Category Archives: California

Bodkin 2013 Sauvignon Blanc Reserve “The Albino”

Sandy Bend Vineyard, Lake County, CA; 13.5% ABV
“Fermented upon the skins.  Bottled without fining or filtration”
“Christopher Reid Christensen, Winesmith”
Produced and bottled by Wefew Vintners, Healdsburg, CA
$7 (or maybe $6) at the Oakland, CA, store about a month ago.  Almost certainly no longer there.

This label struck me as unusual and interesting and, indeed, the wine is one of the most unusual and interesting Sauvignon Blancs I have ever tasted.

The aromatic profile resembles that of a Riesling: perfume-like white / yellow flowers and light yellow fruit.  On the palate, I tasted lightly lemony yellow peach, yellow melon, cherimoya / light gardenia, green lime, some balancing minerally grape skin bitterness, and a hint of fresh herbs on the finish.  The wine had a pleasantly viscous mouthfeel.  Good on its own, it was spectacular with food.

The next day, the wine was a little softer and more forward, but overall it was very similar.

Gauthier 2014 Chardonnay

Rockin’ H Ranch Vineyards, Sonoma Coast, CA; 13.9% ABV
$7 at the Richmond, CA, store many weeks ago.  No longer there.

Some folks may have liked this wine, but to me this was a weird Chardonnay.  It tastes intensely of assertive, even abrasive, ripe or over-ripe tropical yellow fruit (starfruit (Carambola), maybe mango), caramelized yellow apple, with perhaps even a slightly spoiled character, and slight green apple.  I don’t like it, and my suspicion is that it will be worse the next day.

Indeed, the next day it’s just awful: sour and abrasive.  I would be glad to hear from anyone who had a better experience with this wine, since I have generally liked the Gauthier selection wines, but my bottle definitely gets a Thumbs Down.  I won’t even cook with this.

Magnolia Court 2013 Chardonnay

Central Coast, CA; 13.5% ABV
Cellared and bottled by Turn Key Wine Brands
$7 at the Richmond, CA, store on 12 April.  A small amount still there.

I was very intrigued by this wine because the back label reads, in part, “Our Chardonnay combines the structure and minerality often associated with coastal Chardonnay, with a seductive, measured oak profile.  It has generous notes of sub-tropical fruit, toasted hazelnut, and crushed wet stones.”  At one point, I urged Seedboy to try this wine if he saw it, because the above sounded up his alley.  However, now that I try it, it’s almost certainly not.

On the first night, I wondered what those notes meant by “structure and minerality,” since the wine struck me as soft and sweet.  I thought it had a rich and smooth, fairly complex and delineated taste of ripe white and yellow pear, yellow apple, slight yellow tropical fruit, with a creamy, oak / vanilla finish.  There was some minerality, but it was rather soft or even oily.  I conceded it was pretty tasty wine, if not in a style I prefer.

On the second night, however, the wine gained some more acid and, to my taste, became much more balanced.  The flavors were all still there without degradation, and I tasted the “toasted hazelnut” in the label notes.  It’s very Central Coast, and, to me, quite good.

JoelA noted recently that there is a Magnolia Court Pinot Noir, also $7, available at the Oakland, CA, store.  I’d be curious about the reactions of anyone who has tasted it.

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.

Pull 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon

Paso Robles, CA; ABV probably about 14.5% (recycled before I wrote it down)
$6 at the Richmond, CA, store on 23 Feb

pull_2010_cabsThis wine shows typical Paso Robles ripe fruit of dark purple / red cherry, grape, and blackberry, slightly herbal / earthy, balanced by strongish acid of blackberry / raspberry, with a slight tinge of spoiledness / not quite vinegar that makes me think this is past its prime.  It’s reasonably Drinkable, but drink it up ASAP.

The saved, single-glass, screw-cap bottle reinforces this conclusion.  It’s much redder and a bit more lean than on the first night, although still softly fruity, and tasting of an unusual herbaceous flavor which strikes me as cilantro.  So, I guess this wine is okay, maybe even good, if it’s consumed in one night, but I wouldn’t get it to consume over more than one night.

Rock Springs 2013 (Rhone-style) Red Blend

Sierra Foothills, CA; 14.0% ABV
Cellared & bottled by Napa Wine Arts, Napa, CA
$6 at the Richmond, CA, store on 11 Feb

rocksprings_2013_redThis looked interesting because I’ve previously very much liked Rhone varietals grown in the Sierra Foothills AVA.  The color through the bottle was a little bit translucent, but of a good color, so I was expecting a wine with medium body and good flavor.  That was what I got, except…

The wine has tasty ripe and tangy flavors of red, lighter purple, and slightly blue fruit, with the earthiness I associate with the Sierra Foothills, but there is also a tinge of spoiled-ness or vinegar that didn’t air out and that I couldn’t get past.  If all bottles were like mine, I have to go Thumbs Down here.  Did anyone have better experiences with this wine?

The next day, the saved, single-glass, screw-cap bottle of this wine was worse.  Not only was the slight spoiled / vinegar character still there, but the fruit had become more cheap candy-like.

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.