Hidden Cellars 2011 Petite Sirah

Mendocino Cty, CA, 13.5% ABV
$5 at the Oakland, CA, store on 8 Aug

HiddenCellars_2011_PetiteSirahReaders Seedboy and JoelA have already praised this wine in What’s New.  Seedboy wrote, “I’ve been enjoying a bottle of this over the last few days. It is a very nicely balanced wine that is not super fruity, it actually has as much savory as it has fruit. I like it a lot.”  JoelA added, “I also liked the petite sirah. Black fruit up front, coffee/cola/earthy flavors behind. Still young, could age a few years.”

I agree with them!  This is a nicely structured and balanced wine in which neither the fruit nor the tannin is out of control.  On the first night, I thought the wine was tasty, with flavors of cherry, redder blackberry, darker roses and vanilla, but still a bit closed even after two hours of air.  The second half, stored in a 375ml bottle with very little air, was darker and a little more forward and, I thought, more pleasant to drink.  As Joel said, it’s still quite young and should age well for at least a few more years, and it’s a nice wine for those who like to drink a bottle over more than one or two days.

NV Castell Roc Cava (Sparkling Wine), Moja, Spain $6.99

Lake City, WA    11.5% alc.    (Purchased on 8/9/14)

Castell_Roc_sparklerBrilliant very pale straw.  Lots of very foamy mousse at pour and shortly thereafter, but the bead of streaming bubbles seems to quickly dissapate.  The yeasty aromas are quite pronounced in the nose, showing very little fruit.  In the mouth, the flavors show more yeasty/leesy flavors with light lemony/citrusy nuances.  And unlike many brut bubblies, this one is indeed quite dry…making it a better match with food (rather than as a sipper by itself).  A touch of bitterness in the fairly long finish doesn’t detract at all.  While fairly tasty, I would not classify it a great bargain…as it’s pretty easy to find decent inexpensive cava in most wine shops, groceries etc. for under $10.00.

Zinman 2012 Reserve Red

from Perry Creek Winery in El Dorado County, CA; 15.1% ABV
$9 at the Berkeley, CA, store on 1 Aug

Zinman_2012_ReserveThere was another Zinman wine several months ago that a number of people recommended to me, but I never tried.  To compensate for missing that wine, I picked up this one.  I hope the other one was better.

I thought it needed about two hours in a decanter to open up as much as it was going to.  Then, it showed nicely ripe flavors of darker red cherries, blackberries / purple grapes, strawberry jam, and some other black fruit.  However, it also had an acrid taste like a combination of black rubber and grape stem, especially on the finish.  The back of the bottle says only that the wine is composed of “five mysterious varietals.”  The winery site says they specialize in Zinfandels and Rhone varietals.  To me it didn’t taste that much like Zinfandel, but maybe there was a bit of Syrah in it.  Strangely enough, it reminded me of a California version of Portuguese varietals, but maybe just because its ripeness might have reminded me of port.  Anyway, I thought that maybe such a young reserve wine just wasn’t showing its stuff on the first night.

The second half (stored in a 375ml bottle stoppered with very little air), however, was not any better, although for different reasons.  The dark acrid flavor was gone or at least integrated in an agreeable manner, but the finish was now quite abrasive.  Also, the fruit flavors were heading toward the sort of artificial candy-like flavors to which I regularly object.  Overall, I really can’t recommend this wine, especially for the price.

La Loggia 2005 Barolo DOCG

Barolo DOCG, Piedmont, (NW) Italy; 14% ABV
$8 at the Berkeley, CA, store on 1 Aug

LaLoggia_2005_BaroloAs I was tasting this wine, I had two questions about it.  First, does it taste like Barolo, and second, is it good wine?  While I’ll affirm the first question, I’m more ambivalent on the second.

To me, the best thing about this wine is its nose, which is absolutely Barolo: dried or otherwise-oxidized preserved ripe red cherries, dried orange peel, earthy brown leather, tart red cherries, and especially with more air (as Seedboy recommended, it needs 2 hours in a decanter and keeps developing nicely after that), purple cherries / medium purple plum.  However, on the palate, I found those flavors in this medium-bodied wine marred by stemmy bitterness and excess acid.  There were moments here and there, where it all seemed to clear up and become a lovely wine, so maybe it will still improve with age, but mostly I found it rather problematic.   So… if you especially like Barolo or if you’re curious about what Barolo is, this could be an interesting wine at a relatively low price.  (I think it could be pretty good with a roasted chicken.)  However, I would guess most folks will not be especially attracted to it.  For a roughly similar wine at the same price, I think I’d prefer the Azul Portugal 2008 Bairrada, although respected commenter JoelA didn’t like that very much, either.

2007 Pascual Toso Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendoza, Argentina $4.99

Lake City, WA    13.5% alc.    (Purchased on 8/9/14)
Las Barrancas Vineyard

PascualToro_CabBeautiful dark Bing cherry, ruby color.  Wonderfully aromatic nose of dark plum, cedar and mint.  In the mouth, it’s smooth and rich in texture with a certain chewiness from firm, but accsessible tannins.  It’s loaded with sweet, dark fruits, cassis and cherry flavors with more mint in the background.  It’s very well balanced in terms of fruit, tannin and acidity and the oak is perfectly integrated.  Long, flavorful finish.  It leans more toward what some might call the fruit bomb side of the spectrum, as it shows little in the way of minerality, austerity or the herbaceousness often found in southern hemisphere reds.  But I really like it!  One of the best Argentinian reds I’ve had.  A real steal at five bucks.

Águia Moura 2008 Douro Reserva Tinto

34% Touriga Nacional, 33% Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), 33% Tinta da Barca; 14% ABV
$10 at the Berkeley, CA, store on 23 July


On 29 July, 5-Star Bar posted the following in What’s New:

Tried the 2008 Aguia Moura em Vinhas Velhas Douro Reserva
Translation: 2008 Moorish Eagle Old Vines Douro Reserve (aged 12 months in Oak)

This wine is, quite simply, “da’ bomb”. Best Portuguese dry red I’ve tried (though admittedly haven’t tried all that many, <20 lifetime).

Reminiscent of a Portuguese version of a Rhone style GSM blend and packaged in a similarly shaped, very substantial high quality bottle with a broad punt (dimple) on the bottom. Shows its best on the first night, immediately upon opening, so I recommend drinking up with friends and family on Day 1. Peak drinkability now, though might still age well for a few years more. Still good on the second evening, though a bit more on the tart side which should please fans of European styled wines (think Cranberry, Leather) just fine. Big thumbs up and a fine QPR/value

While I agree with this description, I wasn’t as fond of it.  Although it was hearty and full-bodied and had tasty, earthy, flavors of red and purple plum, purple cherry, some mulberry and darker fig, I found it rather coarse and even a little abrasive.  It was fine, but to me it was quite poorly integrated, and I couldn’t really get into it.  Now for the disclaimers.  First, 5SB said it’s best right out of the bottle; I assumed it would need at least an hour of air in a decanter, and didn’t even try it until after that.  Second, it strikes me as the sort of wine (a little older, in a more individually crafted style) that could show a bit of bottle variation.  Although it’s probably long gone by now, does anyone have any experiences with this wine to share?

Masseria dei Carmelitani 2010 Gavi DOCG

Gavi DOCG, Piedmont, Italy
(see also the Wiki entry on the Cortese grape)
from Terre da Vino Agricole
$4 at the Berkeley, CA, store on 1 Aug

Masseria_dei_Carmelitani_2010_GaviThis wine is perfect for these warm summer afternoons and evenings.  It immediately shows light, crisp, floral and yellow fruity flavors – apple, melon, ripe lemon – delicately balanced with a little supporting wood and a gentle minerality.  There is perhaps a small amount of oxidation, but at present this only adds a tasty bit of nuttiness, if you taste it at all.  This wine is probably not one to keep waiting long to drink, but it’s delicious enough that consuming it quickly shouldn’t be a problem.

NV Meld California Red Table Wine $4.99

Silverdale, WA    12.5% alc.     (Purchased on 7/22/14)

IMG_1638Back label says it’s a blend of Zinfandel, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah.  Funny thing, but when I pulled the plastic cork from the bottle, I got a strong smell of clove from the underside of the cork.  Winemaker a chef or baker?  Someone spill some clove oil in the corking machine?  Anyway, I detected no clove aromas or flavors in this non-vintage Cali red.

Found little info on the web, but it appears this label is produced by Adler Fels in Sonoma County and that they also produce a NV white that (according to a Tennessee distributor) received a 90 from Wine Enthusiast magazine.  But then when it’s NV, who knows which NV that might have been?   Here’s a link to a review of the white that I found.

Brilliant medium ruby color; fruity, understated raspberry nose.  Sweet on the front of the tongue, it displays what BW might describe as a little candyish or (to me) candy apple flavors along with slight raspberry and perhaps some cranberry.  There’s some rough tannin…likely from the Petite Sirah, which gives it body in the finish.  There’s something I liked about this red after the first slurp, but I can’t put my finger on what that might be because it immediately disappeared.  The downside for me is nothing about the wine is accentuated…not the nose, not the flavors.  It’s incredibly indistinct, yet completely inoffensive.  You can coax some flavor from it if you suck a lot of air while sipping.  I did find that some wine shop in north Jersey sold it out on sale for $8.99 (regularly $13.99).  But I don’t really feel that five bucks for this red at GO is a bargain.  As I recall, reader and regular contibutor Flitcraft was not particularly enamored of this wine either.

Giormani 2102 Valpolicella Ripasso DOC

50% Corvina, 20% Rondinella, 30% Corvinone; 14% ABV
Valpolicella Ripasso DOC, Veneto, (northeast) Italy
$9 at the Berkeley, CA, store on 23 July

Giormani_2012_ValpRipThe Giormani 2011 Valpolicella Ripasso was very well received here, so (once again) after I realized this appearance represented a different vintage, I got a bottle.  While I still liked this wine, IMO it’s nowhere near as good as the 2011.

Upon opening, I first poured off a half bottle and stoppered it with very little air.  The second half I poured into a decanter.  It was pretty good from the start, but I thought it opened up after about 75 minutes of air.  It showed delicious flavors of tangy, ripe / tart purple plum and red cherries, orange peel, brown earth / leather, maybe light tobacco, and was very nicely aromatic and elegant.  However, it’s lighter in body and flavors, and less complex, than the 2011.

The next day, the flavors in the saved half bottle were darker, more forward, and less complex and elegant.  It was still tasty, but I preferred it on the first day.  It’s not, like a lot of GO wine, on the verge of spoiling, but it’s certainly not one to age, either.  I would like it better for a dollar or two less.

Haute Red 2011 Pinot Noir

California, 13.5% ABV
2009 vintage was 82% “cool climate” Pinot Noir, 12% other reds including Syrah
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 21 July

2011_HauteRed_PN I resisted buying this wine for a while because of the cheesy labels, both front and back.  But I kept looking at the nice color of the wine through the bottle, and I finally got one.  Pinot purist that I am, I can’t really call this wine Pinot Noir, but it’s okay wine for the price.

I first poured out enough of this wine to fill a half bottle (375ml) and stoppered it with very little air.  The other half I poured into a decanter and let it wait for an hour.  When I came back to it, it showed reasonable Pinot Noir cherry with some orange and earth, but the more delicate aspects of Pinot that I prize seemed covered by riper, darker red fruit of darker cherry going toward redder plum, and maybe a little sweet black pepper.  There was also a moderate “fruit punch” or “candy” character (maybe the vines are younger) and a slight “spoiled fruit” character I disliked.  Overall, however, if you’re looking for a lively, tasty, and fruity medium-bodied red wine, this is not terrible.  Just drink it soon.

Well… I liked the second half of the bottle better.  Instead of the Pinot being buried by the “Syrah,” it tasted to me like the orders had reversed.  The wine lead off with the “Syrah” and finished more like a Pinot, and the candy and “spoiled fruit” aspects had declined.  So, I’ll move this from Drinkable to a mild Thumbs Up, and it also looks like it’ll hold on longer than I first thought.  I still can’t call it Pinot Noir, though.  :)