Cambridge Cellars “Limited” 2012 Monterey Chardonnay

Monterey, CA; 14.2% ABV
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 21 May

CambridgeLimited_2012_ChardonnayOn first pour, this wine is a little rough, especially on the finish.  This mostly smooths out after being open a little bit, showing lighter creamy vanilla / white pear, lighter yellow lemon, white of melon rind, and still a little weird funky roughness on the finish.  The fruit flavors are nice enough, but a bit on the lighter and less intense side, and I found the acid slightly strong in comparison, although some folks likely prefer that.  :)  Not very exciting to me but certainly drinkable.

Sebastopol Oaks 2013 Sauvignon Blanc

Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, CA; 14.3% ABV; screw cap
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 14 May

SebastopolOaks_2013_SauvBlancI thought this was decent wine, but darn if it doesn’t taste to me like Viognier: lightly yellow peach and white nectarine, bitterness of green grape skin and peach pit.  Not one of those overly flowery, honeyed, perfumy Viogniers.

The last bit in the bottle, left in the fridge, tasted more honeyed and riper.  Underneath that,  I could see possibly some more typical Sauvignon Blanc melon fruit and grassiness, but it was mostly buried.  However, aside from the atypical flavors, the wine is not exceptional but pretty good.

Zonin 2010 Montepulciano D’Abruzzo

Montepulciano D’Abruzzo DOC, Italy; 12.5% ABV
$4 at the Oakland, CA, store on 14 May

Zonin_2010_MontepulcianoDAbruzzoI opened this before I started to cook, pouring off a half bottle for another night and leaving the rest in the open bottle.  When dinner started, it was nearly 90 minutes later and, by then, the wine was fully open and quite good for the price.  It showed textured fruit of darker purple / red plum, prune, black earth, and some black pepper.  In addition to ripe fruit, it had the stronger acid typical of Montepulciano D’Abruzzo, but for me this went well with a pasta with red sauce and sausage.

A couple days later, the second half, stoppered in a 375ml bottle with very little air, was softer and fruitier, less earthy and acid, but still tasty enough.  Overall, pretty good for an every day wine at this price.  Don’t wait to drink it.

Evening Land 2011 Chardonnay

Arroyo Grande AVA, California; 13.25% ABV (I don’t recall seeing 2 decimal places before)
$7 at the Richmond, CA, store on 15 May.  Plenty at Berkeley.

EveningLand_2011_Chard_ArroyoGrandeOn the first night, I didn’t like this wine very much.  It was a little sulfurous, especially at first.  Later, it still seemed a little rough and poorly integrated, tasting of tart lemon, a little yellow apple, with a finish of oxidized or slightly spoiled apple.  There were moments when it seemed like there was a nicely delicate Chardonnay in there somewhere, but on the whole it didn’t emerge.

I liked it much better the next day, when it showed barely ripe fruit of pineapple / yellow apple, lemon, green apple, and vanilla, still with rather crisp acid.  While there’s still a hint of the first day’s sulfur, overall the wine has become delicately flavored, entertainingly complex, and nicely integrated.

I didn’t get to finish the review last night, so I got to sample some on the third day after all.  It had become dominated by green apple, even more acid, and I wouldn’t recommend it.  Overall, I really wanted to like this, and on the second day there was a lot good about it, but I thought its nice nuances were generally overshadowed by its acid.

Petit Le Mont 2013 Sauvignon (blanc)

made with organic grapes; bottled by Foucher Lebrun; 12.5% ABV
Val de Loire Indication Géographique Protégée, France
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 15 May

PetitLeMont_2013_SauvignonWe don’t often get Sauvignon Blancs from the Loire at the GO, so there’s already been a bit of excitement about this wine in comments.  However, this one didn’t really thrill me that much.

It’s clearly a substantial wine, with a fairly heavy body for a white.  I found flavors of tart lemon and less ripe green apple, a weighty minerality, and something that might be oxidation but I suspect really isn’t.  It could be wood.  I look forward to trying it the next day.

The next day, the rest of this wine was more fruit-forward and complex, less minerally, but there still didn’t seem to be all that much to it: less ripe fruit of lemon and gooseberries, and that flavor I still can’t pinpoint but is probably wood (although at one point, it reminded me of apple juice).  It strikes me as a very solidly made wine, but without enough complexity to stir my interest.  Weinish wrote that he liked this wine because, “I like my wines more restrained.”  However, I didn’t find much in this wine that required restraining.

DavidLikesWine wrote, “I found it well balanced between fruit and acidity with some interesting almost honeyed notes (but not in a bad way and not out of balance). For $5 this is an definite “buy” for me.”  DelMartian1 wrote, “I prefer my SB to be a bit dryer but the wife really liked this one. It had a slightly sweet finish reminiscent of a Rose D’anjou from the Loire.”  I thought this wine was totally dry, but maybe they are noting the same thing that struck me as “apple juice.”  K&L wines, which sold this for $12, wrote, “From such an inexpensive wine (organic to boot) this has fantastic fruit concentration on the palate and a clean zippy finish.  Floral and clean on the nose with hints of white stone fruits and soft minerals.”

Murviedro Colección 2012 Tempranillo

Utiel-Requena DOP, Spain; 13% ABV
$4 at the Berkeley, CA, store on 13 May

Murviedro_2012_TempranilloThis wine was not terrible right away, but it clearly needed air.  It was better after about an hour, but I thought it needed about 2 hours to fully air.  Then it became a fruity, medium-bodied wine, with flavors of ripe, slightly darker red cherry, cherry pit, a little red plum and rose.  Not very substantial, but tasty and easily enjoyable.

A couple days later, the saved single-glass, screw-cap bottle was slightly darker and richer, less acid, perhaps a little more simple, still “tasty and easily enjoyable.”  There would seem to be no immediate rush to drink it, but it’s not built to last, and there’s certainly no reason to wait.

Sodini 2013 Chardonnay

California; 14.3% ABV
$5 at the Oakland, CA, store on 14 May

Sodini_2013_ChardonnayThe back label of this wine reads in part, “Cellared and bottled by Sonini Wines, Napa, CA,” so maybe this wine showed up at the GO because of this typo.  I could not find anything about this wine online, but I did find that there’s a Sodini Vineyard from which Rochioli has made Chardonnay in the past.  Whatever the reason, I thought this was pretty good wine for the price.

The wine shows typical Chardonnay flavors, supple and fairly elegant, of ripe lemon and yellow apple, with a good amount of green apple.  The fruit is nicely ripe, with some viscosity, but well balanced by tangy acid.  In its character, my wild-assed guess is this is mostly Central Coast fruit with a little Napa.  Anyway, Thumbs Up, as none of this survived to see the next day.

Fontana Gina 2013 Pinot Grigio

Veneto IGT, Italy; 12.5% ABV
$4 at the Richmond, CA, store on 4 May

FontanaGina_2013_PinotGrigioThis wine, with its solid yellow color through the bottle, immediately looked atypical for Pinot Grigio from the Veneto area, which is usually a more pale yellow with a tinge of green.  Indeed, as it turned out, it’s more in a Californian style, with softer, ripe fruit and less structure and tartness than a typical northern Italian white.  But, maybe because I’m a Californian, I love it.

It’s not as ripe and heavy as it might be if it were from Napa, but its more delicate body and sweetly ripe fruit could be from the Central Coast.  It showed typical Pinot Grigio flavors of lemon and pear, some atypical sweet yellow fruit that could be peach or mango, and a little freshly dried straw.  Although the fruit is ripe, it certainly has enough pleasantly balancing acid.

The next day, the rest of the bottle left in the fridge dominated by acid instead of by sweet fruit, but that acid was still ripe, juicy, and tasty.  The wood / straw was also a little stronger.  Although the overall character of the wine was a bit different, I thought it was still very tasty.

Benessere 2011 Old Vines Zinfandel “Holystone – Collins”

Napa Valley, CA, 14.1% ABV
$8 at the Richmond, CA, store on 4 May (comp)

Benessere_2011_OVZinHolystoneCollinsOn my post about the Benessere 2011 Zinfandel “Black Glass Estate Vineyard,” Seedboy and DLuber commented that they also liked it, but had found this wine to be flawed.  DLuber: “cooked, rubbery, and rotten aromas and a funky palate.”  Unlike what usually seems to happen, my bottle was actually good!

After the long airing time of the Black Glass Zin, I prepared to let this also air 3 – 3.5 hours.  However, this wine took even longer, 3.5 – 4 hours, to show softer fruit of black and red raspberries, red plum, and a vegetal tarry flavor.  The acid in this wine is stronger and more tangy than the Black Glass Zin’s, and this wine is less complex.  Although I prefer the Black Glass Zin, this wine is still good for the price, and will likely also improve with age in cool storage.

The next day, the second half (stoppered in a 375ml bottle with very little air) still needed 2+ hours of air to show darker and slightly richer fruit of boysenberry / almost blackberry, darker plum, with some black and red raspberry in the background.  The “tarry vegetal” flavor is much less noticeable.  The acid is still a little strong, but of ripe fruit, reminding me of the plum jam I make.  Overall, I still prefer the 2011 Black Glass Zin to this wine, and especially given Seedboy’s and DLuber’s bad experiences with this wine, the Black Glass is probably the one to choose if you see both.  However, this wine is still good for the price, especially if your local GO allows you to return open bottles, or you are willing to take your chances aging some for a while.

Disclosure: This bottle was an unsolicited gift from the store manager.

Two Moscatos D’Asti

piccole gioie 2011 Moscato d’Asti DOCG, Italy
Azienda Agricola Anna Ghione; 5.5% ABV
$4 at the Richmond, CA, store on 4 May

PiccoleGioie_2011_MoscatoDAstiThis wine is quite yummy, with yellow flowers, ripe yellow apple and pear, strongly Muscat-perfumed, with gentle carbonation.  However, it is perhaps a little too sweet and heavy.  We drank these with spicy Indian take-out, and I preferred this wine with it.






Ruffino 2012 Moscato d’Asti DOCG, Italy; 6% ABV
$6 at the Richmond, CA, store on 4 May

Ruffino_2012_MoscatoDAstiMildly sweet light yellow pear and some of the Muscat perfumed flowers, I found this wine relatively bland compared to the 2011 Ghione above, and compared to the spicy Indian food.  OTOH, on of our guests preferred this wine as less sweet and more balanced.  I also thought this wine was less carbonated.  Tasting some the next day on its own, I thought this tasted just fine, although still not especially exciting.