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Californian Fine Wines

by Tom Cannavan, 11/96

Caymus (Napa), Sauvignon Blanc 1994
Very fresh, pale golden colour. Grassy and oaky on the nose - unusual - wouldn't have guessed straight Sauvignon Blanc. Very fruity on the palate, rather astringent, oaky and yeasty too. Good with goats cheese.

Talley (Arroyo Grande) Chardonnay 1994
Pale gold colour. Strong tropical fruit aroma, pineapple, melon. tastes a bit thin and fierce, pretty oaky. Rather acidic and harsh - maybe just the cold?

Mer et Soliel (Central Coast), Chardonnay 1993
Deeper gold colour and more body. Impressive nose, round, rich with lots of fruit. Much smoother than Talley, more integrated. A touch of sourness in the finish, but not unattractive. Potentially very good indeed.

Bonny Doon "Le Sophiste" 1993
Light straw colour. Alsace on the nose - pinot blanc or even riesling. Surprising lack of fruit. Full bodied, almost oily. I suspect this was particularly badly affected by being too cold.

Marietta Vineyards (Sonoma), Zinfandel 1994
Vibrant, youthful ruby/purple colour. Huge nose of cherryish fruit. A big, chewy tannic wine, not very sophisticated, but loaded with fruit. For the money this was a bit of a star. I liked it.

Peterson (Sonoma), Zinfandel 1994
Not as zingy a colour as the Marietta. More integrated, more subtle. Faintly medicinal taste, but again tannin and fruit slugging it out. Of this style of wine, I preferred the Marietta for its upfront power.

Viader (Napa), Proprietor's Reserve Red 1994
Very dense, even black/purple colour. Alcoholic nose with nice black fruit and a touch of smokiness. Creamy and well balanced, still lots of tannin and a bit edgy, but complex and I guess it should develop well.

Pahlmeyer (Napa), Proprietor's Red 1993
Very dense and black colour. Good fruit. Tightly structured and quite elegant. Tastes young and Bordeaux like. For me, no really sensational qualities, but a very good wine.

Mantanzas Creek (Sonoma), Merlot 1993
Soft damson colour. Voluptuous, plummy fruit on the nose. Good merlot characteristics: sour cherries on the palate with warm, mouth filling, soft tannins. Fully extracated, but soft. Really good Merlot. Wouldn't pay 26 pounds for it though (40 dollars).

Philip Togni (Napa), Cabernet Sauvignon 1993
A hint of light on the rim, otherwise inky black. Positively weird nose. I got a really unpleasant whiff of decay - it wasn't corked, but just had a distinct note of decomposition. A few others got what I was talking about, but some people didn't detect it at all. On the palate it was a different wine. Elegant structure, real complexity and a long finish. Quite vegetal, with asparagus and green flavours, but lots more going on too. A touch austere, but I thought it was quite special. Well integrated, would age and improve.