Tasting Report: New Releases from Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Gary Farrell's Hallberg Vineyard Pinot Noir
Gary Farrell Winery is a Sonoma producer best known for their well balanced Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays. Gary Farrell began producing wine in the area in the late 1970s. Along with folks like Joe Rochioli, Tom Dehlinger, Davis Bynum, Robert Stemmler and others, Farrell established what Russian River Pinot Noir and Chardonnay would become today. In 1982 he produced his first wine under the Gary Farrell label and gradually built its prominence.

I first got to know Gary Farrell in depth at a winemaker dinner they had at Blue Ginger a couple years ago. Gary Farrell himself sold the winery in 2004. Current winemaker Theresa Heredia joined Gary Farrell in 2012. You may have tasted her wines before since she was the winemaker at Freestone (Joseph Phelps' Pinot Noir project) from its first vintage through 2011.

I had a chance to taste through some of their 2013 releases recently. My notes are below.

Their Hallberg Ranch Pinot Noir has consistently been one of my absolute favorites, and this vintage lived up to my high hopes. Hallberg is also the fruit source for Radio-Coteau La Neblina Pinot Noir (read more) and Emeritus (Wine Spectator Top 100 - read more). I hear Scherrer also does a great Pinot Noir from Hallberg. Definitely one of my all-time favorite vineyards in the world. Here's a link to a YouTube video about what makes Hallberg Vineyard special.

2013 Gary Farrell Hallberg Ranch Pinot Noir
14.1% Alcohol
1,290 Cases Produced

Textbook California Pinot Noir. Bright, ripe black cherry aromatics with supporting smoky notes. Silky texture and uttery delicious. A finish that goes on for minutes in amazing fashion. Very special. Outstanding.

93/100 WWP: Oustanding

2013 Gary Farrell Olivet Lane Chardonnay
13.8% Alcohol
987 Cases Produced

Medium-bodied and more enjoyably powerful and weighty than its 13.8% alcohol would indicate. Golden with hints of green around the edge. Glass-coating and satisfying with attractivate aromatics and flavors of ripe pears, golden delicous apples, and a hint of toasted marshmalllows on the finish. Outstanding.

91/100 WWP: Outstanding

2013 Gary Farrell Russian River Selection Pinot Noir
14.1% Alcohol
11,267 Cases Produced

Medium bodied with lively, potent aromatics and flavors. Classic California Pinot Noir notes. This is young and needs time, as there are some sharp edges at points. But after a night or two on the counter (simply recorked) those traits disipated and the wine held up brilliantly. Outsanding wine.

90/100 WWP: Oustanding

2013 Gary Farrell Russian River Selection Chardonnay
14.2% Alcohol
5,861 Cases Produced

Golden-hued with shades of green around the edges. Baked pears on the nose. Satisfying mouthfeel with commonplace Chardonnay herbaceous notes that stop me short of being wholly enthusastic about this medium-bodied white. Still, well-mannered and enjoyable.

88/100 WWP: Very Good

Samples for review.

For more information about Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery visit their website:

Tasting room? Yes, by appointment
Available at retail? Yes
Wine Club/List? Wine club
Ship to Massachusetts? Yes

Question of the Day: Have you tasted Gary Farrell wines? If so, what did you think?


First Look: Cost Plus World Market Framingham

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Cost Plus World Market in Framingham, MA
National retailer Cost Plus World Market opened recently in Framingham, MA. If you're not familiar with the chain it's sort of a mashup of Pier 1 Imports and Trader Joe's. Funky decor and unique grocery items, along with...wine!

We had a chance to visit recently, about a week after their grand opening. The Framingham location is situated in Shopper's World where Office Depot used to be, next to Chipotle.

I remember visiting their stores back in the day on the west coast. The wine assortment resembles Trader Joe's in that it introduces consumers to funky worldy picks along with a heavy dose of everyday red wines. The average price seemed higher to me than TJ's however, and there were fewer private label wines at World Market.
20% off when you buy 4 or more bottles
The store was still being stocked when we visit, but the wine area takes up about 20% of the floor space, in the back right of the store.

They were running a 20% off sale if you bought 4 bottles of wine. I rather liked that volume requirement. Totally reasonable (though not as good as Trader Joe's where the prices are fixed regardless of how many bottles you buy).

Actually, the discount pricing was a little confusing. There's a regular price, a sale price, then a 20% off discount price if you buy 4 bottles, at leastt when I was there. Now that I look at my receipt I was charged $13.59 for the 7 Deadly Zins rather than the $12.99 mentioned on the sign below. Oh well, new store startup issues I guess, but it's an example of why I prefer a simple pricing structure.
Uh oh, this $12.99 wine rang up as $13.59 for me
Here are four wines I picked up, and what I thought of them.

2012 Michael-David Vineyards 7 Deadly Zins [WWP Pick]

There is a lot to like here in the $10-$15 range. Rich, inviting fruit backed by baking spices on the nose. Dark red velvet mouthfeel. Acidity is lacking but the flavors never get overripe nor pruney. Pairs well, for a red wine, with spice-driven dishes. And quite enjoyable on its own. I like it. 15.0% alcohol.

88/100 WWP: Very Good

Dave Phinney "I" [Italy] Locations Red 

I was looking forward to trying this as a new world winemaker's take on old world wines. Unfortuantely it didn't delivery a lot of excitement. Hints of Italy on the nose, but after that it was most just "there" with no differentiated appeal.

82/100 WWP: Good

"The Rule" Cabernet

Trendy looking label, but not a lot to get excited about. Non-descript entry level California Cabernet. I can usually do better at this price point.

80/100 WWP: Good

2014 Apothic Dark

In certain settings I've enjoyed the regular Apothic Red more this "Dark" offering. Didn't seem any darker (visually, nor in weight) and it lacked depth. Rather sickly sweet and a bit smarmy.

78/100 WWP: Mediocre

Bottom Line

Cost Plus World Market continues the commoditization of retail wine market in the Boston area. Whereas we used to have primarly dusty bottled old guard retailers, we now have boutique fine wine retailers, more wine in grocery stores, and more chains coming into the area.

I don't see this particular retailer filling a niche for me. Their sale prices can be beat at many grocery stores, and their assortment isn't particularly exciting.

Overall Rating: 2.5/5 Stars

Question of the Day: Have you shopped at a Cost Plus World Market? If so, what did you think? Where is their assortment strongest?



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