Author Archives: GOwinelover

Villa Stellaria 2014 Petit Verdot

Alexander Valley 14.1% ABV
100% Petit Verdot
Cellared and bottled by Fitch Mountain Vineyards in Healdsburg, CA
$7.99 at the San Diego, CA (Downtown), store on 3 June

JoelA and Zoel so nicely and accurately described the wine in their posts from a few days ago. The last Petit I can recall at Grocery Outlet was from 2014 or 2015 when they had a small lot of Stelzner on offer.  Petit Verdot is one of those blending grapes, like Cabernet Franc and Petite Sirah, that I can’t pass on when I come across what appears to be (or is) a well made offering. I find their inky, darker colors in the glass seductive and it brings me back to an old EOS Petit Sirah offering for $7 from 4-5 years ago that first got me interested in the typically blended varietals and at bargain basement price points.

20170623_183718I’m in full agreement that this is a nice bottling using quality fruit at the hands of a winemaker who knows what he or she is doing. I get deep, dark fruits and spice on the nose with a medium bodied wine and pretty overt alcohol but there is enough tannin and acid here to balance things out. The palate, for me, is pretty monolithic but the fruit is juicy and delicious like a mixed grape-watermelon Jolly Rancher you don’t want to dissolve. Even though I think the Jolly Rancher wine comparison is a bit played out, questionable and/or laughable, I could not put my finger on what it is I like about the wine’s flavor specifically and this is the best comparison I can offer. It presents its fruit without apology. This wine lingers and kept begging me for more.

For an $8 Petit Verdot with this much to offer, and enjoyable from first nose through the entire tasting and finish, even given that it isn’t super complicated, it’s a big Thumbs Up from me.

 

Ziobaffa 2014 Pinot Grigio “Filmakers Edition”

Puglia IGT, 12% ABV
Certified Organic. Sustainable.
Bottled by Castellani
imported by Sage Beverages, Carlsbad, CA
$3.99 at the San Diego (Downtown), CA, store on 3 June

20170624_120413An organic, sustainable Pinot Grigio that’s years behind current vintage, comes in a funky bottle with a strange cork wrapped in plastic at Grocery Outlet for $4? What could go wrong?

To be short, this wine is inferior to $2.99 “2 buck Chuck” Pinot Grigio that I bought to use as cooking wine last week in almost every way. It drinks as over the hill and not coming back. It offers some oak and pear on the nose, pours a slightly golden, straw color and there’s a medium mouthfeel with green mango and sourness and that flavor carries through the finish, completely distracting from any positive characteristics the wine may have once offered. This is the first date that shows up bitter and incompletely recovered from his or her last relationship when your first conversation on the phone was promising.

This is a strong no go for me.

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.

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

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.

Paraiso 2010 Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

Santa Lucia Highlands AVA, CA
$6 at the Long Beach, CA, store on 2 June

20160617_174408Poured though an aerator straight, the wine’s nose invites immediately with some dark, bright red cherry fruit, heavily toasted wood, and barrel spice and paired with dark ruby color and long legs in the glass.

First thoughts upon tasting summon those similar to tasting $15-20 Pinots where there’s some defect that permeates through the wine’s presentation. Here, it’s a combination of the heavy fruit and bright, almost mineral acidity where neither comes into balance with the rest of the wine.

Many winos are familiar with the industry commentary surrounding the emergence of the word “smooth” in reviews in recent decades but this wine does smooth out with time, and not much time at that. 30 minutes in, it begins to sort its idiosyncrasies out and the components harmonize a bit more. Now we are getting somewhere. It’s a blind date that begins questionably that is potentially worth the time by the middle of the appetizer.

As time passes, the wine doesn’t come all that much more together and the elements that combine to make it more inviting cannot do anything more to overcome what is too much ripe fruit, toasted oak and acid. The wine is bigger than expected and to its detriment.

Tasted on Day 2, the wine deteriorates quite a bit and the fruit sweetens considerably, moving this even more into the Thumbs Down category.

“Cheap pinot” from CA seems to go one of two ways for me: thin, tart, dilute cherry cola with zero finish or something similar to this wine. It’s not terrible but it’s a Thumbs Down for me, especially compared with comparably-priced GO Pinots. I was hoping for something better out of SLH, which in my understanding can be a decent, lower-cost alternative to Santa Maria Pinot. Not here.

 

 

Graymont Estate 2013 Russian River Valley Old Vine Zinfandel

Russian River Valley AVA, CA
$7 at the Long Beach, CA, store on 2 June

Suckered by20160612_185514 the nice label, RRV AVA, cellaring and bottling in Napa and the fact I was grilling and hadn’t had a good Old Vine Zin in a while, I picked up this bottle without any research.

Aerated into the glass, this wine (somehow) first came off as extremely flavorless, poorly structured, and hot, which at 16% ABV is somewhat understandable. Something obviously dulled my palate initially, and it was an odd sensation to get little nose out of the wine freshly poured and tasted shortly thereafter. The wine has nice, bright fruit on the nose and flavors typical of an old vine zin with jammy berry overtones dominating the palate with a very luscious mouthfeel until the hit of alcohol overwhelms through the finish. 2.5-3 hours in, this wine really sorted itself out nicely, and it came together with less of the sharp delineation between the mid-palate and finish I experienced shortly after opening. 4 hours in, it started to fall apart a bit, with some of the nice ripe flavors muting themselves, so I stoppered the rest of the bottle for the next night.

The achilles heel for me, however, and something that overshadowed some of the wine’s positive assets, is the amount of oak used, something that came through predominantly even on night 2 as I returned to it again. This isn’t a terrible effort by any means, but if you’re sensitive to oak, this is likely not a wine you would enjoy. The wine had fallen apart for me by night 3 and any structure was pretty much gone.

Overall, I was torn on this one. On one hand, you have a wine with some nice characteristics for a 16% ABV Old Vine Zin, and wonderful, elegant front end mouthfeel once it has been open a while, but betrayed by its finishing characteristics (harsh) and a lot of wood. For my tastes, mostly due to the tough structure, it’s not a repeat buy.

For sleuths, there is very little info online on this wine short of some comments in the What’s New section of this site. It turns out that it falls under the Smith-Anderson Wine Group umbrella, who makes Havens wine that has appeared at GO here and there, and Stonehedge, which I recognize as a pretty decent QPR wine carried at Trader Joes and Big Lots over the years: http://www.sa-napavalley.com/index.html

Double J Ranch 2013 Carneros Pinot Noir

Carneros AVA, Northern California; 13.8%ABV
$7.99 at the Long Beach, CA, store on 1 June

This wine appealed visually right away with a clean, classy label on nice paper with slightly metallic, reflective tracing as seen in the photo.Double J Ranch Pinot Noir

I had a pretty darn positive reaction from first sip, which clearly let me know that the wine needed to open up. Over the first two hours, the initial alcohol hit lessened and the dark cherry and raspberry came to the forefront. On the palate, this wine is medium bodied and just needed a good amount of time to smooth out and was better integrated at 3 hours than at two. There is a balanced amount of oak here, enough to complement, but not detract from, what comes across as a pretty straightforward and typical Carneros effort. It knows what it is and what it is not. It has structure throughout from initial sip to the finish. The fruit is pretty delicious without being too dominant and integrates well with the amount of oak used.

On the first night, the 13.8% alcohol kept getting in the way for me. Maybe from spending time in France recently, I got used to lower alcohol wines, and I’ve never really had issues with higher alcohol ones (I have a 16% ABV Old Vine Zin in my review queue). So, I left it to sit stoppered in its original bottle after using a Vacu Vin.

On night two, the wine was as good if not better with the fruit flavors coming through more profoundly. Night three was similar with a glass left to finish up and the only perceptible difference was some shortening of the finish and dissolution of qualities from the nose. It still drank well.

For me, though, I could never quite get past the alcohol which I felt was pretty pronounced here. This isn’t a huge knock on the wine overall but it was persistent, and I still give it an enthusiastic 2 Thumbs Up and a solid Very Good rating for the price. I think it reflects well at its supposed $19.99 retail price point and in that strong $7-8 Pinot Pricing segment we’ve seen over the last few years (at least in Northern CA). It’s far from the best Pinot you will ever try but I think this is a nice wine from someone who appears to be a proven winemaker and reflective of what most would expect from Carneros. Happy drinking!

More on the winemaker here if interested: http://www.spiritedgrape.com/double-j-ranch2.html

ottoVini 2013 Rosso

Piemonte, Italy; 13.5% ABV
68% Dolcetto, 8% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon,  6% Barbera, 4% Freisa, 4% Bonarda, 1% Albarossa, 1% Syrah
From Dezzani and imported by 8Vini
$7 at the Point Loma (San Diego) store on 10/1/15

ottoVini_Rosso_PiemonteDOCPopped and poured through a Vinturi and tasted right after being poured into a decanter, this wine opens on the tight side but with some nice, smooth ripe fruit (definitely the Dolcetto) and acid coming through. It was very closed on opening and certainly needed some time for its flavors to emerge.

Returning to it 30 minutes in, the wine began to open up pretty nicely revealing a pleasant underlying, if soft, tone of the Dolcetto with a touch of that ripeness I associate with Rossos, which I don’t tend to hold in that high of regard having just finished a two week trip in Italy. I find them on the simpler end of the spectrum but it seems that they are certainly created (and priced) for every day drinking. To that end, I would say this is a pretty successful little bottle. The wine really showed best about 2 hours in when some of the alcohol blew off. I’m very sensitive to heat and it really came together well for me then.

What complexity the wine lacks is made up for by a pretty nice overall balance of sweet (but not saccharin) fruit, the smooth mouthfeel that I associate with Rossos, soft tannins and a touch of acidity to bring things all together. I found this best on day one since the only other day I opened it (to finish) was on Day 3 (after being stoppered in the original bottle). Tasting it now, it has come apart mostly and could potentially be mistaken for any California designated (likely Central Valley) red wine, so don’t wait as long as I did. Even now, however, there is something very much Italian about it. I think it is in the finish with the tannins holding on as the wine fades even as it has sat untouched for 2 days.

If you’re unfamiliar with Italian reds or have someone to enjoy the wine with who might, say, normally find themselves attracted to middle of the road softer, sweeter Merlots, I would recommend this bottle. It sits well with me for what it is, a relatively simple, transparent wine that is enjoyable without any major flaws. Drinkable.

After some sleuthing, I found a fact sheet here for what is essentially the same wine:

http://www.dezzani.it/contenuti/pdf/8bucce_2.pdf