BOATLOADS OF CHEAP CRAP V: TRIP THE LIGHT MUNDANE



Another summer, another fifty-odd cheapies. Actually, it's a pretty decent batch. Were it not for Spain's abysmal showing (7 out of 7 no buys), this might've been the first time where Yeses outpaced Nos. As it is, there's an interesting mélange of super deals, decent standbys and avoid-at-all-cost deathwines.


ONE CHEAP FIZZ

Francois Pinon Vouvray Brut NV ($13). Lightly fizzy, hints of almond paste, yeast, quinine and chamomile tea. Hasn't the grace or focus of the vintage version, but great for an informal glass of fizz. The chenin is surpisingly gutsy, with some real heft and presence that kind of makes itself known above the bubbles. In other words, there's a heaviness here, 'effervescent' doesn't come to mind, but it's a weightiness that I find pleasing, although more refined types might call it graceless. Of course, I don't like most fizzy wine, so take that for what it's worth. [Buy again? Sure thing.]


THE CHEAP WHITE WINES

Kurt Darting Riesling Ungsteiner Bettelhaus Pfalz Kabinett 2003 ($13). Jeez, this is Kabinett? I'm relieved I didn't pick up the spŠtlese. Ripe semitropical aromatics, pineapple, touch of guava, lemon and lilikoi, wow. Tastes a bit lighter than it smells, Darting's usual acidity helps out here, but this may be the most overbearing 9% alcohol wine I've ever had. Light sweetness, smooth mouthfeel but not quite the acidity you'd want, it's a small, broad wine that needs more grapple and cut. I'm rather ambivalent, because there's a lot of flavor here and I kind of like the tropicality, but it's just so kinda freaky-deaky. SCREWCAP! [Buy again? Er, I suppose.]

Adega Cooperativa de Ponte de Lima Vinho Verde Loureiro 2004 ($7). "A cooperative, but a good one," says David Lillie, so I take a shot. Smells lightly of lemon-ginger and rainwater, with a bit of air a quiet minerality emerges and says hello. Light bodied and medium crisp, actually rather calm-tasting, not lean n'mean, with a hint of small-scale fleshiness. Cheerful and bright, a soothingly neutral wine, just pure and lightly lemonstony, nice and smooth and undemanding. [Buy again? Yup.]

Domaine de la Pépire Muscadet Clos des Briords 2004 ($13). A ride in a white convertible through a car wash of limeskin and coral chips. Super--pure, vivid, even breathtaking at times. But stay away, leave some for the faithful. No really, go buy something else. [Buy again? Me yes, you no.]

Colli Ripani Ninfa Ripana Offida Passerina 2004 ($10). Smells quietly minerally, chalk and lemondrop. Medium acidity, light rosewatery-peachy hints come out in the midpalate. The wine is kinda soft but pure and focused and crystalline. A little quiet winner, speaking in a soft voice but saying interesting things. [Buy again? Yup.]

Ferrari-Carano Sonoma County 'Fumé Blanc' 2004 ($9). Light aromatics, faint grassiness, touch of lemon, hint of fig. Quiet-tasting as well, there's that hint of fig in the midpalate, touch of creaminess, medium-crisp, fairly straightforward and competent, if unexciting. The acidity has a vitamin-c tablet quality to it. [Buy again? Nah.]

Cairnbrae Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 'The Stones' 2004 ($10). Cheerful grapefruit & green chile aromatics, medium-crisp and a bit day-glo, like a picture drawn with yellow, green and blue highlight markers. It's actually quite pleasant, in a Frescaª-ish way, and Lisa likes the style, plus it's got a screwcap, so I'll probably pick up another bottle or two. SCREWCAP! [Buy again? Sure, a couple.]

Monkey Bay Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2004 ($10). Quiet lemon-grapefruit nose, calm aromatics, hint of peach. The mouthfeel gives an impression of solidity, the acidity is firm but there's a heft to the wine that isn't entirely expected or entirely unwelcome. Friendly but laid-back, the velvety-citric flavors carry on nicely and hang in your mouth a moment, then recede, leaving a grassy note as the last impression. Very decent. FAKE CORK! MONKEY ON THE LABEL! [Buy again? Yup.]

Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2004 ($14). Big grapefruit and green chile on the nose, more effusively aromatic than the Cairnbrae but pretty much the same tonal scale. A crisp wine with a light creaminess emerging in the middle to mingle with the herbaceous citriticy. It's all very well, but the tritonal grapefruit/cream/green chile thing is starting to seem a bit perfunctory. Is that all there is, just in different sizes? SCREWCAP! [Buy again? Nah.]

Lafazanis Regional Dry White Wine of the Peloponnese 'Roditis' 2004 ($10). I have no idea what this wine is. I've never been to the Peloponnese, or Greece for that matter, so I have no business talking about it. Still, it's wonderfully floral-smelling, sweetly honeysuckley and gardeniaed, with a hint of pollen and a touch of lemoncitrus for depth. Bright, crystal-clear and almost weightless upon first sippage, it grows as it heads into the midpalate, and gains presence, if not weight, turning whitestony on the finish. Nice stuff, a real vivid wine for ten bucks. FAKE CORK! [Buy again? Enthusiastically, yes.]

Rijckaert Chardonnay Arbois 2004 ($10). Barely-ripe chardonnay aromatics, rock-hard pear and yellow apple, with a subtle whitestony minerality. A sip, and there's zippy yellowfruit, light and tart and straightforward. The acidity is vivid and propels the light flavors into a puckerish lemony finish. Pretty good, for chardonnay--brownie points for rising above its humble cepage. A fine summer-food wine, bright and ethereal. SCREWCAP! [Buy again? You bet.]

Marc Bredif Vouvray 2002 ($14). Lemon, white honey and stony minerality laced with flinty-smoky notes. Firm, straightforward Vouvray that's rather distractingly smoky-firecrackery right now. Is it too much toasted wood? Too much sulfur? Not sure. Just a hint of sweetness, sec-tendre perhaps, with moderate acidity and good heft. Medium bodied, nice composure and good substance, a wine with presence but without a compelling personality. Good, decent Vouvray that has all it parts in place leaves me a little cold right now. Maybe needs time. [Buy again? Not really.]

Château Ste. Michelle/Dr. Loosen Riesling Columbia Valley 'Eroica' 2004 ($13). White flowers, lemon and a hint of vinyl, pleasant light aromatics. Tastes bright and pure, green apples with a slight hint of sugar, vivid supporting acidity with a crisp malic bite. Quite surprisingly pretty young riesling, pure and impressively focused--not wire-taut, but bright and slightly glossy-friendly. Surprisingly tasty new world riesling with an old world frame--who knew they made good spŠtlese on the west coast? Damn. [Buy again? Sure.]


TWO CHEAP ROSƒS

Domaine de Bellevire Rosé de Pineau d'Aunis Les GiroflŽes 2004 ($14). Medium pale copper color, tinged lightly with pink at the rim. Sweetly juicy-complex nose--creamy vanilla, cherry and white-peachy hints. Tastes pretty, light and supple but surprisingly tasty, with a charming orange juice hint arising in the middle to mingle with the other swirling flavors. Hard to pin down, a bit chameleonic, but the overall effect is rather entrancing. [Buy again? Yes.]

Pedroncelli Zinfandel Sonoma County Rosé 2004 ($8). Whoops, corked. Once again I try the plastic bag thing, which after a day or two utterly transmogrifies it from a corked rosé to a maybe-a-tiny-bit-less-corked rosé.


THE GALLIC CHEAP RED WINES

Château Mas Neuf Costires de N”mes 2001 ($10). Medium-dark purply-garnet color. Just a hint of paint in the nose. Sweetly ripe and rather plump--the acidity is there, but there's a good deal of pillowy fruit surrounding it. Rich aromatics--lavender and rosemary, a touch of saddle leather and plenty of ripe plum-berry fruit to hold it all together. Very nice, rather broad but very nice in its broadness. Broadosity. [Buy again? Yup.]

Le Grand Noir Cabernet-Shiraz Vin de Pays d'Oc 2002 ($10). Soft, innocuous, gently peppery-spicy, watery in the middle. A nebbish of a wine, shy and bland. FAKE CORK! [Buy again? Nope.]

Château La Motte Premieres Côtes de Blaye 2003 ($11). Medium garnet, purpling lightly towards the rim. Smells darkly redfruity, mineral underpinnings and a touch of cedar, but rather aromatically reticent. A sip, and it's a bit blowsy and fluffy-ripe, but decently composed and not freakish. (A nonfreakish '03! Yay!) Very little character, ripe blackcurrant-raspberry fruit, light toastiness, calm minerality. I dunno, not too interesting but at least pleasant if you don't mind a general blowsiness and sense of diffusion. Decent Central Coast merlot. [Buy again? Nah.]

Perrin Côtes du Rhône Réserve 2001 ($8). Medium-dark garnet color. Smells quietly raspberry-peppery. Fleshy and friendly, with just-sufficient acidity and a general looseness. A bit tannic at the end, but that's okay, it's a nice little Côte du Rhône that goes down smoothly and flavorfully. [Buy again? Sure.]

Perrin & Fils Côte du Rhône Villages Vinsobres les Cornuds 2003 ($13). David Lillie's recommendation for a steak wine. Dark peppery blackfruit, violets and earth in a dark fruity base. Rich, muscular syrahish wine, with a bit of redfruit blowsiness in the middle but comes together nicely and finishes smoky-roastyfruity, with a baked-redfruit flourish. Rounded and blunt, a bit loose, but broadly flavorful and finely tannic on the finish. Robust Côte du Rhône, more power than finesse, but does the trick nicely with a grilled T-bone. A 2003 that plays to the strength of the ripe year but has enough compusure to get by. [Buy again? Yeah, good wine if you're not looking for subtlety.]

Earl, Louis et Claude Desvignes Morgon Côte du Py 2002 ($13). I've heard that Earl is the cleverest of the Desvignes, but that's off the record. Lovely, pure Morgon. I don't feel like parsing it, maybe Dressner's getting to me, but it's just so nice that I can't be bothered. Ripe dark strawberry-cherry fruit, mediumweight wine with a lot of composure and a good deal of expressiveness. Charming and smooth, just enough acidity, very pure and elegant. Lovely stuff. [Buy again? Sure.]

Famille IchŽ Vin de Pays de l'Herault 'Les HŽrŽtiques' 2004 ($8). Dark grapey-barky aromatics, flicker of licorice. A composed little wine, with a genteel softness wrapped around a quiet acidic core. Lithe and flavorful, lighter in the piehole in both flesh and structure than I remember the last few versions being, but happily small-scaled and tasty, straightforward and honest as ever. A perennial. [Buy again? Yup.]

E. Guigal Côtes-du-Rhône 2001 ($9). Quiet aromatics, bit o'plum, touch o'berry, hint o'leather, trace o'tar--smells okay if not particularly interesting. Tastes plain and loosely-knit, with middling structure and decent flavorosity. Decently built Côtes-du-Rhône that would be more compelling if it weren't dull as dishwater. I mean, it's drinkable and all, perfectly decent, but I mean really now--snooze city. [Buy again? *Yawn* Sorry, what was the question?]

Domaine Lafage Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes "C™té Sud" 2003 ($10). I can't decide if the accent over the e in C™té is a typo, but it sure looks wrong. Some kind of Catalan thing? Leathery, herbaceous aromatics, rosemary and licorice over dark muted red berry fruit, interestingly complex nose, tastes kind of squishy-tarry but seems straightforward and honest if a bit unfocused and flattened-out through the middle. Grittily tannic on the finish, rough-edged and somewhat abrasive, yet as a whole it's distinctive enough to be likeable. It seems to merely want to be itself, and I respect it for that. By the time the bottle is drained we've come to see eye to eye. [Buy again? Sure.]


THE CHEAP RED WINES FROM THE IBERIAN PENINSULA

Campo Viejo Tempranillo Rioja Reserva 1999 ($12). Very quiet aromatics, light smoky-cherry, balsamic hints, touch of cedar. Not much going on in the piehole, either, medium-light bodied and vague, a perfectly correct little wine, but watery and wan. Nothing here, no grab, no guts. [Buy again? Nope.]

Quinta do Sobral Vinho Tinto Dão Reserva 1998 ($12). Pleasantly earthy-brown-herby smelling, bay leaf and sod mixed with muted redfruit. Tastes quite loosey-goosey, smooth and rustic wine that trades focus for friendliness. Earthy and brown-tasting, tastes like red dirt, in a good way. Lowish acidity, but really straightforward and honest wine with the taste of soil, like it. [Buy again? Yup.]

Bodegas Castaño Yecla 'Hecula' 2003 ($10). Smells of dark plum, raspberry and tar, ripe and thick-smelling. A sip, and there's medium-low acidity, a wash of smoky-dark ripeness, and an abrasive black cherry/charcoal finish. Broadly ripe and suffused with toastiness, it's a bit much for me, probably a buy for the goblover crowd. [Buy again? Nah, wait for the '04.]

Bodegas Martinez Bujanda Syrah Vino de la Tierra de Castilla 'Infinitus' 2004 ($7). Grapey blackberry and linoleum aromatics, grapey blackberry flavors. Simple, seems to have a touch of sugar, slightly candied edge, hollow and short, with a bitter note on what passes for a finish. FAKE CORK! [Buy again? No.]

Borsao Garnacha Campo de Borja 'Tres Picos' 2003 ($8). Big leather-laced raspberry syrup nose, vanilla bean hints. A sip, and holy cats, it's like raspberry liqueur--huge and bloppy, low-acid and rounded. First there's a rush of creamy-dark candyfruitiness, then more creamy-dark candyfruitiness in the middle, then finishes candyfruity and creamy-dark, with a slightly toasty-bitter note amidst some candyfruity creamy-darkness. Imposing and strangely fascinating, an overpowering little brute that grubs around in my mouth with the subtlety of a hog rooting for truffles. As the last flash of alcoholic heat flares up to cauterize my gums, I can't decide whether to continue to sip at the thing like a dry port or try to light it on fire. [Buy again? No. NO.]

Castell del Remei Costers del Segre 'Gotim Bru' 2002 ($11). Smells darkly black cherry-raspberryish, laced with vanilla and smoky-toasty notes. With air a light barky-brown herbal streak emerges, then submerges again, overthrown by the toastiness. Has a certain lean and hungry zinnishness to it, as well as a good whacking dose of woody flavors. Nice balance, on the medium-crisp side, with some rather aggressive tannins. I don't know, there's no real reason not to like it, but it's saying nothing to me, just kind of droning on in a monotone. I actually want to like it, but every time I put the glass to my lips it's just "blahblahblahblahblahblahblahblahblahblah" and so forth. I dunno. Not my thing, even though it seems like it should be my thing. [Buy again? No?]

Altos de la Hoya Monastrell Jumilla 2003 ($10). Mmmm, raspberry sauce mixed with vanilla-infused coconut husk. Corpulent and clumsily overwooded, with a disjointed middle and an astringent finish. One for the chaps who think 'portlike' is a positive attribute in a table wine. [Buy again? No, and no.]

Artazuri Navarra 2003 ($10). Ripe cinnamon-laced black cherry, hints of saddle leather, with a quiet graphite streak down deep, interesting if slightly offbeat aromatics. In the piehole it's loose and plump, with feeble acidity and some aggressive dry tannins taking over after the watery-ripe midpalate. The '01 version wasn't bad, this seems to be yet another victim of the '03 heat. FAKE CORK! [Buy again? Nope.]


THE CHEAP RED WINES FROM ITALY

San Valentino (La Cadalora) Vallagarina 2004 ($13). Smells very earthy, quiet redfruit and mud, lots of mud. Tastes kind of soft and light, but wonderfully muddy, just a mudfest in a glass. Seems almost gamayish, lightbodied and rather softhearted, but pure and happily dirty, a real honest dirtfest, Andew Scott wine. Relatively low acidity, kind of light and plush, I'm repeating myself but I can't think of better ways to pin it down. Good stuff, you can taste the mud. [Buy again? Yup.]

Feudo di San Nicola Negroamaro Puglia 2003 ($13). Ripe and dark-smelling, plum and black cherry fruit laced with dark tarry tones. Tastes plump and juicy, medium-low acidity and some pillowy-fleshy redfruit in the middle that resolves with a flash of heat and licorice on the finish. It's ripe and meaty but also light on its feet, a bit of dilution in the center seems to be to its advantage, strangely enough. Not bad, but just another broad plump thing, not much of interest here. [Buy again? I don't think so.]

Vadossi Chianti 2003 ($8). Ripely fruity aromatics, plum and cherryjuice, along with an odd Pine-Sol kind of thing, a hint of resinous cleanser that's not offputting, just out of place. On the plush side, with decent acidity, but hollow in the middle and abrasively tannic and bitter on the finish. Kind of bland, kind of weird, nothing special. [Buy again? No.]

Genofranco Nero d'Avola Sicilia 2003 ($8). Medium-light garnet color. Quiet dusty aromatics, plaster and muted cherry, very shy nose. In the piehole it's light and breezy, there's a cottony quality to the mouthfeel, with a certain plumpness to the pale cherry fruit but an overall sense of insubstantiality. Oddly inconsequential but with a certain straightforward appeal, I'm quite ambivalent about this--it's kind of anti-spoofulated, anti-2003, but there's not a lot to hang your hat on. Finishes with an odd cherry-sagebrush whisper. FAKE PURPLE CORK! [Buy again? Maybe another one or two.]

Falesco Rosso Umbria 'Vitiano' 2003 ($9). I've bucked the geek trend and enjoyed past vintages of this cookie-cutter burger/pasta wine, but this year's version is plump, devoid of acidity and squishy-graceless. Lays in my mouth like a pool of cherry-plum jam, slides down my throat gelatinously, leaves no impression other than bloppy redfruit and a flash of vodkalike heat. Another casualty of 2003, the annus horribilis of European wine. Maybe Kane would like it, as it's devoid of acidity and unmarred by overoaking? [Buy again? Not until next year.]

Caleo Primitivo Salento 2003 ($10). Sweetly ripe-smelling--black cherry, vanilla, coconut, tar. Tastes smooth and glossy, quite ripe but with enough structure to get by. Tangy center holds up the fleshy ripeness, sort of borderline blowsy, with some abrasive tannins muscling in at the end, intruding on the party on the finish. There's a rather generic ripe-zin quality here that could be a downer, but the wine has (just barely) enough spine to dodge the no-buy bullet, and is mildly endorsed as a burger wine. [Buy again? Mmmm... okay, maybe one.]


THE CHEAP AUSTRALASIAN AND NEW ZEALOUS RED WINES

McGuigan Shiraz South Eastern Australia "The Black Label" 2003 ($7). "The flavour of Australia!" Damn, who knew that Australia tastes like plum jam mixed with black shoe polish. No, no, I am unkind. Well, except it's sort of true. Smells like a burnt plum pie, soft and gentle aromatics. Tastes like a slightly sweet plum-pomegranate beverage, almost spineless but friendly and light-bodied for such a jammy thing. A strange combination of broad, squishy jamminess and watery looseness makes for an impressively inconsequential wine. No, really, it tastes like soda or something, it's just so utterly beveragelike, not like wine as I think of it. I have a Paul B-like vision of the vast Matrixlike factory complexes where the final product is assembled, Soylent Green Shiraz. The odd thing is, the wine isn't undrinkable, it's just a Yellow Taillike product that I have a deep and unreasonable loathing for. [Buy again? Only with a gun at my head and my balls in a vise.]

Stoneleigh Pinot Noir Marlborough 2003 ($13). Soft cherry/clove/treebark aromatics. Light, easy-sipping pinot, soft and expressive at first, loose and wan in the middle, lacking mouthgrapple. Turns a bit smoky on the finish. I like it at first, then halfway through I decide it's too vague, then it rallies a bit, but not quite enough to warrant another purchase. Still, it seems like decent, straightforward pinot, so I let my fingers hover over the keys a few seconds before finishing this entry. SCREWCAP! [Buy again? No. Yes. No.]

Paringa Shiraz South Australia 'Individual Vineyard' 2003 ($10). Nice to see that the movement towards vineyard branding has hit the generic phase. Yup, it's shiraz--plum and black shoe polish, blah blah blah, you know the drill. Slightly watery in the middle, but otherwise as purply-generic as if it were piping hot off the assembly line. [Buy again? Bleh.]


THE CHEAP RED WINES FROM AMERICA, SOUTH

Navarro Correas Malbec Mendoza Colecci—n Privada 2003 ($11). Dark blackberry-earth aromatics, smoky-candy-vanilla hints, hint of prune, coffee. There's a candy coating to the wine, but it's simple and dark and coffee-juicy, medium bodied and possesed of buoyant acidity. Not bad at all, kind of a simple, juicy wine that is simple but balanced and likeable if you don't mind a bit of spoofulation. [Buy again? Sure, I guess.]

Finca Flitchman Malbec Mendoza Reserva 2004 ($12). Dark smoky coffee-blackberry aromatics, quiet and smoky-toasty, lightly candied. Ripe, dark and plush, but with a sense of well-honed composure. Purlpy-dark and simple, but broadly pleasant and vaguely reassuring, fine dark pizza wine without an iota of complexity. [Buy again? Sure.]

Concha y Toro Cabernet Sauvignon Chile 'Casillero del Diablo' 2003 ($9). Creamy blackcurrant aromatics, dark smokiness underneath, herbaceous oregano streak up high. Tastes loose, blackfruity and a bit wan, there's varietal character but that's about it. Decent little cabernet sauvignon, a notch above the fighting varietal niche, but very little character to speak of. Medium-low acidity, just a whisper of tannin, not much mouthgrab. Even the cute picture of Satan doesn't redeem it. FAKE CORK! [Buy again? Nah.]

Veramonte Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon/Carmenere Casablanca Valley 'Primus' 2003 ($12). Ripe, dark smoky-plummy wine, wooded within an inch of its life, burnt toast and sawdusty vanilla, touch of spicy beef broth. A chewy, meaty wine but just too clumsily wooded to do much for me. Still, there's a lot of robust dark smoky blackfruit, if only it didn't have that burnt-toast taste it would go farther with me. [Buy again? Nah.]


THE CHEAP RED WINES FROM AMERICA, NORTH

Liberty School Syrah California 2001 ($10). Dark purply-garnet color, smells big and woody--plum, raspberry and fresh-sawed coconut husk. Tastes dark, creamy and slightly candied... no, more than slightly, glossy red-black syrah, simple and hefty-shiny. The wine is impressively concentrated, but seems rather steroided, brawny in the wrong places, very little athletic ability. The dark shiny fruit has some interest at first, but soon seems candied and monotonal. [Buy again? No.]

Prospero Winery Zinfandel California 2002 ($10). Calm dark black cherry nose, smooth and tarry-dark smelling. Smooth black cherry fruit, simple, lightly creamy and robust, with enough acidity to get by and some slightly rough tannins. Maybe there's a touch of sweetness there, but it has enough goofy charm to let it slide. A wine for barbeque or burgers, a picnic wine. NAKED CHICK ON LABEL! [Buy again? Sure.]

Windtree Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley 2000 ($10). Smoky cedar-cassis aromatics, whiff of dill, dark and ripe smelling. Creamy-smoky tasting, simple but flavorful, pleasantly cassised, foursquare cabernet. Not complex or arresting, but a pretty decent, balanced cab for ten bucks. [Buy again? Sure.]

Hess Select Cabernet Sauvignon California 2001 ($14). Dark toast-laced cherry-cassis aromatics, hint of cedar and anise, straightforwardly California cabernetish. Medium acidity, dark supple fruit with a slight candied edge. There's some light fine tannins on the medium-short finish, which is more whimpery than bangish. I'm rather underwhelmed by the straightforward plainness at first, then, strangely, the wine starts to grow on me--what seemed plain at first comes over as a rather restrained classicity, the structure is what defines the wine, and my steak really seems improved by drinking this. I'm not much of a California cabernet drinker, but this seems a good baseline version for someone interested in a bottle with dinner, instead of a standalone cocktail. [Buy again? Actually, yes.]

Prospero Winery Cabernet Sauvignon California 2002 ($10). I'm a little less enamored of this than I am of the zinfandel--candied vanilla-laced blackcurrant aromatics, the touch of sweetness in the creamy-textured middle is more distracting and less easily let slide. Simply fruited and rather blowsy, in a similar mold to the zin, but the cabernet flavors seem clumsy when done up in the same outfit. NAKED CHICK ON LABEL! [Buy again? Nah.]


THE CHEAP SWEET WINES

Château Lafon Sauternes 2003 ($11/.375). The '01 version was my Sauternes steal of the year for two years running, this may not quite have the same stamina. Smells of ripe pineapple, vanilla, more ripe pineapple, touch of lemon, no botrytis to speak of. A sip, and it's bigger and sweeter and bloppier than the '01, lacking focus and a bit silly. There's enough going on, lots of sugar and flavor, that it's easy to like on a simple level, but all in all rather limp and disappointing. [Buy again? I don't think so, unless I'm desperate some Sunday when the New York stores are closed and Lisa needs a Sauternes fix.]

Golan Heights Winery Muscat Galilee 'Yarden' 1997 ($8/.500 ml). Creamy vanilla & yellow apple candy, along with a good dose of spiritousness ("fortified with oak-aged brandy" says the label). Medium-plus sweet, with a glossy plasticky mouthfeel and round apple-vanilla flavors. Once you get past the unintegrated flashes of vodkalike heat it's actually kind of decent, at least for eight bucks. [Buy again? Yeah, I guess.]


That's all for this installment, kids. See you next time!




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