Karas 2016 – Armavir, Armenia

What a pleasant surprise.  I picked this up as a stopgap at the local liquor store.  The shop generally does well with whiskey, booze, and beer, but has an underwhelming wine track record of bad pricing and worse selection.  But not this.  Fresh cherry, red berries, and leather on the nose.  A bit of white pepper and slate.  More of the fresh berries on the fore palate, but opening up with a surprisingly lush flow of violets, currant, and chewy leather.  The finish echoes more cherries and a hint of vanilla and lasts longer than expected.  What a value!

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: Karas Red 2016
  • Winery: Karas Wines
  • Region: Armavir
  • Country: Armenia
  • Varietals: 35% Syrah, 35% Cot (Malbec), 20% Cabernet Franc, 10% Tannat
  • Price: $15
  • Where to Buy: Sherry’s

Silk & Spice 2017 – non-DO, Portugal

Fresh red berries and vanilla on the nose.  This is a young wine in an atypical style for Portugal.  Tight tannins on the backend.  An overall velvety, vanilla, red berry heavily (American) oaked and fined, like a U.S. wine.  At this price point, it’s perfect as is.  A great BBQ wine.

  • Rating: Everyday Red
  • Name: Silk & Spice 2017
  • Winery: Possibly a custom blend by the importer, Evaton Inc.
  • Region: A blend of Dão, Bairrada, and Lisboa wines
  • Country: Portugal
  • Varietals: 40% Touriga Nacional, 20% Baga, 20% Syrah and 20% Alicante Bouschet
  • Price: $11

Where to Buy:  www.wine.com

Sassarini Sciacchetra 2017 – Cinque Terre, Italy

A refreshing nose, with light autumn fruits and a hint of vanilla.  Caramel, pears, and apples hit immediately, with a clean light feel.  Clear, tawny coloring.  Zero tannin, but nice acid.  Fresh clean acid on the nose throughout.  Finishes clean and light with a nice lingering flavor of cider and that caramel warmth.  This is the 50th anniversary bottling from Sassarini and was the last bottle they had at Il Borgo di Campi’s restaurant, near Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre.  This Italian traditional dessert wine is rarely found outside of Cinque Terre because it’s made to be drunk soon after production – a laborious process that includes drying white grapes like bosco and vermentino before fermentation.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: Sassarini Sciaccehtra 2017
  • Winery: Cantina Sassarini
  • Region: Cinque Terre
  • Country: Italy
  • Varietals: Unlabeled
  • Price: $50
  • Where to Buy: Il Borgo di Campi Restaurant

Herdade de Rocim 2017 – Alentejo, Portugal

A mixed berry with moss and leaves on the nose.  Dank and autumnal.  Soft, simple red berries on the front palate with immediate tannin.  The finish is taut, almost too tight, with a vegetal note.  At least at first tasting, at $20 it’s a bit to one-note and light to buy again.

  • Rating: Meh
  • Name: Alicante Bouschet 2017
  • Winery: Herdade de Rocim
  • Region: Alentejo
  • Country: Portugal
  • Varietals: Alicante Bouschet
  • Price: $20
  • Where to Buy: com

Prazo de Roriz – Douro, Portugal

This young beauty starts with a refreshing blueberry and blackberry bouquet.  Violets and crushed flowers lead into a fast, berry-heavy start with tinges of vanilla.  Very nice.  The fruit rolls in with some slatey tannins – not too much – to bring it to a tight, luscious finish.  A very pleasant wine, medium bodied and delicious.  I expected less and got a lot.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: Prazo de Roriz
  • Winery: Prats and Symington
  • Region: Douro
  • Country: Portugal
  • Varietals:
  • Price: $17
  • Where to Buy: wine.com

Quimera 2011 – Mendoza, Argentina

A deep, rich beauty that will make you fall in love with Argentina all over again, from one of her finest wine houses.  A blend of Bordeaux grapes that really shows off all the classic flavors:  dense vanilla and tobacco notes, red fruit and white pepper.  Well-structured with nice tannins that will hold her for years to come, but she’s ready to drink today if you’d like.  The French oak, in a mix of new and one year old, keeps the oak nice and mellow – not overpowering like many California and Washington wines.  I always trust Achaval Ferrer, but was nonetheless impressed by this offering.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: Quimera 2011
  • Winery: Achaval Ferrer
  • Region: Mendoza
  • Country: Argentina
  • Varietals: 38% Malbec, 26% Cabernet Franc, 23% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Petit Verdot
  • Price: ~$32
  • Where to Buy: Connecticut Ave. Wine & Liquor

Peloro – Faro, Italy

Fresh flowers and moss on the nose.  Yep.  Fresh and mossy.  A light bodied red fruit explosion sneaks up on the front end, with a hint of vanilla.  Some pleasant green tannins bring this one to an abrupt close, and a lingering hit of that same freshness as it fades out to warm tannins.

  • Rating: Everyday Red
  • Name: Peloro Terre Siciliane Rosso 2014
  • Winery: Le Casematte SRL
  • Region: Faro (Sicily)
  • Country: Italy
  • Varietals: 70% Nerella Mascalese, 30% Nocera
  • Price: $21
  • Where to Buy: S&R Liquors

Shardana 2010 – Sardinia, Italy

Dank, dark, and rusty on the front end, like some old shipwreck pulled up out of the sea.  Nice tannins, leather, and some hints of vanilla.  This is a tough beauty.  Prunes and dark, black fruit.  A tight finish from not inconsequential tannins.  Excellent with seafood and fennel.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: Shardana 2010
  • Winery: Neil Empson and Santadi
  • Region: Valle de Porto Pino, Sardinia
  • Country: Italy
  • Varietals: 85% Carignano, 15% Shiraz
  • Price: $28
  • Where to Buy:   Litteri

Sheridan Vineyard Boss Block – Yakima Valley, Washington

A very American wine – too much oak that obscures the grape and the terroir.  Tastes like cherry vanilla ice cream.  Yes, that’s crazy talk.  Drops off at the end with cola flavors and a dark cocoa, chewy tobacco finish.  Pleasant, but not my cup of tea.  At this price point I probably won’t be buying this again – or anything from this group, but have a hard time waiving people off it.  If you like this style of wine – heavily oaked obsessive single-grape varietal wine, you’ll enjoy this wine.  I bought this for reasons that should be obvious and it reminds me of something Georges dos Santos of Antic Wines said to me the first time I met him regarding Washington wine:  “it’s good that they like it.”  Again, it’s a question of style and this just isn’t mine, regardless of the name.

  • Rating: Meh, for stylistic reasons
  • Name: Boss Block 2014
  • Winery: Sheridan Vineyard
  • Region: Yakima Valley
  • Country: Washington, USA
  • Varietals: Cabernet Franc
  • Price: $35-50
  • Where to Buy: Total Wine

Domus Pensi – Terra Alta, Spain

Somehow both fresh and leathery on the nose.  Ripe red and black fruits on the front end, flowing quickly into tannin-laden leather notes and a faint hint of violets.  This is a young one, but a beauty.  All those powerful notes, but still somehow manages to hold a medium body, feeling fresh and clean in the mouth.  It went equally well with heavy Italian sausage as it did with lighter Portuguese seafood paté.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: Domus Pensi 2013
  • Winery: Altavins Viticultors SL
  • Region: Terra Alta
  • Country: Spain
  • Varietals: 45% Cabernet, 30% Garnacha, 15% Syrah, 10% Merlot
  • Price: ~$25
  • Where to Buy: Total Wine