Ste. Chapelle 2014 “Panoramic Idaho” Block 16 Chardonnay

Skyline Vineyard, Snake River Valley, Idaho; 13.5% ABV
$8 at the Richmond, CA, store on 28 January

SteChapelle_2014_ChardonnayI have previously liked Rieslings from Ste Chapelle, but not Cabernet, so I was pretty optimistic about this very nice-looking Chardonnay.  However, after tasting it, I guess I’ll just stick to their Rieslings.

On the first night, the flavor was very light, not much to taste at all.  On the second night, the fruit was a little more forward, showing gentle yellow / white flavors of pear / apple / melon and oak, with balancing acid of lemon / pineapple and white of melon rind.  While there’s nothing wrong with it, and it’s reasonably elegant and complex, the flavors are so light as to be boring.  It’s certainly drinkable in an inoffensive way, but at this price, it’s effectively “Thumbs Down.”

Los Poetas 2011 “Libertad”

Produced and bottled by Altocedro, Mendoza, Argentina; 14.9% ABV
$7 at the Richmond, CA, store on 13 Jan

LasPoetas_2011_LibertadThis wine, with its back label describing the winemaker’s passion for poetry and high-altitude vineyards, looked promising.  It turned out to be outstanding.

I thought the wine needed about 80 minutes in a decanter to fully air, when it tasted of dark blueberry and boysenberry, dark roses / violets, and black earth, with only the occasional slight hint of green bell pepper, and probably other complexities I couldn’t pick out.  The body was full and richly textured.  To me, it tasted mostly like Syrah and Malbec, with some other grape(s) in smaller amounts.  IMO, this is an exceptional GO buy, but you should drink it now.  I don’t expect it to improve, and it could start going downhill soon.

The next day, the saved single-glass screwcap bottle still needed about the same amount of time to air.  It was redder and less rich and complex than on the first night, but still very tasty.  That reinforces my opinion that this is a “drink now” wine.

Windsor Oaks 2011 Pinot Noir

Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, CA; 14.1% ABV
$6 at the Richmond, CA, store on 8 Jan

WindsorOaks_2011_PinotNoir_RRVOf the three Windsor Oaks reds that arrived recently, this Pinot was the one about which I was most intensely curious.  However, I wound up being a bit disappointed.

On the first night, I thought the wine showed nice Russian River Pinot fruit of lighter red cherry, orange, and lighter earth / wood, in a delicate body / presentation.  Unfortunately, it also had a strong aspirin / cheap candy aspect that never went away.  However, I couldn’t tell when it had fully aired, so I suspected it might need more age, and hoped the saved, single-glass, screwcap bottle would be better.

Said saved bottle, although showing fruit that was darker red cherry with a little black cherry, still had the aspirin / artificial flavor aspect I disliked on the first night.  So, although I really expected and wanted to like this, I couldn’t really get into it.

Gran Baron non-vintage Cava Brut

Método tradional; estate produced and bottled by Masia Valleformosa; Spain
40% Xarel·lo, 30% Macabeo, 30% Parellada; 11.5% ABV
$7 at the Richmond, CA, store on 31 Dec

GranBaron_CavaBrutI thought this wine looked promising with a fairly dignified label and its listing the percentages of the traditional Cava grapes used.  The flavors in the wine were quite tasty — ripe / tart green apple, some yellow pear / apple, a little lemon — with pleasantly crisp acid.  The carbonation was nicely smooth and rich, although at times I wished it were a little stronger.  Overall, I thought this wine was a good if not outstanding value.

Pata Negra 2005 Gran Reserva

Valdepeñas DO, Spain
100% Tempranillo; probably about 13% ABV
$6 at the Richmond, CA, store on 31 Dec

PataNegra_2005_GranReservaThe Pata Negra is apparently the type of pig from which Jamón ibérico (Iberian ham) is traditionally made.  Valdepeñas DO is “almost completely surrounded by another DO (La Mancha) but is an independent DO due to its long history of producing a distinct style of wine known aloque or clarete which is made by mixing white and red grapes.”  However, this wine is 100% Tempranillo.

I brought this over to San Francisco, decanting it before I left and putting it in the back of the car, estimating it would likely need 60 – 90 minutes of air.  However, on New Years’ Eve, there was quite the backup on the toll plaza getting onto the bridge heading into the city.  So I was sitting stuck in stop and go traffic thinking, “The wine’s been open an hour.  I should really taste it!  The wine’s been open an hour and a half…”  But, actually, the wine was still quite good when I got there, and even some hours later.  My notes are quite vague because I wasn’t thinking too much about it at the time.  As I recall, it tasted of typical Tempranillo tangy darker red cherry, earthy aged complexity of wood / slight cinnamon, with the fruit slowly darkening to tangy purple cherry / plum over time and acquiring a tasty dark herbal note.

A word of caution, though.  The cork was quite dry and broke in two as I was extracting it with my corkscrew.  I was able to dig the corkscrew in again and pull out the last bit, but you should open it with that in mind, either making sure the corkscrew goes all the way through the cork, or using an Ah So two-prong cork extractor, or whatever works best for you.

Two Mignanelli Pinots Noirs

$6 each at the Richmond, CA, store on about 20 Dec; neither still there

2012 KW Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands, CA; 14% ABV

Mignanelli_2012_PinotNoirSLH_KWVineyardThe 2012 (non-vineyard-designated bottling) Mignanelli Pinot Noir was discussed a bit here and following.  Of this bottling, Seedboy commented: “This single vineyard wine was out of balance and lacked the body or fruit of the blend.” and “Not sure if it is bottle variation or what but the second bottle of this single vineyard wine was really good, SLH fruit but elegant, good balance.”  Emphasizing the bottle variation in this wine, one regular customer told me this was quite good Pinot Noir for the money, while another told me after some consideration that it was the worst wine he had ever had.  So it was with some trepidation that I finally opened my bottle.

I decanted the wine off a lot of sediment to find a very tasty California Pinot Noir.  It was quite good right away, but smoothed out further after about an hour to show ripe, tangy red cherry / strawberry, red brick / rusty earth, nice Pinot funk, and a little orange in an elegant, smooth, and softly textured taste.  My bottle, at least, was very nice wine for the price.

The saved, single-glass, screwcap bottle was pretty much the same.  Thumbs Up for this bottle!  YMMV.

2013 Santa Lucia Highlands, CA; 14.2% ABV

Mignanelli_2013_PinotNoirSLHThis wine was initially less appealing to me because it did not have the funky, aged complexity of the 2012 KW Vineyard bottling.  However, it did seem more solid, like it would have a longer life and perhaps develop into something ultimately more interesting.  It showed a fresher red / slightly purple cherry that seemed to have more solidity to it, but was not showing as much complexity the first night as the 2012 KW Vineyard.

However, the saved half bottle (375ml) showed greater complexity of darker red cherry, blue-ish fruit, and some of the tangy, earthy complexity of the 2012.  This is probably a more solidly made wine than the 2012 KW, but for a bottle to drink immediately, I slightly preferred the 2012.  Thumbs Up for both.

Fincas Don Martino 2011 Old Vine Pedro Ximenez

Mendoza, Argentina
100% Pedro Ximinez; 13.5% ABV
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on about 23 Dec (online prices about $16)

Martino_2011_PedroXimenezI had never heard of this grape, and the description on the back label sounded good (“vineyard located at 3280 feet above sea level, 63 years old.  partial malolactic fermentation seeking for aromatic complexity.  clean, bright, fresh and lively.  aromas of tropical fruit and floral expression…”), so of course I had to get one.  (Label photo is of empty bottle.)

While the Wikipedia article linked above says most PX grown in Argentina and Chile is actually an apparently unrelated grape called Pedro Gimenez, I found this review from the Wine Advocate giving it 88 points: “The 2011 Pedro Ximenez is an intriguing effort. The grape is best known for its role in the production of dessert style Sherry in Spain but is rarely made into dry table wine because of its supposed lack of character. Pale straw in color, it exhibits a pleasing perfume of melon, jasmine, and a hint of mineral. Medium-bodied and round on the palate, it has plenty of fruit and just enough acidity for balance. Drink it over the next 1-2 years.”  I will take the WA’s word for it that this is actually PX.  Anyway…

On the first night open, the first couple small pours were a little heavy and musty.  But after about 30 minutes open (kept stoppered in the fridge) the wine became smoother and more elegant, with riper flavors mostly of citrus (yellow grapefruit, lemon, slight green lime), some yellow and white melon, still a little texture to the taste, and acid on the stronger side but not quite crisp.  I was certainly satisfied with my purchase.

The second night, however, the wine is very good, showing similar flavors but more forward, integrated and more obviously complex.  It definitely moves from Drinkable to Thumbs Up!

Jodar Late-Bottled (non-vintage) Port

El Dorado, CA; 19% ABV
$8 at the Richmond, CA, store on 28 Dec

Jodar_ElDorado_PortThis Port-style wine from the Sierra Foothills seemed like a promising Grocery Outlet find, and indeed, it’s delicious.

Similarly to the Woodbridge 2001 Portacinco, this wine is apparently made from traditional Portuguese varietal grapes (Jodar Winery’s Black Bear port is likely made from Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Tinto Cao, and Touriga Francesa) in a way that reflects the local terroir, and also only fully revealed itself on its third night open.  The first two nights were pretty good, but tonight it’s especially good.

The wine tastes in equal measure of purple grape, ripe / dried red cherries / strawberries / raspberries, and tangy brown earth, with abundant complexities of raisin and aromatic spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, slight black pepper).  Darrel commented: “Tried the port and does drink without much burn for 19% alc. The rim had orange and did have age in smell and flavor. The only complaint is the oak extraction which there shouldn’t be if emulating the Portuguese wines. The oak is in the nose and flavor. The Woodbridge might be more to the liking for a traditional port drinker even for $2 more.”  The wine does have that woody component, nicely integrated IMO, but I admit I don’t know much about Port, so take my opinion as you see fit.

Frontier 2010 Reserve Merlot “Canoe Ridge Vineyard”

Horse Heaven Hills, WA; 14.8% ABV
$8 at the Berkeley, CA, store on 10 Nov

Frontier_2010_MerlotResHHHThis is another wine I got during the sale that’s just sat around at my house since then.  It was mentioned briefly at the time here.  Like others, I had high hopes for this Merlot from Horse Heaven Hills with the Canoe Ridge name on it.  The best info I could find about its origin was at this link.

When I first poured and tasted this wine, I was quite impressed with its nicely structured complexity, and was looking forward to its becoming fully aired.  After about an hour, the fruit softened and darkened, tasting of dark red cherry, blackcurrant, and red currant, with nice complexities of earth and spice.  However, it never seemed to fully deliver on its initial promise, and, indeed it rather fell apart soon afterwards, becoming more simple and acid.

The next day, the saved, single-glass screwcap bottle was much the same, having a moment of modest grace before becoming less pleasant.

2011 “Antu” Syrah by Viña Ninquén

Chilean Mountain Vineyard; 14.5% ABV
$6 at the Richmond, CA, store on 30 Nov.  Long gone from there.

Antu_2011_SyrahThis wine, after being decanted off sediment, was pretty good at first pour, but definitely improved with 40 – 60 minutes in a decanter.  It showed ripe, earthy, gently tangy flavors of dark red cherry, blueberry, less ripe blackberry, and hibiscus tea / red roses, in a smooth, elegant, and more thickly textured body.  There is only the slightest hint of the green bell pepper that some here abhor.  Judging by how the glass of dregs from the decanting tasted — not bad but definitely more crude — I recommend decanting this wine off its sediment.

This wine was one of the few I’ve seen that cost more than $2 or $3 that became very popular in the store and sold rapidly.  I got one when it arrived, but I was delayed getting to it by a cold, and in the meantime it vanished from the Richmond store.  If you find any still languishing somewhere, get it.  :)