Category Archives: Syrah / Shiraz

Street Cred 2013 Shiraz

McLauren Vale, South Australia; 14.0% ABV
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 24 Feb

img_0060This wine was one whose label seemed a bit odd, but it was from a good area, so I thought it might be a good wine in hiding.  I did decide that’s the case, although not on the first night.

The wine seemed promising, with ripe dark fruit, rather dry, but with a good bit of acid that I hoped would resolve as more fruit came out.  However, even over about 2.5 hours, it never really did.  The fruit, of blackberry / plum / blueberry, never really filled out and balanced the acid of boysenberry / plum, although the wine did soften a little and add possible complexities of light prune and mint.  I suspect this wine is still a bit young.

The next day, the saved single-glass, screw-cap bottle was much better, still needing a bit of air for the fruit to become accessible and, to my surprise, elegant, with the complexities of mint and earthy prune more definite.  This wine should probably be given another year or two of age, but is pretty good for the price.  I got another bottle that I’m plotting to blend with the Pioneer Red.  🙂

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.

2010 Hearthstone Estate “Lodestone”

Paso Robles (Adelaida), CA; 14.8% AVB
Received as a sample for review from Palo Alto on December 27th.

hearthstone_lodestone-1This is the second of my two bottles of the recently arrived Hearthstone Estate wines. I was excited to try something different from this producer as I liked the “Paso Superiore “(66% Sangiovese, 17% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Cabernet Franc), and this one had a completely different makeup (60% Syrah, 22% Grenache, 18% Mourvedre). While they are different wines, they are made very much in the same style, and I quite liked this one, perhaps even a bit more than I liked the “Paso Superiore.”

The common thread I found between this wine and the “Paso Superiore” is the cleanness and purity of the fruit flavors done in a more subtle, nuanced style. This isn’t a sledgehammer and would also make quite a nice food wine. I got some black cherry and blackberry on the nose with a little smokiness coming out as the wine aired. On the palate I got dark fruit, some well integrated oak notes, a little pepperiness that bordered on the green/herbaceous side (not unpleasantly so) framed by some tangy acidity and soft tannins that took about an hour to emerge. We opened this with friends and quite enjoyed it so none survived to see the next day.

A repeat buy and thumbs up for me. I visited the Palo Alto store yesterday and this wine was still available in good quantity for $6.99 per bottle.

2013 Puydeval Red Blend, Pays D’Oc IGP

Pays D’Oc IGP, Langeudoc, France; 14% ABV
$5.99 at the Palo Alto store on November 27th

puydevalThis wine caught my eye with its attractive label and the fact that it contains a healthy dose of Cabernet Franc (which I love). The blend breakdown is 58% Cab Franc, 28% Syrah, and 14% Merlot, from vineyards in the cooler regions of the Languedoc. The wine is aged 10 months in oak (90% French, 10% American) and fermented with native yeasts. The tech sheet for the wine can be found here.

A brief web search showed this wine has a pretty loyal following and routinely scores in the high 80’s to low 90’s from major wine publications so I was excited to try it. The wine pours an opaque, deep red, and on the nose I got some blackberry and plum as well as some barrel spice and just a hint of savoriness (I’m guessing from the Syrah). There was definitely some heat as well, but that blew off after about 30 minutes.

On the palate I got dark red fruit with absolutely no vegetal notes that can be so prevalent in Cab Franc. Definitely a fruit forward wine, more in a new world style, but still with some pleasant earthiness to keep it rooted in France. Well integrated oak and pleasantly drying tannins with enough acidity and lift to keep it fresh. It shows it’s stuff best after about an hour and a half, and was fantastic with both a beef stew the first night and hearty minestrone the second night. A repeat buy and a thumbs up for me.

[ed. note: Please welcome frequent commenter DavidLikesWine to the front page.]

Pelerin 2006 Syrah

Monterrey County, CA; 14.5% ABV
$3 for 375ml at the Richmond, CA, store in early October.  Gone now.

pelerin_2006_syrahI decanted this wine off some sediment for about a half hour of so before I tasted it.  The wine tasted of ripe, dark red cherry and a little dark blueberry, with a slightly blackened character, dry woody oak, and slightly sharp acid on the finish.  As the evening went on, the flavors darkened to emphasize the blueberry, almost blackberry, and the roasted or grilled character, still with the dark red dried cherry as the textured base.  Probably unsurprisingly, none of this half bottle survived to the next day.  If you find some or still have any, drink it up soon.

Anticato 2010 Red

Napa Valley, CA; 14.8% ABV
apparently a brand of Terravant
$6 at the Richmond, CA, store on 26 Sept

anticato_2010_redThis wine intrigued me as a Napa Valley red blend from an excellent year at a decent price.  It seemed reasonably promising at first pour, but I didn’t really taste it until it had been decanted for a couple hours.  Then, it showed typical darker rich (some thickness on the palate although I’d call the wine medium-bodied) and smooth Napa fruit of bing cherry / redder blackberry, lighter red cherry / hint of cranberry, vanilla oak, and a little seedy bitterness that I found out of place in an otherwise reasonably balanced wine.  Although this is supposedly a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Zinfandel, it tasted mostly like Cab to me, with the Syrah and Zin not distinctly standing out.  It was not that exciting to me, but it’s still a tasty enough wine, and definitely Napa-tasting, at a decent price.

The second half, stoppered in a 375ml bottle with very little air, was similar, with both the fruit and the “seedy bitterness” more prominent.  The fruit was softer and more forward, but so was the dark green / black vegetal bitterness.  I didn’t find it too bad, even a little interesting, but my wife, who is usually not that picky, definitely objected.  I thought it was still pretty good for the price, and neither really improved nor degraded compared to the first half.

Chateau Val Joanis 2015 “Tradition” rosé

Luberon AOP, (southern) France; 13% ABV; screw cap
$4 at the Richmond, CA, store on 23 Sept

valjoanis_2015_roseThis wine’s pale pink color looked lovely, it is from southern France, and it is the current vintage of rosé.  It is indeed very good for the price.

The wine is at first a little closed, but opens quickly to flavors of pink grapefruit / less ripe strawberry or maybe raspberry, lavender, maybe a little yellow fruit, with a slight thickness to the body.

A couple days later, the rest left in the bottle was still fresh and delicious.

Red Lava Vineyards 2008 Syrah

Red Hills Lake County AVA, CA, 15.5% ABV
$7 at the Richmond, CA, store on 22 Aug

RedLava_2008_SyrahA number of Red Lava wines showed up together at the Richmond store: 2008 Syrah, 2009 Syrah, 2011 Syrah, and 2011 Tempranillo.  I got the 08 and 09 Syrahs, distrusting the weaker year of 2011.  I think this wine is very good in a ripe, fruity, CA way.

After about an hour of air, the wine shows ripe, tangy dark cherry and blueberry, cranberry sauce, black-earthy roasted or grilled character, with zingy acid on the finish, and a slight touch dark evergreen.  The body is not very heavy, letting a bit of alcoholic hotness show through, but the wine is well-flavored,  There is a little bit of simple or candied fruitiness that I dislike, but overall I thought it was outweighed by the more serious Syrah character.  Thumbs Up.

The second half, stoppered in a 375ml bottle with very little air, was different but at least as good.  It still needed a bit of air to show very ripe, rich, earthy fruit of dark purple cherry, purple grape, blueberry / blackberry, perhaps still some of the cranberry sauce, with a roasted / grilled character, and slightly abrasive tannin / acid on the finish.  Overall, this is very good wine for the money.

Alta Vineyards 2010 “Nonno’s Rosso”

33% Zinfandel, 23% Alicante Bouschet, 23% Syrah, 21% Mourvedre; 14.8% ABV
Sonoma County, CA
produced and bottled by Seghesio Family Vineyards (info sheet here PDF)
$10 at the Richmond, CA, store on 15 July

AltaVineyards_2010_NonnosRossoThis wine looked like an unusual offering from the GO, so I made a pricey indulgence.  🙂

On first pour, it tasted of roughly textured fruit, startlingly acid.  After about two hours (I think, I’m afraid I lost track this time) in a decanter, the fruit had smoothed out and darkened, but the acid was still on the strong side for contemporary CA winemaking, more like an Italian wine.  Very enticing nose of red / purple and black fruit. On the palate, tangy dark fruit of black raspberry / boysenberry and purple plum jam, allspice / black pepper, and wood / black earth / hint of tar, with a touch of hibiscus tea in the acid.  After about 2:40 in a decanter, the fruit becomes much softer and riper, with the acid becoming more integrated and less sharp.  IMO, this is very good wine for the price.

A couple days later, the saved single-glass, screwcap bottle still needed a bit of air for the acid to die down a little, but not all that long, and it’s not that bad a little on the acid side, too.  Unfortunately from my perspective, it never reached the soft, dark and rich state that the first portion of the bottle did.  Instead, it was always more medium purple and more acid.  So…  I’d guess you shouldn’t keep this wine that much longer.

Spellwine non-vintage “Spellonu” red blend

34% Merlot, 34% Syrah, 32% Cabernet Sauvignon; California; 14.8% ABV
Bottled and cellared by Spelletich Cellars
$4 at the Richmond, CA, store on 20 July

SpellWine_red_1After the Spelletich Pinot was pretty good, I thought I’d try their basic red blend for a change of pace.  Also, I was kind of stunned by the label.  🙂

The wine seemed promising but a little rough at first pour, and as usual, I liked it better after 30 minutes of air.  Fully aired after 60 minutes, it shows softer, ripe, California fruit of medium to darker red / purplish cherry with a hint of blueberry / blackberry, good balancing tangy acid, and complexities of raisin, wood, and earth.  This pleasant, easy-drinking red seems like a pretty good value.


SpellWine_red_2A few days later, the saved, single-glass, screwcap bottle was only slightly less good.  It still needed a little air, and was then at least as good as the first night, but then became good but slightly more acid than I’d prefer.  Anyway, for a non-vintage red blend at a low price, it’s pretty good.