From a winery with a long track record comes this firm, rich and concentrated Cabernet, with elegant coffee, cedar, currant and leather flavors that are neat and trim. Finishes with hints of mocha and cedar. Cellar short-term; best from 2002 through 2010. —James Laube
Here's a wine that bucks the trend of otherwise disappointing reds from California's difficult '98 vintage. Big, ripe, rich and chocolaty, this mostly Cabernet-Merlot blend delivers loads of polished currant, plum and black cherry flavors and pretty toast —James Laube
Another of California's better-known Cabernet-based wines has turned in a classic performance in 1997. The '97 Insignia is a superrich and seductive version of this prestigious red, its layers of currant, black cherry, chocolate and ginger turning smooth —James Laube
Founded in 1978, Matanzas Creek has built its reputation primarily on its Merlot, though it also produces Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and now Syrah. The '97 Merlot is delicious, ripe and juicy, with pretty, rich, elegant black cherry, currant, cassis and —James Laube
St. Francis winemaker Tom Mackey is known for using a heavy dose of smoky American oak -- yet the St. Francis wines have the fruit to back it up. The St. Francis Merlot is one of the top California Merlots. The '97 Reserve is superripe, rich and oaky, in —James Laube
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