• 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.