Cascade Range 2012 Riesling

Rattlesnake Hills, WA; 12.1% ABV
$4 at the Oakland, CA, store on 16 March

CascadeRange_2012_RieslingThis off-dry Riesling shows flavors of yellow flowers, yellow apple, some lemon and a little green grape skin.  It’s on the riper side, but not too heavy, reasonably balanced by acid, and modestly complex and delineated.  It was well received at a dinner of Asian hot pot.  Solidly Drinkable.

Benessere Estate 2010 Sangiovese

Napa Valley, CA; 13.9% ABV
$7 at the Richmond, CA, store on 20 March
Producer web site

Benessere_2010_SangioveseI had some hopes for this wine, in its nice, tall bottle and reasonably dignified label, from Napa.  However, even a small sip was enough to tell me it was overly dominated by American Oak.  There were some nice flavors of dusty red cherries that darkened over time, and maybe some green olive.  I think it could have been a fairly tasty, if not very substantial, wine, had it not been completely overwhelmed by the artificial vanilla and cooked rhubarb of American Oak.  I expect some folks will be fine with it, but for me personally, I can’t get over it and have to go with Thumbs Down.  I admire that this winery is also making Sagrantino and Aglianico, but this bottling must not be one of their better efforts.

Les Chaberts 2012 red

50% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 15% Cinsault, 15% Carignan; 13.5% ABV
top of the label reads “Rhone Valley Vineyards”
Appellation Ventoux Contrôlée, France
$5 at the Oakland, CA, store on 16 March

LesChaberts_2012_Ventoux_redIt has been a while since we’ve had anything Cotes-du-Rhone-like show up at the GO, so I was excited to see this wine.  It’s a pleasantly tasty quaffer, distinctively French.

The wine is not bad right away, but I thought it needed nearly two hours in a decanter to relax and release its fruit.  Then, it showed tangy flavors of black and red cherries / kirsch, dark red raspberry, and (with more air) a little bit of violets and darker herbs, with the earthy funk that I like in French wines, in a lighter medium body.  It’s solid wine and a decent value, but I think it’s not all that substantial or super-exciting, so I should probably go with Drinkable.

Three Pyrenees @ $4.99: 2011 Tempranillo, 2012 Cabernet & 2012 Merlot

Produced/bottled by Pyrenees Vineyard
Purchased Lebanon OR 3-19-2015

I really appreciated the “heads up” phone call I received on these and I feel rather badly that I don’t have a completely glowing report to make. We decided to do a tasting of them, since some of them came in limited quantities…just to see if we would like to purchase more.

We will start with the Tempranillo, since I believe it has gone off (or is heading that way). ABV 12.9%

FullSizeRenderSRV: $40. I bought two bottles of this. Good thing I did. The first bottle was cloudy red, smelled sour and tasted like under-ripe rhubarb.

Screw-top closure.

The 2nd bottle was not cloudy but it was verging on too tart/almost sour. Still tasted of under ripe fruit (cherry/rhubarb). Dry but missing the nuances (spicy earthiness, layers) I expect in Tempranillo. A bit vegetal as well.

Overall, one of the weakest (the last reviewed Garnacha, Syrah and Merlot all beat this one, IMO) offerings so far. Thumbs down for me. My husband rated it a possible drinkable.

FullSizeRender 2The Cabernet (ABV 13.0%) is listed at $80 SRV. I’m sorry, I do buy expensive wines and there’s no way they could sell this for that price (IMO anyway, perhaps I should have said “there’s no way I’d buy it for $80/bottle). That being said, this is a very stereotypical Southern Oregon Cabernet and if you like that style, then $4.99 is a decent value on this one but be sure you check the tasting notes. If your taste profile tends more towards CA Cabernet, this is not for you.

Color is a good plum/burgundy.
Fragrance: Spice, black pepper
Taste: Black pepper, green pepper, grassy, bing cherry, dry. My husband said that it had a slight medicinal aftertaste.
Body: A bit thin for Cabernet but still acceptable.
Cork closure.
Drinkable. Some might list this as a thumbs up, but I’m not a huge fan of Oregon Cab. It’s too peppery for me and rather lacking in the way of rich (vs tart) fruit or body.

FullSizeRender 3The Merlot (ABV 13.2%) is also a typical southern Oregon Merlot as well. SRV is $50 and as a Napa fan, who can get a decent Napa Merlot for $30 or under, this also is not a valid SRV in my opinion.
Color: burgundy
Fragrance: plum, spices
Taste:  nicely dry, plum, black pepper, slight candy-like taste of watermelon or cherry, a bit of alcohol heat. This wine was better with food and out of all the wine we tasted, the one I actually decided to have a glass of. It was best with the scones that we had after dinner. Drinkable+

None of these came close to the Garnacha previously reviewed, in my opinion and none were really to my personal taste. However, if you are a fan of a lot of black pepper (or green pepper) taste in your Merlot or Cabernet (or in general very much prefer the Southern Oregon style vs. a heavier bodied, more rich CA style) then the Merlot or Cabernet might interest you.

Les Chaberts 2012 white

30% Grenache Blanc, 30% Ugni Blanc, 30% Bourboulenc, 10% Vermentino; 13.5% ABV
screw cap; Across the top, label says “Rhone Valley Vineyards”
Appelation Luberon Contrôlée, France
$4 at the Oakland, CA, store on 16 March

LesChaberts_2012_Luberon_whiteI hardly ever see a white Rhone wine at the GO, so I eagerly grabbed this one.  I like the wine and think it’s a reasonable value.

I opened this to use in a soup, and had a little to try out.  It struck me as kind of austere and minerally, with the fruit less prominent.

The next day, I liked it better.  The fruit seemed a little more forward: yellow melon still on the less ripe side, with a little green, and some citrus (mostly lemon, a little lime), the acid still pleasantly crisp and the minerality still providing structure.  It’s not very Californian, but I think fans of this style will be quite pleased.  It went nicely with dover sole cooked with preserved yellow limes and green olives.

Russian Hill 2006 Syrah “Top Block”

Russian River Valley, CA; 14.8% ABV
$7 at the Berkeley, CA, store on 24 Feb

RussianHill_2006_Syrah_TopBlockThis is the last of my Russian Hill purchases, and one of my least favorite.  It seemed to need about 2.5 hours in a decanter to open, showing flavors of dark red cherry, redder purple plum or grape, some slightly funky black pepper, and a light earthy / orangey aged complexity.  The body is on the lighter end of full, lighter than either the 2003 Ellen’s Block or the 2001 Windsor Oaks, and, to me, it tastes slightly too old.  I did drink it, so maybe I should say Drinkable, but I think the vinegary aspect is strong enough at this price I have to go with Thumbs Down.

2004 Iperion

from Feudo Principi di Butera, Sicilia IGT, Italy
70% Nero d’Avola, 20% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon; 13% ABV
$5 at the Oakland, CA, store on 16 March

Butera_2004_IperionI thought this looked potentially exciting.  However, right upon opening, the cork alerted me that something was likely amiss.  It was wet about half the way up, and its smell was quite oxidized.  A small taste confirmed that my bottle, at least, was pretty much sherry.  I will be taking it back.  Did anyone get a good bottle of this?

Braveheart 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon

California, 13.5% ABV
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 5 March

Braveheart_2012_CabSI picked up this wine for its impressive packaging, its rather full-of-itself back label story, and its relatively low price.  The fruit flavors  reminded me somewhat of the 2011 Hart & McGarry Cab – nice red and purple cherry, blackcurrant / blueberry / blackberry, and cranberry –  but not as complex and elegant, and with too much American oak for my taste.   It seemed rather young, with an unusual aspirin / chalk flavor in the finish, and maybe second half will be more evolved.

The second half is smoother and more integrated, perhaps also more complex, with flavors very similar to the first night’s.  It still has too much American oak for me.  It’s tasty enough, but it’s rather fruity and candy-like for me.  I would guess many people would like this wine, so give it a try if it sounds good to you, but for me it’s only Drinkable.

Russian Hill 2001 Syrah “Windsor Oaks Summit”

Russian River Valley, CA; 15.0% ABV
$7 at the Berkeley, CA, store on 26 Feb

RussianHill_2001_Syrah_WindsorOaksOut of the recent batch of Russian Hill wines, I believe this one received the most praise.  I agree it was pretty good, although it sure took its time getting there.

This wine seemed for a good while to be rather acid and relatively simple.  However, after a couple hours of air, it started showing more depth, with flavors of darker purple plum and purple grape.  With another 45 minutes, it shows richer flavors of dark purple plum, black pepper, tangy purple cherries, a little earthy funk.  I thought it reached its peak about 3.5 hours after opening and decanting, showing dark purple / black fruit, charred meat, black pepper / earth.   I preferred the relative youth and richness of the 2003 Ellen’s Block Syrah, but this is very good.

Cervantes 2012 Sauvignon Blanc

Apparently made from non-estate Sonoma County grapes at Chappellet Winery; 14.1% ABV
$6 at the Richmond, CA, store on 5 March

Cervantes_2012_SauvBlancThis dry wine is similar to, but subtly different from, the couple good 2012 Napa Sauvignon Blancs we’ve had recently (Xanthos, Ziata), but still pretty good.  It shows fairly elegant, yellow and green flavors of citrus (lemon and lime), apple, creamy melon, a little fresh grass, with a medium / somewhat juicy body.  It has a nice balance of fruity ripeness and acid, although less crisp than some.  What I miss about it is that it’s not very structured, with minerality and bitterness, like the Xanthos and Ziata were.  This wine is a little less serious, more in the fresh and refreshing vein.  It went very well with lemon curried chicken and cauliflower with rice. None survived to be sampled the next day.