Pineau des Charentes AOC, France; 17% ABV
imported by Halby Marketing, Sonoma, CA
$5 for 375ml at the Richmond, CA, store
When I ordered this, I thought it was just some French white wine I’d never heard of. When it arrived, I was completely baffled, so I looked up Pineau des Charentes in Wikipedia: It is “a regional French aperitif … a fortified wine (mistelle or vin de liqueur), made from either fresh, unfermented grape juice or a blend of lightly fermented grape must, to which a Cognac eau-de-vie [twice-distilled spirits] is added and then matured.” So, of course, I had to try one.
I think this is delicious! It’s sweet from the fresh grapes, but a little less sweet than a dessert wine. I’m not satisfied with my description here, but what comes to mind is honeysuckle / honey and yellow-grapey canned oranges, peaches, and pears. The flavor of purified alcohol is also prominent. I prefer it chilled. For me, at least, this aperitif, with its delicious sweetness and high alcohol content, is a bit dangerous. 🙂
Sauternes AOC, Bordeaux, France; 13.5% ABV
imported by Halby Marketing, Inc., Sonoma, CA
$7 for 375ml at the Richmond, CA, store on 27 Feb
On the nose and then on the palate, the wine shows full-flavored but delicately delineated honeysuckle, yellow pear / apple, pineapple, ripe Asian pear, very slight (if any?) botrytis, and ripe apricot. This is not the most amazing Sauternes, but it is an outstanding bargain. Like most such sweet wines, this could probably develop well for at least another ten years in good storage.
The next day, the flavors were much the same, with the flavors more delicate and “liquidy.”
Prosecco DOCG, Italy; 11% ABV
$10 at the Richmond, CA, store just before New Year’s Eve, 2016
I bought this bottle because I’ve previously liked some Giormani offerings, and I wanted something to bring to a NYE party. It turned out that my hosts were already quite well supplied, so I just brought this home, and opened it only this evening. I find myself thinking it’s only okay.
On the palate, the wine is immediately pleasantly light-lemony, with perhaps some crisp white pear, but it then drifts into a sort of Sprite / 7-Up aspect of which I’m not that fond, finishing with some green grape skin..
I haven’t seen this DOCG offering since around the holidays, but a Giormani DOC Prosecco, $7 IIRC, is still around.
The next day, the wine was much the same, and I’m still not that excited about it as a way to spend $10.
Rias Baixas DO, Spain; 12.5% ABV
$3 at the Richmond, CA, store on 19 Feb
I’ve quite enjoyed Albariño from Rias Baixas before, and this wine, with its pretty label, screw cap, and low price, was an obvious buy. It is indeed a good buy, with somewhat delicate flavors of gentle lemon, yellow apple / pear, and honeyed wood, with crisp acid and a drying minerality.
The next day, the flavors are less delicate, the apple becoming more pineapple, and overall still quite tasty for the low price. It’s not as good as the previous Albariños, but it is only $3.
Navarra DO, Spain; 13% ABV
$3 at the Richmond, CA, store on 22 Feb
This very pretty label and low price were immediately interesting! I opened it this evening and I think it is quite good wine for the money, but it is very Spanish…
… which means (IMO) that its fruit is quite restrained, with more acid and minerality than most CA Chardonnays. It tastes of green / yellow grape skin, riper yellow apple / pineapple, and white-fruity mineral oil. I’d guess that Seedboy would like this pretty well, although bets on his preferences are always risky. 🙂
The next day, the flavors are much the same, although more smooth and perhaps showing a little oxidation.
58% Sauvignon Blanc, 33% Chardonnay, 9% Viognier; 13% ABV
Wine of Origin Western Cape, South Africa
$4 at the Richmond, Ca, store. Gone now.
Sorry to take a while getting to this; it was one of a couple white wines sitting in my fridge while I got over my cold. Anyway, I think this is a nice wine for the money if any of it is still around.
I was intrigued by the blend, because I have noticed yellow tropical fruit flavors in SA SB that I haven’t in SB from anywhere else, and I thought the blend with Chardonnay and especially Viognier could be very nice. The wine was indeed quite well made. The nose showed yellow melon / apple, less ripe green melon, and some light yellow peach / apricot. The palate is clean, gently crisp, and slightly minerally, with the ripe fruit flavors on the nose plus slight tropical fruit (mostly golden kiwi), balanced by some bitterness of citrus pith and grape skin. The blend is seamless, although to me the wine is a bit intellectual rather than yummy.
The next day, however, the wine is definitely also yummy, with the sweetly ripe fruit coming forward over the bitterness, still elegantly blended and reasonably structured.
Wairarapa, New Zealand; 14% ABV
Purchased at Palo Alto for $5.99 on January 5, 2017
A 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.
Buena Tierra Vineyard, Russian River Valley, CA; 14.3% ABV
Purchased at Palo Alto for $7.99 on December 3, 2016
I 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.
Shanti Vineyard, Russian River Valley AVA; 13.7% ABV
$5.99 at the Palo Alto store on December 8th
This 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.
Carneros AVA, CA; 13.5% ABV
$12.99 at the Palo Alto Store on November 27th
I’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.