Russian Hill 2006 Pinot Noir “Leras Vineyard”

Russian River Valley, CA; 14.3% ABV
$7 at the Berkeley, CA, store on 25 Feb

RussianHill_2006_Pinot_LerasVinAs I recall, this was Seedboy’s least favorite of the Russian Hill Pinot Noirs that showed up recently at many Northern California GOs.  (Only N. CA?)  At this point, I agree that I like it less than I liked the 2006 Tara Vineyard Pinot, but with the caveat that this might just need more age to become a more elegant Pinot than the Tara.

On the first night, I poured out a single-glass screw-capped bottle for another night.  For a good while, I did not like this wine very much at all.  It tasted a bit thin and acid, with an overall nature of artificial, tart candy.  However, as it slowly aired, the candy nature receded and the wine developed much more elegance and depth.  I think it reached its peak after around 3 hours in a decanter, when it showed dark red cherry, black raspberry, red plum, orange, cola, and still some lighter red raspberry.  This was all in a lighter body, elegantly delineated, and never quite becoming fully accessible.  I was hopeful the saved bottle would be so.

The next evening, that saved bottle still needed a good bit of air before showing lighter red flavors of classic Russian River Pinot Noir — earthy, darker red cherry, some lighter tart cherry, the same orange and earthy cola, supporting oak — still all very elegant and delineated.  I’m still not sure how much substance there is to this wine, but if you like the lighter and elegant style of Pinot Noir, I suspect this could amply reward a couple more years of cellaring.  So… a cautious Thumbs Up.

Gérard Bertrand 2009 La Clape “Grand Terroir”

50% Syrah, 35% Carignan, and 15% Mourvèdre; 14% ABV
Appellation Coteaux du Languedoc La Clape Protégée, France
$5 at the Berkeley, CA, store on 25 Feb

Bertrand_2009_LaClapeAfter happily going through a number of bottles of the Bertrand 2008 Tautavel, especially over the holidays, I eagerly grabbed this bottle.  It’s different, but also pretty good.

This wine is not as rich as the 2008 Tautavel, but it is perhaps more complex, and definitely more French in style.  It was tasty from first pour, but a bit restrained at first.  It opened up nicely after about 75 minutes in a decanter, giving ripe, tangy flavors of purple / red plum, black cherry, black and red raspberries, perhaps a little violets / roses, and, throughout, the French sort of gamey, earthy funk that I love.  Overall, I didn’t like this as well as I did the Tautavel (this wine is a dollar less), but it’s a nice wine for casual drinking, especially if you are also fond of distinctively French wine.

The next day, the second half (stored in a 375ml bottle and stoppered with very little air) was a little redder and more acid than the first half, but still quite tasty, especially with food.  However, I preferred it on the first night.

Russian Hill 2003 Syrah “Ellen’s Block”

Russian River Valley, CA; 14.8% ABV
$7 at the Berkeley, CA, store on 24 Feb

RussianHill_2003_Syrah_EllensBlockThis is the second review of the Russian Hill wines I picked up.  I like this much better than the 2006 “Tara Vineyard” Pinot Noir, which I also liked.  This is terrific Syrah for California, and it’s not even the Syrah that Seedboy recommended most.  (He said the 2006 “Top Block” was better, and liked the 2001 “Windsor Oaks” the best.  Did I get that right, SB?)

The wine is a little closed at first, but after about 10 minutes in the glass, or about an hour in a decanter, it shows a dense, gamey, dark-fruited nose.  The rich, supply textured palate shows flavors of dark red and black fruit: plum, raspberry, black pepper,  a little blackberry, and heavier, funky earth / supporting oak.  While the fruit is definitely New World, the dark earthy funkiness could be French.  I’m pretty sure none of my bottle will survive to see the next day.

Paso Creek 2006 Merlot

Paso Robles, CA; 13.5% ABV
$6 at the Oakland, CA, store on 13 Feb

PasoCreek_2006_MerlotI got this a couple weeks ago, so I don’t know if it’s still around anywhere.  I’m pretty sure it’s no longer at the Oakland store.  Robaire said his stock had just been cleaned out. I got this bottle just because it happened to be on the very top shelf away from the rest of it.

On the first night, I poured out a single-glass screw-cap bottle, decanted the rest, and then ran out of the house, returning nearly an hour later.  I needn’t have worried about its getting too aired in the meanwhile.  The wine was rather tart and not showing that much fruit.  It got better as the evening went on, but it still seemed not fully opened, staying on the tart and rough side.  In this time, it showed flavors of red and lighter purple plum, darker red cherries, and some cherry pit / supporting wood.  I thought it was at best Drinkable.  However, the last bit that had been in the decanter about 3.5 hours seemed to have finally softened, darkened and integrated a bit, so the saved small bottle might be better.

The saved half bottle is indeed surprisingly smooth, sweet, and integrated.  The fruit has darkened some and become slightly candy-like, but not in a really bad way.  The fruit – acid balance is pretty nice, with engagingly tangy flavors.  I’m still not all that wild about it, but it definitely moves up to a solid Drinkable.  You might want to put it in a covered decanter for day before drinking it.

Russian Hill 2006 Pinot Noir “Tara Vineyard”

Russian River Valley, CA; 14.5% ABV
$7 at the Berkeley, CA, store on 24 Feb

RussianHill_2006_Pinot_TaraVinThere’s been a bit of excitement on this blog for a while about the impending, now recent, arrival of a collection of Russian Hill wines.  This is my first bottle of the few I’ve bought so far, and I thought it was quite good for the price.

I first poured off a single-glass screw-capped bottle for another night, and then just let the rest air slowly in the original bottle since there was very little or no sediment.  Initially, the wine shows lighter red cherry fruit and earthy orange and root beer of nice, aged  and gently funky Pinot Noir, finishing with acid that was a bit sharp or rough.  Although not too bad at first, I thought it got better after about 1:15 minutes, reaching its peak around 1:45 after opening.  At that point, the fruit dominated and was darker, sweeter, and richer, tasting predominantly of dark red cherry, redder plum, and dark red raspberry, with the other complexities now well integrated.  Even though it needed a bit of air, I thought at times that its acid hinted at the wine’s becoming too old, so drink up!

Tonight, I opened the saved bottle, and the wine initially was quite tart, although not in a too-old kind of way.  After it was open for 40 minutes or so, the fruit darkened similarly to how it did last night, and was very nice.  It was still a little on the acid side, so this is likely a good food wine.  In comparison to other GO Pinots of late, this is definitely worth the extra dollar more than the Swami, but a good bottle of Cima Collina is probably worth the dollar more than this wine.

La Viña non-vintage red

60% Tempranillo, 30% Garnacha, 10% Cariñena (Carignan); 13% ABV
Catalunya DO, Spain
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 10 Feb

LaVina_Catalunya_RedThis wine, with a rather generic name and no vintage, seemed a bit risky, but possibly rewarding.  However, the longer odds did not pay off this time; the wine’s kind of bad.

Although the wine has tasty darker red fruit that is ripe and tangy, with balancing acid, there’s a touch of vinegar to the acid that I couldn’t get past.  After decanting it, I poured it back in the bottle in anticipation of returning it.

The next day, the vinegar flavor, like the rest of the wine, is better integrated, but still not going away.  I tried drinking more, but still couldn’t get past that vinegar aspect.  Thumbs down.

Cline 2013 Zinfandel

California; 14.0% ABV
$4 at the Richmond, CA, store on 10 Feb

Cline_2013_Zin_CACline, like Ravenswood, is another Zinfandel producer I’ve enjoyed a long time, so I had to pick up even this generic bottling at such a low price.  This does not much resemble the Cline Zinfandels of my hazy memories, but it’s reasonably tasty wine for the price.

This wine is pretty tasty right away, but it darkens and fills out with an hour or three of air.  Then, it shows medium full-bodied, jammy flavors of blueberry, boysenberry, and cherry.  For my taste, it’s a bit too fruity and has too much of the artificial vanilla of American oak, but it’s an enjoyably Drinkable quaffer.

There was about a glass’ worth left in the stoppered bottle.  The next day, its flavors were more integrated and a little more acid, but it was otherwise much the same.

Eastmoor Hills Estate 2008 “Proprietor’s Reserve” Syrah

Columbia Valley, WA; 13.9% ABV; screw cap
$6 at the Richmond, CA, store on 10 Feb

EastmoorHillsEst_2008_PropResSyrahThis review will be a little strange because a while after I opened this bottle, I remembered I was going out to eat that night.  When I opened the wine, I immediately saved a glass in a 750÷4 ml screwcap bottle.  I drank a glass, but the other half of the bottle went into a 750÷2 ml bottle after it had been in a decanter for about 1:30 or 1:40, just when it was starting to get good.  :)

On opening, I didn’t like this wine very much.  It tasted like bad cherry candy.  However, it seemed like it might have some more depth that could emerge with more air.  After about 1.5 hours of air, the candy-ness had receded and earthy darker red and purple fruit had emerged.  I still wasn’t that wild about it, especially since it possibly had some of the funkiness that is sometimes present in reds closed with screw caps.  However, I didn’t have longer to ponder this.

The saved half bottle (of wine that had already aired for a while) was pretty good.  It didn’t have any of the bad funk I earlier thought might have been there.  It tasted of fruity dark red cherry, less ripe blueberry, medium purple plum, nicely balanced by acid and a little bitterness of fruit pit.  Unfortunately (for me, at least), there’s also still a fair amount of the artificial vanilla and cooked rhubarb of American oak, of which I’m not very fond.  The wine is mature but still in good shape, and tasty enough, but not something I’m very excited about.  It’s solidly Drinkable, though.

The immediately saved single-glass screwcap bottle was surprisingly like the aired-and-saved half bottle.  However, the former was a little redder, smoother and more complex.  Opinion still the same.

Leto 2012 Varozza Vineyard Chardonnay

St. Helena, Napa Valley, CA; 14.3% ABV
$6 at the Richmond, CA, store on 10 Feb

Leto_2012_ChardThis wine, from a specific vineyard in Napa in a riper year, seemed promising.  It is indeed pretty good for the price.

On the first night, the nose is a underwhelming.  The palate is also a little muted but pretty tasty, showing typical Chardonnay flavors of yellow apple, lemon, a little pear, and vanilla, in a gently viscous body.  I thought warming it up a bit from fridge temp allowed the flavors to come forth better.

The next day, I preferred how the fruit and the acid were more forward, and the body less viscous.  The wine is still nicely smooth, even, and pleasantly complex.  Thumbs Up.

Ravenswood 2007 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon

Sonoma County, CA; 14.6% ABV; apparently labeled for export to Mexico
$6 at the Oakland, CA, store on 8 Feb

IMG_1404[1]I thought the Ravenswood 2009 Mendocino County Zinfandel was reasonably good.  This wine is much better, for a dollar less.

I decanted this wine off some sediment that was almost entirely crystalline, so decanting was not really necessary for that reason.  After about 1.5 hours, it showed full-bodied ripe blackberry, dark cherries, and something in the mint / eucalyptus area.  The finish was dry and tannic, but not harshly so.

The second half (saved in a 375ml bottle and stoppered with very little air) was even better.  After another hour or so of air in the glass, the wine showed richer, fuller-bodied, ripe fruit of blackberry, dark purple / red cherries, blackcurrant, cranberry, and a little mint.  The finish is still thickly tannic but pleasant.  This is a big Thumbs Up for me.

Update: I should add that, just popped and poured, this wine seems thin and tannic.  It really needs the air to fill out, so I guess decanting would be helpful for that purpose.