La Viña 2013 Tempranillo – Merlot

Catalunya DO, Spain
50% Tempranillo, 50% Merlot; 13.5% ABV
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 13 Aug

LaVina_2013_TempMerlotAt first pour, this seems promising, although the Tempranillo’s dry, dusty earth and the Merlot’s soft dark plum / cherry fruit were rather far apart, not at all well blended.  However, after about 80 minutes in a decanter, the wine integrated incredibly well, showing darker earthy black and red fruit with dusty earth / spice, really becoming more complex than the the sum its parts.

A few days later, the second half, stoppered in a 375ml bottle, was initially soft and fruity.  This disappointed me because it seemed like the Merlot had “won” in the blend.  However, about 45 minutes later, the soft fruitiness cleared up and the wine again became more clearly delineated and structured, some earthiness showing up again.  It was not as dark and complex as on the first night, but still pretty good.  Overall, I’d give this tasty wine a solid Drinkable.

Hooker 2010 “Breakaway” Chardonnay

produced and bottled by Lawer Family Winery
Napa Valley, CA; 13.5% ABV
$6 at the Berkeley, CA, store on about 27 Aug

Hooker_2010_ChardI seemed to recall some excitement about some “Hooker” wine a while ago, although I thought it was a red. Still, I thought I should try this one. However, after trying it, I suspect even more strongly that the “Hooker” excitement was about a red. :)

On first pour, the nicely structured wine showed less intense flavors of less ripe lemon and yellow apple, vanilla / white pear, and bitterness of skin and stem. While I liked the “well-put-together”-ness of it, I was disappointed by the lighter flavors, and I thought the bitterness overwhelmed the fruit. However, it’s not that bitter, and still reasonably good, and I could see it floating some folks’ boats.

The next day, the last glass or so left in the bottle (corked in the fridge), was a little more forward, but overall very similar. For me, okay but not that exciting.

Vega Moragona 2008 Tempranillo Viñas Viejas

Ribera del Júcar DO, Spain
imported by USA Wine West, Sausalito, CA, for World Wine Headquarters
$5 at the Oakland, CA, store on 7 July.  The 2010 was also present but the bottle and label looked less substantial.

VegaMoragona_2008_TempranilloThis was pretty good from first pour, but needed about two hours in a decanter to show earthy fruit of dark red, purple, and black fruit of cherry and plum, both tangy and a little liqueur-like, and a little prune.  Quite tasty!

The saved, single-glass screw-cap bottle, however, was not as good.  The fruit had become heavier and rougher, more acid, with the prune flavor becoming rather strong.  I kept this at home for quite a while, so it definitely experienced more temperature fluctuations than it would have in a store.  Even so, I suspect this is one to drink up if you have it.

Bellum 2005 “Providencia” Old Vine Monastrell

Bellum Label Pic100% Monastrell; 15% ABV Yecia, Spain
$5 at the Point Loma – San Diego CA, store on 9  Aug

This was an interesting pickup if only because of the fact that it may be my first 100% Spanish Mourvedre (Monastrell) and is certainly the oldest at drinking. This particular Old Vine designated wine is made from 50+ year old grapes. Upon first pour, the wine showed as dark, tannic and quite hot and needed a lot of air. While the mid palate contained nice notes of dark berries and some vanilla, with some earthy additions throughout, two components were difficult to get past – heat and ruby port-like flavor.

This wine is labeled at 15% and I would bet its actual ABV is considerably higher than that and whatever Spain allows by law as far as variation is concerned. The wine did not evolve that much in the glass nor was it helped by being stoppered in a 375ml bottle overnight or with tasting on day 3.

In short, I believe this wine is in the middle of a downhill plunge and I did not find it enjoyable nor representative of my experiences with Monastrell/Mourvedre in the past.

Steelhead 2012 Chardonnay

Sonoma County, CA; 14.2% ABV
$7 at the Richmond, CA, store on 20 Aug

Steelhead_2012_ChardonnayThis wine has been around for a while, and appreciated by my customers who seemed particular about their Chardonnay, even at its somewhat higher price.  I guess I can see what they like about it, but it’s not in my style.

Right away, the wine shows full-bodied, quite ripe yellow apple, buttery and oaky, but not so much that it leaves splinters in your tongue.  I find this wine a bit heavy and indelicate, but if this is your thing, it’s a decent example.

The next day, I thought the rest in the bottle (left with the cork in it in the fridge) was worse for the day open.  It was quite similar, but I thought it had become more unbalanced or even had a slightly off flavor.  I was happy to add it to some sausage and white bean stew.

Il Follo “Cuvee Rosé” Brut, Vino Spumante Rosato

Farra di Soligo County, northeast Italy;  11.5% ABV
$7 at the Richmond, CA, store on 16 Aug

IlFollo_CuveeRoseAfter finding the Il Follo Extra Dry Prosecco pretty tasty, I was curious to try this wine.  It was very dry (more so than the Prosecco), with delicate fruit flavors of strawberry / almost cherry and quince jelly, yeasty, with a slightly bitter edge and acid that is nearly “crisp.”  It was strongly carbonated.  In contrast to the more exuberantly flavored Prosecco, this was more restrained and elegant.  I drank it with pan-fried salmon, and the fish overwhelmed it.  I’d suggest plain shrimp instead.  However, I thought it was a bit more simple than the Prosecco, and overall I’d say solidly Drinkable.

Il Follo’s homepage is here.  I didn’t see this wine label there, but their rosé was listed as composed of the traditional Glera grape and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Ca’ Bella 2010 “Pi-Ano” Pinot Grigio – Fiano

52% Fiano, 48% Pinot Grigio; 14.0% ABV
Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, CA
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 13 Aug

CaBella_2010_Pi-AnoThe Ca’ Bella red was quite popular, but I had stayed away from the white until G. L. Pease recommended it in person.  white melon / white of the melon rind / austere white peach, ripe lemon, some of the Pinot Grigio pear and straw, lightly honeyed, finishing with slight bitterness.  Not the smoothest blend, but quite flavorful, containing ripe fruit plus balancing acid and bitterness, and pretty good for the price.

A few days later, the last half glass left in the fridge was much better integrated and really quite tasty!

Benessere 2009 Black Glass Vineyard Zinfandel

Napa Valley, CA; 14.7%
$8 at the Richmond, CA, store on 7 Aug

Benessere_2009_Zin_BlackGlassVnydLike a number of wines recently, this one had intrigued me for a while because its 2011 bottling was well-liked, and 2009 was supposedly a better year.  I just now got around to it, but that is indeed the case: this wine is terrific.

This wine does not show much at first pour, just some lighter red raspberry fruit and the promise of some aged complexity.  IMO, giving this wine 1.5 – 2+ hours in a decanter is amply rewarded.  When fully aired, it shows ripe, dark, flavors of black raspberry, black cherry, a little blackberry, zingy red raspberry acid, vanillin-y American oak, in a smooth, polished, full body, black pepper in the finish. While it’s very good, now, it could possibly improve for a couple years more.

A few days later, the saved, single-glass, screw-cap bottle was softer, redder, and showing more caramelly aged complexity.  It did not seem to develop darker like the bottle did initially.  While tasty, it convinced me that although the wine could probably hold on for that couple more years, it likely will not really improve.  Give it air, but enjoy it soon.

Risorgimento non-vintage Brachetto D’Acqui

Brachetto D’Acqui DOCG, Piedmont, Italy; 7% ABV
$8 at the Richmond, CA, store on 10 Aug

BrachettoDAcqiI had been curious about this wine since looking up the Brachetto grape, described as a lighter, aromatic red.  This wine fits that description.  The fruity and floral nose is immediately noticeable, with much more of the same on the palate: sweet red cherry / strawberry with a very slightly bitter edge, and fragrant red / pink roses, as though it contained rose water, maybe a little geranium flower.  The carbonation is moderate and the sweetness is definitely there but not overpowering.  I had guessed a sweet red would be good with Indian take-out, but the food actually overpowered the wine.  It’s probably better paired with something like a lighter ham.  I quite enjoyed the novelty of a sweet, rose-tasting red, but it struck me as an otherwise fairly simple wine, so I’ll go with Drinkable.

The label was awkward to photograph.  The “Brachetto d’Acqui” was in shiny red, while the background label was in matte black.  The photo I wound up using was at oblique angle to the light, using reflected light from nearby, and still it’s not great.  I hope it’s good enough to recognize the bottle if you’re interested in the wine.

Selection St. Martin Dry French Red

produced and bottled by La Vignerons de la Mediteranee, Narbonne, France; 11.5% ABV
imported by Pasternak Wine Imports, NY
$4 at the Richmond, CA, store on about 6 Aug.

StMartins_DryFrenchRedThis wine did not seem to have anything going for it — no geographical designation, no vintage, no real producer — but it was imported by Pasternak, of whom for some reason I have a good impression.  Well, it was no huge discovery, but it was not bad, either.

On the first day, it was not bad right away, but I thought it benefited from about an hour of air.  Then, it showed fruit, fairly jammy but also gently tangy, of black cherry (Grenache?) and red / purple plum, a little earth / spice, nicely integrated, with reasonably balancing acid.  It doesn’t really exhibit any specific terroir, but I guess you could say it’s slightly more French than anything else.  The rest was tasty enough to drink over the next hour or two.

The saved, single-glass bottle still needed a bit of air before the fruit sweetened and filled out again.  It was slightly more pruney and acid, but otherwise much the same as on the first night.  Overall, a perfectly serviceable red.