Best New Releases from California

Following are notes on the best new California wines I tasted this fall. Included among these current releases are many more wines from the South Central Coast, which is quickly turning into a major source for varietal bottlings-and blends-from Rhone Valley grapes. Some of the wines I tasted this fall call to mind Australia's often unrefined shirazes made from overripe grapes:they are chunky and high in alcohol, but offer limited nuance and questionable balance. Their fruit flavors are often cooked and their textures gritty. And yet the strength of the underlying raw material is plain to see. While many new wineries in Southern California are still works in progress, I am confident that the most gifted among the makers of these wines, especially those who taste widely from the Old World as well as the New, will fashion finer and subtler wines in the vintages to come-the kinds of wines that will consistently merit outstanding ratings in this publication.