This California Merlot is smooth, ripe, rich and complex, if a bit understated in its fruit profile. Layers of earthy, clay-laced currant, anise and black cherry mingle with light oak, anise and coffee. Delicious. Drink now through 2008. 11,578 cases made —James Laube
Fiano isn't a common grape, but from Avellino in Italy's Campania region, it can offer excellent value. The '98 from Terredora is a very youthful, lively white with honey, citrus and mineral character. Full-bodied, with lots of fruit and a long, long fini —James Suckling
Need a break from Chardonnay? Try this very good California Sauvignon Blanc, made by Bruce Cakebread. Rich and spicy, with ripe fig, citrus, melon, herb and celery notes, turning complex. Drink now through 2002. 17,000 cases made.
This very good California Chardonnay comes from the partnership between the Chalone wine group and the Paragon Vineyard Co. Tight and flinty, with medium-weight citrus and pear notes, its fruit shines through without too much oak. Drink now through 2003. —James Laube
Jed Steele, formerly the winemaker for Jess Jackson's Kendall-Jackson wines, has carved an even bigger name for himself in the wine world with his eponymous winery. Producing a wide range of varietals at moderate prices, Steele's wines offer an almost foo
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