Poggiotondo 2011 Vermentino

Vermentino classified as Toscana IGT, Italy; 13.5% ABV
imported by Old Bridge Cellars, Napa, CA
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store some time in the last week.  Still a little there.

Poggiotondo_2011_VermentinoOn the first day open, I found this wine immediately likeable.  It showed riper fruit of apple, lemon, with a healthy portion of acid, and some skin bitterness.  It’s nicely smooth and delineated.  Not extremely exciting, but more than just a quaffer.  Pretty good for the price.

The next day, the flavors came out a bit more, but the wine was still well balanced: lemon, yellow apple and pear, wood with some complexity of mace or nutmeg.  By “flavors,” I mean the ripe fruit, viscous acid, and wood / spice.  I’d guess that if you like California Chardonnay that is ripe but on the more acid side, you’ll probably like this, too.

Cantine Madonna delle Grazie 2009 Aglianico del Vulture “Liscone”

Aglianico del Vulture DOC, Basilicata, (southern) Italy; 14% ABV
imported by Global Wine Co., San Rafael, CA
$6 at the Oakland, CA, store on 7 July.  Still a bit at Berkeley, I believe.

Liscone_2009_AglianicoWe don’t see that much Aglianico (“ahl-YAH-nee-koe”), and it’s described as a potentially quite tannic grape, so I was interested to see what this one was like.  I think this one is quite good, although better on the first night.

It was promising and reasonably tasty from first pour, but I thought it really needed 2.5 to 3 hours in a decanter to really come forth, with its noticeable tannins softening and filling out along with the rest of the wine, and the fruit sweetening.  Then, it showed tasty flavors of dark plum, blackberry, black raspberry, prune, tar, and a slightly medicinal dark herbal bitterness.  When fully aired, the less pleasant-sounding flavors became much submerged under the fruit.  The acid is stronger than it would be in a Californian wine (as is usually the case in Italian wines), but not at all too strong.  The flavors are quite distinct from those in the usual red grapes we get (Cabernet, Syrah, Sangiovese, Zinfandel, etc.), and I found them quite interesting and delicious.

The next day, the saved single-glass screw-cap bottle was, unfortunately, not as good.  Especially soon after poured, it was still pretty good, but the acid was stronger than on the first night, and the fruit didn’t soften and ripen during the couple hours I drank it.  So, I’d say this wine needs 3 hours of air, but no age, and should probably be drunk up soon.

Gschweicher 2011 Grüner Veltliner

Röshitz, Austria; 12.0% ABV
$5 at the Berkeley, CA, store a few days ago.  Plenty there.

Gschweicher_2011_GrunerVeltlinerWe don’t see Grüner Veltliner much at the GO, I had run out of white, and Weinish liked it, so…  I thought the wine was pretty good but not exceptional.  It showed typical GV flavors of yellow apple and lemon, with some minerality and a touch of white pepper.  The taste was longish and even.

The next day, the rest in the bottle was less balanced.  The fruit, acid, and white pepper were all a little stronger.  Still tasty, but unless you’re especially fond of the varietal, I would guess it’s not particularly exciting.

Domaine Sainte Croix 2006 Corbières “Magneric”

52% Carignan, 28% Syrah, 20% Grenache; 14.5% ABV
Corbières AOC, (southern) France; imported by Global Wine Co., San Rafael, CA
$5 at the Oakland, CA, on 7 July.  Bought a couple more at Berkeley for $6 on 23 July

DomSainteCroix_2006_CorbieresThis wine was pretty good at first pour, but opened nicely over the next couple hours to show flavors of earthy black raspberry, blackberry, garrigue (aromatic plants in the surrounding dry scrubland, such as lavender, sage, rosemary, and wild thyme), leather, black olive, and wood.  I seem to recall Weinish’s saying he didn’t like this so well because it was too fruity and New World-style.  I thought that while it had some characteristics of both Old and New World wines, it was definitely a French wine.  The ripe, forthright fruit seemed rather New, but the earthy, herbal flavors and tannic structure seemed Old.  Anyway, I thought it was delicious, and still a good deal for a dollar more than what I first paid for it.

The next day, the second half (saved in a 375ml screw capped bottle with very little air) had similar flavors, but was softer and richer, filled out, still really good.

Umbala 2012 Chenin Blanc

Wine of Origin, Western Cape, South Africa; 12.5% ABV
$2 at the Richmond, CA, store on 22 July

Umbala_2012_CheninBlanc_SAfrThis wine is medium in body and flavor, but very pleasant for the price.  It shows riper, yellow tropical and white melon fruit, not completely simple, with nicely balancing acid and a little bitterness of grape skin, and gentle texture and length to the taste.  For this price, Thumbs Up!

Next day, wine is only slightly less balanced overall, as the fruit is riper and heavier and the acid a little stronger.  However, this is a small quibble, as it’s still a lovely little quaffer, and very good for the low price.

Benessere 2013 Pinot Grigio

Napa Valley, CA; 14.2% ABV
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 22 July.  Also seen at Berkeley 23 July.

Benessere_2013_PinotGrigioAlthough I didn’t like the 2010 Sangiovese from Benessere, I did quite like their 2011 Black Glass Vineyard Zinfandel (note that the 2009 BGV Zin is around these days; haven’t tried it), so I had been intrigued by this Pinot Grigio for a while before finally buying and opening one last night.  If you like ripe, full-flavored whites, this one is delicious!

A lot of what I like about this wine is that, in contrast to a lot of generic Pinot Grigio, it really tastes like Pinot Grigio: yellow pear, straw / chrysanthemum tea, lemon with a hint of green lime, and (the non-spicy flavor of) ground ginger, balanced with decent acid.  While not obviously off-dry, it’s certainly not extra dry, either.  If you’re looking for a more restrained and austere white, or I guess if you’re a devoted red drinker, this is not for you.  But otherwise, I have trouble imagining anyone not liking this.

The last bit in the bottle (pictured) was still quite good the next day.

Villa Travignoli 2011 Chianti Rufina

Chianti Rufina DOCG, Tuscany, Italy; 13% ABV
purchased some time in the last couple weeks at the Richmond, CA, store

VillaTravignoli_2011_ChiantiAfter Weinish had championed this wine and others had seconded, I got a bottle and finally opened it last night.  I Weinished it, i.e., I just opened it, poured my glass from the bottle, started drinking.  I totally concur.  This is delicious Chianti for the money.  It’s quite fruity and fruit-forward for a Chianti, tasting of tangy, dark cherry tending toward plum, pit of cherry / plum / black olive, earth, and a mildly tannic finish.  It went great with a frozen BBQ chicken pizza from the GO.  :)

I was worried that this wouldn’t do well the next day but, if anything, the saved single-glass, screw-cap bottle is better.  The flavors are more integrated, the taste more delineated and overall more balanced than on the first night.

Ivy Glen 2009 Zinfandel

Sonoma Mountain, Sonoma County, CA; 15.6% ABV
$7 at the Richmond, CA, store on 17 July

IvyGlen_2009_Zin_SnmaMtnThis wine is heavy, ripe, jammy, and alcoholic from the beginning, but the flavors darken and become a little more complex with a couple hours in a decanter.  It starts out redder and sweeter, but slowly makes a transition into flavors of black raspberry, blackberry / tar / black pepper, and vanilla.  After a few hours open, the redder and darker flavors all come forth together, becoming a pretty tasty Zin.  While this wine is hardly the most nuanced, the Zinfandel flavors are more genuine than many GO Zins.  For my personal taste, I find the alcoholic heft of it a bit much, but I can see how it would have its fans among those who like a bruiser of a wine.

However, the saved, single-glass, screw-cap bottle was really very good.  All the flavors which, on the first night were separate points of flavor, were nicely integrated into a smooth whole, with a coffee note I hadn’t previously noticed.  The strong alcohol was also much less noticeable.  From the first night, this was going to be “Drinkable,” but the second-day performance convinced me to move it to Thumbs Up.

Bestheim 2011 Pinot Blanc Réserve

Alsace, France; 12% ABV
imported by Global Wine Co., San Rafael, CA
$4 at the Oakland, CA, store on 7 July

Bestheim_2011_PinotBlancThe label somehow struck me as rather standardized, possibly reflecting a dull wine inside.  However, this is a very nice Alsatian for the money: smooth, dry, floral, yellow fruit of apple / pear / less ripe melon with a little minerality.  It more resembles a German or far northern Italian style than a style from elsewhere in France.  IMO, this is also a great bargain at this price.

The next day, the last bit in the bottle was not as good — the fruit more ripe and less balanced, possibly slight oxidized.  It’s not what it had been, but still tasty and still Thumbs Up.

Elio Filippino 2011 Gavi

Gavi DOCG, made from the Cortese grape in Nieve, Piemonte, Italy; 12.5% ABV
imported by Global Wine Co., San Rafael, CA
$3 at the Oakland, CA, store on 7 July.  (I had thought the price on the box was $5 or $6, but my receipt unambiguously said “Filippino Gavi   $3.”)

IMG_1620About this wine, Seedboy wrote, “I thought the Gavi that I opened last night was drinkable but not better than that. Nicely balanced, just seemed to be lacking the flavors I expect from Cortese.”  Weinish replied, “I felt the same, hence why I didn’t take any home. I so wanted it to be good.”  Well, my only thought is that my bottle must have been completely different, because it is delicious!

On the first night, I thought this wine was at first a little rough, especially on the finish.  However, after it had been open for a few hours (left stopped with the cork in the fridge), and especially a little warmer than fridge temperature, it smoothed out wonderfully.  It is intensely flavored of ripe yellow apple with a somewhat tropical fruit character, ripe lemon and a hint of lime, fairly full-bodied for a white, with a smooth yellow / white melony finish, and gently supporting oak.  Maybe I’m not critical enough since I don’t know Cortese from Chardonnay, but I think this is an amazing bargain.  Indeed, I thought it was surprisingly close to California Chardonnay, which may well be a flaw for those more familiar with the grape and region.

The next evening, this wine is as delicious, if not more so, than it was on the first.