Gallo of Sonoma
Sonoma County, CA

Gallo of Sonoma 1996 Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley Frei Ranch Vineyard, approximately $16.99/bottle.

Here's an outstanding California Zinfandel that's also reasonable in terms of price and availability. It's dark, ripe, rich and complex, with concentrated cherry, plum, blackberry, cedar (Yes, cedar, like the wood, you know!) and spice and a long, rich aftertaste. Drink now through 2006. (10000 cases produced) (Courtesy of the Wine Spectator) The wine is honest to goodness, one of the best Zinfandel's we have ever tasted. Let's put it this way, my mouth is watering as I write this.

Nick Conti

Ernest and Julio Gallo, Non-Vintage California Cabernet Sauvignon, Modesto, California, 13% alc./vol. Price: Approximately $7.00

Ernest and Julio Gallo started producing wine in California in the middle of the 20th Century, when California was not even close to being on the wine map. Sure, there were wineries, some of them producing notable wines, but in terms of wine market share and wine lover acknowledgment of product, it was not a factor. Their Non-Vintage Heart Burgundy wine, a wine which could be counted on year in and year out for its remarkable consistency, is what started these brothers on a trail-blazing path into wine-making history. In that tradition, E&J now produce this Non-Vintage California Cab (along with a Cafe Zinfandel). It is blunt on the palette, with little nuance or subtlety. Hints of the fruit are present, but certainly not overpowering. Nearly zesty, like a Zin. Hot. Spicy cherry is faint, with more than a touch of bitterness. This is an average every day wine, which it intends to be, nothing more. Not spectacular, but affordable.

Frank Marcopolos