2008 Domaine de la Chique Cotes du Roussillon, France $5.99

Domaine de la Chique
Purchased: Albany GO 11-12-2014
13.5% ABV
SRP $16.49

FullSizeRenderThis wine caught my attention, even before I read the label, because it had a sticker on it signifying that it is a WWHQ wine: “This wine has been specially selected for World Wine Headquarters portfolio of wines from around the world. It exhibits the qualities and distinctiveness that warrants its recognition as one of the world’s finest wines.”  After I read the label, I remembered that Ashlander had purchased this and gave it a taste test (“thought it was pretty good”) during the wine sale. Another note…WWHQ is also in importer for the Alexandre Sirech Les Deux Terroirs (SRP $21) I reviewed earlier, as well as the 2009 HILL OF CONTENT CABERNET SAUVIGNON AU (SRP$20) which I also picked up during the wine sale (but have not yet tasted). Co-incidentally, the AU Cab has the above sticker as well, but the Alexandre Sirech did not.

It was very interesting reading about this specific vineyard/grove. Having once been a vineyard, then an olive grove (the grape vines became neglected and were in danger of being uprooted in 2007) ultimately, in the “Ta Da nick of time”, new owners saved the vines and began producing wine again. Regardless of whether I liked or disliked the wine, this is a great story.

As to the wine itself:
Manufacturer’s notes: “The 2008 vintage is intense and full-bodied, yet perfectly balanced. Virtually all of the “colors” of a winemaker’s palette are represented, from fruit flavors to earth notes to the “seasoning” provided by aging in French oak barrels. Like a sunny Roussillon day, it’s sure to bring a smile to your face.”

  • Grape Composition:50% Grenache, 30% Carignan & 20% Syrah
  • Grape Source:Cotes du Roussillon, France
  • Aromas & Flavors:Raspberry, Blackberry, Black Cherry, Leather, Pepper, Smoke, Spice and Cedar
  • Aging Vessels:French Oak Barrels
  • When to Drink:Now Through 2015
  • Food Pairing Suggestion:grilled red meats, or roasted turkey.

My notes:
Color: Dark burgundy. I wondered if it was cloudy but it’s just very dark. I used the Winefiner just in case there was sediment.
Nose: Lovely. Blackberry is in the fore with a supporting floral note…it reminded me of magnolia blossoms, and I’m guessing that is not a proper tasting note but that’s what it reminded me of. I didn’t really notice raspberry.
Taste: I’d recommend some air (not necc. a lot…just 1/2 hr even will be beneficial) with this one. At first pour it’s very fruit forward. Not sweet but, at first, I wondered if it’d be jammy. After about 20 min in the glass, that was no longer an issue (and the wine continued to evolve as the evening progressed). It was a lot more balanced and, IMO, tasty as more time passed. There is some earth here…I know you’ll think I’m crazy but…it’s not dirt that I recognize, tis unfamiliar earth (rather dry-clay-like), leaving a most evident “dust” undertone. It’s not as elegant or structured as the Le Riche that I just reviewed but it has definitely got some depth to it. I don’t detect cedar or smoke but the spices are more evident as the wine opens and there is a very, very light hint of leather. This wine is unlike most French reds I’ve tried in that it starts out so much more fruit forward with a lot more substantial body; perhaps that’s what they meant when they called it “a modern wine”. However by the end of the night, there’s a nice dryness (and more European style) evident. I actually quite like it. While I do love the dryness of the European reds, sometimes they can be astringent. There is no sign of that here, and there is no cloying sweetness. It’s just nicely balanced. Easily drinkable.

IMO, this is a decent wine…I’m not gushing but I would buy it again. It gets even better as it opens (I was really skeptical over a French red from GO…I’ve so disliked every Bordeaux that I’ve ever tried from there). It’s not a $50-$60 wine but it is easily a $20 value and for $6.00, I can’t deny it’s a bargain. I’m glad I have another bottle, it’s perfect for a nice, moderately spicy, dry, everyday red. One thing I did want to note before posting…it evolves pretty quickly over the evening. I’m not sure this is a two-day wine. It’s possible, we liked it enough that it didn’t make it to day two. If anyone does try it and get that far, I’m definitely interested in your thoughts since we do have another bottle of this one.

Buena Vista 2010 Zinfandel

Sonoma County, CA, 13.5% ABV
$6 at the Richmond, CA, store on 5 Nov

BuenaVista_2010_ZinfandelI didn’t like this wine very much at first.  The fruit seemed rather simple, with red cherry and red / black raspberry, and prominent raisin.  However, after the bottle was open for about 75 minutes, the fruit had become darker and a little more complex.  It then showed a nice array of fruits that are ripely jammy but also tangy and sour in a way heading toward tar: black cherry, black raspberry, dark plum, and still some raisin.  A little later on, about 1:45 after opening, some of the redder fruits returned to meld in very nicely.

I liked the second half of this wine, stored in a 375ml bottle and stoppered with very little air, even better.  It largely resembled the wine from the night before, but was more evenly balanced and delineated, and included some orange peel and clove I hadn’t noticed before.  The wine is in very good shape.  Although it’s not like a Zinfandel I’ve tasted before, it fits in well into the family of Zinfandels, and I think it’s pretty good for the money.

2001 Le Riche Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve $3.99

Produced by LeRiche, Stellenbosch, South Africa
13.5% ABV
Purchased: Tanasbourne GO 4-8-2014

TFullSizeRendero be clear, I didn’t purchase this wine. It was from a wine-swap with JWC. We met up last weekend; I took him a bottle of the Colonial Estate Emigre and he very kindly brought us a bottle of this 2001 Le Riche. It has been all I could do to wait a few days, just to let it get over its travel shock. Normally I wouldn’t review a wine that wasn’t still on the shelves, but when we talked, JWC mentioned that he’d like to know what we thought of the wine so I thought I’d do a write-up.

When JWC reviewed it back in April, he left these comments: “Purchased on April 8, the day before the sale when I popped in Tanasbourne to see what was on the shelves. Nice bottle label, looked high end, but still with a 13-year-old wine, even if it is a cab, thought I’d check it out before going all in. The wine is well structured and delicious, built to age, as the winemaker states on the website. That winemaker is Etienne le Riche, cab sav specialist, and previous long term winemaker at Rustenberg, one of SA’s best wineries…of course Le Riche Reserves are viewed as one of the top wines in the land, as well. Onto the wine, talk about hitting a home run…this is excellent! Dark ruby in color, cork in pristine condition too, aromas of casis, graphite, dark cherries, chocolate and cigar box. Dry flavors of casis, chocolate, herbs and licorice. Wonderful structure and firm tannins, Rich and creamy flavors/texture, spent 18 months in 70% new French Oak. Needless to say, went back on the 9th, and purchased some more, 14 cases is what they rcvd of this, and it was gone, in a few hours. IMO this is at it’s peak now, but could go another ten years I suppose. Do look forward to comparing it with some of the other ’01 cabs in the cellar. Great score by GO, did not see this at any of the other GO’s in the area however. Anyone who picked this up, please share your thoughts, enjoy!”

So now to “sharing our thoughts”…this is what I wrote up:

Color: dark garnet
Nose: black fruit, Cassis, cocoa, a hint of menthol
First sip: Wow. (Is that an allowable tasting note?) I honestly wondered what to expect given the age of the wine and my unfamiliarity with South African wines in general. I wasn’t a much of a fan of the Road Less Traveled Cabernet (I can’t remember if we had the 2007 or 2008) that came through GO; but there was too much vegetal/green pepper in that one, for my taste. Thankfully there is no hint of that characteristic in the 2001 Le Riche. Also I was wondering if the age of the wine would show in its taste, again, no. It’s drinking beautifully. I also think it reasonably has a few years left to enjoy it without fearing decline.

The stats are:

pH -3.8
TA -6.3g/l
RS – 1.5 g/l (Dry)

Le Riche refers to this wine as having “somewhat edgy acidity”. Structure is definitely there. I agree and randomly thought that Seedboy would love this one.

What I do taste? A plethora…or better yet, to quote Howard Carter, “….wonderful things.” Firstly, I want to comment on the mouthfeel. I would call it full but not in the “velvety” or “silky” California/Napa style; rather just full and satisfying. The alcohol is very balanced. I find it to taste slightly hotter than the 13.5% but not in a bad way. The black fruit nose follows through to the taste; Cassis (black currant liqueur) and black cherry are in the forefront and I can taste a hint of menthol (unusual for me but it’s so light and not at all a detraction…just something I noticed). Graphite…(this is the moment where I sat back and thought “Absolutely the best part about tasting GO wines is coming across a gem like this”). Honestly, I have not had a wine from GO that had such lovely graphite undertones. That is one of my favorite Stags Leap characteristics and was happy to discover something similar here. Cocoa nibs and leather are both evident and sublime, and as the wine opened up, I really noticed why other reviewers mentioned “cigar box” or “tobacco” in their tasting notes.

I’m not sure what the SRP is on this wine but (IMO) an equivalent U.S. Cabernet would probably start at $65 and up. I can see why JWC was so effusive (and thanks to him again, for giving us the opportunity to taste it)! I only hope he gets as much enjoyment out of the Emigre as we have, the Le Riche.

JanKris Riatta Red Blend 2011 $5.99

Veris Cellars
ABV 13.3%
Purchased: Corvallis, OR 11-6-2014

FullSizeRenderVeris Cellars was recently purchased by Castoro Cellars and they have announced the retiring of the JanKris, Ben Hogan & Nova Vita lines leading to no additional information regarding the vinification of this wine. The blend, according to the bottle is listed as: 65% Merlot, 20% Sangiovese, 10% Zinfandel & 5% Tempranillo. Taste alone would have led me to believe this was solely a Sangiovese/Zinfandel blend. I would never have guessed Merlot or Tempranillo.

Recently Bargainwhine reviewed the JanKris 2011 Crossfire and the 2008 Ben Hogan Tribute Carnoustie and in the process, JWC commented that the Ben Hogan label was the higher end wine ($28) with the JanKris normally retailing for $10. So, while I don’t consider $6 a great bargain on a $10 wine, given the other two favorable reviews, I thought I’d try the Riatta.  Considering Bargainwhine’s comments regarding both wines from the same producer needing air, I decided to decant this one. Before decanting, I always taste.

I wish I knew the actual measured brix of this one. Unfortunately again, because of the Veris sale, there are no click-able links on the old label wines. This one is sweet, Apothic-style sweet (if you are familiar with that mainstream brand), with a heavy fruit (yes I will say exceedingly jammy) flavor. Color is a burgundy/plum cross. Bouquet is also very fruit forward. My hope when I poured it into the decanter was that any tannins that might exist (they weren’t readily evident upon first taste) would have time to balance out that sweetness. I just left the wine alone in the decanter for two hours before tasting again.

Decanting did make a bit of a difference but not enough to make it worthwhile. What would definitely be called (affectionately) a “fruit bomb” was slightly more balanced after 2 hrs in the Winebreather; not much else changed. Now, don’t get me wrong, while this wine is not to my taste, it is an extremely popular style with so many stores, being a front-runner (as I mentioned, think Apothic Red blend or Menage a Trois…both big sellers in the main stream wine market). If you like those, then you will like this at 2/3rds the price.

I was expecting a bit more closed, restrained style…coming from California in 2011. That is not to be found here.

2012 Whispering Tree Columbia Valley Riesling, WA $4.99

Silverdale, WA    11.5% alc.    (Purchased on 11/6/14)

IMG_1848Clear pale straw with lots of tiny bubbles clinging to the bottom and sides of the glass; plenty of typical green apple and citrus in the nose.  In the mouth, it’s sweeter than I recall of the 2008 vintage of this wine and seems a bit softer in feel.  But the sugar to acid balance is really quite nice and while the slight spritz is also there in the mouth, I believe there’s no danger of secondary fermentation or related problems.  Flavors are more Granny Smith apple and lemon/lime zest.  It’s a pleasant enough quaffer with decent Riesling character and should do well on its own, with mild soft cheeses, fruit, or with spicy Asian chicken or seafood-based cuisine.

2008 Whispering Tree Millbrandt Vineyards WA State Cabernet Sauvignon $5.99

Silverdale, WA    13.9% alc.    (Purchased on 11/6/14)

I wouldn’t normally post another wine review so quickly.  But with the sale ending for most in the next couple of hours, thought I’d get this review up.  From very reputable producer Millbrandt Vineyards…I believe this is a second label.  And I’ve enjoyed their Whispering Tree Riesling .  I’ll be reviewing their more recent vintage of that wine soon.

IMG_1852Clear deep garnet with a wonderfully fragrant nose of cedar, mint and five spice.  In the mouth, it’s medium-bodied with lighter tannins and flavors of more mint, camphor and some of the green bell pepper I’ve recently found in some of the South African Cabs or blends at Grocery Outlet.  I don’t always care for that quality, but the nose grabbed me and the flavors are integrated nicely.  The wine is well-balanced with fruit, tannin and acidity and has a really long, flavorful (although slightly bitter) finish.  I suspect it’s at its peak, as it’s drinking very nicely right now…so I wouldn’t recommend laying it down for long, if at all.  But it’s a pretty nice Cab for six bucks.  Here’s a brief video I found about the wine.  These guys are gushing a bit too much on this wine wine for me, but take it as you will.  And it’s possible that the wine they’re talking about (Columbia Valley) is not the same as this wine ( WA State).  You might want to try just one bottle first.

2011 Tableaux Saint Mont White, France $3.99

Silverdale, WA    13% alc.    (Purchased on 11/6/14)

80% Gros Manseng 15% Petit Courbu 5% Arrufiac   I’ve been into wine for nearly 40 years…where have all these grape varieties been hiding?  I became familiar with Gros Manseng just a couple of weeks ago when Permiesworld reviewed a wine that contained it.  But this is the first I’ve heard of the other two varieties.  And even the region of Saint Mont  in southwestern France is new to me.  Thank God for Grocery Outlet.  I feel like a virgin wine student!  The label on this white really turns me off, as does most of the label info.  But I did enjoy this one bit from the back label: “You shouldn’t need a PhD in French existentialist  philosophy to pick a wine for your next get-together.  But, if you happen to be a philosophy professor or someone who professes philosophy, please email us immediately and let us know why we’re all here: why@tableauxwines.com”

IMG_1849So…the wine: Brilliant pale straw and when first opened, it had a strong  match stick sulfury nose that eventually blows off.  But I also believe that the slightly stinky aroma is somewhat inherent with the varieties used in this blend, as I’ve found it in other dry whites from the surrounding region (Gascony).  The difference is that the other similar whites I’ve had usually end up showing more fruit in the bouquet.  After about 45 minutes, it begins to show some fruity, floral tones.  In the mouth, this wine is bone dry and somewhat high in acidity…another oyster wine.  The flavors are tangy lemon juice, flintstone, some stone fruit (peach/apricot) and minerality.  It’s a very simple white that just isn’t doing anything for me.  Because it’s soundly made, I’ll stretch and give it a low Drinkable.  But a Thumbs Down is lurking around the corner.

Pinot Grigio Provincia Di Pavia 2013 Ardimento $5.99

Bottled by: TE.NE S.p.A, Mombaruzzo, Italia
Imported by AW Direct Inc. Novato, CA
ABV 12%
Purchased: 11-6-2014 Corvallis, OR (SRP $14)

FullSizeRenderI was really excited to see a new Italian Pinot Grigio at GO. It’s been a while for me. The 2013 Ardimento Provincia Di Pavia (producer’s tasting notes provided in the PDF link) is quite different from my regular Italian Pinot Grigio, in many areas.

Firstly, it has a very strong lemony flavor. (My husband said “It’s almost like wine mixed with barely sweetened lemonade.”) Secondly, its body is very Chardonnay-like (it’s the only Pinot Grigio I’ve ever had with a body like this). So, you have a high acidity fighting with a creamy mouthfeel. It’s quite unbalanced. The wine could be great if it was one style or the other but it seems like someone mixed two completely different types of wines and there is absolutely no cohesion. Chardonnay lovers won’t be drawn to it because of the high acidity/tartness as well as the abrupt ending mid-palate. PG lovers will most likely respond like we have been and wonder what it is that they are drinking. As to fragrance, it’s quite nice…very citrus-y. Color is a light lemon.

Is it flawed? No. Is it drinkable? Yes. Is it enjoyable? To me, sadly…no.

NV Pisani Rose’ (Rosato) Spumante, Italy $4.99

Silverdale, WA    11% alc.    (Purchased on 11/6/14)

IMG_1854Beautiful medium ruby grapefruit color with a nice steady stream of tiny bubbles.  Looked really nice, but it took forever to begin to open (which is not a quality I expect or want in a bubbly).  Eventually showed a very slight dosage (sweetness) and flavors of strawberry and grapefruit pith with bitterness in the finish.  No discernible yeastiness/bread dough qualities.  Hardly compelling…even at five bucks…one bottle was plenty.  Just not enough character or fruit for me.  Appears to be selling for $10-$11 at regular retail.

Cafaro 2011 Merlot

Napa Valley, CA
89% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot; 14.5% ABV
Oak Barrels: 95% French and 5% American (50% New)
$17 or $18 at the Oakland, CA, store on 7 Nov. $30 on the winery web site.

Cafaro_2011_MerlotThis wine was pretty tasty not long after the first pour, but don’t let it fool you into thinking that’s all there is to it.  I thought it was at its best after about three hours in a decanter.  Then, it showed ripe, rich fruit of blackcurrant, dark cherry, blackberry, dark purple plum, rich dark earth, supporting vanilla / oak, with balancing acid of those fruits plus some cranberry / raspberry.  It has some of the “cooked rhubarb” flavor I dislike, and despite a tannic edge at the finish, most of the taste is more lush than structured.  So, although it’s not really my kind of wine, it is a delicious, complex, and substantial wine for the money that will likely age well for several years.

The next day, a saved single-glass screw-cap bottle was redder and blacker, less blue.  The tannic edge was more integrated into making a more delineated structure.  Overall, though, I preferred it on the first night, when it seemed more sweet and full.  Probably I’d like it even better after about 5 to 7 years of age.

Disclosure: this bottle was an unsolicited gift from Robaire.