Category Archives: Tannat

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.


Château de la Motte 2005 Madiran

Madiran, France; 13% ABV
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 4 Dec

2005_ChDeLaMotte_MadiranAfter the terrific 2003 Chateau de la Motte, I jumped at this bottling from a generally better year.  Unfortunately, the 2005 is a pale shadow of the 2003.

Where the 2003 poured very dark purple and dense, this wine was translucent, slightly darker red.  Its flavors were fairly simple cherry, cranberry, maybe pomegranate, and there wasn’t much of the hard, tannic finish for which the Tannat grape is known.  After about two hours of air, the wine had a brief period where it seemed about as aired as it would ever get on the first night.  I thought maybe I was missing something, so I covered the decanter until the next night.  Then, while the color and flavors had darkened to a tangy medium purple, the wine was still rather thin and simple.  It’s okay, but I had really been hoping for more.

Corazon de Plata 2010 Syrah Tannat

“Estate Grown, High Elevation,” Tulum Valley, Argentina
I think it’s 50% Syrah, 50% Tannat; 13.5% ABV
$4 on 11 Nov at the Richmond, CA, store

2010_CorazonDePlata_SyrahTannatI first saw this at the Berkeley store on the Saturday of the recent sale, but didn’t have time to go through the checkout line.  It vanished pretty quickly from the Berkeley store, so I picked it up when I saw it at the Richmond store.  It’s interesting wine, if slightly challenging.

On the first night, it needed about two hours to open, when it started to show its two grapes – dark, tangy plum from the Tannat and blueberry from the Syrah.  However, it was still a bit rough, acid, and tannic.

The saved single-glass screw cap bottle, however, opened nicely and showed red fruits with complexities of plum, blueberry, cinnamon, prune, wood, and earth, still with a fairly tannic finish.  This opening of the saved glass reminds me of the recent 2003 Ch. de la Motte Madiran.  Although this is not as dense a wine, it’s still quite good for the price, and may be better with a few more years of age.

Château de la Motte 2003 Madiran

Madiran, France; 13.5% ABV
$5 at the Berkeley, CA, store on 4 Nov.  Also at the Richmond store.

2003_delaMotte_MadiranWhen I opened this bottle last night, I poured out half of it into a 375ml bottle and stoppered it with very little air.  Initially, the wine was red and tart and not showing much flavor.  After about an hour of air, it started showing dark purple flavors of grape and plum, funk / tang and a little dark spice, and a thickly tannic finish.  Unfortunately, I drank it with food that was somewhat sweet, so I could not taste it very well.

Tonight, however, the second half bottle was delicious.  Those dark, intensely fruity flavors (now including blackberry, maybe some black cherry, maybe licorice) integrated nicely into a full-bodied and supple wine, with the same tang, earth, and a little funk as on the first night, with a slight liqueur-like character.  The ripe fruit is nicely balanced with acid.  I don’t know if the first half of the wine was like this or would have become like this with enough air, but the second half was wonderful.

Château de la Motte 2001 Madiran

Madiran, France; 13% ABV
$5 at the Oakland, CA, store on 21 Oct.  It’s no longer there, but I saw it in the Berkeley store today.

2001_DeLaMotte_MadiranDLuber reviewed the 2000 bottling here; this one is better, somewhat of a surprise since 2000 was a generally better vintage.

The first pour is pretty tasty, but promises more with air.  Indeed, after about an hour of air, the fruit becomes darker and riper-tasting, with fruit of dark plum, black grape, red cherry / dark red raspberry, and earth, with a thicker, tannic texture that is not at all unpleasant.  The flavors and texture reminds me somewhat of a Portuguese red.  The saved single-glass screw-cap bottle was still very good the next day.

2009 Colombelle Rose’, Cotes De Gascogne, France $2.99

Silverdale, WA    12.5% alc.    (Purchased on 10/11/13)

IMG_128260% Tannat  20% Merlot 20% Cabernet Sauvignon   Brilliant medium salmon pink; nose of strawberries, but with an herbal, earthy, slightly stemmy edge.  Delicate and subtle, the flavors are very similar to the bouquet…berryish and fruity, but with a certain earthiness too.  Acidity is about right and it’s bone dry.  Should work well with ham or light poultry dishes or mild, soft, gooey triple cream cheeses like brie and Camembert.

I expected the Tannat to provide more body and texture, but I’m not getting that.  It’s a little lighter than I expected and may be a tougher sell up here in the NW now that the cooler weather is beginning to set in.   Dluber reviewed the 2010 version of this wine here and it appears the vintages are very similar.  Another “Drinkable” quaffer for me.

Two Rosés: Züm 2010 Pinot Noir Rosé & Colombelle 2010 Rosé ($4)

Both purchased 6/9/2013 at the Oakland, CA store for $4

Züm 2010 Pinot Noir RoséZüm PN: 12% abv, screw-top hock, pretty pale pink. Simple, blousy strawberry-cherry nose, very light, just barely identifiable as a pinot. Dryish-tart with light, simple flavors, soundly made if slightly green toned. Firmly in the drinkable zone.

Colombelle 2010 L’OriginalColombelle: 60% Tannat, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot; 13% abv. I liked their white better (label pic is from the white; the rosé is lighter). This one somewhat resembles their decent red blend, but lighter and crisper. Dry and  fleshy palate, delicate crushed raspberry-strawberry nose; subtle and no rough edges. Pleasant quaffer, on the high side of drinkable, but just not quite a full Thumbs Up for me.

Plaimont 2011 Colombelle L’Original ($4)

Côtes de Gascogne, France
60% Tannat, 20% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon; 12.5% ABV
Purchased 4/10/2013 at the Pinole, CA store

Plaimont 2011 ColombellePretty ruby color, ripe but shy nose with simple red berry-pie cherry aromas, soft and sweet palate. Little varietal character, sort of nondescript but pleasant. Slightly thin and hot on the finish, with a bit of astringency. Some airing yielded a little, blueberry, earth, and camphor in the nose. It’s not a bad quaffer but not very interesting. By day 2, it had opened up to yield a bigger bouquet of tea and faded roses, but it now had kind of a chalky, gritty feel on the palate. It was best on day 3, having smoothed out but also getting stale in the aroma department. You could do much worse for $4, but not a repeat buy for me.

De la Motte 2000 Madiran

Madiran, France; 12.5% ABV
$5 at the Oakland, CA store

De la Motte 2000 MadiranGentle and inviting initial nose of herby, woody, vinuous red fruit, Cabernet-like but with some Zinny raspberry briar notes. Madiran is famous for Tannat, but the only single-varietal examples of that grape that I’ve had were thick, tannic (power of suggestion given the name?), dark, and full – like Syrah with more tannin and brighter red fruit. This bottling is quite appealing on the palate at first, if a little one-dimensional, but gets a bit thin and watery in the middle. On the austere side; reasonably fruity smelling on opening, but the nose gradually faded, and the palate became more shrill over time, tart with a slightly bitter finish. This bottle is getting over the hill – a D+ on opening, when I thought it was pretty well preserved, but the final verdict is a D-. The recently reviewed Chateau Viella Village Madiran of the same vintage was much better.

2001 Chateau Saint Benazit Red Madiran, France $5.99

Silverdale, WA    13.5% alc.

Four older wines from Madiran showed up in my local GO in late July or early August.  One of our readers, Matt Fox very kindly provided his input on all four here.  I decided to try his favorite, the 2000 Chateau Viella Village, which I reviewed here.  Then another regular contributor, RockRat suggested I try this Madiran.

I gave it a shot, but unfortunately got a badly corked bottle.  So I returned it a couple of days later and swapped it out for another one.  This bottle is fine, so here are my notes.  Opaque, fairly deep purple/garnet; somewhat closed nose opens to aromas of earth, black coffee, tar, cocoa, and red roses.  On the palate, it’s a bit hard, astringent and tannic with nice acidity; flavors of more black coffee and tar with the slightest hint of mint; finish shows a sort of salty quality and more drying astringency.  Could use more fruit, but for an eleven year old, it has held up rather well and still shows some complexity.  And while I’m not tasting the two Madirans I bought side-by-side, I still think I preferred the Chateau Viella Village.  The experience of tasting these wines (made mostly from the Tannat grape, which sometimes reminds me of Petite Sirah/Durif) was well worthwhile, but I’ll not be returning for more.  Thanks again to Matt Fox and RockRat for encouraging me to try these two somewhat unusual reds.

P.S.  I still have two bottles of the Viella Village.  And for local readers in Kitsap County, there were still a number of bottles of all four Madirans in Silverdale last week.