Lion’s Lair Dreyer Family 2012 Family Reserve White

South Africa
50% Chenin Blanc, 13% Roussanne, 13% Grenache Blanc, 12% Clairette Blanche, 12% Verdelho; 12.5% ABV
$4 at the Richmond, CA, store on 21 December

LionsLair_2012_ResWhiteThe front label of this wine struck me as dull enough, but I was really excited by the blend listed on the back label.  However, a regular customer told me that he hadn’t liked it because it was too sour.  It was with his comment in mind that I opened it to cook with last night.  Although the fruit is nicely ripe (lemon, yellow pear and melon) and blended, it is also rather sour, with a taste tending toward spoiled.  I was considering Thumbs Down.

Today, the fruit is a little more forward and that almost-spoiled character has subsided somewhat, so that it’s actually reasonably tasty, if still on the sour side.  I guess it’s okay, but not really for me.

There’s an accompanying Lion’s Lair red, blended in a southern Rhone style.  If anyone’s tried it, please let us know what you thought about it.

Chevalier Alexis Lichine Brut non-vintage sparkling wine

France; 11% ABV
$8 at the Richmond, CA, store on 4 Nov

ChevalierAlexisLichine_NV_BrutSparklingWineThe presentation of this wine impressed me enough to get a bottle during the last sale in early November.  I’ve finally opened it for Christmas Day, and I think it’s very nice.

This decently complex and nicely balanced wine tastes of yellow / white pear, some yellow apple, lemon, and mild yeast / egg bread, with soft carbonation that gives a slightly creamy texture.  I’d guess its retail would be about $14 – $16, putting its discount in about the usual range for the GO, and making it a solid value.

Cavatappi 2007 “Maddalena” Nebbiolo

Red Willow Vineyards, Yakima Valley, WA; 14% ABV
$10 at the Richmond, CA, store on 18 Dec

Cavatappi_2007_NebbioloWhen this showed up at the Richmond store, there had been some discussion here (and here) about a Cavatappi 2008 Sangiovese.  In particular, Lim13 wrote, “I’ve never been a fan of Peter Dow’s wines…just personal taste. Almost always austere and high in acidity.”  So, on one hand, I think I sometimes like wines that are less fruity than he does, but on the other… he’s usually right.  :)  But after a couple days, curiosity got the better of me and I purchased this bottle.  I actually like it a lot.  I found it an interesting and tasty New World version of the Nebbiolo grape.

This wine was pretty good from first pour, but has held up very well for 3+ hours now.  It shows nice cherry fruit (ripe red, dried, and tart), with nice complexities of light earthy leather, roses, and dried orange peel.  For me at least, this is a pretty subtle wine.  Treat it as you would a more delicate Pinot Noir.  Unusually for me, I preferred its temperature on the cooler side, when I could better taste its complexities over its New World fruit that is more sweetly ripe than the Italian Nebbiolos (Barolo and Barbaresco) I’ve tasted.  It’s probably fully mature, and I did not find it too austere or acid.  Tonight, it went well with roasted Cornish game hens (GO, $2 each, IIRC).



Cat Amongst the Pigeons 2009 Shiraz

Barossa Valley, South Australia; 14.5% ABV
$4 at the Richmond, CA, store on 14 Dec

CATP_2009_ShirazThis wine somehow seemed promising, and indeed, it’s delicious.  It’s pretty good from first pour, but smooths out a bit after about half an hour in a decanter.  The wine shows ripe fruit of dark purple cherry and plum, black earth / pepper, a little tar, and red cherry, with plenty of balancing acid of cherry and plum.  My only caveat about it is that the wine is quite dry and the acid is a little stronger than most North or South American reds, so it didn’t seem go as well with foods that are a little sweet, and might unpleasantly surprise some folks.  After 2:15 or so of air, the wine develops a little earthy aged complexity.  I think it’s very good for the price.

A couple other things:  First, bin5 reviewed the CATP 2009 “Fat Cat” (a Cabernet – Shiraz blend) here.  Second, there’s also a CATP 2010 Barossa Valley Cabernet around for the same price.  If anyone tastes it, please add your thoughts on it here, as I probably won’t get to it.

Barahonda Sin-Madera 2012 un-oaked Monastrell

Yecla DO, Spain; 14.5% ABV
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 30 Nov

Barahonda_2012_MonastrellI like Mourvèdre and this un-oaked Spanish version looked pretty interesting.  I thought it was pretty good but not especially exciting, either.

The wine was tasty to drink soon after opening, but it darkened and became more complex over time to show somewhat tangy and earthy, dark red cherry / plum, prune, and a hint of licorice.  It was pretty tasty with our pizza (no tomatoes) and pretty good on its own, but didn’t really grab me.

The next day, the saved, single-glass, screwcap bottle was a little redder and more acid, but in compensation, the earthy complexity was a little more prominent.

Sonoma-Loeb 2013 Sauvignon Blanc

Sonoma County, CA; 14.1% ABV
Produced and bottled by Sonoma-Loeb Wines, St. Helena, CA
$6 at the Richmond, CA, store on 11 Dec

Sonoma-Loeb_2013_SauvBlancI was attracted to this bottle by the nice label and its appearance of being from a winery, not a negociant.  It is indeed quite good.

The wine tastes of yellow melon, lemon, sweet yellow lime, and a little gooseberry, with a nice minerality.  While the fruit is pleasantly ripe, there is still plenty of acid, just short of what I’d call “crisp,” and a little balancing grape skin bitterness.  For a fairly substantial Sauvignon Blanc, the wine is actually rather elegant and somewhat delicate, probably better drunk on its own, or maybe with white fish.  Anyway, this is a good wine for the price.

The next day, the wine is more smoothed out, more fruity and less minerally, still nicely elegant, complex, and slightly delicate.

Southern Slope 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon “Five Blocks” Reserve

Paso Robles, CA; 13.5% ABV
$8 at the Richmond, CA, store on 20 Nov

SouthernSlope_2013_CabSauvResThis wine caught my attention because the back label gives brief tasting notes for each of the five blocks of Cabernet that went into this wine.  I figured that if they were that careful about the blend, the wine might be pretty good.  This wine’s soft and ripe style is not really to my taste, but this is a good version of it.

I thought this young wine needed about 90 minutes in a decanter to show full-flavored candy of ripe, purplish red cherry and lighter blackberry, some black pepper and other earthy spice, with a slight herbal note.  It has a fair amount of the “cheap oak product” (wood chips or liquid oak extract) I dislike, contributing a lot to the sweet, candy-like nature of the wine, but not overwhelming the Cabernet fruit flavors.

The next day, the second half (stoppered in a 375ml bottle with very little air) still needed about an hour of air to become more dark and rich, slightly syrupy.  If you like this style, it would be safe to stock up on this wine, since it should easily last a few years more.  Myself, I’ll look for something made more dry and with honest oak.

NxNW (North by Northwest) 2013 Chardonnay

Horse Heaven Hills, WA;
$6 at the Richmond, CA, store on about 7 Dec

NxNW_2013_Chardonnay_HHHWith its Horse Heaven Hills designation and the details of its origin and production on the label, this wine looked quite promising.  Maybe my expectations were too high, though, because even though it is a pleasant and well-made wine, I found it unexciting.

The wine immediately shows smooth, moderately ripe fruit of yellow apple and pear, with a little creamy vanilla, some acid of “white of the melon rind” and less ripe pineapple, in a taste of nice length.  However, I found the flavors (and maybe acid) a little light, so this could be the wine for you if you prize smoothness and elegance over intensity.  Myself, I found it eminently drinkable but unmemorable.

The next day, the fruit is a little more forward and tasty, but overall much the same.

[Post has been updated later the same day, but not significantly changed.  I apparently clicked “Publish” when I meant to click “Save Draft.”]

Yokayo 2010 Pinot Noir

Mendocino, CA; 14.2% ABV
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 9 Dec

Yokayo_2010_PinotNoirWe’ve previously seen an interesting Yokayo 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, so I thought this Pinot Noir looked promising.  I indeed liked it very much, although I can see it might not be everyone’s cup of tea.

It’s pretty tasty from first pour, but it has held up very well from evening into night.  It presents flavors of dark red cherry, rich brown earth, cola / root beer, a little orange, and hints of bay leaf / pine needles.  Its darker, savory character is sort of the opposite of “bright red cherries,” so I’m not sure it will be to everyone’s taste, but I think it’s a tasty and interesting wine, the best Pinot Noir the GO has seen in a while.  None of this bottle will survive until the next day.

Mil Piedras 2013 Viognier

Mendoza, Argentina; 14% ABV
$4 at the Richmond, CA, store a few weeks ago

MilPiedras_2013_ViognierI recently liked pretty well the Argentinian Budeguer Chardonnay, which I found to be an interesting version of the grape.  It had some ripe fruit, but also crisp acid and minerally structure.  I was hoping this would would be a similar version of Viognier, and my verdict is, “Well, sort of…”  :)

The fruit certainly shows Viognier’s yellow peach, and some white / light yellow melon, elegantly integrated with fairly crisp acid and a little minerality.  I think the wine would be quite good except for a noticeable excess of stemmy bitterness.  It wasn’t too bad, but it did stop me from thinking it was really tasty.

The next day, I liked it a little better, with the fruit more forward and balancing of the bitterness, but still was not something I was wild about.