2005 Chariot Gypsy

2005 Chariot Gypsy

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per Zhadi’s Den “The label shows a woman in a red head scarf astride a chariot, very much in the vein of a Major Arcana tarot card. The back only says it was bottled by Jim Neal wines in St. Helena, California. Nothing about varietals. I have no idea what grapes were used in the making of this wine (although its rich, spicy characteristics lead me to suspect a zinfandel or syrah in the blend). The price tag? $4.99. The placard in the store said One Time Buy. When it’s gone, it’s gone. So I had to try it. We took it to the SinC meeting and cracked it open aong with an inexpensive Spanish cava. The cava was okay. The Chariot?


What I Think:

Wow, this Jim Neal guy (found on the back of the bottle) is a tough one to track down. But after spending some quality time with my friends at Google (your welcome!) I was able to get to the bottom of this one. I was able to track down both the site for the winery which is terribly out of date and in desperate need of my SEO (Search Engine Optimization) services and his first love which happens to be Verjus which I need to look into further (Jessie any pointers…). Fortunately for all of us, his wines are much more approachable than the brand behind them. As mentioned above I was tipped off to this one by Zhadi’s Den and immediately picked up three bottles. Those are now all empty and I am here to sing this wines accolades as well…

In a word “winner, winner”. The nose seemed almost typical California with rich, dark, musty fruit notes. On the palate it seemed very familiar; silky smooth and bold with heavy mint overtones. Then it struck me, this wine had a resounding resemblance to one of my favorites, the Rosenblum San Francisco Bay Petite Sirah. Despite Dana’s report that it is a blend of “Sangiovese, Petite Syrah, Syrah, and Cab” I am guessing this is 60-70% Petite Sirah minimum….And the remaining is likely Syrah (or at least mostly…) The finish was a lasting mix of dark fruits and dry, tingling tannins, extremely pleasant. Get yourself some now as I am heading out to clear out the bay area stores soon…

In the times of this economy I can unequivocally tell you this wine and the Franc Merlot are easily the best $5 bottles of wine I have seen at Trader Joe’s in some time. If you are used to spending $15 or more a bottle and stumbled across this site looking for ways to cut back your budget start here and start fast!

Rating: Bulk Buy

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90 thoughts on “2005 Chariot Gypsy

  1. Jason,
    While I have heard of Verjus, (I actually have a lamb shank recipe that sounds amazing) I have never tried it. Typically you can use vinegar in its place and have the same effect. We did however pick up a bottle and it was delicious! Grazie!

  2. Rank coastal favoritism! Neither the Chariot, nor the Franc Merlot have reached New York. In fact, there seem to be fewer under $10 wines than before.

  3. oenanist: Could be because I am buying them all up here :) Sorry, I’ll stop being greedy… btw, I had the Chiusa Grande Tommolo Montepulciano, great recommendation. I enjoyed it. Look for the post soon!

  4. I still have two cases of the Chariot squirreled away and also got word from the winemaker (who saw my blog) that the new vintage should be out in TJs for the holidays! And at the same price.

    I stick to my blend on this, Jason. TJs got it from the winemaker. :-) But you are so right about the comparison to the Rosenblum… drool….

  5. It was flying off the shelfs today and I was lucky to get one of the last cases here in Santa Rosa. Great price, yummy wine.

  6. So glad to see a post about this wine! I discovered it in late September (and neglected to blog about it, in the hope that omission might help preserve its anonymity). It appeared and disappeared over the next couple weeks at my two local Teedges. During that time, I accumulated about a case and a half, which is now stashed in various parts of the apartment, away from the greedy hands of my miscreant roommates.

    One funny story concerns a friend, Noah, with whom I shared a bottle of the delicious stuff. He was smitten, and he resolved to buy as much as he could (at $4.99 a bottle, buying by the case is actually possible, even for us impoverished youngsters). Trips to his local Teedges, however, proved futile.

    When I discovered a rogue cache of three cases at my local Teedge, I immediately let him know. He drove an hour out of his way after work to my local store (I won’t say which one, in case Glen reads this — see below), and on the way, he called ahead. He was on hold for 15 minutes, but finally the hapless employees informed him that yes, they had a case left, and yes, they’d put it aside for him.

    When he got there, however, no cases had been put aside! He was despondent — until an employee came out of the back, holding the very last case. (Keep in mind, there had been THREE cases a few hours before. Because of blogs like yours, Jason, this is lamentably popular stuff.) “You’re Glen?” asked the guy. “This is the only case left… it’s for Glen.”

    Noah considered his options, and would’ve taken the high road — but all of a sudden, his taste buds were momentarily bathed in the recollection of that lush, almost chocolatey nectar he’d tasted when I’d poured him a glass. “I’m Glen,” he confirmed, and left the store with his pilfered case. He justifies this grab by surmising that no one could ever possibly enjoy the Chariot more than he does.

    By the way, I read somewhere (can’t remember where now) that it was a blend of 75% Syrah and 25% Sangiovese. Not true?

  7. You likely heard the blend percentage from Zhadi’s Den who commented here as well. It was word of mouth from TJs and the winemaker but I still maintain there is Petite Sirah in there. Just remembered the winemaker commented on Zhadi’s site. Maybe I can ask him to resolve this for me…darn commenting is closed.

  8. There’s a ton of the 2006 Chariot Gypsy at my TJ’s, but none of the 2005 vintage. Does anyone who has tasted the 2006 version of Chariot Gypsy care to provide a review here? Thanks

  9. @ Danny if the ’06 is half as good as the ’05 it will be worth the money. We don’t have it in NorCal that I am aware of so would love to hear your thoughts Danny… As soon as I get access to it you’ll know mine!

  10. Jason, I broke down and bought one bottle of the 2006 Chariot Gypsy, before anyone on the site provided any recommendation and/or input on it. And here, I’m happy to say, are my tasting notes on it: Recommended. Rich aromatics of candy apple, flowers (roses? and acacia?) and herbs (tarragon? and orregano?).ruby colored, medium body with straightforward cherry and light lemon flavors underlain with hints of fig, orange rind, earthy minerals. Soft tannins. Clean and very pleasing. Reminds me of a good 10 year old barolo. I never tasted the 2005 version of the Chariot Gypsy, which you enjoyed so much. However, I think it’s worth buying one bottle of the 2006 to see how it tastes to you.

  11. I tried it. I’m not much of a wine expert and cannot necessarily taste/describe all of the nuances that many of you talk about, but I did enjoy it. Not quite as much as the 2005, it was a teeny tiny bit harsh, but I did not let it breathe as much as I should have. Nevertheless, it’s definitely another good buy.

    I went back today to my So. Cal TJ and where there were dozens and dozens of cases of the 2006 Chariot just a week ago, there were only about 4 bottles left today. Grabbed 2 of them.

    Spoke to the expert wine guy there who had turned me on to the 2005 a month or so ago and he did say that more would be coming. He did say that it needed to breathe for 40 mins or so upon opening for it to be at its best.

  12. Generally speaking saw via the control panel that someone rated this one star….Would love to hear why!

    @dip Thanks for the notes. Still waiting and will keep the 40 minute breathe in mind when I finally do track this down.

  13. The 2006 Chariot Gypsy is sold out at my TJ’s in Irvine. One of the wine buyer’s there told me she had multiple calls from people asking to hold a case, until they got there to pick em up. Glad I have my share…. Have to say this wine had a lot of power-very masculine, strong, but pleasant, not offensive in the least–drank like a full bodied red, though it’s color looked like it would drink medium. Like Jason and the 2005, I think the 2006 was comprised of a large percentage of petit sirah, though nothing related to the wines which were blended or their percentage was shown on the label of the bottle.

  14. I looked for this in a Chicago Trader Joes, but they said they do not carry it. Can it only be found on the West Coast?

    thanks, Laura

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