Category Archives: Nor Cal GO

Gérard Bertrand 2017 “Cote des Roses’ Languedoc white

Grenache (presumably Grenache Blanc), Vermentino (Rolle), Viognier; 13% ABV
Appellation Languedoc Protégée, Sud de France
imported by USA Wine West LLC, Sausalito, CA
$7 at the Richmond, CA, store on 31 May

This wine’s unusual bottle and blend intrigued me but also made me a little skeptical.  Would it be just hype, or actually good?  It is actually good.  The wine benefits from a few minutes of air, allowing the fruit to emerge and integrate.  Its smoothly blended flavors are of honeysuckle, yellow and white pear, moderate lemon, perhaps yellow melon or peach.  The fruit is full and ripe, but not sweet, decently complex, with lively ripe acid and structure that more guiding than restraining.  It’s not in a style that I recognize, but it is yummy, and stood up well to various strong-ish flavors.  That’s a glass stopper on top, and the bottom of the bottle is rose-shaped.  Seedboy liked it, too.

This bottle was courtesy of Richmond Grocery Outlet.

Verum 2014 Pinot Noir

Alto Valle del Rio Negro, Patagonia, Argentina; 13.7% ABV
imported by Vino del Sol, Corralitos, CA
$6 at the Richmond, CA, store on 17 May

I’ve often found Argentine Pinot Noirs good values, and this is no exception.  On the first night, it seemed to be pretty good, but never fully open.  On the second night, it was excellent.

I liked it right away, at first pour, when it tasted of lighter cherry / raspberry, root beer or cola, and sappy stem. Over two hours, more fruit and complexity emerged to include darker red fruits of cherry, raspberry, perhaps light strawberry, root beer, orange, and stemmy earth, with a silky texture.  It reached its peak about 2:15 after decanting, when it filled out with some purplish red plum.  Then, however, it somewhat shut down, never quite delivering on all it seemed to promise.

Some other wines got in the way, so it was probably about a week before I opened the saved screw cap bottle of this wine.  After two hours of air, it was delicious!  The flavors had integrated nicely, perhaps with added complexity, in a smooth, viscous texture.  The nose was of the usual earthy dark cherry / plum, root beer, orange, but also blueberry, hint of prune and sometimes licorice.  I found it an unusual Pinot Noir, not obviously like Pinot from anywhere else, but an interesting and very tasty example.

This bottle was courtesy of Richmond Grocery Outlet.

Chateau Petit-Freylon 2011 “Cuvée Sarah” Bordeaux Supérieur

Bordeaux, France
75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot; 13.5% ABV
imported by Misa Imports, Inc., Dallas, TX
$7 at the Richmond, CA, store on 17 May

It’s not that often that GO gets a somewhat older Bordeaux like this one, so I was eager to try it out.  I think it’s yummy, but don’t wait to drink it.

The wine needed about 2.5 hours in a decanter to start opening, and was fully open at 3, showing flavors of darker red cherry, some plum and maybe cassis, pencil lead, brown earth / stem, and perhaps a hint of mint, in a medium body.  I think it’s a good example of Cabernet-based Bordeaux for this price.

The next day, the other half, stored in a 375ml screw cap bottle filled to the top, was softer and fruitier, and still needed an hour of air for the pencil lead and earthiness to return.  Although it never returned to the elegance of its first night, it was still decently tasty.

This bottle was courtesy of Sopheap Yin at Richmond Grocery Outlet.

Louis Bernard 2015 Côtes du Rhône Villages

Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages Appellation d’Origine Protégée, France; 13.5% ABV
imported by Boisset America, St. Helena, CA
$6 at the Richmond, CA, store on 1 April

After liking the Louis Bernard 2007 Crozes-Hermitage so well, I felt I should try this Côtes du Rhône in time for the sale, too.  It’s somewhat similar to, but also quite different from, the C-H, and also quite lovely.

My first small sip right after opening the bottle seemed promising, but I didn’t really taste the wine until it had been decanted for over two hours.  Even then, it felt pretty closed, not yet showing all it had.  When I finally sat down to taste the rest of it, it had been decanted for over four hours.  It was smooth, elegant, and still restrained, with earthy, tangy, flavors of black cherry, black raspberry, purple plum, black olive, hint of rosemary, grape stem, and acid that reminds me of pomegranate.  There are some flavors similar to the C-H, but some different, and this wine is still rather young.

The next day, the saved 250ml screw cap bottle still needed a couple hours of air to smooth out, with its fruit finally more forward, but still with a noticeably tannic finish.  The wine should age well for at least a few more years.  If you like this kind of wine, this is an excellent value.

That circular sticker on the left side of the photo announces that this wine was awarded 90 points by the Wine Advocate.

Blass 2016 “Reserve Release” Red

South Australia; 13.5% ABV; screw cap
imported by TWE Imports, Napa, CA
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 29 March

This wine immediately showed (what I think of as) a typical Australian style of dark, ripe fruit, quite dry, with stronger acid.  It was pretty tasty, but as usual, I thought it took a while in a decanter to fully air, about three hours.  Then, the fruit thickened, somewhat submerging the acid and, in addition to the tangy purple plum, boysenberry / black raspberry, red / purple cherry, it developed a pruney finish.  On the first night, at least, it was good wine for the price, but nothing I was especially excited about.  I’d guess the grapes are mostly Shiraz, with at least some other grape(s), likely Cabernet.

The next day, the saved 250ml screw cap bottle still needed a little air to smooth out and integrate, with the fruit smoother but redder than the first night, and a little more pruney.  Overall, it’s good wine for the money, especially if you like this style.

Louis Bernard 2007 Crozes-Hermitage

Appellation Crozes-Hermitage Contrôlée, France; 12.5% ABV
imported by Boisset America, Sausalito, CA
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 28 March

GO has seen some good wines from negociant Loius Bernard, but I was worried about the wine’s age, as it seemed a little old for Crozes-Hermitage.  However, my bottle was delicious!

While the wine seemed promising right away, I thought (as usual) that it benefited from 2 – 2.5 hours in a decanter.  At two hours, the wine tasted of earthy, funky, tart red cherry, black cherry, and black raspberry.  As it aired further, the fruit included juicer, darker flavors (purple grape, soft red / purple plum), and was overall quite delicious.  The body was a little light for a Crozes-Hermitage, more like a full CA Pinot Noir, but delightfully tasted like C-H.  Maybe not everyone will be as enthusiastic about this wine as I am, but these are the kinds of flavors I love the most.  I have listed this wine under Syrah only, even though according the the Wikipedia page linked above, these wines may have up to 15% of the white grapes Marsanne and Roussanne.  This wine tastes to me like it has at most a few percent of white grapes, and I would guess it’s Syrah-only.

The saved screwcap bottle of this wine still needed a bit of time to air, but was then still as delicious, if not more so, but in a different way.  It was not so fruit-forward, more integrated with the earth and tannin, less purple and more red-black, and a little more pruney, really a classic mature Rhône wine.

“Il Grigio” Vino Spumante Brut (Dry Sparkling Wine)

Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio; 11.% ABV
imported by Eugenio Collavini Viticoltori
$7 at the Oakland, CA, store on about 12 March

I’ve like the Collavini wines I’ve had before, so I had high hopes for this sparkling wine.  The fruit, ripe yellow with hint of green, was smooth and even, not very complex, with the acid and carbonation a little low. I found it okay but unexciting.

White Oak 2013 “Mighty Oak” Proprietary Red

Malbec, Merlot, Syrah; 14.1% ABV
Napa Valley, CA
$8 at the Richmond, CA, store around 15 March

I had liked previous White Oak wines, so I was optimistic about this wine.  On first pour, it was tasty and seemed very promising.  For the next 2.5 – 3 hours, it stayed the same, with dark earthy fruits of boysenberry, blueberry, black raspberry, tasty but promising more.  However, on the first night, I felt like it never really opened, and expected more from the saved screwcap bottle.

My expectations were not met.  The saved wine was thinner and more acid, never filling out the body and complexity on the first night, and certainly never delivering on the wine’s initial promise.  So, I guess I’d say this is good wine to open and drink in three hours, but don’t expect it to really come together into a full, elegant whole.

White Oak 2014 Zinfandel

Alexander Valley, CA; 15.4% ABV
“grown, produced, and bottled by White Oak Vineyards and Winery”
$10 at the Richmond, CA, store on 8 March

I very much liked a 2013 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir from White Oak that came through GO some time around last summer, so I was hopeful about this wine.  I thought it was a well made and delicious wine.

At first, the wine seemed promising but didn’t show that much, but after being decanted for about 2.5 hours, rich, ripe fruit emerged of purple cherry, black raspberry, boysenberry, blackberry, with supporting flavors of tar, plum / dried salt plum, prune / Chinese 5 spice.  I thought it was pretty well structured for a Zinfandel, but even so, on the first night, the wine somewhat overflowed its structure.  This wine may not be your thing if you prefer cooler weather, more restrained Zinfandels, but it worked for me.  (Zoel didn’t like it.)

Sometime in the next few days (I find it doesn’t matter too much if you store it this way), the saved screw-cap bottle was also delicious, but totally integrated and even elegant, so maybe this wine would still benefit from some bottle age if you can wait.


somewhere between Napa and RRV

Pratsch 2017 Rosé

made with organic Zweigelt grapes; 11.5% ABV
Niederösterreich, Austria
imported by Winesellers, Ltd., Niles, IL
$4 at the Richmond, CA, store on 18 March

Curiosity got hold of me with this wine, and I was glad it did. The wine was smooth and pleasant, dry with nice fruit / acid balance, with flavors of red berries, cantaloupe, pink grapefruit, and less ripe watermelon, with a little grapeskin minerality on the finish.  There was perhaps a little fizz at first that aired out pretty quickly.  On the whole, I found it tasty for the low price.

The second day, it became more fruit-forward and less structured, and still yummy.

The “winemaker notes” on were: “Made from estate-grown organic Zweigelt grapes, this Austrian rose is delicate and dry featuring aromas and flavors of wild strawberries, peach, and pear, backed by crisp, refreshing acidity.”