1999 Matthews Red Wine
Mature cab flavors with coffee and earth that faded into an increasingly tannic finish. Enjoyable, but would appear to be at the end of it's life. Too bad, the 95 of this wine was excellent recently, and counter-evidence to the notion that Washington wines don't age.
1996 Earl Le Brun-Lecouty Prieure de St. Jean de Bebian
Coteaux de Languedoc
My first taste of this wine was fraught with dismay--I killed a baby. With an hour of decanting it opened up some but it's still on the young side with more aroma than taste and pretty big tannins on the finish. Still, it showed nice raspberry and currant fruit with good herbs, spice and that elusive garrique. A North Berkeley Import.
2003 Isenhower Merlot
Isenhower wines are rather interesting. They seem to favor a direct, modern style with big ripe fruit, yet they manage to avoid over-the-topness. The result is a kind of restrained opulence, if that's not too contradictory--approachable wines that satisfy the geeky need for reasonable structure and complexity, but the fruit's ample and the tannins are silky, so you don't have to think about it. They remind me of a critic describing Jack Nicholson's performance in About Schmidt: he said Jack "underacted over-acting." These wines do that, too, make the result look so effortless that you forget that it's craft. My experience so far suggests that their syrahs are their strong suit, but this merlot is no piker: mostly black fruit softened by some cherry notes, with the usual mocha notes in the finish. Would be an excellent starting place for someone wanting to find out what Washington merlot is all about.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov