daily wine picks

$15 to $30

Sep. 06, 2000: STEELE Chardonnay Santa Barbara County Bien Nacido Vineyard (88 points, $26)

Bucking the trend of the difficult '98 vintage is this solid Chardonnay from winemaker Jed Steele. Tasty, with ripe pear, guava and tropical fruit flavors that are round and polished, turning complex and elegant, with a fruity aftertaste. Drink now throug —James Laube

Aug. 23, 2000: CLOS DU VAL Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 1997 (86 points, $27)

Very firm tannins, with blackberry, chocolate and dry oak notes. Needs some food and time to soften. There's plenty of this recognizable Cabernet to go around. Best from 2002 through 2008. 38,222 cases made. —James Laube

Aug. 22, 2000: CHATEAU ST. JEAN Chardonnay Alexander Valley Belle Terre Vineyard (86 points, $22)

From a winery with a solid track record comes this very good Chardonnay from the difficult '98 vintage. Ripe but light, with apple, pear and melon notes, picking up citrus and herb flavors that linger. Drink now. 3,000 cases made. —James Laube

Aug. 17, 2000: DOMAINE COMBIER Crozes-Hermitage Clos des Grives 1998 (92 points, $23)

Showy Northern Rhône red that's pumped up with fancy oak, yet it's hard not to love it. Ultrarich, oozing with fruit, violet, rose petals, grilled meat, cassis character. Silky texture. Harmonious and full-bodied. Clean, focused fresh fruit keeps it in l —Per-Henrik Mansson

Aug. 11, 2000: DOMAINE DES AMOURIERS Vacqueyras 1998 (94 points, $18)

In vintages as great as 1998, lesser-known appellations can produce great wine. Vacqueyras, in the Southern Rhône, received its appellation status only in 1990 (it was previously included in the broader Côtes-du-Rhône appellation). Vacqueyras must be m —Per-Henrik Mansson

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