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Au Bon Climat

Dom. Santa Barbara

Flying Goat
Hitching Post
Jelly Roll
Kenneth-Crawford Kunin


Sea Smoke
Wine Cask
Zaca Mesa

(photos, courtesy of Michael Poston)
Report on the 14th annual futures offering sponsored by the Wine Cask restaurant and wine store in Santa Barbara, Saturday, March 15, 2003. Admission to the tasting was $45, with the Wine Cask applying a credit back toward any purchases. The credit is based on a sliding scale. But basically, purchases over $500 will receive from 2.5% to 10% rebate in the form of a gift certificate.

This annual event covers locally grown and/or produced wines from soon-to-be-released vintages. The tasting is usually presented twice during the Spring to accommodate all those interested. The attendance at this year's event was somewhat tempered by the rain, which made negotiating the tables much easier. Some 38 labels were represented, pouring 97 wines.

The 62 tasting notes below were compiled from the first of this year's events. My scores, expressed in an alpha rating, give an overall estimation of the wine's qualities, and may be compared to numerical scores by referencing the following conversion chart. With few exceptions, these wines are generally pulled from barrel samples and bottled especially for this tasting - sometimes on the same day. As such, it's important to remember they represent a 'work in progress,' rather than a finished wine. Thus, the final wine may differ slightly in composition or blend - all of which means that you're speculating a bit on the outcome. On the other hand, I find it instructive as well as a lot of fun to try and predict how a wine will develop. All prices listed are Futures prices from the Wine Cask, and are generally good through April 30, 2003.

Overall impressions: as expected, the wines were generally fabulous and the food was superb. Given the anticipation that's been generated for the 2001 vintage, this has been one of the most eagerly awaited tastings of the year. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a rainy weekend in California. Even though the rain may have held back some of the potential crowd, it certainly didn't seem to dampen any of the spirits of those in attendance.

It was exciting to see the large number of new wineries represented in this tasting, since that meant at least twice as many new Syrahs and Pinots in the lineup. One of the more interesting things unveiled in this tasting was the more or less credit given to many of the clones used in making these wines. In fact, the theme of this tasting could easily have been 'Send in the Clones,' given the proliferation of identified Pinot and Syrah clones. Of course, this always makes for interesting conversation among wine geeks. Yet, as everyone acknowledges, it's really what's in the glass that counts - and there was certainly plenty of that. Nevertheless, all this talk of clones just opens up other points of discussion, contention, and prognostication.

Among my favorites this year were several Pinots - notably most of the Bonaccorsi wines, as well as the Melville Pinots. On the Syrah side, kudos to the Beckmen, Drew, Kenneth-Crawford, and Stolpman. So many of these wines were so good in fact, it was hard to find anything to be disappointed about. Well, there was the fact that by the time I got to the Andrew Murray table, it was empty - no wine, no people, no explanation. I know they HAD been there, so I really don't know whether they failed to bring enough wine or what may have happened.

  • several new Central Coast vineyards are becoming mainstays of the local AVAs
  • there's no shortage of hot new winemakers taking the stage, and even more of them waiting in the wings
  • clones are back in vogue
  • Bordeaux varietals are having a resurgence of sorts in the Santa Ynez Valley
  • Santa Rita Hills AVA is definitely the hotbed of Pinot Noir activity
  • the Syrahs produced throughout SB county are getting increasingly better
Selected Tasting Notes

AU BON CLIMAT: pouring 9 wines

2001 Pinot Noir "La Bauge Au-dessus" $23.95. Nice strawberry/cherry notes in nose and mouth, with some complexity. Lighter weight on the palate, but has a nice fruit presence. All Bien Nacido Block 2 Dijon clones. 900 cases. Overall score: B

2001 Pinot Noir "Sanford & Benedict" $27.95. Lovely nose of black cherry and strawberry, with a light stemmy touch. Round and full in the mouth, lots of semi-sweet fruit, with a touch of toastiness to the long finish. Clones 777 and 667. 400 cases. Overall score: B+

2001 Pinot Noir Talley "Rosemary's" $44.95. Deep and dark cherry nose, with a light floral note. Full and rich on the palate, nearly chewy fruit, elegant long finish. Very nice. 175 cases. Overall score: A-

2001 Pinot Noir "Knox Alexander" $35.95. Gorgeous nose! Lots of black and red fruit, floral notes, and a touch of stem and toast. Moderate weight on the palate, with its semi-sweet juicy cherry, clove and touch of vanilla, this is flat-out tasty! Made from blend of clones (50% Dijon) from Bien Nacido. 1000 cases. Overall score: A-

2001 Pinot Noir "Isabelle" $44.95. Lovely sweet black cherry nose. Mostly chewy and off-sweet on the palate, it picks up a slight bitter note toward the back end. Talley Vineyards "Rincon"; Mt. Carmel; Sanford & Benedict; Bien Nacido "Blocks 2 & 11"; Le Bon Climat and a touch of fruit from Mendocino County. 425 cases. Overall score: B+

2001 Pinot Noir "Mt. Carmel" $44.95. What a beautiful nose! Not overly extracted in the mouth, but has a great taste and length. 150 cases. Overall score: A-

Comments: some impressive offerings from Jim Clendenen. The Knox was delicious right now, but is likely to pick up more nuances with age. I liked the Mt. Carmel's smoky black cherry nose and mouth.

BABCOCK: pouring 3 wines

2001 Merlot/Cabernet Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon "Fathom" $32.95. Nice fruit-filled nose, with a touch of toast and vanilla. Fruity and rich mouthfeel, with a long and slightly austere/closed finish. Very nice Bordeaux blend. 1300 cases. Overall score: A-

2001 Syrah "Black Label" $32.95. Blackberry and licorice-filled nose. A bit primal and monolithic in the mouth. 50/50 Thompson Vineyard, Alisos Vineyard. 1500 cases. Overall score: B+

2002 Pinot Noir "Cargasacchi" $32.95. Huge and effusive nose. Big mouthfeel, with a light stemmy quality, and a touch of oak and herbs on the long huge finish. Not likely to be mistaken for a Russian River Pinot.
200 cases. Overall score: A-

Comments: interestingly, the Syrah takes a back seat to the the delicious Fathom and the fabulous Cargasacci Pinot.

BECKMEN: pouring 3 wines

Mikael Sigouin of Beckmen

2002 Grenache "Purisima Mountain Vineyard" $23.95. Big raspberry and boysenberry nose and mouth. Chewy, succulent and intense on the palate, with a long tasty finish. 200 cases. Overall score: B+

2002 Mourvèdre "Purisima Mountain Vineyard" $23.95. Whoa! Massive butter, toast, and meaty fruit on the nose. Chewy across the palate, with lots of semi-sweet fruit, and long gripping finish. 100 cases. Overall score: A-

2002 Syrah "Purisima Mountain Vineyard Clone 1" $27.95. Flat out huge! Slightly reduced nose, with an incredibly chewy mouthfeel and very long finish. 150 cases. Overall score: A-

Comments: yes, the Clone 1 Syrah is great. But, do NOT miss out on this Mourvedre!

BONACCORSI: pouring 3 wines

Mike Bonaccorsi

2002 Pinot Noir "Melville" $27.95. Slightly reduced in the nose, with sweet black cherry fruit and touch of cinnamon and spice. Smooth and seamless mouthfeel, with a tasty long finish. l200 cases. Overall score: A-

2002 Pinot Noir "Fiddlestix" $27.95. This might be the most complex of this trio of Pinots. Big, slightly reduced nose of massive black cherry and spice. Chewy and tannic, with a slight grip to the long tannic finish. Fiddlestix is the Kathy Joseph (Fiddlehead) vineyard, just across the road from Sanford & Benedict. 150 cases. Overall score: A-

2002 Syrah "Bien Nacido" $27.95. Huge, sweet and chewy. Lots of black cherry, cranberry, and strawberry fruit, beautiful spices and floral components, and light touches of earthy tones. Co-fermented with 8%Viognier. From Bien Nacido X block. 200 cases. Overall score: A-

Comments: a new face in this event, this was also a stunning debut by Mike Bonaccorsi. Three amazing wines, with the Bien Nacido topping my list.

BRANDER: pouring 3 wines

2000 Cabernet Reserve (an "under the table" selection). Very lovely fruit-filled nose. Lush, Bordeaux-esque flavors and mouthfeel, with a light stemmy touch and long finish. Overall score: B+

Comments: Fred Brander was scheduled to be pouring 2 Sauvignons, but this extra Cab was a nice surprise, and an excellent wine.

CARINA: pouring 2 wines

2002 Syrah "Colson Canyon" $23.95. Slightly herbaceous and earthy, with a nice meaty quality in the nose. Monolithic and dense on the palate, with masses of black fruit and long chewy finish. 7% Viognier from Sanford & Benedict. 100 cases. Overall score: A-

2001 Syrah"Thompson" $23.95. Nose of dark berry, mocha, spice and licorice. Chewy and seamless, with a long tasty finish. 80% Thompson Vineyard, 10% Colson Canyon, and 10% Purisima. 70 cases. Overall score: B+

Comments: here was another new face in the crowd. Owners David and Helen Hardee are getting some help from Joey Tensley, and these are really a nice pair of wines. I preferred the Colson Cyn slightly more than the Thompson.

CURRAN: pouring 1 wine

2001 Syrah "Reeves" $14.49. Big ripe nose, with lots of blueberry and a touch of mineral. Chewy mouthfeel, somewhat flinty quality to the ripe black fruit, long finish. Nice wine, at a stunning price. Tablas clone 877. Dan & Meegan Reeves' Vnyd is in the Santa Ynez Valley AVA. 250 cases. Overall score: B+

Comments: this is the namesake label of Kris Curran, who is also winemaker for Sea Smoke.

CURTIS: pouring 2 wines

2001 Mourvèdre "Vogelzang Vineyard" $14.49. Nice light floral along with meaty quality to the blackberry fruit. Younger mouthfeel, with a nice mineral note, and some grip and tighter feel on the palate. 2nd crop from this vnyd. 40% new oak. 500 cases. Overall score: B+

Comments: 1st appearance by Curtis in this futures offering. Very nice effort from a much anticipated vineyard.

DI BRUNO: pouring 1 wine

2001 Sangiovese "Stolpman Vineyard" $14.95. Nose of black cherry/dried cherry nose, touch of cinnamon and spice - a bit restrained for the moment. Chewy mouthfeel, great concentration, long tasty finish. This remains arguably the best CA version of Sangiovese. 900 cases. Overall score: B+

Comments: here's another big kick-ass California-style Sangiovese from Di Bruno. You'll absolutely never mistake this for your father's Chianti. And, as Martha Stewart would say,' that's a good thing.'

DOMAINE SANTA BARBARA: pouring 2 wines

2001 Syrah "Great Oaks Ranch Vineyard" $19.95. Floral and somewhat brushy/earthy nose. Full mouthfeel, with flavors of blackberry, shoe wax, and earthy tones. Generally a younger and slightly coarse mouthfeel, with long finish. 100 cases. Overall score: B+

Comments: nice Syrah; and, priced well too. This is Brander's "other" label, which is intended for other-than-Bordeaux varietals.

DREW FAMILY : pouring 3 wines

Jason Drew

2002 Pinot Noir "Gatekeepers" $19.95. This blend of vnyds has a nice smoky cherry nose, with touches of vanilla and cola. Nice cherry flavors and good balance, with long finish. The Rio Vista Vnyd is new, and the Gatekeepers name is derived from the fact that these are the Eastern and Western most vnyds in the Santa Rita Hills AVA. 75 cases. Rio Vista (70%), Ashley's (30%), 33% new French oak. Overall score: B+

2002 Syrah "Rodney's and Larner" $19.95. Perfumed sweet nose of berry and spice. Full mouthfeel, nice blend of black and red fruit, good spice and mineral notes, and long tasty finish. 150 cases. Overall score: A-

2002 Syrah "Alisos Vineyard" $19.95. Nose of blackberry and hardwoods. Full and rich on the palate, with nice fruit, some earthy tones, and long finish. 100 cases. Overall score: B+

Comments: here's an excellent trio of wines from an up-'n-coming winery. This is not the first vintage from Drew Family, but it is their first appearance in the SB Futures tasting. Jason Drew brings his experience at Babcock winery to this family venture, and the results bode well for this lineup.

DUO: pouring 2 wines

2002 Syrah "Colson Canyon" $19.95. Nice smoke and licorice accents to the blackberry nose. Toasty and smooth, with very nice balance, and long tasty finish. 150 cases. Overall score: B+

Comments: this is sort of the AOP (anything other than Pinot) label of Gary & Teresa Burk from Costa de Oro. A very nice Syrah.

FLYING GOAT : pouring 1 wine
Norman Yost

2001 Flying Goat Pinot Noir "Dierberg Vineyard" $25.95. Lush bing and black cherry nose, with cinnamon and touch of cola. Moderate mouthfeel, slight forest floor notes accent the cherry and spice flavors. Long balanced finish. Clone 115 and clone 31. 315 cases. Overall score: B+

Comments: don't let the clever name and cool label dissuade you, this wine delivers! In fact, this vineyard delivers.

FOXEN: pouring 5 wines

2001 Syrah/Mourvèdre/Viognier "Vogelzang - Cuvée Jeanne Marie" $23.95. Beautiful floral, fruity, and seductive nose that seems filled with contradictions - musky, yet light; plush, yet sharp edged. Full, rich and lush mouthfeel, gobs of fruit, chewy as all get-out, smooth and seductive finish. 70% Syrah, 25% Mourvèdre, 5%Viognier. 100 cases. Overall score: A-

2001 Cabernet Franc "Tinaquaic" $27.95. Nice, slightly stemmy nose. Young and gripping on the palate, with lots of chewy qualities, and a very tasty mouthfeel, and long finish. 150 cases. Overall score: A-

Comments: the Vogelzang vnyd has destiny written all over it. And, the Foxen boys have tapped into some of its best stuff. Aside from their small Estate holdings, I've seen nothing but fabulous results from their vineyard selections.

HITCHING POST: pouring 3 wines

Frank Ostini

2001 Syrah "Purisima Mountain" $23.95. Rich, balanced nose and mouth, with lots of plush black cherry and spice, and long toasty finish. Overall score: B+

Comments: one of the easy off-handed comments here is to say that this is a Syrah made by Pinot guys. While that may be true, this Syrah is more true to its roots, and probably all the better for it.

JAFFURS WINE CELLARS: pouring 3 wines

Craig Jaffurs

2002 Syrah "Stolpman Vineyard" $26.95. Round and smooth, this wine is all about finesse and elegance. Never short of fruit, the and blackberry compote just finishes on and on. Blend of Clone 3, Estrella and Durell. 100 cases. Overall score: A-

2002 Syrah "Melville Vineyard" $27.95.
Somewhat closed nose, but big and chewy mouthfeel, and very gripping and tannic on the palate. Lots of blackberry fruit throughout, and long somewhat spicy finish. Tablas 99, Syrah Clone 1, and Estrella. 300 cases. Overall score: A-

Comments: the Melville is a reverse side of the Stolpman coin - due somewhat to it youth, but also to its more Easterly location.

JELLY ROLL : pouring 1 wine

Jim Knight

2002 Syrah "Larner" $21.95
Smoky sweet nose, with a nice floral touch. Sweet mouthfeel, excellent balance, long finish. Even better on the palate than on the nose. 877 clone. 75 cases. Overall score: B+

Comments: the name of this 1st offering from Jim Knight's label, is a nod to Van Morrison. Frankly, the name itself is just about enough to sell the wine (who on earth couldn't like a jelly roll). Fortunately, the wine ought to sell itself -as this is a very nice 1st effort. Jim brings previous experience from SB Winery to his new venture.

KENNETH-CRAWFORD: pouring 2 wines.

Wendy Horvath, Kenneth Gummere

2002 Syrah "Santa Barbara County" $17.95.
Fascinating nose of floral blackberry, spices, and pungent earthiness. Full mouthfeel, nice balance, slightly odd taste to the long finish (oak?). 64% Larner, 18% Thompson "Old Vines", and 18% Lafond. 120 cases. Overall score: B+

2002 Syrah "Lafond" $22.49.
Killer nose! Bright blueberry and blackberry aromas and flavors. Off-sweet mouthfeel, very balanced, long finish. Estrella Clone cool climate Syrah from the Santa Rita Hills AVA. 100 cases. Overall score: A-

Comments: Kenneth Gummere (Lafond) & Mark Horvath (Babcock) debuted an excellent Syrah at last year's event - during which, a rumor floated around that the proprietors were more interested in Pinot Noir - implying that last year's Syrah was a one-shot deal. Well, it turns out the rumors were NOT true - and in fact were completely debunked with this go-around. Yes, they do LIKE Pinot; but no, they weren't dropping Syrah. Hurray! Rumors, what are they good for - absolutely nothing.

KUNIN: pouring 2 wines.

2001 Syrah "Paradise Road" $25.95. Fleshy blackberry nose, with a touch of tar. Full, if monolithic mouthfeel, tasty fruit, nice balance. Rancho San Fernando Rey. 100 cases. Overall score: B+

Comments: for me, last year's "Barrel Selection" was a better wine.

LONGORIA: pouring 2 wines

2001 Pinot Noir "Mt. Carmel" $42.49
Moderately effusive nose and mouth. Perfectly balanced, and a joy to drink. 95 cases. Overall score: B+

2001 Pinot Noir "Fe Ciego" $29.95. Very light profile, sort of like having RRV Pinot on a perpetual diet. Everything's in harmony here, it's just quite light. (Former Blind Faith Vnyd - renamed due to conflict), planted in 1998, three clones; one mile west of S&B and Mt. Carmel. 545 cases. Overall score: B

Comments: extraction was never the point with Rick's wine - fruit and balance were. Here, he continues with Pinots in a more balanced, albeit less gutsy style.

MWC: pouring 1 wine

2002 Pinot Noir "Au Bon Climat" $15.95. Lighter style Pinot, with nice bing cherry aromas and flavors, balanced to the acid side, and bound to work well with foods. 200 cases. Overall score: B

Comments: from the negotiant arm of Margerum Wine Company, this is a nice little Pinot from bonafide sources.

Paul Young, Drew Horton - pouring chores

MARGERUM WINE COMPANY: pouring 3 wines

2002 Sauvignon Blanc "Volgelzang" $19.95. Very NZ style, with nice gooseberry and boxwood aromas and flavors, showing just a touch of spritz on the finish. 75 cases. Overall score: B+

2002 M5 $19.95. Interesting nose of berry, floral, and spice aromas. Full on the palate, very tasty and well balanced throughout, developing a nice smooth texture through the long finish. Blend of Syrah from Volgelzang, Colson Canyon, Great Oaks, Purisima,and Alondra de los Prado; Alban Clone Grenache from Purisima; Mourvèdre from Zaca Mesa; and Cinsault/Cunoise from Stolpman. 425 cases. Overall score: B+

2002 Syrah "Alondra de Los Prados Vineyard" $31.95. Here's an interesting combo - Syrah and Chardonnay. Sounds Aussie, right? Nope, it's just a Syrah-based field blend containing something less than 10% of Chardonnay and Viognier. Beautiful nose, sweet juicy and chewy mouthfeel, great balance, and a very tasty long finish. 25 cases. Overall score: A-

Comments: Wine Cask owner Doug Margerum is now making his own wines - yes, he's the winemaker. I liked the Syrah the best. But, the M5 considering the name, the blend, and the fruit sources, I couldn't wait to taste this wine. But, as is sometimes the case, the sum of the parts wasn't necessarily better than the individual components.


Some Favorites


2001 Au Bon Climat "Knox Alexander"
2002 Babcock "Cargasacchi"
2002 Bonaccorsi "Melville"
2002 Melville "Terraces"
2002 Melville "Carrie's"
2001 Ojai "Bien Nacido"
2001 Sanford "Sanford & Benedict"
2001 Sea Smoke "Southing"


2002 Beckmen Purisima "Clone 1"
2001 Carina "Thompson"
2002 Drew "Rodney's and Larner"
2002 Jaffurs "Melville"
2002 Jelly Roll "Larner"
2002 Kenneth-Crawford "Lafond"
2002 Margerum "Alondra de Los Prados"
2001 Ojai "Roll Ranch"
2001 Stolpman
2002 Tensley "Purisima Clone 99"


2002 Beckmen Mourvedre
2001 Foxen SMV Cuvee Jean Marie

MELVILLE: pouring 3 wines.

Greg Brewer, Ron Melville

2002 Chardonnay "Clone 76-inox" $22.49. Clean, crisp and very fruit-driven, with a massively long finish. This wine continues to be purely beautiful. 325 cases. Overall score: B+

2002 Pinot Noir "Terraces" $33.95. Big, rich and chewy, this new bottling delivers on all cylinders. Major black and bing cherry, touch of vanilla and toast; very long finish. 400 cases. Overall score: A-

2002 Pinot Noir "Carrie's block" $33.95. Also big and rich, the Carrie's bottling has a lovely clove and nutmeg note to accent the lush dark cherry and strawberry nose and mouth. 400 cases. Overall score: A-

Comments: once again, the Carrie's Block comes away with my vote - though the Terraces was a near upset winner. Fabulous stuff!

OJAI VINEYARD: pouring 7 wines

Adam Tolmach

2001 Pinot Noir "Bien Nacido" $35.95
Big lush black cherry nose and flavors, with lots of smooth tannins, and long toasty finish. 400 cases. Overall score: A-

2001 Syrah "Vogelzang" $31.95. Seemed a bit restrained in the nose, with generally lighter aromas of berry, pepper and oak. Extracted and dark colored, the wine also seemed a bit restrained and primary in mouthfeel. There's obviously lots of stuff in there, so I suspect the tightness is just a sleepy wine. There's just a touch of Grenache and a bit of Viognier in here, as well. 175 cases. Overall score: B+

2001 Syrah "Roll Ranch" $35.95. Beautiful dark berry and spice nose. Dense on the palate, with an obvious dollop of oak, the RR this year is smooth and fruity, but maybe just a shade less full - or just reticent right now. 175 cases. Overall score: A-

Comments: Adam seemed to have brought a ton of wine along with him. Now, here's a place to definitely taste everything - something I ought to leave more time to do.

QUPE: pouring 4 wines

2001 Syrah "Alisos Vineyard" $27.95. Lovely sweet nose of blackberry and boysenberry. A bit pinched or strained on the palate, with a decent berry and spice profile, and long finish. 225 cases. Overall score: B

2001 Syrah "Twentieth Anniversary" $39.95. From old vines in the original block X. nice sumptuous nose of berry and toast. Somewhat hi-toned and definitely balanced to the acid side of things, with good fruit and long finish. 300 cases. Overall score: B+

Comments: both these wines seemed well-made, but either slightly underripe or too much to the acid end of the scale for my palate.

SANFORD: pouring 2 wines

2001 Pinot Noir "Barrel Select, Sanford & Benedict Vineyard" $44.95. Lush, black cherry, with hints of floral, light stems, and nutmeg. Plush on the palate, with a excellent balance lots of concentrated dark cherry flavor, and a lingering feeling on the long finish. 1300 cases. Overall score: A-

2001 Pinot Noir "Barrel Select, La Rinconada Vineyard" $53.95. Denser and more restrained than the S/B bottling, the aromas seem more forest floor-wild game, with a light cinnamon touch. Mouthfeel is also dense and chewy. More full in mouthfeel than the S&B, it's also tighter-wound and higher-toned, with a very long tasty finish. 1300 cases. Overall score: A-

Comments: excellent S&B Pinot - the most accessible and juicy that I've tasted in years. And although the L/R was tasty as usual, I preferred the Sanford & Benedict bottling. These prices are starting to get a little wicked.

SEA SMOKE : pouring 2 wines

2001 Pinot Noir "Botella" $20.95. Fabulous nose of bing and black cherry, with a touch of pomegranate and cinnamon. Kind of light on the palate [for such dense effusive nose], nice cherry fruit, and long finish. A blend of ten clones, aged in 60% new wood. 500 cases. Overall score: B+

2001 Pinot Noir "Southing" $36.95. Gorgeous nose of black cherry, cola, nutmeg and a touch of stems. Somewhat tight and young on the palate, with lots of dense dark berry flavor, gripping mid-palate, and long toasty finish. 100% new wood. 300 cases. Overall score: A-

Comments: there was a lot of buzz during and after the event about both of these wines from Victor Gallegos & Kris Curran. And as good as the Botella was, the Southing was just that much better. Super juice!

STOLPMAN: pouring 3 wines

2001 Syrah $27.95. Beautiful succulent nose of blackberry, mocha, tarry notes, and just a touch of toast. Full and chewy on the palate, with dark fruit flavors, touch of anise and spice, and long toasty finish. Seductive as all get-out. 100% Estrella clone from 110R and 1103P rootstock from block 5. 100 cases. Overall score: A-

2001 Syrah/Sangiovese "La Croce" $31.95. Here was a surprise. Lovely spiced black cherry and herbed nose. Full and rich on the palate, the wine is very accessible, but has a neat-o racy streak running through it that makes you not want to put it down. Delicious long finish. 50% Syrah and 50% Sangiovese. 100 cases. Overall score: A-

2001 "Angeli" (angels) $39.95. Lush and beautiful nose of dark fruit, toast, and a touch of herbs. Tuned and balanced, this wine is really sleek on the palate, with plenty of black cherry fruit, and a nice spicy tone that doesn't let up through the long finish. 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, and 17% Sangiovese. 125 cases. Overall score: B+

Comments: this was a great lineup! The regular Syrah was flat-out delicious. In fact, this is THE bottle to set along side the Barcolounger. And those blended Aussies have nothing on the "La Croce." Finally, the Tuscan blend "Angeli" proves that Bordeaux varietals DO belong in this valley.

TENSLEY: pouring 2 wines

2002 Syrah "Purisima Clone 99" $23.95. Very fresh-fruit blackberry scented nose, with a massive licorice note, and hints of spice and toast. Full and rich on the palate, chewy and plush, yet also showing some edge. 180 cases. Overall score: A-

2002 Syrah "Colson Canyon Vineyard" $23.95. Big nose of dark fruit, violets, and meaty aromas. Chewy palate, slightly more sinewy in focus, with a light blueberry and anise streak, and long toasty finish. 350 cases. Overall score: A-

Comments: vintage after vintage, the Tensley wines are enjoyable and very accessible early-on. This pair is no exception.

VERDAD: pouring 1 wine

2001 Tempranillo/Syrah/Grenache $15.95. Substantially ripe nose of dark fruit, lightly spicy and floral. Full mouthfeel, Syrah (25%), Grenache (25%). 300 cases. Overall score: B+

Comments: probably a little riper than need be, but interesting and well made. This is the collaborative label from Bob and Louisa Lindquist (Qupe).

WINE CASK: pouring 3 wines

2002 Barbera/Refosco "Super Deluxe Red" $11.95. Nice smoky and fruity nose. Plenty of acids balance out the fruit in the mouth, giving the wine a long clean finish. 100 cases. Overall score: B

Comments: this is a line that has always been about good value, and this one is true to form. This offering is more about balanced acids and is obviously intended to be a food wine.

ZACA MESA : pouring 2 wines

2002 Syrah/Grenache/Mourvèdre "Z Cuvée" Barrel Selection $18.95. Heady nose of black and red fruit - very juicy. Concentrated off-sweet mouthfeel, somewhat bright tasting, with a chewy texture and very long finish. 45% Syrah; 25% Mourvèdre ; 25% Grenache - CO-fermented w/ Syrah; 5% Cinsault. 50 cases. Overall score: B+

Comments: 2002 is heralding a comeback of sorts for Z-M. No, they haven't been away, however recent vintages wines have lacked the gutsiness of many of their colleagues over the past several years. This marks a return to some really nice wines.

Unable to taste and review:

Cold Heaven: pouring 3 wines
COSTA DE ORO: pouring 1 wine
IL PODERE DELL'OLIVOS: pouring 1 wines
ANDREW MURRAY: pouring 2 wines - but apparently ran out before the event finished.
WESTERLY: pouring 2 wines



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