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

Auburn James 2008 Meritage

59% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petite Verdot; 15.4% ABV
Napa Valley, CA
$10 at the Richmond, CA, store on 7 June

A number of Auburn James wines arrived together, most $10 and one $15, somewhat expensive for the GO.  I thought this looked like one of the most promising.

Immediately after being decanted, the wine showed fairly simple, very ripe, red cherry fruit.  After about an hour, the wine started to open up, and after 90 minutes, nice darker complexities had developed: blackberry, blackcurrant, medium  purple cherry, dark chocolate / prune, finishing with some balancing flavor and tannin of sappy / stemmy / roasted wood.  However, this wine is way too soft, unstructured and sweet for my taste.  It’s not dessert wine-level sweet, but even when drinking this with fresh red cherries (delightfully in season now), this wine tastes sweet.  It’s a pity, because otherwise the wine tastes pretty good.

A couple days later, the saved 275ml screwcap bottle was worse.  The complexity was largely gone, and it was just sweet red fruit with a roughly woody finish.  As you probably gather, I didn’t like this wine very much.  If you’re looking for a sweet red wine with a lot more complexity than most such wines, this could be a good choice, but for me at this price, it was a Thumbs Down.

Riaza 2014 Tempranillo “The Outsider”

100% Tempranillo; 14.7% ABV; screw-cap
California, about 1/3 each from three vineyards:
“one from the valley, one from the delta, and the last from the foothills”
$5 (I think) at the Richmond, CA, store. Long gone.

I was intrigued by the vineyard blend in this wine, and there were only positive comments on it during the fall sale, so I got one back then.  I finally opened it recently and was disappointed by my bottle.

On the first night, I found the wine hot, ripe, with rough acid and a tinge of spoiled grape.  After being decanted a couple hours, the red cherry fruit flavors darkened to dark cherry and purple grape, but the wine never became especially more agreeable overall.

The next day, the wine smoothed out and became more complex, showing red / purple cherry, raspberry, orange, stem / wood, but more of the spoiled grape / raisin character.  I moved on to something else.

Saint Andre de Figuiere 2015 Magali “The Signature” Rose

30% Syrah, 30% Cabernet, 25% Grenache, 15% Cinsault; 13.5% ABV
Cotes du Provence, southern France
imported by Paul M. Young Fine Wines
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store. No longer there.

This wine was highly praised here and by GLPease in person, so I got one.  It is indeed lovely and delicious.  The wine is smooth, soft, delicate, but full of flavor: cantaloupe, pink grapefruit, a little yellow apple, and red berries.  The textured minerality is almost creamy.

I wasn’t able to try it the next day.  On the third day, the magical delicate flavor and texture was gone, it was still pretty tasty.

Mergozzesi 2011 Barolo DOCG

100% Nebbiolo; 14% ABV; Piedmont, Italy
Imported by 8Vini
$12.99 at the San Diego (Downtown), CA store on 3 June

Mergozzesi Barolo 2011Curiosity got the better of me since I rarely drink Barolo and I missed out on the sub-$10 Barolo last year. I had to try this out after seeing it on a recent trip to the Bay Area where I couldn’t carry anything back so I sought it out while stocking up in San Diego (Downtown, though Pt. Loma has it).

Popped and poured through a Vinturi. Though very closed, the nose showed dark red cherry, licorice, and anise. At first taste, like many Barolos, it was clear that this wine required time to open up, and its inherent dryness and chewy tannins took over most flavors completely (not necessarily surprising from what I little I know of the varietal). I don’t drink a lot of (enough) red Italian varietals, but I did not expect any hidden deal of a Barolo from this bottle nor are you going to get it. 8Vini’s website describes its “great elegance, harmony and balance,” none of which was available at any time I tasted the wine. I would think this is almost what Barolo would taste like from the barrel or on the very, very young side and only one made from inferior fruit at that.

On Days 2 and 3, the berry flavors were more pronounced in the nose with riper fruit up front and on the mid palate and the wine had softened a touch. However, this is still a tannic, dry, fairly disjointed wine with off, vinegar-like flavors, thin mouthfeel and tannins (rather than flavor) dominating the finish. It just never came together regardless of its varietal or price point.

8Vini’s page is here: http://8vini.com/Mergozzesi_Barolo_pg.html

There is also a 2009 Barbaresco from the same Producer that I skipped out on but was sold out, for what that is worth.

Feudo Ramaddini 2014 Nero D’Avola IGT

100% Nero D’ Avola (could have some Syrah in it)

Imported by Wine Appellations, LTD Mill Valley, CA

$2.99 at San Diego (Downtown), CA store on 3 June

20170604_080508

The wine reminds me a lot of a simple, juicy Shiraz or even cheap Petite Sirah and not in a bad way. This is a simple, approachable, everyday wine with enough acid and tannin to balance the juiciness of the fruit that Nero is known for without it being flabby (it’s not *that* sweet) and leaves long, dark red legs in the glass. It’s fairly one dimensional but it’s also fairly intense due to the tannins but without the mouthfeel to match and with dark, ripe berries predominantly on the nose and on the palate. I don’t get any oak. It’d be a decent choice for a weeknight wine balancing out a fatty ribeye or other red meat or a party wine where BBQ is being served. It’s certainly not trying to be anything it isn’t.

It’s nothing I would recommend you go out of the way for since it drinks similarly to $8-10 Neros I’ve had, but it’s $2.99 Nero and drinkable at that.

R de Reillanne Non-Vintage Rose

Pay du Var IGP, southeastern France; 12.5% ABV
imported by 8Vini, Inc., San Leandro, CA
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store a couple weeks ago

On the first day, this wine was lovely, showing delicate white melon, cantaloupe, and strawberries, with light lavender and minerality.  The body and flavors were light, but to me this gave it an enticing elusiveness.  Very quaffable.

The next day, the flavors were much more forward, with the acid becoming a little rough.  It was still pretty tasty, but I preferred it on the first day.

Meerlust Estate 2013 Pinot Noir

Wine of Origin Stellenbosch, South Africa; 13.0% ABV
imported by Maisons Marques & Domaines USA, Inc., Oakland, CA
$7 at the Richmond, CA, store on 22 May

I don’t recall previously tasting a South African Pinot Noir.  However, I have liked the more savory, rusty earth flavors in other SA reds, and they seemed like they might be good in a Pinot, so…

At first pour, the wine seemed mildly promising: light, delicate, restrained, and acid, in a more “Old World” style.  However, when it finally aired after about 2.5 hours in a decanter, I was not sure where to put it in the New / Old spectrum, and I was pretty impressed.  The wine tasted of soft and ripe dark red cherry, lighter red tart cherry, orange / dried orange peel leading to earthy root beer, a tinge of nutmeg / cinnamon, and nice Pinot funk.  With a little more air, some of the cherry darkens to black cherry and other black fruit.  Unfortunately, fairly soon after fully airing, the last bit of the wine seemed like it started shutting down, indicating to me that this wine would be better with more age.

The saved screw-capped bottle of this wine was more immediately accessible, with similar flavors, although the fruit never fully came out the way it did the first night, at least during the 1 or maybe 2 hours I drank it.  It was also more fully integrated and elegant.  While it’s not the Bailiwick Pinots (c’mon, what is?), I think this is very nice and interesting Pinot for the money.  It’s fine to drink now with enough air, or the next day, but would probably benefit from 2 or 3 more years of age.  I’ll probably get a few more bottles to do just that.