NV Ogio Prosecco, Italy $6.99

Silverdale, WA    11% alc.    (Purchased on 7/22/14)

IMG_1635Attractive package.  Brilliant pale straw with plenty of tiny bubbles, but so-so mousse and medium body.  The nose shows more earthy European aromas and less of the forward fruit one often finds in domestic bubblies.  In the mouth it foams slightly and tends to dissippate quickly; the flavors are more earthiness like gravel and flintstone with a definite peach pit/bitter almond quality.  The finish suggests a sizable dosage, as it shows (to my taste) more than a hint of sweetness.  While it’s tasty enough and easy to quaff, it’s just a bit too simple (and a little too sweet) for me.  This Italian sparkler would likely work best at a wedding or similar celebration for folks of varied tastes.  Think “talk dry, drink sweet”.

BargainWhine reviewed the Ogio 2011 Pinot Grigio here.

2012 Ashlyn’s Vineyard Columbia Valley Malbec, WA $6.99

Silverdale, WA    13.3% alc.    (Purchased on 7/13/14)

IMG_1631Clear medium ruby/garnet; a little paler than I expected from a Malbec, but it seems to have mysteriously darkened in the glass in a couple of hours time (must be some metaphysical thing).  Rather aromatic in the nose, showing green olive and green peppercorn qualities as well as subtle raspberry nuance.  In the mouth, there’s a fair amount of sweet tasting red berry/cherry fruit on the front of the palate and very nice acidity from beginning to end.  To my taste, it’s more balanced than the red blends that I’ve reviewed from this producer.  Shows medium tannins and a medium-length finish.

As Washington State Malbecs go, this is really pretty tasty and costs about five to six times less than most WA Malbecs.  It’s not particularly complicated and hardly rich and full-bodied, but it should do quite well with simple beef and pork dishes (though I don’t recommend it with barbecue-sauced foods, as it was a bit too light for the somewhat sweet pulled pork and brisket that my wife and I had it with).

“Turn 4″ 2010 white

second label of Bennett Lane Winery
California; 14.5% ABV; screw cap
$4 at the Richmond, CA, store on 21 July

Turn4_whiteI picked this up as an intriguing and inexpensive mystery wine.  It’s a bit too ripe and fruity for my taste, but if you like that sort of thing, this is a delicious quaffer for the price.

A note on Wine Enthusiast says this wine is a blend of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.  However, I have a hard time believing there is not also a good component of a perfumed, fruity grape like Viognier or Muscat, as that component generally dominates.  (I had guessed a Viognier – Chardonnay blend, perhaps with some Muscat and Sauvignon Blanc.)  Somewhat on the nose, but especially on the palate, you get intense, yellow fruit and floral flavors of apple, peach, and melon, with occasional moments of green grape bitterness and, I suspect, a little supporting oak.  I felt that the ripe fruit could be a little better balanced with acid, but it’s not dull.  Although I’m not sure it will last well into the fall, this should be good summer drinking at a good price.

The next day, the last bit in the bottle was still good, and tasted much more plausibly like a Napa-ripe Chardonnay – SB blend, although that’s possibly just because I learned it’s supposed to be one.

2012 Ashlyn’s Vineyard Private Reserve Red, Columbia Valley, WA $6.99

Silverdale, WA    13.9% alc.    (Purchased on 7/13/14)

IMG_1630Clear medium garnet; nose is a bit earthy, but shows plenty of berryish raspberry and some blackberry fruit; no obvious signs of oak in the nose.  In the mouth, the first thing I notice is fairly high acidity (as in cooler climate grapes) and firm, though not particularly big tannins.  The flavor profile is really more red fruit than black i.e. the aforementioned raspberrries, cranberries and underripe red plum.  It’s tasty enough, has nice fruit, is low on oak and gives an old world impression.  To me, it seems similar to the last vintage…so I’m thinking mainly Syrah again.  If it’s Cab, it tastes like young vines in that (to me) it lacks ripeness, body and definition.

Very similar to the 2011 vintage, but with far less oak in the flavors (which I prefer).  Should be a fine food wine and may age well (due to the acidity, but I’d drink it with food right now).  Not my preferred style of red, but tasty nonetheless…and reader Roger Emigh really liked it (which is why I gave it a try).  Thanks, Roger!

Azul Portugal 2008 Bairrada DOC Red Wine

Bairrada DOC, Portugal
made from Touriga Nacional, Baga, and Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo); 13.5% ABV
$8 at the Berkeley, CA, store on 23 July

AzulPortugal_2008_BairradaThis wine was pretty tasty from the get-go, but it darkened and filled out a little after about 70 minutes in a decanter.  It’s very nicely aromatic, with the same complex flavors on a medium-weight palate, of light and tart to riper dark red / almost light purple fruits: cherry, red currant, dark raspberry / almost plum / darker hibiscus, roses and a little violet, black pepper, funky earth and a small amount of prune after a couple hours of air.  From my vantage point of not knowing much about contemporary Portuguese wine, I’d say this wine is mostly Spanish (aromatic with dusty tannin) but part Italian (tangy with darker, riper fruit than Spanish wines), with the ample acid of both.  If you only like ripe, jammy Californian, Chilean or Australian wines, stay away.  I drank it with beef steak and green beans and the food overwhelmed the subtlety of the wine.  I’d recommend pairing it with pork dishes, or maybe darker chicken dishes.

Cate 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon

Napa Valley, CA; 13.5% ABV
$9 at the Berkeley, CA, store on 1 July

Cate_2012_CabSauvThis wine has been around for a long time by GO standards.  Some people have highly recommended it, so I finally got a bottle when there was a dearth of new wines recently.  While it’s not really to my taste, I guess I see what people like about it.

This wine is pretty tasty on first pour, but opens and integrates more with about 45 minutes in the glass.  It has Napa Valley floor flavors of very ripe bing cherry, blackberry, redder cranberry sauce, and sweet vanilla / oak.  Especially after about an hour of air, the wine became quite subtly nuanced, in very nice balance.  This is all pretty good for those who like this style, but what I object to is a rather jammy character and a sort of stewed rhubarb flavor that I suspect is from American oak.

The next day, the saved single-glass screw cap bottle of this wine tasted pretty much the same, but a bit more robust and not as nuanced.  Even though I didn’t like it all that much, I preferred it on the first day.  Also, I liked it better after I put hot sauce in my food, when I appreciated its sweet fruitiness.

So, much like the Four Star red, I have to apologize to those who like these wines.  It seems that many people like them, but they’re just not for me.  After writing all this, I looked up what readers had to say about this wine.  Here is a very different take from contributor PW.  Anyone else?

2011 Greg Norman Malbec

Mendoza, Argentina; 13.5% ABV
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 14 July

GregNorman_2011_MalbecOf the new wines that showed up after a dearth of such, this wine looked interesting but was in my second round.  It’s a bit different than the Argentinian Malbecs I’ve had previously, and at first I wasn’t totally sure I liked it.

In contrast to my usual decanting, I just slowly had small pours out of this bottle over time.  The wine started out a bit sulfurous, and I thought it needed about an hour of air.  Then, it tasted of light purple plum, blueberry, boysenberry, and something floral similar to those fruits, with plenty of wood throughout and a quite woody finish.  If you couldn’t tell, I really wish they had used less wood, because the fruit is otherwise nicely balanced and elegant.  Perhaps they were just trying to make a wine to contrast from the generally fruity nature of South American wines.

Also, instead of my usual fussing over storing the rest of a bottle, last night I just put the cork back in the top of the half-emptied (or half-full) bottle.  Today, I like the wine much better.  The fruit is more forward, showing the same ripe fruits over the wood, and with more complexities of dark cocoa, coffee, and clove.  The finish is still a bit woody for my taste, but overall it’s now quite tasty and I have to give it a Thumbs Up.  It’s a nice example of an Argentinian Malbec that’s a bit more restrained and structured than the other ones I’ve tasted.  Bin5 reviewed the previous vintage of this wine here.

NV Penny Stamp Reggiano Lambrusco, Reggio Emilia, Italy $5.99

Silverdale, WA    8.5% alc.    (Purchased on 7/13/14)

IMG_1628For those who may be unaware, it’s made from the Lambrusco grape.  Opaque deep, dark purple with a very slight bead of spritz (frizzante’) up the center of the glass.  Nose is somewhat closed, but shows dark plum and blackberries.  In the mouth, it bubbles slightly on the tongue then disappates quickly, leaving a certain richness and gentle tannins that coat the palate.  More flavors of dark plum, fresh blackberries and black currant.  This Lambrusco is slightly sweet, but more toward the dry side than any I’ve ever had and there’s enough acidity to cut that slight bit of sugar.  Served very cold (as recommended on the label), I actually enjoyed this wine quite a bit.  A simple, refreshing red for warm summer days.

GO Winelover mentioned that TJ’s and Fresh & Easy are selling this wine for the same price or less.  So in CA…check that out.  However, I haven’t seen it in my local TJ’s here in Silverdale, WA and there are no Fresh & Easy stores up here.

un4seen 2011 white

made from California Chardonnay, Semillon, Moscato, and Viognier; 13.5% ABV
$4 at the Richmond, CA, store on 14 July

un4seen_2011_whiteWhereas I was drawn to the un4seen 2009 red mostly by the grapes in the blend, here I was mostly drawn in by the un4seen red.  :)  The white is very much in the same mould as the red: exuberantly delicious, maybe even more so than the red.

The most obvious flavors right away were yellow peach and honeysuckle from the Viognier, but that was enriched by ripe yellow apple from the Chardonnay, accentuated by aromatic melon from the Muscat, and likely supported by some white wax bean from the Semillon.  The ripe fruit is nicely balanced by acid and a little bitterness.  I often find Muscat too cloying, but this wine does not trigger that dislike.  Like this wine’s red counterpart, the flavors are a wild and tasty jumble rather than an elegant blend, but again, who cares?

Four Star 2012 red

California, 13.9% ABV
$4 on 3 July, but this bottle was an unsolicited gift from Sopheap at the Richmond, CA, store.

Four_2012_redblendThis is another wine which has been around for a long time, but which I’ve disdained as being only from “California” and for not telling me what grapes are in the wine.  However, I think Sopheap wanted to show me what I had been missing, so he gave me this bottle.

It’s pretty good to drink right after opening, but becomes softer and more integrated with air.  The wine shows jammy fruit of cherry, blackberry, and dark raspberry, with decently balancing acid of those fruits, and a slightly herbal finish.  I have no idea what grapes went into this wine, but I would guess it contains Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel and, heck, everything has Merlot in it.  I generally prefer wines less jammy than this, but I agree that, if you like this style, it’s quite good for $4.