Domaine Boyar 2011 Merlot Reserve

Thracian Valley Region, Bulgaria; 13% ABV
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 8 Nov

DomaineBoyar_2011_MerlotResSo… I’ve been thinking that, in order to reconcile my work at the Richmond GO with my hobby of blogging here, that I have to provide less perfect reviews (a subjective judgement, to be sure) and get more out regardless.  So, in that vein, here goes.

After the Villa Yambol 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon (also from Bulgaria) was so tasty, I really wanted to try this, too.  (There was also a Bulgarian rosé “Vini” that arrived in the same shipment.  Haven’t tried it yet.)  This Merlot followed a similar pattern, of being pretty tasty right away, but really showing its best after about an hour in a decanter.  Then, it gave full flavors of dark, very ripe, blue / black fruit, but still with a delicate character showcasing the lower-tannin Merlot grape.  I thought this was quite good, and none of it survived to the next day.  Today, I got another bottle of this and of the Yambol Cab, and I intend to blend them.  I’ll update here after I try this experiment.  :)

Budeguer 2013 Chardonnay Reserva

Mondoza, Argentina; 13.5% ABV
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store about a week ago

Budeguer_2013_ChardResThis wine’s nice packaging and recent vintage made it look quite promising.  It was not really what I expected, but it was pretty good if you want a crisp and structured Chardonnay.

The fruit does have some nice ripeness to it, showing yellow apple and pear, but the acid is quite crisp, with a fairly strong minerally structure.  I’ve been hesitant to recommend it to California Chardonnay drinkers, but some people have responded positively to this description.  About this wine, G. L. Pease wrote:

I quite liked it, though it’s likely not going to appeal to the California Chardonnay lover, nor will it confuse the Chablis or Mâcon fan. Quite a different thing. Bright, citrusy, a little toasty, minerallic. Restrained ripe pear with an interesting almondy thing going on. I’d guess it to be fermented in barrel, giving it some nice oakiness that’s not overblown, and no one went crazy with the MLF [malolactic fermentation]. No butterbomb here, but enough weight and richness to work well with richer foods. This ain’t your shellfish quaffer. It would stand up nicely to sheeps milk cheeses, fattier cuts of pork (not too heavily seasoned), maybe salmon.

The next day, the rest in the bottle was more smooth and integrated, but otherwise much the same.

Villa Yambol 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon

Thracian Valley Region, Bulgaria; 13.5% ABV
imported by Bulgarian Master Vintners, LLC, of Sonoma
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 6 Nov

VillaYambol_2010_CabSauvI was wary because of the cheesy bottle (see the wavy grooves at top and bottom) and the simple red color of the wine through the bottle, but curiosity and the low sale price ($4) got the better of me.  Although I’m not sure I’d recognize it as Cabernet, he wine was actually pretty good for the price.

Upon pouring, the color was actually a pretty, blackish, dark red.  It was tasty enough after about 10 minutes of air that rather little survived to be fully aired after about an hour.  Then, the tangy, dark red / black cherry fruit thickened in texture and became much more satisfying.  The wine also had complexities of wood, tar, and dark herbs (rosemary? sage?).  The back label describes “ripe aromas of stewed black plums, fine tannins and a lovely core of liquorish [sic], and black fruit flavors, some cedar wood.”  This slightly exaggerates the complexity of the wine, but it is not a bad description.  This Bulgarian red is not as quite good as I recall the only other one (Enira blend) we’ve had here being, but especially at the sale price, this is a nice wine for daily drinking.

The saved single-glass screwcap bottle really improved my opinion of this wine.  The fruit and other flavors are more forward and integrated into a nicely balanced wine.  Definitely Thumbs Up!

Fall 2015 Wine Sale, 20% Off All Wine

The fall wine sale this year will be Wednesday, November 4th through Tuesday, November 10th.  It has usually been Wednesday though Sunday, but this year it will run a full week.  Please use comments here to share what you’re planning to stock up on where, or at least what you left behind where, after you got your stash.  :)

Cheers and happy hunting,

Chateau Bel-Air 2013 Bergerac

50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 42% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc; 13% ABV
Bergerac (region just east of Bordeaux), France
imported by Max Beverage of South Pasadena, CA
$7 at the Richmond, CA, store around 14 Oct

ChBelAir_2013_Bergerac_2This wine is quite young, still in a softly textured, more fruity phase, not yet “hardened” into wine.  Nonetheless, it is a fairly substantially built wine with good fruit.  After a couple hours or so, the wine shows soft, ripe earthy red cherry and black raspberry threatening to become cassis, acid of red currants.  After 5 hours of air, it became reasonably tasty, if still too young.  After 6 hours, the fruit becomes fuller and really quite tasty, with dark cassis or almost blackberry coming forth, and still with thicker, earthy tannin.

The second half (stoppered in a 375ml bottle with very little air) showed similar evolution to the first, but never quite opened up as much as the first half did.  I would say this is a pretty good buy, especially if you have reasonably good storage for your wine and have the patience to wait 5 – 8 years.

Truscott 2012 Pinot Noir

Mendocino County, CA; 13% ABV
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store 14 Oct

Truscott_2012_PinotNoirThis looked like a promising Pinot Noir, so I thought I should try it out.  At first pour, I was quite unimpressed.  The wine was rather dull, with hard, dark red cherry that wasn’t coming out much.  I thought it needed about 2 hours in a decanter to integrate, becoming more aromatic and showing flavors of the same harder, dark red cherry, a good amount of brown earth close to orange or orange peel, with acid of tart cherry and orange only slightly strong for my taste, and reasonable Pinot funk.  I was still not very impressed, but it was at least a real Pinot Noir, not tasting of cherry candy like many GO Pinots, but there wasn’t all that much richness or complexity to it, either.

A couple days later, the second half (saved in a 375ml screwcap bottle with very little air) was more integrated and filled out, still with the harder dark red cherry, brown earth, acid of tart red cherry and orange.  The flavors come on strong enough, but mid-palate and finish are a bit weak.  While it’s not great, it is an honest Pinot and as such is better than most GO Pinots at this price.  I’d put it in the higher range of Drinkable.

David Girard 2011 Coda Rouge

46% Mourvédre, 36% Syrah, 15% Grenache, 3% Counoise; 14.2% ABV
El Dorado AVA, California
$4 at the Richmond, CA, store on 9 October

DavidGirard_2011_CodaRougeWhile I would normally jump on a Californian Rhone-style blend like this, the wine through the bottle, although it had a nice darker red / orange color, looked rather translucent.  Still, color saturation is not everything, and I had liked the Girard Roussanne, so decided to try this one, too.

The wine starts with dark red cherries — in a range from tart red — to ripe red — to dried — with the characteristic Sierra Foothills rich, brown earthiness / red brick.  It’s fairly simple, and with some of the cheap oak flavor I dislike.  I thought it finally integrated nicely after about 2:15 of air, and it continued to darken nicely to black raspberry and cherry later in the evening.  However, I really wish they hadn’t used the liquid oak extract or wood chips in a bag or whatever, because it totally obscures what seemed to be a nice, subtle blend of Rhone-style Sierra Foothills flavors.

The saved, single-glass, screwcap bottle was unfortunately even worse.  It was quite sulfurous right away, and remained rather roughly sulfurous for the hour or two over which I consumed it.  Even at $4, I think I have to go with Thumbs Down.

Cátulo 2014 Garnacha Atlántica

Navarra DO, Spain; 13.5% ABV
$4 at the Richmond, CA, store a few weeks ago. Still there.

Catulo_2014_GarnachaThis wine’s coolly pretty label looked very interesting except for the very recent vintage date.  I wasn’t totally sure what to make of the wine, but my take on it is that it’s a nice Grenache for the money, with the caveat with you’ll probably want to wait a couple years to drink it.

The wine shows fresh-fruity raspberry and cherry fruit, darkening some over the course of the evening.  The flavors are very typical Grenache flavors, but it still tastes a lot like fruit juice, which is pleasant enough, but, you know, not really wine.

I had hoped that the usual saved, single-glass, screwcap bottle would be better.  While the flavors were darker than in the first portion of the bottle, its character was much the same.  Finally, after the remainder had been open for a few hours, the last bit of it seemed to resolve itself from a soft and fuzzy fruitiness into a harder, more polished wine.  So, as I said at first, this wine is decent enough for a pleasant fruit juice-like experience, but if you want a wine, I think it will become a good example of Grenache in a year or two.

Blackjack Ranch 2010 Chardonnay “Twenty-one”

Santa Barbara County, CA;  14.5% ABV
$4 at the Richmond, CA, store on 8 October

Blackjack_2010_ChardAfter the delicious 2007 Syrah from Blackjack, I was eager to try this one.  It’s a reasonable Chardonnay for the price, but I’m not as excited as I was about the Syrah.

On the first day, the Chardonnay is disappointingly rough, possibly slightly oxidized.  The fruit is very ripe yellow apple / pineapple, a little lemon, with a slight caramelization or butterscotch, plenty of balancing ripe acid, and some vanilla oak.  I really wanted to like it, and although not terrible, it mostly just came across as being too old.

However, to my surprise, the next day, it was much more smooth and become more delicate and integrated, especially as it warmed from fridge temperature.  For a ripe Chardonnay on its last legs this is actually pretty good!  My wife poured herself a glass and exclaimed, “This is good!  Get more!”  So I did.  :)

Padilla Erickson 2007 “El Jefe” and 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon

2007 “El Jefe”
61% Syrah, 21% Petite Sirah, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon; 14.7% ABV
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 7 Oct

PadillaErickson_2007_ElJefeThis blend looked very interesting, and a 2007 wine should be old enough, so I thought I’d try it.  I found it rather ripe and soft for my taste, but I’m sure many people will love it, and I’d definitely give it Thumbs Up.

It was not bad at first pour, but I thought it needed about 70 minutes of air for the fruit to really come out.  Then, it showed dark, tarry blackberry and boysenberry, with a “roasted” or “grilled” character, balanced with zingy acid of dark cranberry, and a slight herbaceous flavor close to the tar.  The texture is on the thicker side and smooth.

The saved, single-glass, screwcap bottle had flavors that were redder and more integrated, more tobacco than tar, and perhaps more acid, but still very good.

2010 Cabernet Sauvignon; 15.5% ABV
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 8 Oct.  Gone there now.

PadillaErickson_2010_CabThis Cabernet looked quite promising, with a very heavy bottle and pretty label.  I think it’s rather similar to, but slightly better than, the El Jefe.

This wine surprised me by not being tremendously different from the El Jefe.  The fruit is still on the soft and ripe side, although it has more tannic density and does taste more like Cabernet.  :)  However, it would not surprise me at all if this wine also had some Syrah or 1% to 3% Petite Sirah.  While it was tasty enough at first pour, I thought it needed about two hours to become reasonably accessible, and I liked it best after three hours.  The wine showed flavors of tangy boysenberry / blueberry in addition to the more usual Cab flavors of blackberry, purple plum, purple cherry, a little cranberry, still with some of the same “roasted” character of the El Jefe.  The ripe fruit has plenty of balancing, ripe acid, and the finish is more tannic than the El Jefe.

The saved SGSCB was, like the El Jefe, redder and more integrated, but still very good.

Ron Piazza wrote about this wine: “Ok had to give this a try. At 15.5% alcohol I was expecting quite a bit of heat. Surprise, zero what you have is a lovely velvety wine, with ripe Napa fruit, dusty, cassis berries in the nose, smooth on the palate, a bit short in the finish but no real problems.”