Cotes-du-Ventoux 2002: Recommended. For $8/bottle, a knockdown Rhone drinking wine. Not a massive Rhone wine, the Cotes du Ventoux is a nice sipping wine with some herbs and spices on the nose and a taste with a bit of berry. A little hard to find (I got mine at Esquin), but a search on a new search engine (Clusty) turns up some potential sellers and one on MSN Search turned up some that’s being auctioned.
Waterbrook Melange 2002 Columbia Valley: Not recommended. Cherries, some currants, but a disappointing finish and aftertaste that’s almost chemical. Cab/Merlot/Syrah/Sangiovese blend. I’d have thought it would have been more to my liking, but this isn’t one I’d recommend.
Sinister Hand 2003. Recommended as a change from the ordinary. A Syrah/Grenache/Counoise/Mourvedre blend from Owen Roe that I found myself coming back to several times. It’s not like anything else I’ve tasted: a bit smoky with dark currant flavors. An interesting $17 wine, but I don’t know what I’d pair it with — maybe a strong stake. Mine was a gift, but Clusty turns up some sellers including Avalon Wine, which I’ve used and found to be OK once you get to know them and how they work.
Concannon Central Coast Petite Sirah 2002: Recommended if you like Petite Sirah. I love Petite Sirah as a varietal (no relation to Syrah, I’m told). It’s a $10 Petite Sirah with a lot of dark fruit — cherries in particular — and a strong woody nose and flavor. Lots of tannin. If you’re a Petite Sirah fan, you can do a lot worse than give this one a sip or two — it’ll give some of the $40 Petite Sirahs a run for their money.