…..wine that I have tasted this year. Warning! this wine will stain your teeth if you drink two or more glasses of it. Warning! this wine will stain your clothing for ever. Warning! this wine will stain your skin for a few hours if you touch it and do not wipe off immediately (you may use lemon juice to wipe it off). Warning! this wine will stain your insides. Warning! this wine will give you a new perspective on drinking wines before they are ready to drink. That is what the back label should read instead of the silly ass BATF-required and rarely read (only when you had too much to drink and you are too boring to strike a conversation with your friends at a party) warning. Buy it! but please, please, please wait 10 to 12 years to drink this one, and then write me a thank you note. Warning! not suitable for members of the MSG and/or CSG (Chardonnay Sucking Generation) societies. 

1993 Petit Syrah, Topolos, 350 cases made.
This is a deliciously aromatic varietal with plenty of spicy character from nose to finish. It is enticing and generous with a solid mid-palate feel and a cherry-gamy finish. It was the best food-wine match at the Barn’s wine maker’s dinner. It was served with Rissoto over a bed of mushroom in wine sauce and bits of bacon. Just heavenly… 

NV Marrieta’s Old Vine Reserve.
This was a very good everyday range blend wine. The question is why does this wine seem to sell better than Topolos’ vintaged Old Vine Reserve. The answer is simple; cheaper, and a flashy-colored label. I guess that the complexity of Topolos’ release was overshadowed by the eternal question of "I love this wine, but what is in it?" Surprisingly, that question seems much more important when you pay $1.00 more for a vintaged wine. I guess the snobs win this one… 

1991 Old Vineyard Reserve, Topolos
. This wine is one that I keep bringing up time and time, but it is so good....It is a Zinfandel field blend made primarily from Zinfandel, Alicante Bouschet, Petit Sirah, Grenache, and Carignane. A daring blend of Rhone and American grapes, aged in American oak. It is richly textured, with deep color and extract. An Unbeatable Bargain! Try it with your summer grilled meats. 

1994 Carignane, Martz Vineyards, Mendocino, CA ($10.99). 
100% Carignane, 12 months in French oak.  A very interesting wine with a deceivingly light body, but a lot of punch and flavor.  Intense cherry and vanilla that linger in the finish with sweet oak hints.  Raspberry duck. 

1994 Petit Syrah, Topolos, Sonoma ($18.99).  
100% Petit Syrah, unknown period in wood.  This is one missed opportunity wine.  By now it is likely sold out at the winery…and never made it to NC...  It is powerful, as a Topolos wine should be.  Deeply tannic, concentrated, effusively fruity, and basically a pound of wine with every sip.  It reminds me of the old-styled Edmund St. John Rhone Rangers.  Likely, you can’t get it so I can not recommend any food with it, and if you did, put it away for 8 years… 

1994 Charbono, Topolos, Sonoma, $10.99**. 
100% Charbono, 6 months in American oak.  This is the perfect alternative to saying Merlot, at the danger of sounding like an scratched record, every time you go to the wine store, yet manage to get a wine of similar character and more affordable price.  It has a fruity-spicy nose with a very nice palate feel and flavors.  It displays elegant currant flavors with the spicy and walnut hints of Charbono, not unlike a good mid-range Merlot, and for a lot less money too!  Best with roasts, lamb and pork dishes. 

DESSERT 
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1992 Riesling Ultima, Elk Cove, Oregon
($28.00). This Ice Wine is unctuous, rich, complex and age-worthy. I always like to end my dinner events with this wine. I can not think of many other American-made dessert wines with more elegance and finesse than the Riesling Ultima. After a dinner as the above described, you feel like a total hedonist, happy. 

1992 Ca’ Togni, California ($??).
  Unknown grape blend, unknown everything.  Rich and full of cassis with exotic roasted coffee bean and cocoa flavors, balanced with a raspberry-like backbone.  Very long lasting finish with the residual sugar content well harmonized to a nearly Ruby Port feel.  Very interesting and highly recommended.  Courtesy of Paul W. 

1994 Muscat L'Orange, Topolos, Sonoma.
The Muscat L'Orange is just like the name says, with abundant orange, fine honey aromas and flavors, and a clean long lasting finish. It has 11% alcohol and 16% residual sugar.

1994 Moscato Rosa, Topolos, Sonoma. The Moscato Rosa is powerful, richly textured, with a profound finish of roses, melted caramel and spice. It has 11% residual sugar and a ball-kicking 16% alcohol. No, it is not rough. It just has a higher alcohol level.