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.

Bosio 2014 Barbera D’Asti

Barbera D’Asti DOCG, Piedmont, Italy; 13% ABV
(pretty sure it was) $6 at the Richmond, CA, store

Bosio_2014_BarbaraDAstiThis wine’s back label touts “rich plum and blackberry flavors,” and  I agree with this description.  However, except for a slight liqueur character, I don’t have much else to add.  Although the fruit is somewhat rich and quite ripe for an Italian Barbera, it’s a fairly simple wine although pleasant enough.  The acid is perhaps less than typical of Italian wines, and not showing much of the usually more tart Barbera acid.  After being decanted about 2 hours, the wine lightens to a ripe red cherry, with a little more complexity of wood, but it is still not especially interesting.

I liked the second half (stoppered in a 375ml bottle with very little air) better.  The plum and blackberry flavors are nicely integrated with the cherry, with a smoothly polished, mild liqueur character, and a little woody / almondy bitterness.  The acid is still less than usual for Barbera, but not bad.  Overall, this is a quite enjoyable wine for the price.

Alta Vineyards 2010 “Nonno’s Rosso”

33% Zinfandel, 23% Alicante Bouschet, 23% Syrah, 21% Mourvedre; 14.8% ABV
Sonoma County, CA
produced and bottled by Seghesio Family Vineyards (info sheet here PDF)
$10 at the Richmond, CA, store on 15 July

AltaVineyards_2010_NonnosRossoThis wine looked like an unusual offering from the GO, so I made a pricey indulgence. 🙂

On first pour, it tasted of roughly textured fruit, startlingly acid.  After about two hours (I think, I’m afraid I lost track this time) in a decanter, the fruit had smoothed out and darkened, but the acid was still on the strong side for contemporary CA winemaking, more like an Italian wine.  Very enticing nose of red / purple and black fruit. On the palate, tangy dark fruit of black raspberry / boysenberry and purple plum jam, allspice / black pepper, and wood / black earth / hint of tar, with a touch of hibiscus tea in the acid.  After about 2:40 in a decanter, the fruit becomes much softer and riper, with the acid becoming more integrated and less sharp.  IMO, this is very good wine for the price.

A couple days later, the saved single-glass, screwcap bottle still needed a bit of air for the acid to die down a little, but not all that long, and it’s not that bad a little on the acid side, too.  Unfortunately from my perspective, it never reached the soft, dark and rich state that the first portion of the bottle did.  Instead, it was always more medium purple and more acid.  So…  I’d guess you shouldn’t keep this wine that much longer.

Spellwine non-vintage “Spellonu” red blend

34% Merlot, 34% Syrah, 32% Cabernet Sauvignon; California; 14.8% ABV
Bottled and cellared by Spelletich Cellars
$4 at the Richmond, CA, store on 20 July

SpellWine_red_1After the Spelletich Pinot was pretty good, I thought I’d try their basic red blend for a change of pace.  Also, I was kind of stunned by the label. 🙂

The wine seemed promising but a little rough at first pour, and as usual, I liked it better after 30 minutes of air.  Fully aired after 60 minutes, it shows softer, ripe, California fruit of medium to darker red / purplish cherry with a hint of blueberry / blackberry, good balancing tangy acid, and complexities of raisin, wood, and earth.  This pleasant, easy-drinking red seems like a pretty good value.


SpellWine_red_2A few days later, the saved, single-glass, screwcap bottle was only slightly less good.  It still needed a little air, and was then at least as good as the first night, but then became good but slightly more acid than I’d prefer.  Anyway, for a non-vintage red blend at a low price, it’s pretty good.