- Corbett Canyon California Pinot Grigio 2003
- Corbett Canyon California Chardonnay 2003
- Corbett Canyon California Merlot 2002
- Corbett Canyon California Shiraz 2003
- Bliss Mendocino Cabernet Sauvignon 2002
- Delicato California Cabernet Sauvignon 2003
- Delicato California Shiraz 2003
- Hardys Stamp of Australia South Eastern Chardonnay 2004
- Hardys Stamp of Australia South Eastern Australia Shiraz 2003
- Hardys Stamp of Australia South Eastern Australia 2003
Corbett Canyon, the box wine line of San Francisco's Wine Group conglomerate, is the biggest bargain of the nine brands I tasted, selling for just $10. The citrusy 2003 Corbett Canyon California Pinot Grigio ($10) has a smooth mouthfeel, but enough orangey crispness to make a fine picnic white or aperitif.
The 2003 Corbett Canyon California Chardonnay ($10) begs to be matched with chicken, pasta or anything prepared in a cream sauce. It's medium-to light-bodied with a nose of baked apple and cinnamon, flavors of baked apple and tangerine and a comfortable balance of crisp acidity and a rounded mouthfeel.
Corbett Canyon's two reds, a Merlot and a Shiraz, were both standouts. A third red varietal, Cabernet Sauvignon, will be introduced next year.
The 2002 Corbett Canyon California Merlot ($10) is fruity and complex with a nose of cherry, green olive and hickory smoke with complementing flavors of dried cranberry, dried cherry, pomegranate and smoked meat. There is plenty going on in this wine -- particularly impressive at the equivalent of $2.50 a bottle.
The vanilla-scented 2003 Corbett Canyon California Shiraz ($10) displays a good depth of flavor, with a bright raspberry jamminess on the nose and deeper, darker flavors of dried currant and cranberry.
Family-owned Brutocao Cellars of Hopland joined the premium cask market this year with its Bliss brand, which uses Mendocino County grapes and is sold in a dark blue box.
I enjoyed the bright and fruity 2002 Bliss Mendocino Cabernet Sauvignon ($32), with its red raspberry, strawberry and sweet watermelon flavors and soft tannins. It's not a terribly varietally correct Cab, but it is pleasant and drinks easily.
Delicato Family Vineyards, a large family winery that started in the Central Valley, made some of the best wines in last year's cask tasting and came through again with the latest vintage.
The 2003 Delicato California Cabernet Sauvignon ($18) is a highly enjoyable wine, with flavors of bright cherry, blackberry, juicy plum and a strong underlying note of milk chocolate. Dry tannins balance the juiciness.
The 2003 Delicato California Shiraz ($18) is a pleasant, earthy wine that tastes of pomegranate and currant, with a good tannic structure and vanilla overtones. This wine has the complexity to be a good match with meat or mushrooms.
Australia, which is known for its high-quality, inexpensive vino, made a typically strong showing in this Bargain tasting.
The 2004 Hardys Stamp of Australia South Eastern Chardonnay ($16) is marked by sweet, honey-poached pear flavors and a hint of honeysuckle. It's unusually sweet for a table wine -- it contains 4 percent residual sugar, compared to about 1 percent normally -- but is nonetheless pleasant and well- made.
The 2003 Hardys Stamp of Australia South Eastern Australia Shiraz ($16) had me smiling with its aromas of earth, huckleberry and vanilla, and flavors of strawberry jam and black raspberry, all hung on a tight tannic structure.
The 2003 Hardys Stamp of Australia South Eastern Australia Cabernet Sauvignon ($16) was a winner too, with complex aromas of berries, nutmeg and green bean. The wine itself was straightforward, somewhat less interesting than the nose, but offered enjoyable earthy-fruity flavors and a thin edge of mint chocolate.