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.

Gunn Estate 2012 Pinot Noir

Marlborough, New Zealand; 13.5% ABV
$7 at the Richmond, CA, store on 6 Oct

GunnEstate_2012_PinotNoir_NZOn the first night open, this wine was immediately appealing.  It had nice dark cherry and plum with other complexities, but was sort of hard and elegant in a way that promised more after airing.  However, it didn’t really turn out that way.  It went through a number of phases, showing fruits (not necessarily in this order) from lighter red (cranberry, fresh rhubarb?) to blue (blueberry / cassis, akin to how I remember Marsannay) to medium purple.  All were reasonably tasty, but the wine did not settle into any of them, still giving the impression of never really opening.

The second half, stored in a 375ml bottle and stoppered with little air, still needed a good bit of airing after opening to show what it had, appearing for a while to simply be thin and tart.  It was a little more forward and accessible, with flavors ranging from dark red cherry, rusty earth, purple plum and grape, dark blueberry / maybe blackberry, and allspice.  It still gives the impression of not showing all it has, and with it’s hard structure and tart acid, it should be much better after at least a few years of age.  If I find it again, I’ll get a little more to lay down for a while.  For immediate drinking, you may want to get something else, although it’s possible the wine is still shocked from transport, and it may be more accessible after a few weeks in the store or at home.

2006 Panther Creek Freedom Hill Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, OR $12.99

Silverdale, WA    14.3% alc.    (Purchased on 9/26/14)

IMG_1776Just barely hazy medium ruby color with a slight orange tone around the rim, suggesting its eight years of age.  Back label mentions cherry and cola aromas and I heartily concur.  I also detect some root beer and earth.  I’m getting plenty of fruit and no Pinot funk and the nose really starts opening up after about 45 minutes in the glass. Eventually I even got whiffs of sun-dried tomato.  In the mouth, it’s more of the same with ripe, sweet cherry flavors really showing nicely along with subtle black tea notes.  This Pinot has weight too…slightly chewy with medium tannins (for Pinot anyway), it leaves me licking my lips.  Unfortunately it fades quickly and picks up some heat and bitterness in the short finish.  Their current release single vineyard Pinots from Panther Creek are going for $45-$50…out of my range.  So $13 seems a mighty fair price.  Here are some past “community” reviews of this wine.

I’m assuming this is not the Panther Creek PN that’s recently been discussed on our “What’s New” page.  So careful what you purchase.  I suspect this wouldn’t be a favorite of BW and lovers of the more delicate style of Pinots.

Hill Wine Co. 2012 Black Dog series Pinot Noir

Napa Valley, CA; 14.5% ABV
$8 at the Berkeley, CA, store on 30 Sept

JeffHill_2012_Napa_PNAlthough I was wary that a Pinot Noir from Napa Valley would not be the style of Pinot I like, I thought I’d give it a try anyway. Although it is indeed not in my preferred style, it’s pretty good for the money and will almost certainly improve with age.

When I first opened it, it was definitely the kind if Pinot I hate: simple, thick, red cherry candy.  However, after about 2:45 to 3 hours in a decanter and glass, it had become less offensively candy-like, and had developed some complexity of raspberry, plum, and maybe a little spice / earth.  It’s still very ripe and full-bodied — far from the delicate and ethereal Pinot I prefer — but I could see how some folks could like it and how it could improve with age.

A couple days later, the saved half bottle (stoppered with very little air) was definitely better, showing dark red cherry / plum, with some darker spice, and no offensive candy-like character.    It’s still quite ripe and heavy, and although I suspect I’d like it better with a few years of age, I bet it will never be a Pinot I’d be all that fond of.  Weak Thumbs Up.

Hill Wine Co. 2012 Black Dog series Chardonnay

Napa Valley, CA
“95% organic”; 13.9% ABV
$6 at the Berkeley, CA, store on 30 Sept

JeffHill_2012_ChardonnayThis is a pretty nice wine for the money.  Although it is a Napa Chardonnay, a species I have often disdained, this is not a heavy, buttery, oaky wine.  It’s a little disjointed at first, but it smooths out and integrates pretty quickly after opening.  Then it shows elegant flavors of ripe yellow apple, pear, lower-acid lemon, floral vanilla, and in the finish, a little yellow peach and perhaps a touch more oak than I would prefer.  The body is medium full, not overwhelming.

The second night, the wine is a little lighter in body and more delicate and “liquidy,” with the flavors maybe a little less intense but otherwise much the same.  Still quite nice.  On both nights, I preferred it a bit warmed from fridge temperature, to emphasize the fruit over the acid.  If you’re in the Anything But Chardonnay club, you may not like this wine, as I thought it was quite typical of the California version, but if not, I think it’s good for the money.

2010 Geoff Tate Columbia Valley Insania White Wine, WA $3.99

Silverdale, WA    13.5% alc.    (Purchased on 9/20/14)
62% Semillon 38% Sauvignon Blanc

IMG_1757For those old-timers like me who were unaware, Geoff Tate is the lead singer of NW 80’s heavy metal band Queensryche.  His wines are/were produced by Three Rivers Winery in Walla Walla (aka. W2).  The Three Rivers site no longer appears to list his wines, but this one got a great review by Wine Enthusiast and local wine writer/wine producer Paul Gregutt in July 2012.  It’s holding up very well.

Clear pale straw; a somewhat earthy nose of roasted grain, flintstone, subtle lime zest and sage.  In the mouth, it’s bone dry and tart; nicely balanced with extract and mouthfeel (due to extended skin contact?); flavors similar to the aromas with the additional taste of grapefruit and grapefruit pith.  A pretty good facsimile of a decent white Bordeaux i.e. Graves.

This wine is very reminiscent, to me, of the first dry white WA wines I ever had…in particular a 100% Semillon that Associated Vintners (now Columbia Winery) used to produce.  Actually, if I remember correctly, Napa Valley’s Clos Du Val also used to produce a delicious and very dry Semillon.  Semillons usually age quite well and they can be the perfect accompaniment to steamed clams and mussels or oysters raw on the half shell.  I believe the Silverdale store only got one case of this wine and last I checked there were but three bottles remaining.