IO 2004 Red Blend

91% Syrah, 4% Grenache, 5% Mourvèdre; 14.5% ABV
Santa Barbara County, CA
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 9 Apr

2004_IO_GSMOn the first night, until it aired about 1:40, had a weird flavor that I could best describe as new black tire rubber.  This seemed to air out to make a pretty good wine for $5: dark cherry, boysenberry, redder blueberry, black raspberry, a little charred meat. A little heavy and inelegant, slightly low acid, but tasty.   If you liked the 2005 IO red blend, you’d like this too.

On initial opening, I saved half of it in a 375ml bottle closed with a stopper and very little air.  At first, the second half showed that weird black rubber but this aired out after about 30 – 45 minutes.  After slightly longer, the heaviness of the wine relaxes to leave a more supple wine tasting of lighter purple plum, purplish cherry, black olive, redder blueberry, a little ripe blackberry, dark aromatic spice, and charred meat.  It still seems not really in balance, but I’m not sure how to say what’s wrong with it.  Still, for $5, it’s a pretty impressive wine.

Robertson Winery 2010 Phanto Ridge Pinotage

Robertson, South Africa; 14% ABV
$12 at the Oakland, CA, store on 13 Apr

RobertsonWnry_2010_PhantoRidgePinotageWithin the same bunch of bottles at the Oakland store, about 2/3 were the Robertson Winery Wolfkloof Shiraz, and about 1/3 were this Pinotage, for the same price.  I thought I’d try the Pinotage since it’s a South African specialty.  Especially since I haven’t tasted many Pinotages, I found it pretty interesting.

On the first night, I thought it needed about 2.5 to 3 hours of air in a decanter to open.  Then it showed a fairly elegant profile of flavors: tangy red / purple plum, dark blueberry / medium dark blackberry, with some dried-fruit brownness and a little real vanilla.  I’m not sure I would say it’s worth $12 at the GO unless you, like myself, are particularly curious about Pinotage.  I like it, but I’m glad I bought it during the recent sale.

The second half-bottle of this wine, stored in a 375ml bottle with a stopper and very little air, did not need much additional air to become very tasty.  The fruit had darkened and become a little more full, and the wine overall was pretty elegant and well-balanced.  However, I’d still say the same: I’m not sure it’s worth $12 at the GO unless you want a Pinotage, which indeed you may.  I found its flavors quite different from any other varietal I can recall.  The long airing time and the taste of the second half suggest to me that it could easily age for another 3 to 5 years in good storage.

2008 Winter Hill Sauvignon Blanc

Stellenbosch, South Africa; 12.5% ABV
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 4 Apr

2008_WinterHill_SBI had avoided this older white for a while, but I finally got it one day when I forgot to check the vintage :), out of curiosity about a South African Sauvignon Blanc.  It turns out it was a good bet.

On the first day open, the wine showed decent tropical yellow fruit, with significant green bell pepper / asparagus (to use the word on the back label) component, and some restraining minerality.

On the second day, it tasted much better, showing more forward and integrated flavors of light mango, golden kiwi, yellow melon, still with the green bell pepper / asparagus, lemony acid, and mildly textured minerality.  The fruit is ripe and supple, slightly buttery (partial malolactic fermentation?), but also nicely acid, somewhat like the balance in some Californian Sauvignon Blancs, but the flavors are not very Californian.  Anyway, I recommend it if you’re not too averse to vegetal flavors and especially if you’re also curious about a South African Sauvignon Blanc.  It was still good on the third day open.

2013 Mosaic Chardonnay

Alexander Valley, WA
13.8% alc.
$9 at Renton, WA (purchased 4/14/14)

20140415_184522_resized (2)The Mosaic wines have generally received good press, especially the cabernets. I figured this was worth a try and picked one up during the sale.

The first wiff of this wine had me looking at the label again as it smelled like a sauvignon blanc. Lot’s of citrus with an herbal grassiness in the nose. Crisp on the palate and good acidity with lemon chiffon, herbs, and a little creaminess. The finish had a slightly bitter note. It has the character of a tank fermented wine with no or little oak. It is well made and very stylistic and certainly not a typical California chardonnay with the herbaceous component. I think this would age well and soften and be pretty interesting with the right food. I might just buy another bottle and lay it down for a few years just for fun. I am torn between drinkable and thumbs up and the price point is a little on the high side for GO. I would be really interested in anyone else’s opinion on this one.

2012 Hyatt Red Wine Rattlesnake Hills

Zillah, WA
14.3% alc.
$6 at Skyway (and Renton), WA (purchased 4/17/14)

20140417_185226_resized (2)Hyatt Vineyards has been around since the early 80′s making it one of the older Washington wineries, especially with the recent explosion of new wineries. The Rattlesnake Hills AVA sits on the northern end of the Yakima Valley and has recently been seeing a bit of a renaissance in recognition and quality of the vineyards. The label says this wine is a blend of four Bordeaux varietals with small amounts of tempranillo and petit sirah and is estate grown.

Dark red in color with a nose of vanilla spice, nutmeg, and red fruits. Red cherry, plum and blueberry on the palate with a good dollop of oak influenced caramel, smoke, and spice. Rich in feel with soft tannins and good acidity. Not a complex wine, but a good party pleaser and easy drinker. Hyatt wines typically retail in the $12-$15 range and discounted from $8-$10. So at $6 it isn’t super buy, but it is worth the money if you like the style. A thumbs up for me for its simple pleasure along with its stelvin closure.

2012 Mosaic Zinfandel

Russian River Valley, CA; 14.5% ABV
$10 at the Oakland, CA, store on 11 April

Mosaic_2012_Zin_RRVI had avoided this because a 2012 seemed a little young still, but I thought that, with the positive things people said about the Mosaic Cabernet, I really did want to try it, and I might as well buy it during the sale.  However, I wound up not liking it very much.

I poured off half into a half bottle (375ml) and stoppered it with very little air.  The rest in the bottle I left alone for an hour.  When I poured some to try after about an hour, I was immediately hit with a nose dominated by cooked green bell pepper along with some of the more usual Zinfandel flavors of blackberry and black raspberry.  On the palate, the bell pepper was far in the background, but the smooth and supple fruit itself — more of the blackberry, soft dark plum, black raspberry — also had a rather stewed quality, although balanced with a reasonable amount of acid.  I think this wine would be fine for $5 or maybe $6, but IMO even the sale price of $8 was too much.

For info on the second half, please see comments below.

Montebaldo 2012 Chardonnay

Delle Venezie IGT, Italy; 12% ABV; screw cap
$6 at the Richmond, CA, store on 13 Apr

Montebaldo_2012_ChardI had been eying this for a while, wondering what to expect from a greenish-tinged Chardonnay from northeast Italy.  During the sale, I finally got a bottle.

On its first night open, the wine showed only a little of Chardonnay’s usual yellow apple, instead dominated by acid of green apple and lemon.  I found it a bit too acid for drinking on its own, and it didn’t go much better with the squid I made for dinner.  So far, I think it would be okay if you wanted a lean and acid wine, perhaps to go with raw oysters, but otherwise there are better choices for less.  I’d say that if you want a Chardonnay, try the Whiplash, and if you want a tasty green acid-dominated wine, try the Barrymore Pinot Grigio.  Both are still around for $4 each.

However, the wine was more pleasant the next day, becoming more recognizably Chardonnay: more yellow apple, the green apple seems riper, a little nuttiness (from oak?), still probably better with the appropriate food, such as white fish.  It’s still not something I’m all that excited about, but if you like the Italian style of crisp whites, it’s decently elegant and tasty.

Eco Terreno 2010 Three Vine Red

Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, CA
56% Merlot, 32% Cabernet Franc, 12% Petite Verdot; 13.8% ABV
$10 at the Oakland, CA, store on 11 Apr

EcoTerreno_2010_ThreeVineRedThis wine looked quite promising, made from three Bordeaux grapes including a good portion of Petite Verdot, in a region where they can make good wines, in an excellent year.  However, it turns out it’s made in a style I don’t like very much.

On opening, the wine immediately shows ripely sweet red fruit with strong vanilla / oak, overall with a rather candied character.  It darkens over a couple hours of air in a decanter to show flavors of red cherry, darker cherry / redder blackberry, and raspberry, still with the same sweet candy nature and reasonably balancing acid.  Although I don’t like this kind of wine, I think many people do.  Given that, this wine is pretty tasty and solidly made, so I’ll nonetheless go with Thumbs Up.

2012 Wines of Substance Cabernet Sauvignon

Columbia Valley, WA
13.8% alc.
$10 at Renton, WA (before the sale price)

20140411_072601_resized (2)Both the Merlot and Syrah version from this label have been previously reviewed. I liked both of those wines so I sprang for the extra bucks to try this one with some expectations coming along with it.

Dark garnet in color. Pretty closed nose with cherry, light spice, and an off smell I couldn’t place. Cherry and plum on the palate with cocoa and slight spice. Nice balance of fine tannins and acidity in the finish. The off note in the nose however kept creeping up and I don’t know if I was too focused on it, but it kept me from really enjoying this wine (although the bottle did get finished). I give it a drinkable, but my money is on the Merlot and Syrah at a better price point and there are better Cabernets out there.

2010 Ste. Chapelle Snake River Valley Late Harvest Riesling, Idaho $3.99

Silverdale, WA    12.5% alc.    375 ml.    (Purchased on 4/9/14)

IMG_1470Brilliant medium golden color.  Just like the 2008, the nose is delightful…sweet, honeyed, peaches, nectarines and apricots.  I could smell it for hours and not have even a sip (o.k., I’m exaggerating slightly).  In the mouth it’s thick, but not syrupy, smooth, quite sweet (but at about 16 percent residual sugar, not quite as sweet as the 2008) and equally as delicious.  The flavors match the fruits of the bouquet…mainly yellw/orange stone fruits.  The acidity balances the sugar.

Another wonderful sweet, delicious dessert Riesling from a producer who consistently knows how to do it well.  Peaches in lemon-touched syrup lingers in the finish.  Grab a bottle or three of this treat and pour it nice and cold over fresh grilled skinned peaches in the summer.  Add a plop of vanilla ice cream too!  Should note also that the alcohol on this one is slightly higher than the 2008 and the price is a buck more (which is still incredibly reasonable for what you’re getting).