2012 Hayes Ranch Lucky Horseshoe California Merlot, $5.99

Silverdale, WA    13% alc.    (Purchased on 10/20/14)

IMG_1842From what I found on the web, this is a Wente product from Livermore with a regular retail between $8 and $11.  Clear medium ruby color.  To my nose, this Merlot is quite varietally true in bouquet with lots of cherry and smoke aromas and a little underlying vegetal, green bean, bell pepper nuance.  That’s not a favorite quality for me, but it is integrated well into the cherryish fruit.  The flavors show more cherry, raspberry and smoke, but the acidity is a little low and overall the wine is thin, washed out and lacking in body and texture.  Very little tannin and a short finish.  For me, it’s clearly Merlot, but rather blah and not worth the GO price.

BTW, earlier vintages were apparently blended with a little Petite Sirah, but I can’t attest that this one was.  And if it was…a larger percentage might have provided the oomph that this vintage lacks, although it was tasting somewhat better two nights later.

2009 Mayerdale Pinot Noir $9.99

Garnier Vineyards, Columbia Gorge, OR
14% ABV
Purchased: Salem, OR 9-27-2014

MayerdaleWhat is it with all these higher alcohol wines? I do remember when wines were more subtle and alcohol was an “enhancement” rather than a over-shadowing contributor. This wine is hot. The nose is heavy on the alcohol and it seems like even though we’ve given it a lot of air, you can still feel the alcohol as you swallow.

That being said, it’s the only strike against it, in my book. I looked it up online. There was one cellartracker review in 2012 that gave it an 85 points (and I disagree with this rating although it’s entirely possible that it was applicable back then). The review also mentions the alcohol (both on the nose and the taste). I don’t think much has changed there in the year +, since that review was written.

Don’t get me wrong though; with all that being said, I do like this wine quite a bit and I will buy more if it’s still around at the sale.

Alcohol aside, there are many good things to be said. Firstly, it is herbal without being “green pepper”. Bonus! It’s dry and not very fruit forward at all, yet there is a bit of cherry or possibly black raspberry making itself mildly noticed without being overbearing. Again, it’s a style I very much like; earthy with black pepper and very (very) subtle notes of leather (not usually a taste I associate with Pinot Noir) as well as more than a hint of tobacco. It reminds me of a good Italian Pinot Noir. Nuances galore. Body is perfect. Color shows no sign of bricking. It’s not showing its age in taste either. In fact, I think it’s got a few years left of on it…impressive.

The 2011 Pinot Noir is $24 on their website. I actually prefer the 2009 vintage of Oregon Pinot Noir to the 2011’s (on average). At $10 it’s a pretty good deal; at 20% off (during the sale next week, Nov. 5 – 9), it’s a no brainer for me.

2009 Abrazo Del Toro Reserva Garnacha/Tempranillo Carinena, Spain $5.99

Silverdale, WA    13.5% alc.    (Purchased on 10/24/14)

IMG_184350% Garnacha 50% Tempranillo    Clear deep ruby/purple.  Nose shows blackberry, black raspberry, tobacco, green olive, cedar and oak.  When first opened, I detected strong aromas of what I believe is toasty American oak, but that quickly faded more to the background.  In the mouth, this is a  fairly substantial Spaniard with plenty of fruit and firm, but not heavy tannins.  Well-balanced with moderate acidity.  The flavors show red and black raspberry, mint, leather, tobacco and nicely integrated oak.  It has a long, flavorful finish with real texture and mouthfeel.

I could find little on the web about this vintage.  But it appears this wine may be a staple at Trader Joe’s and sold at one time for $3.99 (a reader review of the 2006 or 2007 vintage).  Percentage blend of the two varieties of grapes seems to vary from year to year.  I like it: nicely balanced, tasty, inexpensive…a great everyday red.

2009 Fava Brothers Vineyards Marcucci Farms Zinfandel Russian River Valley $8.99

Marcucci Farms, Russian River Valley
14.9% ABV
Purchased: Salem, Oregon 9-27-1014

Fava ZinThis review is very similar to Lim13’s review on the 2006 Fava Brothers Zinfandel. Interestingly enough, I didn’t read it until after tasting the wine. I wish I had, this wine needed air and we had to wait a day to drink it.

Bottle presentation is still very beautiful. There was so much sediment on the cork that I ran the wine through the Nuance winefiner. Wine color is a dark (almost inky) reddish plum; slight bricking evident. And as I read in Lim’s review, it tastes like a non-traditional Zinfandel. We did taste cherry, cocoa (as expected) and on day one, a very tart-bordering on lightly sour aftertaste that was slightly offensive. I would agree that it is “rough and raw”. Alcohol is very evident. It tastes hotter than the 14.9% and given that there is a +/- of 1% allowable (on wines labeling above 14% alcohol), I’m guessing by taste alone that it is closer to 15.9%.

The body is not as heavy as a traditional Zinfandel either. There also is no rich mouthfeel that seems to go hand in hand with the Zinfandel that I normally drink. To be upfront, I have Zinfandel maybe once or twice a quarter, but usually they are quite consistent in basic taste.

Day two was a little better. The offensive aftertaste was mostly gone. There is still an astringent quality that is evident and (to me) displeasing. The fruit was slightly more forward but the alcohol was still so much in the foreground that I gave up. I never finished one glass. This one isn’t to my taste at all. It reminded me more of a slightly sweet mixed drink.

My husband finds this drinkable so I’m not rating it a thumbs down, however if he had not said that, I probably would have. Food did nothing much to add or take away from it.

Before I decided to post this review this morning, I was thinking more about this wine. At the $8.99 price tag, you could buy two bottles of the FOUR Star wine (Zinfandel blend, I’m shocked it is still on the shelves) and it’s a much more satisfying buy, so that’s where my recommendation goes.

2008 Ben Hogan Tribute Series Carnoustie

Paso Robles, CA
47% Syrah, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot; 15% ABV
$6 at the Richmond, CA, store on 24 Oct

BenHogan_2008_CarnoustieThis was probably around for a while, but I tend to ignore anything with a golfer on the label.  Not anything against golf, per se, but generally I figure the maker’s probably more into whatever sport than wine.  This is an exception.

The first thing I noticed is that the end of the cork that was in the wine was completely, very impressively, blackened.  The wine itself starts out reserved and a bit acid.  To me, it needed about 1hr of air to start showing very ripe, tangy fruits of darker cherry, boysenberry, plum / purple grape, a little blueberry / blackberry,  a little liquour-like, with some fruit-skin bitterness on the finish.  There’s not much in the way of non-fruit flavors, although it heads in the direction of tar, especially as it continues to air.  Its texture is thicker and velvety.  Although not showing signs of being too old, it’s perfectly mature, so drink it now or very soon.

The next day, the saved single-glass screw-cap bottle was at least as good, maybe better as it was more elegant and showed more tangy funk, although it still needed a couple hours of air.  This wine is from Veris Cellars, who also made the currently available JanKris 2011 Crossfire and Riatta.  I’d say that especially if you liked the Crossfire (haven’t tasted the Riatta), or even if you didn’t, this wine is easily worth the extra dollar.

2009 Eco.Love South Island Riesling, New Zealand $1.99

Silverdale, WA    11.5% alc.    (Purchased on 10/20/14)

IMG_1839Sustainably grown and vinified.  I bought this mainly because I really loved their Sauvignon Blanc.  This Riesling’s a little unusual from the git-go because it’s in the atypical burgundy bottle rather than the usual tall hoch bottle.

Clear pale green/golden.  Very pleasant bouquet of green apple, citrus and pineapple; far more tropical than most Rieslings I’ve had.  Off-dry, but more toward the dry, but fruity end of the spectrum. Very extracted and rich in the mouth; more of a mouthful than the average Riesling.  Zingy acidity.  Flavors again of typical green apple, some peach, lime zest and a bit of spice.  Very flavorful and tasty and a bit unusual for Riesling in that it’s more complex than most.  Likely more versatile with food because the balance of sugars and flavors are so unique.  Did not go well with teriyaki chicken because the sugars were just too low, but probably great with roast chicken or white fish.  Hard to go wrong for two bucks.  I’m liking this producer and hope to see more from them at GO.

Hart & McGarry 2011 Chardonnay

North Coast, California; 13.7% ABV
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 24 Oct

HartMcGarry_2011_ChardonnayAfter the delicious Hart & McGarry 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, I thought I’d try their Chardonnay, too.  I was not as wowed by this wine, but I thought it was still pretty good for the money.

The wine needs a little bit of air (just from what gets into the bottle when you pour out some wine) to show a somewhat unusual and interesting Chardonnay.  An elegantly long, delineated taste starts with less-intense, lighter yellow apple and lemon, a richer golden kiwi / yellow grape skin, and a slightly odd but not exactly unpleasant musty cherimoya (a tangy, white-fleshed tropical fruit) / savory oak.  It’s in between a ripely heavy Chardonnay and a lean, crisp one.  Although when thinking about it, I deemed it perhaps a little strange, I otherwise found myself happily quaffing it, so I have to go with a moderate Thumbs Up.

2011 Mulderbosch Western Cape Chenin Blanc, South Africa $4.99

Silverdale, WA    13.5% alc.    (Purchased on 10/6/14)

The word Steen is noted on the front strip label…the name that South African’s give to Chenin Blanc (the most widely-planted variety in the country).  I’ve had a number of Mulderbosch wines over the last 20 years and their Sauvignon Blanc and Rose’ are some of my favorite South African wines.  So finding one in GO seemed a “for sure” buy to me.

IMG_1785Brilliant medium golden color.  Very fragrant nose that also shows wafts of sulfur that eventually blow off with swirling.  Then the aromas include white peach and lime.  In the mouth there’s some heat (that provides a slight burning sensation) and bitterness on the front of the palate and then the flavors show more white peach, grapefruit, grapefruit pith and bitter almond, pear and spicy light oak.  Has a Viognier like richness that I often perceive as flabbiness, though the acidity’s not bad.  The wine is more dry than not.

My preferred style of Chenin Blanc is more fruit and little or no oak.  Give me Vouvrays or the few WA state Chenins that are still out there.  Had I tasted this blind, I’d have likely guessed a dry Pinot Gris, as the pear flavors really come on strong in the finish.  So if that sounds enticing, give this a try.  One bottle was good for me, thanks.  Let me add that two days later with the one third full bottle sitting on the counter with only the screw cap back in place…it tasted much better.  It was mellower and the oak had faded more to the background.


2009 Alexandre Sirech “Les Deux Terroirs” Dry White $5.99

Alexandre Sirech & Co
Purchased: Salem, OR 10-20-2014

  • Alcohol: 12% by vol
  • Acidity: 4.3 g/l
  • Residual Sugar: 5.2 g/l

ASirechHow many times have I said “I am not a white wine person?” No idea, but it seems an endless monologue. In this case, I could be converted. Really.

The blend consists of: 60% of Sauvignon Blanc, 30% Gros Manseng and 10% Colombard. I am familiar with Sauvignon Blanc, but not the other two varietals. I noticed they weren’t even listed in our category options here at the blog.  [ed. note:  They are now!]

The color could be described as a bright lemon-yellow. The nose is what I would consider complex; fruity, floral, herbal and it draws you in, immediately wanting to taste it. We served it chilled. The taste is equally complex. This wine shines without food and was lost even in the most mellow meal (we had turkey breast and baked potatoes…very bland). It’s crisp without having a harsh or chemical aftertaste. It’s fruity without being overtly sweet. The floral and herbal notes are tantalizing without pushing to the forefront. It’s lush without tasting thick or glycerin-like. I found it (don’t laugh) genteel; understated but inviting. We savored it over 3.5 hrs wanting to see how it would taste as it opened up. The fruit moved much more forward (while the minerality moved more to the shadows) as the evening progressed and the wine reached room temperature.

Their PR blurb says:
A magical white blend. For this wine Alexandre has taken 60% Sauvignon Blanc from an outstanding gravelly terroir, and added 30% Gros Manseng and 10% Colombard from the right siliceous terroir. The result is a very special and distinctive wine. Fermented at low temperatures in stainless steel, the wine is crisp and fruity, vibrant, with a beautiful freshness and minerality.

I find nothing there to disagree with. I have never had an un-oaked white that I liked until now and I’ve never found a white that did not have at least one component that I disliked. This one hit all the positives for me. Alcohol is unobtrusive; very old world style.

I know nothing else about this wine. Not what its original price point is; not what it’s “rated”. It doesn’t matter. I’d buy it again in a heartbeat and I hope to come across more of Alexandre Sirech’s creations in the future.

Again, I wouldn’t necessarily call this a food wine (although I could possibly see it pairing satisfactorily with seafood); it belongs to the “sippers” of this world.


Woodenhead 2012 Zinfandel “Mendonoma”

50% Mendocino County, 50% Sonoma County, California; 15.0% ABV
$7 at the Richmond, CA, store on 24 Oct

Woodenhead_2012_ZinfandelI had been wary of this wine because of the lighter red color through the bottle, but Seedboy and the Richmond store manager, himself a wine enthusiast, made positive comments about it.  So I got a bottle, but I was quite disappointed.

Although label says “Unfined & Unfiltered,” I did not see any sediment.  The fruit, showing flavors of red raspberry, red and black cherries, and a little black raspberry, had a rather candied character and a good amount of the stewed rhubarb (or whatever it is) that I dislike and that I think is associated with American Oak.  I would guess, since there’s not much else it could be besides a Zin, and it is ripely sweet and jammy, that many people will like it.  However, for me, it was barely Drinkable.  I preferred it blended into the Abrazo del Toro 2009 Garnacha – Tempranillo, which Lim13 will be reviewing.

The next day, the second half (stoppered in a 375ml bottle with very little air) of the wine was unfortunately pretty much the same.