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WTN: 6 from Léal Vineyards

geo t.

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2002 Léal San Benito Chardonnay Estate, $23.99 - 25.99, 14.2% alc.: This ever - so - slightly cloudy pale gold spent 12 months in French oak, and it shows in the fat, toasty, honeyed pear flavors and aromas, accented with a little butterscotch. As it opens, notes of maple syrup and shortbread emerge. Yes, the wine is fat, but it also has good acidity and finishes well, and if it's not my preferred style of Chardonnay, it's undeniably well - made. 954 cases produced.

2002 Léal San Benito Merlot Estate, $26.99 - 28.99, 14.4% alc.: Kim described this dark garnet by saying, "It tastes like cherry vanilla ice cream," undoubtedly reflecting the 20 months spent in French oak. That creamy oak does play a fairly prominent role in the flavor profile, as it coats the black currant, blackberry and black cherry flavors and aromas. There's rich fruit here, with moderate tannins and a good finish, and if there's a slight detraction, it's just a hint of something reminiscent of carpet glue, but that's in the background, and not terribly intrusive. All in all, a solid Merlot that should improve over the next few years; 833 cases produced.

2001 Léal San Benito Meritage Carnavál Estate, $23.99 - 25.99, 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, 5% Malbec, 14.2% alc.: Despite spending 21 months in French Oak, this inky blend doesn't reflect that characteristic as much as the Chardonnay or Merlot. It offers a sweet blackberry nose, filling out on the palate with some added black currant, all with a well - proportioned kiss of oak. Sleek, medium full to full bodied, with good intensity and concentration, this has the structure to improve for two to five years. 1900 cases produced.

2001 Léal San Benito Meritage Lavanda Estate, $23.99 - 25.99, 88% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Malbec, 14.1% alc.: "Lavanda" is Portuguese for lavender, and this dark garnet does throw a pretty perfume, but while it spent 21 months in French Oak, it also isn't as fat or as overtly oaked as the Chard or Merlot. It features nice notes of black currant, blackberry and blueberry, shaded with subtle, earthy herbs. Fairly deep and dark, on a medium full bodied frame, this has a sleek density to it, and tannins to age and develop over at least the next few years. 643 cases produced.

2001 Léal San Benito Cabernet Sauvignon Estate, $23.99 - 25.99, 14.2% alc.: Dark garnet in color, this one gives a hint of something like girly face soap over creamy black currant, blackberry and blueberry in both flavor and aroma, with more blueberry emerging as it opens. It shows more oak that the two Meritages, but less than the Merlot; it's medium full bodied, with good concentration and intensity and two to five years worth of tannins, which show mostly on the finish, where they clamp down a bit. A solid, enjoyable cab, even if the slight "soapy" thing is a bit odd. 19 months in French oak; 225 cases produced.

2002 Léal San Benito Syrah Estate, $26.99 - 28.99, 92% Syrah, 5% Viognier, 2% Grenache, 1% Malbec, $29.99, 14.2% alc.: My favorite wine of the six, this deep, dark garnet gives plenty of deep, dark plum and black currant flavors and aromas, with notes of leather, balsa, cocoa powder and tar in support. It shows a good dose of oak (19 months in French), but not so it's overdone, with medium, unobtrusive tannins, medium full to full body, and a long, earthy finish. The wine is excellent now, getting better and better as it opens, and should improve over the next five years and beyond. This was the one I helped myself to a second pour on the first evening. 1148 cases produced.

- From Léal Vineyards: It's the Shiznit!

Reporting from Day-twah,

geo t.

George Heritier aka geo t.

The Gang of Pour

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