Winery: Apriori Cellar
Owners: Patrice Breton and Georges Sabongui
Location: Saint Helena, CA
Apriori Cellar was founded on the principle that quality, authenticity and joy should be part of every wine experience. Our winemaking philosophy is deeply rooted in balance and terroir, which is why we strive to showcase the pure qualities of our grapes and distinctive personalities of their climates. Our exacting commitment to beauty and truth results in very high quality wines that are sure to bring pleasure to everyone.
AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, FL, GA, IL, IA, ME, MA, MI, MN, MO, NE, NV, NJ, NY, NC, OH, OR, PA, TN, TX, WA, WI
FedEx Ground: Monday, February 12th - Thursday, February 15th
So I got lab ratted, and this is a very pretty wine.
It’s solidly on the light end of Pinot which is a style I like. Very light on the oak, light on the tannins, and the color is a light brick red.
For me Pinots are all about the smell and this one has that terrific strawberries & hay that you get in some of the lighter CA and OR pinots, with just a little bit of that umami mushroomy thing. Not nearly enough to call it funky or earthy, just enough to round out there being something more than the red fruit. Like someone on the other side of the restaurant ordered mushrooms not, you know, someone at your table.
It’s maybe medium acidity. Started without food and it holds up on it’s own, went well with dinner but doesn’t really require it. It’s not a “bright” acidity, but it’s far from flabby.
If I had to pick on the wine I’d say it’s a little “straightforward”. You’re not fighting the tannins or the oak or the funk or the whatever, it’s just a very nice Pinot. Like if you were trying to describe what Pinot is to someone and you wanted to show it to them without messing it up with a bunch of other crap, you’d hand them this wine and they’d go “Oh, I get it”.
I think RPM calls that “Varietally Correct” or something, but whatever, you want his opinion, send him the wine.
That clarity and approachability means it’s not a wine I’d throw in the cellar for ten years and forget about and I don’t think a case would last nearly that long anyway.
Comparing it to some of the wines we’ve had from that other thing I’d say it’s closest in style to the Buena Vista pinots, and would compare favorably to some of those, but lighter and less… conflicted.
If you like the bigger Syrah-like pinots, then definitely this is not your wine, but if you want that really clear strawberry Pinot nose that makes you just want to stuff your face into the glass and inhale, then this has it, and that’s kind of rare.
It’s just really pretty.
PRICING: Above was written earlier tonight, now that pricing is available, I think it’s a great deal.
I was just thinking today I need some more good merlot added to my newest wine cooler. This thought also had me thinking I could use some Pinot Noir too… and so on with thoughts of filling in 70 more bottles of wine. Where to start with Pinot noir?! I’m an old world kinda guy with most wines.
@rjquillin Hi! I am the director of sales and marketing for Apriori. We are a VERY small team. With that said, sales and marketing is not my only job.
Our 2014 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir is more of our entry level Pinot Noir. Some of the “lab rats” have noted the wine as a good party wine, which I would agree with. It appeals to every pallet. Easy drinking and pretty. Perfect for every day drinking. The fruit is coming from 3 different vineyards in the Petaluma Gap (which is in Sonoma, great area for Pinot Noir). Our single vineyard Pinot Noirs (that you may have seen on our website) have more complexity and depth. But that comes with a price!!
Hi Fellow Casemates!! Earlier this week I received an email stating that I would have the opportunity to receive a bottle of Friday’s offer to taste and provide my opinion for all of you. Then came the Fedex tracking email. I was excited and ready to LabRat a Casemate wine. A little background on my wine experience: It started in the mid1960s with the chemical wine revolution – Boones Farm, Strawberry Hill, Mateus Wine. Then in 1969, I spent two years in the U.S. Army stationed in Germany. I graduated to German and Italian wines. Many years later in 2006 my college son asked me to check out a website called Wine.Woot.com. Little did I know this experience would have me tracking my wine in Cellartracker by 2008 and consuming over 700 bottles of wine followed by the end of the legendary wine website, and now becoming a member of Casemates with a basement full of wine. I’m sure many of you have had some of the same experiences. I love dry red wine of all varietals. Now on to my review of the current Apriori Sonoma Pinot Noir offer.
The bottle arrived yesterday at a temperature of 51F so I needed to let it warm up slowly and rest after the long journey from CA. I opened it up today around 3:15pm and took a small sample without aerating. Later between 6:00 and 7:30 pm when we evaluated the wine, we followed our sensory responses to sight, smell, and taste. My son and I sampled the wine without food first, then with food. The wine temperature was 70 F.
Without food -
Visual (color, transparency, legs): This wine is lighter than most CA and OR Pinots that I’ve consumed such as Lange, Anne Amie, Wellington, Pedroncelli, Chahalem, etc… If I could provide you with a visual, think of a clear Rose’ being semi-transparent with a slightly brickish red color. Thin long legs were apparent starting at the top of the swirl line.
Smell: Nice light cherry and strawberry with a hint of spice, but not a lot. This wine is not a fruit forward wine by any means. It’s quite restrained. My son also thought it was earthy.
Initial taste: The wine was very smooth, light bodied with a hint of cherry, strawberry, and a little acid. This supported what we smelled. The wine was balanced to the point we didn’t notice any alcohol or tannins.
Mid-Palate: The fruit faded fairly quickly.
Finish: I thought the fruit ended mid-palate and I noticed a kind of chalky, tart or slightly bitter taste on the back of my throat. Later, I thought of a very slight pyrazine lingering taste, like green grape stems or what some call bell pepper. Again it was very slight.
Initial thoughts prior to paring it with food: This is a very easy drinking wine!
Now drinking it with food….
My son made Ziti with Portobello mushrooms, caramelized onions, parsley, and goat cheese. We also ordered an Antonio’s Italian sausage and mushroom pizza.
Visual and Smell: The same as earlier
Taste: The taste didn’t change much from the earlier sample, but it seemed like it integrated better with the food. To me, I could have consumed it all night with the Italian sausage on the pizza.
Mid Palate: Again, we both thought the fruit faded quickly.
Finish: The tart or bitterness didn’t seem as apparent as earlier without food. My son didn’t notice any bitterness. He may have said it was a little tart, but it wasn’t something to note as unusual to him.
Our conclusion: My son liked the wine. I liked it also, but I was puzzled by the bitterness at the end. I do have to note that I have a very sensitive palate to pyrazine. I just had a Twisted Oak Syrah that had a lot of bell pepper taste on the mid-palate and finish. Many people may not even be aware or heard of pyrazine. If I had to classify this wine, I’d say it’s a simple Pinot Noir, definitely not complex. I’d call it a party wine or a beginner’s wine. It’s not a wine I’d serve at a dinner party to impress my boss. My son thought it would be a good deal if it was priced $10 to $15. When I searched the winery website, they had much more expensive Pinot Noir’s. If I remember, this wine was $28 and the other Pinot’s were priced from $40 to $60. I also saw that another site that sold this same wine in October 2017 and had it sell out.
The skinny: Going to a party or having a party that lasts a long time and you’re looking for a wine that’s light and food friendly, this Apriori Pinot Noir would be the ticket.
Finally, thanks to the Casemates gods and goddesses that made this LabRat event happen!!
@rjquillin Hi RJ… Man, I had to rack my brain hard on that question! To be honest…none! It’s a very light wine with a taste that finished off quickly. It was better with food and with the Italian sausage, I thought the taste came through like slightly candied cherry/strawberry, but only for a brief moment!
I forgot to mention that I saved a little for today so I hope to get back into it later today to see if it changes. With a majority of other wines, I tend to like the next day taste!
Apriori 2014 Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast)
Light in color and body, this wine takes its delicacy seriously, holding back on the fruit and spice to feature woody, herbal characteristics and a slim body.
and a Silver from the San Francisco Chronicle 2016
@kapok6 well no one every spoke up. Did you order a case already? If so I’ll take 4. If you didn’t. I’ll just order a 4 pack I think and we can split it if you like. I’m gonna hold off till last minute to decide.
@kapok6@MSUmike I’m getting a case also so do we go one more or I can go solo. I’ll wait till late Super Bowl - after it’s over. Either way I’m getting a case so it’s cool if you guys have it covered on your own.
@hey_zeus sorry im just catching up on all this. Been out hubting all day with my Harris’ Hawk. If you are buying a case, im happy to take 3-4 bottles off you after it arrives if you are so inclined to part with some.
@MSUMike I think so, ha ha. I was out hunting all all day, and this communication format is a pita for an technologically illiterate bozo like myself. If I were to create a “Casemates DFW” FB group, do you think that would help things?
Ha… MSUMike you can always text me. I think you’ve got me cell? This was bound to happen sooner or later (sooner?!). I don’t do FB but you’ve got my contact info already so hopefully this won’t happen again.
Would any Lab Rat have a comparison with the Esoterica Pinot Noir by Kent Rasmussen? We had some last night and it was great, my wife loved it and said I should get more! I’m hoping to find some similar purchases before she sees the credit card statement. The offerings have been excellent so far. Thanks Casemates!
@vinoboy Kent makes really nice wine! I still have a signed bottle of his 2006 Caneros Pinot Noir in my wine frig and I should probably drink it up. My 12/19/11 Cellartracker notes on this Pinot are this: “Sweet cherry caresses your mouth leading into a smooth finish. Excellent Pinot! Drank up two bottles & everyone loved it.” (This was consumed at our family Christmas dinner get together and we rate the wines we drink. It got 91 pts. FWIW.
@vinoboy Opened a bottle of the Esoterica, for science. Finished the Apriori so can’t compare directly, and of course these wines are two years apart, but here’s some thoughts:
Both of these are on the lighter side of the Pinot-Syrah spectrum but unmistakeably the Rassmussen is a bigger wine. Light for CA Pinot but closer to medium weight with a darker profile than the Apriori. The esoterica is spicier, with more oak, more tannin, and a longer finish. Where the Apriori was red fruit the esoterica is darker red, bordering on blue.
If the Apriori is all strawberries and hay, the esoterica is raspberries, blueberries, and earth. There are hints of that nose that I like so much in Pinot but it’s not nearly as present in the esoterica as in the Apriori.
If the things you like about the esoterica are the midpalate and the finish, you might be disappointed in the Apriori, if you like the esoterica for it’s nose and it’s relative restraint, then you’ll get even more of that in the Apriori.
I think the Apriori is cleaner, seems more carefuly made, and is a clearer expression of “Pinot”. The esoterica is rougher and more rustic, but also more complex.
They’re both really good and at these prices for CA Pinot we’re arguing over which adorable puppy is cuter, but I definitely preferred the Apriori – that nose is really hard to find on pinots, period, and effectively nonexistent on pinots at this price range, frankly even at MSRP.
Back at the Rattage after going to bed at 3:30 am Friday morning and waking up thinking it was Saturday!! We did save a little bit of wine because I like wine 24 to 48 hours later. I don’t do anything fancy. I just pull a solid vacuum on the bottle and leave red wines on the counter; while whites back into the refrigerator.
Ok, after reading the comments I went down to the basement looking for a bottle of PN from the same area in CA – Sonoma County and around the same year. Mind you that I have a ton of boxes, but at least I have a folded paper in the top of each box stating the contents. I did start attaching invoice packets to the sides of boxes so I can easily pull out the listing rather than unstack each tower of boxes.
I found a bottle of 2013 Engracia Pinot Noir, Silva Vineyards, Sonoma County, CA made by Mike Faulk. The only issue that I see is that it sold and shipped for $25/btl on WW so I’m thinking it would probably fall more in line with Apriori higher end bottles of PN.
I also poured some of the remaining Apriori Sonoma PN into a Bordeaux glass we used last night. The remaining balance in bottle went into the frig to get it down into the 55 to 60 F range that someone suggested.
I opened the Engracia and after 15 minutes ran a small sample through my Vinturi then I let it sit another 15 minutes. In reviewing the Cellartracker comment by Trifecta, they stated that this wine was also a definite Burgundian style.
With both wines equally poured into exactly the same Bordeaux style glasses, the only visible difference was that Apriori was more translucent. I could see the stem of the glass with the Apriori, but I couldn’t see the stem on the Engracia glass. The color on the Apriori seemed a little different today. My experience working the quality end in the paint coatings industry, the source of light plays a very important part on visual color. Sources of light can be incandescent, fluorescent, halogen, LED, and what is called Northern Daylight. Colors look different under different sources of light. Delta E and Metamerism, which I won’t get into, can also come in to play. A good example is a car that had body parts repainted sitting in a parking lot with halogen lighting and the body parts look different, but in normal daylight they look the same. It looks to be the same color, but the coatings were made with different pigments that reflect light differently under different light sources.
Last night our kitchen was under fluorescent lighting. Today, we are getting a lot of natural light through our kitchen double sliders and kitchen window from the north so it’s probably more like Northern Daylight, but not as bright. The Apriori looks less brickish and more reddish in the same lines as the Engracia, but as I stated before, the Engracia is not as transparent.
Initial Result Day2:
Apriori PN without food at room temp 68F – I was getting the same taste profile as yesterday, but the mid-palate was lasting longer and so was the finish. MORE IMPORTANTLY, the bitter tart taste wasn’t there as was the night before.
Apriori PN with the cold sausage and mushroom pizza right out of the refrigerator with room temp wine @ 68F. First, I love cold pizza! It makes me feel like a college student on a mini budget getting up after a great weekend party! I may have discovered a Fountain of Youth for us Boomers!! Initial taste: With the Apriori PN, both complement each very well. The wine is delicately light and the pizza sweetens the wine’s light cherry strawberry profile. It was much better than the warm pizza last night. I’m also thinking the cold cooked Italian sausage was what sweetened the PN. Mid-palate and finish were also better with the cold pizza. AGAIN NOTE: No bitter tart aftertaste! The beastly taste is gone!
Engracia PN without food - as stated earlier was at 68F and first run through a Vinturi and sat for an additional 15 minutes. This wine is definitely more of a medium body PN with great cherry/strawberry on the initial taste and mid-palate with an earthy white pepper spice finish. No bitterness or tartness on the finish. I did detect a slight amount of alcohol on the finish, but this bottle was just opened and the listed alcohol for this vintage was 12.1% which is a hair lower than the 12.5% Apriori.
Engracia PN with the cold pizza – Just like the Apriori, the pizza really made the wine shine more. As a medium finish PN it was also very nice by itself.
Time out to chill both wines to a temp under 60F with one piece pizza left!!
DaTaDaDa….The final chapter:
Both wines chilled to 56F.
Apriori PN without food – Hardly anything on the nose; Initial taste provided a slight candied, yet tart strawberry taste and same through the mid-palate, no bitterness on the finish.
Apriori PN with the cold pizza – The pizza improves the wine with the same profile as without food.
Engracia PN without food – On the nose, the spice comes forward more with a candied strawberry back ground. On the initial taste, again the spice is more pronounced with just a strawberry background. No more alcohol on the finish.
Engracia PN with the cold pizza – Nose is same as without food. Initial taste shows the food is integrating and balancing the spice and strawberry throughout the finish. No alcohol on the finish.
Ok, back to the skinny…how I see it and Ich spreche die Wahrheit, no Washington politics here!
Apriori vs Engracia:
Light bodied PN vs Medium bodied PN
Easy drinking vs More going across the palate
Refined and balanced cherry/strawberry/spice vs More of balanced cherry/strawberry/white pepper spice
$13.08/btl case price ($18.25/btl buying 4) vs $25/btl buying 4 (All numbers include shipping)
Chilling the PNs to 56F seems to mute the cherry in both wines, more so in the Apriori. Food makes both wines shine more. The Engracia PN probably lines up more with Apriori’s other PN’s in both price and style. It would be great to see them show up here since I believe that’s what most of the WW veterans like to see with a great price! We think QPR, QPR, QPR!!!
I would throw out the Visual aspects of wine. I would think most people don’t care what it looks like. Wine is made to go in your mouth, not in your eye!! The nose and mouth sensors work together. All of us have different palates of taste and that’s what’s great about being human. If everything tasted the same to everyone, life would be bland!! Yuk!
If you don’t know what wines you like, it’s best to follow the wise sage advice of the WW Guru, RPM. I remember him saying long ago, “Pop a lot of corks and take notes. Eventually, you’ll find out what you like and dislike.” And I’ll add to it…Once you reach that point, it’s only a matter of choice and a credit card that won’t get worn out before the year is over!!! May “LabRat”ing continue to provide an honest opinion to others; the dreams of David and Matt live on forever; and those that support them in many different ways, prosper and enjoy life!
@vaaccess It’s great being retired!! Just sit back and sample wine all day at a leisurely pace and write all about it. Darn, I just ran the Engracia bottle dry. I better get some sleep and hopefully remember tomorrow isn’t Sunday. I just read that damn PA groundhog, whistlepig, or whatever saw his shadow! Now we have 6 more weeks of winter. That means I can’t sleep in and dream about throwing empty wine bottles over the neighbor’s fence. I’ve got to get up and clear snow off four driveways and sidewalks!!
@Boatman72 Well Boatman I now know your Super Power and it’s wine tasting and descriptive writing. BRAVO!
The one thing never liked about going to a tasting was that, I like you think wine and food need to cohabitate. I know they give out those lousy little crackers but I’d never choose to drink wine with those things. The food needs to compliment the wine not mask it!
@Apriori We are a very thirsty group and we love wine while at the same time being educated by the masters of wine making. We hope you continue to provide us with great QPR wine while participating in the comment area (Blogs) answering participant questions. Wineries that actively participate usually end up with great sales and a huge following. It’s not uncommon for a offer ending up with over 300 comments!
I was thinking about emailing @winedavid49 to ask him if in could be a Casemates wine rat, but holy shit I couldn’t come close to the detail and prose you put into both of your reviews. Seriously you should get some gig with a local wine distributor to help finance your wine buying in retirement! Bravo…and cheers!
@mrn1 Advice. Start paying attention to the reviews. See how they approach the tasting, what they do to prep, how they serve the wine different across the course of the single bottle, and start doing some of that yourself at home. Start writing notes. Words will be slow to come and clumsy at first, but it will get better.
I made this “Parkerized Wine Rating” spreadsheet many years ago. I’ve contemplated firing it back up again to start re-training my palate for wine. I’ve been focusing on BJCP (Beer Judge Certification) for a while and de-emphasizing critical evaluation of wine.
@jml326 I haven’t done that before, but I’m not sure why they would deny it…??? FedEx isn’t shipping to the wrong state, you are the one who is personally carrying it across state lines. Someone else will hopefully have some thoughts on this… If I were you I’d just do it and see what happens. Like you, I’m unaware of that being an illegal activity. As long as you aren’t transporting toooooo much at one time, it should be fine…?
@jml326 Can confirm, I’ve shipped stuff to NJ that wouldn’t ship to PA. Unless you have a really bored cop and are blatantly flipping states for booze purposes, they aren’t going to stop you. (At least in the Philly area, they do sometimes park close to the state line liquor stores, but go a couple miles further and they have no clue.)