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Now 'Rhone ranger' wines can be recommended


The following wines, all reds, are listed in rough order of preference.

1990 Ridge Mataro, Evangelo Vineyard ($18). An exceptional, concentrated wine with awesome structure and aging potential. Bandol style and California muscle.

1988 R. H. Phillips EXP Mourvedre, California ($13.99, 375 milliliters). The packaging is eye-catching but pretentious, a long bottle with ultra-thick glass that is both unstable on the table and misleading to the eye, since it looks as if it contains much more wine than it does. The wine, though, is exceptional -- spice, fruity, complex, with hints of chocolate, raspberry and herbes de Provence.

1988 and 1989 Cline Mourvedre, Contra Costa County ($19). The 1989 is a great young wine, the 1988 a great mature wine. Both are shockingly close in style to the great Domaine Tempier Bandol.

1989 Bonny Doon Le Cigare Volant, Red Table Wine ($18). Rich, ripe, forward, with spicy, earthy flavors and a silky feel. Not classic Chateauneuf-du-Pape, but a delightfully hedonistic wine.

1989 Joseph Phelps Vin de Mistral Rouge ($15). A very fine, fruity and herbal grenache-mourvedre-syrah blend.

1990 LVC Bistro Syrah, McDowell Valley ($8.89). Pure, undiluted charm. Rich, peppery berry flavors, ready to drink now.

1990 Bonny Doon Clos du Gilroy, California Grenache ($9). An exuberant, spicy, fruity wine with fine grip and moderate complexity at an appealing price.

1987 R. H. Phillips Syrah Reserve ($15). An immensely concentrated yet well-balanced wine that needs three to five years to develop.

1988 William Wheeler RS Reserve ($12.55). A blend of five varieties, including mourvedre, it's a pleasingly hearty peasant wine.

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