By G.M. "Pooch" Pucilowski
I recently had the pleasure of tasting three interesting-and well-priced-wines from Campo Viejo, one of the leading producers of Spain's famous Rioja wines. Campo Viejo 2001 Crianza Rioja ($9.99) has a cranberry color, a slight burnt-oak nose and light, easy-to-enjoy tannins. Campo Viejo 1999 Reserva Rioja ($12.99) has a deeper burgundy color, with a closed-in nose and a good balance of tannins and flavors in the finish. Finally, Campo Viejo 1997 Gran Reserva Rioja ($19.99), a darker cranberry with some red along the edges, is a little cloudy but isn't showing its age at all: It has lots of tannins for a medium-bodied wine.
Other wines worth a try: William Hill 2001 Merlot, Napa Valley ($20) is a fairly big, reddish-purple wine with a blackberry/cassis nose, soft, tart tannins, a silky mouthfeel and a ripe-berry finish. William Hill 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($22) also is big with a slightly purple edge in the glass and vanilla overtones. It's a fairly supple wine with balanced tannins and good flavors of oak, berries, dark plum and chocolate.
Hallcrest Vineyards 2003 Zinfandel, Nova Vineyards, Lake County ($20) is a big, bold wine with a good balance of fruit and tannin. The flavors are reminiscent of black cherries or berries with a tinge of chocolate.
Hallcrest Vineyards 2001 Clos de Jeannine ($12.50) is a limited-production wine made from organically grown grapes. This red wine has a peppery nose, flavorful spice in the mouth and light- to medium-bodied tannins.
Monkey Bay 2004 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand ($10) has a light, floral grassiness and a touch of sweetness, with a nice acidity to balance the fruit-definitely a good value. Finally, Dow's Colheita 1992 Port, Portugal ($31) is a single-year tawny bottled in 2004. It has a rusty, dark reddish-gold color, with luscious, chocolatelike flavors and a firm structure that balances the sweetness.