By G.M. “PoochÂ” Pucilowski
Van Ruiten Family Winery of Lodi buys its Sauvignon Blanc grapes from Lake County, one of the best places to grow this fruit. Its 2003 Sauvignon Blanc, Lake County ($12) has typical soft grapefruit and grassy flavors; it’s almost sweet tasting but totally dry in the finish. Lodi is a great growing region for Zins, and Van Ruiten’s 2001 Old Vine Zinfandel, Lodi ($18) is a medium-bodied wine with hints of coffee and nutmeg and a cherry/berry nose with forward fruit. Its 2001 Reserve Syrah, Lodi ($15) has a dark berry nose with spicy and nutty characteristics and a cherry taste with a soft, smoky finish.
Esterlina Vineyards of Mendocino buys some of the best grapes possible from a well-known Sonoma grower for its Esterlina Vineyards 2002 Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, Bacigalupi Vineyards ($25). The raspberry nose just leaps out of the glass and commands your attention. This wine shows a sense of depth and balance that is unmistakably Zinfandel.
Vision Cellars 2002 Pinot Noir, Sonoma County ($28) has a great cherry/cedar/cigar box nose with a hint of vanilla. It’s medium-bodied, with a creamy elegance and toasted complexity that make it a real winner.
Michael-David Vineyards 7 Heavenly Chards 2003 Chardonnay, Lodi ($17) has a light vanilla and butterscotch nose, a beautiful yellow-gold color and a ripe, nicely balanced taste. Note: This wine comes not in a traditional Burgundy bottle, but in a Bordeaux bottle with a blue cork. Its 7 Deadly Zins 2003 Zinfandel, Lodi ($17) shows ripe berries with hints of black currant and vanilla. Always a good buy, this wine has a jammy sweetness that marries well with its light oak and moderate tannins.