Graham Beck 2011 Rhona Muscadel sweet dessert wine

made from Muscat de Frontignan and named for the proprietor’s wife
produced and bottled by Graham Beck Wines, Robertson, South Africa; 16.5% ABV
$6 for 500ml at the Richmond, CA, store on 15 July.  We got only 12 bottles.

GrahamBeck_2011_RhonaMuscadelI was very excited when I saw these bottles, as it’s quite rare that the GO gets a dessert wine.  However, it’s not a typical dessert wine, in that it’s fermented on the skins for a while and then fortified (video).  While it’s not as exciting as its lovely appearance, it is a pretty tasty sweet wine for the price.

Like a couple ports I’ve reviewed here, this wine’s flavors (and acid) came out more after it had been open a few days.  (I took only small pours each day.)  Now, the wine shows flavors of golden grape / raisin, apricot, hints of orange peel, balancing acid, and an edge of caramel / roasted nut on the finish.  I couldn’t taste any Botrytis, but it bears enough of a resemblance to my memory of Tokaji to be entertaining.

Praxis 2013 Viognier

Sonoma County, CA; 14.1% ABV
$4 at the Richmond, CA, store on 8 July

Praxis_2013_ViognierAs usual, I was excited to see a Viognier arrive, and was, as ever, hopeful it would be good.  This one is not an exceptional example of the varietal, but it is a decently tasty Viognier for the price, made in a more reserved and structured style.

While I thought the wine showed a bit of yellow apple and lemon that reminded me more of Chardonnay, there is also a good bit of (what I think of as) more typical Viognier flavors: yellow peach / apricot, white peach / peach pit, with a bit of melon rind acid making it on the crisp side.  With more air and warmth (than fresh from the fridge), the fruit softens some to become more balanced, a really quite enjoyable wine for the price.  The next day it was much the same.

There have been a few wines lately, this one included, which I think are probably pretty good wines for the price, but just not that much to my liking.  In this style of crisp and structured wines that I wasn’t that into, we’ve had the Trivento “Amado Sur” Torrontés, the Errazuriz “Max Reserva” Sauvignon Blanc, and the Les Dauphins Côtes du Rhône.  Certainly these wines have been popular enough at the Richmond store, with the exception so far of the CdR, which might be because it’s $7, slightly pricey for the GO.    So… has anyone out there been fans of these wines, who wants to tell me about them, to expand my horizons a little? 🙂

Spelletich 2012 Pinot Noir Reserve

Elkhorn Peak Vineyard, Napa Valley, CA; 14.0% ABV
$9 at the Richmond, CA, store on 15 July

Spelletich_2012_PinotNoirReserveThis bottle looked very interesting at first sight.  The wine inside the bottle is indeed excellent for the price.

The wine is pretty good after being decanted about an hour, but continues to improve.  At two hours, the wine shows a complex nose of dark red and black cherry, perhaps slight plum, orange peel, vanilla, and wood / spice.  There’s more of that on the palate, in very nice balance.  Despite the slight viscosity of the ripe fruit, the nearly-zingy raspberry acid on the finish helps the wine go well with food.

The next day, the saved single-glass, screwcap bottle was at first more dark and rich, but still basically the same.  However, it also became a little more acid, with the plum jam aspect becoming more like dried salt plum, but still very good.  While this wine is not at all over the hill, you probably shouldn’t wait another year to drink it, and there’s certainly no need to.

Les Dauphins 2013 Côtes du Rhône Reserve

Côtes du Rhône AOC, France; 12.5% ABV
$7 at the Richmond, CA, store on 14 July

LesDauphins_CotesDuRhoneAt first, this struck me as too acid for the ripeness of its fruit.  After some air, the fruit became a little more rich, but still with a good amount of acid and minerality.  Although the flavors were rather subdued, there were nicely complex: honeysuckle and peach of (apparently) Viognier, yellow grapefruit / lemon (Marsanne or Roussanne?), yellow melon (becoming very ripe or even slightly oxidized melon with more air), white pear.  For me, it’s not very “Ooh! Yummy!”, but nicely complex and structured.  I’m hoping it will be a bit more accessible tomorrow.

Unfortunately, no.  The next day, the rest in the bottle was quite similar to how it was on the first day.  It’s well made and all, but for me, not very pleasurable.  Those who like the more acid and bitter styles of European winemaking may like it.

Michel-Schlumberger 2012 Malbec

Sonoma County, CA, 14.4% ABV
$7 at the Richmond, CA, store on 1 July

MichelSchlumberger_2012_MalbecA number of wines from this producer have been popular here, so I thought I’d try this one.  I think it’s very good, too.

This wine was not bad from first pour, but not very interesting.  I thought it needed 2 – 2.5 hours in a decanter to become pleasurable.  Then, it showed richer, ripe fruit of dark cherry, boysenberry, and purple grape, with a tinge of roses / violets (especially in the acid), and a little spice.  The fruit darkened as the wine continued to air.

The next day, I liked the saved, single-glass, screwcap bottle better.  All the flavors were more forward and integrated, more obviously complex, and with more oily mouthfeel.  This is very good wine for $7.

Pata Negra 2013 Verdejo

Rueda DO, Spain; 12.5% ABV
$4 at the Richmond, CA, store on 4 July

PataNegra_2013_VerdejoI initially wanted to order this wine after having liked the Pata Negra 2005 Gran Reserva (Valdepeñas DO).  When it showed up, I thought its darker yellow color did not bode well.  However, after Seedboy wrote of it, “Delicious, full bodied, balanced white wine,” I got one to try.  In this case, I disagree with him.

I found the wine damaged by oxidation.  It tasted of over-ripe yellow apple / pineapple, with sort of sherry-like aftertaste.  I agree with “full-bodied,” but I think it’s not very well balanced.  The next day, it was still pretty much the same, so, whatever may have happened to it, it’s not on a fast downward slope.

VQ 2012 Cuvée VIII red blend

25% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 15% Tempranillo, 10% Carignane, 10% Petite Sirah
5% Cinsault, 5% Mourvèdre, 5% Counoise, 5% Graciano; 14% ABV
California
from Odisea Wine Company, Napa, CA
$6 at the Richmond, CA, store on 1 July

VQ_2012_CuveeVIIII was definitely intrigued by this complex sort-of Rhone-style blend, and the not-bad label.  When I looked at the blend, I thought, “Hey, it’s missing Zinfandel!”  It turns out that I think the easiest description of this wine is “Zinfandel,” although with kind of strong acid.

On the first night, the flavors were immediately interesting and quite complex, but the sharp acid overwhelmed the pleasure I found in it.  After 2 – 2.5 hours in a decanter, the acid had mellowed somewhat, and the flavors were still very nice: darker red and purple fruits, with earth, prune, slight herbs, and spice, quite assertively complex.  Still, I hoped the second half would be more mellow.

Indeed, the second half (stored in a 375ml screwcap bottle with very little air) was a bit better.  All the flavors were nicely integrated and tasty, and the acid had calmed down significantly.  However, the acid was still strong enough that I’d probably not get another bottle, even if I were not inclined to get something new to review.  It was fine enough with food, though.

“Cuvée Darius” 2013 Fitou

Appellation Fitou Protégée, France
40% Grenache, 30% Mourvèdre, 30% Syrah; 13% ABV
$6 on 4 July

CuveeDarius_2013_FitouThe Wikipedia entry on Fitou wine says that any Fitou AOC wine is required to be at least 40% Carignan.  This wine is clearly not AOC and has no Carignan, so it seems likely of a lesser designation.  Still, I hoped it would be a satisfying wine given how rarely southern French appellations show up at the GO.  I found it lighter-bodied, but pretty tasty.

As per my usual, I thought it needed about 1.5 – 2 hours in a decanter to open up, and it kept improving from there.  It showed the ripe, tangy, earthy / funky style I adore, pleasantly complex if hardly overpowering: black and red raspberry, purple grape, blackberry, funky black earth, slight roses close to the acid, in the finish some woody / earthy complexity / richness.  The GO “Elsewhere” price for this wine is $20, but I cannot believe this wine ever sold for $20.  It’s just not that substantial.  Online prices I found were $8.  It’s still a pretty tasty wine for $6, but it would be a better bargain for $5.

The next day, the second half, stoppered in a 375ml bottle with very little air, was more soft and rich, slightly redder and more acid, less overtly complex.  It was still yummy but, especially toward the end, seemed to be falling apart.  Overall, it’s probably better on the first day.

As a word of warning, JoelA wrote about this wine:

Had somewhat high (well, medium-high) hopes for this wine, a GSM (40/30/30) blend from one of the older appellations in the Languedoc (southern France) area.
Unfortunately, it didn’t deliver. On opening, a dark purple color, very fruity entry with significant tannin (it’s young, after all). But the wine quickly faded, to the point that the same evening it could easily be drunk with some broiled trout, and the next day was pretty flaccid.

This was a bit different from my experience, so there may be some bottle variation.

Gibbs 2012 Chardonnay “Terroir NV Block”

Napa Valley, CA; 14.1% ABV
$6 at the Richmond, CA, store on 4 July

Gibbs_2012_Chardonnay_TerroirNVBlockThis wine looked quite promising, from a single vineyard in Napa Valley, nice label, good year, low price, etc.

On first pour, the wine seemed okay but not particularly interesting.  However, the second glass showed nicely complex and integrated medium-intensity flavors of ripe yellow apple with a little pineapple, green apple, white pear, a little bitterness of skin / stem, and a slight aged caramel / nuttiness.  The texture was smooth and moderately viscous.  This seems quite good for the price.

The next day, the nose is forceful and lovely, showing ripe, lightly caramelized golden apple / pineapple / golden kiwi / maybe yellow / white pear.  There’s a lot more of that on the palate, with just a slight tinge of that green apple, well integrated with something a little funky that’s very close to (and might be part of) the oak.  It still has the slightly viscous texture, and is still quite tasty, although now in a more over-the-top kind of way, but still reasonably balanced.  Given that it needed a bit of air on the first day, I’m a little surprised by how much it changed on the second, but it was very good for the price on both days.

Errazuriz 2013 Sauvignon Blanc “Max Reserva”

D.O. Aconagua Costa, Chile; 13% ABV
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 29 June

Errazuirz_2013_SauvBlancResI thought this was a very well-made wine, with flavors mainly of lemon, yellow melon, and less ripe gooseberry / green bell pepper, in a tight and elegant minerally structure.  However, the acid was a bit too sharp for me.  Even after the second half of the bottle had been sitting in the fridge for a few days, the wine was very similar: still nicely structured but a bit too tart for my taste.  Those who like wine especially crisp may consider this Thumbs Up.