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.

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.