Category Archives: So Cal GO

Lost Canyon 2013 Pinot Noir Whitton Vineyard

Produced and Bottled by Lost Canyon Winery, Cloverdale, CA; 14.4% ABV
Whitton Vineyard, Russian River Valley, CA
$7.99 at the San Diego (Oceanside), CA, store on 31 December

What’s this? Low production (<300 cases), single vineyard, 100% legit, 100% true to Russian River Valley AVA and varietally correct Pinot at a phenomenal price point?

20171231_185044This wine, for me, is one of the first wines from GO in a very long time that epitomizes GO deals of old (or maybe that certain Bay Area stores still get in limited quantities but that San Diego gets very little to none of) – $40-50 MSRP bottles at 10-20% of the cost, that actually drink well at their original price point, and when you taste it, feel like you stole money from the local GO operators. Right…the wine…

The wine is reasonably structured throughout with a touch of cherry cola and smoke on the nose and is pretty full (really medium) bodied. It tastes predominantly of dark fruit – cherry? – with quite a bit of acid and light to low-moderate tannins to balance what is a nice, smooth (yes, the wine descriptor of the year) mouthfeel. It reminds me strongly of Iron Horse from what I have had. It is not overly complex but it is integrated beginning to end and if anything, it is a bit high acid for me (though mouthfeel is fairly soft) and a touch sour. The fruit could definitely come through more (there is no juiciness or fruitiness here) but this isn’t overly muted, nor is the wine compromised by my wishing for a bit more fruit in the mid palate. It makes me think and ponder the last time I had a RRV Pinot this good (I don’t buy $40+ wine, period). This is a very well made wine for what it brings and at $8 is a screaming bargain.

I wish I could report how this fared after 2 or 3 hours but it lasted 30 minutes and did not transform much in that time, aside from most of the heat blowing off the nose having been vinturid into glasses. I blew off houseguests to write this review quickly. If you’re looking for defects, they are there but they are almost not even worth discussing given the price point. I’ll be returning Tuesday to buy a case immediately, and I haven’t done that from GO in years. I’m excited to hear any and all opinions by our loyal contributors if any of you finds this and look forward to any and all discussion that follows.

 

 

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Handcraft Artisan Collection 2015 Dark Red

Vinted & Bottled by Handcraft Artisan Collection, Manteca, CA; 13.5% ABV
$4.99 at the San Diego-Downtown, CA, store on 4 November

Yet another wine that supports my assertion that Wine.com will give 87 points to practically any wine that has a cork in it. This wine’s nose and flavor absolutely scream Central California. It lacks tannin and acid to balance the super ripe, jammy fruit. The wine tastes slightly better than cheap Central California swill.

20171209_170119So, given its provenance and a high end looking label design, do we end up with some great bargain or find here? No – it’s pretty uninspiring stuff.  It has a medium body and a touch of tannin and acid (mostly just alcohol coming through providing the balance – did I just say that?), drinks like cheap Zin and is heavy on the vanilla with a touch of barrel spice thrown in. It’s a nice looking, dark wine and rims with some beautiful darker hues you would expect from Petite Sirah. Of course, it’s Delicato, so I’d assume there’s a nice dose of Mega Purple here, and it really doesn’t do anything to elevate my opinion of Reds I’ve tried from them. For reference to mass-produced labels, they produce Brazin, Gnarly Head, La Merika and many other recognizable (and some not so recognizable) brands. The entire branding exercise they went through for this label to me is pretty pointless, as Delicato is pretty widely known as a low-end producer. I won’t even bother to paste some of the marketing fluff they put out in their PR release when they started the label in 2012, but it’s searchable if you want a good laugh. This wine, at least, embodies exactly none of the [false] claims made nor is it “…rich and complex…” as stated on the back of the label.

I’ll go Neutral on this because some will like it, it is not overtly bad, and it’s certainly not over the hill like the Anka. Might be paired well with charred meat with a spicy rub on it, cajun pasta or just weeknight pasta wine. If you want a soft, sweet wine that’s fuller bodied and probably a crowd pleaser, this wouldn’t be a bad choice.

Viña Pargua Anka 2012 Red Blend

Maipo Valley, Chile; 14.4% ABV
Produced and Bottled by Viña Pargua Ltda. Paine, Santiago, Chile
$5 at the San Diego – Downtown, CA, store on 4 November

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Oh, how I wanted to like thee given the nice label, online MSRP, grape makeup and some decent prior vintage ratings from Wine Enthusiast. This wine reads very sweet to me and if you blindfolded me, I’d guess it were a California-designated Red Blend heavy on Central California fruit. According to the label, while it is 100% estate-grown fruit, Wine.com shares that it’s 60% Cab, 16% Cab Franc, 10% Merlot, 7% Carmenere, 5% Syrah, 2% Petit Verdot.

I get a lot of raisin and prune on the nose (which is admittedly not my favorite) and dried fruit (as Wine.com noted) predominantly through the palate. The Cab Franc comes through heavily through the middle and finish of the wine with some pretty grippy tannins if that is your thing and they’re present even after 3 days of being open. This one does stay together and you don’t have to finish it in one night. I suppose for a bigger wine with mid-heavy mouthfeel that is cab-dominated, some would enjoy it but it’s not for me – between the nose and a predominant flavor in the palate, there’s something that’s off-putting but I think it’s the nose carrying through.

It’s not without its virtues if you like what it brings to the table but for me, this one’s a thumbs down.

Broken Earth Winery 2010 Quadrant BDX

Paso Robles 13.7% ABV
60% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Petit Verdot, 7% Petit Sirah
Cellared and bottled by Broken Earth Winery in Paso Robles, CA
$5.99 at the San Diego, CA (Downtown), store on 3 June

20170723_202414After sampling this over the two hours it has been open since I aerated it into a large Riedel wine glass, I have three thoughts about this wine: (1) This is what I get for buying a $6 domestic red blend that is Merlot-dominant at Grocery Outlet or otherwise (and I do love a good Merlot, of which I’ve had many since I started drinking Grocery Outlet wine in 2009), (2) this wine is a great example of wine that gives Grocery Outlet wine inventory a bad name, and (3) this shows how bogus wine competitions and points scorings are (2012 Orange County Wine Competition gave this wine 93 points). While there isn’t anything truly bad about it, it just doesn’t deliver at the $5.99 price range like so many over the years to which we have become accustomed. Here’s what you’ll get:

Lots of black currant, dark berries, and even some figs on the nose, but it’s one that isn’t particularly complex and without being able to offer more specifics, honestly resembles a lot of cheap California-designated wines that I’ve tried at GO over the years. It does show a beautifully dark purple color, probably the result of Petit Sirah and Petite Verdot. The palate belies the nose a bit, and at least honors the blend, but the sweetness of the Merlot overwhelms any of the other interesting characteristics that the Cab, Petite Verdot, and Petit Sirah may have offered. If you blindfolded me, I would have guessed 80% Merlot. The wine is acid with mild-medium tannins and absolutely benefits from decanting or air time, but it also blends those flavors together that emerge as rather sweet and unsophisticated on the other side. It drinks fine for the $6-10 range but for the $6 range at GO, it just doesn’t deliver. It’s solely Drinkable for me. If you or a guest loves the simpler end of the Merlot spectrum, however, give it a shot.

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.

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

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

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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.

Paraiso 2010 Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

Santa Lucia Highlands AVA, CA
$6 at the Long Beach, CA, store on 2 June

20160617_174408Poured though an aerator straight, the wine’s nose invites immediately with some dark, bright red cherry fruit, heavily toasted wood, and barrel spice and paired with dark ruby color and long legs in the glass.

First thoughts upon tasting summon those similar to tasting $15-20 Pinots where there’s some defect that permeates through the wine’s presentation. Here, it’s a combination of the heavy fruit and bright, almost mineral acidity where neither comes into balance with the rest of the wine.

Many winos are familiar with the industry commentary surrounding the emergence of the word “smooth” in reviews in recent decades but this wine does smooth out with time, and not much time at that. 30 minutes in, it begins to sort its idiosyncrasies out and the components harmonize a bit more. Now we are getting somewhere. It’s a blind date that begins questionably that is potentially worth the time by the middle of the appetizer.

As time passes, the wine doesn’t come all that much more together and the elements that combine to make it more inviting cannot do anything more to overcome what is too much ripe fruit, toasted oak and acid. The wine is bigger than expected and to its detriment.

Tasted on Day 2, the wine deteriorates quite a bit and the fruit sweetens considerably, moving this even more into the Thumbs Down category.

“Cheap pinot” from CA seems to go one of two ways for me: thin, tart, dilute cherry cola with zero finish or something similar to this wine. It’s not terrible but it’s a Thumbs Down for me, especially compared with comparably-priced GO Pinots. I was hoping for something better out of SLH, which in my understanding can be a decent, lower-cost alternative to Santa Maria Pinot. Not here.

 

 

Graymont Estate 2013 Russian River Valley Old Vine Zinfandel

Russian River Valley AVA, CA
$7 at the Long Beach, CA, store on 2 June

Suckered by20160612_185514 the nice label, RRV AVA, cellaring and bottling in Napa and the fact I was grilling and hadn’t had a good Old Vine Zin in a while, I picked up this bottle without any research.

Aerated into the glass, this wine (somehow) first came off as extremely flavorless, poorly structured, and hot, which at 16% ABV is somewhat understandable. Something obviously dulled my palate initially, and it was an odd sensation to get little nose out of the wine freshly poured and tasted shortly thereafter. The wine has nice, bright fruit on the nose and flavors typical of an old vine zin with jammy berry overtones dominating the palate with a very luscious mouthfeel until the hit of alcohol overwhelms through the finish. 2.5-3 hours in, this wine really sorted itself out nicely, and it came together with less of the sharp delineation between the mid-palate and finish I experienced shortly after opening. 4 hours in, it started to fall apart a bit, with some of the nice ripe flavors muting themselves, so I stoppered the rest of the bottle for the next night.

The achilles heel for me, however, and something that overshadowed some of the wine’s positive assets, is the amount of oak used, something that came through predominantly even on night 2 as I returned to it again. This isn’t a terrible effort by any means, but if you’re sensitive to oak, this is likely not a wine you would enjoy. The wine had fallen apart for me by night 3 and any structure was pretty much gone.

Overall, I was torn on this one. On one hand, you have a wine with some nice characteristics for a 16% ABV Old Vine Zin, and wonderful, elegant front end mouthfeel once it has been open a while, but betrayed by its finishing characteristics (harsh) and a lot of wood. For my tastes, mostly due to the tough structure, it’s not a repeat buy.

For sleuths, there is very little info online on this wine short of some comments in the What’s New section of this site. It turns out that it falls under the Smith-Anderson Wine Group umbrella, who makes Havens wine that has appeared at GO here and there, and Stonehedge, which I recognize as a pretty decent QPR wine carried at Trader Joes and Big Lots over the years: http://www.sa-napavalley.com/index.html