Category Archives: Thumbs Up

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.

 

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.

Eo 2014 Trebbiano D’Abruzzo

Trebbiano D’Abruzzo DOC, central Italy; 12.5% ABV
produced and bottled by Azienda Collefriso
imported by Wine Appellations, LTD, Mill Valley, CA
$4 at the Richmond, CA, store on 12 June

I seemed to recall that I had seen Trebbiano-based wines only from the province of Veneto, but the Wikipedia page linked above says that

The Trebbiano family account for around a third of all white wine in Italy. It is mentioned in more than 80 of Italy’s DOCs (“Controlled origin denominations”), although it has just seven of its own : Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, Trebbiano di Aprilia, Trebbiano di Arborea, Trebbiano di Capriano del Colle, Trebbiano di Romagna and Trebbiano Val Trebbia dei Colli Piacentini and Trebbiano di Soave.

Perhaps the most successful Trebbiano-based blend are the Orvieto whites of Umbria, which use a local clone called Procanico.

As I’d expect from a wine grown farther south, this Trebbiano is a bit more robust that those I recall from Veneto, but it is still very Italian.

The wine tastes of yellow / white melon and pear, some green lime, and a slightly aspirin-like grape skin bitterness, with a somewhat fleshy mouthfeel, crisp lemony acid, and supporting, integrated minerality.  Anyway, I really like this wine for this price.  In terms of food pairing, it would fit in the same niche as a more crisp Sauvignon Blanc.  None of my bottle survived to be tasted the next day.

Also, the front label seems to indicate that the wine may have been made with organic grapes.  The back label doesn’t say anything on the subject.

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

Saint Andre de Figuiere 2015 Magali “The Signature” Rose

30% Syrah, 30% Cabernet, 25% Grenache, 15% Cinsault; 13.5% ABV
Cotes du Provence, southern France
imported by Paul M. Young Fine Wines
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store. No longer there.

This wine was highly praised here and by GLPease in person, so I got one.  It is indeed lovely and delicious.  The wine is smooth, soft, delicate, but full of flavor: cantaloupe, pink grapefruit, a little yellow apple, and red berries.  The textured minerality is almost creamy.

I wasn’t able to try it the next day.  On the third day, the magical delicate flavor and texture was gone, it was still pretty tasty.

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.

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.

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.

Macarico 2010 Serre Delle More Vino Spumante di Qualita

Alto Vulture, Vini da Vulcano, Basilicata, Italy
100% Aglianico; 13% ABV
North Berkeley Imports
$7 at the Richmond, CA, store at least a few months ago.  No longer there.

This sparkling rosé arrived probably about 6 months ago, with two other NBI wines.  A couple people told me this was awful, so I had just let this bottle sit around unopened.  However, tonight I opened it, expecting to dump it down the drain, with a backup ready.  But I was surprised: I love it!

The wine was pleasantly aromatic, showing fruity flavors of cantaloupe / quince, red berries, and a dark red cherry close to a savory, almost-meat flavor.  It was well-carbonated and pleasantly dry and crisp.  It kept well over the evening in a stoppered bottle in the fridge.  More light tangerine flavor came out over time.

Volpe Pasini 2014 Ribolla Gialla

Delle Venezie IGT, northeastern Italy; 12% ABV
imported by Diageo “Chateau & Estate” wines
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 12 April.  Still there.

The last Ribolla Gialla I reviewed was quite good, so I had to try this one, too.  It is even more tasty, IMO easily worth the dollar more.

I find the wine a little closed straight from the fridge, but warmed up a little, it shows good intensity of lemony pear, yellow melon, white and yellow flowers, slightly astringent minerality and grape skin bitterness, green lime, and a little orange on the finish.  In trying to help customers, I usually ask if they want something more fruity like a Chardonnay or more crisp like a Sauvignon Blanc.  To me, this wine is somewhere in between, more fruity than most SB, and more acid than most Chardonnay.  Yum!

The next day, the wine had smoothed out and integrated, and had a viscous minerality.  It was more mellow but still delicious.