Royal Oaks 1999 Aristocrat Red (Santa Ynez Valley)
From the warmer, inland part of the valley, this Bordeaux blend is dominated by Cabernet Franc. Herbs—rosemary, thyme and oregano—highlight the aroma, with a hint of berries. The flavors are much fruitier, and the acid-tannin balance is fine. —S.H.
Royal Oaks 1999 Reserve Merlot (Santa Ynez Valley)
Rich and concentrated, this South Coast wine has berry and stone fruit flavors and a cut of herbs and olives. It’s a little low in acidity, but very silky on the palate, and finishes with an elegant flourish. —S.H.
Royal Oaks 1999 Los Alamos Vineyard Reserve Chardonnay (Santa Barbara)
Rich and packed with spicy tropical fruit. New oak imparts smoke and vanilla notes. The texture is creamy and smooth, kind of custardy, with high acidity that makes it drink whistle-clean. A very nice wine.
Royal Oaks 2000 Pinot Noir (Santa Maria Valley)
From a great appellation, this wine displays true Pinot notes of raspberry and tomato, sautéed mushroom and crushed hard spices, smoke, vanilla and toast. There’s a scent of wild honey that carries through the finish, but the wine is fully dry. Light and evanescent, it has lots of charm. —S.H.
Royal Oaks 1998 Westerly Vineyard Merlot (Santa Ynez Valley)
A little more full-bodied than Royal Oaks’s regular bottling, it also has black-cherry notes, but it’s also earthier—and oakier, too—with currents of vanilla and dark chocolate. Still has a bite of acidity, which stings the palate, and demands food.
Royal Oaks 2001 Westerly Vineyard Viognier (Santa Ynez Valley)
An exotically opulent wine, filled with flair and zest. The mélange of flavors includes pineapple, breadfruit, white peach, honeysuckle, vanilla, and all sorts of other fruity, flowery things. But it’s dry, with a pretty streak of acidity.
Royal Oaks 1998 Whitegate Vineyard Chardonnay (Santa Ynez Valley)
Opens with an engaging, complex nose of apple fruit, spice and earth. Tart apple flavors, but with a certain rustic edge. Not appealing to all tasters. The oak expands on the finish, shadowing the fruit, for an edgy close.
Royal Oaks 1999 Chardonnay (Santa Barbara County)
Crisp and clean; a bit leaner than you’d expect from South Coast grapes, veering into citrus fruits like grapefruit. New oak and lees aging adds complexity, but still, it’s an angular, structural wine. Food will wake it up.