Punto Niño 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva

from the Chilean outpost of southern French producer LaRoche
Maipo Valley, Chile; 14.5% ABV
imported by Wilson Daniels
$6 at the Richmond, CA, store on 3 July

PuntoNino_2011_CabSResI’ve reviewed a couple decent whites and an outstanding rosé from LaRoche in southern France.  Also, one of my favorite Chilean reds was from the Chilean project of another French producer.  And, finally, it was imported by Wilson Daniels, whose wines have usually been pretty good values at the GO.  So, for me this was an instant grab.  However, I was not so thrilled by this wine.

When I opened the bottle, I first poured out a single-glass (750ml / 4) screw cap bottle and twisted the cap on with very little air.  Even over the roughly four hours over which we drank the remaining 3/4 bottle, I couldn’t tell it had fully aired.  After 2 to 3 hours, it showed pretty nice flavors of “grilled blackberry,” darker plum / mulberry, red cherry, and dark cooked green bell pepper / maybe sulfur, but the wine still felt rather restrained and rather rough, especially on the finish.  I had hoped the rest would be better.

However, the saved single-glass bottle was not particularly different or better.  The flavors were a bit fuller, but the abrasiveness I disliked on the first night was still there in force.  Maybe this would age into a graceful wine, but I’m not optimistic.

2012 Nieto Senetiner Reserva Pinot Noir, Mendoza, Argentina $4.99

Silverdale, WA    14% alc.    (Purchased on 7/3/14)

IMG_1615Mostly clear, dark ruby and on the darker end of the color spectrum for Pinot Noir.  Nose shows dark Bing cherry, cinnamon and a sort of stereotypical California-type PN color and aroma profile.   In the mouth it’s initially somewhat hot from the slightly elevated alcohol.  But the flavors are undeniably Pinot and the extract is more pronounced than I think I was expecting from a Pinot from Argentina.  Not sure why I thought that though because I believe the climate can get pretty warm in the Mendoza region, which would produce more extracted, concentrated reds.

The flavors show fairly intense black cherry with the faintest hint of stemminess and more cinnamon followed by a slight bitterness in the long, flavorful finish.  There’s a pretty hefty amount of tannin here and the acidity is just right for me.  For five bucks this is a pretty decent Pinot, unless you’re into the more subtle, restrained lighter styles of the grape.  And I suspect it would benefit from a few years in the cellar.  Screwtop too…I like it!  bin5 reviewed the 2009 Chardonnay from this producer here.

un4seen 2009 red

blend of Zinfandel, Malbec, Petit Verdot, and Merlot, 13.9% ABV; screw cap
$4 at the Richmond, CA, store on 3 July

un4seen_2009_redblendThis is one of the new wines I picked up a couple days ago.  I’m not usually into this kind of wine: pretty generic producer, from who-knows-where in CA, probably near or past the end of its life.  However, I was intrigued by the grapes in the blend and it had a nice color through the bottle.  I think it’s quite good for the price.

When first opened, it’s rather tart and restrained, mostly showing some Zinfandel flavors, and a raisiny finish.  After 40 to 70 minutes in a decanter, it fills out to be a nicely complex wine, with jammy flavors of darker red raspberry, red plum, cherry, redder blackberry / boysenberry, with a slight amount of raisin now far in the background.  “Jammy” describes the flavor of the fruit; the wine is not heavy and only gently full-bodied.  The ripe fruit is balanced by lip-smacking ripe acid.  If there’s any oak, it’s in a supporting role.  The flavors are more jumbled together than elegantly blended, but they’re all tasty, and, hey, it’s $4.

The next day, the single-glass screw cap bottle I saved, with very little air inside, was a little more forward and textured, but otherwise much the same.  For anyone interested, the producer site is here.

2012 Rocca Ventosa Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Italy $4.99

Silverdale, WA     13% alc.    (Purchased on 7/3/14)

IMG_1617From Cantina Tollo; For years these wines confused me.  It’s not from Montepulciano, a town in Tuscany that I visited once that makes wines from mainly Sangiovese…it’s a wine made from the Montepulciano grape grown in Abruzzo.  Just slightly hazy medium purple/garnet.  Perfumed nose shows black peppercorn, allspice, rose petals and earth.  In the mouth there’s fairly strong acidity with light tannins and flavors of dried sour cherry, black coffee, mushrooms and more earth.  The finish brings out the tart acidity and more emphasized tannins.  Not particularly extraordinary, but a fine example of Montepulciano and it should match well with tomato based dishes and pizza.

2009 Nugan Estate “Vision” Chardonnay

Riverina, New South Wales, Australia; 13.5% ABV
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 3 July

Nugan_2009_Vision_ChardThis has been around for a while now, but I’m trying it only after receiving a recommendation in the store.  It’s a little on the acid side for my taste, but I agree it’s very good for the money.

I liked it warmed a bit from fridge temperature so the acid was less emphasized.  Then, it shows fairly elegant, engagingly complex flavors of yellow melon, yellow apple, some lemon and green lime, and (as the back label suggests) less ripe yellow peach / nectarine, with supporting oak.  I’d suggest pairing it with white fish.

Nonno Guiseppe 2003 Zinfandel “Neese Vineyards”

Redwood Valley, Mendocino County, CA; 14.8% ABV
$5 at the Berkeley, CA, store on 1 July; only one more bottle there at the time

2003_NG_ZinOn today’s trip to the Berkeley store, I did not see any new wines yet, but I did get a couple that commenters here have liked, including this wine.  It’s been around for a while, but I had ignored it since I thought the 2002 NG Zin was good but not exciting.  This vintage is similar in some ways but more lively.

This wine was pretty tasty right away, perhaps smoothing out some after about 30 minutes in a decanter.  It has flavors of jammy red raspberry with a little black raspberry, and a nice aged complexity of caramel / light earth / dried orange peel.  The ripe fruit is balanced by zesty acid of those fruits and a slight, mildly bitter, herbal finish.  Although it’s still not my favorite Zin, considering other $5 GO Zins of late, it’s pretty good for the price.

As I believe someone else here wrote recently, the available selection today seemed like odds and ends cleaned out from previously hidden corners of warehouses, so maybe inventory levels are indeed getting low enough to accommodate some new wines soon.

Santa Ema 2009 Merlot

DO Peumo, Cachapoal Valley, Chile; 13.5% ABV
$3 for a 375ml bottle at the Berkeley, CA, store on 19 June

SantaEma_2009_MerlotThe nose on this wine showed some green bell pepper, but I didn’t taste it that much.  Instead, it showed nicely complex flavors of blackcurrant, dark plum, dark cherry, and aromatic spice.  My problem with it is that the acid is rather strong, of boysenberry, cranberry, and plum.  It’s ok with food, but I wouldn’t buy it again.

Val Serena non-vintage Toscana rosso

Toscana IGT, Italy; 12.5% ABV
$5 at the Berkeley, CA, store on 13 June.  $7 online.

ValSerena_ToscanaI thought this wine needed about 90 – 120 minutes to air.  Then it showed tangy ripe and tart fruit of cherry and red plum, some earth / wood, in a lighter medium body.  The wine is a pleasant enough quaffer if you want Italian tangy and acid wine.  The stored half bottle (stoppered with very little air) didn’t need air but was otherwise much the same.  So, while it’s not huge, I’ll give it credit for staying power.  It’s acceptable wine, but IMO it should really be $4.  Not too long ago, it might have been $3.

Rutz 2008 Pinot Noir Sonoma Cuvée

front label looks like “RVTZ”
Sonoma County, CA; 14.3% ABV
$10 at the Berkeley, CA, store on 11 June

RVTZ_2008_SonomaCuvee_PNSeedboy said of this wine, “Needs air but ends up a nice balanced pinot.”  5-Star Bar added, “Up front a complex, elegant, seductive bouquet leapt out like Pinot perfume from the glass. On the palate a superbly balanced blend of intense, authentic red berry flavors melded seamlessly with a pleasant dollop of slightly spicy oak on the finish.”  I thought those descriptions sounded promising, so I got a bottle, but I was disappointed.

Upon opening this bottle, I poured out half of it into 375ml (half) bottle and closed it with a stopper and very little air.  The half remaining in the bottle was consumed over nearly four hours.  It starts off with simple strawberry candy, and does indeed greatly improve to show more “authentic” and “balanced” red berry and cherry fruit.  However, to my taste, the finish was always strongly SweeTart, an artificial fruit candy that I really think wine should not taste like.  I feel like I’ve been making this complaint a lot lately, but, well, that’s how it is.  Anyway, I still have the other half bottle, so maybe that will be better.

I was indeed surprised how much better the second half was.  The SweeTart flavor was almost completely gone, replaced with full flavors of dark, ripe cherry / nearly plum, earth (almost cola), and a little orange.  However, the acid seemed a bit strong, suggesting, in its almost-vinegar-ness, that the wine is close to getting too old.  I guess I can call it Drinkable, but I’d hope for more from a $10 wine at the GO.

Two Sweet Reds

The title of this post is a bit tongue-in-cheek, as only one of these wines is self-described as “off-dry.”  [Please see update below]  My wife called to say she would bring home some ribs and tri-tip left over from a work luncheon.  Anticipating that at least the ribs would be a little sweet, I thought it was the right time to open the

Red Velvet 2011 Zinfandel
back label says “off-dry”
Lodi, CA; 13.5% ABV
from Cupcake Vineyards, Livermore, CA
$6 at the Richmond, CA, store on 17 June

RedVelvet_2011_ZinfandelHowever, I quickly got bored with this wine.  Its flavors are not bad — tangy medium red cherry and raspberry, some raisin, and a little black raspberry after some air — but the wine is rather simple and I found its sweetness a little cloying.  If you’re looking for a reasonably tasty sweet red that’s not too sweet, you could certainly do worse.  However, I decided to move on to a “more serious” wine.




Pra Vinera 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon
North Coast, CA; 13.9% ABV
$6 at the Richmond, CA, store on 9 June.  Likely still also at Berkeley.

PraVinera_2012_CabSauvThis wine has been around for a while, and I hadn’t been too curious about yet another generic Cab.  However, during the last sale, I saw many people eagerly making off with boxes of it, so I decided to finally try it.  Last night, I thought it would be some relief from the “off-dry” Red Velvet.  However, very much to my surprise, this Cabernet did not taste all that much less sweet.  Granted, it was more substantial and complex than the Red Velvet, with flavors of blackberry, dark cherry, and some cranberry, but it was also sweeter than I really like, certainly than I expected.  I would guess that’s why many folks liked it so much.  You could drink off-dry wine without being called on it.  :)

Both of these wines went fine with the lightly sweet meat, and I’d call them both [see below] the Red Velvet Drinkable.

Update 19 June: I opened the stored half bottle (stoppered with very little air) of the Pra Vinera a few days later.  At first, it tasted much like it had on the first night.  However, after about 20 minutes of air in the glass, it showed nice acid that balanced the jammy, ripe fruit.  I now suspect I was wrong about its containing a lot of residual sugar, and I have to change my opinion to Thumbs Up.