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.


6 thoughts on “Auburn James 2013 ‘Diablo Rosso’ Red Blend

  1. Expat

    I picked up both Los Haroldos Malbecs today – the 2013 Reserve and the 2015. Heard good things – will report back.

    1. BargainWhine

      My opinion, or perhaps more accurately, guess, about the Los Haroldos 2013 Reserve Malbec is that it should just be laid down for at least a few years. I tasted it over three days, and even on the third day, it still seemed like there was good stuff in there but was just very shut down.

  2. Expat

    I actually didn’t have a great experience with this wine. Not terrible but not favorable either, especially considering the price point. My bottle had a dominating cranberry/pomegranate tartness that i’m sure was from the Tannat. It was a familiar taste element from Tannats I’ve had in the past (French, I believe) but less pleasing than I remembered. Tannic, which I like, especially with the griled steak I paired it with, but drying like you say. I didn’t get silkiness and it didn’t taste anything like a Napa cab to me. Not sure if our divergent opinion is from bottle variation or taste bud variation. I can’t imagine paying $60 for this, which makes sense why it’s at GO.

    1. Doug Green

      I would not take the $60 asking price seriously, as it failed in the market at that price. I’d be more curious how this wine stacks up to any number of Argentine Malbecs that are available in the $15-20 range which I have found to be reliable fine values (I’m thinking about stuff like Norton Privada, Colome Estate, or Clos de los Siete, all of which I buy regularly in that price range, and which I find to be consistently good). Similarly, there is a Malbec in some of the San Diego GOs, the Los Haroldos Reserva de Familia 2013, for $10 that would probably tempt me more than this.

      1. GOwinelover Post author

        Exactly, which is why I mentioned plenty of great competitors in this price range or even that cost less than this wine. I liked the wine not being super familiar with tannat and obviously had a different experience than Expat. We know the $60 asking price is a joke. DG, I’ll look out for that Malbec down here!


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