Apex 2010 Merlot

Columbia Valley, WA; 14.7% ABV
$7 at the Richmond, CA, store on 16 Apr.  No longer there.

This wine at first seemed a little too old, but, showing of full and ripe plum and blackcurrant, like it might air into something good.  However, as it aired, it just became thinner and more acid, not awful, but just less than it probably had been.  After being decanted a couple hours, the fruit came fully forward, becoming soft and fuzzy, and less acid.  Maybe if I had been more patient, the wine would have been pretty good, but it still makes me worry about the second half.

The second half, stoppered in a 375ml bottle with very little air, was actually quite similar.  It started with very promising full, ripe fruit, but with a sharp acid that never went away.  After a couple hours of being open, the wine again became more soft and fuzzy, but this time it never lost its acid and added some sharp bitterness.  I guess this wine is reasonably drinkable, but it still strikes me as a little too old.

Two 2014 Pinot Grigios from Volpe Pasini

for both wines:
Colli Orientali del Friuli DOC, far northeastern Italy; 12.5% ABV
$6 at the Richmond, CA, store on 13 April. Still there.

As these wines came from the same producer and region of Italy, in the same year, with the same % alcohol, at the same price, I wondered whether they were actually the same wine in different packaging.  I am now pleasantly satisfied that they are not.

The Gri Vo’ (photo, right) has the duller label, but who knows, maybe it’s just understatement?  But no, the wine actually is the more dull of the two.  It’s still quite good, showing a hint of apricot that carries through the whole taste of more typical flavors of yellow melon, bright yellow grapefruit, and lime, with a sort of musty (from wood?) minerality and slight bitterness of grape skin.  This is a good wine for the price.

On the first day, I preferred the “Zuc di Volpe” bottling (photo, left).  It is more nervy and subtle, showing integrated floral, lemony, and minerally flavors in close succession, reined in by a slight touch of wood.

The next day, the apricot flavor in the Gri Vo’ integrated with other flavors to resemble tropical yellow fruit with a weight that surprises me in Pinot Grigio.  Still quite tasty.

In contrast to the Gri Vo’, the next day, the Zuc di Volpe bottling was still interestingly, subtly complex, but was rather dull compared to what it had been.  Gone were the bright acid and minerally structure.  Depending on whether you plan to drink it over more than one night, you might prefer the Gri Vo’.  In contrast to other blending experiments I’ve done, I could not find a blend of these two that really improved on either wine alone.

Both of these wines show their age just a little.  Drink them up soon, and there is certainly no reason to wait in this spring heat.

Nieto Senetiner 2013 Bonarda (Charbono)

Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina; 13% ABV
$5 (I think) at the Richmond, CA, store some weeks ago.  No longer there.

After being open a couple hours, the wine shows soft, ripe, tangy, fruit of black raspberry / almost blackberry, dark cherry, purple plum / pit, violets / licorice, wood / coffee, with somewhat zingy acid of hibiscus tea and mild, chewy tannin on the finish.  It’s not a must-have, but it’s a quite good New World wine for the price.  It would make a good stand-in for Zinfandel.

The next day, the last bit in the glass was redder and more acid.  It was still pretty tasty, but it’s probably better consumed the first day.

This is one of many wines I bought before and while I was not drinking.  Please bear with me while I work through this backlog.

Two 2015 Southern French Rosés

Le Charmel 2015 Cotes de Provence (near Bandol)
30% Syrah, 30% Cinsault, 20% Mourvèdre, 10% Grenache, 10% Rolle (Vermentino); 12.5% ABV
imported by Winesellers, Ltd., Niles, IL
$4 at the Richmond, CA, store some weeks ago.  No longer there.

Les Vignes de Bila-Haut 2015 Pays D’Oc IGP; 13% ABV
by Michel Chapoutier
imported by HB Wine Merchants, NY
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store

When I bought these, they were both new arrivals.  The Bila-Haut is still around, but Le Charmel is long gone, at least from Richmond.  They were both pretty tasty, but I preferred Le Charmel.

Le Charmel was engagingly aromatic of less ripe cantaloupe and mild white flowers.  There was more of this on the palate, with a slightly viscous minerality and a hints of lavender and red berries, and the acid nicely in balance.  The flavor was perhaps a little light for me at first, but after adjusting, I found it a very pleasant and elegant wine.  Interestingly, it contains 10% Rolle (Vermentino), a white grape.

The next day, I liked it better, with the fruit more forward while the wine still retained most of its minerality.  This is an easy Thumbs Up for me.

The Bila-Haut had less of a nose, but showed stronger fruit of strawberry, cherry, and red currant, less minerality, and attention-getting lip-smacking acid and a tang of bitterness.  I found this more flavorful, but less elegant and balanced.  Here is a Wine Enthusiast review of this wine.

The next day, I liked it better, as the wine had smoothed out and integrated, but was still quite tasty.  I’d go with Drinkable for this wine.

Of course, my favorite was a blend of about 1/4 – 1/3 Bila-Haut, the rest Le Charmel.  🙂

Goodnow 2015 Tempranillo

California; 13.9% ABV
Vinted and bottled by J. L. Giguiere, Zamora, CA
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 13 Apr

This wine intrigued me for a couple reasons.  First, the back label touts “loads of black fruit,” which is something I like (especially something akin to licorice) but don’t taste in Tempranillo very often.  Second, it appears to be from the same operation that made this interesting and tasty Musqué clone Chardonnay.  After I bought this bottle, a customer said he found it rather young and grapey, but thought it had good stuffing to last for a while.  I agree!

The wine is pretty fresh- and grapey-tasting, but with subtle complexities of dark cherry, red and black raspberries, tobacco, slight prune, and, indeed, blackberry / licorice, finishing with a layer of stemmy / woody tannin that seems to promise further evolution.  I find that a little odd for a wine called “good now,” but so it is.  After a couple hours’ air, the wine has a nice elegance to it, but I expect it will develop well for the next year or two.

The next day, the second half (stored in a 375ml bottle and stoppered with very little air) was softer, with the flavors less delineated and more integrated, still pretty fresh and purple-grapey, but otherwise much the same.  Highly Drinkable.

Spring 2107 Wine Sale, 20% Off All Wine

Hi Everyone!

The Spring 2017 wine sale will start this Monday, April 10, and run through Saturday, April 15, or if your store is open Easter Sunday, through April 16.  I’ll be getting a few things I’ve heard are good or about which I’m curious, but right now my sinuses flare up if I have even a sip of wine, so I’ll mostly be sitting this one out.  I will instead be asking, “Hey, I saw this interesting-looking wine!  Has anyone tried it?”  🙂

Please use this space to describe what you’re finding and tasting, going back for more of (or not), or stocking up on for near- or long-term drinking.  Cheers!

2012 Bohème “Stuller Vineyard” Pinot Noir

Sonoma Coast AVA; 14.1% ABV
Purchased March 24th at Palo Alto; $14.99

IMG_0151I was really excited to see these come in. This winery is a project started by the former Belle Glos vineyard manager who also happens to be part of the Wagner family (Caymus and many others). The website has a ton of great technical data on this particular vineyard (link here) with high points being that it sits at 1200 feet of elevation about 6 miles inland form the Pacific Ocean and is farmed in two blocks, one hillside the other hilltop. This particular wine spent 21 months in neutral French oak. If you like the brooding, almost cocktail-like style of Pinot Noir, I think you’ll like this one.

The wine poured a dark ruby garnet and was all blackberries and cream on the nose. I would have guessed zinfandel confidently had this been a blind tasting. On the palate, it’s a full-bodied wine with an almost viscous mouthfeel. I got black cherry, cinnamon, orange peel with some underbrush or cooking herbs as well with a long 8-10 second finish. Structure doesn’t really emerge until about an hour in the glass, and even at that it’s a softly built wine but surprisingly held up well over 3 days of consumption. A nice bottle that tastes expensive but just doesn’t have what I look for in a pinot.  Definitely drinkable and enjoyable, but at it’s higher price point there are likely better options out there.

2010 Santa Alicia “Edición Limitada” Pinot Noir

Casablanca, Chile; 14% ABV
Imported by Halby Marketing, Sonoma, CA
$6.99 at Palo Alto on February 28th

IMG_0084Getting out from under the back-log and wanted to get this up before the sale as I know this is still around in quantity, at least at Palo Alto. This came in with two other Santa Alicia wines (a “Shiraz” which was not good and the “Millantu” red blend which was very good) and I picked up a bottle because the price point seemed nice and the packaging alluded to some quality. A brief web search had me immediately regretting my decision. Wine Enthusiast panned this, giving it 80 points, calling it bitter and astringent. That review was dated 2013, and all I can surmise is that the wine was either totally shut down or that they got a bad bottle. I really liked this and found it a refreshing change of pace from the darker, more brooding pinots that have been around lately.

This wine pours sweet and a little one-dimensional, but after about an hour or so really opens up to display a wide spectrum of strawberry, pomegranate, and red cherry flavors with nice balancing brightness from the acidity. There’s a hint of some mushroom earthiness on the nose, but it doesn’t carry over to the palate. Bright, clean fruit, some oak influence, and no noticeable flaws make this a solid choice for a $7 pinot. Two thumbs up from me, especially for $5.60 on the sale next week.

Duparc Pineau des Charentes “White”

Pineau des Charentes AOC, France; 17% ABV
imported by Halby Marketing, Sonoma, CA
$5 for 375ml at the Richmond, CA, store

When I ordered this, I thought it was just some French white wine I’d never heard of.  When it arrived, I was completely baffled, so I looked up Pineau des Charentes in Wikipedia: It is “a regional French aperitif … a fortified wine (mistelle or vin de liqueur), made from either fresh, unfermented grape juice or a blend of lightly fermented grape must, to which a Cognac eau-de-vie [twice-distilled spirits] is added and then matured.”  So, of course, I had to try one.

I think this is delicious!  It’s sweet from the fresh grapes, but a little less sweet than a dessert wine.  I’m not satisfied with my description here, but what comes to mind is honeysuckle / honey and yellow-grapey canned oranges, peaches, and pears.  The flavor of purified alcohol is also prominent.  I prefer it chilled.  For me, at least, this aperitif, with its delicious sweetness and high alcohol content, is a bit dangerous.  🙂

Chateau Haut Pougnan 2014 Bordeaux

Bordeaux AOC, France
imported by Aquitane Wine USA, LLC
80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon; 12.5% ABV
$10 at the Richmond, CA, store on around 24 Feb

I believe I bought this after a couple customers recommended it.  I thought it was good but not especially remarkable.

I decanted the wine and left it alone for a couple hours.  The fruit became more accessible, showing earthy red cherry / redcurrant, darkening over time to include a little blackcurrant / blackberry.  It struck me as tasty Bordeaux, but nothing exceptional.

A number of days later, the saved, single-glass, screw-cap bottle showed its fruit a little more soft and sweet, and was much more immediately pleasant, but was otherwise much the same.

The gold-colored sticker says “Concours des Grands Vins de France a Macon, Medaille D’Or, 2015.”