Ironstone 2013 Petite Sirah

Lodi, CA; 13.5% ABV
$5 at the Berkeley, CA, store on 3 Sep

Ironstone_2013_PetiteSirahWhen I opened this, I first poured off half into a 375ml bottle and stoppered it with very little air.  I drank the rest over about 2½ hours and did not like it very much.  It tasted like rather generic red wine, kind of $2-Chuck-like, with not that much Petite Sirah character coming through.

The second half, however, does show more typical Petite Sirah flavors.  It needed only a little air in the glass to show nice Petite Sirah flavor of lighter boysenberry / black raspberry that’s sort of close to roses.  With more air, the fruit darkens to add more blackberry and cherry.  Overall, it’s a decently tasty and balanced Petite Sirah for the price, although not one that excites me very much.  It will likely improve with age.

Indian Peak Vineyards “Donna’s Dessert Wine”

California; 19.75% ABV (so says the label)
$6 at the Richmond, CA, store on 12 Sept

IndianPeak_DonnasDessertWineI picked this up thinking, “Oh, maybe this could be something interesting.”  Then I saw the alcohol percentage and the slightly risque back label and thought, “Okay, good or not, this is a true Gross Out find!”

When I looked at the Indian Peaks web site, the winery struck me as a pretty serious and credible effort.  And I think this wine is pretty good!

Although it’s apparently made from Syrah, there’s not all that much in the flavors that would tip me that it’s not, for example, Cabernet instead.  Nonetheless, the sugar and flavors of medium red cherry, raspberry, and earth / aged complexity are evenly balanced with raspberry / cranberry acid.  I’m not familiar with ruby port, but from the name, I could easily imagine its being something like this.  For this price, if you like fortified dessert wine (it doesn’t say so, but I can’t imagine this alcohol level was reached otherwise), I think this is a pretty tasty deal.

Ricasoli 2009 Campo Ceni Toscana

Toscana IGT, Italy; 13% ABV
$5 at the Berkeley, CA, store on 8 Sept

Ricasoli_2009_ToscanaIGTI’ve previously been dismissive of wines which take a traditional varietal, such as Tempranillo in Spain, and just added some Merlot.  But for this nice price and age, I thought I’d try a Tuscan “Sangiovese with a small amount of Merlot.”  And I like it!

I thought it needed about an hour in a decanter to start relaxing, and it kept developing nicely for the two hours after that.  At first, it showed mostly typical Sangiovese tart and riper tangy red cherries, hints of orange and leather, maybe roses.  But as it aired, the Sangiovese became more darker cherry / plum, which merged nicely into the blackberry / blackcurrant of the Merlot, finishing with nice bitter almond / wood / maybe juniper berry.  It’s not the most amazing or substantial wine, but it’s pretty good for the price if you like the tangy acid and relative structure of Italian wines.  According to the Ricasoli web site, this wine is considered fresh and ripe-fruity among their line-up.  :)

On the second night, the second half, stoppered on initial opening in a 375ml bottle with very little air, still needed a bit of time in the glass to open up, and was nearly as good as the first half.

Waterbrook 2012 Mélange white blend

Columbia Valley, WA; 13.5% ABV
50% Riesling, 20% Pinot Gris, 10% Chardonnay, 10% Sauvignon Blanc, 6% Viognier, 4% Muscat
$7 at the Berkeley, CA, store on 8 Sept

Waterbrook_2012_MelangeBlancThe 2010 and the 2012 vintages of the Waterbrook Mélange have been at the Berkeley store for a while.  I decided to get one now because (1) I was out of white wine and (2) I recalled Lim13’s liking an earlier vintage (the 2009).  The 2012 was a dollar cheaper and of course two years younger than the 2010.

The wine is very aromatically floral and ripe-fruity, showing flavors of honeysuckle, yellow peach, maybe light yellow mango, and perfumed white (and slightly green) melon.  The flavors are quite fresh, nicely blended, and reasonably balanced.  Before I looked up the composition, I had guessed it had some Viognier, likely Chenin Blanc, and maybe some sort of Muscat.  For my taste, this wine is too perfumed and fruity with not enough acid, rather cloying, although I believe the wine would be called medium dry (2.1% residual sugar, which I think converts to 8.4g/L).  However, it is extremely yummy, and it’s not like I couldn’t tolerate drinking it.  :)

I preferred it on the first day, but it was still pretty good the next day (kept in the fridge with the screw cap on).

2013 Grape Valley Riesling, Codru, Moldova $4.99

Silverdale, WA    12% alc.    (Purchased on 9/9/14)

A couple of our readers mentioned this wine and then it suddenly appeared at my local GO on Monday.  So, being a Riesling lover and due to a limited number of wines to choose from at GO right now…I brought a bottle home (even though the name does nothing for me).  Here’s some very basic information about the Moldovan wine industry and history.

IMG_1752Brilliant medium golden; nose is pretty closed-in, but does show some very light peach tones and honey.  In the mouth it’s on the sweeter side (think German auslese) and completely stone fruit in flavors i.e. peach and apricot with none of the typical green apple I enjoy so much in most German and WA state Rieslings.  It’s a tad flabby and could use more acidity to suit my tastebuds.  Not particularly complex, but it went fine with our green salad with thinly sliced beef tenderloin and small prawns with Asian sesame oil, soy, sugar and rice vinegar dressing.  While it’s quite drinkable, I won’t be returning for more.  BTW, I forgot to take the photo before I started imbibing.  Hence, the mostly empty bottle.

Victor Vineyards 2011 Old Vines Zinfandel

Lodi, CA; 14.5% ABV
$6 at the Oakland, CA, store on 3 Sept

Victor_2011_ZinfandelI had avoided this wine for a while because I’ve disliked previous Lodi Zins I’ve tasted.  However, a couple people recommended it as full-bodied yet balanced, and they are right.  This wine is delicious!

I opened this before I started cooking, to drink during dinner, so I don’t know if it needed air.  However, at dinner time, it showed brooding (a Parkerism, yes?) dark tarry blackberry, black raspberry, and a little sweet black pepper / black earth, all reasonably balanced by acid of black and dark red raspberries.  It’s an excellent value.

As a possibly entertaining aside, I opened the Waterbrook 2012 Melange blanc (review soon) to drink while cooking, and it tasted as though it has a bit of Viognier in it.  The intensely dark character of the Zin reminded me of some Syrahs, and I recalled how Viognier is blended into Côte-Rôtie to give the Syrah a more aromatic and nuanced character.  The addition of about 10% Melange blanc to the Zin had a similar effect that I enjoyed, although I’m not sure I’d call it superior to the unblended Zin.

Takutai 2009 Pinot Noir

Nelson, New Zealand; 13.5% ABV; screw cap
$5 at the Oakland, CA, store on 3 Sept

Takutai_2009_PinotNoirAfter trying so many truly awful $5 GO Pinots, I finally found one I really like!

It’s not bad at first, but it really rewards the patience to give it 60 – 90 minutes of air in a decanter.  Then, it shows tasty flavors of lighter to dark red cherries with an edge into plum, nice Pinot funk, and perfectly aged complexity (i.e., don’t wait to drink it) of cola / lighter brown earth.  Although the fruit is ripe, the wine is not heavy like many CA and OR Pinots; it’s on the more delicate side of Pinot Noir.  The fruit / acid balance is maybe slightly toward the acid, so have it with food if it’s enough to bother you.

Immediately on opening, I poured half into a 375ml bottle and stoppered it with very little air.  The next day, the saved wine still needed a little time in the glass to become the $5 version of sublime.  It’s fuller bodied than on the first day, and a little less fresh-tasting, but still delicious.  It’s not the Monk’s Gate, but it’s one third the price.  Even though I usually don’t get second bottles of wines, so that I can get new wines to review, I will have to get more of this one.

2011 Piggy Bank Grenache, Languedoc, France $4.99

Silverdale, WA    14% alc.    (Purchased on 8/29/14)

I initially passed this wine by because I wasn’t particularly enamored of the name or label.  But I’m glad that I decided to give it a try because it’s very flavorful and delicious for a Pays D’Oc.  And I like what these folks are doing regarding charities.  Check out their website here.

IMG_1677Mostly clear and very pretty deep ruby color with pink rim.  Fruity raspberry aromas when first poured, but the wine opens considerably after 30-40 minutes and shows both green and black peppercorn along with red raspberry jam.  Tastes just lightly sweet on the front of the tongue, but dries out quickly from mid-palate through the finish.  Just the right acidity balances everything out and the tannins are restrained, yet add body and texture, particularly in the finish.  Flavors show raspberry, strawberry and a little ripe cherry, while the pepperry qualities fade to the background.  Very tasty and the slightly higher acidity should make it a great food wine.  We found that it went extremely well with pan sauteed Copper River salmon with butter and onions.  It didn’t overpower the fish and the acidity cut right through the butter.  I like it.

Hesketh 2008 Grüner Veltliner “Perfect Stranger”

Krems, Austria (Niederösterreich); 12.5% ABV; screw cap
$4 at the Oakland, CA, store on 3 Sep

Hesketh_2008_GrunerVeltlinerWe don’t often see Grüner Veltliners at the GO, so I happily grabbed this one after the wine steward assured me that it was not too old.  This fairly full-bodied but crisp white wine shows flavors of medium ripe yellow apple and lemon, tart green apple, a little white pepper, and a slightly chalky minerality.  Maybe you could say it has some weariness of age, but is not at all too old.  It’s not the most complex wine, but still pretty tasty for the price, especially if you’re a fan of the varietal.


Masterpiece Vineyards 2012 Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon

Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, CA; 14.3% ABV
$9 at the Richmond,  CA, on 26 Aug

Masterpiece_2012_CabernetI’m not totally sure what to make of this wine.  My best guess is that, after a few years of age, it will be a pretty nice Cabernet, but right now, it’s much too young.

On the first night, I immediately poured half into a 375ml bottle and stoppered it with very little air.  The other half was initially thin, red, and tart, with funky and bitter stemmy tannin.  During the 2.5 hours over which I drank it, it darkened some and filled out a little, but overall didn’t change that much and was not pleasant to drink.

On the second night, aiming to give this wine as much simulated aging as I could, I poured half of the remaining 375ml bottle into a single-glass screw-cap bottle.  The rest I poured in a glass and drank over a few hours.  It was definitely better than the first night, filling out and showing nice blackberry / blackcurrant along with the redder fruit and some earth.  However, it was still rather grape-juicy and little funky / bitter.  Chewing on wine, however, seemed to show more depth and complexity hiding within the tannic finish.

The last glass from the screw-cap bottle was at first quite inharmonious.  However, after a couple more hours of air, it smoothed out enough to be reasonably tasty, and encouraged my opinion that this will be pretty good with some years in proper storage.  I’ll hazard a Thumbs Up on this one, with the HUGE CAVEAT that you’ll need to wait a while.