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The estimable dem bones suggested that I try this red wine, and as my tastes have lately been leaning in the general direction of Petite Sirah, I was happy to oblige. I was encouraged to find an earlier vintage, but the 1998 was all that was available. Too bad, perhaps, since 1998 was (overall) one of the crappier recent years for California red wines. All things are relative, of course....

I enjoyed this wine a good deal. The color was that kind of inky, almost soupy purple/red that lets you know you're in for a full-bodied wine. The aroma was, at first sniff, a little too overwhelmed by oak (the wine did spend 15 months in oak barrels prior to bottling), but subsequent sniffs revealed more complexity, including an herbal, sage-y hint in the background.

Tasting the wine was problematic in that the alocohol content (at 14.4%) was quite high; I had to chill the wine lower than I prefer (to nearly 60 degrees F) so the alcohol would not overwhelm the tasting experience. But it was worth the effort: a solid core of fruit was buttressed by firm tannins that provided a long finish. If I had a criticism about the taste, it was that the acid was a bit too sharp; then again, according to the Guenoc website, the 1998 had less acid than previous vintages. Perhaps my crime was coming to the wine too soon: it was bottled only in March 2001, so it has not had a great deal of time to "come together" in the bottle.

An interesting aspect of the experience was the way the wine's aroma developed in the glass. I am not a big fan of letting wines "breathe," and I still wouldn't have let this one breathe much. But it was fun to notice how the aromas changed: the first scents were of oak; later on, the aroma grew more fruity; in the end, it took on a bit of a spicy character. I consider this kind of evolution to be the sign of a well-made wine. So many go right to hell after only about 10 minutes in the glass.

In conclusion: a well-made wine, and a good value at about $16. If I had to do it again, I would wait longer to open it; but then again, it's often hard to wait.

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