Category Archives: Thumbs Down

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 2008 Meritage

59% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petite Verdot; 15.4% ABV
Napa Valley, CA
$10 at the Richmond, CA, store on 7 June

A number of Auburn James wines arrived together, most $10 and one $15, somewhat expensive for the GO.  I thought this looked like one of the most promising.

Immediately after being decanted, the wine showed fairly simple, very ripe, red cherry fruit.  After about an hour, the wine started to open up, and after 90 minutes, nice darker complexities had developed: blackberry, blackcurrant, medium  purple cherry, dark chocolate / prune, finishing with some balancing flavor and tannin of sappy / stemmy / roasted wood.  However, this wine is way too soft, unstructured and sweet for my taste.  It’s not dessert wine-level sweet, but even when drinking this with fresh red cherries (delightfully in season now), this wine tastes sweet.  It’s a pity, because otherwise the wine tastes pretty good.

A couple days later, the saved 275ml screwcap bottle was worse.  The complexity was largely gone, and it was just sweet red fruit with a roughly woody finish.  As you probably gather, I didn’t like this wine very much.  If you’re looking for a sweet red wine with a lot more complexity than most such wines, this could be a good choice, but for me at this price, it was a Thumbs Down.

Riaza 2014 Tempranillo “The Outsider”

100% Tempranillo; 14.7% ABV; screw-cap
California, about 1/3 each from three vineyards:
“one from the valley, one from the delta, and the last from the foothills”
$5 (I think) at the Richmond, CA, store. Long gone.

I was intrigued by the vineyard blend in this wine, and there were only positive comments on it during the fall sale, so I got one back then.  I finally opened it recently and was disappointed by my bottle.

On the first night, I found the wine hot, ripe, with rough acid and a tinge of spoiled grape.  After being decanted a couple hours, the red cherry fruit flavors darkened to dark cherry and purple grape, but the wine never became especially more agreeable overall.

The next day, the wine smoothed out and became more complex, showing red / purple cherry, raspberry, orange, stem / wood, but more of the spoiled grape / raisin character.  I moved on to something else.

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.

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.

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.

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.

El Supremo 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon

Mendoza, Argentina; 13.4% ABV
$4 at the Richmond, CA, store on 28 Dec

elsupremo_2015_cabernetI thought the label of this wine had some character to it, and that the color of the wine through the bottle looked nicely dark.  When I poured it, the color of the wine was indeed quite pretty.  However, on tasting, the wine had this weird organic chemical flavor that was very off-putting.  I’m not sure what the wine fault is, but to me it tasted sort of like over-ripe or slightly spoiled fruit.  It was otherwise a pretty good wine for the price, but I’ll have to say Thumbs Down.

Jade Mountain 2013 Chardonnay

84% Napa County, 16% Mendocino County; 13.5% ABV
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 15 September

jademountain_2013_chardonnayI had been interested in this wine for a while because I recall the name Jade Mountain from when I started drinking wine in the later 90s.  I seem to recall they made some interesting Rhone-varietal wines.  Although I’m sure they’ve been through a lot of changes in the intervening years, the personal association still made me hopeful this would be a good wine.  ‘Twas not to be.

On first pour, the wine showed typical Chardonnay yellow apple, but with some unpleasant and rough funkiness.  This sometimes means that the wine just needed a little more air, and indeed, smooth and ripe fruit of apple, pineapple, and pear did come forth significantly more, becoming reasonably drinkable but still sort of off-putting for me.

The next day, the fruit and unpleasant flavor had both become more fully pronounced, making it overall worse in my opinion: medium-ripe yellow apple, dried pineapple (slightly sulfurous?), ripe and smooth but with an unpleasant over-ripeness or perhaps slight oxidation.  Although it’s not tremendously offensive, I didn’t like it very much.

“El Vinculo” 2009 Crianza

from Alejandro Fernández; La Mancha DO, Spain
100% Tempranillo; 14.5% ABV
$6 at the Richmond, CA, store on 2 Sept

elvinculo_2009_crianzaThis wine looked pretty interesting, but my bottle was quite disappointing.  Although with some air, it tasted of softer, tasty ripe fruit of black raspberry / darker red cherry and purple grape, it was marred by a sort of earthy / rubbery funk, especially on the finish.  It has been a while since I’ve had a corked wine, but this matches my recollections of a badly corked wine.  A customer returned a bottle, and wanted me to taste it to see what I thought.  It tasted just like my (likely) corked bottle.  However, G.L.Pease had a bottle that he said was not corked, but was unexciting wine.  Given the higher risks-to-reward on this one, I’m going with Thumbs Down.