Handcraft Artisan Collection 2015 Dark Red

Vinted & Bottled by Handcraft Artisan Collection, Manteca, CA; 13.5% ABV
$4.99 at the San Diego-Downtown, CA, store on 4 November

Yet another wine that supports my assertion that Wine.com will give 87 points to practically any wine that has a cork in it. This wine’s nose and flavor absolutely scream Central California. It lacks tannin and acid to balance the super ripe, jammy fruit. The wine tastes slightly better than cheap Central California swill.

20171209_170119So, given its provenance and a high end looking label design, do we end up with some great bargain or find here? No – it’s pretty uninspiring stuff.  It has a medium body and a touch of tannin and acid (mostly just alcohol coming through providing the balance – did I just say that?), drinks like cheap Zin and is heavy on the vanilla with a touch of barrel spice thrown in. It’s a nice looking, dark wine and rims with some beautiful darker hues you would expect from Petite Sirah. Of course, it’s Delicato, so I’d assume there’s a nice dose of Mega Purple here, and it really doesn’t do anything to elevate my opinion of Reds I’ve tried from them. For reference to mass-produced labels, they produce Brazin, Gnarly Head, La Merika and many other recognizable (and some not so recognizable) brands. The entire branding exercise they went through for this label to me is pretty pointless, as Delicato is pretty widely known as a low-end producer. I won’t even bother to paste some of the marketing fluff they put out in their PR release when they started the label in 2012, but it’s searchable if you want a good laugh. This wine, at least, embodies exactly none of the [false] claims made nor is it “…rich and complex…” as stated on the back of the label.

I’ll go Neutral on this because some will like it, it is not overtly bad, and it’s certainly not over the hill like the Anka. Might be paired well with charred meat with a spicy rub on it, cajun pasta or just weeknight pasta wine. If you want a soft, sweet wine that’s fuller bodied and probably a crowd pleaser, this wouldn’t be a bad choice.

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Viña Pargua Anka 2012 Red Blend

Maipo Valley, Chile; 14.4% ABV
Produced and Bottled by Viña Pargua Ltda. Paine, Santiago, Chile
$5 at the San Diego – Downtown, CA, store on 4 November

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Oh, how I wanted to like thee given the nice label, online MSRP, grape makeup and some decent prior vintage ratings from Wine Enthusiast. This wine reads very sweet to me and if you blindfolded me, I’d guess it were a California-designated Red Blend heavy on Central California fruit. According to the label, while it is 100% estate-grown fruit, Wine.com shares that it’s 60% Cab, 16% Cab Franc, 10% Merlot, 7% Carmenere, 5% Syrah, 2% Petit Verdot.

I get a lot of raisin and prune on the nose (which is admittedly not my favorite) and dried fruit (as Wine.com noted) predominantly through the palate. The Cab Franc comes through heavily through the middle and finish of the wine with some pretty grippy tannins if that is your thing and they’re present even after 3 days of being open. This one does stay together and you don’t have to finish it in one night. I suppose for a bigger wine with mid-heavy mouthfeel that is cab-dominated, some would enjoy it but it’s not for me – between the nose and a predominant flavor in the palate, there’s something that’s off-putting but I think it’s the nose carrying through.

It’s not without its virtues if you like what it brings to the table but for me, this one’s a thumbs down.

Tahto 2013 Syrah

Piffero Vineyards, Mendocino County, CA; 15.3% ABV
Produced and Bottled by Yielding Wine, Laytonville, CA
$11 at the Oakland, CA, store on 15 Sept

This looked interesting enough, especially since we hadn’t seen it at the Richmond store, for me to spring for the $11.  There was also a Tahto 2013 Petite Sirah for the same price, but I rarely like unblended PS.  Has anyone tried it?

On the first night, the first sniff and sip were very promising, with earthy and tangy flavors of red cherry, darker plum, tangy rust / Chinese salt plum, and others I can’t remember.  However, after airing more, the flavors seemed to simplify, gaining a good component of sour candy, of which I’m not very fond.  Even after about 3 or 4 hours, with the fruit darkening to a dark purple plum, this did not really change.

However, a couple days later, the saved 275ml screw-cap bottle (filled when the Tahto bottle was opened and capped with very little air), after two or three hours’ air, was delicious!  The fruit filled in and became nicely complex again, and the sour candy flavor was gone.

I got another bottle and, the day before I wanted to drink it, I opened it and poured the wine into another 750ml bottle, then stuffed the cork in the top.  The next day, I decanted it about 1.5 hours before bringing it to a friends’ house for dinner.  This process worked very well, as the wine was just starting to fully open when we sat down for dinner of beef stew.

Reales Viñedos 2016 Rosado

Spain (no Denominación de Origen); 13.5% ABV
imported by Quintessential, LLC, Napa, CA
$4 at the Richmond, CA, store on 18 Aug

GLPease recommended this rosé, so I was glad to try it.  It is very good for the low price.  The flavor starts with nice cantaloupe and red berries with some sweetness of fruit, moves into some white (maybe slightly green) melon, and finishes with balancing tartness and bitterness, and a little sort of chalk-dust minerality.  It stayed good and tasty for a few days.

This bottle was courtesy of Sopheap Yin at the Richmond store.

 

 

Broken Earth Winery 2010 Quadrant BDX

Paso Robles 13.7% ABV
60% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Petit Verdot, 7% Petit Sirah
Cellared and bottled by Broken Earth Winery in Paso Robles, CA
$5.99 at the San Diego, CA (Downtown), store on 3 June

20170723_202414After sampling this over the two hours it has been open since I aerated it into a large Riedel wine glass, I have three thoughts about this wine: (1) This is what I get for buying a $6 domestic red blend that is Merlot-dominant at Grocery Outlet or otherwise (and I do love a good Merlot, of which I’ve had many since I started drinking Grocery Outlet wine in 2009), (2) this wine is a great example of wine that gives Grocery Outlet wine inventory a bad name, and (3) this shows how bogus wine competitions and points scorings are (2012 Orange County Wine Competition gave this wine 93 points). While there isn’t anything truly bad about it, it just doesn’t deliver at the $5.99 price range like so many over the years to which we have become accustomed. Here’s what you’ll get:

Lots of black currant, dark berries, and even some figs on the nose, but it’s one that isn’t particularly complex and without being able to offer more specifics, honestly resembles a lot of cheap California-designated wines that I’ve tried at GO over the years. It does show a beautifully dark purple color, probably the result of Petit Sirah and Petite Verdot. The palate belies the nose a bit, and at least honors the blend, but the sweetness of the Merlot overwhelms any of the other interesting characteristics that the Cab, Petite Verdot, and Petit Sirah may have offered. If you blindfolded me, I would have guessed 80% Merlot. The wine is acid with mild-medium tannins and absolutely benefits from decanting or air time, but it also blends those flavors together that emerge as rather sweet and unsophisticated on the other side. It drinks fine for the $6-10 range but for the $6 range at GO, it just doesn’t deliver. It’s solely Drinkable for me. If you or a guest loves the simpler end of the Merlot spectrum, however, give it a shot.

Villa Stellaria 2014 Petit Verdot

Alexander Valley 14.1% ABV
100% Petit Verdot
Cellared and bottled by Fitch Mountain Vineyards in Healdsburg, CA
$7.99 at the San Diego, CA (Downtown), store on 3 June

JoelA and Zoel so nicely and accurately described the wine in their posts from a few days ago. The last Petit I can recall at Grocery Outlet was from 2014 or 2015 when they had a small lot of Stelzner on offer.  Petit Verdot is one of those blending grapes, like Cabernet Franc and Petite Sirah, that I can’t pass on when I come across what appears to be (or is) a well made offering. I find their inky, darker colors in the glass seductive and it brings me back to an old EOS Petit Sirah offering for $7 from 4-5 years ago that first got me interested in the typically blended varietals and at bargain basement price points.

20170623_183718I’m in full agreement that this is a nice bottling using quality fruit at the hands of a winemaker who knows what he or she is doing. I get deep, dark fruits and spice on the nose with a medium bodied wine and pretty overt alcohol but there is enough tannin and acid here to balance things out. The palate, for me, is pretty monolithic but the fruit is juicy and delicious like a mixed grape-watermelon Jolly Rancher you don’t want to dissolve. Even though I think the Jolly Rancher wine comparison is a bit played out, questionable and/or laughable, I could not put my finger on what it is I like about the wine’s flavor specifically and this is the best comparison I can offer. It presents its fruit without apology. This wine lingers and kept begging me for more.

For an $8 Petit Verdot with this much to offer, and enjoyable from first nose through the entire tasting and finish, even given that it isn’t super complicated, it’s a big Thumbs Up from me.

 

Ziobaffa 2014 Pinot Grigio “Filmakers Edition”

Puglia IGT, 12% ABV
Certified Organic. Sustainable.
Bottled by Castellani
imported by Sage Beverages, Carlsbad, CA
$3.99 at the San Diego (Downtown), CA, store on 3 June

20170624_120413An organic, sustainable Pinot Grigio that’s years behind current vintage, comes in a funky bottle with a strange cork wrapped in plastic at Grocery Outlet for $4? What could go wrong?

To be short, this wine is inferior to $2.99 “2 buck Chuck” Pinot Grigio that I bought to use as cooking wine last week in almost every way. It drinks as over the hill and not coming back. It offers some oak and pear on the nose, pours a slightly golden, straw color and there’s a medium mouthfeel with green mango and sourness and that flavor carries through the finish, completely distracting from any positive characteristics the wine may have once offered. This is the first date that shows up bitter and incompletely recovered from his or her last relationship when your first conversation on the phone was promising.

This is a strong no go for me.

Auburn James 2013 ‘Diablo Rosso’ Red Blend

Livermore Valley 15.2% ABV
Malbec – 66%, Tannat – 30%, Cabernet Franc – 4%
Produced and bottled by Auburn James in St. Helena, CA
$14.99 at the San Diego, CA (Downtown), store on 3 June

20170618_180242Due to the unusually high price point for Grocery Outlet, having lived in the Bay Area 10 minutes from their tasting room in Danville and having even played gigs there, but never having purchased anything (retail pricing is too rich for my blood), I had to pick this one up and taste it for the blog. I’m very glad I did. (In regards to Grocery Outlet allocation, I believe most stores have very limited allocations. I can’t say whether this wine is still available. And, from what I can find online, this wine may only be sold through Auburn James’ tasting rooms. I guess even folks who live in or tour through areas with >$1.3mill average home values do not want to pay the $60 retail for this wine.)

Were you to blindly ask me what varietal this wine were solely from the nose, I would swear it’s a big, bold quality Napa Cab from Rutherford or Stags Leap, and that’s a compliment. It is nice and inviting and draws you in and back with dark, toasty oak, tobacco, dark cherry, touch of dark chocolate, and there’s a floral component I’m having a hard time identifying that brings things together, trying to cut through that 15.2% Livermore-driven ABV.

The wine poured into the opposite side of the glass leaves nice, long legs almost immediately. This is a pretty heavily tannic wine that dries the mouth nicely but also offers a velvety mouthfeel despite the alcohol. I think there is some nice winemaking going on here. It tells a nice story beginning to end, with the riper portion of the fruit shining up front and through the mid palate with those tannins lingering lengthily on the finish.

Decanting for 2 hours, shockingly, had little effect on the wine. It rounded out a touch and the fruit showed through a bit more but again, that predominant alcohol and tannin do not decrease much. This is a very enjoyable, well made wine and definitely appears, smells and drinks as a sum of its parts in a pretty integrated way. Were I to be pressed, I’d admit that it fails most for me in body where I find it a touch hollow. However, this is hard to pick apart, both because those tannins are ever present and the mouthfeel is pretty silky even though it is high in ABV. Is the wine betrayed by its body? Nope. It’s just something I kept circling back to.

On Day 2, the body and that high ABV remained my two biggest distractions to enjoyment. I thought with the wine dulling on night 2 that the ABV may be even more present. I don’t see this wine getting better on Days 2 and 3.

If $15 is in your budget and you see it, I would recommend picking up a bottle if you’re a meat eater and have a nice rib eye or other richer piece of meat with which to pair it. It stands up to a lot of bottles in the $30-40 price range if not higher these days, but I’ve also had some stunners from Spain as well as better Argentine Malbecs that deliver 85% of this wine’s experience for the same cost as this bottle at GO.

Eo 2014 Trebbiano D’Abruzzo

Trebbiano D’Abruzzo DOC, central Italy; 12.5% ABV
produced and bottled by Azienda Collefriso
imported by Wine Appellations, LTD, Mill Valley, CA
$4 at the Richmond, CA, store on 12 June

I seemed to recall that I had seen Trebbiano-based wines only from the province of Veneto, but the Wikipedia page linked above says that

The Trebbiano family account for around a third of all white wine in Italy. It is mentioned in more than 80 of Italy’s DOCs (“Controlled origin denominations”), although it has just seven of its own : Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, Trebbiano di Aprilia, Trebbiano di Arborea, Trebbiano di Capriano del Colle, Trebbiano di Romagna and Trebbiano Val Trebbia dei Colli Piacentini and Trebbiano di Soave.

Perhaps the most successful Trebbiano-based blend are the Orvieto whites of Umbria, which use a local clone called Procanico.

As I’d expect from a wine grown farther south, this Trebbiano is a bit more robust that those I recall from Veneto, but it is still very Italian.

The wine tastes of yellow / white melon and pear, some green lime, and a slightly aspirin-like grape skin bitterness, with a somewhat fleshy mouthfeel, crisp lemony acid, and supporting, integrated minerality.  Anyway, I really like this wine for this price.  In terms of food pairing, it would fit in the same niche as a more crisp Sauvignon Blanc.  None of my bottle survived to be tasted the next day.

Also, the front label seems to indicate that the wine may have been made with organic grapes.  The back label doesn’t say anything on the subject.

Two 2013 German Rieslings

Bruno M. 2013 Kreuznacher Kronenberg – Nahe Riesling, Bernkasteler Kurfustlay – Mosel Riesling
Both 100% Riesling
Mosel- 10.5%ABV, 21.7g/L residual sugar, 6.3g/L acidity
Nahe – 10%ABV, 22.5g/L residual sugar, 5.8g/L acidity
$3.99 at the San Diego, CA store on 3 June

A Tale of Two Rieslings: sampling these two, side by side is like a good riddle – hard to crack. They are very, very similar, so much so that I wouldn’t even suggest trying to find one singly or choosing one over the other. The following are my observations after a quick pop and pour and letting them come up to a more appropriate temperature once taken out of the fridge.

These are two, nice, sweet Rieslings with good mouth feel and a touch of minerality, which you absolutely can’t go wrong with at $3.99 per bottle. They are semi-sweet by residual sugar numbers in the U.S. but sweet by German standards. Buy them both and do a blind tasting. Maybe it’s the wistfulness in me for not having sampled more regional Rieslings while in Mosel last summer (don’t get me wrong, we had our fair share, but there is only so much Riesling you can even sample, let alone drink in one trip) or maybe its just remembrances of relaxing alongside the Mosel River, but I find these both really tasty. They’re not complicated, but if you don’t mind sweet wines, give them a shot by all means. These are *not* trocken (and the numbers and the palate don’t lie). Like most sweeter wines, they’d pair great with spicy Asian food – we cooked up some Thai barbecue chicken and Thai beef salad with a generous amount of birds eye chilies.

Now, for some non-alternative facts: According to the trade info at Grapex (see bottom of post for more info), the Mosel is less sweet than the Nahe and also has more ABV (0.5%) and acid. The difference is pretty negligible but it is identifiable in taste, and the Mosel has a touch more minerality to it. The Nahe is the more floral of the two, both in nose and on the palate, as the literature states. Melon and lychee predominate on the palate. Mouthfeel is darn near the same and is silky, slightly viscous.

If you are interested, these are distributed out of Germany from MO-RHE-NA which is an export association.  They have a very comprehensive PDF of the wineries in their portfolio that might make planning a German wine trip fun (http://www.mo-rhe-na.com/doc/Introduction_2016.pdf).

Grapex Trade Info: http://www.grapex.com/sites/default/files/wine_pdf_files/bruno_m._-_nahe_kreuznacker.pdf, http://www.grapex.com/sites/default/files/wine_pdf_files/bruno_m._-_mosel_bernkasteler.pdf