Vintage Voice

Boston Wine Expo 2000

California

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P
Q R S T U V W X Y Z


B

Bonny Doon Vin de Glaciere California '98 -- A blend of Muscat Canelli, Orange Muscat and Malvasia. The Muscat dominates the nose with aromas of orange blossoms and oranges, though there is an unusual undertone of rosemary. Light and sweet in the mouth, with peach, honey and orange flavors. Enough acidity for near-term drinking, but I wouldn't keep this wine for very long. Seems to be missing some of the intensity of earlier vintages.
B+

Burgess Merlot Napa Valley '97 -- Muted nose of leather and plum, carries over into a lush palate. Moderate tannins show up on the medium-length finish.
B

Burgess Cabernet Sauvignon Vintage Selection Napa Valley '96 -- Closed nose, but with air, some plum aromas appear, along with some ethyl acetate. Good plum and currant flavor, but has a relatively short finish with a lot of tannin for the simple fruit.
B-

Burgess Zinfandel Napa Valley '97 -- Expressive blackberry and raspberry aromas, with lots of plum and brambly berry flavors. Soft and round, with a cherry, berry and spice ending. Has enough tannin to give a solid structure.
B+

C

Cline Roussanne Los Carneros '98 -- Piercing floral and peach aromas raise my hopes, but the alcohol and oak dominate the struggling peach flavors in my mouth.
B-

Cline Zinfandel California '98 -- Buttery toast, plum and bramble-berry Zinfandel fruit shine through on the nose and in the mouth. Finishes strong with black cherry, blackberries and vanilla. Another in a recent series of solid, good-value wines, as long as you don't mind some oak in your Zin.
B+

Cline Syrah Los Carneros '97 -- Smells like a typical California Syrah, with leather, bacon and plum aromas. Ample plum and leather show up in the mouth, too, along with black cherries and vanilla. Plenty of tannin and acidity to give the wine a decent framework. Good for near-term drinking.
B+

Cline Ancient Vines Zinfandel Contra Costa '97 -- A woody combination of toast, vanilla and pencil shavings hit my nose, and the oak continued in my mouth, along with some modest black cherry flavors. Smooth and lush, but the oak overpowers the fruit.
B

Clos du Bois Marlstone Alexander Valley '96 -- Oak, bell pepper and plum aromas and flavors. Moderate intensity in the mouth and on the finish.
B

Clos du Val Chardonnay Carneros '98 -- Buttery oak nose with some nice pear fruit. Definite oaky vanilla palate, but there seems to be good fruit underneath. Long finish with better acidic structure than normal in California Chardonnay.
B+

Clos du Val Pinot Noir Carneros '97 -- Obviously California style, with lots of oak, and a disturbing note of alcohol on the nose. In the mouth, generous fruit flavors compliment the toasty oak. Quite tannic for a Pinot Noir on the red cherry-vanilla finish.
B

Clos du Val Merlot Napa Valley '97 -- Some plum fruit with a slight alcoholic component in the nose. Seems closed down. Lush plummy fruit in the mouth, though, with more tannin than I expected and well-integrated oak flavors. Plums and cherries dominate a quite tannic finish. Stands out from the sea of mediocre California Merlot, and will probably be better with at least a little more age.
B+

Clos du Val Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley '96 -- Strong aromas of plum, currant and chocolate lead to concentrated, well-balanced black cherry and plum flavors. Some acidity is evident on the finish, with more fruit, as well as an undertone of bell pepper. Not too tannic, and easy to drink now, though it may still improve.
A-

Clos Pegase Merlot Napa '97 -- Fairly simple plum nose, with a disturbing note of alcohol. Round and supple in the mouth, with little tannin, and lots of oak. Uncomplicated and a bit disappointing given the good track record of this producer.
B

Conn Valley Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Reserve Napa Valley '98 -- Really beautiful nose, with big currant, plum and spice aromas. A little bell pepper peeks out in the mouth, but there is lots of great black fruit flavor, with a touch of tobacco. Good strong finish, with plenty of tannin.
A-

D

DeLoach Zinfandel Estate Bottled Russian River Valley '98 -- Contains 8% Petite Sirah. Light blackberry and raspberry aromas, along with a little acohol. Sweet initial impression, with more berry flavors. Seems to be lacking in concentration, though the flavors are good. Good tannic backbone, but I'd drink this one soon, before the fruit fades.
B

DeLoach Cabernet Sauvignon Los Amigos Ranch Russian River Valley '97 -- Plums and chocolate in the nose, with round black cherry flavors and medium tannins.
B

DeLoach Cabernet Sauvignon OFS Russian River Valley '96 -- Smells like chocolate-covered plums. Round and supple in the mouth, with intense plum, blueberry and chocolate flavors and an appropriately tannic structure. Fairly concentrated and lush.
B+

E

Edmunds St. John Viognier California '98 -- Quite floral nose, with hints of spice, but oak dominates the palate with vanilla and spice flavors. Seems slightly lacking in acidity.
B

Edmunds St. John Syrah Fenaughty Vineyard El Dorado '97 -- Made high in the foothills, from a vineyard with granite soil. Intense plum and leather aromas, and flavors of red plum and slightly tart red cherry. A long sour-cherry finish. I think this wine will go well with food and drink well fairly young.
B+

Edmunds St. John Syrah Durell Vineyard Sonoma County '97 -- Unusually floral nose for a Syrah, with violet and plum scents. Unfortunately, this wine is very lean and tart in the mouth, with red cherry flavors and an odd metallic note leading to a short, tart finish. This is one of my least favorite Durell Syrahs. They are usually very impressive wines (for tasting notes of 10 vintages of Durell Syrah, see my report from 1998). Steve Edmunds mentioned that this is the first Durell Syrah that doesn't have any of the original vines, coming entirely from new blocks of the vineyard; hopefully, as the vines mature, the wine will return to its earlier heights.
B

Edmunds St. John Parmalee Hill Vineyard Sonoma Valley '97 -- From a vineyard situated on a steep slope directly above the original Durell Vineyard vines, this wine has a huge nose of meat, leather and violets. And on this wine, the palate doesn't disappoint, with generous plum and leather flavors, and a buttery note, even though the wine sees no new oak. The tannins assert themselves on the finish, which has plenty of lush fruit flavor as well. This wine is great to drink now with a hearty meal, but it will likely be better in several years.
A-

F

Fife Zinfandel Mendocino '97 -- Blackberries and buttery oak are the dominant aromas. A slightly prickly mouthfeel, with blackberries, raspberries and a little oak flavor. Very nice fruit; seems more concentrated than many Zins from the vintage.
B+

Fife L'Attitude California '96 -- A Southern Rhône style blend. Smells like leather with a little plum and some butter. Good plum and spice flavors.
B

Fife Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley '97 -- Smells like a Cabernet, with green pepper and plum notes. More plum and bell pepper on the palate, along with some leather. Tight and fairly tannic.
B

Fife Max Cuvee California '97 -- Fife's Northern Rhône style blend. Dark purple color, with plum, berry and violet aromas and flavors. Smooth at first, but at the end the abundant tannins assert themselves. Will be better with some bottle age.
B+

J

Jade Mountain Viognier Napa Valley '97 -- Honeysuckle and spice aromas. The initial impression in the mouth is one of sweet oak and peaches, with some floral notes and pencil shavings coming later. Seems slightly fat, but has a nice, lush, spicy finish. Drink very soon.
B

Jade Mountain Mourvedre California '97 -- Meat, leather and barnyard aromas add complexity to the cherry fruit. Velvety mouthfeel, with good plum, cherry and meat flavors. Lush and enjoyable.
B+

Jade Mountain La Provinçale California '97 -- Smells like buttery oak. Tastes like buttery oak. Finishes like buttery oak.
C+

Jade Mountain Syrah Hudson Vineyard Napa Valley '97 -- Pencilly oak aromas integrate well with the leather, meat and plum notes. Big plum and earthy flavors, with a good tannic backbone.
B

Jade Mountain Merlot Caldwell Vineyard Napa Valley '97 -- Leather, cherry and tobacco aromas, with big, round plum and leather flavors. Not much in the way of backbone, but a pleasant enough drink.
B

P

Joseph Phelps Chardonnay Los Carneros '98 -- Intense aromas of pear and apple fruit. Lush and round in the mouth, with pear, pineapple and citrus flavors, leading to a smooth smoaky, toasty and fruit-filled finish.
B+

Joseph Phelps Viognier Napa Valley '98 -- Moderately intense honeysuckle and peach aromas, with a complex mixture of honey, smoke, menthol, grapefruit and peach flavors and a short finish. The palate, though complex, doesn't seem particularly concentrated.
B

Joseph Phelps Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley '97 -- A big nose of plum, black cherry and blackberry, with more of the same fruit showing up in the mouth, alongside a healthy dose of vanilla and spice. Firm tannins give backbone to the black cherry and toasty oak finish.
B+

Joseph Phelps Le Mistral (Red) California '97 -- A Rhône-style blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Petite Sirah, Alicante and Carignane. Leather and plum aromas, with black cherry, leather and earth flavors. A modest cherry finish marks this as a nice, easy-drinking wine for early consumption.
B

Preston Sauvignon Blanc Dry Creek Valley '98 -- Partially barrel fermented, with some Semillon. Candied pear and apple aromas and flavors, with a wallop of oak. Like many other California Sauvignon Blancs, it doesn't seem to have much Sauvignon Blanc character.
B

Preston Marsanne Dry Creek Valley '98 -- Peach, honey and mineral aromas make up a very enjoyable nose. Unfortunately, the palate doesn't quite deliver, with oak and peach flavors, and a surprisingly lean lemon and apple finish. Still, a very nice wine.
B+

Preston Syrah Unfined/Unfiltered Dry Creek Valley '98 -- Big, expressive nose of leather and meat, along with some barnyardy aromas. Round and lush in the mouth with plum, leather and buttery oak. Medium tannins come out on the black cherry finish.
B+

Preston Zinfandel Old Vines/Old Clones Dry Creek Valley '97 -- Nose of raspberries and earth, with a slight note of dill. Generous raspberry and plum flavors, with medium tannins. Slightly short finish, but overall, a balanced, pleasant wine. Not for lovers of huge monster Zins, though.
B+

Q

Quady Electra Orange Muscat California '98 -- Bright honeysuckle and orange blossom nose. Medium-sweet and slightly spritzy, with floral and peach flavors. Good, but somewhat lacking in acidity, so I'd drink this soon, before the great floral aromas fade.
B

Qupé Marsanne Ibarra-Young Vineyard Santa Barbara County '98 -- Made from 78% Marsanne and 22% Roussanne, this wine has aromas of honeyed beeswax and plastic. Pinapple and oak dominate the flavors, with a nice pineapple and peach finish.
B

Qupé Syrah Central Coast '98 -- Cherries leap out of the glass, but there is plenty of cherry flavor left in the wine to flesh out the leather and earthy notes. Milky oak finish, with little tannin. Very enjoyable to drink now, but I wouldn't hold this wine too long.
B+

Qupé Syrah Bien Nacido Hillside Estate Santa Barbara '97 -- Leather, plum and meat aromas, with some vanilla and a small hint of ethyl acetate. The oak really dominates the palate right now, with spice and vanilla flavors, but there seems to be a lot more plum and cherry flavor hiding underneath. Long plummy, spicy finish with firm but round tannins. This wine will be better in a few years.
B+

R

Ravenswood Zinfandel Sonoma County '97 -- Big raspberry nose leads to plenty more raspberries in the mouth, along with spice and smoke flavors. Full of flavor, and a great deal for the price.
A-

Ravenswood Merlot Sonoma County '97 -- Shy nose, with some plum notes. Also has some alcohol aromas. Simple plum and oak flavors.
B-

Ravenswood Merlot Donnell Vineyard Sonoma Valley '97 -- On a much bigger scale than the regular bottling, this wine shows plum, leather, blueberry and blackberry aromas. It doesn't let up on the palate, either, with mouthfilling flavors of plum and black cherry. There is some oak here, but it's well integrated. Not a "wimpy" Merlot at all.
A-

Ravenswood Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County '97 -- Contains 14% Merlot and 7% Cabernet Franc. Currants plum and spice on the nose. Good flavors of plums, with a little green bell pepper and a strong tannic grip.
B+

Renwood Barbera Linnsteadt Vineyard Amador County '96 -- Big cherry nose and flavors, leading to a short oak-dominated finish. A one-dimensional wine.
B-

Renwood Viognier Amador County '97 -- Very nice honeysuckle and honeyed peach aromas. Obvious oak flavors along with more flowery and peachy notes. Flamboyant, but very good if you like the style.
B+

Renwood Old Vine Zinfandel Amador County '97 -- Muted nose at first, but opens with some good berry aromas, as well as an undertone of alcohol I find in many Amador Zins. Big berry and oak flavors with a surprisingly quenching cherry finish.
B

Renwood Zinfadel Grandpere Vineyard Amador County '96 -- Big berry and tobacco flavors, with a touch of eucalyptus. Lots of oak, plum and berry flavors, and quite tannic on the cherry and plum finish.
B+

S

St. Francis Chardonnay Sonoma County '98 -- Peaches and vanilla waft up out of the glass, and the wine delivers peach, pear and buttery oak flavors to your tongue. Not bad, but not much different than many other California Chardonnays.
B

St. Francis Zinfandel Old Vines Sonoma County '97 -- Bright raspberry aromas, along with a whiff of alcohol. Fairly intense flavors of plum, brambly berries and spicy oak lead to a finish dominated by plums, along with some toast and medium tannins.
B+

St. Francis Merlot Sonoma County '97 -- Shy nose, with a little bit of plum. Full and round in the mouth, with generous plum flavors and a touch of herbs. Good structure for a California Merlot, but seems a little simple, if still a pleasant drink.
B

Santino Fume Blanc Shenandoah Valley '97 -- Surprisingly aggressive herbal and vegetal character for a California Sauvignon Blanc. Asparagus and grass jump out of the glass. Seems very sweet in the mouth, with tropical fruit, herb and oak flavors dominating. An unfortunate note of alcohol mars the finish.
B

Santino Satyricon Shenandoah Valley '96 -- A blend of Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah. Initial not-quite-pleasant aromas of rubber give way to more typical Rhône aromas of meat and leather. Lean and mean, with oak and tart cherry flavors leading to a short, acidic finish.
B-

Shafer Chardonnay Red Shoulder Ranch Napa Carneros '98 -- Big sweet nose, with prominent vanilla and butter aromas, but also plenty of pear and tropical fruit. The good fruit continues in the mouth, along with a big dose of vanilla and butterscotch oak. Not for oak-phobes, but if you like the big, California oaky style, this is a good one.
B+

Shafer Merlot Napa Valley '97 -- Very closed down, with some aromas of plum and alcohol. Much better flavors of plum and black cherry, with a medium-intensity finish. A good dose of tannin for a California Merlot. I would hold this for a few months to see if the nose comes around.
B

Shafer Firebreak Napa Valley '97 -- Though it's a blend of 85% Sangiovese and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, this wine is definitely more Californian than Tuscan. A very shy, closed nose, with a little cherry and plum. Relatively light-bodied, with intense plum and cherry flavors on the mid-palate and finish. Also shows a few hints of earth and leather.
B+

Steele Pinot Blanc Bien Nacido Vineyard Santa Barbara County '98 -- Peach, pear and oak aromas and flavors. Nice enough, though it could use more balancing acidity.
B

Steele Syrah Clear Lake Vineyard Lake County '92 -- Buttery oak nose, with plum and more buttery oak in the mouth. I think there was some good fruit in there, but the oak kept it submerged.
B

T

Terre Rouge Enigma Sierra Foothills '98 -- An interesting blend of Marsanne, Viognier and Roussanne, with an oddly vegetal inital note in the nose. However, it dissipates with air, and peach fruit takes over. Mouthfilling peach and pear flavors are framed by buttery oak. An elegant finish with better acidity than I would have expected.
B+

Terre Rouge Viognier Shenandoah '98 -- Nice Viognier floral aromas, along with spice, peach and mineral notes. Definite buttery oak doesn't seem out of place with the peaches and minerals in the mouth, and the long finish has plenty of thirst-quenching acidity.
B+

Terre Rouge Mourvedre Amador County '97 -- Good nose, with leather, plums and earth. Very smooth in the mouth with plenty of plum and leather flavors, but some fairly rough tannins come out in force at the end, on the cherry-dominated finish. Not nearly as harshly tannic as the Terre Rouge reds I tasted last year, and much more pleasant to drink.
B+

Terre Rouge Syrah Sentinel Oak Vineyard Shenandoah '97 -- Big nose of leather, plum and spices. The wine is quite smooth, with sweet plummy fruit and leather flavors. Full and round, with moderate tannins and a long finish. This is the best wine I've tasted from this producer and is one of the best California Syrahs I've tried from the '97 vintage.
A-


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