Louis Bernard 2007 Côtes du Luberon

Côtes du Luberon AOC, southern France; 14.5% ABV
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 13 Sept

Bernard_2007_CotesDuLuberonI eagerly grabbed this when I saw it, recalling Lim13’s and DLuber’s positive reviews of other Bernard wines.  I was not disappointed!  As Seedboy commented about this wine: “Needs some air to open up but then nice southern French red.”

I thought that, while promising from first pour, it really rewarded 1:45 to 2 hours of air in a decanter.  Then, the wine delivers ripe, tangy, earthy, and slightly liqueur-like flavors of dark black cherry, medium ripe blackberry, tar / fruit pit, balanced with zingy acid.

The saved, single-glass scewcap bottle was a little more red and simple, perhaps more acid, but otherwise very similar.  Still pretty good, but better the first day.   Overall, Thumbs Up!

Zolo 2012 “Gaucho Select” Bonarda

Mendoza, Argentina; 13.8% ABV
$4 at the Richmond, CA, store on 15 Sept

Zolo_2012_BonardaThis wine is pretty tasty from first pour, but gets downright delicious after about 45 minutes of air.  It shows somewhat tangy and earthy, dark red / medium purple fruit of cherry / plum, grape, and raspberry, and a little aromatic spice.  Although not strongly structured, the taste is nicely delineated.  It made me think that this is what you drink while waiting for the Las Huertas Cabernet to air.  :)

The next day, the second half (stoppered in a 375ml bottle with very little air) was more simple, acid, and robust, still very flavorful and yummy, tasting more of blackberry / tar, and reminding me a good bit of Petite Sirah.  IMO, although you shouldn’t think of aging it, this is a heck of a bottle for $4.

Las Huertas 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon “Grande Reserve”

from Domaines Barons de Rothschild [Lafite]
in the Colchagua Valley, Chile; 14.0% ABV
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 12 Sept

LasHuertas_2011_CabernetThis wine looked extremely promising, and, while it has some issues, I liked it very much.

The first issue is that it took bloody 3.5 hours in a decanter to fully air (even I’m complaining about it :) ).  However, then, it was delicious, with dry, earthy, elegant fruit of blackberry, dark Bing cherry, a little boysenberry and redder cherry, a hint of green bell pepper (the second issue, since some strenuously object to this), and black pepper / earth, with nicely balancing acid.  IMO, this is very good wine for the price, and it could easily last a few more years in cool storage.

The next day, the saved, single-glass, screw-cap bottle was pretty good right away, but developed more with air.  Then, the fruit was a little redder, more integrated, and the green bell pepper flavor was stronger, although still in good enough balance for me.  Still pretty good, but on the whole, it was better the first night, except for the airing time.

Timepiece 2013 Syrah

Vinted and Bottled by Gos Winery, Sonoma, CA. Bottle designation is California.
$6 in San Diego on 30 August. 13.5% ABV

Timepiece_SyrahI bought this wine based on label alone (since I couldn’t find anything out about it) shortly after moving down to San Diego from Northern California and picking up a bunch of one-offs. White labels sell more, right?

Upon opening, the immediate giveaway as to QPR is the Highway 12 cork. Clue received. Popped and poured through a Vinturi, the wine shows a nice, medium reddish purple typical of Syrah with a touch of oak and ripe boysenberry on the nose. After an hour in the glass (not decanted), the wine’s hotter overtones melt into a more seamless sensory Syrah experience –  cassis, sweet, fruity dark berry and a fair amount of oak on the palate with medium mouthfeel. There are nice supporting tannins here, and they coat the mouth on the finish even as the wine’s flavors fade.

This is pretty nice wine but I found the finish a bit rough especially considering it’s 13.5% and Syrah but it is very pleasing for what it delivers as a fruity CA Syrah. Worth a shot and a nice pairing for grilled meat, for sure.

Interesting background with some sleuthing: Timepiece was only very recently trademarked. We know Sebastiani is linked to Highway 12 and there are some interesting hands involved. This is likely a second or third label and drinks way above its price point to me. Info here: https://trademarks.justia.com/866/38/timepiece-86638910.html.

FYI the Timepiece Syrah is very simple and sweeter on night two.

Story 2011 and 2012 Zinfandels “Alitia Vineyard”

These were a couple of interesting Zinfandels from the California Shenandoah Valley AVA (to distinguish it from the Shenandoah Valley AVA in Virginia and West Virginia) within the larger Sierra Foothills AVA.  Both wines are lighter and more elegant than most Zins from coastal CA, and it was interesting to compare and contrast the two vintages.

2011 Vintage; 15% ABV
$6 at the Richmond, CA, store on 1 September


The bottom of the cork on this wine was covered with crystals of tartaric acid, which I took as a good sign.  At first opening, this wine showed only lighter-intensity fruit of darker red raspberry and a gentle but obstructive veil of tannin.  As it aired over a couple hours, the fruit filled out some and darkened to include some lighter purple / blue fruit in a structure, dense compared to the fruit, of earth / dried orange peel / grape stem (but not bitter).  Its elegant, lighter fruit combined with a thicker, earthy structure somewhat reminded me of Barolo, although clearly not made with Nebbiolo grapes.  :)  Even at the end of the evening, I wasn’t sure if it had fully aired.

The saved, single-glass screwcap bottle was indeed more fruit-forward, but not by much.  Although I found it interesting and tasty now, it would probably develop well with a couple more years of age.

2012 vintage; 14.5% ABV
$6 at the Berkeley, CA, store on 4 September

Story_2012_ZinThe 2012 vintage initially struck me as almost completely fruit-forward, with rather candy-like lighter red cherry and almost watermelon, with only a trace of the 2011’s earthy structure evident in the finish.  However, after a couple hours of air in a decanter, the fruit filled out a little and darkened nicely to become predominantly blackberry / maybe tar in a thinner (than the 2011) structure of darkly earthy tannin, with only a little of the cherry / watermelon remaining.  Even though the wine was lighter in body and flavor, it stood up acceptably to beef stewed in a broth of soy sauce, rice cooking wine, ginger, and a little balsamic vinegar.

Although I enjoyed these wines, I thought they lacked the complexity for me to be highly enthusiastic about them.  So, I recommend them for the interesting and tasty experience (and of course more if you like them!), but wouldn’t put them above Drinkable.

Cairdean Estate 2010 Merlot

Napa Valley, CA
81% Merlot, 17% Cab. Sauv, 1.5% Malbec, 0.5% Petite Verdot, 14.9% ABV
$6 at the Encinitas, CA store on 29 Aug

Cairdean_MerlotDark red color showing nice legs in the glass. Popped and poured through a Vinturi, the wine drinks medium to full bodied with notes of closed dark berries. The palate evolves past the initial  alcohol hit as the wine airs and softens as it breathes, revealing a nice interplay of mushroom, dark chocolate cocoa and blackberry flavors underneath about 30 minutes in. That recognizable elegant Merlot backbone is there you find in better Merlots without too much accompanying sweetness, and a good amount of acidity keeps this food friendly despite its ABV. There is a touch of supporting oak present. This is very typical Napa Valley Merlot in my experience and a very good one. 

This would please a lot of Napa Cab lovers who don’t want the CA bombs but who still value a Merlot with a quite a bit of substance and a story to tell. It is not quite the most complex Merlot nor the most intriguing I have had but it delivers from the initial taste to the lingering, slightly chewy (the 17% Cab?) finish. I think I might actually like its nose best.

On Day 2, everything was a bit more muted with expected Merlot elements coming through. The wine was far softer but, I felt, a bit less well delineated. I think this wine was best a few hours in on Day 1.

FYI, I tend to pop and pour not having a wine fridge or a cellar but this wine does seem to have plenty of time left in it. I would be very comfortable bringing this for dinner at a decent restaurant or to a CA wine lover’s house for a meal. Production snuck in under 500 cases at 492, which is always nice. 

This is the type of wine that attracted me to GO in the first place and that keeps me coming back. 

Trade sheet here: http://www.cairdeanestate.com/assets/trade/factsheets/2010%20NAPA%20VALLEY%20MERLOT.pdf

Rosso del Vulcano 2009 Aglianico del Vulture

Aglianico del Vulture DOC, Basilicata, southern Italy
I forgot to record the ABV before recycling the bottle
$4 at the Richmond, CA, store around 30 Aug

RossoDelVulcano_2009_AglianicoAfter the previous Aglianicos I’ve tasted, I was curious about this one, although wary of the low price.  It turns out the wine is pretty good for the price.

The body is on the lighter side for a grape that can be quite full-bodied, but I found it tasty right away, showing ripe and tangy  red cherry and some dusty tannins.  Over the course of the evening, the fruit softened and filled out some, and the cherry evolved more to cherry / red plum, with a tasty savory aspect that’s sort of meaty / black olivey, and nice, ripe acid.  While never impressive, it was a tasty quaff for the price.

A few days later, the saved single-glass screwcap bottle was surprisingly much more ripe-fruity, almost too much for my taste.  While the acid was fortunately still present and yummy, the fruit was a sort of syrupy cherry, with perhaps a hint of chocolate (suggested by the Wiki page liked above) and spice, and the same earthy, aged complexity.


La Viña 2013 Tempranillo – Merlot

Catalunya DO, Spain
50% Tempranillo, 50% Merlot; 13.5% ABV
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 13 Aug

LaVina_2013_TempMerlotAt first pour, this seems promising, although the Tempranillo’s dry, dusty earth and the Merlot’s soft dark plum / cherry fruit were rather far apart, not at all well blended.  However, after about 80 minutes in a decanter, the wine integrated incredibly well, showing darker earthy black and red fruit with dusty earth / spice, really becoming more complex than the the sum its parts.

A few days later, the second half, stoppered in a 375ml bottle, was initially soft and fruity.  This disappointed me because it seemed like the Merlot had “won” in the blend.  However, about 45 minutes later, the soft fruitiness cleared up and the wine again became more clearly delineated and structured, some earthiness showing up again.  It was not as dark and complex as on the first night, but still pretty good.  Overall, I’d give this tasty wine a solid Drinkable.

Hooker 2010 “Breakaway” Chardonnay

produced and bottled by Lawer Family Winery
Napa Valley, CA; 13.5% ABV
$6 at the Berkeley, CA, store on about 27 Aug

Hooker_2010_ChardI seemed to recall some excitement about some “Hooker” wine a while ago, although I thought it was a red. Still, I thought I should try this one. However, after trying it, I suspect even more strongly that the “Hooker” excitement was about a red. :)

On first pour, the nicely structured wine showed less intense flavors of less ripe lemon and yellow apple, vanilla / white pear, and bitterness of skin and stem. While I liked the “well-put-together”-ness of it, I was disappointed by the lighter flavors, and I thought the bitterness overwhelmed the fruit. However, it’s not that bitter, and still reasonably good, and I could see it floating some folks’ boats.

The next day, the last glass or so left in the bottle (corked in the fridge), was a little more forward, but overall very similar. For me, okay but not that exciting.

Vega Moragona 2008 Tempranillo Viñas Viejas

Ribera del Júcar DO, Spain
imported by USA Wine West, Sausalito, CA, for World Wine Headquarters
$5 at the Oakland, CA, store on 7 July.  The 2010 was also present but the bottle and label looked less substantial.

VegaMoragona_2008_TempranilloThis was pretty good from first pour, but needed about two hours in a decanter to show earthy fruit of dark red, purple, and black fruit of cherry and plum, both tangy and a little liqueur-like, and a little prune.  Quite tasty!

The saved, single-glass screw-cap bottle, however, was not as good.  The fruit had become heavier and rougher, more acid, with the prune flavor becoming rather strong.  I kept this at home for quite a while, so it definitely experienced more temperature fluctuations than it would have in a store.  Even so, I suspect this is one to drink up if you have it.