These are notes on wines we've bought and drunk at 1105 Altschul Ave., for reference when we're in the market again. So far, they're mostly reviews by Rick Moen, but Cheryl's are included when she provides them.
Sterling Albert Winery, Mt. Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon, 2003: This one was pretty much your basic Cabernet Sauvignon. Nicely well rounded flavours, but nothing to write home about. 2009-01-11. Gift bottle.
LIOCO Indica, 2006 (blended red wine from Redwood Valley, Mendocino County; 87% Carignan, 13% Petite Sirah). Lovely. Has a very complex, velvety texture, medium body, slightly tannic, very intense, spicy berry taste. 2009-01-17. $18 @ Beltramo's.
Noceto Sangiovese, 2006. Plymouth, Shenandoah Valley, Amador County. Perfect replica of a Chianti. Medium dry, well balanced. Mild cherry taste and a bit of spice. Not overpowering. 2009-01-21. $15 @ Beltramo's.
Fife Vineyards, Redhead Vineyard Zinfandel, 2003, Redwood Valley, Mendocino County. Nice heavy Zinfandel, kind of full and cherry-like, but a bit monochromatic for a Zin. 2009-01-25.
Castle Rock Winery, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005, Geyserville, Napa County. Classic Cabernet Sauvignon, with all the overtones of flavour one hopes for, but good rather than great. Definitely needed to breathe, to get the oak out. 2006-01-26. $10 @ Beltramo's.
Beringer, Founders' Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005. Interesting. At first, I thought this wine was both thin-tasting and tasted too much of new oak, even after breathing for several hours. After letting it breathe overnight and trying again, it still seems light but has an interesting mix of fruit tastes, and most of the oak has faded. Very good. 2009-02-02. $8 @ Beltramo's.
Sobon Estate, Zinfandel Old Vines, 2007, Plymouth, Amador County. Exceptionally interesting and lively. Both Cheryl and I considered this a winner. 2009-02-02. $10 @ Beltramo's.
Avalon, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005, Graton, Sonoma County. Nice, clean, tasty Cabernet Sauvignon, though I'm not hugely excited about it. Might want to try this one again when I don't have a head cold. 2009-02-09. $11 @ Beltramo's.
Durban Vin de Pays du Vaucluse, Red Wine, 2007, cuvée sélectionée par Kermit Lynch, mis en bouteille par Leydier et fils, propriétaires, 84190 Vaucluse, France. Vaucluse is in the eastern part of Provence, east of the Rhône River. This wine is a perfectly fine 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 10% Marsellan mix, a little peppery, smooth, subtle, interesting flavours. Worth trying again. 2009-02-11. $10 @ Beltramo's.
Huntington, Petite Sirah, 2005, Soledad, Monterey County. A little subdued for a Petite Sirah, but otherwise OK. Cheryl likes it a great deal. 2009-03-13. $10 @ Beltramo's.
Cartlidge and Browne, Pinot Noir, 2007, American Canyon, Napa County. Nice, light, subtle taste with a haunting aftertaste. Sort of plummy but bright and sharp. Worth considering again. $11 @ Beltramo's.
JR Storey Winery's Sisyphus, 2006, Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo County. 80% Syrah, 20% Grenache. Extremely nice blend. Complex, spicy, a big wine. 2009-02-23. $14 @ Beltramo's.
Le Grotte Reggiano Lambrusco, Rosso Dolce (Soft Red Wine), bottled by Cantine Mederfil, apparently bottled 2008. "Lambrusco" is the grape varietal. Region is Emilia-Romagna ("reggio" meaning region), on the northeast side of Italy, from the Apennines down to the Po River delta, capital Bologna. This wine comes from Emilia, the western, upland portion. Wow. This is the first sparkling wine I've actually liked. It's slightly (but not very) sweet or "amabile", slightly (but not very) bubbly (which the Italians call "frizzante" = sparkling, which results from only a partial secondary fermentation, as opposed to "spumante", which means full methode champagnoise), bright, and fruity. "Soft" flavour. Interesting sour-plum taste. Delicate bouquet. Serve chilled. 2009-02-25. $5 @ Trader Joe's.
Bodegas y Viñedos O. Fournier's 'Urban Uco Malbec', 2007, La Consulta, Mendoza region, Argentina. Almost as good as our favourite Malbec, Terrazas de los Andes. A little less smooth and interesting, but still notable. 2009-03-03. $10 @ Cost Plus World Market.
Drouhin Laforêt Bourgogne Pinot Noir, 2006, Burgundy, France. Nicely rounded, fruity, smooth. Worth having just to see what a Burgundy / Pinot Noir is supposed to taste like. 2009-03-09. $13 @ Beltramo's.
Tres Pinos Tierra Roja Paso Robles Red Wine, 2007, bottled by Maddalena Vineyards, Los Angeles, for Trader Joe's. Mix of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah grapes from Paso Robles. Nice, a big wine, kind of jammy, plummy, cherry, raspberry flavour. 2009-03-15. $5 @ Trader Joe's.
Terrazas de los Andes Winery, Malbec, Mendoza region, Argentina. Winery is a subsidiary of Moet et Chandon. Just perfect, intense, rounded. $10 @ Beltramo's.
Aquila D'Oro, Toscana, Indicazione Geografica Tipica, 2006. Classic north-Italian dry red, mellow tasting, not as sharp as a Chianti. Flavour is growing on me: pleasantly jammy, not overwhelming. 2009-04-23. $4 @ Trader Joe's.
Perrin et Fils Réserve, Côtes du Rhône Rouge, 2007. Complex. Peppery, cherry. I like it, but I have to say it tastes a bit unbalanced and raw compared to my favourite, E. (Etienne) Guigal. Label says it's 60% Grenache, 20 Syrah, 10% Mouvèdre, 10% Cinsault. 2009-04-23. $8 @ Beltramo's.
Barbolini (Azienda Agricola Cantina Barbolini) Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro. Made from the Grasparossa varietal. Not bad, but just a bit of a let-down from the wonderful Le Grotte Reggiano Lambrusco. Still fruity, but a bit flat and uninteresting. 2009-04-23. $13 @ Beltramo's.
Blackstone Winery, Merlot, 2007. I enjoyed this more than any other Merlot I've ever had; those usually strike me as bland. This had surprising depth, and I'd welcome having it again. 2009-05-19. $8 @ Beltramo's.
Beckmen Vineyards's Cuvee le Bec, 2007, Los Olivos, Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Barbara County. 44% Grenache, 28% Syrah, 20% Mourvèdre, 8% Counoise. Man, this was delightful and tasty -- going by memory, sort of jammy, with deep complexity. Really good. 2009-05-19. $14 @ Beltramo's.
Bodegas Marqués de Cáceres's Rioja Crianza. 2005. Tempranillo, Garnacha (Grenache), and Graciano grapes. From Cenicero in Rioja Alta region, Spain. I can't remember details, but remember this being a pretty pleasing and sophisticated wine, worth getting again. 2009-05-19. $13 @ Beltramo's.
Bonny Doon Vineyard's Chequera Vineyard Paso Robles Viognier, 2008. Nice white wine, a rare varietal from the Rhône Valley with a floral aroma. Crisp, dry, fruit-forward. 2009-06-06. $20 @ Bonny Doon Vineyard.
Bonny Doon Vineyard's Syrah "Le Pousseur", 2005. Superb example of a Syrah: dry, full-bodied, complex. Nice, subtle bouquet. 2009-06-06. $18 @ Bonny Doon Vineyard.
Bonny Doon Vineyard's Ca' del Solo Sangiovese, 2006. San Benito County. Has that classic north Italian character, but also an individual taste all its own. I was going to call it a bit rough and unfinished, but it's really quite lovely once you get to know it. 2009-06-06. $12 @ Bonny Doon Vineyard.
Bonny Doon Vineyard's California Viognier Light Port, 2001. 92% Viognier, 3.7% Strawberry Eau-de-vie, 3.0% raw grape spirit, 1.3% Peach Eau-de-vie. It's indeed light, and fruity (which would be the fresh grape spirits plus peach and strawberry brandies in it), with a really lovely, long finish. Slightly sweet and dry at the same time. 2009-06-06. $20 @ Bonny Doon Vineyard.
Ceago Vinegarden's Dynamic 2007 Red Table Wine. Redwood Valley, Lake County. 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 17% Syrah. Interesting, fruity, cherry, complex, unusual flavour. Grapes are grown according to "biodynamic" agricultural principles. I'll want to try this again, before I can really judge it, but I do like it. 2009-08-23. $9 @ Trader Joe's.
2Sons Winery's (Terlato Wines International's) Hunter Ashby Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005. It has black currant and cherry, spicy, dry, smooth. 2009-08-24. $9 @ Trader Joe's.
Ca' De Medici Lambrusco Reggiano, 2006. Light, fun. I would try this again. 2009-08-24. $5 @ Trader Joe's.
Filippo Gallino 'Birbet', 2008. Northwest Italian, fun, lightly carbonated. 2009-10-17. $15 @ Beltramo's.
Doña Paula Malbec. Mendoza region, Argentina. Lovely, almost as nice as our favourite. 2009-10-17. $8 @ Beltramo's.
Trimbach Gewurztraminer. 2006. Alsace, France. 2009-10-17. $18 @ Beltramo's.
Jeff Runquist Wines's Runquist Barbera. 2007. 2009-10-17. $20 @ Beltramo's.
Bedrock Wine Company's The Sherman and Hooker's Shebang Sonoma Valley Red Jug Wine. 1 litre. Old Vine Zin, Syrah, Mourvèdre, and Cinsault grapes. 2006-07 vintages. 2009-10-17. $14 @ Beltramo's.
Martella 'Hammer' Syrah. 2006. 2009-10-17. $17 @ Beltramo's. Perfectly fine, representative Syrah.
Marietta Cellars's Old Vine Red Lot 49. Zinfandel blend. 2009-10-17. $10 @ Beltramo's.
Bogle Vineyards California Petite Sirah. 2007. Grapes from Clarksburg (Northern Solano County, near Sacramento) and Lodi. 2009-11-17. $10 @ Beltramo's.
Thomas Fogarty 'Monterey' Gewurztraminer. 2006. 2009-11-17. $12 @ Beltramo's.
Wiese and Krohn, Sucrs., Limitada's Krohn 20 Year Old Tawny Port. Very soft, sweet, sensuous on the tongue. 2009-11-21. $39 @ Beltramo's.
Zind Humbrecht Riesling. 2007. Alsace, France. Lovely aroma, crisp, slightly acid / fruity flavour, i.e., exactly the way a Reisling is supposed to be. 2009-11-21. $22 @ Beltramo's.
Bouchard Père et Fils Beaune Clos de la Mousse. Burgundy / Pinot Noir. Beautiful, lush, smooth burgundy. 2009-11-21. $45 @ Beltramo's.
Walter Hansel 'Estate' Pinot Noir 2007. Russian River, Sonoma County. 2009-11-21. $32 @ Beltramo's.
Marietta Cellars's Old Vine Red Lot #50. Zinfandel blend. Cheryl says: "Sharp, but not unpleasant aftertaste. Slightly bitter on the tongue. I like it." 2009-12-13. $10 @ Beltramo's.
Kanonkop 'Kadette' 2008. 50% Pinotage, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc. Stellenbosch, South Africa. I've never before had a Pinotage, which is a viticultural cross between Pinot Noir and Hermitage, bred in South Africa in 1925 (Hermitage being the South African name for Cinsault), and that is sometimes faulted for sometimes developing an acetone-like smell. Very unusual, complex, and interesting. A bit smoky tasting, spicy, acidic, a bit tannic with a sharp dry aftertaste. 2009-12-13. $11 @ Beltramo's.
Hedges Family Estate's 'Three Vineyards' Red Mountain Red Wine. Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. From Yakima Valley, Washington. I liked this very much but didn't keep notes. Lucky us, we get to buy it again to study it some more. 2009-12-13. $18 @ Beltramo's.
M. Cosentino 'California' Cabernet Franc, bottled by Crystal Valley Cellars, Yountville. 2006. Lovely in its own right; tastes smooth (of course) and is full-bodied but has a nice, long finish. Not all that memorable by my standards, though. 2009-12-13. $13 @ Beltramo's.
Taz 'Santa Barbara County' Pinot Noir. 2007. 2009-12-13. $19 @ Beltramo's.
La Spinetta 'Bricco Quaglia' Moscato D'Asti. 2008. Northwest Italy. 2009-12-13. $16 @ Beltramo's.
Boekenhoutskloof's 'The Chocolate Block'. 2008. 69% Syrah, 12% Grenache Noir, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Cinsault, 2% Viognier. Franschhoek region, South Africa. Really interesting, complex wine with (indeed) a bit of a chocolate overtone. 2010-01-02. $33 @ Beltramo's.
Bodegas Borsao 'Monte Oton' Garnacha (Grenache). 2008. Borja, Aragón, Spain. Very pleasantly full-flavoured, unlike most California Grenaches. Should try more of this. 2010-01-02. $8 @ Beltramo's.
Robert Foley Vineyards's 'The Griffin'. 2007. 43% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Petite Sirah, 22% Merlot. Angwin, Napa Valley. Really tasty blend, slightly spicy, berry-like, medium body. Good. 2010-01-02. $30 @ Beltramo's.
Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) Val de L'Ours Cabernet Sauvignon 75%, Syrah 25%. 2008. Vin de Pays d'Oc, northern Languedoc-Roussillon, France. Produced and bottled by SAS Aussières. Not very good in my opinion. It has a rather flat, off taste, and the average cheap California Shiraz at half the money is far and away more satisfying. 2010-01-12. $10 @ Beltramo's.
M. Cosentino 'California' Syrah, bottled by Crystal Valley Cellars, Yountville. 2005. Blend of grapes from Mandeville Island and the Kirschenmann and Knoll vineyards in northern Lodi. A keeper. This is light but complex and rounded, slightly plummy, really nice finish. 2010-02-10. $10 @ Beltramo's.
Patricius Winery Tokaji Furmint. 2008. Dry white wine from Tokaj, northeast Hungary. Interesting and unique flavour combination, worth trying again but overall I just didn't find it compelling. 2010-02-10. $15 @ Beltramo's.
Allegrini Palazzo della Torre 2006. Blend of 70% Corvina Veronese, 25% Rondinella, and 5% Sangiovese grapes. Full-bodied, rich, dense smooth, black berry/cherry, long finish. Made in Fumane, near Verona, Italy. 30% of the grapes picked are held back and dried after the harvest until December, then added back in (Amarone or ripasso style). 2010-03-12. $17 @ Beltramo's.
Marietta Cellars's Old Vine Red Lot #51. Zinfandel blend. Every bit as good as lots 50 and 49, for the same reasons. 2010-03-12. $10 @ Beltramo's.
Castello di Monastero's Chianti Superiore, 2006. 85% Sangiovese, 8% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon. From vintner Lionello Marchesi, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Tuscany, Italy. Classic Sangiovese-blend Chianti flavour. A steal at the price. 2010-03-12. $7 @ Beltramo's.
Azienda Agricola Masciarelli S.N.C.'s Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, 2006. San Martino sulla Marrucina, Abruzzo, Italy. 2010-03-12. $7 @ Beltramo's.
Bodega Catena Zapata's Alamos Malbec, 2008. Mendoza region, Argentina. Another really tasty, well-rounded, full-bodied Malbec. Not a very complex wine, but perfectly OK. 2010-03-12. $9 @ Beltramo's.
Rosenblum Cellars's California Syrah, Vintner's Cuveé, 2007. Sonoma. 2010-03-12. Sort of "soft" flavour for a Syrah, but with a really delicious aftertaste, very smooth, not much body, but on balance very refreshing and nice. $10 @ Beltramo's.
Charles F. Mara Winery's Syrage Red Wine, 2007. 42% Syrah, 41% Petite Syrah, 16% Malbec. St. Helena. Complex, somewhat heavy mix with an interesting aftertaste. Not a lot of synergy among the varietals, in my opinion, but the result is about what you'd expect from throwing those three grapes together, anyway. 2010-03-25. $17 @ Beltramo's.
Tin Barn Vineyards's Syrah, 2005. Coryelle Fields Vineyard, Sonoma Coast. Ah, tasty! Nice body, full and characteristically Syrah flavour. 2010-04-14. $11 @ Draeger's.
Acacia Vineyard's A by Acacia Red Blend, 2007. Sonoma. Rhône-style: 92% Syrah, with some Mourvèdre, Cinsault, and Viognier. 2010-04-14. $11 @ Draeger's.
Brucher Winery Pinot Noir, 2007. Produced from grapes produced by Brucher Winery and Wolff Vineyards, Edna Valley, near San Luis Obispo and Santa Maria. 2010-04-14. $16 @ Draeger's.
E. (Etienne) Guigal's Cotes du Rhône, 2006. Chateau d'Ampuis, Rhône, France. The greatest Rhône wine I know, and a classic Syrah blend. 2010-04-14. $16 @ Draeger's.
Trinitas Cellars's Spinelli Live Oak Vineyard (Contra Costa County) Zinfandel, 2005. 2010-04-14. $20 @ Draeger's.
Frei Brothers Reserve Russian River Valley Syrah, 2007. Healdsburg. 2010-04-14. $18 @ Draeger's.
Bodegas Solar Viejo's Vaza Rioja Crianza, 2006. Laguardia, Rioja region, Spain. Tempranillo, which typically is blended with Graciano, Mazuela and Grancha, but is not in this case. Definitely a little different; we'd need to try this one again. 2010-04-14. $14 @ Draeger's.
Twenty Rows Winery's Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007. Napa. 95% Cabernet Sauvignon from Howel Mountain and the Yountville foothills. 5% Merlot from Oak Knoll. 2010-04-14. $20 @ Draeger's.
Vinedos De Aldeanueva's Cortijo III Tinto 2008. 80% Tempranillo, 20% Garnacha. Hormilla, Rioja region, Spain. Perfectly OK Tempranillo. 2010-04-14. $10 @ Draeger's.
Bodegas Bilbaínas Viña Zaco, 2006. Haro, Rioja Alta region, Spain. Tempranillo. It's a bit heavy, rough, and generally not very interesting. Neither Cheryl nor I was very impressed. 2010-04-14. $14 @ Draeger's.
Spicerack Vineyards's "Punchdown" Syrah, 2008. Rodgers Creek ranch area, Sonoma coast. Really good. 94% Syrah, 4% Viognier, 2% Grenache. 2010-04-14. $17 @ Draeger's.
Bordegas Borsao, Sociedad Anónima's Borsao Red Wine, 2008. 75% Garnacha, 25% Tempranillo. Very polished, i.e., rounded taste that is very much typical of a Garnacha/Tempranillo, but I just didn't find it very interesting. 2010-04-14. $8 @ Draeger's.
Dominio Del Plata Winery's Crios de Susana Balbo Malbec, 2008. Mendoza region, Argentina. Wow, spicy, cherry, plum, and blackberry flavours. Very pleasantly zingy aftertaste. Needs to breathe, to lose tannin from its time in new oak. 2010-04-26. $11 @ Draeger's.
Beckmen Vineyards's Cuvee le Bec, 2008, Los Olivos, Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Barbara County. 51% Grenache, 27% Syrah, 16% Mourvèdre, 6% Counoise. The 2007 vintage (reviewed above) knocked our socks off, so I expect greatness of this wine, not yet opened at this writing. 2010-05-09. $16 @ Beltramo's.
Menzies Vineyard's The Cigar Cabernet Sauvignon. 2006. Yalumba Coonawarra Estate, South Australia. Really nice classic Cabernet Sauvignon. 2010-05-09. $20 @ Beltramo's.
Carica Wines's Kick Ranch "Temptation" Red Wine, 2007. Santa Rosa. Absolutely delightful Rhône-style blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvèdre. Lots of plum and other fruit/berry flavours. Intense. Badly needs to breathe before it's drinkable, to lose the tannin. 2010-05-11. $22 @ Beltramo's.
Tres Pinos Tierra Roja Paso Robles Red Wine, 2008, bottled by Maddalena Vineyards, Los Angeles, for Trader Joe's. Mix of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah grapes from Paso Robles. 2010-06-22. $5 @ Trader Joe's.
French Hill Winery Pinotage Grand Reserve, 2004. Mokelumne Hill, Calaveras County, Sierra Nevada foothills. 2010-06-22. $13 @ Trader Joe's.
Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard Pinot Noir, Branciforte Creek, 2007. 2010-06-19. $29 @ Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard.
Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard Durif, McDowell Valley, 2007. Vines are in Mendocino County. This is the varietal known in the USA mostly as Petite Sirah. I think this is the first subtle-tasting Petite Sirah I've ever had. It's a bit peppery like a typical Petite Sirah, and with all the berry flavour, but more restrained and balanced. On balance, really good. 2010-06-19. $18 @ Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard.
Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard Grenache, McDowell Valley, 2007. Vines are in Mendocino County. By far, the tastiest Grenache I've ever had, much more robust tasting than is typical, and dry with a fair amount of tannin. Has sort of a peppery finish. Wonderful. 2010-06-19. $18 @ Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard.
Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard Quinta Cruz Verdelho, 2009. Vines are at Silvaspoons Vineyard, Galt, Sacramento County. Verdelho is cultivated in Portugal's Dão region to make aromatic dry table wines. 2010-06-19. $20 @ Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard.
R.L. Buller and Son Fine Tokay - Victoria. Rutherglen, Victoria, Australia. Bought based on recommendation of this winery's excellent port-style fortified wines. This is a lovely fortified somewhat sweet dessert wine made from Muscadelle grapes and made from solera-blending several years' vintages. Smooth, complex. Toffee, caramel, nuttiness, long, pleasant aftertaste. 2010-06-23. $15 (375 ml) @ Beltramo's.
Seghesio Family Vineyards's Sonoma County Zinfandel, 2008. Healdsburg. My very favourite Zinfandel. Cheryl concurs, liking this wine very much. She comments: "Happiness is a bottle of this." 2010-06-11. $19 at Beltramo's.
Martella 'Hammer' Syrah. 2007. 2010-06-11. $17 @ Beltramo's.
Smith Woodhouse Vintage Port, 1980. Bright ruby colour, berry, strawberry, licorice, cherry. Incredibly smooth, silky feel, moderately sweet. 2010-06-11. $80 @ Beltramo's.
Noceto Sangiovese, 2007. Plymouth, Shenandoah Valley, Amador County. Superb Chianti-replica as always. Medium dry, well balanced. Mild cherry taste and a bit of spice. Not overpowering. 2010-06-11. $15 @ Beltramo's.
Sigalas 'Santorini', Assyrtiko, 2009. Santorini Island, Greece. Assyrtiko is a white-wine grape dry-farmed on Santorini since ancient times. Not as intense as the red wine we brought home with us from Santorini, but I like it. Citrusey, delicate, tastes a bit like a good Reisling. 2010-06-23. $20 @ Beltramo's.
Symington Family Estates's Vale do Bomfim, 2007. Douro Valley, Portugal. This is the same house that produces Dow ports. Red wine blend: 58% Tinta Barroca, 15% Tinta Roriz, 14% Touriga Nacional, 8% Tinto Cão, 5% Tinta Amerela. 2010-06-23. Really nice, dry blend. It's unfamiliar enough that I'd like to try it again before I comment more. $11 @ Beltramo's.
Andrew Lane Wines's Nouveau Suisun Valley Gamay Noir, 2009. This is a young summer wine made using the Gamay Noir à Jus Blanc aka Gamay Noir aka Gamay grape that is the traditional red grape of the Beaujolais region and a cousin of Pinot Noir. And yes, the grape is what produces those lightweight "Beaujolais Nouveau" things from the southern Beaujolais region of France, where the alkaline soil and use of carbonic maceration for quick production makes it come out like alcoholic soda pop, whereas Beltramo's claims this one will come out complex and interesting. Confusingly, Gamay Noir / Gamay is not the same as California's "Gamay Beaujolais" grape, which is an early-ripening Californian clone of Pinot Noir that pioneering vintner Paul Masson imported in the 1930s from Burgundy under the mistaken impression it was Gamay Noir, and promoted as that: Real Gamay Noir wasn't planted in California until 1973. Nor is the "Napa Gamay" varietal Gamay Noir, either (as was also claimed until recently): That turns to actually be the Valdiguié grape from Languedoc-Roussillon. Perhaps even more confusingly, it's now known that (the real) Gamay Noir / Gamay originated in the classical era as a viticultural cross between Pinot Noir and the ancient Gouais Blanc varietal from Central Europe, brought west by the Romans. This one is young and fruity, light, dry, and well balanced. 2010-06-23. $10 at Beltramo's.
Rancho Zabaco's Sonoma Heritage Vines Zinfandel, 2007. Healdsburg. Before the tannin went away: Plum and blackberry flavours, heavy but a bit bland and flat-seeming. Tannic. 24 hours later, after the tannin went away: Delicate and lovely, still strongly tasting of plum and blackberry, but nicely rounded with a pleasant finish. Conclusion: Let it breathe, and this becomes a quite nice wine for the price. 2010-06-23. $12 @ Beltramo's.
Orin Cellars's Prisoner' Red Wine, 2008. 46% Zinfandel, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Syrah, 10% Petite Sirah, 2% Charbono, 1% Grenache. Cheryl says: Smooth, no tannic bitterness, has pleasing body texture. Rick agrees: This is a very nice blend, with a character all its own. 2010-06-23. $35 @ Beltramo's.
Cinnabar Cellars's Mercury Rising, 2007. Bordeaux-style red blend. An attractive blend that's well worth the money. Spicy, bright, with cherry flavour. Needs to breathe to get the tannin out. Paso Robles. 2010-06-23. $15 @ Beltramo's.
Seppeltsfield No. 7 Tawny, South Australia. Recommended by K&L staff, this port-style fortified wine is pretty good and moderately complex. Generally worthy of respect, though I guess I'm spoiled by good Portuguese ports. 2010-06-27. $22 @ K&L Wine Merchants.
Ca Berti Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro "Semi-Secco", Emilia-Romagna, Italy. Another fun Lambrusco. Not quite as festive as Le Grotte Reggiano's, but worthy of respect. Well balanced, plummy but not very complex. 2010-06-27. $8 @ K&L Wine Merchants.
Osocalis Alambic Brandy, Soquel. Colombard, Pinot Noir, and other Coastal Callifornia grape varieties. $45 @ K&L Wine Merchants. A bit "hot", but enjoyable. (I'm not a brandy guy normally, so I don't know what else to say about it.)
E & J Gallo Winery / Apothic Wines's Apothic Red 2008 California Winemaker's Blend, Modesto. Pleasant mix of Zinfandel, Merlot, and Syrah. Interesting, different, vanilla-tinged, more than a little sweet, unsubtle fruit with not much body or complexity. Zinfandel influence is foremost. A not-very-serious but fun blend, worthy of respect for the price. Cheryl writes: "Like. Interesting aroma, taste, and aftertaste." 2010-09-04. $11 @ Draeger's.
Chateau Sauvage Winery's Canard Sauvage Zinfandel, 2008. Winery in Sebastopol, Sonoma County. Grapes from Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County. I'd be really surprised if "Canard Sauvage / Chateau Sauvage" didn't turn out to be either some more-famous winery's inexpensive-wine alternate brand, or a clever Sebastopol wine-making entrepreneur who buys up other growers' excess pressings. The bottle's label is subtitled "Better than most at this price", and that's about right: It's a very polished Zinfandel blend, a little sweet for a Zinfandel, lacking most of Zinfandel's spice, sort of cherry, berry, plum. Yeah, a Robert Parker-style fruit bomb, but relatively subtle given that fact. No distinctive character, but an OK dinner wine. Be warned that it's almost 15% alcohol by volume. 2010-10-08. $10 @ Trader Joe's.
Trader Joe's Reserve Petite Verdot, 2009. Grown at Santa Margarita Ranch, Santa Maria, near Paso Robles. Really lovely, relatively simple wine with vanilla, plum, blackberry, and peppery tastes. Tannic. Some bottles are a lot better than others. I've never had a Petite Verdot before; my understanding is that it's one of the varietals used to make Bordeauxs. 2010-10-08. $10 @ Trader Joe's.
San Nicolas Tolentino's La Granja 360 Tempranillo Garnacha, 2009. 50% Tempranillo, 50% Garnacha. Perfectly OK Spanish red, not exceptional but great for the price. 2010-10-08. $5 @ Trader Joe's.
Weingut Gebruder Anselmann GmbH's Villa Palatina Reisling Eiswein, Edesheim, Pfalz, Germany. 375 ml. 2010-10-08. $20 @ Trader Joe's.
Trader Joe's Coastal Zinfandel, 2008. Castoro Cellars, San Miguel. It's a light, understated Zinfandel with not much of the grape's spiciness, but some well-rounded fruit flavour and a perfectly OK casual wine. 2010-10-28. $4 @ Trader Joe's.
Gnarly Head Cellars's Old Vine Zin, 2008. Lodi, San Joaquin County. 2010-10-31. $11 @ Target.
Charles Shaw California Shiraz, 2008. Ceres, Stanislaus County. This is the famous 'Two-Buck Chuck' bulk-wine label of Bronco Wine Company (Fred and Joe Franzia). 2010-11-06. $2 @ Trader Joe's.
Beaulieu Vineyards's Tempranillo Maestro Collection, 2007, Rutherford. Very much like a good Spanish Tempranillo. 2010-11-12. $25 @ Beaulieu Vineyard.
Pine Station Red Table Wine, 2006. St. Helena. 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot, 33% Zinfandel. Pine Station is the lower-priced brand of Milat Vineyards. Pretty tasty blend but without a lot of distinctive character. 2010-11-12. $18 @ Milat Vineyards.
Milat Vineyards's Zinfandel, 2007. St. Helena. Perfectly decent Zinfandel (but expensive). 2010-11-12. $25 @ Milat Vineyards.
Milat Vineyards's Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006. St. Helena. Notably thin and lacking in character for a Cabernet Sauvignon. Would be unsatisfactory for 1/6 of the price. 2010-11-12. $36 @ Milat Vineyards.
Bodegas Escorihuela Gascón's Gascón Malbec, 2009, Mendoza region, Argentina. It was OK, but nothing approaching the really good Argentine Malbecs. 2010-11-30. $10 @ Trader Joe's.
Marques de Montañana Garnacha Red Wine, 2009. Villaroya de la Sierra, Zaragoza, Aragon, Spain. Gee, I wish I could have evaluated this bottle on its merits, but it was so extremely sour, even after breathing, as to drown any flavour. Possibly a bad bottle. 2010-12-27. $5 at Trader Joe's.
Tres Pinos Three Pines Cuveé, 2009, bottled by San Antonio Winery, Los Angeles, for Trader Joe's. Syrah, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, from San Luis Obispo County. 2010-12-27. $5 at Trader Joe's.
Grand Cru Vineyards's California Merlot, 2008. Napa or Sonoma County. Perfectly inoffensive Merlot with nothing special to recommend it. 2010-12-28. $3 @ Sigona's.
Robert Hall Winery Rhône de Robles, 2006. Paso Robles. 46% Grenache, 45% Syrah, 6% Cinsault, and 3% Counoise. 2010-12-30. $12 @ Trader Joe's.
Kenwood Vinyards Zinfandel, 2007. Kenwood, Sonoma County. 2011-01-16. $9 at Safeway.
Moss Brothers's Jane Moss Western Australia 2002 Moses Rock Red. Really nice red varietals blend. Unusual; we should keep an eye out for similar offerings. $7 at an estate sale.
David Bruce Central Coast Petite Syrah, 2000. An absolutely classic, perfect Petite Sirah. $8 at an estate sale.
Fetzer Reserve Port, 1996. 80% Petite Sirah, 20% Zinfandel. An extremely likeable New World reinterpretation of the fortified-wine port idea. Not the same thing, but very worthy of respect. $10 at an estate sale.
Dry Creek Vineyard Old Vine Zinfandel, 2006. Healdsburg, Sonoma County. A classic old-style Zinfandel, as good as they come. $12 at an estate sale.
Cascina Gagliassi Langhe Rosso, 1997. Winery is in Monforte d'Alba, Piedmont, Italy. (Monforte d'Alba is part of the zone known for producing the Barolo varietal. Langhe is a hilly winegrowing region in that same area.) Very fruity (cherry, citrus). Might just need to cellar some more? $10 at an estate sale.
Beaulieu Vineyard Coastal Zinfandel, 1999. Rutherford, Napa County. $5 at an estate sale.
Stonestreet Winery's Alexander Valley Merlot, 1996, Healdsburg, Sonoma County. 76% Merlot, 19% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc. $20 at an estate sale.
Ruffino Riserva Ducale Chianti Classico, 1995. Pontassieve, Tuscany, Italy. 85% Sangiovese. $7 at an estate sale.
Ruffino Riserva Ducale Oro Chianti Classico, 1999. Pontassieve, Tuscany, Italy. 85% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot / Colorino. $10 at an estate sale.
Martinez Gassiol & Co. Ltd. Vintage Port, 1985. Oporto, Portugal. $20 at an estate sale.
Viña Jose Canepa Finisimo Cabernet Sauvignon, 1993. Maipo, Chile. $10 at an estate sale.
Sea Ridge Coastal Winery's Sea Ridge Syrah, 2008. Napa and Sonoma. This turns out to be an alternate brand of Fred Franzia's Bronco Wine Company, makers of the famous/infamous Charles Shaw wines aka Two-Buck Chuck. Grapes probably come (mostly) from Franzia's vineyards in the Tehachapi foothills and are merely processed at a big plant at the south end of Napa Valley. Other Franzia / Bronco brands include ForestVille Vineyard, Montpellier Vineyard, Hacienda Wine Cellars, Forest Glen, Estrella, Napa Ridge, Coastal Ridge, Silver Ridge, Salmon Creek, Domaine Napa, and Crane Lake -- most or all of those being names of distressed wine businesses that Bronco picked up cheaply. In this case, lots of fruit: cherry, plum, blackberry. The finish is a bit off, but not badly, especially considering the price. 2011-06-26. $3 at Safeway.
Bodega Catena Zapata's Alamos Malbec, 2010. Mendoza region, Argentina. 2011-06-26. $10 @ Safeway.
Royal Tokaji Borászati Zártkörûen Mûködö Részvénytársaság's Royal Tokaji Aszú 5 Buttonyos, 2006. Mád, Tokaj, Hungary. Blend of Furmint, Harslevelu, and Muscat de Lunel. This is a very famous dessert wine, produced since around 1600. It's light, sweet, strongly reminiscent of apricot, orange, and honey, with a light colour to match. 500 ml. 2011-06-19. $35 @ Beltramo's.
Bodegas Emilio Lustau, Sociedad Anónima's Pedro Ximénez San Emilio Sherry Solera Reserva. Pedro Pedro Ximénez is the name of the varietal. Fortified white wine. 2011-06-19. $28 @ Beltramo's.
Bedrock Wine Company's The Sherman and Hooker's Shebang Sonoma Valley Red Jug Wine, Third Cuvee. 1 litre. Old Vine Zin, Syrah, Mourvèdre, and Cinsault grapes. 2011-06-19. $14 @ Beltramo's.
Churchill's Estates Douro Red, 2007. Oporto, Portugal. 30% Touriga Nacional, 30% Touriga Franca, 30% Tinta Roriz. Another lovely Portuguese blend. It's dry, dark, fragrant, a bit acidic, a little subdued and smooth. There's plenty of fruit, but it's subdued. Easily worth the asking price. 2011-06-19. $18 @ Beltramo's.
Ettore Germano Langhe Nebbiolo, 2009. Serralunga d'Alba, Piedmont, Italy. Medium-light body for a Nebbiolo, aromatic, well-balanced mixture of light spice, floral scent, raspberry. I could learn to like it, but didn't find it very memorable on first encounter. 2011-06-19. $23 @ Beltramo's.
Vina Robles's Red4 Huerhuero, 2008. Paso Robles. 2% Mourvèdre, 34% Petite Sirah, 62% Syrah, 2% Grenache. Pleasant young red-varietal blend, with sweet fruit and full body with medium acid but not a lot of complexity. 2011-06-19. $12 @ Beltramo's.
Andrew Lane Wines's Petite Sirah, 2007. St. Helena, Napa Valley. I really love this one. It has subtle fruit (especially for a Petite Sirah), with a sort of blueberry-plum character and a really lovely, long finish. 2011-06-19. $20 @ Beltramo's.
Orin Swift Cellars's Saldo Zinfandel, 2009. Rutherford, Napa Valley. Extremely fine Zinfandel: Dark, berry flavours, very long and impressive finish. 2011-06-19. $28 at Beltramo's.
Pazo de Señoráns Sociedad Limitada's Albariño Rías Baixas, Meis, Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain, 2010. Light, crisp white wine, tastes a bit like a dry Rhine wine, with subtle fruit. Albariño is the varietal, and means 'white Rhine', so it could be a Reisling relative. 2011-09-17. $22 at Beltramo's.
Bodegas Riojanas Sociedad Anónima's Rioja Gran Reserva 'Monte Real', 1998. 80% Tempranillo, 15% Mazuelo, 5% Garnacha. Superb well-rounded red. A little cherry, a little chocolate, a little coffee. Lovely finish. 2011-09-17. $40 at Beltramo's.
Telmo Rodríguez Moscatel Malága 'MR'. 2007. 500 ml. Intense white dessert wine, aromatic. 2011-09-17. $30 at Beltramo's.
Sobon Estate, Amador County Primitivo, 2008. Plymouth, Amador County. Hello, another winner from Sobon. Bold and spicy. Primitivo is genetically identical to Zinfandel, but this tastes just a bit different. 2011-08-13. $20 @ Beltramo's.
Terre Di Epicuro Aglianico del Beneventano. 2009. Beneventano, Campania, southern Italy. Full bodied red, soft tannins, acid, cherry taste, subtle spice. Aglianico was brought by Greek settlers to Magna Graecia in central and south Italy, and the name might be a corruption of 'Vitis hellenica' or of 'Apulianicum' (south Italy). 2011-10-16. $5 @ Trader Joe's.
Hillgate Winery Roussanne Lake County. 2010. Winery is in Napa. Roussanne is a southern Rhône white varietal, said to be rich and creamy, full bodied with tastes of peaches and pears. 2011-10-16. $7 @ Trader Joe's.
Dearly Beloved Forever Red. 2009. Dearly Beloved Wines is in Ukiah, and is a brand of H.D.D., LLC (formed by Paul Dolan, Heath Dolan, and Phil Hurst) of Healdsberg, owners of Stoneridge Winery in Napa, which put together this big-wine blend as a Trader Joe's exclusive. Blend of 53% Syrah, 19% Zinfandel, and 28% a combination of Petite Sirah, Sangiovese, Carignane, and Grenache, from Mendocino County. 2011-10-16. $7 @ Trader Joe's.
Conte di Bregonzo Amarone della Valpolicella. 2008. Valpolicella, Veneto, Italy. This is a Corvina blend, which is typically 40-70% Corvina, 20-40% Rondinella, and 5-25% Molinara or other. Amarone wine grapes are drived 3-4 months on bamboo racks ("appasimento") before pressing. 2011-10-16. $17 @ TraderJoe's.
Marietta Cellars's Old Vine Red Lot #55. Zinfandel blend. 2011-10-16. $10 @ Beltramo's.
Hugel et Fils Riesling. 2009. Alsace, France. 2011-10-16. $17 @ Beltramo's.
Hugel et Fils Gewurztraminer. 2009. Alsace, France. 2011-10-16. $20 @ Beltramo's.
Dominio Del Plata Winery's Crios de Susana Balbo Malbec. 2009. Mendoza region, Argentina. 2011-10-16. $12 @ Beltramo's.
Vietti Barbera d'Asti Tre Vigne, 2009. Castiglione Falletto, Langhe area, Piedmont, Italy. Unfiltered, young-vines Barbera. 2011-10-16. $16 @ Beltramo's.
Avignonesi Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. 2008. Montepulciano (not to be confused with the varietal), Cortona, Tuscany, Italy. Prugnolo Gentile (Sangiovese) with some Canaiolo and Mammolino. Quite acid, rich, well-balanced, full-bodied. Blackberry, cherrry, licorice, coffee. This is a substantial wine that would cellar well. 2011-10-16. $26 @ Beltramo's.
Donnafugata Societadà a Responsabilitadà Limitata's Sedàra, 2008. Marsala, Sicily, Italy. Nero d'Avola, with some amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and other grapes. Very fruity, balanced. Spice, raspberry, plum. A young wine; not a lot of depth. 2011-10-16. $13 @ Beltramo's.
Poderi Elia Barbera d'Asti Superiore "Vi Veje", 2008. Neive, Piedmont, Italy. Made from 50-year-old vines. 2011-10-16. $16 @ Beltramo's.
V. Palamà Societadà a Responsabilitadà Limitata's Arcangelo Salice Salentino, 2009. Puglia, southernmost Italy. 80% Negroamaro, 20% Malvasia Nera. Lovely, plum, cheery, with some pepper and berries, mixed with a bit of a bitter twist. 2011-10-16. $12 @ Beltramo's.
Qupé Marsanne, 2010. Santa Ynez Valley. 88% Marsanne, 12% Roussanne. 2011-10-16. $16 @ Beltramo's.
Tablas Creek Vineyard's Côtes de Tablas Blanc, 2010. Northern Rhône blend of 54% Viognier, 30% Grenache Blanc, 8% Roussanne, and 8% Marsanne. A nice sharp front taste with citrus in it. Acid. Then you taste melon and peach. It's a bit fragrant, sort of bright-flowery. Dry aftertaste, and a tannic, fruity finish. Cannily balanced among the varietals. 2011-10-16. $23 @ Beltramo's.
JR Storey Winery's Sisyphus, 2008. Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo County. 2011-10-16. $14 @ Beltramo's
Alvear Pedro Ximénez Montilla-Moriles Solera 192 (Sherry). Montilla-Moriles, Andalucia, Spain. 500 ml. 2011-10-16. $23 @ Beltramo's.
Azienda Agricola Sant'Elena's Tato Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, 2008. A bit of cherry flavour, a bit of tannic edge. 2011-10-17. $8 at Trader Joe's.
Domain Skouras's Red, 2009. Argos, Peloponnese, Greece. 95% Agiorghitiko (St. George), 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a wine processed by carbonic maceration, like a Beaujolais Nouveau, and and like that type is a young, spirited, low-acidity wine. It's a bit light-bodied, spiced, with an aroma and taste of strawberries. Delightful, especially at the price. 2011-10-23. $10 at Beltramo's.
Fattoria Bruno Nicodemi Notaresco Italia's Nicodemi Notari Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, 2007. Dark, intense, concentrated, smooth. Plum, pepper, berry, more than a bit tart. 2011-10-23. $20 at Beltramo's.
Cleto Ciarli's Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro Amabile, Vino Frizzante. 'Amabile' means slightly sweet, and 'frizzante' means lightly sparkling, as a result of a partial secondary fermentationa. Lovely, and almost as winning as our favourite Lambrusco. 2011-10-23. $11 at Beltramo's.
Rex-Goliath Winery's H.R.M. Rex-Goliath Free Range Giant 47 Pound Rooster California Merlot (non-vintage). Woodbridge, San Joaquin County. 2011-11-06. $5 at Target.
Bedrock Wine Company's The Sherman and Hooker's Shebang North Coast Redwine, Fourth Cuvee. 80% Syrah. The rest is a mix of Sangiovese, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, and a few white Rhone varietals such as Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, and Marsanne. 2011-11-06. $11 @ Beltramo's.
Evangelos Tsantalis S.A.'s Rapsani, 2007. 34% Xinomavro, 33% Krassato, 33% Stavroto. Halkidiki (Chalcidice), Macedonia, Greece. 2011-11-06. $18 @ Beltramo's.
Tetramythos, Ltd.'s Agiorgitiko (St. George), 2010. Aigio/Egio, Achaea, Peloponnese, Greece. 2011-11-06. $13 @ Beltramo's.
Mas des Bressades Syrah Grenache Vin du Pays du Gard, 2007. 50% Syrah, 50% Grenache (Rhone blend). Languedoc-Roussillon, France. 2011-12-31. $8 @ Beltramo's.
Peter Lehmann Layers Barossa Red Wine, 2008. 46% Shiraz, 20% Mourvèdre, 15% Grenache, 17% Tempranillo, 2% Carignane. Barossa Valley, South Australia. 2011-12-31. $15 @ Beltramo's.
Taurino Notarpanaro, 2004. Azienda Agricola Cosimo Taurino, Guagnano, Puglia (Apulia), southeast Italy. 85% Negroamaro, 15% Malvasia Nera. Spicy, dark/inky, has a nice strong bouquet. Dry, full-bodied: berry, tobacco. Sharp, bitter finish. I think this wine might be superb if cellared for a few years. 2011-12-31. $16 @ Beltramo's.
Summmers Winery Villa Adriana Vineyard Charbono, 2008. Calistoga, Napa County. Charbono turns out to be a rich, bold, inky red varietal from Savoy/Savoie, acid, a bit tannic, superb long finish / aftertaste. Mid-taste is muted and smooth but makes me think of raspberries. Memorable. 2012-01-13. $20 @ Beltramo's.
Feudi di San Gregorio's Rubrato Aglianico, 2006. Sorbo Serpico, Campania, Italy. 2012-02-04. $15 @ Beltramo's.
Tormaresca Società Agricola a responsabilità limitata's Neprica, 2009. Puglia, Italy. 40% Negroamaro, 30% Primitivo, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon. 2012-02-04. $9 @ Beltramo's.
Tenuta Cocci Grifone Primitivo, 2012. Puglia, Italy. 2012-02-14. $4 @ Trader Joe's.
Las Rocas de San Alejandro Garnacha, 2009. San Alejandro, Calatayud, Spain. Cheryl likes this one a great deal. I find it a pleasant but not exceptional, well-balanced garnacha. 2012-05-20. $11 at Safeway (Safeway Club sale price; regular price $14).