Author Archives: davidlikeswine

2012 Bohème “Stuller Vineyard” Pinot Noir

Sonoma Coast AVA; 14.1% ABV
Purchased March 24th at Palo Alto; $14.99

IMG_0151I was really excited to see these come in. This winery is a project started by the former Belle Glos vineyard manager who also happens to be part of the Wagner family (Caymus and many others). The website has a ton of great technical data on this particular vineyard (link here) with high points being that it sits at 1200 feet of elevation about 6 miles inland form the Pacific Ocean and is farmed in two blocks, one hillside the other hilltop. This particular wine spent 21 months in neutral French oak. If you like the brooding, almost cocktail-like style of Pinot Noir, I think you’ll like this one.

The wine poured a dark ruby garnet and was all blackberries and cream on the nose. I would have guessed zinfandel confidently had this been a blind tasting. On the palate, it’s a full-bodied wine with an almost viscous mouthfeel. I got black cherry, cinnamon, orange peel with some underbrush or cooking herbs as well with a long 8-10 second finish. Structure doesn’t really emerge until about an hour in the glass, and even at that it’s a softly built wine but surprisingly held up well over 3 days of consumption. A nice bottle that tastes expensive but just doesn’t have what I look for in a pinot.  Definitely drinkable and enjoyable, but at it’s higher price point there are likely better options out there.

2010 Santa Alicia “Edición Limitada” Pinot Noir

Casablanca, Chile; 14% ABV
Imported by Halby Marketing, Sonoma, CA
$6.99 at Palo Alto on February 28th

IMG_0084Getting out from under the back-log and wanted to get this up before the sale as I know this is still around in quantity, at least at Palo Alto. This came in with two other Santa Alicia wines (a “Shiraz” which was not good and the “Millantu” red blend which was very good) and I picked up a bottle because the price point seemed nice and the packaging alluded to some quality. A brief web search had me immediately regretting my decision. Wine Enthusiast panned this, giving it 80 points, calling it bitter and astringent. That review was dated 2013, and all I can surmise is that the wine was either totally shut down or that they got a bad bottle. I really liked this and found it a refreshing change of pace from the darker, more brooding pinots that have been around lately.

This wine pours sweet and a little one-dimensional, but after about an hour or so really opens up to display a wide spectrum of strawberry, pomegranate, and red cherry flavors with nice balancing brightness from the acidity. There’s a hint of some mushroom earthiness on the nose, but it doesn’t carry over to the palate. Bright, clean fruit, some oak influence, and no noticeable flaws make this a solid choice for a $7 pinot. Two thumbs up from me, especially for $5.60 on the sale next week.

2012 Castillo Marín

Cariñena, Spain; 13.5% ABV
Purchased for $5.99 at Palo Alto on 1/20/2017

img_9919-1This wine is a 50-50 blend of Tempranillo and Garnacha from a winery about which I sadly couldn’t find much information. Perhaps my bottle needed a few more days to rest after transport, or perhaps the wine is just still really young, but there are some promising components here that, if they come together, might make this a winner down the road.

The real standout on night 1 was the nose. Black cherry, raspberry, some herbal (as in thyme and rosemary) aspects as well as this almost dark violets floral note that was just fantastic. On the palate though, the wine was really muted, bordering on unpleasant. A bit of raspberry liqueur and some saline acidity, giving way to some tart cherry, cork, and a slightly bitter finish. I gave the wine about 2 hours in the glass, trying it at 30 minute intervals. As time progressed it improved, but only slightly. The nose, however, remained fantastic, even intensifying as the evening went on.

Day 2 was another story. The wine needed about 45 minutes to an hour in the glass, but once it finally opened up, it was wonderful. Blackberries, some subtle vanilla and spice oak notes (from what to me tasted like very nice barrels), more of those mediterranean herbs, all in a wine that was rich, but not too heavy or overdone. The nose, sadly, had simplified. It was still pleasant, but lacked the complexity of the night before.

If everything comes together, this could be really good. At this point though, I’m going to rate this as drinkable, bordering on thumbs up. If you’ve got space to lay a few down, at $5.99 / bottle it might be worth the experiment.

2012 Matahiwi Estate “Holly” Pinot Gris

Wairarapa, New Zealand; 14% ABV
Purchased at Palo Alto for $5.99 on January 5, 2017

img_9822A trio of new wines from Matahiwi Estate showed up at the Palo Alto store, the “Estate” level Chardonnay and the “Holly” level Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris. This winery makes three tiers of wine with the “Estate” wines being the middle tier and the “Holly” wines their top efforts. The back label said this wine was barrel-fermented and made in the style of Pinot Gris from Alsace. Before going any further I must admit Alsatian wines as a whole and Pinot Gris as a varietal are fairly new to me. That being said, this wine has me eager to try more. I really liked it.

The wine pours a golden, straw color with clear edges. On the nose I got ripe golden apple, some flinty mineral notes, some spice (presumably from the oak), and beeswax. On the palate this wine was definitely more weighted than the typical Chardonnays or Sauv Blancs I drink more regularly. There’s fresh, ripe apple, stone fruit, citrus, some minerally acidity and well integrated barrel spice. To be really enjoyed though, the wine needs to warm from refrigerator temperature. Served too cold, it tasted just like spiced apple juice. But, once it warms up to about 45-50 degrees, it really opens up into a well-integrated and complex wine.

Day two yielded a similar experience with the wine hitting its stride a bit sooner, after about 15 minutes in the glass, but with no loss in intensity or flavor. There’s still some life left in this one. Thumbs up for me and a repeat buy. This would be fantastic with butternut squash soup.

2010 Hearthstone Estate “Lodestone”

Paso Robles (Adelaida), CA; 14.8% AVB
Received as a sample for review from Palo Alto on December 27th.

hearthstone_lodestone-1This is the second of my two bottles of the recently arrived Hearthstone Estate wines. I was excited to try something different from this producer as I liked the “Paso Superiore “(66% Sangiovese, 17% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Cabernet Franc), and this one had a completely different makeup (60% Syrah, 22% Grenache, 18% Mourvedre). While they are different wines, they are made very much in the same style, and I quite liked this one, perhaps even a bit more than I liked the “Paso Superiore.”

The common thread I found between this wine and the “Paso Superiore” is the cleanness and purity of the fruit flavors done in a more subtle, nuanced style. This isn’t a sledgehammer and would also make quite a nice food wine. I got some black cherry and blackberry on the nose with a little smokiness coming out as the wine aired. On the palate I got dark fruit, some well integrated oak notes, a little pepperiness that bordered on the green/herbaceous side (not unpleasantly so) framed by some tangy acidity and soft tannins that took about an hour to emerge. We opened this with friends and quite enjoyed it so none survived to see the next day.

A repeat buy and thumbs up for me. I visited the Palo Alto store yesterday and this wine was still available in good quantity for $6.99 per bottle.

2011 Hearthstone Estate “Paso Superiore”

Paso Robles (Adelaida), CA; 14.8% AVB
Received as a sample for review from Palo Alto on December 27th.

pasosup_origI had the good fortune to be doing some shopping at the Palo Alto store when the Hearthstone Estate wines arrived, and Joe passed me this one as well as the Lodestone (Rhone blend) for review.  A quick online search shows this is still a functioning winery and that likely these were older wines that just needed to be moved. What I found particularly intriguing though is the winery’s location. Paso Robles is, I believe, one of the largest AVA’s in California and pretty diverse in the quality of the growing regions within it. This winery is located in the Adelaida AVA, right next to the Templeton Gap, where most of Paso’s heavy hitters are located, and is very close to both Linne Calodo and Saxum. This wine is a Super-Tuscan blend of 66% Sangiovese, 17% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 17% Cabernet Franc.

This wine showed well from first pour, but really hit its stride after about 2 hours in the glass.  On the nose I got wild cherry (darkening to black cherry as time passed), some vanilla oak, and a touch of herbal notes, perhaps from the Cab Franc. A medium bodied wine, there were notes of ripe cherry, red currant, some cedar and sweet tannins that took over an hour to really emerge and some really fresh acidity. This wine was great with food, and actually reminds me of the Sweetwater Sustainable Land Co. Chalk Hill Sangiovese that was floating around a year or so ago (that was fantastic by the way), just a bit darker and more complex.

On day two the Cabs started to emerge more with some darker fruit notes as well as a pleasant herbaceousness. Like BW, I was surprised by the subtlety of this wine. I’m used to Paso wines being more on the full-throttle end of the spectrum. Two thumbs up for me!

2013 Woodenhead Chardonnay

Buena Tierra Vineyard, Russian River Valley, CA; 14.3% ABV
Purchased at Palo Alto for $7.99 on December 3, 2016

woodenhead_chard_origI was really excited to see a wine from Woodenhead show up at GO. This winery is known for their Zins and Pinots, both of which are regularly well received by major publications and priced mid-30’s to mid-40’s per bottle. A single vineyard, Russian River, unfined and unfiltered Chardonnay from a quality producer sounded like a sure bet. Alas, this is “the wine that almost was.”

The wine pours a medium gold with clear edges, and on the palate showed great intensity with pear and some gala apple with well integrated oak and enough acidity to keep everything fresh. However, even these great qualities were not enough to overcome the offputting and unrelenting sulfer odor in the nose. I kept the wine open for almost a week, hoping the sulfer would eventually blow off. While it did fade somewhat, it never went away.

Surprised, I returned to the web to try to find more information on this specific wine. It’s as if the winery has wiped all traces of this wine’s production. Tech sheets abound for past vintages of all of their other wines, yet a search for this wine yielded nothing. An effort that didn’t meet winery standards that appears to have never been marketed and quietly sold off to Grocery Outlet. Pass on this one.

2014 Sunce “Franicevic” Sauvignon Blanc

Shanti Vineyard, Russian River Valley AVA; 13.7% ABV
$5.99 at the Palo Alto store on December 8th

sunce_2014_sauvblancThis producer’s “Talty Vineyard” Zinfandel was one of my “go-to” purchases at the local mega-box store a few years back, so I decided to give this one a try. The fact that this wine was neutral-barrel fermented was intriguing as well as the fact that, per the informative back label, it was made in a “white Bordeaux style.” It is, indeed, pretty good.

The wine pours a pale gold bordering on platinum color, and on the nose I got some surprising tropical and peach notes with a bit of white flowers. On the palate the wine is pretty classic Sauvignon Blanc: pink grapefruit, citrus, some peppery notes. It definitely has that “grassy” note so many Sauv Blanc’s do, but in a pleasant way that adds some complexity to the overall flavor profile and isn’t too overpowering. There is a bit more heft on the palate (perhaps due to the barrel fermentation?) that I liked. A nice, clean 5-10 second finish.

On subsequent days this wine became a bit more disjointed with that “cat pee” note that I dislike in this varietal becoming increasingly prevalent in the nose, and the grassy notes on the palate became more pronounced. If you buy a bottle, best to finish it within 24 hours. Not spectacular, but a solid choice if you’re looking for a lighter white to have on hand for the holidays.

2012 Saintsbury Carneros Chardonnay

Carneros AVA, CA; 13.5% ABV
$12.99 at the Palo Alto Store on November 27th

saintsbury_2012_chardonnayI’m always on the hunt for a good Chardonnay that blends balance and brightness with some well-integrated oak notes. This bottle caught my eye as Carneros tends to be a cooler growing area, and the back label touted phrases like “good acidity” and “subtle seasoning of oak and lees” which sounded right up my alley. A brief internet query yielded a thorough tech sheet from the producer (available here) revealing a wine that was barrel fermented in 20% new French oak while only undergoing partial malolactic fermentation. There are indeed some nice elements to the wine, but in the end they struggle to come together in a way befitting the hefty-for-GO-whites price tag.

On open at refrigerator temp the nose was predominantly lemon and metal and the wine had a slight acrid / aspartame note to it. After about 30 minutes of warming up it came into its own a bit more. Still fairly faint on entry, but with a dose of acidity so strong that it bordered on unpleasant. On the palate I did get some nice pear and creamed citrus notes with a bit of baking spices, but the elements of the wine never really came together and instead felt in competition with each other.

Day 2 yielded a more pleasant experience. Again, the wine needed about 30-40 minutes to warm up from refrigerator temp, but the acidity, oak, and fruit were much more in balance with the fruit gaining in intensity and the oak and acidity playing more of a supporting role rather than competing for the lead. Definitely a passable Chardonnay, and even a good one, but at that price point there are more compelling wines out there. Not a repeat purchase for me.

2013 Puydeval Red Blend, Pays D’Oc IGP

Pays D’Oc IGP, Langeudoc, France; 14% ABV
$5.99 at the Palo Alto store on November 27th

puydevalThis wine caught my eye with its attractive label and the fact that it contains a healthy dose of Cabernet Franc (which I love). The blend breakdown is 58% Cab Franc, 28% Syrah, and 14% Merlot, from vineyards in the cooler regions of the Languedoc. The wine is aged 10 months in oak (90% French, 10% American) and fermented with native yeasts. The tech sheet for the wine can be found here.

A brief web search showed this wine has a pretty loyal following and routinely scores in the high 80’s to low 90’s from major wine publications so I was excited to try it. The wine pours an opaque, deep red, and on the nose I got some blackberry and plum as well as some barrel spice and just a hint of savoriness (I’m guessing from the Syrah). There was definitely some heat as well, but that blew off after about 30 minutes.

On the palate I got dark red fruit with absolutely no vegetal notes that can be so prevalent in Cab Franc. Definitely a fruit forward wine, more in a new world style, but still with some pleasant earthiness to keep it rooted in France. Well integrated oak and pleasantly drying tannins with enough acidity and lift to keep it fresh. It shows it’s stuff best after about an hour and a half, and was fantastic with both a beef stew the first night and hearty minestrone the second night. A repeat buy and a thumbs up for me.

[ed. note: Please welcome frequent commenter DavidLikesWine to the front page.]