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Tasting Notes on Gold-Medal Winners

Every year, freelance wine writer Mike Dunne tastes the gold medal winners from the Grand Cru competition. His comments are after a blind tasting; he does not know the wines’ identities when he sips. Wineries: please feel free to use the quotes for your wines in your marketing materials!

Sweepstakes Winner, Dessert: NV Red Soles Stillhouse Limoncello
Paso Robles $48
“Is this brandy or is it a margarita? What a departure from the standard, for its lime, spice, complexity and sweetness.”

Sweepstakes Winner, Red: 2012 Daniel Gehrs Rocker Rarities
Central Coast $30
“Gorgeous ripe and layered aroma is a promise immediately fulfilled with an abundance of fresh fruits sprinkled generously with white and black peppers.”

Sweepstakes Winner, Rose: 2014 Goose Watch Winery Cabernet Franc Rose
Finger Lakes $12.99
“Roses customarily get to the point and then get lost, but this one wants to linger at the party for its settled and broad fruit, rounded edges, thick middle, respectful dryness and long finish. Also unusual is the slim suggestion of bacon, which adds intrigue and complexity.”

Sweepstakes Winner, Sparkling: 2006 Gloria Ferrer Royal Cuvée
Methode Champenoise, Carneros $37
“Swashbuckling bubbles, all opulence and carriage. Dry, toasty, yeasty, fruity, composed and complete.”

Sweepstakes Winner, White: 2014 Elmaro West Prairie White
100% Geisenheim, American $15
“A wine to sip in the hammock after mowing the lawn on a sweltering summer day – sweet, lush with sunny fruit, and refreshing.”

2012 Alba Estate Vineyard Chambourcin
Warren Hills $16.99
“Dry, medium bodied, and nuanced with suggestions of forest and canyon; it hangs on with the tenacity of a climber nearing the top of El Capitan. Shows that California hasn’t cornered all the elegance and character to be found in wine.”

2013 Alexander Valley Vineyards Cabernet Franc
Alexander Valley $28
“Vivacious and heady, best set aside for the next decade.”

2014 Andeluna Malbec
Mendoza, Tupungato $15.99
“Wow! Any one partial to black pepper – not necessarily an attribute associated with Malbec – will love the generous dose here.”

2014 Angove Family Winemakers Family Crest Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre
McLaren Vale $22
“Peppermint and chocolate, yet dry and sharp.”
2013 Anyela’s Vineyards Dry Riesling
Finger Lakes $16.95
“The “bing” in “Bingo!” All that’s missing is the exclamation point. There is some age on this, but that only adds to the complexity and fascination.”

2013 Anyela’s Vineyards Riesling
Finger Lakes $15.95
“Mature fleshy fruit, caught just before it hit the orchard floor; no bruising, no loss here, just plenty of richness and complexity.”

2014 Balletto Vineyards Rosé of Pinot Noir
Russian River $18
“Soft summer wine, best taken just before a nap.”

NV Barefoot Sweet Red
California $6.99
“The wine to bring to family reunions – dry enough to appeal to seasoned palates in the clan, sweet enough for the relatives who only drink wine at family reunions. A model of composure.”

NV Barefoot Bubbly Berry Fusion
California $9.99
“Deeply colored for a bubbly, its purple-edged ruby yielding to a roadside growth of blackberries just begging for a passing motorist to stop and start picking.”

NV Barefoot Bubbly Red Moscato
Blanc de Noirs, California $9.99
“An Ethan Allen showroom for all its polished, hefty, finally fit furniture – a sparkler of weight, complexity and enduring elegance.”

NV Barefoot Refresh Perfectly Pink
California $7.99
“A rose of unusual complexity, with pronounced berry fruit up front and a rare thread of minerality through the core. Sweet and a touch spritzy.”

2013 Bex Riesling
Nahe $8.99
“Ripe, sweet and smoky; substantial yet uplifting in the clarity and directness of its peachy fruit.”

2014 Big Cork Vineyards Vidal
Maryland $15
“No need to pair this after-dinner treat with any sort of dessert. It stands on its own for its orchard of peaches and its sweet, crisp and buttery pastry crust.”

2014 Bodega Garzon Albarino
Uruguay $16.99
“An exquisitely approachable Albariño for its plump ripe fruit, layered complexity and lingering finish.”

2013 Bodega Garzon Tannat
Uruguay $19.99
“The poster child for tannats not only muscular and aggressive but approachable with a little sweet talking; deeply colored, floral, fruity, peppery and long.”

2012 Bodegas Marilena Maxixe
Valle de Guadalupe $29.99
“A wine of the country, but not rustic; it is dry, direct and determined to please at the everyday table.”

2014 Boeger Winery Sauvignon Blanc
El Dorado $14
“Sweet limey and peachy fruit on a frame supportive without being intrusive.”

2013 Boeger Winery Zinfandel
El Dorado $19
“For tradition, directness and equilibrium, this Zinfandel couldn’t be more on target.”

2014 Bowers Harbor Vineyards Block II & Langley Riesling
Michigan $24
“Very inviting, the kind of Riesling most welcome in a restaurant when everyone in a large party is ordering something different. Notes of exotic yeast add interest, while the acidity echoes helps the wine echo on and on.”

2014 Bowers Harbor Vineyards Medium Sweet Riesling
Estate Blend, Old Mission Peninsula $15
“Elegantly sweet, a broach of both lightness and weight, capturing one beam of sunshine and turning it into an infinite kaleidoscope of color and angles.”

2014 Bowers Harbor Vineyards Smokey Hollow Medium Dry Riesling
Old Mission Peninsula $15
“Ripe fruit, caressing texture, amplified nectarines (could have been a rock group in the ’60s) and a finish that winds, dips and climbs far into the night.”

2012 Broadside Cabernet Sauvignon
Paso Robles $19.99
“Looking for the gentle and herbal side of Cabernet? Here you go.”

2012 Cakebread Cellars Dancing Bear Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon
Howell Mountain $145
“For its clarity and force, has to be from Napa Valley, but if it isn’t, buy land wherever it is from.”

2012 Calista Pinot Noir
Russian River Valley $40
“From the dark school of Pinot noir, a take husky, direct and balanced.”

2013 Carol Shelton Wild Thing Zinfandel
Mendocino County $19
“A dry bullseye Zinfandel that graduated manga cum laude in black pepper. A rare combination of character and grace for the varietal.”

2010 Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyard 42° Parallel Chancellor
Rhode Island $39.95
“Like opening a closet filled with new shoes, all sorts of leathers cut, shaped and dyed into and endless assortment of styles; also sweet, smoky, nutty and simply fun to sip and ponder.”

NV Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyard The Blessed Blend White
Rhode Island $19.95
“Fresh fruit, banana, rich, will look forward to learning who did it and where it is from.”

2012 Carmen Carmenere Gran Reserva
Colchagua Valley $14.99
“Dry and firm; don’t pair it with anything more shy than a two-inch ribeye.”

2013 Cartlidge & Browne Cabernet Sauvignon
North Coast $12.99
“Put it in the cellar for three years, though if you can’t wait for all its coiled fruit to spring then pair it with a charred and very juicy slab of beef.”

2014 Cedar Creek Winery Pinot Grigio
American $10
“A Pinot Grigio with more heft than usual, but without sacrificing the varietal’s accessibility and charm.”

2014 Cedar Creek Winery Waterfall Riesling
American $9
“One compatible and comforting Riesling, noble for its grace and quiet authority.”

2012 Chacewater Petite Sirah
Lake County $24
“Inky, broad and deep, explaining with its power just why petite Sirah is seen as one of the world’s more formidable wines.”
2011 Chatom Vineyards Cuvée Merlot
Calaveras County $16
“Sweet, plummy, tannic fruit complicated with a whiff of the deli counter.”

2012 Cholame Vineyard Cross Country
Monterey County $28
“Big round wine, in both dark and spicy fruit and dark and spicy wood.”

2012 Cholame Vineyard La Presa Chardonnay
Santa Barbara County $32
“This is the style on which California built its standing for the varietal – rich, broad, effusive. Not a porch Chardonnay, but meant to go with lobster, scallops in a creamy sauce, anything in a restaurant along the shoreline of Lake Tahoe.”

2012 Clos Pegase Winery Cabernet Sauvignon
Napa Valley $50
“While the aroma was initially tight, the wine on the palate opened to a clean, direct and focused representative of the cherry side of Cabernet.”

2009 Cobblestone Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon D
Atlas Peak, Napa Valley $49
“Dark-fruit flavor and a thread of tar in a Cabernet firm yet yielding.”

NV Cooper’s Hawk Winery Vidal Blanc Icewine
American $27.99
“Golden; the hot air balloon of ice wines – colorful, lofty, exciting, peach shaped and peach flavored, and so fruity it had to have landed in a vineyard.”

2013 Cosentino Winery Zinfandel
Lodi $14.99
“A plush reminder that wine starts as fruit juice, but as wine can go on and on, as this one does. Exceptionally alluring aroma is followed by fruit fresh, a prickly feel and a long finish.”

2013 Coyote Moon Vineyards Brianna
New York $15.80
“Sweetness and spice, with plenty of ripe fruit. Minnesota? There may be something good to say of climate change after all.”

2013 Coyote Moon Vineyards Fireboat Red
New York $10.95
“More jelly than jam, but that doesn’t mean this wine is at all quivering; it is sweet, forward and lasting. Where’s the toast?”

2012 Coyote Moon Vineyards Marquette
New York $49.95
“Aroma blooms like a sunrise, unfolding too fast while promising a day rich with potential. The follow-through is dry, medium bodied, richly yet trippingly fruity and accented with a hauntingly herbal note.”

2013 Coyote Moon Vineyards Marquette
New York $24.95
“Dark color yields to fruit brambly, dry and inviting. Extraordinarily complex, with a floral aroma providing the welcome, then finishing with a warm and beefy handshake wishing you well on the trip home.”

2013 Criterion Cabernet Sauvignon
Coonwarra $16.99
“Jalapeño and concrete join the family of Cabernet characteristics here, but in a refreshingly novel way without distracting from the cherries and olives that have been largely responsible for establishing the popularity of the varietal in the U.S.”

2013 Criterion Carmenere
Valle Colchagua $15.99
“What a joyous surprise, a sturdy red wine with the freshness, spice and acid of a white. Pick this first, then whatever food you want.”

2013 Cycles Gladiator Chardonnay
Central Coast $10.99
“This is what the consumer is looking to in Chardonnay – fat fruit and an unchallenging accessibility.”

2013 Cycles Gladiator Petite Sirah
Central Coast $10.99
“Textbook petite sirah, from blooming floral aroma and lush dark fruit to several twists of the pepper grinder and sturdy but bending tannins.”

2014 Dellatorri Pinot Grigio
delle Venezie IGT $12.99
“Ripe peach fruit and a swaggering structure add up to a Pinot Grigio of unusual muscle. A thread of calcium speaks to its Italian heritage.”

2013 Dominant Seven Cabernet Sauvignon
California $8.99
“Squeezed from grapes or from olives? Not that it is oily or particularly spicy, but a veritable orchard is in the bottle, for all its sunshine and shadow.”

2012 Draxton Cabernet Sauvignon
Alexander Valley $36
“When you call a cab, hope that the driver is this winemaker, who knows respect for the vineyard, the cellar and the sommelier, handing them a Cabernet of elegance and esteem. The tannins? No reason to hold back on the tip.”

2014 Draxton Nelson Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc
Dry Creek Valley $18
“A Sauvignon Blanc of flourish, truth and grip, dry and forthright, a sunny stoniness complementing its juicy fruitiness.”

2013 Easley Winery Cabernet Sauvignon
Indiana $15
“Unusually light color, which is only the start of a most eccentric Cabernet. The smell suggests brandy, the flavor maraschino cherries. Welcome to the tattoo side of Cabernet.”

NV Easley Winery Sweet Barrel Red
Indiana $7.99
“The party hostess eager to make every guest comfortable with her poise, energy and sly sense of the wicked.”

2014 Eberle Muscat Canelli
Paso Robles $18
“Floral, sweet and plush, the couch wine for the Sunday afternoon couch potato.”

NV Eye Chart Red Blend
California $17.99
“Floral, fruity, forward and, frankly, fascinating for its equilibrium and lingering finish.”

2014 Forty-Five North Vineyard & Winery 45 Bubbly
Michigan $20
“A lean and dry sparkling wine that need not apologize for not following traditional techniques.”

2014 Forty-Five North Vineyard & Winery Chenin Blanc
American $20
“A style of Chenin Blanc that should be emulated by other producers who would like to restore the varietal to its early standing. It is fruity, modestly sweet, concentrated and refreshing.”

2013 Forty-Five North Vineyard & Winery Riesling
Leelanau Peninsula $18
“The sort of snappy and focused Riesling that calls for halibut, no matter how it is prepared.”

2012 Four Vines Zinfandel “Biker”
Paso Robles $19.99
“Let’s get back to the Zinfandel that our fathers loved, which is to say jammed with sweet berry fruit, a fistful of peppery spice and a length that refuses to give up.”

2012 Four Vines Zinfandel “The Sophisticate”
Sonoma County $24.99
“Eager to learn where this is from. It steps outside the usual Zinfandel box for its leanness and politeness, showing why Zinfandel can be so easily confused with Cabernet Sauvignon after a few years of age, though this is just a youngster.”

2012 Four Vines Zinfandel “Truant”
California $11.99
“You notice the frame first for its size and ornateness, but then the painting becomes everything for its clean and confident lines, thoughtful composition and astonishing balance.”

NV Fre Sparkling Brut
California $12
“A bin of ripe apples next to the bake shop where the turnovers have just come out of the oven.”

2012 Fresno State Winery Touriga
California $12.95
“An embracing aroma that flings open the door on an animated party of jazzy fruit, athletic moves and revelers wearing barrels.”

2014 Fulkerson Wine Cellars Juicy Sweet Diamond
Finger Lakes $7.99
“Diamond need not be fat and slow as this downright racy interpretation shows. Rare is the Diamond with this much revitalizing acidity. Sheer beauty.”

NV Gallo Family Vineyards Moscato
California $4.99
“Floral, and while round in build nonetheless vivid in delivery.”

2014 Girl and Dragon Pinot Grigio
Veneto IGT $13.99
“Ripe lemons, easy-going but confident structure, and a seam of something exotic – a touch of oxidation? a vein of minerality? – make for an exceptional member of the genre.”

NV Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Blancs
Methode Champenoise, Carneros $22
“Rich in build and complex in flavor, but light on its feet as much for its snappy current of lime as its effervescence. Outstanding persistence.”

2013 Goose Watch Cabernet Franc Ice
Finger Lakes $32.99
“Brassy garnet; luxurious, persistent, thick and sweet but not at all tiresome, thanks to its spice and acid. And it goes with flan.”

2014 Goose Watch Winery Traminette
Finger Lakes $12.99
“Exceptional floral aroma is followed by sweet and spicy fruit. Judge Clark Smith called it understated but deep, complex and elegant, as well as focused and long, all difficult attributes to seize in Traminette. Wish we would see more of this kind of wine in California.”

2012 Goyette Cabernet Sauvignon
Sonoma County $19.99
“Well-balanced Cabernet whose red fruit is shot through with suggestions of olive and herb.”

2013 Grape Creek Vineyards Cabernet Trois
American $26.95
“Classic blend for its seamlessness and equilibrium. Carries with pride the increasingly rare banner for dry red blends, as opposed to sweet.”

2013 Grape Creek Vineyards Mosaic
American $40.95
“Stash this big and concentrated blend in the cellar for the next decade.”

2014 Grape Creek Vineyards Viognier
American $26.95
“An earthy take on Viognier, dense with honeysuckle but also complicated with peach patch and loam. Medium bodied, dry and layered.”

2012 Hagafen Brut Cuvée
Methode Champenoise, Napa Valley $39
“Dry and lean, with a very expressive aroma, a build that celebrates equilibrium and a flavor that runs to tiny wild strawberries. On top of that, it is just pretty to look at.”

2012 Hagafen Cabernet Franc
Napa Valley $39
“Exactly why cab franc need not be a supporting actor; it can have presence, drama and stature, as shown here.”

2013 Havens Cabernet Sauvignon
Napa Valley $24.95
“If this isn’t from Napa Valley I’m buying vineyard land wherever this originated. What a beauty – juicy, lush, vital.”

2012 Havens Merlot Blend
Napa Valley $24.95
“If the Wine Spectator were to include a scratch and sniff strip to show what merlot is to smell like, this would be the model: Plums, cherries, a bit of tea, a bit of oak, a bit of earth.”

2013 Harmony Cellars Petite Sirah
“Lay it down for a decade, by which time the tannins should have receded, revealing all the flamboyant fruit now slumbering underneath.”

2013 Hawley Winery Oehlman Vineyard Pinot Noir
Russian River Valley $39.99
“Dry, lean, reserved, but don’t dismiss it; the qualities that make Pinot noir so esteemed – un-fussy fruit, un-obvious structure, a sense of permanence – are all captured here.”

2012 Hooker Cabernet Sauvignon
Napa Valley $46
“A floral wreath on a door thick, sturdy and carefully carved.”

2012 Hyatt Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon
Rattlesnake Hills $13
“A Cabernet all about fruit and structure, made with longevity in mind.”

2014 J. Lohr Estates Flume Crossing Sauvignon Blanc
Arroyo Seco (AVA) $14
“Smoothness to an exceptional degree, but without trading varietal integrity for style.”

2013 J. Lohr Estates Los Osos Merlot
Paso Robles $15
“Lot of oak here, but also lot of plummy fruit.”

2012 Jamieson Ranch Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon
Napa Valley $45
“Beefy but not stern, the dark fruit coupled with the sort of spine that makes it fitting for a winter-night lamb stew.”

2011 Joseph Cellars Winery Cabernet Sauvignon
Napa Valley $75
“A beauty from first sniff to final sip, showcasing the dark fruit, solid build and prevailing conclusion when Cabernet is tended attentively in both vineyard and cellar.”

2011 Joseph Cellars Winery Zinfandel
Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County $35
“The monster of the midway – big and exciting for its jammy fruit, generous oak and kaleidoscopic richness. You have been warned.”

2012 Judd’s Hill Cabernet Sauvignon
Rutherford, Napa Valley $48
“A graceful testimonial to the clarity and balance of the harvest of 2012.”

2013 L.A. Cetto Zinfandel
Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California $9.90
“Who says Zinfandel can’t be as charming as Pinot noir? This one has bright raspberry fruit, dashes of pepper and cloves, a smidgen of oak and a tease of concrete.”

2010 La Chertosa Old World Wines Cabernet Sauvignon
Napa Valley $75
“Big ripe Bing cherries in a colander of oak. Inviting aroma leads up to a wine of spine and warmth.”

2013 La Chertosa Old World Wines Chardonnay
Reserve, Sonoma Valley $25
“A rich and flamboyant Chardonnay that defines what “queenly” means when it is applied to the varietal – it lives forever.”

2013 La Chertosa Old World Wines Reserve Zinfandel
Amador County $35
“Brassy style, packing heat, muscle and an attitude that will get even ribeye to back off. An herbal thread suggests it has some Ivy League breeding.”

NV La Marca Prosecco
Veneto IGT $17
“Bouquet garni in a glass for all its suggestions of dried herbs; hefty on the palate at first but then the engine of effervescence kicks in.”

2013 Light Horse Chardonnay
California $14.99
“Heard a vintner say recently that Chardonnay is coming back. What, it went away? Here is an interpretation that shows why Chardonnay is the country’s most popular wine: The fruit is subtle yet enduring, the oak is restrained, and the minerality keeps drawing you back.”

2014 Lopez Island Vineyards and Winery Siegerrebe
Organically Grown, Puget Sound $25
“Brassy tone, with a sense of place in aroma and flavor, meaning it is a step apart from only delivering fruit; a wine that provides nuance, length and complexity. A wine whose identity I especially look forward to learning.”

2012 Lucas & Lewellen Estate Malbec
Santa Barbara County $28
“Dark fruit in aroma and flavor, dry, medium bodied; your ticket to Argentina for its pride and power.”

2013 Lucky Star Cabernet Sauvignon
California $11.99
“A lot of oak here, but no one will complain because there’s also a lot of hulking cherry fruit.”

2013 Lucky Star Chardonnay
California $11.99
“Citrus and green apples, unusual bed partners whose pairing yields a Chardonnay of poise and alluring subtlety.”

2013 Lucky Star Pinot Noir
California $11.99
“An unusually meaty, assertive Pinot noir, recognized for its dark depth and subtle and haunting complexity.”

2013 Main & Geary Petite Sirah
California $18
“Big but harmonious, with layers of berries, cherries and plums; throw a t-bone on the grill and grab the cork puller…or twist off the cap.”

2012 Main & Geary Zinfandel
Dry Creek Valley $17.99
“Walter Cronkite was a sturdy guy who could dance like a ballerina; this is the Zinfandel equivalent – smart, honest, lively.”

2013 Marc Cellars Pinot Noir
California $8.99
“Juicy, sweet, delivers on all aspects of what is expected in Pinot noir, which is to say a quality that goes back to the early popes.”

NV Menage a Trois Prosecco
Prosecco DOC $14
“Very balanced, quite dry, exceptionally complex for a prosecco, with earthiness underscoring its fruitiness, and a note of welcome cheese both up front and in its finish.”

2012 Milbrandt Vineyards Traditions Cabernet Sauvignon
Columbia Valley (AVA) $15.99
“Sweetly fruity, so sweet and fruity that the tannins are in retreat.”

2012 Milbrandt Vineyards Traditions Merlot
Columbia Valley $16.99
“The gondola hauling these grapes passed through a butcher shop en route to the winery, which explains the unusual meatiness in this otherwise appealingly floral and fruity merlot.”

2013 Myles & Moore Cabernet Sauvignon
Paso Robles $12.99
“A big-boy cab, all muscle and spacious lungs, built for the long term.”

2011 Narmada Winery Yash-Vir
Virginia $36
“Lean, lithe, dry and tightly coiled; sock it away for three to five years.”

2012 Noceto Riserva Sangiovese
Shenandoah Valley $24
“Sangiovese is the Jo Nesbo of the American wine market; just where are we going here? Don’t know, but this interpretation is forthright and encouraging in its restraint, balance and subtly complex intrigue.”

2014 Noceto Rosato di Sangiovese
Shenandoah Valley $15
“Sweet fruit, big for the style, surprisingly long.”

2013 Oak Farm Vineyards Barbera
Lodi $25
“A big, fleshy, round, dry take on Barbera, lovable for its accessibility, juiciness and balance.”

2012 Oak Mountain Winery Pinotage
Temecula Valley $45
“Why Pinotage isn’t more popular is a mystery, given the dark-fruit assertiveness and complexity, rugged build and lasting plushness of this interpretation; the warning label should note, however, that fierce tannins are ahead.”

2013 Open Kimono Riesling
Washington $9.99
“Exceptionally stylish, even elegant, for the purity of its expression, its equilibrium and its persistence; an enthralling Riesling for its combination of fruit and terroir.”

2013 Pearmund Cellars Ameritage Reserve
Virginia $39
“Profound for the drama and complexity of its fruit; a grasping attack of juicy dark fruit is followed on the palate by black tea, truffles and juniper; exquisitely balanced for its heft.”

2014 Pedernales Texas Reserve Viognier
Texas $39.99
“An unfeigned representation of viognier, showing the more viscous, meaty and spicy side of the varietal; layered with honeysuckle, melon, lemon and peach.”

2012 Pedroncelli Cabernet Sauvignon
Dry Creek Valley $36
“Muscular, complex, ruggedly textured and with the potential to age until Chelsea Clinton is in the White House, again.”

2011 pureCru Winery CFM
Napa Valley $50
“Expressive and plush, with a clarity and precision that indicates every single grape passed a rigorous physical exam. Look forward to learning this wine’s identity.”

2010 pureCru Winery pureCoz
Napa Valley $64
“Sleek, breezy and dry, though the concentration of its berry and plum fruit suggest up front that it will be sweet. Apt use of oak respectfully frames the fruit.”

2013 Ray’s Creek Cabernet Sauvingon
Central Coast $16.95
“A Cabernet that balances adroitly the herbal, cherry and beef sides of Cabernet Sauvignon.”

NV Red Soles Stillhouse California Hooch48
Paso Robles $48
“Intense, of course; characteristic, balanced, enduring.”

NV Reggae Wines Blush
Indiana $6.99
“Bright, light pink, sweetly harmonious fruit suggestive of watermelon basking in the sunshine of a Deep South field.”

NV Reggae Wines Red
Indiana $6.99
“Defines refreshment, especially of the sweet, spicy and just generally seductive sort.”

NV Rex Goliath Cabernet Sauvignon
Chile $6.99
“A rich, sweet, smooth representative cab; earthy, spicy, complex; I’m thinking haunted house.”

NV Rex Goliath Pinot Noir
America $6.99
“Like a feral cat, shy in the tall grass but put a hand to it and it attacks, in this case with herbal-accented cherry fruit and tannins that while obvious have been mostly declawed.”

NV Rex Goliath Sauvignon Blanc
Australia $6.99
“The wild child of Sauvignon Blancs – surprising for its freedom from expectations, unpredictable for its complexity; it bends but doesn’t break the mold in its grassy/fruity definition.”

2013 Rodney Strong Vineyards Chardonnay
Sonoma County $17
“Dry and spirited, with a smokiness and buoyancy that suggests the intrigue and drama of a song as interpreted by Frank Sinatra.”

2014 Save Me San Francisco Sauvignon Blanc
California $12
“Could this possibly be labeled fume Blanc? It has a styling seemingly inspired by Europe, and the big round body and the suggestion of oak commonly associated with the style; in short, a noble departure from the norm.”

2014 SeaGlass Chardonnay
Santa Barbara County $12
“A safe, representative interpretation of Chardonnay that shouldn’t disappoint anyone who picks up a bottle.”

2013 SeaGlass Riesling
Monterey County $12
“Did someone say this year’s Grand Cru tasting is at a botanical garden? Punch this wine’s barcode into the GPS and you will get there via the quickest route; it is all flowers, sunshine and exotic butterflies.”

2011 South Creek Vineyards & Winery Maestro
North Carolina $39.50
“What a seamless and focused Meritage, starting with the needles and shadow of a forest floor and unfolding into a wine of complex and sunny fruit.”

NV St. James Winery Blackberry
American $8.99
“True to the berry patch in its sunny fruit, but more to the point it shows that sweet fruit wines need not be sticky; this interpretation breezes across the palate for its lean build and keen acidity.”

NV St. James Winery Blueberry
American $8.99
“Spicy berries, without being over the top with sugar. Sweet but refreshing.”

NV St. James Winery Strawberry
American $8.99
“All that is missing is the shortcake and whipped cream; pure berries just out of the garden, with sweetness adroitly tempered.”

NV St. James Winery Moscato
American $12.99
“Gov. Brown’s bullet train – sleek, direct, unexpected and much too fast across the palate.”

2014 St. James Winery Vignoles
Ozark Highlands $14.99
“Aromatic, fruity, sweet, lasting, with notes of spice; overall, balanced, refined, quietly yet persistently complex.”

2013 Stonehedge Cabernet Sauvignon
Napa Valley $17.95
“Welcome to the tilt-a-whirl of Cabernets, vibrant with fruit, motion and kaleidoscopic colors. In short, herbal heritage combined with New Age ripe fruit.”

NV Sutter Home Family Vineyards Sweet Red
California $6
“A veritable botanical garden for all its varied flowers, shrubs and trees, with absolutely no poison oak posing as tannin.”

2014 Swedish Hill Winery Blue Waters Riesling
Finger Lakes $13.99
“Lean doesn’t mean slight; a wine can be reserved, but nonetheless worthy of listening to for its whispering authority, as in this case.”

2014 Swedish Hill Winery Riesling
Finger Lakes $15.99
“Textbook example of balancing expressive fruit with invigorating acidity, producing a wine of gentle texture, refreshing fruit and ticklish spice.”

2014 Swedish Hill Winery Vignoles
Finger Lakes $23
“The aroma alone shows why we are so captivated by wine: How is it possible for so much smell and flavor to be squeezed from something so small and slight as a cluster of grapes? This is a magnificent wine, but it is a dessert wine and as such stands on its own for such depth and breadth.”

2014 Taylors Wines Clare Valley Merlot
Clare Valley, Australia $12
“A wine of spirit, swagger and structure, despite its youthful freshness. A wine to be consumed now, given its reserved tannins. A seam of anise adds layering to Merlot’s customary plummy fruit.”

2014 Terra d’Oro Pinot Grigio
Santa Barbara County $16
“A profound Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio? Don’t laugh; it is possible, as this take shows by its structure, layering and unusually long finish, all without sacrificing the varietal’s expected friendliness.”

2013 Terra d’Oro Zinfandel
Amador County $18
“Old-school Zinfandel – deep and broad, dark focused fruit, dry impression. Oak sturdy but not disruptive.”

2014 Thirsty Owl Wine Co. Diamond
Finger Lakes $9.95
“So floral that you best watch that bees aren’t on the rim of the glass before taking a sip. Sweet, plush and balanced, showing why Diamond so often wins a sweepstakes or other high honor.”

2014 Thirsty Owl Wine Co. Gewurztraminer
Finger Lakes $18.95
“’Gewürztraminer’ translates as ‘too much of a good thing,’ demonstrated here for the fierceness of its rose-petal aroma, the juiciness of the lychee in its flavor, and the prickly persistence of the spice in its finish.”

2014 Thirsty Owl Wine Co. Chardonnay
Finger Lakes $13.95
“A Chardonnay to be appreciated by the person who welcomes risk as well as assurance. It has all the proper attributes – sweet fruit, calm oak, spice – expected in the varietal, but also notes of the exotic: stones, steel, style.”

2014 Thirsty Owl Wine Co. Lahoma Vineyard Riesling
Finger Lakes $14.95
“It may be domestic, but it suggests Germany for its precision, assurance and sensible austerity; even Greeks will love it.”

2014 Thirsty Owl Wine Co. Riesling
Finger Lakes $14.95
“Liberace Jr. – flamboyant but not campy. Seriously, a Riesling happily expressive in its fruit and supportive acidity, yet trailing off with a beckoning wink that calls for another sip…and another.”

2014 Thirsty Owl Wine Co. Snow Owl
Finger Lakes $12.95
“Lovely spice running through a stream stocked with the fruit equivalent of a member of the trout family – sunny, spirited, centered.”

2013 Trecini Merlot
Russian River Valley $30
“Merlot isn’t expected to punch you in the face for its assertive fruit and muscular follow-through, but this does while holding on to the varietal’s reputation for sweet juiciness and relaxed tannins.”

2013 Trailhead Cabernet Sauvignon
Napa Valley $29.99
“It may be a cliché but nevertheless true here – the whole package: olives, cherries, silken tannins, notes of cedar and an overall grace.”

2014 TWOFOLD Sauvignon Blanc
Oak Knoll District, Napa Valley $22
“Ripe fruit yielded a Sauvignon Blanc mature and composed, styled more for chicken pot pie than the deck.”

2012 Twirl Chardonnay
California $12.99
“Southern belle – voluptuous, sweet, dramatic, with a finish smoky, spicy and seductive.”

2013 Ventana Sauvignon Blanc
Arroyo Seco $22
“Vivacious, charming and enduring for its dry yet concentrated melony and peachy fruit, its note of zesty lime and its overall complexity and persistence, which is rare for the breed.”

2012 Viansa Winery Cabernet Sauvignon
Sonoma Valley $28
“Cherry cola without the sugar; fierce tannins call for nothing less than a thick ribeye.”

2012 Vina Ventisquero Carmenere
Colchagua $13.99
“Lamb on the menu? Pick up a bottle of this for its structure, perseverance and most of all its rosemary-threaded and meaty fruit.”

2013 Vista da Regua Port Blend
Douro DOC $16.99
“Whoa, get a load of all that black pepper; but there’s more – dry yet distinctive fruit, a straight and strong spine, and enduring balance.”

2013 Wagner Vineyards Fathom 107
Finger Lakes $19.99
“The whole package for white wines, meaning freshness, richness, vitality, complexity and persistence, and now excuse me while I have another taste.”

2013 Wagner Vineyards Riesling
Finger Lakes $14.99
“Expressive, grand, lasting; has the versatility and joy for the picnic basket.”

2014 Wave Series Sauvignon Blanc
Leyda Valley $9.99
“A youthful, fresh and exquisite representative of what we have come to expect in Sauvignon Blanc – reliability, versatility, a tickling surprise.”

2015 Whispering Oaks Winery Blueberry Blush
Florida $14.99
“Earthy, dense, lingering.”

2013 Windsor Vineyards Platinum Series Merlot
Alexander Valley $28
“Could revive the Merlot category all on its own for its balance of herbal and fruity components, its diverting spice and it overall harmony.”

2013 Windsor Vineyards Platinum Series Zinfandel
Dry Creek Valley $27
“Freshly harvested blackberries and raspberries in a cedar gondola, blessed by a priest with a canister of cloves. Inviting up front, caressing in the finish.”

NV Wine Sisterhood Passionate Pinot Grigio
California $12
“Don’t know where it’s from, but could pass for Italian for its sharp styling and assured step. Lean, dry, focused.”

2014 Wollersheim Winery Dry Riesling
American $9
“Riesling as the homecoming queen who knew she was going to win from the start – poised, balanced, athletic, smart…and adored by most everyone.”

2014 Wollersheim Winery Prairie Fume
American $9
“Sweet fruit, grandly presented.”

2013 ZD Pinot Noir
Carneros $50
“Blockbuster Pinot – aggressive black-fruit flavor, muscularity, long finish that says ‘like me or I know a guy.’ Lovely, sweet fruit.”

2014 Vineyard & Winery 45 White
Michigan $17
“Fruity, juicy, sweet white wine, exceptionally complex for a white, loaded with diverting spice, begging for another taste.”