Sonoma Hills 2012 Chardonnay

Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, CA; 14.5% ABV
$7 at the Berkeley, CA, store on 28 May; also at Richmond

SonomaHills_2012_Chardonnay_RRVThis wine came into the Richmond store a few days ago, but I picked it up from the Berkeley store on my day off to have a white wine to go with a ripe Camembert from the GO.  I walked around and around the Berkeley wine section trying to find an interesting white wine, and was about to go with a Grenache or two instead when they brought out a pallet that had a couple layers of this wine.  (They do still have the excellent Bixby Creek Bridge Chardonnay — ripe, buttery, oaky — but I’ve had a bottle of that already.  And was there really zero Pinot Noir?)  Anyway, this wine needed some air, but was then very good.

At first, I found this wine sort of musty / bitter, but after about 45 – 60 minutes open (kept with the cork in, in the fridge), the wine opened nicely to show restrained (but neither weak nor austere), elegant fruit fruit of yellow apple, white pear, tang of some green fruit (apple / lime?), with supporting oak and a slightly chalky minerality.  It presents the RRV Chardonnay character very well, and is an interesting contrast to the aforementioned Bixby Creek Bridge from Napa.  It’s sort of an “upgraded” Nilsson, which is itself very good for $4.

Castell de Raimat 2014 Rosé

Costers del Segre DO, Spain
70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Tempranillo; 13% ABV
$4 at the Richmond, CA, store on about 18 May

CastellDeRaimat_2014_RoseI liked this label’s elegant presentation and the wine’s delicate color, and also I remembered a couple Raimat reds that had been pretty good deals.  Probably because my hopes had been high, I thought this wine was pretty good but not great.

The wine did not change much over time, immediately tasting of cantaloupe and red berries, with hints of tangerine and pink grapefruit, when warmed a little yellow fruit, and very little if any wood.  It is pleasantly delicate and acceptably complex, but I found it a bit soft and unstructured for my taste.  It did not stand up to the assertively flavored squid with black bean sauce I made to go with it.

Count Károlyi 2015 Grüner Veltliner

Pannon, Hungary; 12.5% ABV
imported by Quintessential, LLC, Napa, CA
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 26 May

CountKarolyi_2015_GrunerVeltlinerIt’s not often that a Grüner Veltliner shows up at the Grocery Outlet (as I always say when one does: previous examples), so I jumped on this one, additionally intrigued that it’s from Hungary, not the usual Austria.  IMO, this is very good GV for the price.

The dry and crisp wine shows an entertaining complexity of green lime, yellow / white peach, white pepper, a little bitterness of citrus pith, and a glassy minerality.  None of my bottle survived until the next day, but I expect it would still be very good.

Caminetto non-vintage Vino Spumante Brut

Trebbiano Rubicone IGT, southern Emilia-Romagna, Italy; 11% ABV
imported by 8Vini, San Leandro, CA
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 18 May

Caminetto_VinoSpumanteBrutI recalled that Caminetto is a label from which we’ve had wines of mixed quality (including some good ones), and I was intrigued by the idea of a sparkling wine made from Trebbiano, a grape that I think of as delicate and crisp in wines from the Veneto area.  It turns out this is great for the price.

The wine shows flavors of yellow, white, and green melon and citrus fruits, with crisp acid and slight bitterness balancing the gently textured fruit.  The abundant carbonation is neither very fine nor too coarse.

I know it’s unlikely, but we happened to leave some of this in a well-stoppered bottle for the next day, and it’s still delicious.

Smokescreen 2012 Chardonnay

Napa Valley, CA; 13.6% ABV; screw cap
$6 at the Richmond, CA, store on about 11 May

Smokescreen_2012_ChardonnayI thought this looked promising, so I was sort of disappointed (on the first day).  Initially, the wine is crisp and elegant, if not all that flavorful.  After some air, the wine shows ripe, caramelized apple and yellow pear, medium ripe lemon, and slightly edgy oak.  The flavor is still not all that intense, and the caramelized flavors make me suspect the wine is getting toward the end of its life.  It’s okay but hardly outstanding.

The ext day, the little bit left in the bottle was definitely better.  The “caramelized” flavors were gone and fruit had opened up more, integrating with a grapeskin flavor and chalky minerality.  It strikes me that some folks out there who like a more austere and minerally Chardonnay might like this one.  Weinish?  Seedboy?

2013 Impuls 71

71% Syrah, 29% Cabernet Sauvignon; 13.5% ABV
$8 at the Richmond, CA, store on 15 May

2013_Impuls71This wine looked like a nice blend, the back label said “produced and bottled by Impuls Cellars” (meaning they were responsible for the whole effort, not just blending and bottling), and one other thing.  The price label from the GO gave the year as 2011, but the front bottle label (pictured) says 2013, a better year.  So, I thought maybe it’s something better than it’s priced as.  However, the wine didn’t excite me all that much, at least on the first night.

With two hours of air in a decanter, the wine showed elegant and complex medium-bodied fruit of red and purple cherry, black raspberry / boysenberry / blueberry, with rather strong acid, and a finish including prune, tar, and oak.  There is some richness of texture in the body.  IMO, it’s a pretty good wine, but at least for now, the acid is too strong for my taste (better with food).  Perhaps it will age into a more graceful wine.

The saved, single-glass screwcap bottle is better.  The fruit is more forward and integrated, pleasantly rich and elegantly complex.  The acid is still a little strong, but it’s more of a zing at the end of a longer taste instead of a sharpness that drowns out everything preceding.  So, this seems to be a pretty good wine that would be better aged a few years or put in a covered decanter for a day before serving.

Chateau Julien 2014 “French Kiss” white

Chenin Blanc and Viognier; 13% ABV
$4 at the Richmond, CA, store on 20 May

ChateauJulien_2014_FrenchKissWhiteThe back label of this tasty-sounding blend describes it as “crisp.”  Alas, it is not so.  Instead, it is quite fruity and sweet.  While the flavors are typical and quite yummy — yellow honeysuckle, juicy white peach, fragrant white pear —  I found the whole thing a bit cloying, without enough balancing acid by a long shot.

Piledriver 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon

Paso Robles, CA; 13.8% ABV
$7 at the Richmond, CA, store on 20 April

Piledriver_2013_CabSI got this bottle because I had shown it to a regular customer who was looking for “barbeque wine,” even though I hadn’t tasted it.  From the macho front label, I had expected this wine to be over-the-top ripe, jammy fruit.  He got a couple bottles, so I figured that, as a responsible salesperson, I should try it.  It’s not what I expected it to be, but it’s actually something I like better.

On the first night, I was mostly disappointed.  The fruit seemed pretty thin, simple, and acid, and dominated by stemmy bitterness.  After the bottle had been open a couple hours, the fruit had come out — tasting of ripe, Paso Robles Cabernet (purple cherry, cassis, red cherry) — but it was still separate from, and IMO marred by, the same stemmy bitterness.

The next day, however (and this time, I just put the cork back in the top of the bottle), the stemmy bitterness had opened up and integrated with the fruit, becoming a pretty tasty wine.  After a little air in the glass, it showed medium and dark red cherry fruit, red currant acid, some of the purple cherry / cassis, and a little black pepper.  Probably, to get the most out of this wine, you should age it for a year or two, but it’s pretty good now.

Stonehedge 2013 Gewurztraminer “Terroir Select”

Mendocino County, CA; 13.2% ABV
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on about 1 May

Stonehedge_2013_GewurztraminerWe only rarely get Gewuztraminers at the GO, and Mendocino County seemed like a good area for the grape, so I had to try this.  While it’s definitely Gewurz and pretty good, it did not quite live up to all the hopes I had pinned on this rare arrival.

The nose is a lovely, floral white peach and fresh apricot, but on the palate, the wine is a bit dull (lower acid) and musty.  The wine, which if not completely dry is only slightly off, does have nice flavors of white peach and apricot, with hints of lychee and jasmine, but it’s a bit disjoint and flabby, with a strange coarse mustiness on the finish.  Overall, it’s good for a Gewurz for the money, easily Drinkable.

Valley of the Moon 2011 “Orbiter”

(roughly) 40% Petite Sirah, 20% Syrah, 40% Zinfandel; probably about 14% ABV
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 2 May

ValleyOfTheMoon_2011_OrbiterThis blend looked quite fun and tasty.  The large percentage of the hearty Petite Sirah grape made me optimistic that the wine would be decent even from the more challenging year of 2011.  Indeed, after about 1:15 – 1:45 in a decanter, the wine tasted of ripe dark blackberry, acid of boysenberry / black raspberry / hibiscus tea, purple cherry, slightly tarry, hints of brown earth and black pepper, maybe a little strawberry jam (?).  It seems dominated by the dark fruit, acid, and tannin of the Petite Sirah, but other grapes add more softness and fruit complexities.  It’s quite tasty now, and it should be fine for another year or so.

The saved, single-glass, screwcap bottle was redder and more acid, but still pretty tasty.  G.L. Pease said that on the second day, the last bit he left in the stoppered bottle fell apart completely, and had become too acid to drink.