About a year and a half ago I raved over the 2010 El Côtes du Paso Robles Blanc.  It was rich, viscous, yummy, and its $6.99 (sale) price didn’t give full voice to its quality.  And, as I discovered shortly after posting the review, it had been a gold medal winner in the San Diego International Wine Competition as well.  It was all good.

I decided to open a bottle of the 2012 El Côtes du Paso Robles, primarily because I had chicken and noodles for dinner and I wanted to address the wine again. This was the second of two bottles that I’ve purchased this summer, and it verified what I’d thought of the first bottle I tasted about a month ago. It simply did not live up to the surprising quality of its 2010 predecessor.

I purchased two bottles at Fresh and Easy, and while I never expected a Condrieu, its tidy little mix of 74% Rousanne, 15% Grenache Blanc, 10% Marsanne, and 1% Viognier is a classic Rhône blend.  And there’s the rub. The 2010 vintage had a different balance of the grapes, with 46% Viognier, 31% Rousanne, 8% Marsanne, 15% Grenache Blanc. While I realize that the winemakers have to work with the grapes that the vineyards give them, there were several big differences between this wine and the 2010 vintage.

The appearance is just as gorgeous as ever; it’s a clear, bright straw yellow with just a touch of green. Its 14.9% ABV shows in the way it lumbers around the glass.  The nose is pretty simple with a touch of pear, a little earth, vanilla, and cream. Missing are the flowers that the much higher percentage of Viognier brought to the party in the 2010 vintage.

It has a honeyed weight on the palate and a rich, untuous mouthfeel, but that’s where the good parts largely end.

Fresh out of the fridge there was a metallic thread running through it which really took me by surprise.  All I tasted was tin.

I let it warm up a bit and tasted it again.  Frankly, it tastes as if it’s incompletely fermented. There’s an unpleasant sweetness that feels out of place. In my opinion, there is an excess of residual sugar which leaves it with a “cheap wine” aspect that it didn’t have before.

Across the palate, it leaves a hint of some citrus – a touch of lime and grapefruit peel that’s quite good and intensifies as the wine warms.  However the finish is short and has a slight bitterness reminiscent of citrus pith.

Until these last few bottles, this had been one of my go-to “daily drinkers,” one of those wines you pop, pour, and don’t need to ponder over. While I didn’t find it on sale this summer and purchased it at the full retail of $9.99, it is a great value. However, if the quality of this summer’s bottles is any indication, it’s time to move on and find something else.

The 2010 was a good wine and I gave it a very positive review, celebrating its gold medal win.  The 2012 vintage was a good one for California winemakers, but this wine doesn’t reflect it.

I must always give the caveat of the possibility of bottle variation or of the possibility of improper handling. While I’ve had a couple of maderized wines this year, I know this isn’t the situation here. This wine feels like it’s taken a cue from some of the White Zin makers and felt unfinished.  The residual sugar and unpleasant finish tells me that I won’t be using this wine for cooking, either.