Bestheim 2011 Pinot Blanc Réserve

Alsace, France; 12% ABV
imported by Global Wine Co., San Rafael, CA
$4 at the Oakland, CA, store on 7 July

Bestheim_2011_PinotBlancThe label somehow struck me as rather standardized, possibly reflecting a dull wine inside.  However, this is a very nice Alsatian for the money: smooth, dry, floral, yellow fruit of apple / pear / less ripe melon with a little minerality.  It more resembles a German or far northern Italian style than a style from elsewhere in France.  IMO, this is also a great bargain at this price.

The next day, the last bit in the bottle was not as good — the fruit more ripe and less balanced, possibly slight oxidized.  It’s not what it had been, but still tasty and still Thumbs Up.

Elio Filippino 2011 Gavi

Gavi DOCG, made from the Cortese grape in Nieve, Piemonte, Italy; 12.5% ABV
imported by Global Wine Co., San Rafael, CA
$3 at the Oakland, CA, store on 7 July.  (I had thought the price on the box was $5 or $6, but my receipt unambiguously said “Filippino Gavi   $3.”)

IMG_1620About this wine, Seedboy wrote, “I thought the Gavi that I opened last night was drinkable but not better than that. Nicely balanced, just seemed to be lacking the flavors I expect from Cortese.”  Weinish replied, “I felt the same, hence why I didn’t take any home. I so wanted it to be good.”  Well, my only thought is that my bottle must have been completely different, because it is delicious!

On the first night, I thought this wine was at first a little rough, especially on the finish.  However, after it had been open for a few hours (left stopped with the cork in the fridge), and especially a little warmer than fridge temperature, it smoothed out wonderfully.  It is intensely flavored of ripe yellow apple with a somewhat tropical fruit character, ripe lemon and a hint of lime, fairly full-bodied for a white, with a smooth yellow / white melony finish, and gently supporting oak.  Maybe I’m not critical enough since I don’t know Cortese from Chardonnay, but I think this is an amazing bargain.  Indeed, I thought it was surprisingly close to California Chardonnay, which may well be a flaw for those more familiar with the grape and region.

The next evening, this wine is as delicious, if not more so, than it was on the first.

Two Sakes

Appearing along with the recent dump of imported wines at some San Francisco Bay Area stores, 300ml bottles of three Manotsuru sakes from Obata Shuzo, Niigata prefecture, Japan, were also on offer for $6 each.   (Selected and shipped by Kura Selections.  Imported by Vino del Sol.)  Here are the two which looked more promising to me, although the third, “Lucky Toki,” is probably fine, too.


The “Kumiko” (Ginjo) appeared to have a profile similar to the “Lucky Toki,” but promised to be better because the rice was milled down farther.  According to the label, it’s named to honor the current matriarch of the brewing operation, and the sake is suitably substantial and perhaps you could say “feminine.”  The flavors show a soft rice richness, integrated with a subtly fruity character, although dry.  It is immediately engaging and delicious.





Sake_DaimyoThe “Daimyo” (Tokubetsu Honjozo) seemed like I might like it best because it was “extra dry” and labeled “honjozo,” meaning that extra spirits were added, raising the alcohol level and often making the sake more delicately aromatic.  However, tasted side by side, this sake is less immediately “obvious,” but a little way into the taste, it is more solid and perhaps more subtly compelling, with a harder and smoother rice character, and slightly more acid.  I could not choose which of these two I preferred.

Many sakes I have tried, such as most I have gotten from Trader Joe’s, have been rather disjoint and inharmonious.  While I did not find either of these incredible, they were both nicely smooth and integrated.  I guess these are minor bottlings for this brewery, since neither is listed on its web site, but I think for this price, I can go with Thumbs Up.

Comelli 2011 Pinot Grigio “Amplius”

Friuli Colli Orientali DOC, (northeastern) Italy; 13% ABV imported by Global Wine Co., San Rafael, CA $4 at the Oakland, CA, store on 7 July.  Seen at Berkeley 14 July.

Comelli_2011_PinotGrigioNot that I have tasted a huge amount of Pinot Grigio, but I find this one quite impressive.  From the start, the color is a darker, more saturated golden yellow than usually seen in PG.  On the palate, the texture is heavier, and the flavors more intense: honeyed straw, yellow apple / golden kiwi, maybe green fig, and what I think is supporting oak.  At first, the wine seemed a little too heavy, but a little while after opening, the lemony acid became stronger and more integrated.  IMO, this is a very tasty bargain. This, from the New York Times Wine Club site (member price $11.48/bottle), explains why this PG is so different than those with which I have been familiar, although I somewhat disagree with their flavor profile:

For their Amplius pinot grigio, Comelli employs a common Friulian technique not often seen outside Italy to extract as much flavor as possible. Some of the carefully handpicked grapes are first soaked, then fermented along with the crushed grape skins, similar to how traditional reds are made. This process yields silkiness, body and flavors that are instantly evident in the glass. Aromas of peach, honeydew melon, apple and tangerine lead in to a striking mineral/fruit balance that continues through the fresh finish.

The next day, the wine is more tart and bitter but still pretty good.

Cameron Hughes “Lot 347″ 2011 Riesling

Lake County, CA; 13.2% ABV
$4 at the Richmond, CA, store on 1 July

CamHughes_2011_RieslingFrom the description on the back of the bottle, I figured this was made in an off-dry style.  It turns out it tastes like a dessert wine even though it’s not as sweet as a dessert wine.  It tastes of honeyed, dried yellow pear and some apricot, acid of fresh white pear and nectarine, tinge of golden raisin.  I would guess the sweetness level is roughly between those of a German Kabinett and a Spätlese.  Like many wines with sugar and acid, the rest in the bottle was totally fine the next day.

Cameron Hughes “Lot 373″ 2011 Meritage

IGP Pays D’Oc, France
63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot, 18% Malbec; 13.5% ABV
$7 at the Richmond, CA, store on 1 July

CamHughes_2011_MeritagePaysDOcThis is one of those rare wines for which I advise, “Pop and pour!”  I decanted it and tasted it after 30 minutses, when it showed delicious ripe fruit of dark red / purple cherry, blackberry / mulberry, dark earth, and at times only a hint of green bell pepper.  This wine, although made from traditional Bordeaux grape varietals, is apparently not from Bordeaux on the Atlantic coast, but from the Languedoc on the Mediterranean coast.  I’d say that, even though this wine is French, much like the Cameron Hughes Crozes-Hermitage that arrived at the same time, it tastes very Californian.  Unfortunately, over a couple hours, the flavors simplified, becoming more red, including red cherry / ripe red currant,  showing stronger sweet vanilla, with the green bell pepper completely vanishing.  This wine would be a good candidate, not only for not airing, but also for not decanting.  I guess I have to go with Drinkable, although this would be a great wine for parties, dinner or otherwise, where it will be appreciated right after opening and consumed quickly.

The next day, the second half (stored in a 375ml screw-cap bottle with very little air) was more durable.  redder fruit, still ripe and jammy, spiced earth, still yummy and modestly complex.

Les Cépages Oubliés 2011 Cinsault – Grenache Vielles Vignes

Cinsault 70%, Grenache 30%; 14% ABV
Pays D’Oc IGP, France
imported by Global Wine Co., San Rafael, CA
I originally wrote that this was $4 at the Oakland, CA, store on 7 July.  However, I saw it for $5 on 14 July at the Berkeley store, so it was probably $5 at Oakland, too.

CepagesOublies_2011_CinsaultGrenacheThis wine is right up my alley.  It’s like a medium-weight, traditional Côte-du-Rhône.  While it’s surprisingly tasty at first pour, I liked it better after an hour of air in a decanter, and it’s still very good after 2+ hours.  The wine shows tangy fruit flavors of black cherry, raspberry, lighter red cherries, red table grape, and maybe some orange / tangerine; and a spectrum of non-fruit flavors like kalamata olive, funky earth, maybe brown leather, and grape stem.  My only criticism is that the finish is perhaps a little rough; I guess I would call the wine “rustic.”  While it’s certainly not the most amazing wine, I like it a lot for the price.

When I first opened the bottle, I first completely filled a single-glass bottle and screwed on the cap.  The next day, this saved bottle is quite delicious at first pour, with the flavors more forward and integrated, but otherwise the same.

Domaine Haut-Blanville 2011 Peyrals Blanc

Vin de Pays de la Vicomté d’Aumelas, Languedoc, France; 13% ABV
imported by Global Wine Co., San Rafael, CA
$4 at the Oakland, CA, store on 7 July

HautBlanville_2011_PeyralsBlancThis wine is one of a bunch that came in to the Oakland store from Global Wine Company imports.  It is currently listed for $10 for Williams-Sonoma wine club members. Their web site states:

This blend comes from Château Haut-Blanville, an estate not far from the coast, near Montpellier. Parisians Bernard and Beatrice Nivollet bought the property in 1997 and completely renovated it. Haut-Blanville’s vines are planted on several terroirs; Les Peyrals is on chalky, pebbly ground on a plateau overlooking the Mediterranean. A variety of flora surrounds the vineyard, including fig, pine and olive trees as well as wild-growing herbs like thyme, rosemary and savory. A mineral-tinged Grenache Blanc makes a base for this compelling white, with Chardonnay offering body and suppleness and Sauvignon Blanc providing aromatics.

I think it’s a pleasant and quite nice wine for $4 at the GO.

At first opening, this wine seemed rather thin, tart, and minerally.  With a little time, this opened to a modestly elegant wine showing medium-intense flavors of yellow melon / slight honeysuckle, lemon, austere white peach with some pit bitterness, and still some minerality.  It’s neither tremendously compelling nor just a totally simple quaffer, but rather an easy drink that has some complexity if you’re interested in paying attention.

The next day, I think what it might have lost in elegance is easily made up for in fruit-forwardness and more overt complexity.  Maybe less elegant, but more yummy!


This morning I started working part-time at the Richmond Grocery Outlet, mostly in the beer and wine section.  The store managers are people I met a few years ago because of my participation in this blog, and they’re fine with my continuing to express my personal opinions here about the GO wines I taste.  The prevailing wage in Richmond is hardly outstanding, so rest assured I’m not cashing in for the big bucks here, and I will still be paying full price for everything I buy.  I plan to still administrate this site, and I expect to still get to other GOs, but I may have less time to write reviews. So, y’all… please continue to post about interesting new finds and about your thoughts on the reviews here.  Thank you!

David Hill 2011 Pinot Noir

Willamette Valley, OR; 12.5% ABV
$7 at the Richmond, CA, store on 1 July

DavidHill_2011_PinotNoirOn the first night, I thought this wine was tasty enough, but not outstanding.  Over a couple hours of air, it developed nice flavors of black cherry, red raspberry, earth, maybe even black pepper, with the acid a little on the strong side for me.  However, the body never much texture or viscosity and the flavors never integrated very well.  I thought it was still possible it could be better the second day.

The second half, stoppered in a 375ml bottle with very little air, has a very full nose of ripe black cherry, cola / maybe root beer, and dark raspberry, a little earthy, maybe a little orange.  On the palate, there’s what was in the nose, with acid that’s still a bit strong for me and has a slight spoiled component.  It’s certainly better integrated, and has intriguing complexity, but I still don’t find it that pleasant or substantial.