Yes, in our last installment I thought I'd actually plumbed the depths of the cheap crap that is available in discount bins in backwoods Jersey wine warehouses, but it looks like I was wrong.

The lesson: it sucks to be poor.


Moletto Prosecco Marca Trevigiana 2000 ($9). Light lemon-chalky nose, if I didn't know better I'd think this was a Vouvray petillant. Lean and chalky-lemony, cheerful and simple; decent, uncomplicated little fizz. [Buy again? Yes.]

Zardetto Prosecco Brut NV ($9). Light lemon-chalky nose, if I didn't know better I'd think this was the wine above. Lean and chalky-lemony, cheerful and simple; decent, uncomplicated little fizz. [Buy again? Yes.]


Lemaire-Fournier Vouvray Sec 2002 ($10). Medium-light lemon-straw color. Smells big and kinda stern, lemon tea and chalk, pollen and paraffin, yow, the aromatics are forceful and insistent. Hey, it's a bit fizzy, a minipetillant, tastes big and intense as well, crisp but not shrill, a wine with some heft, very young but promising. I don't know these guys, but this is damn decent Vouvray for ten bucks. [Buy again? Yes.]

Domaine Saupin Muscadet Sevre etc. Cuvée Prestige 2003 ($7). Wow, I feel prestigious drinking this! There's actually a hint of pineapple-tropicality to this, something you didn't see a lot in Muscadet before '03. Under that there's a light chalkiness, hint of honeydew, white coral chips. Soft, loose Muscadet, easygoing but still decently structured. It's a bit generic, but it's still a decent wine and a steal at $7. [Buy again? Yes.]

Columbia Crest Gewürztraminer Columbia Valley 2002 ($8). Smells like ginger candy, tastes like ginger ale--medium acidity, very quiet, hint of sugar, bit dilute. Not actively bad, a bit simple, but okay I guess. [Buy again? No.]

Domaine de Vaufuget Vouvray 2002 ($8). Simple but recognizable Vouvray, plain and unadorned. Crisp and bracing, maybe just a touch of sugar, with a decent quinine-mineral surge in the middle and a lemonstony finish. Compact and kind of stripped-down; were these grapes ripe? Has the feel of a petillant gone flat--well-honed and composed but not a lot of action going on. [Buy again? Well, it is only eight bucks, so I guess yes.]

Quinta da Romeira Arinto Bucelas 2003 ($8). Smells fresh and rainwatery, yellow apple and lemony hints. Bright-tasting, lemony and lightly creamy. Very nice, simple, zippy-crisp and taut, with just a bit of heft to give it definition. [Buy again? Yes.]

Château Jolys Jurancon Sec 2002 ($11). Bright, happy aromatics, underripe pineapple and yellow flowers, white flowers and more underripe pineapple, touch of honey. Tastes crisp, taut, stony-minerally flavors with a light tropical skin wash over my tongue, finishing long and charmingly minerally. Very nice, not terribly complex, but firm, focused and crystalline. [Buy again? Yes.]

Alice White Semillon-Chardonnay South Eastern Australia 2002 ($5). Pale lemon-straw color. Tropical lemon-pineapple aromatics, cream and a bit of vanilla. Rather glyceriney mouthfeel--waxy apple-pear yellowfruit, fleshy but with enough slightly spiky structure to get by. Touch of heat on the finish, but all in all rather pleasant, you could do worse for five bucks. More of a sippin' wine than a food wine, but pleasantly composed, industrial wine with a sense of reserve. FAKE GREEN CORK! [Buy again? Yeah, sure, whatever.]

Rosemount Estate Chardonnay-Semillon Australia 2002 ($7). Very peary, smells of pear, paraffin and yellow apple. Crisp and a bit watery in the middle, hints of pineapple come through on the finish. Has balance, no overt woodiness that I can sense. The mouthfeel is soft and slightly slippery, there's a sheen there, whoops I lied, there's a hint of vanilla emerging on the finish now. Easy-sipping and cleanly tropical stuff, not bad. [Buy again? Yeah, I guess.]

Botromagno Gravina 2001 (Greco/malvasia) ($6). Pale straw. Smells lightly nutty, some whiteflowery hints. Brisk, composed and straightforwardly crisp, a pleasant little wine to wash something down with. Crisp, slightly puckery-citric acidity, rather neutral rainwater minerality. Kind of nondescript in terms of flavor quotient, but well-structured and happily crisp, with a surprisingly tenacious stony finish. FAKE CORK! [Buy again? Yes.]

Michel Schneider Bereich Bernkastel Riesling Qualitatswein 2003 ($6). Smells quiet but noticably rieslingish--lightl vinyl, lemon, green apple. Tastes small and unadorned, light and lightly sweet and bracingly crisp. Not much substance, a little watery, but simplicity and bright acidity give it some presence. Not bad, a bit bland but not bad. [Buy again? Yes, but just barely.]

Domaine Bourillon-Dorléans Vouvray la Bourdonnerie Demisec 2002 ($14). Pale straw color. Light lemon-chalk aromas, touch of chamomile. Touch of sugar, medium acidity, light-bodied and ethereal, silky tasting but indistinct, lacking focus and heft. Finishes on a quiet chalky note. A pleasant little Vouvray without much character. FAKE GREEN CORK! [Buy again? Um. Maybe not, no.]


Domaine de la Pépière Vin de Pays du Jardin de la France 'Cuvée Granit 2003 ($11). The price of this wine has gone through the roof! I had thought the silly ripeness of 2003 might give this a juicy boost to the wine's usual charming thin-weedy paradijum, but no. Instead what we have is a bit of a weird freaky-deaky thing, green-herby and cassised at the same time, it smells like someone dropped a canister of dried parsley into a jar of cherry juice, then threw in a cigar stub for spice. There's a turpentiney flavor in the midpalate, the wine is taut and focused all right, just a bit more of a velvety-cherry sheen to the skin around the spine. It's just too weird. Marc Ollivier is god, so he'll soon get over the fact that I don't like this wine. It does make a good blending wine with the also-freaky Clark-Scott El Niño 2003 (see below). [Buy again? No.]

Alain Paulat Côteaux du Giennois 'Les Belles Fornasses' 1996 ($11). I don't know this producer, I've never heard of the appellation, there's a fairy on the label and the wine is eight years old. What could go wrong? Well, it could be cooked, I suppose, which it in fact is: light sherry and metallic notes over bricky tea-laced redfruit. Not undrinkable if you're thirsty and that's all there is in the house, it's medium-light bodied and seems to have been balanced and light, but baked-brick-and-tea flatness to the mouthfeel and tired sourness on the finish make it less than pleasant. [Buy again? No.]

Georges Duboeuf Saint-Amour Cuvée Saint-Valentin 2003 ($10). Medium garnet color. Ripe strawberry lollipop aromatics, hints of rose petals and watermelon. Tastes ripe and squishy, low acidity, rather puppyish in the middle, finishes with a bit of roughness. Jammy and grabless, simple and friendly at first, grows less so with air. [Buy again? No.]

Louis Latour Beaujolais-Villages 2003 ($10). More focus, less confected than the Dubouef, this is a decent fruity little wine with a streak of slightly spiky lemony acidity. It's puppyish and watery in the center, but it seems relatively straightforwardly so. No finish to speak of, but overall not bad, not bad. [Buy again? Probably, yes.]

J-P. Brun Beaujolais Vieilles Vignes 'l'Ancien' 2003 ($11): Medium-light garnet color. Sweet strawberry/cherry-candy nose, ripe, plush smelling. Tastes similarly plush and fruity, a bit overly candied and topheavy, like wine candy. There's a watermelon-seed dark streak and a clothesline of taut acidity, but there's too much poofy fruit hanging on it like a parachute. Glossy, just a bit much. Some light tannic raspiness on the finish. Gobs in Brun? What next? [FAKE CORK!] [Buy again? Er... uh... I dunno, probably not, wait for the '04.]

Pierre Breton Bourgueil 'Trinch!' 2003 ($12). Medium-dark garnet color. Ripe-smelling and warmly earthy, black cherry-cassis and tobacco leaf, lots of tobacco leaf. Lots of dark ripe fruit, plush and loosely-wrapped but with a pleasant matte texture and a firm core of acidity. A medium-sized wine with some good gutsiness. Quite tannic, rather rough on the finish, rough-edged but good fun, it's RIPE, but it's recognizable as Bourgueil! A steal at the price. FAKE CORK! [Buy again? Quite a few.]

Gilles Robin Crôzes-Hermitage Cuvée Alberic Bouvet 2001 ($9, delivered). Who the hell is Alberic Bouvet? The wine is a medium-dark garnet color, purpling at the rim. Smoky-bacon and blackberry aromas, hint of african violets. Tastes rather hard, there's an obsidian-dark core of blackfruit, bracing acidity, seems slightly angry at the moment, not giving much away, but the wine has great presence and stuffing, lots going on. Needs time. [Buy again? At that price? Delivered?]

Clos Roche Blanche Cabernet Touraine 2003 ($11). Medium garnet color. Smells of red plum, pipe tobacco and hot rocks. A sip, and it's riper than ever but not freakishly so--medium-low acidity is supported by a bright tartness at the center of the red fruit. The midpalate turns slightly grapey, then a passel of fine tannins shut things down. Very nice, slightly wacky compared to less freaky vintages, there's an unfamiliar plushness, but the wine is still well balanced, more guts than the gamay. FAKE CORK! [Buy again? Yup.]

Paul & Fredrick Filliatreau Saumur-Champigny 'La Grande Vignolle' 1999 ($12). Smells lean and vivid, gravel and tobacco over muted cran-cherry. Tastes like it smells, lean and racy, just veering away from sour-tautness, with a crushed-brick earthiness welling up in the middle to fill things out a bit. Finishes long and buzzy, a nervy, bracing wine with a great deal of sustain, much more likeable now than on release, but I wouldn't hang on to any more for all that much longer. [Buy again? Yes.]

Domaine Viret Côte du Rhône Villages Saint-Maurice Cosmic 2000 ($14). Medium-dark garnet color. Ripe raspberry-leather-cherry bubble gum nose, hint of metal shavings. Crisp, well-structured, ripe and borderline gobby, with meaty-rich redfruit flesh. Just a bit blowsy in the middle, doesn't quite have the shape and follow-through of the '99 version, but still a delightful mouthful of ripe grenache, a fine match with my special MSG-mushroom burgers. Really, it's a lot of fun but it's not for fans of the lean and sour; there's plenty of ripeness and lush fruit here, it's a Kane kind of wine except he'd say it had an 'acidity problem' because there's a bit of structure and it's not as limp as a wet noodle on hot asphalt.

Domaine d'Andezon Côtes du Rhône 2001 ($9). Medium-dark garnet color. Smells of light plum-berry and leather jacket, with just a hint of cinnamon. Tastes warm and fleshy, a smooth, ripe little Côte du Rhône that does its job well. Lowish acidity, but enough to get by, smooth, rounded and chewy. Just what you'd want in a gluggable little Côte du Rhône. [Buy again? Sure.]

Joel Dupont Côtes-du-Rhône 'Les Trois Chemins' 2003 ($6). Light garnet color, looks like a wan pineau d'aunis. Okay, an '03 Côte-du-Rhône, big and ripe, right? Wrong. Smells of nothing much at all, light generic redness, hint of shoe polish, that's about all it'll give up, swirl as I may. Tastes watery and vapid, like someone has filled the bottle halfway up with cheap Côtes-du-Rhône, then topped it off with Dasani. I guess it's not actively disagreeable or ugly, but it's so damn dilute that's it's barely here at all, just red water. Could this be a mislabeled 2002? Damn, it's just puzzling. [Buy again? Pfff.]

Château du Lascaux Côteaux du Languedoc 2002 ($11). I'm a sucker for the prehistoric horse, I admit it. I have a rug in my conservatory that depicts the Lascaux paintings, so I'm a dream customer for this wine's marketers. Okay, this, as usual, smells a bit like zinfandel--ripe black cherry and smoke, touch of pepper, hint of volatility. Tastes zinny as well--ripe berry fruit, toasty wood, black peppercorns, tarry finish. The acidity is medium low, the fruit is pillowy, there's a simple plushness to the wine's character that is rather appealing, but it's also got a sense of compactness about the core, so it's hard not to like if you like puppyish, friendly-ripe wines. And I do. [Buy again? Yes.]


Terredora Aglianico Irpinia 2002 ($10). Ooh, smells quite oaky--sawdust and toast over dark red raspberry fruit, kind of generic smelling. Whoops, that impression is confirmed upon first sippage--very new-wave in style, medium acidity, fleshy red berry fruit with a cough-syrupy sheen, lots of toasty carpentry. This seems like focus-group wine, and as such it's just fine, plenty drinkable if you don't demand anything other than 'this should taste like the wines the pointy guys like to drink.' [Buy again? No.]

Avignonesi Rosso di Toscana 2002 ($9). Ripe black-cherry/raspberry nose, smoky undertones, smells dark and rather generic. Tastes smooth and fleshy, with good focus despite rather medium-low acidity, a nice trick. There's a light purple-plummy quality that rises up in the midpalate to mingle with the dark redfruit, the texture is unusual, slightly glossy on the outside but rather matte at the core. Finishes quietly, with a plum-licorice flicker, then more licorice, then medium-fine tannins. Not bad, fleshy-textured but with decent composure despite the suggestion of shirazziness. [Buy again? Yes, I suppose.]


San Gregorio SDAD. Coop. Ltda. Garnacha Calatayud 'Sipacha' 2003 ($6). Medium-light garnet color. Smells bold and ripe, deep raspberry, canned beet and shoe polish-licorice. Tastes robust and concentrated, almost abrasively so--very ripe and candied, but also sharply acidic and roughly tannic. A rough-edged glossy-candied wine, simply redberried at heart. Strange and boisterously twotone, big ripe, strangely pale thing. What? [Buy again? What? Erm... nah.]

Herencia Antica Tempranillo Utiel-Requena Reserva 1999 ($9). Smooth, dark aromatics, raspberry-cherry fruit laced with bay leaf and a touch of tobacco, light vanilla-oak overlay. The sharp acidity is at a bit of a remove from the velvety-smooth flesh, but I can deal, there's balance here. Smooth, moderately complex and almost cohesive, the midpalate is vague, but the overall impression is of a small, flavorful wine with a calm juiciness and enough complexity to keep me interested. Quite nice, really. [Buy again? Sure.]

Celler Cooperatiu de Vilalba dels Arcs Terra Alta 'Arcs' 2003 ($6). Medium garnet color. Smells lightly volatile, bit of acetone over blackcherry-candy aromatics, touch of strawberry, shoe polish. Soft and fleshy but also spikily acidic, a poky little nouveau-style wine with unintegrated acidity trying in vain to give it some heft. Medium bodied, black cherry-watermelon pit hints emerge in the watery middle and bounce around aimlessly until they stop just short of what would normally be a finish. Juicy and light, a decent little cafˇ wine without a hint of complication to it and a peculiar sense of being bent out of shape. Okay, that's my take on the wine, but strangely enough I find myself drinking the stuff down with a relative amount of pleasure, like eating Cheese Nips or some other processed food that you know is crap but still keep reaching for until the box is empty. The palate has its reasons that the heart knows not of. FAKE CORK! [Buy again? Only if no one is watching.]

Dominio de Eguren Vino de la Tierra de Castilla 'Protocolo' 2002 ($5). Whee, ripe black cherry/licorice/grape juice nose. Dark and grapey flavors, slightly confected but crisp and grabby. Simple but not bad, a bit of happy rusticity takes the edge off the simple ripeness. Loose and lacking in focus, but dark and ripe and the plumskin-tinged fruit has a good puckery-tart tang. Lots of fuzzy-rough tannins on the finish. Zin-styled tempranillo, but you can't get much zin for five bucks these days, can you? [Buy again? Yes and yes.]

Bodegas Bleda Monastrell-Tempranillo Jumilla 'Roblemar' 2002 ($9). Big, ripe black-cherry/raspberry/tar aromatics, this also smells rather zinnish. Jammy-red, loosely wrapped and amiable. Blowsy and low in acidity--loosey-goosey, candied in the middle and tarry on the finish. Pretty forgettable wine aimed at at goblovers everywhere. I actually would buy it again, but I'm going to say I wouldn't because it costs nine bucks instead of five or six like the identically-styled Protocolo. [Buy again? *cough* Nope. ]

Bodega Protos Ribera del Duero 'Ribera Duero Roble' 2002 ($10). Smooth dark aromatics, blackberry-black raspberry fruit, coconut-husk oakiness, hints of barnyard and licorice. Tastes smooth and tart, fleshy-fruity but decently spined too. Not terribly complex, but rough-edged and pleasant, an unfinished chair of a wine, some clumsy wooding over some happily coarse fruit, all rather juicy and amiable. Pretty decent, really, and manages a sense of bumptious balance and a bit of focus. The label says "Ribera Duero from Protos is the famous Spanish wine after which the prestigious region 'Ribera del Duero' has been named." Wow! Given that this is the wine with an entire region as its namesake, it's quite a bargain! [Buy again? Yes.]


Quinta de Cidrô Touriga Nacional Vinho Regional Terras Durienses 1999 ($9). Dark red- and blackfruit, hints of shoyu, leather, meaty mushroom. Crisp and rather hard, a medium-large scaled wine that's rough-edged, tarry, slightly abrasive and chunky, but oddly appealing. "Rustic" might fit. The flavors are cassis-raspberried, a cocky little thing with a take-it-or-leave-it attitude. For nine bucks, I'll take it. [Buy again? Sure.] Castas de Santar Dão 2000 ($7). Medium ruby color. Aromatically rather shy, but what's there is decent enough--muted black cherry and cassis laced with tree bark, touch of laurel. Tastes soft and fleshy and watery, but despite the dilution there's an interesting rough quality to the midpalate, it kind of gooses you with earthy rusticity as it heads into the finish. Has a kind of backyard-wine feel to it, flawed but with some interesting qualities. [Buy again? No, probably not.]

Vinhos Sogrape Douro 'Vila Regia' 2000 ($5). Medium garnet color. Light hints of Band-Aid brand bandage strips over muted earthy-berry fruit. Tastes watery, vague cassis-cherry hints, spot of toast, fairly bland and unimpressive. [Buy again? Nope.]

Castelinho Douro Vinho Tinto 2001 ($7). Medium garnet color Quiet black cherry-bakers chocolate nose, fairly simple-smelling but straightforward and pleasant. Tastes loosely-wrapped, there's a decent tartness keeping the midpalate fruit buoyant, but the acidity is on the shy side and there's a pervasive vagueness. Still, it's straightforward and has the ring of honesty about it, seems unmanipulated and decent, a wine to slug back on a patio somewhere with sausages while arguing with your friends about whether anyone is hotter than Hugh Jackman. [Buy again? Yeah, I guess.]


Viña Aquitania Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Valley 'Agapanto' 2002 ($9). Lightly herbaceous nose, bell pepper and cedar over muted plum-cassis redfruit. Medium-light bodied, fairly forward at first, then turns shy in the middle, not much mouthgrab, kind of just melts away with a licoricey flicker before it has a chance to finish. Still, there's decent balance and it seems rather unspoofulated, if not particularly interesting. I'm on the fence, which usually means no. Very green-peppery with more air. [Buy again? Mmmm... nnnn.... nope.]

Bodega Jacques & Francois Lurton Malbec Mendoza 2002 ($7). Quiet, simple aromatics, plum and blackberry laced with black shoe polish, touch of iodine. Lean, earthier in the mouth than the nose would hint at, rather diffuse and short, with medium acidity and a loose fleshiness to the mouthfeel. Slightly grapey, has some flavorosity but not much focus or character, and the finish turns towards burntiness. It's so unassuming, however, that it's hard to dislike it, it seems to have such low expectations that you end up drinking it and thinking "Well, for a dilute, stripped-of-character, three-flavor little wine, it's not bad." [Buy again? No.]

Bodega No. A-72107 Malbec Argentina 'Teatro' NV ($8). Yes, this actually says "Produced by Bodega No. A-72107," and it appears to be non-vintage. Promising signs, yes? Smells grapey, blueberry and shoe polish hints. Tastes noticeably sweet, noticeably unpleasant, grapey and concocted. More Yellow Tail-style grape beverage product, at an inflated price. Blech. BLECH. [Buy again? Not on your life, mate.]

Trapiche Pinot Noir Mendoza 2003 ($6). Medium garnet color. Quiet clove-cherry nose, hint of sawdustiness. Tastes bright and thin, rather candied at first, the glossiness fades with aeration, turning towards a medium-lightweight cherry-clovey wine, light cola flavors surface in the midpalate, fade quickly on the abbreviated finish. Has some pinot noir character once given some air, light body, crisp acidity, no finish at all, insubstantial and vague but not disagreeable. Really, for a six-buck pinot noir you could do a lot worse. A bit watery in the middle, the initial burst of cherry-cloviness is all that there is to recommend it, but there's an amiable factory-wine quality that comes across quite clearly--watery, no individuality, but a bit of varietal character and decent balance. Not bad, considering. FAKE CORK! [Buy again? No, probably not.]


Fairview South Africa 'Goats Do Roam In Villages' 2002 ($12). Medium-dark garnet. Smells ripe but has a pleasant complexity--leather and fresh-turned sod notes permeate the ripe plum-cassis aromatics. A sip, and the wine has a firm core of dark fruit and a nice sense of composure, crisp acidity and good balance. The midpalate has a touch of a candied quality, but that's offset by a well-integrated earthiness. There's a hint of underlying toastiness, but the wooding is subtle and innocuous. Maybe the jokey label threw me off, but I wasn't expecting this surprisingly straightforward, flavorful wine. FAKE CORK! GOAT ON THE LABEL! [Buy again? Yup.]

Alice White Cabernet Sauvignon-Shiraz South Eastern Australia 2003 ($6). Plum jam and cherry candy on the nose, hint of mintiness, some licorice in there as well. Tastes squishy and indistinct, but composed and friendly. The acidity is medium-low but doesn't really seem futzed with too much, the fruit is loose and soft and simple, finishes with a brief tar-jam hum and some light fine tannins. Simple and gluggable, a decent little cocktail wine for nongeeks, competent industrial product. FAKE GREEN CORK! [Buy again? Yes, I think so. Or maybe not.]

Stonehedge Petite Sirah California 2001 ($8). Dark matte purply-garnet color. Dark ripe grapey-blackberry nose, hints of licorice & tar and a menthol high note. Medium-large bodied, a robust wine with a slightly candied feel to the coarse blackfruit: interesting effect, like shiny gravel. The wine is simple and broad but flavorful and moderately gutsy. There's decent if rather spiky acidity and a medium-short tarry-blackberried finish. Pretty decent if you're a fan of PS and aren't looking for subtlety or elegance. Pizza wine, good chewy-dark pizza wine. [Buy again? Sure.]

Vinum Cellars Petite Sirah Clarksburg Wilson Vineyards 2003 ($13). Well, the price has gone up a dollar since last year, but the wine is still exactly the same--dark, blackberry-blueberry-tar-laced fruit, ripe and dense and brawnily purple, no bruiser but a wine of substance. Rough-edged, tannic and borderline coarse, a strikingly flavorful wine that matches well with a grilled steak. Robust and slightly pomegranate-flavored on the finish. Good balance for a robust purplebody, the tannins are still coarse, there's good supporting acidity, could age for a bit. FAKE CORK! DOG ON THE LABEL! [Buy again? Many.]

Twin Fin Shiraz California 2002 ($10). Okay, I normally avoid wines that look like their marketing budget is higher than their winemaking costs, but something about this puts me in mind of Bonny Doon (is it the corrugated screwcap?) or Three Thieves, so I suppress my instinctive aversion. Good call. It's a big peppery-plummy smelling jamboat, squishy and purplefruity and perfectly decent with my classic burnt burgers. Very frooty-forward, plum jam up front, plum jam and pepper in the middle, plum jam and licorice on the finish. Medium-low acidity, but it's so loose the limited structure is sufficient to keep it rather lively. Much in the mold of the Three Thieves wines, actually, amiable and silly-fruity, a good ripe quaffer for a picnic or just when you have that gotta-have-jam craving that we all get but don't like to talk about in public. Well, except Connell. Okay, and a few others, you know who you are. SCREWCAP! [Buy again? Yes.]

Solaris Winery Pinot Noir Carneros 2003 ($10). Medium-light garnet, touch of purple at the rim. Cinnamon-clove spicy aromatics, has a certain air-freshener quality to the nose, under that quiet red plum and cherry fruit, touch of tar. Tastes smooth and loose, a wine with low acidity but low weight as well, so it carries it off decently. Recognizably pinot noir, at least, and small-scaled enough to carry its moderate spoofulation level. Slight burnt astringency on the abbreviated finish, there's a lot to not like but the overall impression is rather amiable, sort of a low-expectations success. It tastes like it was made from grapes, at least, although the bitter finish doesn't help. [Buy again? No.]

Garage Clark-Scott Zinfandel Central Valley Demisec 2003 ($14). Medium-dark garnet color, purpling lightly at the rim. Explosive black cherry/zinberry nose, just bursting with zinberry jamminess. The sweetness is light but insistent, there's a porty quality here, jammy ripe fruit, no noticeable oakiness. Freaky wine, disjointed but oddly compelling, best served as a kind of late-harvest zin port. Don't think too hard, just drink it. [Buy again? NA.]

Leaping Horse VIneyards Cabernet Sauvignon Lodi 2001 ($4). Medium garnet color. Smells of shoe polish, grapey redfruit, not much else. Tastes lightly sweet and oh so concocted, a plasticized wine in the Yellow Tail mold, plum-raspberry fruit, soft and squishily low-acid, just so fakey-fake-fake that it hardly seems wine related at all. Really kind of pisses me off, a stupid wine that makes me want to break things and rip up my winegeek license. [Buy again? Sure. NO I'M KIDDING I'D NEVER EVER EVER BUY THIS AGAIN.]


Offley Vintage Character Port NV ($10). Simple candy-redfruit smells. Tastes sweet, simple and a bit hot on the finish. It's port, I guess, but only just. [Buy again? No.]

Château Lafaurie-Peyraugey 2001 ($15/.375). Yumpin yimminy, smells boisterous, spicy botrytis and vanilla, butterscotch, lemon-cream, coconut, whee, a carnival of nosecandy! A sip, and it's a fat little bugger, very sweet and creamy-plump, all Rubenesque flesh and sweet juiciness, just enough acidity, no focus. Almost Sauternes candy, really a bit over the top for what used to be a fairly restrained producer. What's going on here? I mean, despite myself I kind of like it, especially in small doses, but c'mon--grab the reins, will you please? [Buy again? Maybe one or two, what the hell.]

Oh god, I need a new liver.

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