2011 Las Hermanas Red Table Wine, Jumilla, Spain $4.99

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

IMG_167470% Monastrell (aka. Mourvedre/Mataro) 30% Syrah    My wife continually referred to this red as “The Annette Funicello wine” due to the picture on the label.  Beach Blanket Bingo anyone?  Slightly less than clear deep garnet with a pinkish rim; nose shows black raspberry, black pepper, gun metal and tart pie cherry. In the mouth it has flavors similar to the nose as well as plenty of sweet fruit and fairly big chewy tannins with a certain minerality and more black pepper in the finish; acidity is just about right. This is a well-balanced and fairly hefty ripe red, due mostly, I expect, to the Monastrell…a typically gutsy variety. This is another one I think you may like, Seedboy.  If my memory serves me right, I believe you’re a fan of Mourvedre.

2011 Banshee Sonoma County Pinot Noir, CA $3.99 (375 ml.)

Silverdale, WA    14.1% alc.    (Purchased on 8/29/14)

Banshee_PNI’m following up BargainWhine’s last review with another Pinot Noir.  Reader RB didn’t really care for this wine and said, ” The Banshee struck me as kind of odd. Maybe it’s a style of PN that I’m unfamiliar with, but it reminded me of a ruby port, both in the nose and taste. It isn’t for me (though I love a good port), but maybe someone else would go for that… It wasn’t really that the Banshee PN was sweet, more that it seemed dominated by ripe fruit flavors that brought port to mind. Very different from the more austere style that I’m used to.” 

I really didn’t find those flavors or that style at all.  Here are my notes: Clear medium ruby color.  Lots of smoke, black tea and typical black cherry (though somewhat restrained) in the nose with understated Pinot funk in the background.  In the mouth it has very nice texture due to moderate, yet firm tannins and fine acidity.  The flavors are more tea, smoke, cherry, dried orange peel and earth.  A very well-rounded, balanced, lilting and flavorful Pinot Noir.  Definitely not the often found rich, ripe, deeply-colored Russian River Valley CA Pinots I’ve purchased from GO lately.  I enjoy that style too, but it’s nice to find a lighter Pinot that’s still this tasty.  Great with food.  I like it a lot.  I only wish it was in 750 ml; went to pour another glass and it was gone!

D’Aquino 2011 “Pinot Noir”

Veneto IGT, NE Italy; 12% ABV
$6 at the Richmond, CA, store on 26 Aug

DAquino_2012_PinotNoirThis is quite an unusual Pinot Noir.  First, the color is a more saturated and blacker red than Pinot usually is, and it is also somewhat purplish.  Second, it doesn’t taste much like a Pinot Noir.  The fruit flavors are quite tangy.  They include a more full-flavored dark red cherry and medium purple plum than Pinot usually shows.  And finally, the wine also shows some cherry pit and maybe even black olive.  Overall, it is more solid and heavy than I would expect, not at all showing Pinot’s delicate side.  To me, it tastes much more like Corvina (Wikipedia; other GO Corvinas), a grape better-known as coming from Veneto, than Pinot Noir.  Maybe the wine is actually their Valpolicella that got in the wrong bottles, and that’s why it went to the GO?  :)

Still, for the price, it’s a pretty good Corvina.  Give it two hours of air in a decanter, and it goes better with flavorful food (e.g., pork, lamb, or beef) than on its own.  I saved half the bottle in a 375ml bottle with a stopper and very little air.  I preferred the second half as more open, forward and complex, so this wine could likely still age for at least a few more years.  The producer web site says, “Expect to drink it under 10 years.”

Mezzacorona 2012 Chardonnay

Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT, Trentino – Alto Adige, northern Italy; 13% ABV
$5 at the Berkeley, CA, store on 26 Aug

Mezzacorona_2012_ChardI think I’ve passed over this wine for a while because the name and label seemed pretty corny or bland to me.  However, after I liked the 2008 l’Ora so much, and noticed that this wine was from the same designation (area of Italy), I had to try it.  I’m glad I did.

I thought this was a very interesting version of Chardonnay.  It’s easy for me to imagine that stylistically it’s between the wines of Alto Adige and those of Veneto, closer to the former.  (That’s how it is geographically.)  The wine shows restrained and balanced flavors of yellow apple, lemon, and some green apple.  Especially with a little more air, it has a good tropical fruit component of cherimoya and golden kiwi.  There’s also some minerality / un-toasted oak, or at least that’s my best guess.  Overall an interesting, tasty, and definitely non-Californian version of Chardonnay.

The next day, the rest of the wine was smoother and more forward, but otherwise quite similar.

NV Domaine Laurier Brut Spakling Wine, CA $6.99

Silverdale, WA    11% alc.    (Purchased on 8/14/14)

IMG_1652Another wine from Bronco Wine Company (Franzia) in Ceres, CA…like the Hacienda sparkler that I favorably reviewed a while ago.  Web site suggests it’s 100% Chardonnay, but you could have fooled me.  It appears that this wine sells at regular retail for between $10 and $13, so I would not consider this to be a flaming bargain.

Brilliant pale straw color.  Plenty of tiny bubbles and foamy mousse on initial pour and for about 30 minutes it shows a steady, though slower stream.  More fruity than yeasty in the nose with green apple and subdued citrus.  In the mouth it’s just off-dry and again more fruity than yeasty with pleasant appley, lemony, peachy flavors.  As with many inexpensive domestic bubblies, this one is far less austere than Champagne…more fruit driven and ultimately quaffable.  Has o.k. mouthfeel and a Meyer lemony finish.  If you happen to have a wedding or other big celebration in your future, this might work for a toast or general gulper.  But I might spring for the Hacienda for a buck less…and that one just returned to our local GO’s.  Here’s another review  of both wines from two years ago that I found.  But with no vintage, who knows what wines we’re reviewing?

2008 l’Ora

Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT, Trentino, (northern) Italy; bottled by Pravis
Made from the Nosiola grape; 14.5% ABV
$4 at the Berkeley, CA store on 24 Aug

lOra_2008_PravisI didn’t think to check the vintage of this wine until I took a sip at home.  Then, the evident oxidation made me look at the back label to find out.  However, it’s probably just as well I didn’t look at it too closely in the store, or I would have missed out on this yummy wine.

Although it came off as a little old and oxidized at first, I thought the wine freshened after it had been open a little while.  (I put the cork back in the top and put it back in the fridge.)  Then, the wine showed lively and full flavors of honeyed ripe yellow apple and yellow flowers, balancing mild lemony acid, lighter yellow peach, with a tasty nutty, woodiness.  I’d say that if you like riper, oakier, Chardonnays, although this wine is not flabby or overly heavy, you’d do pretty well with this wine at this price.  Don’t wait at all to drink it.  Last night, it stood up to, but did not really go with, squid with green olives and capers.

Bay Leaf 2013 Pinot Noir

California, 13.9% ABV
$5 at the Berkeley, CA, store on 20 Aug

BayLeaf_2013_PinotNoirThis wine tastes of medium to darker red raspberry and cherry and a little purplish plum, with a strong artificial-flavor character, a slight bit of rubber, and tangy herbal flavor (bay leaf?)  It’s really not what I look for in a Pinot, but (especially since I’m a little embarrassed about my Pinot snobbery) if the above sounds good to you, I suppose it’s Drinkable.  It’s definitely Thumbs Down for me.

The saved single-glass screw cap bottle was a little darker and more forward, but otherwise much the same.

Shingleback 2010 “Davey Estate” Shiraz

McLaren Vale, Australia; 14.5% ABV
$9 at the Richmond, CA, store on 15 Aug

Shingleback_2010_ShirazThis wine first came to my attention when EricFromRichmond mentioned that he had found it “quite tasty and nicely balanced.”  I picked up one myself when I got there.  Myself, I’m generally positive but with a caveat.

At the start, it was on the tart and red side.  I thought it needed about 90 minutes in a decanter to air as much as it was going to on the first night.  Then the ripe and subtly textured fruit darkened some and became nicely complex and elegant, showing flavors of redder boysenberry, some redder blackberry, red-purple cherry, maybe red cranberry, and a little eucalyptus / mint.  However, to my taste, the acid was rather too strong.  I thought it might become less acid, or become balanced with darker fruit, as it aired, but that didn’t happen on the first night.  Nonetheless, it strikes me as still a bit young, and I expect it will develop well as it ages over the next few years.

Indeed, the next day, the saved single-glass bottle was delicious.  The fruit had become darker and more forward, showing darker blackberry, sweet black pepper and tar, darker purple boysenberry, with some dark blueberry and cranberry.  The acid still had a tart edge, but I would agree it balanced out.  It should likely be put in a covered decanter for several hours before drinking.

2013 Marco Fiori Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, CA $5.99

Silverdale, WA   13.5% alc.    (Purchased on 8/14/14)

MarcoFiora_SBBrilliant very pale straw color.  Pleasant enough nose of ripe pears with just a hint of clove and absolutely no herbal grassiness.  In the mouth, it has richness and weight with more spiced pear flavors, lemon/lime citrus and a bit of alcoholly heat.  At first taste, I thought I detected a bit of residual sugar and slight flabbiness (low acid).  There’s some grapefruit pith-like bitterness and more heat in the finish…though I’m not sure why because the alcohol is at a very reasonable level.  This is a tasty enough SB at a very reasonable price…just not really my preferred style.

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.