2011 Boccali Vineyards Topa Topa Syrah $5.99

Produced & Bottled by: Boccali Vineyards
ABV 14%
Purchased: Lebanon OR GO 6-20-2015

FullSizeRenderThere has been a lot of talk about this wine, buried in other parts of the blog:
“A new wine I’ve seen in some of the stores is the Boccali Vineyards Ojai (Ventura County) Syrah 2011 for $4.99. This wine is medium bodied and needs a half hour of air but then becomes a really elegant Syrah, nice pepper and black fruit and meat flavors. My favorite GO syrah since the Russian Hill 2001 Windsor Oaks.” ~ Seedboy

“That Boccali Vineyards Syrah turned up at the Lake City Seattle GO this week, and I concur it’s a really nice California Syrah. Sounds like a family run winery that started out supplying wine to their Italian restaurant, according to the website. Hope the wine’s appearance here isn’t a bad omen for them, because they clearly know what they’re doing, even though they’re a little tiny operation.” ~ Flitcraft

“I picked up several bottles of the Boccali Syrah from Ojai earlier based on SB’s glowing review and enjoyed them.

Although a good value for the money, they are IMHO a discernible step below the quality and complexity of the Russian Hill Windsor Oak/Top Block Syrahs, which ran a couple of bucks more…” ~EHL

Color: Magenta
Fragrance: Combination of tart fruit and plum
Body: lighter than the warmer climate AU Shiraz I’m used to but perfect for its taste profile.
Taste: A really nice balance here. I was surprised at the listed 14% alcohol.  In my experience, colder vintages tend to be lower alcohol. This doesn’t taste heavy with alcohol heat though, and since the percentage can vary from the label up to 2%, I would put it tasting more at 12.5-13%. Semi-tart (reminded me of gooseberry a bit..tangy fruit with a bit of grass) fruit, mild plum notes, pepper and a bit of earth. I didn’t get any of the meat flavors that SB mentioned but I agree with the above assessments; this is a nice cold vintage Syrah.

For those of you who enjoy the heavier bodied, fruit, spice, cocoa & leather style AU Shiraz (which I do very much also enjoy), this is not your wine. In comparison, this is a much lighter, herbal, softer approach, style of Syrah. It would have been a perfect summer purchase (and a repeat buy for me) if I could have even slightly detected the savory flavors mentioned above.

Masquerade Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore 2014 $8.99

Produced by: C.V.B.M. S.R.I. Salgareda-TV-Italia
ABV 11.5%
Purchased: Salem GO 6-17-2015

FullSizeRenderApparently the DOGC “Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene” is only given to the “finest Prosecco wines coming from the Veneto region” and they only may be labeled as such if they come from vineyards within the San Pietro di Barbossa area.

As to this particular wine, some of you from my generation might perhaps appreciate the Addams Family moment I had when opening it. As soon as the cork popped, some sort of condensation, giving the appearance of steam,  issued from the mouth of the bottle and continued to do so even as I poured a sample into the glass. It made me laugh and remember fondly the smoking toasts of Gomez and Morticia.

Color: palest straw, almost clear with a hint of golden tone.
Fragrance: citrus, floral
Category: I would put this at “Extra Dry”. It’s not dry enough to be Brut but there isn’t a marked residual sugar sweetness so I’m thinking it fits nicely in “Extra Dry”.
Taste: On first sip, there was a noticeable yeastiness and I was concerned (IMO, one will often find a yeastiness in the lower quality Prosecco but it should not be a factor in the best Prosecco), however it blew off almost immediately and was not discernible in the 2nd sip. What I did find was clean, crisp citrus at the fore with floral (hibiscus-like) supporting notes and a nice (but not overpowering) minerality. Overall, exactly what I’d expect from a tasty Prosecco.

I do not know what the MSRP of this wine is, originally…but $8.99 is a decent price for what I am tasting. I wish I’d picked up a couple of bottles. As of 6-17-2015, this wine was still plentiful on the shelves of the “D” Street Salem, OR G.O.

Edit: one thing my husband and I were talking about as we finished this off tonight…it is good and $8.99 is a decent price for a good Prosecco. However, we would be hard pressed in a blind taste test to tell the difference (taste/quality-wise) between this and Kirkland’s Prosecco (Veneto DOGC) at $6.99/bottle.

Cantina di Casteggio 2013 Rosato

CasteggioOltrepò Pavese, Lombardy, Italy (no classification); 7% ABV
$3 at the Richmond, CA, store on 8 June

Casteggio_2013_RosatoI had expected this to be a dry rosé, but it was not so.  Instead, it was like a Moscato, off-dry and very lightly carbonated (frizzante).  Maybe the low alcohol should have clued me in.  It tasted of fruity strawberry, raspberry, and orange / quince jelly.  I could barely feel the carbonation in my mouth.  It was quite yummy, and we had no trouble finishing it off, but I found it a little too sweet.  But if sweet, fruity wine sounds up your alley, this is a good one for the price.

This winery apparently makes frizzante wines from a number of red and white grapes.  But this is not obviously a varietal wine, so it could be a blend of any, or it could be made from the red grapes they use to make their still, dry red wines: Croatina and Uva Rara.

Abbeycourt Cotes-du-rhone Reserve 2012 $5.99

Produced & bottled by Abbeycourt SRV $13
ABV 13%
Purchased 6-10-2015

FullSizeRender“Abbeycourt is a tribute to the monks the guardians of the temple. The arched label reinforces the history and tradition of the region. A blend of Mourvedre Syrah and Grenache. Soft fruity and easy to drink.” Winemaker’s Notes

There are no notes on the bottle as to the blend. I was lucky enough to find the above description online. The blend appealed to me, as I do enjoy wine from each of those grapes. According to the info I sourced online, the Cotes-du-Rhone appellation is typically only used when the wine does not qualify for an appellation that can command a higher price.

Color: Transparent burgundy
Fragrance: Lush berry mix. Very fruity.
Body: light to medium

Normally I would also add a short taste category…but we had such wildly different taste experiences with this wine that I’m writing it out instead. I had no food before I tasted it. I tasted mild raspberry/red cherry fruit, with hints of baking spices, somewhat reminiscent of “Kool-aid”. Not sour at all. My husband had it with food (salted mixed nuts) and said that it smelled rather liked cooked liver combined with fruit. He also said that it tasted like tart cherry, lower alcohol brandy.  Since I did  not get that, I tried it next with the nuts. I noticed no liver fragrance but wow, the nuts really killed this wine. It was horribly sour paired with them (just a FYI).

This one is barely on the edge of drinkable IMO. It is not complex and at $5.99 not a good bargain either. We only rate thumbs down when a wine is flawed…but if you pair this with the wrong food, I could certainly see it being rated as a thumbs down.


Hames Creek 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon

Central Coast, CA; 13.5% ABV
$6 at the Richmond, CA, store on 8 June

HamesCreek_2012_CabSauvI usually pass on somewhat generic-looking California Cabernets like this, but another customer recommended it.  Given its high recommendation, I was disappointed.

On the first night, it showed rather simple, ripe bing cherry fruit followed by the artificial vanilla and cooked rhubarb (which may or may not be from American Oak) that I dislike.  Although it’s not in any way flawed, I did not like it at all.

On the second night, the saved single-glass screw-cap bottle of this wine was better.  The cherry and vanillin / rhubarb flavors were better integrated, and the fruit was less fresh and more, well, wine-like.  Still, it was hardly exciting.

Duca Petraccone 2010 Primitivo (Zinfandel)

Salento Idicazione Geografica Protetta, Italy; 13% ABV
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 8 June

DucaPetraccone_2010_PrimitivoOn the night I opened this, I didn’t think much of it.  The red / purple cherry fruit tasted to me more like Cabernet than Zinfandel and it was rather too light compared to the acid.  Also, there was a sort of off, pruney taste I disliked.  I liked this wine best after about 90 minutes in a decanter, when it was tolerable, but after than it seemed to decline again.  It’s possible the saved single-glass screw-cap bottle has improved, but I doubt it.

To my surprise, the saved glass of this wine was not bad.  While it no longer tasted like Cabernet, it still did not taste at like California Zinfandel: tangy, dark and tart red cherry fruit, orange, prune, maybe nutmeg, still on the tart side but now with acid nicely integrated with the fruit.  A bit more like I think of Valpolicella, geographically far from Salento.  So, I guess it’s okay, but don’t expect it to be anything like a Zinfandel.

Belle Vallee Cellars 2005 Pinot Noir Port $4.99

Produced/Bottled by: Belle Vallee Cellars, Corvallis, OR
Purchased on: 6-10-2015 Lebanon OR G.O.
ABV: 18% SRV $38
Handcrafted. Only 6 barrels were produced.

{note: I am not a person who prefers sweet wine, I picked this up because of its unique varietal and will do my best to describe it accurately. A Port connoisseur may have an entirely different opinion altogether; I hope someone who knows/loves Port will find this, taste it and report back.}

 Because of my lack of familiarity with Port, I needed to educate myself. Here is a quick rundown:
Normally only wine originating from Portugal, more specifically, the Douro Valley (according to the European Union Protected Designation of Origin guidelines) is designated as Port. All other wines from various countries or producers are listed as fortified wine, except for the U.S., who allows wine from anywhere in the world to be labeled “Port”.

Typical Port grapes: Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Tempranillo, Tinta Barroca and Tinta Cão

So the particular reason this Belle Vallee Cellars Port caused me to step outside my comfort zone…the wine is made from Pinot Noir; one of the most fragile and temperamental members of the wine grape family. I couldn’t imagine a hearty Port-like wine evolving from Pinot Noir and tasting good. I was wrong.

The only reference I could find online was regarding their 2003 vintage: “The Pinot Noir is picked very ripe and fortified with Willamette Valley Pinot Noir brandy that has been barrel-aged for three years. A labor-intensive wine requiring a lot of skill. Pinot Noir shows well in this style of spirit with its fruity character complementing the brandy.” 

The top of the bottle is capped with a heavy wax. Very well sealed.
The cork was red/black at the bottom. No evident seepage.

Color: Dark ruby-red. I took it outside in the evening sun, to check for debris or cloudiness. Saw neither.
Fragrance: Rich. Heady. Cocoa, blackberries, raspberries, spices.
Taste: Dark chocolate, caramel, cinnamon & nutmeg, figs or raisin type fruit…and dark chocolate covered cherries.

There is serious alcohol heat on this one (no surprise there) but it balances the sweetness of the wine. My perception when I tasted it was a non-cloying spicy sweet, somewhere between a Red Port and a Tawny Port. It opened up over the evening (I poured myself 2 oz and it took a few hours to finish it) and was a little more lush. The flavors remained constant.  I think it’s excellent. This is the highest praise I could give a wine in general, and this is not at all my standard preference for a wine. I called the Lebanon store and asked them to hold a case (6) for me…first time I’ve ever done that with a sweet wine.

It was worth stepping outside the box.

The website for Belle Vallee Cellars has expired. Their Facebook page has closed. Their phone numbers are disconnected. I am drawing the conclusion that they are no longer in business and that G.O. received these as a closeout buy. If anyone has any information regarding this, please do post.

Based on this wine and JWC’s review of the Belle Vallee Merlot (which I have not yet tried), I would say, if you see a wine from Belle Vallee Cellars at G.O. buy it! If you don’t like it, take it back, but these wines appear to be extremely good wines at good prices…best we’ve seen in a while here in Oregon.

El Roy 2010 Proprietor’s Red

“hillside-grown Bordeaux-style varieties” from Sonoma County, CA; 13.9% ABV
$5 at the Berkeley, CA, store on 5 June

ElRoy_2010_ProprietorsRedThis looked like a promising GO find.  It appeared to be a small, quirky bottling, with some attention paid to quality, for a pretty low price.  I wound up thinking this is a reasonable value, but it took some time to get there.

On first pour, it seemed rather tart and reserved, but promising darker and more concentrated fruit as it aired.  However, on the first night, it never delivered, still seeming to have more to give but never obliging.

The saved single-glass screw-cap bottle seemed at first to be much the same.  However, with about 45 minutes more air in the glass, it had developed into a pretty nice wine for the price, showing ripe fruit flavors of earthy plum and dark cherry.  The acid was no longer too sharp, but nicely balancing.  It never became anything stellar, but nonetheless a nice wine for the price.  Probably it’s something you should put in a covered decanter for a day before you drink it.

Following inthewinecountry’s advice about evaluating reserved wines, I left some in the small bottle with plenty of air above it and replaced the screw cap.  The next day, I this little bit was simpler and more acid than it had been the previous day, although not bad.  So, I guess if you’re willing to decant this the day before or otherwise deal with its challenges, this could be pretty good, but otherwise it’s just Drinkable.

Divinis 2012 Grenache

100% Grenache;  13% ABV;  screw cap;  from Cariñena DO, Spain
bottled by Bodegas Ignacio Marin; imported by AW Direct
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 8 June

Divinis_2012_GrenacheI had wanted a Pinot Noir to go with a lighter-flavored soup, but I didn’t have one on hand, so I opened this bottle thinking it would also be a lighter red.  That turned out to be only slightly true, as this is actually a pretty substantial wine for the money.

I thought it needed about 75 minutes in a decanter before it became ok to drink.  It showed flavors of tangy red cherry and raspberry in a medium body, a bit on the tart side, but good enough with the soup.  However, it was really as the evening went on that the wine impressed me.  I liked it best as I was finishing it off, about three hours after I had opened it, when it tasted of dark black cherry and raspberry, purple grape, and some dark, funky earth / maybe rubber.  It was a bit disjoint, with a slightly odd flavor, but pretty tasty and no longer especially acid.

The next day, the second half (stoppered in a 375ml bottle with very little air) still needed about 75 minutes of air in the glass to become nicely integrated, tasting of ripe, medium purple boysenberry and cherry, earth, and a mildly stemmy flavor.  I’m not super wild about the wine, but I think it’s solid and tasty enough to push it into Thumbs Up.

Swami 2010 Pinot Noir

Sonoma Coast, CA; 14.2% ABV
$6 at the Berkeley, CA, store on 1 June

Swami_2010_PinotNoirInitially, this seemed quite promising except for a somewhat tart and bitter metallic finish.  Fortunately, this unpleasant finish mostly aired out after about two hours in a decanter, when I thought it was fully aired.  Then, it showed tangy black cherry / almost kirsch, some Pinot funk, and smaller amounts of darker red cherry, cola, and orange.  The unpleasant finish was almost entirely gone.   While I’m not as excited about this vintage as I was about the 2009, I still think it’s very good value in Pinot Noir.  Let’s hope it doesn’t have the 2009’s bottle variation issues.

The saved single-glass screwcap bottle of this wine was richer and redder, more strawberry / red cherry / ripe red raspberry than black cherry.  Still very good.