JanKris 2011 Crossfire

Paso Robles, CA
50% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Tempranillo, 10% Petite Sirah, 7% Syrah, 7% Grenache; 13.3% ABV
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 17 Oct

JanKris_2011_CrossfireI was intrigued by the number of grapes in this unique blend, and I’m not disappointed!  The wine starts out rather hard and acid, in a way that’s not pleasant yet, but promising.  Over the two hours we drank the first half of the bottle, the wine became riper, fruitier, more complex (nice dark red, black, some purple flavors) and the acid became less tart and more ripe.  By the end, it was pretty tasty, if you didn’t mind the zingy acid on the finish.

The second half, stored in a 375ml bottle and stoppered with very little air, was far better.  It was pretty good right away but still needed two hours of air before really showing its stuff. Then, it had delicious flavors of dark red cherry, boysenberry / plum, dark raspberry, a little sweet black pepper, still finishing with the tangy, ripe acid.  It’s full-bodied but not on the heavy, jammy end.  Overall, I think this is a good deal.

P.S. JWC in What’s New wrote: Getting back to the JanKris, looks like the parent company Veris was recently acuqired by Castoro Cellars in San Miguel, and the JanKris & Ben Hogan labels are being discontinued, which explains why we are seeing them at GO. The Ben Hogan Tribute appears to be the higher end of the two, selling for $28 at the winery, or at least was…The JanKris retail for around $10, so not a screaming deal here at $5.99, but both appear to have some decent reviews online.

2012 Van Ruiten Pinot Noir Steamboat Vineyard $7.99

Van Ruiten Family Vineyards
14.5 % ABV
Purchased @ Salem, OR 10-9-2014

VanRuiten_PinotNoirI wanted to start this review with “we liked this wine”.  I thought I’d mention that first because secondly I’d like to point out that it’s absolutely nothing like what I’d consider a standard Pinot Noir.  Please look at the description because if you love traditional Pinot Noir, you may not find this as pleasing as we did.  As a side, we too love traditional Pinot Noir…among other things, but I do want to emphasize this wine is nothing like what I’d call “traditional or standard”.

Upon opening, we were really overwhelmed (in a good way) with the fragrance of fresh raspberries. It offered a very inviting bouquet. JoelA reviewed it in Guest contributions previously and mentioned it’s “musty nose & velvety texture”. While we didn’t get the “musty nose” we certainly noticed the very glycerin-like body of this wine, giving it what I’d call a medium-body, quite unlike the normal lighter bodied Pinot Noir that I’m more used to.

If I’d tasted this in a blind test, I’d have guessed it was a blend of Syrah and Merlot. Syrah because of the spiciness (cinnamon and a hint of clove was evident in the taste) and Merlot for the medium mouthfeel and silky richness.

It was quite fruit forward (think raspberry and cherry cola) bordering on lightly sweet. Yet, it was incredibly tasty.  JoelA did mention that the alcohol heat was evident and I completely agree.  It was a lot warmer than I expected for a Pinot Noir.

I’m giving it a thumbs up simply for the taste (and I will be buying more if it is still available).  It was quite an enjoyable wine, even if I wouldn’t have known it was a Pinot Noir.

Homestead 1897 “2013 Cuvee” white

Napa Valley, CA; 14.2% ABV
“Homestead 1897″ is apparently a project of Pope Valley Winery
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 17 Oct

Homestead1897_2013_NapaValleyCuveeI seem to recall there was a Cabernet from this label not too long ago that I tasted and thought was reasonable, although I never got a bottle.  So I had some hope this white blend might be good, but I was disappointed.

It tastes like a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, which I think are the main two white grapes grown in Napa Valley.  Pretty much right away, although especially warmed some from fridge temp, the wine showed ripe fruit (but not over-ripe) of melon (green, yellow, and white), yellow apple, lemon / lime, balanced with acid of lemon / lime and white melon, with some vanilla, and a sort of rough finish.  I wanted to like it, but the flavors were never integrated and delineated, and the rough finish never went away.  Each taste started out very promising, but by the end I found myself wondering if maybe it would be better with a little more air or a little warmer.

The next day, the fruit was a little more forward and the finish a little rougher, but otherwise much the same.  For me, this was on the lower end of Drinkable, and I think it’s overpriced at $5.

2009 Eco.Love Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand $3.99

Silverdale, WA    12.5% alc.    (Purchased on 9/29/14)

IMG_1782I must admit, the packaging, name and eco information on this wine initially turned me off.  The packaging brought back memories of my “hippiedom” in the late 60’s and early 70’s.  But I slowly became a bit more intrigued by the fact that (according to the back label) it’s “sustainably grown and vinified” and “made at the first carboNZero certified winery in the world.  This certification was achieved through a stingent process requiring a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions through energy-efficient initiatives and the offsetting of residual emissions via wind farm generated credits.”  Here’s a bit of information I found about the wine and the vintners (sisters).

But how about the bottle’s contents?  Brilliant pale straw.  Has a very enticing nose that typifies Marlborough Sauv Blanc in it’s gooseberry and grassy aromas, but the fruit seems so much more intense than most that I’ve had.  Add to that more tropical notes that I’ve never found in SB from this region…particularly ripe pineapple and you have a truly unique wine.  The flavors show more of the same…gooseberry and ripe pineappley sweet fruit with bracing citrusy acidity to perfectly balance it all out.  Has a long, long finish too.  This is a delicious NZ Sauvignon Blanc that I’m really lovin’…at an amazingly good price…four bucks instead of twenty!

2004 Dievole Il Fornaio Casannova Vineyard Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy $4.99

Silverdale, WA    12.5% alc.    (Purchased on 9/26/14)

IMG_1780Dievole is a highly touted Tuscan producer whose wines I’ve almost always enjoyed a great deal at regular price.  So I thought I’d give this 10 year old a shot.  Ya’ win some and ya’ lose some.

Mostly clear, but dark ruby/purple with slight brick tone around the rim.  Classic Chianti nose with dried cherry, lavender and earth aromas; in the mouth, it’s fairly tart, but soft and showing a slight saline quality along with more dried cherry and earthiness.  The tannins have pretty much faded to the background, so all-in-all the wine seems rather thin and lifeless.  A bit of mustiness shows up in the finish, though I don’t really think the wine is corked…just too old.  I bet it was pretty tasty in it’s youth, but right now it leaves me unimpressed…even with pasta and creamed tomato sauce.  While it hasn’t gone completely over the hill, I certainly cannot recommend it.

2011 Lithos Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon $9.99

2011 Lithos Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon $11.99 (currently $9.99)
Salem, OR  April 11, 2014
13.5% ABV

Lithos_CabI purchased this wine back in April, at the spring wine sale. Since it is still on the shelves and this is the first time we’ve had the wine since we tasted it at the store, I decided to do a quick write up on it.

Firstly, as I noted above, back in April it was $11.99 on our shelves.  Now it is $9.99.  There is absolutely no information about this wine online.  The label says: Vinted & Bottled by Lithos Vineyards, Oakville, CA.  It also mentions that it is family owned and “from the heart of Napa Valley”.

I’m a fan of Oakville wines and 2011 was completely bashed by the critics as a “horrible year for Cabernet”.  However, at this point, some reviewers are suggesting that the critics made a mistake, saying that 2011 Napa Cabernet is more like a “rainy year in Bordeaux”.  We’ve personally found some wines that are real gems…wines that I think will age well and deliver for a long time, and we’ve found some real stinkers.  Because it was a cool year and the rains came early, the winemakers had a choice of whether to pick early and have the grapes not completely ripen or pick late and deal with Botrytis bunch rot.  The grapes matured slowly but they did mature.  They weren’t heavy fruit bombs and many of the wines we’ve tried offer so much more depth/structure than the traditional Napa fruit-forward (or “fruit bomb” as some refer to it) heavy wines.  Finally, the best part about 2011 is that because it was so bashed, sometimes you can get very good wine for rock bottom prices. Winemakers moved on as quickly as possible. Enough about 2011 in general…

Back to the Lithos.  We’d originally tasted it at the Salem, G.O.  It had “been open for a few days, but is worth tasting” commented the owner/operator.  So I tasted it and was really surprised. For something that had been sitting on a counter for (minimum) 2 days and not properly stored, there was a nice, smooth, balanced Cab being presented.

Fast forward to last night.  We opened the wine and I decanted it. I still prefer my Cabs after they’ve been open for a while.  An hour after opening, I would not have recognized this wine from the above tasting.  It was very fruit forward, nearly offensively sweet.  But as the evening progressed, it mellowed out considerably.  Initially we tasted a lot of blue and black fruit; as it opened further, a bit of plum & cocoa.  Much later in the evening we were tasting green pepper (but not offensively…and many of you know this is my wine bête noire) and some graphite.  This one needs some time to develop depending on your wine preferences.  If you like it sweet or fruity, don’t decant.  It was an interesting Cab.  More layered than I’m used to seeing at G.O. and with the wine sale coming up, it might be worth checking out; if you like Napa Cabernet and even if you don’t.

2011 Samuel Roberts Winery Willamette Valley Pinot Noir Vintner’s Reserve

Lisa's Wine 12011 Samuel Roberts Winery Willamette Valley Pinot Noir Vintner’s Reserve $15.99    12.5% alc.
Salem, OR.  Purchased October 9, 2014

We’ve just spent the last several days enjoying some very excellent Napa & Sonoma Cabernet. It was a special occasion and I only mention this because, during the course of this review, I wondered if my palate had been prejudiced; if that makes any sense.

I was trying to figure out which G.O. wine to choose for tonight in hopes that it would make a good showing after last weekend.  I picked this one for two reasons:
1. I love Willamette Valley Pinot Noir.
2. Price (I figured that at $15.99 G.O. price, it should have a decent taste).

I have looked at the cellartracker notes for the non-Vintner’s Reserve version of this wine.  It has a decent rating and describes everything I would expect this wine should taste like.  The vineyard’s description of that wine, same vintage but a step down (I could not find the Vintner’s Reserve on their site) was thus: “Offering aromas of black cherry, cranberry, raspberry, spice, and new leather. A rich essence of fresh Bing cherries, pomegranate, and blueberry with hints of cola, oak and anise.”  Again, everything I would expect.

Basically I was disappointed.  My husband opened the wine and poured it.  I was doing other things.  I’ve debated on telling you actually what happened when I tasted it.  In fact, I considered not writing a review at all.  I decided, for the price, you should have my honest opinion.  He handed me the wine and gave me an odd look (we’ve been married a very long time and he knows me extremely well).  I tasted it and said “Very funny….what is this?”  I (truth here) thought he’d poured me something else as a joke.   I was shocked when he said it really was the wine. So much so that I poured a completely different glass (not that I don’t trust him, but he can be a prankster) to see for myself. Honestly I tried a fresh glass because of any possible taste transference…dish soap residue or anything that might have mistakenly made it taste poorly.  It was exactly the same.

I tasted what (to me) was a perfect example of watered down wine.  At least that’s exactly what I would suspect watered down wine would taste like.  There was no taste of pepper, no spice, no heat, no distinguishable fruit, no yeast, no layers; nothing that I would identify with a traditional Willamette Valley (or any) Pinot Noir.

This wine is not flawed (technically) in my opinion; not as actual wine flaws are defined, unless it’s completely oxidized.  In any case, I cannot give it a drinkable, because something is definitely wrong here.  I did end up pouring it out.

FWIW, before pouring it out, I opened another inexpensive wine (half this price) to see if it was just my palate.  I was expecting that one to be bad (not a G.O. purchase) and it tasted adequate/drinkable.  We ended up drinking that one with dinner.  I have no idea what happened with this wine. I would like to deliver good, decent or drinkable reviews and I’m just not able to do that here.  Hopefully it’s just a bottle variation.  At this price though, I’m not going to purchase another to find out.  Perhaps during the wine sale, someone else will be interested in picking up a bottle and be able to further investigate.


2005 Wattle Creek Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, CA $8.99

Silverdale, WA    14.4% alc.    (Purchased on 9/24/14)

IMG_1768Opaque deep, dark purple…almost black-looking with a bright pink rim.  In the very intensely aromatic nose there’s cedar, mint, leather, tobacco, cocoa, black coffee and tar.  In the mouth, the acidity and tannins land a direct hit…neither one overly so, but both quite obvious.  More black coffee, mint, tobacco and tar with bitter dark chocolate and licorice in the mouth.  A bit drying on the finish from the tannins, but overall this is a very aromatic, well-balanced and flavorful Alexander Valley Cab that clearly fits the varietal profile.  Showing extremely well at nine years old…and should continue to age well for 2-3 years.  But why wait?

A 2007 Wattle Creek Mendocino Red Blend and a 2009 Sauvignon Blanc were previously reviewed here.  And in an effort to provide more information on this cab, check out these mostly positive Cellartracker and Snooth reviews.  It appears the wine went for around $30 regular retail, so this is a great deal.

Panther Creek 2010 Pinot Noir “Winemaker’s Cuvée”

Willamette  Valley, OR; 13% ABV
$6 at the Richmond, CA, store on 6 Oct

PantherCreek_2010_WinemakersCuvee_PNI’m rather late to this wine.  While we got a positive report: “Back to the Panther – Cherries, herbaceous undertones, interesting spice – clove, pepper, tarragon. Really a fascinating wine” (G.L.Pease) we’ve gotten more negative: “matchstick sulfur” (Seedboy) and Brett“The good bottle was quite good. The bad, as dreadful as I’ve ever experienced.” (GLP)  DLuber summarized it as: “the reviews here and on CellarTracker seem to be running about 3:2 shitty (sulfide/mercaptans/Brett) to 90 pt-ers. I’m guessing the whole lot was dumped on GO because they had a bad barrel or two…or three…or more.”

Anyway, my bottle was one of the sulfurous ones, and I will be returning it.

Lim13 reviewed the 2006 Panther Creek Freedom Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir here, where others have also commented on this wine.

2007 Star Angel Paso Robles Syrah, CA $5.99

Silverdale, WA    15% alc.    (Purchased on 9/26/14)

Cellared and Bottled by Montes USA, Napa.  Back label says Montes of Chile started Napa Angel in 2006.  “As the foremost Syrah producer in Chile, Aurelio (Montes) felt an instant attraction to the Paso Robles region…where this grape variety grows magnificently.”

IMG_1777Nearly opaque deep, dark, brooding purple/ruby color.  Seriously tight and closed on opening, it really takes a couple of hours to even begin showing anything in the nose.  And even then it’s reluctant to open up.  Initially showed some stemminess and a strange automotive oil quality, but eventually I got blackberry, black plum and tar.  In the mouth, there’s plenty of sweet fruit, loads of tannin, decent acidity and flavors of more blackberry and dark plum.  Chewy and a bit hot (15% alcohol) in the finish.  Back label says to enjoy it for over seven years (that’s now!).  I suspect it’ll do fine for at least a few more years, but I’ve had wines like this that I’ve cellared and ended up with all tannin, no fruit.  A robust, well-constructed and very tasty Paso Robles red that others seem to have enjoyed.

Those of you who have been following our blog for a while know that I’m not one to decant much of anything.  And I didn’t decant this wine.  But…back label also says, “Decanting is recommended”.  I’m currently flinching as I say…I concur that decanting is likely a good idea.  It’s been a long, long time since I’ve opened a bottle of wine this tightly wound…and waiting it out in the glass could be an arduous task.  So go ahead and decant…and pour vigorously…and your first glass might taste a little more flavorful than my first one did.   JWC…I suspect that this Montes is for you.