Castiglioni 2005 Chianti

Chianti DOCG, Tuscany, Italy; from Frescobaldi; 12.5% ABV
$6 at the Richmond, CA, store on 16 Sept

castiglioni_2005_chiantiThis wine looked potentially very good, but also potentially awful.  The color through the bottle was a dark, saturated red, but, hmm, an 11-year-old Chianti…

I let the sediment in the bottom settle for a few days before decanting it.  (The sediment seemed to be mostly fine-grained but not silty, i.e., it would quickly settle to the bottom of your glass, so decanting it off the sediment is probably not necessary here.)  From the rounded top of the cork under the capsule, I suspected some heat damage, but when I unwrapped it, the cork appeared to have just not been put in all the way rather than having been subsequently forced up by thermal expansion.

The wine was pretty tasty right away, showing richer, ripe, dark red cherry fruit with some darker bitterness of cherry pit, but I thought it needed about 1:15 – 1:45 of air to really open up.  Then, the wine shows more tangy dark red / black cherry, cherry pit, herbal or sappy wood / earth, and only a trace of Chianti’s usual dried orange.  The wine is not the most complex, but is quite nicely full-flavored and elegant for the price.  And not too old!  But do drink it up pretty soon, as it seems perfectly mature now.

The next day, the saved, single-glass, screwcap bottle was at least as good, maybe better.  The fruit was more rich and forward, integrated with other complexities, and didn’t need that much air.  However, I still think one shouldn’t wait long to drink it.

Jade Mountain 2013 Chardonnay

84% Napa County, 16% Mendocino County; 13.5% ABV
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 15 September

jademountain_2013_chardonnayI had been interested in this wine for a while because I recall the name Jade Mountain from when I started drinking wine in the later 90s.  I seem to recall they made some interesting Rhone-varietal wines.  Although I’m sure they’ve been through a lot of changes in the intervening years, the personal association still made me hopeful this would be a good wine.  ‘Twas not to be.

On first pour, the wine showed typical Chardonnay yellow apple, but with some unpleasant and rough funkiness.  This sometimes means that the wine just needed a little more air, and indeed, smooth and ripe fruit of apple, pineapple, and pear did come forth significantly more, becoming reasonably drinkable but still sort of off-putting for me.

The next day, the fruit and unpleasant flavor had both become more fully pronounced, making it overall worse in my opinion: medium-ripe yellow apple, dried pineapple (slightly sulfurous?), ripe and smooth but with an unpleasant over-ripeness or perhaps slight oxidation.  Although it’s not tremendously offensive, I didn’t like it very much.

“El Vinculo” 2009 Crianza

from Alejandro Fernández; La Mancha DO, Spain
100% Tempranillo; 14.5% ABV
$6 at the Richmond, CA, store on 2 Sept

elvinculo_2009_crianzaThis wine looked pretty interesting, but my bottle was quite disappointing.  Although with some air, it tasted of softer, tasty ripe fruit of black raspberry / darker red cherry and purple grape, it was marred by a sort of earthy / rubbery funk, especially on the finish.  It has been a while since I’ve had a corked wine, but this matches my recollections of a badly corked wine.  A customer returned a bottle, and wanted me to taste it to see what I thought.  It tasted just like my (likely) corked bottle.  However, G.L.Pease had a bottle that he said was not corked, but was unexciting wine.  Given the higher risks-to-reward on this one, I’m going with Thumbs Down.

Red Lava Vineyards 2008 Syrah

Red Hills Lake County AVA, CA, 15.5% ABV
$7 at the Richmond, CA, store on 22 Aug

RedLava_2008_SyrahA number of Red Lava wines showed up together at the Richmond store: 2008 Syrah, 2009 Syrah, 2011 Syrah, and 2011 Tempranillo.  I got the 08 and 09 Syrahs, distrusting the weaker year of 2011.  I think this wine is very good in a ripe, fruity, CA way.

After about an hour of air, the wine shows ripe, tangy dark cherry and blueberry, cranberry sauce, black-earthy roasted or grilled character, with zingy acid on the finish, and a slight touch dark evergreen.  The body is not very heavy, letting a bit of alcoholic hotness show through, but the wine is well-flavored,  There is a little bit of simple or candied fruitiness that I dislike, but overall I thought it was outweighed by the more serious Syrah character.  Thumbs Up.

The second half, stoppered in a 375ml bottle with very little air, was different but at least as good.  It still needed a bit of air to show very ripe, rich, earthy fruit of dark purple cherry, purple grape, blueberry / blackberry, perhaps still some of the cranberry sauce, with a roasted / grilled character, and slightly abrasive tannin / acid on the finish.  Overall, this is very good wine for the money.

Collavini 2013 Ribolla Gialla

Delle Venezie IGT, Italy; 12.5% ABV
$4 at the Richmond, CA, store on about 15 Aug

Collavini_2013_RibollaGiallaThe grape varietal Ribolla Gialla sounded only vaguely familiar.  It turned out this site had only one RG review, and dluber wrote it.  This wine is interesting, and IMO very good for the price.

The wine’s color is of less intense golden yellow.  The nose of riper yellow and white fruit is immediately enticing.  On the palate, the wine gives medium-intensity flavors of yellow pear / melon, ripe (maybe slightly caramelized) yellow apple, white pear, green grape skin (with attendant slight bitterness), slight almondy nuttiness, supporting wood, and moderately crisp acid..  The taste has nice delineation and complexity for the low price.  While the wine does show its age a little, it is not at all over the hill, and makes for nice current drinking.

The next day, the wine has a more woody, getting-close-to-oxidized flavor, but the other flavors are still there, and the wine is still tasty and pleasant.

Feudo dei Tari 2015 Rosato

Toscana IGT, Italy; 12.5% ABV
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 12 Aug

FeudoDeiTari_2015_RosatoThis wine looked very promising, with its lovely pale orange / pink color and elegant modernist label, but it took me a little while to get to it.  It is indeed quite lovely.

The wine shows delicate flavors of riper pink grapefruit / tangerine, strawberry / raspberry, light yellow melon / lemon, a little balancing bitterness of grape skin / stem, with perhaps a hint of raw almond.  The fruit is accessible but not overpowering, nicely integrated with a soft minerality.  I could find no information about this wine online.  To my surprise, it is not mentioned on the producer’s web site.

The next day, the wine was a little less elegant and balanced, but still nicely complex and tasty.

Gauther 2013 Sauvignon Blanc

Block House Vineyard, Yountville, Napa Valley, CA
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store

Gauthier_2013_SauvBlancAfter the Gauthier Sonoma Valley Zinfandel attracted so much attention, I thought I’d try this Sauvignon Blanc, which also looked quite good.  Probably because my expectations were high, I wasn’t wowed by it, but it is quite good for the price.

I thought the wine had nice fruit of yellow lemon and melon, good acid and a very nice minerally structure.  I’d wish it to be more complex, but it’s a tasty and well-made wine for the price.


Le French Frog 2014 Moscato

southern France; about 12% ABV, IIRC
$3 at the Richmond, CA, store

LeFrenchFrog_2014_MoscatoI generally avoid Moscato, since I usually find it too sweet and cloying.  However, a customer buying a case said this one was quite dry.  Since I do indeed appreciate a dry Moscato, I was intrigued enough to try a bottle, and found it quite pleasant for the low price.

The wine shows typical Moscato flavors of perfumed flowers and melon, very smooth, with a slight softness to the texture.  I would have liked a bit more intensity to the flavors and a little more acid, but I thought it was a very pleasant quaffer, especially for hot weather.

Kest 2011 Reserve “4 Cepages'”

Barossa, Australia
60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, 6% Petit Verdot; 13% ABV
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 25 July

KestReserve_2011I thought this wine, a Bordeaux-style blend from a good wine region of Australia, looked very interesting.  I decanted this wine off a small amount of sediment.  I drank the dregs to get an idea of what the wine would be like, and it seemed highly promising: a huge nose and flavor of eucalpytus / menthol and dark purple plum.  Unfortunately, and to my surprise, the rest of the wine did not deliver.

I thought it needed 2 – 2.5 hours in a decanter to fully air.  The nose was still as strongly dominated by eucalyptus, with the fruit in the background.  On the palate, the wine is quite light-bodied for these varietals, tasting of said plum, dark cherry, maybe cranberry, and mildly spiced earth / eucalyptus wood.  The weakness of the fruit and a slight balsamic vinegar character to the acid makes me think this wine is past its prime, and I’m not sure how strong that prime was.  Robert Parker’s vintage ratings chart (linked to near the bottom of the links on the right side of the page) lists 2011 as a particularly bad year in Barossa (79 / 100).

The saved single-glass, screwcap bottle was, to my surprise, not awful.  It still needed some air to show the same nice eucalyptus wood aromatics, with the fruit a definite second.  On the palate, the tasty wood and acid were indeed the main things; the fruit showed nice Bordeaux-blend flavors (red and purplish cherry, red currant), but was really quite weak.  I had expected to go Thumbs Down on this, but the second day performance raises it to Drinkable, even if I’m still not that enthusiastic about it.

Open Hills Ranch 2013 Chardonnay

Central Coast, CA; 14.9% ABV
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 12 Aug

OpenHillsRanch_2013_ChardonnayUsually I don’t help with ordering the wine too much, but I ordered this wine, and since then it has pretty much just sat on the shelves.  It beat me why, since I thought it looked pretty good, so I finally tried one.  While it’s a little heavily ripe for my taste, it is pretty good for the price, and of course I think that’s not just because I ordered it.

Even at refrigerator coldness, the wine is quite ripe, full-flavored and -bodied, and smooth, showing predominantly yellow apple and butter, with some nice complexity of white / yellow pear, and vanilla oak, with a slight, chalky minerality.  I’d guess full malolactic fermentation here.  As it warms from fridge temp, the fruit becomes less balanced, with the ripe fruit becoming a bit solid and dull to my taste.  Still, although the wine is a few years old now, it is not oxidized, there are no off flavors, and it is a pretty powerful Chardonnay. I expect to recommend this to many customers who like it ripe and buttery.