Category Archives: Red

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.

Chateau Bellevue 2015 Bergerac

Merlot 30%, Cabernet Sauvignon 30%, Cabernet Franc 30%, Malbec 10%; 13% ABV
$7 at the Richmond, CA, store during the last sale.  Still there.

This wine is promising and tasty enough at first pour, but starts to really come around after being decanted 2:15.  I thought it fully aired after 3 hours, but tasty along the way.  It’s bit light, but nicely blended and complex, with flavors spanning the full usual range of Bordeaux, plus a little more thanks to the Malbec: earthy / woody red cherry / ripe redcurrant, cassis / almost blueberry, boysenberry / blackberry / hint of violets, gently drying tannic finish.  Thoroughly enjoyable for the price.

The saved, single-glass, screw-cap bottle was more accessible, tasty from the start and following a similar evolution of darkening fruit.

Apex 2010 Merlot

Columbia Valley, WA; 14.7% ABV
$7 at the Richmond, CA, store on 16 Apr.  No longer there.

This wine at first seemed a little too old, but, showing of full and ripe plum and blackcurrant, like it might air into something good.  However, as it aired, it just became thinner and more acid, not awful, but just less than it probably had been.  After being decanted a couple hours, the fruit came fully forward, becoming soft and fuzzy, and less acid.  Maybe if I had been more patient, the wine would have been pretty good, but it still makes me worry about the second half.

The second half, stoppered in a 375ml bottle with very little air, was actually quite similar.  It started with very promising full, ripe fruit, but with a sharp acid that never went away.  After a couple hours of being open, the wine again became more soft and fuzzy, but this time it never lost its acid and added some sharp bitterness.  I guess this wine is reasonably drinkable, but it still strikes me as a little too old.

Nieto Senetiner 2013 Bonarda (Charbono)

Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina; 13% ABV
$5 (I think) at the Richmond, CA, store some weeks ago.  No longer there.

After being open a couple hours, the wine shows soft, ripe, tangy, fruit of black raspberry / almost blackberry, dark cherry, purple plum / pit, violets / licorice, wood / coffee, with somewhat zingy acid of hibiscus tea and mild, chewy tannin on the finish.  It’s not a must-have, but it’s a quite good New World wine for the price.  It would make a good stand-in for Zinfandel.

The next day, the last bit in the glass was redder and more acid.  It was still pretty tasty, but it’s probably better consumed the first day.

This is one of many wines I bought before and while I was not drinking.  Please bear with me while I work through this backlog.

Goodnow 2015 Tempranillo

California; 13.9% ABV
Vinted and bottled by J. L. Giguiere, Zamora, CA
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 13 Apr

This wine intrigued me for a couple reasons.  First, the back label touts “loads of black fruit,” which is something I like (especially something akin to licorice) but don’t taste in Tempranillo very often.  Second, it appears to be from the same operation that made this interesting and tasty Musqué clone Chardonnay.  After I bought this bottle, a customer said he found it rather young and grapey, but thought it had good stuffing to last for a while.  I agree!

The wine is pretty fresh- and grapey-tasting, but with subtle complexities of dark cherry, red and black raspberries, tobacco, slight prune, and, indeed, blackberry / licorice, finishing with a layer of stemmy / woody tannin that seems to promise further evolution.  I find that a little odd for a wine called “good now,” but so it is.  After a couple hours’ air, the wine has a nice elegance to it, but I expect it will develop well for the next year or two.

The next day, the second half (stored in a 375ml bottle and stoppered with very little air) was softer, with the flavors less delineated and more integrated, still pretty fresh and purple-grapey, but otherwise much the same.  Highly Drinkable.

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.

Chateau Haut Pougnan 2014 Bordeaux

Bordeaux AOC, France
imported by Aquitane Wine USA, LLC
80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon; 12.5% ABV
$10 at the Richmond, CA, store on around 24 Feb

I believe I bought this after a couple customers recommended it.  I thought it was good but not especially remarkable.

I decanted the wine and left it alone for a couple hours.  The fruit became more accessible, showing earthy red cherry / redcurrant, darkening over time to include a little blackcurrant / blackberry.  It struck me as tasty Bordeaux, but nothing exceptional.

A number of days later, the saved, single-glass, screw-cap bottle showed its fruit a little more soft and sweet, and was much more immediately pleasant, but was otherwise much the same.

The gold-colored sticker says “Concours des Grands Vins de France a Macon, Medaille D’Or, 2015.”

Moselland “Avantgarde” 2011 Dornfelder

Qualitatswein Halbtrocken, Mosel, Germany; 11.5% ABV
$4 at the Richmond, CA, store on 3 March; gone now

Usually, I avoid gimmicky bottles, but this one got me.  Plus, it’s a Dornfelder, of which we’ve had only one previous example.  “Halbtrocken,” translated literally, means “half dry,” so I was expecting it to be kind of sweet, and chilled it.  It turns out it’s not that sweet, and I don’t recommend chilling it.  🙂

Rather than a “sweet red,” the wine really is more of a “soft red.”  It has tasty enough flavors of grapey red-purple berry-cherry, perhaps a little plum, not all that complicated, smooth and easy to drink, with a reasonable amount of acid to balance the sweetness.

The next day it’s very much the same, maybe a little more supple.

More on the gimmicky bottle.  The base is pretty much one third of a circle, with the front rounded and the back having two edges that would be radii of the circle, coming to a corner at the center of the circle.  The top is of course completely round with a normal cork, and a sealing wax-type thing just on top of the cork itself.  Unlike many apparently colored bottles that are actually clear glass with a colored plastic wrapping, this appears to be red glass, the color of which you can see at the very top.  This photo was taken before the bottle was opened.

Lina Santa 2013 red

Vinho Regional Alentejano, Portugal
35% Aragonez (Tempranillo), 35% Trincadeira (Tinta Amarela), 30% Castelão; 14% ABV
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 27 Feb

img_0058So… I bought and opened this expecting it to be like the previous Portuguese reds I’ve tasted: very dry, tannic, ripe but rather acid, and needing 1.5 – 2 hours in a decanter for me to really find it palatable.  Instead, I probably would have believed you if you had told me this was a Tempranillo – Cabernet blend from the Central Coast of California.  I tasted sweet, ripe, red cherry fruit on first pour.  With more time in a decanter, the red fruit darkened and became purplish, much like Cabernet flavors.  The wine seems fully aired after about 90 minutes, with softly textured flavors of sweetly ripe purplish red cherry, dark red / black raspberry / almost blackberry, dusty cinnamon / dried orange peel, with a drying, but not unpleasant, tannic finish.  Although not at all what I had expected, this seems like a pretty good wine for the price, a European wine that I would not recommend to people who prefer European wines, but to those who prefer Californian wines.

The saved, single-glass, screw-cap bottle of this wine was less sweet and fuzzy, more acid (not saying that much in this case), but still with sweetly ripe Cabernet- and somewhat Tempranillo-tasting fruit, and still entertainingly Drinkable.