Category Archives: Varietal

Soldiers of Fortune 2014 Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County

Santa Barbara County, CA; 13.8% ABV
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 8 March

I’ve liked previous bottlings of Soldiers of Fortune Pinot Noir at higher prices than this, so I thought this seemed like a good bet.  It was!

The wine is pleasant enough at first, but I thought it really benefited from being decanted for two hours.  Then, the wine showed the soft, ripe, dark red cherry fruit typical of Central Coast Pinot Noir, nicely delineated to orange, herbs, and slight, stemmy earthiness.  I agree with Seedboy that the wine could have used a little more acid, as it’s a little on the fruity side for me, too, but I still think it’s really good Pinot for the price.  The wine developed well for the next two hours after that, slowly becoming darker and richer, with a flavor that I could best (although probably still not very well) describe as pomegranate syrup.  The orange flavor became completely submerged, and the herbs flavor darkened to something like rosemary.

The saved screw-cap bottle was also very good for the price, maybe better, to my taste.  It had more delicateness and subtlety, less overt fruitiness and more stemmy Pinot funk.  Maybe I just didn’t give it as long to air as I did the first bottle, so maybe it would develop as the first 2/3 of the bottle did with more time, but I really didn’t see the need to.


Ellipsis 2013 Petite Sirah

Lovett Vineyard, Red Hills Lake County AVA, CA; 15.1% ABV
$7 at the Richmond, CA, store, maybe around late 2018?

I apologize that this post is a bit of a tease.  This is a wine I bought at least a year ago.  There wasn’t much available to order, and it sold out quickly, but I got a few bottles to age short-term.  This is the first one I’ve opened since then.

The first bottle I tried (when it first showed up in the store) was clearly very good, with rich fruit, zingy acid, and gravelly tannins, but I thought it could use a little more age.  This bottle showed nice development from the first, with the fruit and tannins smoothed out, and the acid a little more mellow, especially after being decanted 2.5 – 3 hours.  The fruit was still full and ripe boysenberry / blueberry / blackberry with some black earth, very tasty.  At least on the first night, this bottle didn’t have much of the non-fruit complexities I recalled from the first one, but maybe more will come out in the saved portion.

The saved screw-cap bottle needed just a little air to become really lovely, smooth and supple, even elegant, dark-fruited, amazing to me for a Petite Sirah, still with a moderately tannic finish.  Then, with a bit more air, it kind of fell apart, losing its forward fruit and becoming a little more acid.  I guess I think this wine is doing about as well as it’s going to, and I’ll plan to drink my other bottles over the next year or so.

Terra Nostra 2017 Rosé

100% Sciaccarellu; 11.5% ABV
Corse Appellation D’Origine Protégée, Corsica, France
Jeff Wellburn Selections; imported by Wine Agencies, Inc., Van Nuys, CA
$6 at the Alameda, CA, store on 23 Feb

I had been curious about this Corsican rosé, made from a grape I’d never heard of, for some time, but on this sunny day (after an unusually rainy winter here in N. CA), I can finally have the excuse to open it.  It’s lovely!

GO has gotten a number of Jeff Wellburn Selection rosés over the last year, and all the ones I’ve tried have been pretty good, some very good, including a couple from Bandol.  This wine is no exception, and is delicious from first pour, with smooth and subtly complex flavors of light tangerine, pink grapefruit, and slight raspberry.  There is some sweetness in ripeness of the fruit (not actual sugar), excellently balanced with acid and a touch of bitterness on the finish.  For me, this stuff goes down way too easily.

Collavini 2016 Ribolla Gialla “Turian”

Friuli Colli Orientali DOC, northeastern Italy; 12.5% ABV
imported by Eugenio Collavini Viticoltori, Santa Rosa, CA
$10 at the Richmond, CA, store on 25 Feb

I’ve liked Ribolla Gialla wines previously, so I couldn’t resist trying this fancier version.  It is a more impressive wine than the cheaper version ($5, I think) around GO these days but, to me, not quite $10 impressive.

On the first night, the wine showed medium-ripe fruit with crisp acid (lemon, apple / maybe pear, a little yellow grapefruit) that has a touch of something orange (orange, apricot?, passion fruit?), hint of green lime, bitterness of citrus pith, and chalky minerality.  It’s an elegant and nicely structured wine, but I would have been happier with a little more complexity for this price.

The second night, the fruit was more forward, the structure weaker, the flavors a little less complex although still tasty, and the acid a little stronger.  I preferred it the first night.

Collavini 2015 Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso

Friuli Colli Orientali DOC, northeastern Italy; 12.5% ABV
imported by Eugenio Collavini Viticoltori, Santa Rosa, CA
$6 at the Richmond, CA, store on 25 Feb

It had been quite a while since I had seen any Refosco, and I was excited because I quite liked the previous ones.  This wine is younger, fresher, and a little lighter weight than previous examples but still recognizably and enjoyably the same grape.

Although this wine was promising immediately, I thought it needed 2:10 – 2:40 of air in a decanter to open.  It has mostly fruity flavors of medium-dark purple plum, black raspberry, and mulberry, with fruit soft and supple, backed by acid of hibiscus tea.  I found subtleties of licorice, prune, dark earth, orange, and Chinese 5-spice.

The next day, the saved screw-cap bottle still needed a couple hours of air for the fruit to darken and soften.  The fruit was perhaps slightly darker, more grapey / boysenberry / blueberry, but the wine was much the same.  I got second bottle today which I plan to drink in another year or so.

Collavini 2015 Bianco “Broy”

50% Friulano, 30% Chardonnay, 20% Sauvignon Blanc; 13% ABV
Collio DOC, northeastern Italy
imported by Eugenio Collavini Viticoltori, Santa Rosa, CA
$10 at the Richmond, CA, store on 25 Feb

I recalled liking the Collavini 2013 Ribolla Gialla, although I haven’t tried the more recent vintage of this bottling, so I was excited to see from Collavini a Refosco and a couple fancier white wines: the “Turian” (another Ribolla Gialla) and this wine.  I was a little skeptical of the blend (the CA Chardonnay – Sauvignon Blanc blends I’ve tasted have been weird), but decided to get a bottle out of some combination of trust and curiosity.  🙂  I thought this wine was delicious!

Although the wine had a lovely nose, I found the first taste a little underwhelming, a strange combination of heavy-ish honeyed yellow flowers and fruit, stopped short by a bitter structure.  However, with some air, the wine opened to nicely delineated flavors of (as initially) honeyed yellow flowers, yellow pear / apple, white pear, hints of green herbs and lime, bitterness of the herbs / grape skin, and minerality close to the white pear.   There was quite a range of flavors, but the blend was seamless, with a nice fruit / acid balance.  While none of this bottle survived to the next day, I expect it would follow the typical pattern of becoming more fruit-forward, less structured, but still tasty.

Antico Ceppo 2015 Primitivo

Primitivo di Manduria DOC, Apulia (heel of “the boot”), Italy; 14.5% ABV
imported by Innovino International Inc., Tamarac, FL
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on ~25 Jan

This wine looked promising, and indeed, I liked it quite well for a tasty, every day, easily paired drink.  It’s pretty tasty right away, but IMO benefits from a couple hours’ air, when it shows a range of typical Zinfandel (same grape as Primitivo) fruits from red raspberry, to black raspberry, another softer dark purple fruit (mulberry? grape?), through to a slight bit of blackberry, finishing with zingy ripe acid.  For a southern Italian wine, it’s unusually fruit-driven, lacking much of (what I think of as) the usual stemmy / raisiny structure.  However, I found the fruit very tasty, and these qualities likely make it more appealing if you’re accustomed to CA Zinfandel.  Indeed, one person whose taste usually agrees with mine found this wine too sweet.

As much as I liked it on the first day, I preferred the saved screwcap bottle.  (I usually don’t drink a whole bottle in one night, and save the extra in a screwcap bottle, filling it up to the top and capping it when I open the original bottle.)  The flavors had become more accessible and integrated with the acid and earthy tannin, and the texture had become more fleshy.

This wine is now gone from the Richmond store, and I think there wasn’t that much of it available in the first place.  I apologize for lately reviewing only wines that aren’t around now, but the number of new, interesting-looking items has been pretty low lately.

Terres Secrètes 2015 Mâcon Milly-Lamartine

Appellation Mâcon-Villages Contrôlée, France
100% Chardonnay; 13% ABV
imported by Vigneron Associés, Santa Rosa, CA
$8 at the Richmond, CA, store on ~25 Jan

Something like 5 or 6 of these Terres Secrètes Bourgogne (Burgundy) Blanc wines came in at once a while ago.  This is the third one I’ve tried, and maybe my favorite so far.  I think most of the less expensive ones are gone by now, perhaps including this one.

On the first night, the wine was a bit reserved, showing typical chardonnay flavors of  medium-ripe lemon, yellow apple, white pear, with a hint of green lime, in a chalky minerally structure.  The nice complexity was on the subtle side for me, making for an elegant wine.  I liked it closer to Berkeley room temperature (a little chilly these days) than to fridge temp.  As it warms, a little bit of something like apricot or yellow / orange tropical fruit comes out.

On the second night, the wine became considerably more accessible, with the fruit coming forward (although still subtly complex) and the structure receding although still present.  To me, this is a very good white Burgundy for the price.

Apparently, a number of people preferred the 2016 Mâcon Verzé at $6, regardless of price.  I agree the flavors were more full and forward in the Mâcon Verzé, and I liked it, too, but I thought the structure and elegance were superior in this wine.  To each, his or her own.  🙂

Quinta Santa Eufemia Porto White “10 Years Old”

Duoro, Portugal; 19.5% ABV
45% Malvasia Fina, 35% Gouveio (Verdelho), 20% Moscatel Galego, 10% Rabigato
imported by M.H.W. Ltd., Manhasset, NY
$15 for 500ml at the Oakland, CA, store on 28 Jan

I’m sure I would have found them if I had gone looking, but I didn’t recall ever seeing a white Port before, in any store, so I had to try this one. My reaction is that it’s interesting and tasty.

Maybe because i’m unfamiliar with white port, it took a while to grow on me.  It’s also possible that, like red port, it needed a few days to open up.  Now, the flavors, which strike me as yellow grape jelly, light honey, light caramel, and golden raisin / sherry, have integrated nicely, with a gently viscous texture and balancing acid. The differences between my tasting (more oxidized flavors) and notes I found online (fresher flavors, more floral and fresh fruit) suggest that this wine is near the end of its life.  There was slight sediment at the bottom of the bottle.  One site, via Google translate, seemed to suggest that this wine would be best within two weeks of being opened.  I haven’t tried pairing it, but I think it would go well with cheeses, lighter paté, dried fruits and nuts, apple pie, or custard-based desserts.

Anyway, I found it pretty tasty, and certainly an interesting experience, but I don’t find it super compelling, especially for this price, which is not much less than sites in Europe were selling it for.  Has anyone else tried it?  The Oakland store also had Ruby and Tawny (red) Ports from this producer.  Comments on those are also welcome.

Arienzo de Marqués de Riscal 2010 Crianza

Rioja DOCa, Spain; 14% ABV
Tempranillo, Graciano, Mazuelo (Carignan)
imported by Shaw-Ross International Importers, Miramar, FL
$4 at the Richmond, CA, store on 25 Jan

This wine is not bad right away, but IMO it benefits from 2 hours’ air.  Then, it tastes of brown-earthy, tangy, dark red cherry and red plum, with a hint of licorice and lots of nice aged complexity.  The fruit is soft and ripely sweet, with balancing acid, in a medium body.  This is very good for the price, but don’t wait to drink it.  I would guess it’s best on the first day.