2007 Magnificat Meritage Napa Valley 14.5% $45

Rather cedary on the nose with a bit of a beefy overlay to the gentle plum and currant fruit. There are nice floral and citrus accents here with a touch of almond dressed in bittersweet chocolate. Smooth on entry with a nice bitter chocolate note right up front over wild cherry and black currants. This is rather firm and upright, well balanced and fairly restrained with a lovely spine of acids lending some cut and detail to the mid-palate. The finish has a touch of thickness to it, with graphite, wood spice and toast accenting the plum skin fruit. It’s an oaky wine but one that has enough fruit to match its oak today. All the pieces in place, though a familiar puzzle. 89pts

NV Artiste Skyline bottled in 2012 14.5% $40
60% Cabernet Franc, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot

Rather unusual smelling. Full of liquory red fruit accented with wild bitter herbs, a touch of sassafras, some oyster shell and some caramel and raw coffee bean. Bright and lively in the mouth, this shows off a nice exotic edge, maybe showing a hint of pomegranate along with red licorice fruit on the mid-palate. The back end turns blacker and shows some meaty spice before returning to a bright, red-fruited and spicy finish, which ends with some juicy red berry fruit and subtle oak shadings. Definitely an unusual wine that shows a fine transparency of texture and nice balance if in a slight candied vein. 89pts

2007 Brian Carter Cellars Le Coursier Columbia Valley 14.5%  $25
54% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Franc, 9% Malbec, 9 Cabernet Franc, 4% Petit Verdot

This shows a nice restrained complexity on the nose with toasty oak, vanilla and roasted herbs laid out over a nice plummy base. Rather open knit, this is broad yet shows attractive inner mouth perfumes that help lift up the modest core of fruit. There’s a nice freshness to the fruit here, a bit of mulberry and drying plum tossed with cassis and a few strawberries even. The wood is obvious but integrated and really does play a supporting role, even on the finish, which shows off good length and depth. This is very smooth and mild mannered but not boring. 89pts

2008 Tamarack Cellars Firehouse Red Columbia Valley WA Red Table Wine $20
37% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Syrah, 16% Merlot,  7% Cabernet Franc, 3% Malbec, 3% Sangiovese, 3% Petit Verdot, 1% Carmenere

Warm, spicy and a bit hot on the nose with chocolate shavings and cigar box notes accenting red raspberry and strawberry fruit. Soft on entry and nicely filled out with boisterous fruit and oak flavors in the big yet still transparent frame. This offers up nice, slightly jammy, slightly chewy fruit in a fun to drink style that finishes a touch coarsely but delivers a lot of flavor. 89pts

2007 Wilson Creek Family Meritage Temecula Valley Ca 13% $39
55% Merlot, 42.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1.5% Petite Verdot, 1% Malbec

Tight on the nose, this shows a lot of chocolate and baked black fruit tones along with a candied raspberry and dried herb top note. This is really open and soft on the palate, though it has plenty of tannins and sufficient acidity. It is a wine that is built on velvetiness. The flavors are slight attenuated, showing a touch of a metallic edge and staying within a rather narrow band of red fruit. The finish shows more of the tannic structure of the wine along with a very fine cranberry edge to the red plum fruit. Interesting wine, turns more austere with time though if the tannins recede back into the fruit this could be excellent. 89pts


2007 Castiglion del Bosco Prima Pietra Toscana  14.5% $60
50% Merlot, 30 % Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 10% Petite Verdot

Dark and dense on the nose with an earthy core and leathery edges. This is fairly closed, showing off expensive French oak and pencil lead over black currant and brambly aromas. Big and powerful on entry, this is tight and filled with austere tannins. There’s bright if well integrated acidity here and a black hole of black currant and tea leaf fruit once you get past the wall of tannins. Woody and drying on the finish, the fruit does manage to squeeze out on the back end with lovely hints of black plum and blackberries. This will require significant patience. It’s a tough go right now and may prove to be too tannic for its own good. 88pts

NV Artiste Midtown bottled in 2012 CA $40
80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc

This is almost beefy on the nose with big caramel aromas and warm chocolate notes over lightly spicy, herb inflected jammy rhubarb and black cherry fruit. Rather rich and decidedly smooth, this slides across the palate with soft tannins and decent acidity delivering black cherry fruit edged in fresh, young herbs and something vaguely citrussy. The finish is a bit short, though it continues the lightly candied black fruit theme layered over oaken spice and some more warm chocolate. A seductively textured wine that just lacks a touch of depth. 88pts

2007 Xavier Flouret uQamata Stellenbosch SA 14.5% $20
Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petit Verdot

Cedary and slightly vegetal on the nose with a nice black currant/blackberry base of fruit and some earthy eggplant and mushroom overlays, a hint of mint and fennel seed. Moderately full-bodied and with pronounced acidity, this is a touch lean and focused in the mouth delivering a minty core of currant fruit that recedes on the mid-palate, leaving a bit of oak on the back end. The fruit, candied and blackberry-toned, returns on the long, bright, high acid finish only to slowly fade with the wood, ending with a nice pop of cedary spice on the finale. Nicely proportioned in a lean, fresh style. 88pts

2008 Bergevin Lane Vineyard Intuition Stone Tree Vineyard Wahluke Slope Reserve Red Wine 14.4% $60
83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Petit Verdot

A bit mute on the nose with nutty, smoky notes over some cranberry fruit with notes of pencil lead and ivy adding some detail. A bit closed on the palate as well, though this does have a nice feel to it with rather polished tannins and lively acidity lending this a lightness that belies its weight. The fruit at the core has some very interesting roasted meat and baked pastry notes, a little Bovril as well, all of which pretty much goes back in hiding on the moderately long blackberry seed finish. This has a lovely integration to it and while the oak is dominant today there seems to be a fine core of lithe fruit waiting for chance to show off. It does show some heat on the finish though, but this remains fairly interesting and attractive. 88pts