2012 Saintsbury Carneros Chardonnay

Carneros AVA, CA; 13.5% ABV
$12.99 at the Palo Alto Store on November 27th

saintsbury_2012_chardonnayI’m always on the hunt for a good Chardonnay that blends balance and brightness with some well-integrated oak notes. This bottle caught my eye as Carneros tends to be a cooler growing area, and the back label touted phrases like “good acidity” and “subtle seasoning of oak and lees” which sounded right up my alley. A brief internet query yielded a thorough tech sheet from the producer (available here) revealing a wine that was barrel fermented in 20% new French oak while only undergoing partial malolactic fermentation. There are indeed some nice elements to the wine, but in the end they struggle to come together in a way befitting the hefty-for-GO-whites price tag.

On open at refrigerator temp the nose was predominantly lemon and metal and the wine had a slight acrid / aspartame note to it. After about 30 minutes of warming up it came into its own a bit more. Still fairly faint on entry, but with a dose of acidity so strong that it bordered on unpleasant. On the palate I did get some nice pear and creamed citrus notes with a bit of baking spices, but the elements of the wine never really came together and instead felt in competition with each other.

Day 2 yielded a more pleasant experience. Again, the wine needed about 30-40 minutes to warm up from refrigerator temp, but the acidity, oak, and fruit were much more in balance with the fruit gaining in intensity and the oak and acidity playing more of a supporting role rather than competing for the lead. Definitely a passable Chardonnay, and even a good one, but at that price point there are more compelling wines out there. Not a repeat purchase for me.

2013 Puydeval Red Blend, Pays D’Oc IGP

Pays D’Oc IGP, Langeudoc, France; 14% ABV
$5.99 at the Palo Alto store on November 27th

puydevalThis wine caught my eye with its attractive label and the fact that it contains a healthy dose of Cabernet Franc (which I love). The blend breakdown is 58% Cab Franc, 28% Syrah, and 14% Merlot, from vineyards in the cooler regions of the Languedoc. The wine is aged 10 months in oak (90% French, 10% American) and fermented with native yeasts. The tech sheet for the wine can be found here.

A brief web search showed this wine has a pretty loyal following and routinely scores in the high 80’s to low 90’s from major wine publications so I was excited to try it. The wine pours an opaque, deep red, and on the nose I got some blackberry and plum as well as some barrel spice and just a hint of savoriness (I’m guessing from the Syrah). There was definitely some heat as well, but that blew off after about 30 minutes.

On the palate I got dark red fruit with absolutely no vegetal notes that can be so prevalent in Cab Franc. Definitely a fruit forward wine, more in a new world style, but still with some pleasant earthiness to keep it rooted in France. Well integrated oak and pleasantly drying tannins with enough acidity and lift to keep it fresh. It shows it’s stuff best after about an hour and a half, and was fantastic with both a beef stew the first night and hearty minestrone the second night. A repeat buy and a thumbs up for me.

[ed. note: Please welcome frequent commenter DavidLikesWine to the front page.]

Castel Pietra 2014 Pinot Grigio from Mezzacorona

Vigneti delle Dolimiti IGT, Trentino – Alto Adige, (northern) Italy; 12% ABV
$6 for 1.5L (magnum) at the Oakland, CA, store on 7 Nov

mezzacorona_2015_pinotgrigioI dimly recalled liking other white wines with the Dolomiti designation, so despite not really wanting a whole magnum of this wine, I finally got one toward the end of the recent fall sale.  It’s a fairly basic wine but a solid value in Italian Pinot Grigio.

At first, I found the wine a bit crisp and slightly bitter.  In addition to PG’s typical lightly dried straw, the wine tasted of less ripe lemon and skin of less ripe yellow grape, with assertive minerally structure.  After the second pour or so, some riper fruit of yellow pear and yellow grapefruit emerged to support the acid, but it was still fairly submerged by the crisp, minerally acid.

On the second night, after a couple more pours, this fruit emerged further to make the wine more balanced between fruit, acid, and minerality, and really quite enjoyable, especially as it warmed some from fridge temp.

On the third night, the wine is quite tasty and pleasant, adding a sort of orange-y flavor.  It’s not a particularly exciting wine, but it is well made and a good value for an every-day crisp white.

Stemmler 2013 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

Sonoma Coast AVA, CA; 14.5% ABV (I think)
$13 at the Oakland, CA, store on 29 Oct

stemmler_2013_pinotnoirOn first pour, and early on, I thought this wine was lovely, showing, lighter red cherry / strawberry / raspberry, orange, and tasty herbal complexity.  However, with more air, the fruit filled out into thicker and relatively simple darker red / black cherry with the other complexities much in the background.  It seemed to developed as much as it was going to on the first night after about 2:15 of air, but it was still a relatively coarse wine compared to what it had been on opening.  I suspect the delicateness and complexity is under there, but will need more age to be easily available.

The saved, single-glass, screw-cap bottle was really quite lovely, showing elegant flavors of black cherry, strawberry jam, dark red raspberry, orange, complexity in the cocoa / coffee / cola area, and dried herbs.  The wine will probably be more accessible in another year or two, but it seems like a good deal in Pinot, especially at the sale price.  It will probably be gone before the sale ends, anyway.

Chateau Grand Marchand 2012 Bordeaux

Bordeaux, France; 13% ABV
$7 at the Richmond, CA, store on 24 Oct

chgrandmarchand_2012_bordeauxI thought this wine looked promising because it’s a few years old now, older than most Bordeaux we get, and the “88 points” sticker from the Wine Enthusiast.  (I’ve liked their online tasting notes.)  Indeed, I think this is pretty good for the price.

I thought the wine needed 1:40 of air in a decanter to relax and show its fruit, starting with a fairly simple earthy red cherry.  It continued to develop nicely until we finished off the first ¾ of the bottle, about 3 hours after opening.  Then, it showed complex dark fruits of ripe plum, cherry, mulberry / blackberry, purple grape, with typical Bordeaux brown earthiness, in a lighter medium body.

The saved, single-glass, screw-cap bottle still needed a bit of air, slowly developing along a similar path as the first part of the bottle, although the fruit didn’t seem to be as forthcoming.  I didn’t really give that glass long enough to air, but it did at least show that the wine will be fine the next day.

Macrae Family Winery 2011 Riesling

Cole Ranch AVA, Mendocino County, CA; 12.9% ABV
$7 at the Richmond, CA, store on 26 October

macrae_2011_rieslingSo, let me start off by saying that I am not a Riesling aficionado, because this wine strikes me as interesting and tasty and possibly the sort of thing Riesling lovers get excited about, but I am certainly not an expert on what makes a properly good Riesling (or about anything else, really  🙂 ).

Those of you who like petrol aroma and flavor in your Riesling, this is your wine!  The petrol aroma is immediately evident on the nose.  The palate follows up with a full dose, very close to an oily minerality which I will probably incorrectly call “flinty” (perhaps “shale” is more accurate?).  These are followed by well-integrated lemon, tart green grape / apple, and yellow pear.  The wine is slightly off-dry, but I thought the acid provided reasonable balance, especially on the finish.  As you can probably tell, I found the petrol component a bit unnerving at first, but after a bit, especially as the wine warmed from fridge temperature, I found it quite interesting and mostly good.

The next day, the minerality is reduced, the texture is more watery than oily, and the pear seems more white and floral than it’s previous “ripe yellow”.  However, the petrol is still there, and I still like it.  Anyone who’s tried this wine, what did you think?

Thomas Halby 2008 Meritage

Napa Valley, CA
80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc; 14.5% ABV
$8 at the Richmond, CA, store on 21 October

thomashalby_2008_meritageThis wine looked interesting, but I was worried by the notes that were printed on the large price tag for this wine.  They mentioned “sweet oak,” which I often dislike.  My concern was deepened by Seedboy’s calling this wine an “oaky mess.”  However, GLPease, in person, said it was “very nice,” so I thought I’d try one and weigh in.  Well, I kind of agree with both of them.  🙂

The wine’s fruit flavors are lovely and elegant — dark red / blue / purple cherry, slight blackberry, with a little earthy / raisiny aged complexity — but they are unfortunately rather light compared to the oak, which is strongly woody and drying on the finish.  Although I am a little critical here, it has been selling very well for an $8 wine at the GO, so take this with a grain of salt (as usual, I guess).

The next day (saved in single-glass, screw-cap bottle), the fruit and oak were better integrated, but the wine had overall degraded somewhat.  The fruit had become more tangy, showing dark plum / boysenberry, as well as some prune / maybe dark chocolate, with a very slight spoiled-fruit aspect, and still possessing a less pronounced but noticeably drying, woody finish.  Overall, I thought this was an interesting and reasonably tasty wine, but not one about which I’m particularly excited..

Fall 2016 Wine Sale

This year, Grocery Outlet’s fall wine sale, with 20% off all wine, will run Wednesday, November 2nd through Tuesday, November 8th.  Please use comments on this post to say what you’re hoping to stock up on, ask others where there might be more of your favorite wines, report which new wines are showing up where and impressions of any you’ve tasted, and confess how much you’ve scored and how much you may have left behind.  🙂  Happy hunting and cheers!

Update: Don’t forget that Daylight Savings Time ends this year on Sunday, November 6.

Ripanera 2009 Chianti Classico

Chianti Classico DOCG, Tuscany, Italy; 13% ABV
imported by Halby Marketing, Inc., Sonoma, CA
$6 at the Richmond, CA, store

ripanera_2009_chianticlassicoI had been interested in this wine, but was prompted to finally try one after Seedboy wrote that his bottle of this wine was literally vinegar.  My bottle, courtesy of Richmond GO owner / operator Sopheap Yin, was not vinegary at all, and was in fact a solidly good wine.

On the first day, it needed a couple hours’ air to show tart red cherry fruit that showed a good bit of orange and herbs, pretty good but unexciting wine.  On the second day, having just put the cork back in the top of the bottle, darker red cherry fruit came out, giving a pleasant impression of greater ripeness, but of less complexity.  On the third day, however, the fruit and the complexity came forth and integrated nicely, becoming really quite tasty.  It still was not an amazing wine, but it was good and well made for the price, and certainly not too old.

Macrae Family Winery 2013 Chardonnay

Bacigalupi Vineyard, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, CA; 14.6% ABV
$8 at the Richmond, CA, store on about 12 October

macrae_2013_chard_bacigalupivnyd_2This was a in a group of four Macrae Family wines we received in one shipment.  The others were the 2012 “Hidden Ridge” Sonoma Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon ($20), 2013 Bacigalupi Vineyard Petite Sirah ($10), and 2010 (I think) Cole Ranch Riesling ($7).  DavidLikesWine gave a positive review to the Petite Sirah here.  I thought the Cabernet was a pretty good wine for the price, but that it should really just be laid down to age for several years, at least, as it’s really not showing that much right now.  This Chardonnay, however, I found disappointing.

My first impression was that the nose was rather subdued, making me search for some pear, yellow and green apple, lemon, vanilla.  There was more this on the delicate palate, but more lemony, and slightly creamy, with good acid on the finish.  I was left with the feeling that, while the wine wasn’t showing that much on the first night, it seemed very elegant and well made, so it might be more lively and interesting on the second day.

However, the next day, when I had hoped that more intensity and complexity might emerge, the wine was still a bit dull: green grape / pear / melon, maybe lime, with some solid yellow apple and gentle oak supporting.  It was really only okay for the price, at least at the GO.  Overall, I was quite underwhelmed given my high expectations.  What am I missing?