Bruno Porro San Luigi Dolcetto di Dogliani

The nose initially smells a bit like corn, with hints of candied fruit and a bit of dirt. The wine itself is tart on the introduction to the palate, finishing with strong tannins and a lack of distinguishable fruit.  Although this wine is drinkable, there are much better options at this price point.

Leonhardt Dry Creek Valley Reserve Zinfandel

The 2007 vintage received two stars, so we had high expectations for the 2008.  Thankfully, Leonhardt did not disappoint. The bouquet is redolent of dried fruit, namely plum and raspberry.  Nicely balanced, with lingering tannins, the palate offers hints of cocoa, licorice, and a healthy dose of fruit.  Although both vintages are great values for the price, if pressed, we’d recommend the 2008.

Thorn Clarke Terra Barossa Shiraz – Cabernet – Petit Verdot

Though definitely a fruit bomb, we found this one a little more complex than the typical Australian Shiraz blend offered at this price. The nose offers up tobacco, leather, sandalwood, and pepper. The palate entry is surprisingly tart, with a strong taste of sour cherry. Proceed with caution, though, as one of us thought the fruit was overripe. A blend of 55% Shiraz, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 17% Petit Verdot.

Yalumba “Y Series” Merlot

Another split opinion. The nose is either grassy and vegetable, or replete with strawberry and apricot. On the palate, it’s either soft and refreshing, or thin and acidic.

Crane Lake Sangiovese

Crane Lake is one of dozens of brands produced by Bronco Wine Company, the outfit behind Charles Shaw (“Two-Buck Chuck”). In California, the Crane Lake brand sells for an $0.80 premium over its more famous sibling. If this Sangiovese is any indication of the rest of the line, you’re better off saving the $0.80. The nose is lightly fruity, but with a barnyard undercurrent. The taste is thin, sour, and slightly bitter. Though we are hesitant to call a $2.79 wine overpriced, when compared with at least some of the Two-Buck Chuck offerings, this Crane Lake clearly is.