2004 Dievole Il Fornaio Casannova Vineyard Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy $4.99

Silverdale, WA    12.5% alc.    (Purchased on 9/26/14)

IMG_1780Dievole is a highly touted Tuscan producer whose wines I’ve almost always enjoyed a great deal at regular price.  So I thought I’d give this 10 year old a shot.  Ya’ win some and ya’ lose some.

Mostly clear, but dark ruby/purple with slight brick tone around the rim.  Classic Chianti nose with dried cherry, lavender and earth aromas; in the mouth, it’s fairly tart, but soft and showing a slight saline quality along with more dried cherry and earthiness.  The tannins have pretty much faded to the background, so all-in-all the wine seems rather thin and lifeless.  A bit of mustiness shows up in the finish, though I don’t really think the wine is corked…just too old.  I bet it was pretty tasty in it’s youth, but right now it leaves me unimpressed…even with pasta and creamed tomato sauce.  While it hasn’t gone completely over the hill, I certainly cannot recommend it.

2011 Lithos Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon $9.99

2011 Lithos Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon $11.99 (currently $9.99)
Salem, OR  April 11, 2014
13.5% ABV

Lithos_CabI purchased this wine back in April, at the spring wine sale. Since it is still on the shelves and this is the first time we’ve had the wine since we tasted it at the store, I decided to do a quick write up on it.

Firstly, as I noted above, back in April it was $11.99 on our shelves.  Now it is $9.99.  There is absolutely no information about this wine online.  The label says: Vinted & Bottled by Lithos Vineyards, Oakville, CA.  It also mentions that it is family owned and “from the heart of Napa Valley”.

I’m a fan of Oakville wines and 2011 was completely bashed by the critics as a “horrible year for Cabernet”.  However, at this point, some reviewers are suggesting that the critics made a mistake, saying that 2011 Napa Cabernet is more like a “rainy year in Bordeaux”.  We’ve personally found some wines that are real gems…wines that I think will age well and deliver for a long time, and we’ve found some real stinkers.  Because it was a cool year and the rains came early, the winemakers had a choice of whether to pick early and have the grapes not completely ripen or pick late and deal with Botrytis bunch rot.  The grapes matured slowly but they did mature.  They weren’t heavy fruit bombs and many of the wines we’ve tried offer so much more depth/structure than the traditional Napa fruit-forward (or “fruit bomb” as some refer to it) heavy wines.  Finally, the best part about 2011 is that because it was so bashed, sometimes you can get very good wine for rock bottom prices. Winemakers moved on as quickly as possible. Enough about 2011 in general…

Back to the Lithos.  We’d originally tasted it at the Salem, G.O.  It had “been open for a few days, but is worth tasting” commented the owner/operator.  So I tasted it and was really surprised. For something that had been sitting on a counter for (minimum) 2 days and not properly stored, there was a nice, smooth, balanced Cab being presented.

Fast forward to last night.  We opened the wine and I decanted it. I still prefer my Cabs after they’ve been open for a while.  An hour after opening, I would not have recognized this wine from the above tasting.  It was very fruit forward, nearly offensively sweet.  But as the evening progressed, it mellowed out considerably.  Initially we tasted a lot of blue and black fruit; as it opened further, a bit of plum & cocoa.  Much later in the evening we were tasting green pepper (but not offensively…and many of you know this is my wine bête noire) and some graphite.  This one needs some time to develop depending on your wine preferences.  If you like it sweet or fruity, don’t decant.  It was an interesting Cab.  More layered than I’m used to seeing at G.O. and with the wine sale coming up, it might be worth checking out; if you like Napa Cabernet and even if you don’t.

2011 Samuel Roberts Winery Willamette Valley Pinot Noir Vintner’s Reserve

Lisa's Wine 12011 Samuel Roberts Winery Willamette Valley Pinot Noir Vintner’s Reserve $15.99    12.5% alc.
Salem, OR.  Purchased October 9, 2014

We’ve just spent the last several days enjoying some very excellent Napa & Sonoma Cabernet. It was a special occasion and I only mention this because, during the course of this review, I wondered if my palate had been prejudiced; if that makes any sense.

I was trying to figure out which G.O. wine to choose for tonight in hopes that it would make a good showing after last weekend.  I picked this one for two reasons:
1. I love Willamette Valley Pinot Noir.
2. Price (I figured that at $15.99 G.O. price, it should have a decent taste).

I have looked at the cellartracker notes for the non-Vintner’s Reserve version of this wine.  It has a decent rating and describes everything I would expect this wine should taste like.  The vineyard’s description of that wine, same vintage but a step down (I could not find the Vintner’s Reserve on their site) was thus: “Offering aromas of black cherry, cranberry, raspberry, spice, and new leather. A rich essence of fresh Bing cherries, pomegranate, and blueberry with hints of cola, oak and anise.”  Again, everything I would expect.

Basically I was disappointed.  My husband opened the wine and poured it.  I was doing other things.  I’ve debated on telling you actually what happened when I tasted it.  In fact, I considered not writing a review at all.  I decided, for the price, you should have my honest opinion.  He handed me the wine and gave me an odd look (we’ve been married a very long time and he knows me extremely well).  I tasted it and said “Very funny….what is this?”  I (truth here) thought he’d poured me something else as a joke.   I was shocked when he said it really was the wine. So much so that I poured a completely different glass (not that I don’t trust him, but he can be a prankster) to see for myself. Honestly I tried a fresh glass because of any possible taste transference…dish soap residue or anything that might have mistakenly made it taste poorly.  It was exactly the same.

I tasted what (to me) was a perfect example of watered down wine.  At least that’s exactly what I would suspect watered down wine would taste like.  There was no taste of pepper, no spice, no heat, no distinguishable fruit, no yeast, no layers; nothing that I would identify with a traditional Willamette Valley (or any) Pinot Noir.

This wine is not flawed (technically) in my opinion; not as actual wine flaws are defined, unless it’s completely oxidized.  In any case, I cannot give it a drinkable, because something is definitely wrong here.  I did end up pouring it out.

FWIW, before pouring it out, I opened another inexpensive wine (half this price) to see if it was just my palate.  I was expecting that one to be bad (not a G.O. purchase) and it tasted adequate/drinkable.  We ended up drinking that one with dinner.  I have no idea what happened with this wine. I would like to deliver good, decent or drinkable reviews and I’m just not able to do that here.  Hopefully it’s just a bottle variation.  At this price though, I’m not going to purchase another to find out.  Perhaps during the wine sale, someone else will be interested in picking up a bottle and be able to further investigate.


2005 Wattle Creek Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, CA $8.99

Silverdale, WA    14.4% alc.    (Purchased on 9/24/14)

IMG_1768Opaque deep, dark purple…almost black-looking with a bright pink rim.  In the very intensely aromatic nose there’s cedar, mint, leather, tobacco, cocoa, black coffee and tar.  In the mouth, the acidity and tannins land a direct hit…neither one overly so, but both quite obvious.  More black coffee, mint, tobacco and tar with bitter dark chocolate and licorice in the mouth.  A bit drying on the finish from the tannins, but overall this is a very aromatic, well-balanced and flavorful Alexander Valley Cab that clearly fits the varietal profile.  Showing extremely well at nine years old…and should continue to age well for 2-3 years.  But why wait?

A 2007 Wattle Creek Mendocino Red Blend and a 2009 Sauvignon Blanc were previously reviewed here.  And in an effort to provide more information on this cab, check out these mostly positive Cellartracker and Snooth reviews.  It appears the wine went for around $30 regular retail, so this is a great deal.

Panther Creek 2010 Pinot Noir “Winemaker’s Cuvée”

Willamette  Valley, OR; 13% ABV
$6 at the Richmond, CA, store on 6 Oct

PantherCreek_2010_WinemakersCuvee_PNI’m rather late to this wine.  While we got a positive report: “Back to the Panther – Cherries, herbaceous undertones, interesting spice – clove, pepper, tarragon. Really a fascinating wine” (G.L.Pease) we’ve gotten more negative: “matchstick sulfur” (Seedboy) and Brett“The good bottle was quite good. The bad, as dreadful as I’ve ever experienced.” (GLP)  DLuber summarized it as: “the reviews here and on CellarTracker seem to be running about 3:2 shitty (sulfide/mercaptans/Brett) to 90 pt-ers. I’m guessing the whole lot was dumped on GO because they had a bad barrel or two…or three…or more.”

Anyway, my bottle was one of the sulfurous ones, and I will be returning it.

Lim13 reviewed the 2006 Panther Creek Freedom Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir here, where others have also commented on this wine.

2007 Star Angel Paso Robles Syrah, CA $5.99

Silverdale, WA    15% alc.    (Purchased on 9/26/14)

Cellared and Bottled by Montes USA, Napa.  Back label says Montes of Chile started Napa Angel in 2006.  “As the foremost Syrah producer in Chile, Aurelio (Montes) felt an instant attraction to the Paso Robles region…where this grape variety grows magnificently.”

IMG_1777Nearly opaque deep, dark, brooding purple/ruby color.  Seriously tight and closed on opening, it really takes a couple of hours to even begin showing anything in the nose.  And even then it’s reluctant to open up.  Initially showed some stemminess and a strange automotive oil quality, but eventually I got blackberry, black plum and tar.  In the mouth, there’s plenty of sweet fruit, loads of tannin, decent acidity and flavors of more blackberry and dark plum.  Chewy and a bit hot (15% alcohol) in the finish.  Back label says to enjoy it for over seven years (that’s now!).  I suspect it’ll do fine for at least a few more years, but I’ve had wines like this that I’ve cellared and ended up with all tannin, no fruit.  A robust, well-constructed and very tasty Paso Robles red that others seem to have enjoyed.

Those of you who have been following our blog for a while know that I’m not one to decant much of anything.  And I didn’t decant this wine.  But…back label also says, “Decanting is recommended”.  I’m currently flinching as I say…I concur that decanting is likely a good idea.  It’s been a long, long time since I’ve opened a bottle of wine this tightly wound…and waiting it out in the glass could be an arduous task.  So go ahead and decant…and pour vigorously…and your first glass might taste a little more flavorful than my first one did.   JWC…I suspect that this Montes is for you.

Trapiche Oak Cask 2011 Syrah

Mendoza, Argentina; 14% ABV
$6 at the Richmond, CA, store on 6 Oct

TrapicheOakCask_2011_SyrahI was looking forward to this wine because EHL had written: a big, bold red with a nice nose of spice and plum, followed by an elegant, smoky, rush of velvety dark fruit……after breathing for a couple of hours, a well-balanced wine with a pleasing finish. One of the better Syrahs I have tasted in a while and a very nice example of this dark varietal……quite the value for $5.99……and even at the low retail price of $15!  And Expat agreed: A touch sweet for my old world palate but a nice wine nevertheless.  But my bottle was apparently not like their bottles.

It opened promisingly enough, with reserved tart red fruit promising more with air.  As the wine aired over a couple hours, the fruit did darken to show nice plum and cranberry with some spice, but the tartness remained.  After that, the acid only became stronger to the point where it became undrinkable.  Into the cooking wine it went.  Did anyone else experience bottles like this, or did most folks enjoy this wine?


2009 Artesa Elements Napa/Sonoma Chardonnay, CA $4.99

Silverdale    14.2% alc.    (Purchased on 9/24/14)

IMG_176558% Napa County  42% Sonoma County    Brilliant medium golden…shimmers and shines in the glass.  No excess of oak at first whiff and for me, that’s a really good sign.  Then I get very light oak, pineapple and some citrusy lemon and lime; none of the vanilla, caramel or buttery qualities associated with big, rich, oaky Chards.  In the mouth I’m getting a touch of residual sugar and/or intense fruit on the front of the tongue, but it’s cut nicely with zingy acidity.  Flavors show more pineapple, lemon and a hint of white peach.  Some caramel flavors do show in the finish.  Simple, fruit forward, uncomplicated, tasty; a quaffer and somewhat similar to the entry level Kendall-Jackson Chardonnays.

This wine appears to retail in the $11-$13 range.  I had a 2002 Artesa Carneros Pinot Noir some years ago that retailed for around $12.  It too was simple, but pretty tasty.  Apparently Artesa was started as Codorniu Napa by the parent company from Spain…in the Napa Carneros.  Here’s a brief synopsis from Wine Enthusiast and here’s the Artesa homepage.  Looks like a showplace winery.

2011 Proyecto CU4TRO

Catalunya DO, Spain
55% Marselan, 35% Garnatxa (Grenache), 8% Samsó (Carignan), 2% Syrah; 13.5%
$4 at the Richmond, CA, store on 6 Oct

ProyectoCu4tro_2011This unusual-looking Spanish wine seemed right up my alley.  It looks like someone’s small project somewhere, not made in the ripe, jammy, “international style,” mostly from a grape I had never heard of.  It was indeed an interesting wine, and good for the price, even if I wasn’t totally wild about it.

First, the story of the Marselan grape is amusing (via the Wikipedia link above).  A cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache, it was first bred in 1961 in a project to increase grape yields.  However, Marselan could only produce small berries, so it was neglected until more recently when others realized its fruit’s larger skin-to-volume ratio might give it good winemaking potential.

On the first night, I drank the first half over about three hours.  In that time, it showed earthy, tangy red cherry with complexities of darker red / black cherry / sometimes plum, with some sappy wood in the finish.  It seemed to promise a nice wine once it aired, but it was always rather acid, even with food.

The second half, stoppered in a 375ml bottle with very little air, was much less acid, more forward and fruity, with a rather candied nature.  I oscillated between thinking its candied character was a bit surprising in a Spanish wine and perhaps a bit much for my taste, thinking it was tasty but still hadn’t really come together and perhaps needed more age, and thinking it was pretty good with food.  So, overall, an interesting wine I’m glad I tried, but not one I’ll likely get more of.  Still, if I see another Marselan, I’d like to try it.

I just noticed EHL mentioned this wine in What’s New.  We’re clearly drinking the same wine, but he liked it better:

Upon opening, the wine had a nice fragrant nose of vanilla, spice and dark fruit, and it had a bright, lively character I enjoyed. With a ruby-colored, medium-body, the wine was dry yet smooth and exhibited a velvety tannic finish. On the second day, the vanilla nose dissipated somewhat, with more fruit aroma, and the wine darkened, showing more complexity.

All in all…… a pretty nice, balanced bottle of Red wine from Spain…….for $3.99! Gotta get more.

And he provided a link to a page that had these notes, which I think are pretty accurate, although rather exaggerated: “Cherry brick red with a pale brick rim. Aromas of lingonberry, wild raspberries, maraschino cherries, black plums and leather. Soft tannins with flavors of wild forest berries, Italian cherries, black licorice and vanilla. Notes of black pepper and thyme. Robust and balanced with a long, complex finish. Generous.” -BTI, Oct. 2013

2010 Winter Hill Stellenbosch Sauvignon Blanc, South Africa $3.99

Silverdale, WA    12.5% alc.    (Purchased on 9/29/14)

IMG_1784This white was referenced by Seedboy and others on our “What’s New” page over the last few weeks.  So when it appeared here on the Kitsap Peninsula, I had to try it.  I believe most of the comments have been favorable.  I would concur, though it hasn’t left me feeling like I want to run back down to the store for more.  The front and back labels are reminiscent of those on the Road Less Traveled Cabs we saw recently.  I suspect these wines are coming from a cooperative, as an actual winery is not really identified.  But lo and behold!  After writing that last sentence, I decided to hunt down the wines and here’s what I found.  Check it out.  On the left side of that page, click on “Our Brands” and you’ll find Winter Hill and RLT.

Brilliant medium golden; very familiar southern hemisphere gooseberry and lemony nose.  In the mouth, the acidity is fairly high, providing a tart, steely mouthfeel and more lemon and gooseberry along with grapefruit in the flavors.  Bone dry with a clean finish.  Likely a decent match with rich, buttery sauces to cut through the fat or perhaps the perfect accompaniment to simply prepared shellfish…like pairing French Muscadet and oysters on the half shell.  For me, it’s a definite food wine…not really for quaffing on it’s own.