This is an archive of tasting notes from participants in the UK wine forum, with notes from before 2005

UK Wine Forum - USA
Notes from participants in the UK Forum are added in chronological order.

reds - whites


11/01 Carignan 'Ancient Vines', Bonny Doon Vineyards 1999
Big colour, big (1 dimensional) nose and the whole thing is really being bullied into submission by the 14.5% alcohol. Not in balance. Might have suffered coming after the Chave, but I retasted the next day and this really doesn;t work for me. Much too tiring. I'd be interested to hear other's opinions on it. (Joel Hopwood, UK)

11/01 Reds, Laurel Glen Vineyards (California), 1995
This is an interesting one. Laurel Glen are one of California'a better producers of Cabernet et al, and this is the estate's basic wine made from a blend of Cabernet, Mataro, Grenache and god knows what else. It's £6.47 + vat from the UK agents Enotria Winecellars, so when I saw this bottle languishing for £4.99 on the shelf of my local Wine Rack, you know what I did. What I got for my money was a very good, mature Sonoma wine that showed developed secondary characteristics of old wood and leather, underpinned by subtle crushed berry flavours and a lovely harmonious finish. Just lovely mature wine. The (very amateur looking) label on the back said "Imported by Greenalls Cellars", so that probably tells you how long it's been hanging around. Sadly, no more bottles available. A nice "steal". (Joel Hopwood, UK)

11/01 Ridge Monte Bello Santa Cruz cabernet 1996
Glorious wine and great value conpared to the Monte Bello tasted recently. Amazing deep red colour and superb nose awash with all the black fruits. Great weight and fruit with a medley of rich, ripe fruit on the palatte. Length goes on for at least 35 seconds and is very moreish! (David Pearce, UK)

11/01 Silver Oak Cabernet 1989
Somewhat nicer than the one I had a few months ago. The fruit was still alive but the wines was at it's peak and needs to be drunk up. Sweet cassis and good length. (David Pearce, UK)

10/01 Ridge Cabernet Monte Bello 1994
This has to rank as one of wines of the year. Totally decadent and a nose that is apparent from 5 metres away. Deep crimson in colour and so multi dimensional I cannot begin to describe it. An abundance of sweet black fruits marinaded in sugar on the nose which follows through on the palatte. Lots of spice and vanilla accompanied by a cassis and calvados overtone.This wine is so deep and rich in tannin that is has a very long life ahead of it. Exceptional wine making. (David Pearce, UK)

10/01 Gravelly Meadow 1989, Diamond Creek
89 points and a good review from the Wine spectator, 76 and a poor review from Parker. Of course RP got it right. The wine has a slightly vegetal smell, and in the mouth the initial taste for me was violets. There is a definate weight to the wine, which has probably come from age, but it is also lacking in flavour, and acidic. Was ok with a piece of venison, but we didn't finish the bottle, which sort of tells you everything. Cost about 70GBP and was way overpriced. (Cameron Clark, Holland)

10/01 Saintsbury Carnos Pinot Noir, 1997
This was a blinder. What a shame I don't have any more. The showy new oak has all gone and what is left is an incredibly mature and complex Pinot. Why a 97 should be this mature is beyond me, but there were great flavours of game and fruit cake. Fantastic feel in the mouth, this lasted about 30 minutes before it had all gone. Best USA Pinot ever. (Cameron Clark, Holland)

10/01 Gallo (Alexander Valley) Barrelli Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 1995
Dark, almost black - did anyone see the letter from Anthony Barton to the White Issue of wine on the subject of colour? - nose a bit subdued. Flavour quite powerful, a bit too much for my taste (the over extraction), but still quite nice. Dry finish and a hefty 14% abv. Teso £11.99 (Daron Fincham, UK)

09/01 Dunn Vineyards 'Howell Mountain' CS 1994
A bit hard to call this wine on opening but it does open out nicely in the glass. Very youthful dense purple/plum. An amazing bouquet of lavish sweet multiplex black fruits force it's way up the nose with the same richness squeezing its way onto the palate with charcoal, blackberry/cassis, tobacco, minerals & spice and as well with a shed-load of complexity and a good long nicely focused finnish with huge tannins and subtle oak. This wine could (to me) pass a very good Bordeaux and I certainly wouldn't have guessed it a 7 year old. This is a very, very good wine and pretty good stuff as well but at a price (£35.00) three years ago. (Phil Wilkins, UK)

09/01 Renwood (USA) Sierra Series Zinfandel 1999
There isn't so much a nose to this wine as the feeling of being overcome by a billowing cloud. Its like a volcano. So much vanilla assails the old snout that it knocks your head back. Nice though. To lovers of American oak this wine is a winner. On the palate its overwhelmingly sweet. Pure jam. I love it. For a grape that is supposed to have an Italian progenitor this is so un-Italian. Not austere, no noticeable tannin, just juice. 14% abv. £9.99 Majestic. (Daron Fincham, UK)

08/01 1994 Ridge Lytton Springs
Colour: fine, still deep, no signs of significant ageing. Nose: thin and sharp, slightly heady with a strong alcoholic element, but not the mustiness of a corked wine. Palate: carried on from where the nose left off; I was used in previous bottles to a rich, warm fruitiness with a pleasing oak-balance, but this offered only the tiniest hints at that with sharp, paint-like ethyl in the mouth. It didn't taste quite as bad as that, but when you're used to a richer and smoother wine from other bottles, the effect is so disappointing. It mellowed a little after about 30 minutes to an hour out of the decanter, but not into what I was used to. The fruit remained perceptible, but in the background. Length: well, given that the wine had such an intense acidity, it was not surprising that its effect lingered long on the tongue. However, given its displeasing flavour, this was not a good thing! .(Matthew Mellor, UK)

05/01 Silver Oak Napa Cabernet 1989
A huge wine showing tremendous fruit flavours and still possesing an abundance of tannin. I found it to be a little too acidic (aren't silver oaks supposed to be quite soft), although this really helped cut through the creamy sauce we had with our dinner. A nice wine but there are better wines at this price level. (David Pearce, UK)

05/01 Domaine Drouhin (Oregon) "Cuvee Laurene" Pinot Noir 1995
Clear and bright. Youthful appearance and quite deep colour. Nose is slight but has that rich, creamy undertone in the French style. Ethereal perfume. Roses? Satisfying, semi-skimmed palate verging on creamy except that the vintage lacks that extra sweetness to make it truly great. Not at all vegetal like the Hamiliton Russell, very much fruit driven. 13.0 % abv. £25 Nickolls and Perks. (Daron Fincham, UK)

04/01 De Loach Russian River Valley, Zinfandel 1998
At last a Zin that I like. Selected for its robust £4 off (sorry, thats a Phil Hogan rip-off) this wine weighs in at 14.5% abv but can take this much punch better than Lennox Lewis. Black, bitter cherry on the rich nose, the colour is deep and the palate is warm and sweet. Remaindered at Sainsbury's for £9.69 (Daron Fincham, UK)

04/01 1992 Topolos Frei Ranch Zinfandel, Sonoma
Dense colour, complex nose. Raspberries and cream, capsicum, leather and spice, smooth with a spicy backbone, nicely balanced with smooth structure. Berry fruit shows well on the finish. Very nice. (Dave Sansom, UK)

03/01 Sutter Home Zinfandel 1998
Surprisingly pale colour for a zin - a medium red. Nose is jam, jam, more jam, and some eucalyptus. Palate is pretty much the same. There's nothing wrong with it (and at least it isn't oaked to hell), and it's cheap. If you want cheap, jammy wine, it's great. (Lucian Holland , UK)

03/01 Charles Krug Cabernet Vintage Select 1951
Bottle was low neck and cork was very clean. Colour was deep brick red with aromas of spice fruit soon after decanting.Tannins were completely resolved with pure jammy concentrated and rich fruit for a 50 year old wine. (J.D.Dudum, USA)

03/01 1996 Turley Moore Earthquake Vineyard Zinfandel, California
Hot, one-dimensional, simple nose of over-stewed fruit compote with wood and chewing gum flavours of menthol and eucalyptus. Lacking depth, this is a good barbecue wine, and is actually less of a beast than I expected. (Yixin Ong, UK/Singapore)

03/01 1991 Dunn ‘Howell Mountain’ Cabernet Sauvignon, California
A great chunky wine that took quite a fair bit of time for the nose (bottle stink) to fully express itself with lots of fruit, some mocha, hints of tobacco and green pepper. Full-bodied, still not showing all it’s got, some depth and substance, and a good example of varietal Cabernet Sauvignon. (Yixin Ong, UK/Singapore)

03/01 1994 Ponzi Reserve Pinot Noir, Oregon
A very sweet nose of rotting and over-ripe fruit, some oak, but otherwise quite manageable. This retains a curious, large-scale sense of balance, although the oak becomes more obtrusive towards the finish in a creamy, mentholated fashion that puts me off. Quite a jammy Pinot Noir. (Yixin Ong, UK/Singapore)

03/01 1995 Kistler ‘Sonoma Coast’ Pinot Noir, California
I will confess readily to not spending enough time with this wine – by all accounts, the oak did blow off after a while. But I took one sniff and wrote ‘oaked to death’, and I’ll stand by that, despite the fairly easy drinking this was, with only the oak being a truly offensive factor in the wine. (Yixin Ong, UK/Singapore)

03/01 1992 Beaux Freres Pinot Noir, Oregon
Quite an evolved nose with red and dark fruits, some forest floor, and a good whack of oak as well. Obvious alcohol. Fairly complex, but there’s a real toastiness to this wine that refuses to be shaken off, and it seems to be on a downhill slide, with a sharp and short finish. Fairly well-balanced, although I don’t think the oak has integrated very well at all. (Yixin Ong, UK/Singapore)

03/01 1996 Beaux Freres Pinot Noir, Oregon
This shows its alcohol more obviously (and proudly, one suspects), very much like cherry-flavoured cough syrup. Very ripe, quite forward, lots of oak, full and concentrated, a thickness obtained at the cost of mouthfeel and direction. A wine going nowhere, and not very fast either. (Yixin Ong, UK/Singapore)

Good colour with soft fruit on the nose. Nicely integrated with solid mature slightly sweet and perfumed fruit; finishing silkily smooth. Very very nice. (Dave Sansom, UK)

Good colour, clear at rim, very leggy witha nose of raspberries and cedar. Smooth in mouth, cherries and raspberries lightly spiced with a hint of oak. Finishes smoothly with sweet berry fruit lingering. Very nice. (Dave Sansom, UK)

Deep colour, very leggy. Nose of cassis with a nutty background. Smooth and rounded in mouth, concentrated berry flavours again with the nuttiness, fine tannins. Smooth finish which lingers nicely. Very very nice. (Dave Sansom, UK)

02/01 1997 Qupe Bien Nacido Reserve Syrah
Too much mint on this one for me to get at the somewhat stewed Syrah fruit. Pleasant drinking on an afternoon when one's had too much already, but not what I'm looking for if I'm going to spend 18 pounds on a wine. (Yixin Ong, UK/Singapore)

02/01 1998 Bonny Doon Le Cigare Volant
49% Grenache, 37% Syrah, 14% Mourvedre. Wow - I didn't think varietal characteristics could be packed up so well in plastic - this reeks of a Toys-R-Us store. Great amounts of artificiality accompany the muscular alcohol, and my head spins at the absurdity of this wine. Truly revolting and worth buying just to inflict hurt on my enemies (Yixin Ong, UK/Singapore)

02/01 1997 Ridge Lytton Springs
A very forward nose, with loads of fruit, oak and alcohol, perhaps a bit too much for me, but not ridiculously overblown. Lots of ripeness in the mouth, almost like fruitcake, and balanced despite the size. (Yixin Ong, UK/Singapore)

02/01 1997 David Caffaro Petite Sirah
Actually, only 75% PS, but just enough to be labelled as such;-) Superb fruit on the nose, ripe, big without being over-extracted, very drinkable indeed, but a wine I found somewhat tiring, even if very nice. (Yixin Ong, UK/Singapore)

02/01 1996 Renwood Zinfandel Icewine
Curiosity of the night, surely, with a very odd nose reminiscent of wildberries and lots of light-coloured fruit candy. Fruit essence on the palate, a striking wine that’s not wildly sweet, this is something else altogether. What in the world were they trying to do??? Strange and enjoyable on its own terms. (Yixin Ong, UK/Singapore)

02/01 1985 Ridge Geyserville
I like this wine. Really. The oak has settled, the fruit has matured, and there’s a lovely complexity to it that I’d never expect from Zinfandel. Alcohol does of course poke through, but not offensively. It’s a real revelation in the mouth, without the sheer fury of a young Zin, but still packing a real heft and gaining weight throughout the night. Very nice indeed. (Yixin Ong, UK/Singapore)

02/01 Ridge Geyserville 1994
Fantastic. Rich Cherries, lovely weight of fruit. A noticable spicy component in the mid palate. Wonderful drinking now and great with a mushroom risotto. (Cameron Clark, Holland)

02/01 Foxen (California) Syrah, Santa Barbara County 1997
Apart from a pretty label - especially of a bird! - the thing that gets Fincham to buy a wine is a robust £5 off. So to see this discounted from £12.99 to £7.99 got my attention. I've always wanted to try the Foxen pinot noirs after I read a letter to Decanter from an American who says that this winery "... kicks Au Bon Climat's ass, year in year out... ". However the pinot is around £15 and up. Anyway this wine was good and even excellent two days later having developed a lovely powerful plummy nose. Not much tannin here but a massively sweet flavour (too sweet for a European palate?). Very New World - all fruit and I love it! 13.8% abv. £7.99 Majestic. (Daron Fincham, UK)

02/01 Ironstone Cabernet Franc 1996
A medium red, shading to brown slightly at the edges, it gives off a lot of sweet cedar and vanilla on the nose, combined with simple but pleasant cherry and blackcurrant fruit. Perhaps a touch of coffee/bitter choc. On the palette the cherry fruit comes through with a vengeance, accompanied by a little spice and a slight leafiness, with virtually no tannin and only just enough acidity to avoid flabbiness. The finish is noticeably curtailed, and it gets a little volatile and rather woody with time, but it's got loads more going for it than the average glugger (about 5-6 pounds from Majestic). (Lucian Holland, UK)

01/01 Robert Mondavi, Napa Pinot Noir, 1974
Another recorked job. Deep brick, very sweet nose. Still bundles of fruit. Slight metallic taste - gone next day when it tasted even better - amazing. (Bill Nanson, Switzerland)

01/01 1994 Chateau St.Michelle Reserve Columbia Valley Merlot (CHF43 or £17.5)
One of those really heavy bottles that 'imply' quality. An almost opaque ruby colour, still with a hint of purple and no lighter at the rim. 'Corky' note on the nose which disappeared with time - probably some sulphur. Smooth, thick and cool in the mouth with very mild tannins but spoilt by a slightly acidic finish. After a night under vacuvin - less attack on the finish and a more pronounced 'red' fruit nose. My classification of this wine improved from 'do not buy' (given the high price) to 'okay, but bad value'. (Bill Nanson, Switzerland)

01/01 Peter Michael, Belle Cote Chardonnay, 1998
Again a huge buttery nose of new oak, this time the fruit is better and there is a pleasant balance of acidity. Very good but expensive (£48). (Mark Robertson, UK)

01/01 Peter Michael, Les Pavots, 1997
The priciest (£77.99) wine of the evening. A Bordeaux blend. Impenetrable purple colour, heady aroma of blackcurrants. Huge mouthfilling wine with the acidity and tannins to last. A Parker favourite but beyond my budget. (Mark Robertson, UK)

01/01 Storrs Petite Syrah 1998 Santa Cruz Mountains, California
From old, hillside vines this is a rich, spicy, concentrated red wine of great appeal. It shows a sweet, herby, spicy nose and warm, rich flavours on the palate. There’s certainly plenty of oak, but it’s pretty much in balance with the dense fruit. Very good+ (Jamie Goode, UK)

01/01 Storrs Rusty Ridge Zinfandel 1998, Santa Clara County, California
From two old vineyards, one in the Santa Cruz mountains and one in Santa Clara County, this is a delicious example of Zinfandel at its ripe, sweetly fruited best. It is ripe, rich and bursting with sweet, chocolatey berry fruit flavours. Great balance between the new oak and the fruit; luscious and lovely ‘hedonistic’ wine. Very good/excellent (Jamie Goode, UK)

12/00 Elyse Nero Misto Zinfandel 1998, Napa, USA
Attractive smoky nose with a herby edge. Light on palate with moderate tannins. OK but simple. Good (Jamie Goode, UK)

12/00 Elyse Sierra Foothills Zinfandel 1998, Napa, USA
Light coloured with a smoky cherry-laced nose. Acidic palate with some earthy notes. OK but a bit dull. (Jamie Goode, UK)

12/00 Elyse Coeur du Val Zinfandel 1998, Napa, USA
Cherry-laced nose and cherry fruit on palate. Light and a little peppery. OK but dull. (Jamie Goode, UK)

12/00 Elyse Howell Mountain Zinfandel 1998, Napa, USA
Ripe cherry and raspberry nose. Soft, chocolatey, cherryish fruit on palate. Good (but still a bit dull). (Jamie Goode, UK)

12/00 WH Smith Pinot Noir Hellenthal 1998, Sonoma, USA
Light red colour. It is quite simple and spicy with some structure to it and soft fruit. Good and not without interest, but just look at that price. I'd take a decent premier cru Burgundy over this any day. (Jamie Goode, UK)

12/00 Beaux Frères Pinot Noir 1998, Oregon, USA
Extremely sought after wine from the property part-owned by Robert Parker, the influential wine critic. This is a deep cherry red colour. It is firm, lean and tannic and currently quite closed, but potentially with a very bright future ahead of it. Again, absurdly expensive. Good/very good. (Jamie Goode, UK)

12/00 Corison Cabernet Sauvignon 1996, Napa
Concentrated, ripe fruit on the nose; tannic palate; full but a bit dull. (Jamie Goode, UK)

12/00 Duxoup Syrah 1998, Sonoma
Light, fruity red with an esteric character. Disappointingly light. (Jamie Goode, UK)

12/00 Andrew Murray Syrah Les Coteaux 1998, Santa Barbara
This is an interesting, mid-weight, pungent wine with bright fruit and some complexity. A little too fruit-forward now, the hope is that this will gain interest with time in the bottle. Very good. (Jamie Goode, UK)

12/00 Andrew Murray Syrah Roasted Slope 1998, Santa Barbara
Lovely herby nose, with an attractive funkiness. Tannic and youthful on the palate, this is a nice wine with an interesting future ahead of it. Very good+ (Jamie Goode, UK)

12/00 Viader Proprietary Red 1998, Howell Mountain
Full, soft, ripe and concentrated. Very good. How brief and uninformative can a tasting note be? (Jamie Goode, UK)

12/00 Ridge Santa Cruz Mtns Cabernet 1994
Huge cork, v high quality. Deep, deep red colour. The nose was *exactly* as I expected it to be - not soaring, not explosive, but quite brooding smells of crushed berry fruit, young leather and notes of smoky oak. Harmonious - powerful and quite restrained. The palate was thick, dense, chewy fruit of very good ripeness. Good butress of oak. Only moderate tannin. Nice texture. Long. Very low acidity. This undoubtedly has the qualities to keep, but I really can't see it improving much. The wine had a lush, open texture and was showing a little complexity. There is only moderate tannin, too. A producer who provides consistent pleasure every time. Just a bit overpriced. (Joel Hopwood, UK)

12/00 Corison 1992
Last drank this wine at the start of 1998, and I had the impresson that it was on its way out. Colour smell etc were fine, but on the taste it was a bit sharp and had a nasty, earthy component. Had the same taste from a Petaluma 1988 and 1933. Just got round to finishing my last bottle, and surprise surpise its great. Dark purple colour, with no sign of browning. Hints of tobbaco and red fruits. In the mouth the wine still has weight and is of a silky texture. Classic flavours of tobacco and lead. Really great. (Cameron Clark, Holland)

11/00 Robert Mondavi, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1973 (CHF61 or £24)
Three bottles of this were nestling unheralded among the 1995, 1996 and 1997 California Cabs. A label on the back of the bottle saying 'Robert Mondavi recorked in March/April 1988'. Not a very promising start, as the cork seemed to slide too easily from the bottle and was wine saturated to the full length. When the cork dried, it was covered in sparlky tartrate crystals. The wine was decanted revealing an appealing mature deep brick colour. A sweet nose of baked apple and blackberry pie with pencil shavings at the end. Still mouthwateringly fresh, but nicely balanced with the 12% alcohol. An impressive amount of very soft tannin with blackcurrant coming through late on the finish - still has a hint of vanilla. I have to say, this certainly exceeded my expectations! But why did it give me a headache next day? I drank no more than normal! (Bill Nanson, Switzerland)

09/00 Firesteed Pinot Noir 1997
I'd had earlier vintages of this and enjoyed them but this was a huge disappointment. The first warning sign was the colour (or more accurately the lack of it), this was so light it was nearer a rose. On the nose some strawberry fruit, but not much else and that's pretty much how it tasted. Daron recently described this as thin and weedy, I wish I'd listened. (Mark Pearce, UK)

09/00 Dominus '91
A dense colour. Bordeauish of earthy fruit, cedary, ash and good overall complexity with elegant fruit. On the palate the fruit isn't as dense and lush as I found the '94 and I still have doubts that my case didn't have the easiest of times getting into my hands in the UK. However, the structure is more akin to the French but without the super dense cabernet that the greatest vintages have. I suspect my preference for the '94 is more to do with it being more Merlot (as opposed to 100% cabernet). A very good wine, expensive on release and outrageously expensive nowadays. (Nick Alabaster, UK)

09/00 Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet '91
Blah, blah, blah. Nothing to recommend this wine at all. Oaky although not overly so. Just so characterless and becoming volatile with air. Alcohol notices and lacks the structure to keep it all together with any style. Reminds me of a middle of the road Oz cab yet costs more than twice as much on release. Another example of an over-priced and over-hyped American wine as far as I'm concerned. (both this and the Dominus where given high 90's by Parker). (Nick Alabaster, UK)

09/00 Ridge Geyserville '94
Dead on the nose to start, made me think of a watered down port to begin with. Eventually a moderately attractive nose became a little Rhone (Southern) like, maybe even verging on a Spanish Granacha, a little alcoholic and volatile which detracts. Quite enjoyable though until you mention the price. (Nick Alabaster, UK)

09/00 Fetzer (California) "Bonterra" Cabernet Sauvignon 1997
Hailed as an organic wine from several North coast (whatever that means) vineyards I tried this as I've enjoyed Fetzer wines in the past. However this one didn't pass muster. The appearance is a bright pinky red. A very fruity, attractive nose flatters to deceive. This is a mediun/light bodied wine with a simple flavour profile that doesn't justify its £8.99 price tag. 13% abv. (Daron Fincham, UK)

09/00 Gallo (California) "Turning Leaf Vintner's Reserve Sonoma" Cabernet Sauvignon 1995
This was a better wine. Much darker, black red. More concentration and extract. A bit of a stale oaky nose. The palate has stewed black fruit flavours, but the lack of volatile acidity fails to give this clumsy concoction any lift. £7.99. 13.5% abv. (Daron Fincham, UK)

08/00 1995 Robert Mondavi, Carneros Pinot Noir (£14)
Brick red and quite mature looking in the glass. Nose quite non-descript and weak. Some acidity and not too much tannin - unfortunately I couldn’t find anything else in the glass (no fruits). This was a big disappointment, as two of my favourite tipples from 1999 were pinot’s from this region (1995 Domaine Carneros and 1996 Kent Rassmussen Carneros) (Bill Nanson, Switzerland)

08/00 1995 St. Supéry, Meritage Napa Valley Red Wine (£25)
Deep red, still with a hint of purple. The nose full of sweet red and black berries. On the palate, soft smooth and "unctuous", sweet in that ‘New World Style’ and very dense, though not at all tiring. There is a touch of oak, but not overpowering. Although I seam to be describing and ‘adult’ Ribena, we enjoyed this a lot. This Meritage blend was Cab.Sauv, Merlot, Cab.Franc. It would be interesting to know the percentages (not given) as the nose was very reminiscent of the Yorkville (100%) Cabernet Franc (Bill Nanson, Switzerland)

08/00 1997 Fetzer, Bonterra Sangiovese (£11.99 Oddbins)
A medium, shiny red colour in the glass. The nose is of slightly subdued but reminds me of the smell of fruit pies my mum used to cook, as they cooled in the kitchen! On the palate, the wine is medium bodied, not too much acidity or tannin (I think that’s called balance!) but the most amazing long aftertaste of red cherries with cream! I don’t know how long this one will keep, but it’s great fun right now. (Bill Nanson, Switzerland)

06/00 Firesteed Pinot Noir, Oregon 1997
This was £9.99 on Valvona & Crolla's website but, I was annoyed to find, was priced at £10.99 on the shelf and had risen to £11.99 by the time I'd carried it to the counter! What a disappointment. Which is all that can be said for the wine: thin and weedy. I wouldn't buy it again. (Daron Fincham - UK)

06/00 Havens Syrah 1997
Very heavy wine. Lovely dark Shiraz colour, with a restrained nose. In the mouth there is an initial burst of spicy, cinnamon fruit, which turns slightly bitter. Finish is quite spicy. No real difference between the decanted and the bottle version (Cameron Clark - Holland)

06/00 La Jota Petite Syrah 1994
The 1994 was a very tight wine. The nose on the bottle version was a bit dull, but the decanted version gave hints of red currants. In the mouth I found it a bit acidic and although there was a slight hints of cherries and cream, I found the fruit somewhat missing. The finish was short. May have been a bit closed and in need of a few more years. The 1996 was a blockbuster. A dark purple colour the wine just hung in the glass coating the sides. The nose in the decanted glass was perfect – lots of seductive red fruit, and oak. The wine had a lot of weight and body, was well balanced and had a taste of cherries and blackberries. Finish was long and warm. (Cameron Clark - Holland)

06/00 OJAI Syrah Cuvee Henry Daniel 1997
Much more bitter than the La Jota, the nose was a bit closed with hints of sour berries. Although a blend of 2 different vineyards, there was much more of a "terroir" feel to this wine. The fruit and the oak were well integrated, and flavours of red currant and cough medicine were found. Although not as seductive as the La Jota, this was probably a better wine. (Cameron Clark - Holland)

06/00 Turley Petite Syrah 1996
An incredible black purple wine, that clung to the side of the glass. Only 15.3% in alcohol, this thick blockbuster had a bit of a vegetal nose, had an intense flavour of Red berries. I found it a but overwhelming, and though impressive, I thought the previous 2 were better. Love to see it again in 5 years time though. (Cameron Clark - Holland)

06/00 Random Ridge Zin Old Wave 1996
Bought by one of Bert's staff for 8 dollars in USA, this was somewhat different. The wine was very light and juicy, with a taste of red berries and strawberries. Great for a summer BBQ, but lost in comparison to some of the other wines. (Cameron Clark - Holland)

06/00 Caymus Zinfandel 1996
Light blackberry nose. Well-integrated oak with concentrates berry fruit, this was very a very juicy wine that finished a bit short. Very like the big brother of the previous wine. Nice wine, but at this point was still recovering from the Petite Syrahs. (Cameron Clark - Holland)

06/00 Ravenswood Zin Cooke 1994
06/00 Ravenswood Zin Teldeschi 1997
06/00 Ravenswood Zin Old Hill 1994
06/00 Ravenswood Zin Old Hill 1995
06/00 Ravenswood Zin Monte Rosso 1995

Something must have went wrong in 1994. Both of these wines were terrible. The Cooke had an unappealing vegetal nose that was a bit reminiscent of a young Beaucastel with a bit of galvanised rubber thrown in. There was some juiciness to the wine, but it seemed very coarse and unripe. Not fun top drink. The 1994 Old Hill was much the same, but with a flavour of stewed prunes. The Teldeschi had a similar vegetal nose, although not so pronounced. The fruit was more noticeable and was black cherries that went well with the creamy oak. Still not a great wine, it was a lot better than the first 2. The 1995 Old Hill was a step up in class. The colour was much darker and there was much more body in the glass. No vegetal hints to the nose, just cherries. With well-balanced flavours of cream and sour cherries, this was a well-made wine that just didn't work for me, although was well liked by the others. Didn't think there was any point in keeping it any longer. The Monte Rosso was my favourite of the Ravenswood wines. Although it again had a bit of a vegetal nose, this was hardly noticeable in the decanted version. The fruit was a bit jammy with extracts of blackcurrants and raspberries. May have kept, but probably best to drink now. (Cameron Clark - Holland)

06/00 Ridge Lytton Springs 1995 (84% Zinfandel)
Much better nose with spicy oak and cherries. With plenty of fruit (cherries and raspberries) to set against the subtle oak, this wine is wonderfully integrated and balanced. Will definitely keep, but is great to drink now. Finish is long. (Cameron Clark - Holland)

06/00 Martinelli Zinfandel Jackass Hill 1994
06/00 Martinelli Zinfandel Jackass Vineyard 1995
The 95 (tasted first) was a wonderful wine. There was a slight brown tinge to the colour, but the nose was a seductive mix of redcurrants and strawberries. This was a very jammy wine, with a moorish strawberry taste that completely hid the 15,3% alcohol. Very jammy, with a long finish. This is not a wine for lovers of finesse. The 1994 (like all the other 1994s) was a tighter wine. Leaner than the 1995 it still shared the same jammy body and strawberry flavours. The oak and alcohol were again not noticeable. Definitely my favourite 2 Zins of the evening. (Cameron Clark - Holland)

06/00 Turley Zinfandel Old Vines 1997
06/00 Turley Zinfandel Moore Earthquake 1997
06/00 Turley Zinfandel Hayne 1997
I'd already read a lot about these wines. Robert Parker writes that they are the most hedonistic zins made on the planet. Could well be, but I was left a bit puzzled by them. Obviously the wines are a lot younger than the other wines, but I found them a bit impenetrable. The Old Vines was very alcoholic on the nose (15.1%) and this seemed to hide the fruit. The wine also tasted very alcoholic, and although there was weight, I could not find the fruit and found it also a bit acidic. Never tasted anything like it, I was a bit perplexed. Bert thought that it would be singing on 4 or 5 years. Things now started to get a bit silly. The Earthquake had a alcohol level of 16,8% and the gentleman to my left immediately said "vintage port". Although much more alcoholic, the nose on the wine was less alcoholic than the Old Vine. The wine was a monster to taste, heavy with alcohol, tannic and intense bramble fruit. Left me completely baffled. Love to try it a few years from now. The Hayne weighed in at an incredible 17,1%, but hid the alcohol completely. The pick of the 3 wines, it had a tremendous thickness to it, with lots of cherry and raspberry fruit that was wonderfully in balance. Opened after a while to reveal some creaminess. This seemed to justify Parkers ratings and also went well with some old Dutch cheese. (Cameron Clark - Holland)

05/00 Shafer Hillside Select Cabernet '94
A big Californian although showing signs of restrained oak, complexity and overall equilibrium. Plenty of wood smoke, coffee and chocolatey fruit on the nose with a slight eucalyptus/menthol note too. On the palate a big impression with an equally impressive structure (which IMHO, is where California wines out clearly over Oz that doesn't have such a classic backbone). With air the structure grips tighter - youthful and potentially an even greater long lived Californian classic. (Nick Alabaster - UK)

03/00 Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel '97
I was surprised how oaky this wine was in the middle of last year, so thought it was time to check again. I was amazed at how much the vanilla has dissipated and been replaced by sweet alcoholic red over black fruits with hints of pepper and spice. The palate shows a lot of power from the alcohol and it lacks finesse in this department as it finishes with a bit of fire and not much else. It's only been open a few minutes but the volatility is also showing quite strongly on the palate also. Overall I might just not be in the mood for this wine, but it certainly packs a punch that I could see how people find attractive but it's a bit much for an evening's gentle sipping. I guess Zin is really struggling to win me over (Nick Alabaster - UK)

02/00 Ridge Santa Cruz Mountain Cabernet 1990
This is a seriously good New World Cabernet drinking very well. Nicely integrated, sweet, toasty/charred oak and brambly blackcurranty fruit. A good and noticeably persistent palate made this a very enjoyable drink all round. (Nick Alabaster - UK)

02/00 Sterling Diamond Mountain Cabernet 1993
Very young looking dense burgundy colour. Nose also youthful with bags of flashy oak and jammy, ripe cassis and blackcurrant flavours. A little simple with that very typical New Worldy volatile lift. With air the oak subsides but the volatility increases, and for me anyway, becomes distracting bringing about lot's of vigorous swirling and blowing over the wine. It got better, but mainly as when it was down to the last drops in the glass. Palate follows the nose with good dense fruit and overall balance (although the alcohol showed a touch). Tannins are supple but I'd probably say this worked better with food than without. Finish is quite persistent. Overall a very typical New World package and at £10, a relative bargain from the States. (Nick Alabaster - UK)

02/00 Dominus 1991
Ripe/jammy not surprisingly but for me richness and depth is missing (perhaps high toned ?). The ripe character is alcohol and oak on the nose – in fact the nose is oaky with some jammy New Worldy fruit - Coffee, chocolate and cedar. I may one day get over this not being a near perfect wine and enjoy it for what it is– but for the moment I’m not sure what that’ll be ! A sublime comment after a general inquiry about the merlot content (there is none), was; ‘could be a merlot – but not a very good one’ !! (Nick Alabaster - UK)

01/00 Topolos Old Vines Alicante Bouschet 1993
This is a deeply coloured, almost opaque red/purple wine, with an attractive fruit and spice nose. On the palate there is sweet raspberry and blackcurrant fruit combining nicely with some vanilla oak. It is perhaps a little coarse, but the bottle age has softened the tannins nicely, and it is drinking well now. I tried a little experiment: taking a small pour, I diluted it roughly fourfold with water to make a good glassful of wine. The result? Despite the rather extreme dilution, the wine still had plenty of colour, but was a little flat on the nose and palate. None the less, this would pass as a respectable table wine in a modest Italian bistro. You would easily get away with cutting this wine 50/50 with water, I suspect! (Jamie Goode - UK)

01/00 J Fritz 1996 Late Harvest Zinfandel
35° Brix at harvest; 6° Brix residual sugar. Late harvest Zin is a remarkable style of wine I've not encountered before. This wine leaps out of the glass with sweet raspberry and blackcurrant fruit, backed up with piercing acidity. It is sweet, still tannic, and chocolate-laced, but overall perhaps lacking real complexity. (Jamie Goode - UK)

01/00 McDowell Valley Vineyard Estate Bottled Cabernet Sauvignon 1978
I'm always a little bit apprehensive pulling the cork on a 22 year old Californian Cabernet: you just don't know whether the wine will still be alive or not. But this example is still full of life. Beautiful, exotic nose of cedar, herbs and sweet fruit. The palate is still well balanced, with notes of vanilla, spice and tar backed up by still-assertive tannins. It is not dried out as some older wines can be. Sensationally good! (Jamie Goode - UK)


11/01 Stags Leap Chardonnay 1992
No were near the aged colour that the Durnley Estates have - I would have had it down as a late 1990's. Big oak and flavour but still enough fruit to make it enjoyable. I think this went through 25% malo and it probbaly needed it otherwise it would have not held up this long. (David Pearce, UK)

09/01 Jepson Viognier, Mendocino County Viognier 1997A lovely, intense nose of flowers and white fruit. Drinking this was like biting into a really sweet, almost overipe nectarine (but without getting juice on your chin). The sweetness of the attack dissolved into the midpalate and the wine finished dry. Almost no noticeable acid, but really pleasant stuff. (Mark Pearce, UK)

08/01 1997 Bonny Doon Roussanne
Distinctly orange yellow and rich looking. Loads of tears. Powerful nose of ripe apricots with orange peel. Good acidity and nicely balanced despite 14.5% alc which was well concealed (until afterwards!). Dry/off dry, with lots of orange/marmalade fruit on the palate. Good long finish with the fruit fading to minerals. Excellent - the most enjoyable US white I've tried (not that I've had a lot). Ready now and should be OK for another year or so, but I wouldn't want to lose the freshness and balance by keeping too long. About £18 - and worth it. (Trevor March, UK)

03/01 1996 Peter Michael 'Mon Plaisir' Chardonnay, California
Damned good oak juice – and it's expensive oak as well. How charming. Ripe fruit peeking out, fairly tropical, lacks focus and definition on the palate and a sprawling wine with only oak for clothing. A nice flabby, alcoholic wine aspiring to class through a long but unexciting finish. Perhaps this was better drunk younger. (Yixin Ong, UK/Singapore)

02/01 1998 Bonny Doon Roussane
Which is of course a Viognier in actuality. Does not save it from being throat-burningly alcoholic above the rather fat and confected fruit, and a wine that's going nowhere fast. Randall Graham is a funny guy, but it does not redeem crappy wines. (Yixin Ong, UK/Singapore)

02/01 Durney (California) Chardonnay, Carmel Valley 1993
Medium gold. Some oak chips on the nose. Simple but tropical taste. A nice wine. 13.5% abv. £3.99 Majestic. (Daron Fincham, UK)

02/01 Durney Chenin Blanc, Carmel Valley 1995
Simple wine, but what a mouthfeel! Really "oily", must be all that alcohol. You can see the potential of this grape to be transmuted in Coteaux Du Layon. 14.0% abv. £2.99, Majestic (Daron Fincham, UK)

12/00 Chalone Chenin Blanc 1999, Soledad, Central Coast
Light, modern nose, but concentrated fruit on the palate. Very good, and interesting white. Bit pricey though. (Jamie Goode, UK)

12/00 Chalone Pinot Blanc 1999, Soledad, Central Coast
Ripe and full flavoured white wine with a touch of sweetness on the palate and some complexity. Good/very good. (Jamie Goode, UK)

12/00 Andrew Murray Enchante White 1999, Santa Barbara
Exotic, ripe, sweet nose showing flowers, melon and herbs. Full textured and flavoured on the palate, this is an impressive effort. Very good/excellent (Jamie Goode, UK)

12/00 Andrew Murray Viognier 1999, Santa Barbara
This is a disappointing effort: it has an over-the-top nose, and is rich, ripe and a touch oxidised. I'd say it was flawed, but I don't know whether this is just a fault with the bottle that was being poured from as the Bibendum chap pouring showed no interest whatsoever in opening another bottle to check. It's an odd attitude to take if you are selling the stuff. (Jamie Goode, UK)

02/00 Roederer Quartet Brut NV
A: Lemon gold. Fine bubbles. N: Freh fruit aromas. Citrus with some bready, yeasty notes. P: Mouthfilling, creamy, yet with delicious fresh citrus acidity following the nose, makes this wine a delight to drink. Gentle mousse. Some length. Overall: Excellent - one of the more Champane-like New World sparklers. (Chris Kissack - UK)

01/00 Ca' del Solo 'Bloody Good White' 1997
Golden colour and tired, honeyed palate indicate that this wine had died and gone to heaven. Completely oxidised. This malvasia-based wine should have been fresh and aromatic, which it would have been on release. Moral: technology driven new world whites should be drunk up within a year or two of the vintage, or there' s a danger that you'll encounter an example that is well over the hill. (£4.99, Oddbins -- it was £6.49 not so long ago: I suspect someone must have realised this is past its sell-by date.) (Jamie Goode - UK)