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Volume 34, Issue 9: July 2010

Best Buys

PINOT NOIR     California may be flush with success as far as Pinot Noir is concerned, but the best bottlings are often limited in quantity and dear in price. The deep, impressively concentrated ** SUMMERLAND Vintner’s Select Santa Maria Valley 2007 ($35.00) finds a comfortable place near the head of the class and with the layered, persistently fruity 90-point * MOSSBACK Russian River Valley 2008 ($25.00) outperforms many Pinots costing a good deal more. Of special note, however, is the surprising number of good Pinots to be had for $20.00 and less, and the full and fleshy * CASTLEROCK Reserve Russian River Valley 2008 ($18.00) and the rounded, easy-to-taste * SEAN MINOR 4B Carneros 2008 ($17.00) are well worth seeking out. The widely available * ESTANCIA Pinnacles Ranches 2008 ($17.00) and the well-defined * IRONY Monterey County 2008 ($15.00) are exceptional values, and, if checking in just short of a *, the juicy, cherry-like HAHN ESTATES Monterey 2007 ($12.00) is an out-and-out bargain.

CHARDONNAY     There is no question but that the rich, keenly crafted ** MINER Napa Valley 2008 ($30.00) deserves a special place at the top of our list of Best Buys, but, as with Pinot Noir, we are pleased at the amount of tasty Chardonnay to be found below $20.00. The zesty, * BUENA VISTA Estate Carneros 2007 ($19.00) gets the nod for its fruity vigor, and keep an eye open for the sweetly fruited * ARTESA Carneros 2008 ($20.00), the appley * ALEXANDER VALLEY VINEYARDS Alexander Valley 2008 ($16.00) and the very well-focused * SUMMERLAND Santa Barbara County 2008 ($17.00). Finally, the CUPCAKE VINEYARDS Central Coast 2008 ($14.00) and the SEAN MINOR 4B Central Coast 2008 ($13.00) both score 86 points and are values worth noting.

CABERNET SAUVIGNON     New Cabernets await next month, but a handful of previously recommended wines warrant mention by dint of their outstanding value. The deep, generously filled * FUSE Napa Valley 2007 ($20.00) is quite simply as good a Cabernet as we have seen at the price in some time, and both the accessible * HAHN Central Coast 2007 ($14.00) and the comparatively polished * RODNEY STRONG Sonoma County 2007 ($19.00) hit all of the right marks to win enthusiastic Best Buy award. If not quite up to full * recommendation, the CYCLES GLADIATOR Central Coast 2007 ($12.00) and the FIVE RIVERS WINERY Central Coast 2007 ($11.00) are honest, thoroughly likeable Cabernets priced for everyday drinking.

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Tasting Note View

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Rating System

THREE STARS:(95-98 points) An exceptional wine. Worth a special search of the market.

TWO STARS:(91-94 points) A highly distinctive wine. Likely to be memorable.

ONE STAR:(87-90 points) Fine example of a type or style of wine. Without notable flaws.

Note: Wines not marked with stars are often delightful wines. Each has unique virtues and any of these wines may be the best wine to serve your needs based on value, availability or for your dining and taste preferences.

95-98 3 Stars
91-94 2 Stars
87-90 1 Star
80-86 Wines of varying quality and value. See tasting notes for details.
70-79 Flawed wines to be avoided.



Drinkable now. Unlikely to improve with further aging.

Drinkable now. Further bottle aging can improve this wine.

Cellar for future drinking. Wine will improve with bottle aging.

Not suitable for drinking.


Food & Wine Pairings

Soft and fruity wine Quaffable by itself or with light foods.

Crisp white. Medium acid and dry. Fish or delicate flavored foods.

Mellow white. Dry to slightly sweet. Enough acid for white meats.

Full and balanced dry white. Try with rich seafood and fowl dishes.

Light Red and powerhouse White. Fowl, veal and light meats.

Medium Red. Balanced, good depth, medium tannin. Beef and lamb.

Robust Red. Full tannin, intense flavors. For highly spiced meat dishes.

Sweet Dessert wine. Enjoyable by itself or with sweet desserts.



Generally available in most markets.

Limited production and/or limited geographic distribution.

Very limited availability.