Las Moras 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon – Shiraz Reserve

50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Shiraz (Syrah); 14% ABV
San Juan, Cuyo, Argentina
$6 at the Richmond, CA, store on 17 Oct

LasMoras_2011_CabShirazResI was attracted to this nice bottle and label, and to the wine’s “reserve” status.  However, immediately upon opening it stank of sulfur.  I had never smelled such strong sulfur in a wine.  (For the chemists out there, I’m sorry I don’t know the oxidation state of this sulfur.)  During three hours in a decanter and glass, the sulfur diminished but not to a drinkable level.  And aside from the sulfur, the fruit was tight and acid.  Maybe the second half will be better, but I’m not holding my breath.

However, amazingly, when I opened the second half (stoppered in a 375ml bottle with very little air), it needed only a little more air to become pretty tasty.  The fruit was still a little rough and had a slightly unusual “post-sulfur” (?) character, but it showed tasty darker cherry, boysenberry / plum, maybe edging into blueberry, in a full body.  I guess, with this weirdness, it gets a Drinkable at best, but if you have the patience to, for example, put it in a covered decanter for a day before you drink it, it could reward you with pretty good wine for the money.

2011 Montemar Andes Curico Valley Harmonia Red Blend, Chile $3.99

Silverdale, WA    13.5% alc.    (Purchased on 10/6/14)

IMG_178635% Syrah 35% Malbec 30% Cabernet Franc     Clear dark ruby with a pink rim.  After about 45 minutes, it has a pleasant enough nose of cherry, licorice, tobacco, mint and just a hint of bell pepper.  In the mouth, the bell pepper comes through much stronger, especially on the front of the palate, but the flavors also show cherry, raspberry, espresso and leather.  The tannins are light, but noticeable and provide body and texture.  The moderate acidity gives the wine tang and balance.  Really no bell pepper at all in the finish.  I’m no fan of that quality, but I didn’t find it to be so strong as to be offensive.  So I really enjoyed this red blend and I haven’t generally said that about Chilean reds.  One suggestion: this wine started losing flavors and weight the next day.  Drink up!

I re-read BW’s review of the 2010 Harmonia after I finished my review and can certainly see similarities…though, thankfully I got no sulfur in this vintage/bottle.  BW also reviewed the 2010 Carmenere here.  Montemar just may be the GO “go to” red from Chile.  (P.S. Label is actually white not blue…thanks to my prowess as a photographer!)

Hart & McGarry 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon

North Coast, California; 13.5% ABV
$5 at the Berkeley, CA, store on 21 Oct

HartMcGarry_2011_CabS_NCoastAccording to the store manager, the winemaker for this wine was the same as for the 2011 Victor Zinfandel, which was pretty tasty.  Although not as dense, this wine is in the same vein and also quite good.

It needs about 90 minutes in a decanter to show richer, ripe fruit of dark red / black cherry, blackberry / mulberry, and a little blackcurrant, a little spice / dark earth, and a slightly herbal and tannic finish.  The wine is quite smooth and balanced, and acceptably complex.  The fruit is still very fresh and young, and I expect the wine will keep well for the next few years in reasonable storage, although there’s not much reason to wait to drink it.  However, as the rest of the first night’s wine aired further, the “herbal” part became more prominent and musty, reminding me of the District 7 Cabernet.  This may be the character of most 2011 North Coast (CA) Cabs.  However, that flavor was not at all as strong in this wine.

Also in contrast to the D7 Cab, this wine is delicious on the second night (stoppered in a 375ml bottle with very little air), showing succulent, ripe red cherry with complexities of the darker fruits above that became more prominent as it aired.

2011 District 7 Cabernet Sauvignon

Monterey County, CA; 13.5% ABV
$6 at the Richmond, CA, store on 6 Oct

District7_2011_CabSEHL and Expat have already commented on this wine, and my thoughts more or less duplicate and elaborate on what they wrote.

At first, I thought this wine did not taste good at all, but it seemed quite promising (not sure how to describe “promising”).  After 60 – 70 minutes in a decanter, the wine started showing nice fruit of medium-dark blackberry, darker red / purple cherry, green bell pepper, with a somewhat odd musty vegetal finish.  Drinking this with food brought the ripe fruit to the fore and put the weird finish in the background.   Odd flavors aside, the wine is reasonably balanced and delineated and, overall, not bad for the money.  After 2 hours of air, the wine relaxes further to be more open and complex, including mulberry and a little boysenberry / raspberry, and the weird flavors recede.  The moderately rich, textured fruit is not really elegant, but it is tasty.  I expect it could hold on and mellow out for another year or two, but there’s no reason to wait.

I saved half of it in a 375ml bottle stoppered with very little air.  I can’t say the 24 hours were kind to it.  It was still pretty tasty, but was redder, rougher, and a little more medicinal.  It may be better not keep any for a year or two later.  However, let me finish with Expat’s final words on this: OK, so I may need to update my opinion of the District 7. After night 1 I vacu-vinned the remaining half bottle and just got back into it, about 4 days later expecting nothing and getting ready to dump it. That weirdness I didn’t like is pretty much gone and the fruit is there and pleasant. I may not have given it enough time to open up the first night. It’s not a tremendous wine but pretty solid. I guess my advice is to give it some decent air time before drinking.

2008 Omaka Springs Estates Marlborough Falveys Pinot Noir $5.99

Produced & Bottled by: Omaka Springs Estates, New Zealand
12.5% ABV  Purchased: Salem, OR 10-20-2014

Omaka SpringsI was really looking forward to trying this Pinot Noir, even though I was concerned about the age. Mostly because New Zealand is a completely new area to me (wine wise) and I have no idea how well their Pinot Noir ages. Pinot Noir is a fragile wine. In Oregon they recommend a 5-ish year life span for their “regular” wines and 7 years (average) for the best. So to me, age was a bit of a gamble. I was heartened by Lim13’s comments that he’d tasted other wines from this producer and been very happy with them. Also my lack of knowledge regarding New Zealand’s vintages (i.e. good from bad) gave me pause; but for $5.99, I figured it was worth the risk.

I was not disappointed. It reminds me a lot of a Burgundy that we had last year (@ 5x the price). Body is so perfect for a Pinot Noir, light but with abundant flavors. There is a slight bricking to the color but no age noticeable in the taste. As to the taste itself, there is evidence of cherry, strawberry & a hint of something like plum without the weight that a plum taste usually gives. The fruit is tart; a bit brighter and more forward than I expected, yet not sweet. Residual sugars are listed at <1 g/l. There is also evidence of a spice that I’m unfamiliar with. It is reminiscent of white pepper but not quite. There is a slight hint of that earthy/herbal quality that adds layers and interest to a Pinot Noir. I find it a bright, refreshing Pinot Noir…not brooding or overpowering in any direction.

The wine is aged 10 months in 33% new oak, so that explains why there isn’t a heavy oak taste. There is a good balance of spice, fruit, earth & alcohol. In fact, the 12.5% is a refreshing change, so reminiscent of “old world” wines in comparison to the 14.5-15% wines I’ve been tasting lately (although the fruit prominence is more of the “new world” style). As it opened up, I found it fresh, light and unobtrusive. It would have been a perfect summer wine. IMO, $5.99 is a very good deal. Comparable Oregon Pinot Noir would be about $25.

2010 Buena Vista Sonoma Merlot, CA $4.99

Silverdale, WA    13.5% alc.    (Purchased on 9/24/14)

IMG_1774Clear medium ruby/garnet.  Nose doesn’t do much for me…a slight touch of sulfur (which quickly blows off) and a bit of varnishy chemical quality; almost half chemical, half perfume.  First impression on the palate is lots and lots of forward sweet fruit with dark Bing cherry, blackberry, blueberry and dark plum.  There’s some black tea and nicely balanced toasty oak too.  Medium tannins and acidity and a certain richness with slight bitterness in the finish.  Even though that perfumey quality is still there in the mouth, the flavors are immensely better than the nose, but not sure I could get past the nose in another bottle.   I suspect that some of our readers are going to really like this Merlot, but I just can’t completely enjoy it even though I really like the texture.

Firestone 2012 Gewurztraminer

Santa Ynez Valley, CA; 13.5% ABV
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 17 Oct

Firestone_2010_GewurzWhen I saw this, I dimly recalled a Firestone Pinot Gris that dluber had been generally positive about, and since there are so few Gewurztraminers, I grabbed this right away.  I am not so thrilled with this as a Gewurz, but it’s ok wine.

This shows nice, reasonably complex flavors of mostly-yellow-but-some-white flowers and fruits of apple, pear, peach, maybe mango, and a little green grape and apple.  However, it’s somehow not really what I hope for from a Gewurz, which I expect to be more exuberantly floral and fruity.  To me, this wine seemed overly structured and strangely Chardonnay-like.  Still, it’s pretty tasty wine for the money.

The next day, the rest of the bottle in the fridge was more forward and simple, but overall not better or worse than it was on the first day.

Winfield Estate 2009 Bone Dry Oregon Pinot Gris $7.99

Produced & Bottled by: Winfield Estate Wines
13% ABV
Purchased @ Lebanon, OR 10-20-2014

Winfield 2009 PGI’ve made a determined decision to step (a little way) outside my comfort zone, where wines are concerned. I love a good, dry Italian Pinot Grigio.  So far it’s the only white wine area/varietal that has earned my respect. I’m just more of a “Reds” person.  I mention this so you will be fully aware, this is not my forte in the wine world. That being said, I found this wine quite drinkable; more so than many other Pinot Gris I’ve tried.  Others, who love whites or Pinot Gris in particular, might find it far more like a “thumbs up” (or possibly down). Hopefully the description will help you decide if it’s for you or not.

Upon opening, I was greeted with a strong citrus aroma as well as something I’m not familiar with and cannot even remotely identify.  Initial tastes were so odd to me; still heavy on the citrus, a hint of banana (only a very slight hint) and (if you live in Oregon, more especially the Willamette Valley, you will get this) summer dust from the valley floor.  It was strange and not unappealing.  I could say “dirt” but it really was like you’d spent the hot summer day hiking and had that valley dust taste in your mouth.  As the wine opened up a bit, there was more of a taste of sweet herbal grass and eventually tart pears or apples.  I could not tell you if this is a typical Oregon Pinot Gris. It reminded me of an Italian Grigio with less finesse.  The wine was harsher, more acidic on the palate.  And while it says 13% abv, it tastes more like 14+.

The label says “bone dry”.  I’m wondering in this case if that is more of a relative statement and less of an official designation.  To me, there is a perceived sweetness that relegates this to an “off-dry bordering on dry” wine, not a bone dry. Close, though not as quite as sweet, as the Lunatic White*…if you’ve tasted that. However, that could be just the extreme fruity-ness and not the actual residual sugars.

There is also available another version of this Pinot Gris.  It’s the same year; “Proprietor’s Select Dry” instead of the non-proprietor’s Bone Dry.  I noticed when Bargainwhine reviewed their Pinot Noir, it was also available in those two options.

*As a side note, I noticed the Lunatic white was still available on the shelves at both the Salem and Lebanon stores.  Current price is $5.99.

JanKris 2011 Crossfire

Paso Robles, CA
50% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Tempranillo, 10% Petite Sirah, 7% Syrah, 7% Grenache; 13.3% ABV
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 17 Oct

JanKris_2011_CrossfireI was intrigued by the number of grapes in this unique blend, and I’m not disappointed!  The wine starts out rather hard and acid, in a way that’s not pleasant yet, but promising.  Over the two hours we drank the first half of the bottle, the wine became riper, fruitier, more complex (nice dark red, black, some purple flavors) and the acid became less tart and more ripe.  By the end, it was pretty tasty, if you didn’t mind the zingy acid on the finish.

The second half, stored in a 375ml bottle and stoppered with very little air, was far better.  It was pretty good right away but still needed two hours of air before really showing its stuff. Then, it had delicious flavors of dark red cherry, boysenberry / plum, dark raspberry, a little sweet black pepper, still finishing with the tangy, ripe acid.  It’s full-bodied but not on the heavy, jammy end.  Overall, I think this is a good deal.

P.S. JWC in What’s New wrote: Getting back to the JanKris, looks like the parent company Veris was recently acuqired by Castoro Cellars in San Miguel, and the JanKris & Ben Hogan labels are being discontinued, which explains why we are seeing them at GO. The Ben Hogan Tribute appears to be the higher end of the two, selling for $28 at the winery, or at least was…The JanKris retail for around $10, so not a screaming deal here at $5.99, but both appear to have some decent reviews online.

2012 Van Ruiten Pinot Noir Steamboat Vineyard $7.99

Van Ruiten Family Vineyards
14.5 % ABV
Purchased @ Salem, OR 10-9-2014

VanRuiten_PinotNoirI wanted to start this review with “we liked this wine”.  I thought I’d mention that first because secondly I’d like to point out that it’s absolutely nothing like what I’d consider a standard Pinot Noir.  Please look at the description because if you love traditional Pinot Noir, you may not find this as pleasing as we did.  As a side, we too love traditional Pinot Noir…among other things, but I do want to emphasize this wine is nothing like what I’d call “traditional or standard”.

Upon opening, we were really overwhelmed (in a good way) with the fragrance of fresh raspberries. It offered a very inviting bouquet. JoelA reviewed it in Guest contributions previously and mentioned it’s “musty nose & velvety texture”. While we didn’t get the “musty nose” we certainly noticed the very glycerin-like body of this wine, giving it what I’d call a medium-body, quite unlike the normal lighter bodied Pinot Noir that I’m more used to.

If I’d tasted this in a blind test, I’d have guessed it was a blend of Syrah and Merlot. Syrah because of the spiciness (cinnamon and a hint of clove was evident in the taste) and Merlot for the medium mouthfeel and silky richness.

It was quite fruit forward (think raspberry and cherry cola) bordering on lightly sweet. Yet, it was incredibly tasty.  JoelA did mention that the alcohol heat was evident and I completely agree.  It was a lot warmer than I expected for a Pinot Noir.

I’m giving it a thumbs up simply for the taste (and I will be buying more if it is still available).  It was quite an enjoyable wine, even if I wouldn’t have known it was a Pinot Noir.