Tasting Notes by George Heritier



005 Red Guitar Old Vine Tempranillo Garnacha Navarra2005 Red Guitar Old Vine Tempranillo Garnacha Navarra, 55% Tempranillo, 45% Garnacha, $9.99, 14% alc.: When one of my vendors called me to tell me that I had to taste a new wine from Spain that he was peddling called Red Guitar, I rolled my eyes and silently groaned. I mean how good could a wine with a corny name like that be? There’s a LOT of inexpensive red wine coming out of Spain these days, and while some of it is quite good, even exceptional, too much of it is fruity, one-dimensional stuff that might be better used to make Sangria. Imagine my surprise when I tasted this and discovered that it is anything but one of those! It sports a ruby garnet robe, and an appealing perfume of cherries and red berries, underscored with some subtle earth, chocolate and juniper berries that carry over onto the palate with a medium full-to-full bodied frame, decent structure worth a few years’ further development and a reasonably long finish. A solid, enjoyable wine that will work well with a variety of grilled red meats and tapas. It's well worth a 10-spot, and already a hot item in Day-twah. 
Find this wine

Imported by International Cellars, Gonzales, CA

2001 Palandri Western Australia Shiraz2001 Palandri Western Australia Shiraz, $10.99, 13.5% alc.: The vendor who brought this sturdy little number to my attention was quite frank about the pricing; it’s normally a $15-16 wine, but needs to move to make way for a newer vintage. While that might indicate an inferior wine, such is not the case here, as it has some real depth and maturity, and offers excellent value for relatively few dollars. Dark garnet in color, with dark plums and berries on the nose, shaded with subtle earth, tar and a wee hint of chocolate; flavors echo more or less, with notes of leather and root beer cola morphing out of the chocolate. With medium to medium full body, good structure and length, this is no gobby Oz fruit and oak bomb, but rather a balanced Shiraz that shows traits as much reminiscent of its brethren from southern France as from Australia, and in that regard, begs for something lamb-like on the grill, whether it be a leg impregnated with garlic and rosemary or just some medium rare lamb burgers, which, if you’ve never had them, are really good! 
Find this wine

Imported by Marie Brizard USA, Bardstown, KY


2004 Vina Antigua Sangiovese – Bonarda Maipu2004 Vina Antigua Sangiovese – Bonarda Maipu, $5.49, 12.4% alc.: It seems like I’m tasting another new batch of wines from Argentina every other week, and many of them are pretty good. This dark garnet colored blend and the following selection are good examples, and both are brought into the country by QPR import specialist Dan Kravitz, of Hand Picked Selections, who describes this producer thusly: “Viña Maipu is a profoundly old-fashioned Argentine Bodega updating at a rapid pace. Carlos Aranda Garcia’s winery is in Santa Blanca, 20 miles east of Mendoza, dusty country far from the multinational modernity nearer the city. The winery building is old but well equipped and well maintained. Several hundred acres of vineyards stretch around it - mostly Sangiovese and Bonarda for the entry level red, Viña Antigua - as close as we get to ‘Two Buck Chuck’. Further west and higher up are several hundred more acres of Cabernet, Malbec, Barbera and Chardonnay giving wines of nice quality at lower than reasonable prices.”   

A no frills, bone dry, medium full to full bodied 50-50 blend of Sangiovese and Bonarda (a seemingly odd marriage of THE Tuscan red grape and a not-quite-obscure varietal from Piedmont that is actually the most widely planted red in Argentina), it features flavors and aromas reminiscent of black currant and blackberry shaded with notes of black olive and iodine. It has some structure to it, along with good concentration, giving more pleasure than one has any right to expect for five and a half bucks, and it’s a perfect match for Argentina’s national food, beef. Find this wine

2003 Vina Maipu Malbec, $7.49, 13.2% alc.: Bonarda may be the most widely planted red in Argentina, but perhaps no varietal is more widely associated with that country than Malbec, and this medium full bodied ruby garnet pays testimony to the fact that even the inexpensive ones can be quite tasty. Showing a judicious kiss of oak over black currant, blackberry and a hint of mahogany, it has good structure and length, is eminently drinkable right now, and, yes, it was made for beef. I can’t think of any red wines from anywhere in the world that we have access to hereabouts that show the kind of quality that both this and the Vina Antigua do for such modest prices. Find this wine

Imported by Hand Picked Selections, Warrenton, PA


The wines of Mendocino County producer Girasole (pronounced Jeer-a-so-Lay), are not only organic, they’re Vegan, even the reds, with no egg-whites used in fining and sulfites under 100 parts per million.  But their more universal selling point is that they’re tasty and they offer good value for the price tags. 

2004 Girasole Mendocino Pinot Blanc, $11.99, 13.2% alc.: Pale straw color, with stingy aromatics; more generous in the mouth, with apple, melon and a little mineral on the finish.  Nice fruit, but not really "fruit forward," with good cut and decent length, making a good match with a Michigan cherry salad and some chicken or seafood, served just about any way you like it. Find this wine

2004 Girasole Mendocino Chardonnay, $11.99, 13.5% alc.: This pale to medium straw colored Chardonnay saw stainless steel, rather than oak fermentation, and it shows in the clean apple, pear and hint o’ mineral personality; it has enough acidity to work, a decent finish and good varietal character.  Pleasant and well made, from 45-year-old Wente clone vines. Find this wine

2005 Girasole Mendocino Pinot Noir

2005 Girasole Mendocino Pinot Noir, $13.99, 13.5% alc.:
 Ruby garnet in color, with nice spice over rich, smoky black cherry and plum flavors and aromas; good, cut, medium concentration, decent length, and very good value, easily the best of the four from this producer tasted on this occasion, which is probably why it’s also their best selling wine.  Produced from 45 year old vines.
Find this wine

2004 Girasole Mendocino Sangiovese, $11.99, 13.9% alc.:
Dark garnet color, with nice, slightly candied red plums and berries over a subtle earthy base; decent structure and finish; pleasant and enjoyable.
Find this wine


A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to taste through five wines from yet another producer from Argentina, Valentin Bianchi.  To say that Bianchi’s Elsa line, named in honor of Valentin’s wife, is value oriented is something of an understatement, since these wines all over-deliver with regard to QPR (quality price ratio), and are all good buys in the under $10 price range.

2005 Elsa Bianchi Chardonnay Semillon, 60% Chardonnay, 40% Semillon, $8.99, 13.6% alc.: Pale straw in color, with flavors and aromas reminiscent of peach and lemon; fruit forward without being sweet, having just enough acidity to work well with or without food and nice length on the finish.  A good choice for an inexpensive white quaffer.  Crushed and fermented at controlled temperatures in stainless steel tanks, inoculated with selected yeasts and aged six months in oak. 
Find this wine

2004 Elsa Bianchi Barbera, $8.99, 13.7% alc.: The color of India ink, with a kiss of sweet oak and a hint of dog fur over ripe black fruit on the nose; the deep, dark earthy flavors echo with good structure and a note of bittersweet chocolate as it opens.  My notes read “a heck of a lot of wine for the money,” and that’s no lie. Find this wine

2005 Elsa Bianchi Malbec, $8.99, 14.8% alc.: Deep dark garnet in color, with musky, perfumed aromatics of red and black fruit that follow through on the palate with a solid earthy core and a subtle undertone of chocolate.  This shows good structure and length, and like the rest of these, offers excellent QPR. 
Find this wine

2004 Elsa Bianchi Cabernet Sauvignon2004 Elsa Bianchi Cabernet Sauvignon, $8.99, 14.2% alc.: Another deep, dark garnet colored wine that really delivers on the quality, with straightforward Cabernet character that features rich cassis and black currant flavors and aromas anchored with a typically earthy core.  Like the other Bianchi reds, it shows good structure and length, and is very nice for the price.   

Find this wine

2004 Elsa Bianchi Syrah, $8.99, 14.5% alc.: Dark garnet color, with ripe, smoky dark plum and black cherry flavors and aromas that are spruced up with a judicious kiss of oak; very well structured, with good density, concentration and length, and once again, there's an earthiness to it that gives the wine a sense of character and place.  Has the stuffing to age and improve for a few years.
Find this wine

The reds all see the same general process, with the grapes being hand-harvested and sorted twice; prior to maceration, 10%-20% of the juice is bled off (saignee) the skins to increase the skin to juice ratio.  Following crushing and fermentation, the wine sees minimal oak aging (French and American), followed by another month of bottle aging. 

Imported by Quintessential LLC, Napa, CA 

In the meantime, don’t forget Rule # 1 of Bastardo’s Rules of Wine Acquisition:

ALWAYS buy by the case!     };^)>

Reporting from Day-twah,


Other Recent Wine Explorations

Not Just Flotsam & Jetsam

Bastardo's Best Buys (Or Wines That Don't Suck)

More Wines With Friends

Wines of Domaine Berthet-Rayne

Wine With Friends

Warm Weather Whites 2006

Home Alone in Day-Twah

Back to September '06 Index

Back to the Underground Index

Back to the Top


© George Heritier September, 2006