chris wrote this on January 31, 2009
Sacred Stone Master’s Red Blend Cask 004 from Pietra Santa
A proprietary blend of Merlot, Sangiovese, Zinfandel, and Dolcetto. I am assuming that Merlot is the dominant variety since it gets top billing but this may or may not be the case.
$10 @ Hope Valley Bottle Shop
I first tasted this wine at the artist’s reception for trianglevino’s own Leandra Ganko. It was her favorite wine at the reception so I decided to review it in her honor :) She has her art on display at Hope Valley Bottle Shop so check out her work while looking for that special wine. Drew and Thomas, the proprietors of HVBS, are great guys, know their stuff, and will be more than happy to assist you!
First off lets do a little label decoding. The only AVA (American Viticultural Area) listed is the broadest statewide California designation. This means that the grapes for this wine can come from anywhere in the state of California.
Next up is the lack of a vintage year. Its a curious omission from a domestic wine, normally associated with ports and sparkling wines. “Non-vintage” means that juice from any year’s harvest can be used in this blend, with the assumption that the extra juice from each year is saved and blended to create a certain “house stye”.
The Pietra Santa website says the wine has been aged for 24 months in american and french oak but its my guess that at $10/bottle oak chips or oak extract has been used (a common practice amongst your less expensive “oaked” wines). Aging wine in barrels increases the cost of the wine to cover the expensive cooping costs of the barrels.
And finally the wine is listed at 14.6% abv (alcohol by volume), which means these grapes grew in an extremely hot climate and became very ripe, giving the juice a very high sugar content. Again at this price, and the fact that its non-vintage, usually means that these are grapes not meant for a higher quality of wine (not necessarily a bad thing mind you).
Ok thats enough label decoding for now, lets get to the wine itself!
Once in the glass, your nose is almost assaulted by the intense spicy cedar and clove attack from the oak. A few swirls reveals aromas of wild berries, fruit punch, and hints of plum. But believe me you have to really work to get to the fruit with all the oak going on.
On the palate the oak assault continues, coating your mouth with thick cedar cigar box tannins. About halfway through your mouth there is an intense sour component from the acidity. Its very hard to describe in words, the best I can do is a combined sour dill and tart orange peel sensation. There are hints of plum and grapey fruit punch but other than that there isn’t much fruit expressed at all. There is noticeable heat on the back end from the alcohol content but it actually helps to soften the excessive oak tannins, finishing with an earthy quality.
Because the wine was such an oak monster I had a glass with some grilled sirloin to cut the tannins which works quite well. It softened the tannins but accentuated the alcohol on the end, adding a pepper-like burn on the finish.
I rate this wine a C+ on quality of wine style. It suffers from all the typical syndromes of hot weather Cali blends: high alcohol, excessive oak to mask defects, and blends where only one varietal truly expresses itself. It also suffers from using “big” varietals that are tannin heavy on top of adding oak tannins.
That being said, the wine does not claim to be more than it is. Its from all over California and non-vintage so the winemaker basically has asked us not to worry about when and where the grapes have come from, just to enjoy his wine for what it is. Pair it with red meat, preferably grilled, and you have a winning combination. You could easily buy higher-end, vineyard level Cali wines for $30 or even $40 dollars a bottle with all the same characteristics, but the Sacred Stone is only $10. I rate it an A for its fantastic value.
This brings us to an overall rating of B+, perfect as a “barbeque wine” or after those long days at work when you want something more brooding without breaking the bank.
Until the next wine! – Chris