Wines To Try

By G.M. “Pooch” 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.