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 I was able to track down both the site for the winery which is terribly out of date and in desperate need of my SEO (Search Engine Optimization) services and his first love which happens to be Verjus which I need to look into further (Jessie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. I bought a case in Reno yesterday. Then I got a call from my wife who works there and Bill, the wine guy, says it’s not on their list for reorder anymore. Bought 2 more cases just to tide me over.

    I also ran into an anomaly on a 2005 I opened last night: a plastic cork. Up until now they’ve all been cork. Still tasted great.

  2. Okay, because this is a cult following, I’ll lead my fellow Gypsy lovers to another store (and because I won’t personally be shopping there myself!). The one in Bend, Oregon, got a “surprise” shipment last week and has several cases. Why can’t we get a “surprise” down here in Southern California???

  3. I live in Orange County, CA. My wife and I have enjoyed wine for years. We first tried the 2006 Chariot Gypsy a month ago. We totally agree with all of you, this is a wonderful wine with good fruit, balance and finish. We tried to get more in So Cal, but all TJs are out.

    We ended up driving to Vegas where the TJs had tons of this lovely fermented grape. We bought 8 cases and shared some with our local friends who were also quite impressed.

    My wife has always been a Folie a Deux Ménage à Trois Red fan (we have enjoyed literally hundreds of bottles). The Gypsy has replaced the Menage in our cellar. We had to spill over to the white side of our cellar to make room for our stash – well worth it.

    We can’t wait until the 2007s come out. Hopefully, we stocked up with enough to hold us over until then.

  4. Fresno on Blackstone is all out as of Feb 2nd. I didn’t realize there were 2 in the area, as I was driving up from an hour away. Mike, the wine guy there, was a great help though, and spent quite a bit of time helping me find all kinds of wines to sample.

  5. @all I want to turn you off. Feel like an addict. It’s been months since I’ve had the Gypsy and you all are celebrating it daily! Jim Neal! Trader Joe’s! Can the Bay Area please get some love!

  6. Don’t feel too bad Jason, I just arrived home from the Clovis TJ’s and no sign of our beloved Gypsy. I still haven’t heard back from Jim Neal either. Not to worry though… we’ve got our ear to the ground!

  7. Unfortunately all of the TJ’s in the Greater Seattle Area (including Tacoma) are all out and they’re saying it ain’t coming back. I’ve gone through 4 cases by this time and I was willing to buy up a whole lot more. Hopefully what’s going to happen is that the 2005 will be replaced by the 2006 and they’ll get it back in stock. Let’s just hope that Jim Neal hasn’t decided that his wine is really really good and up the price!

    …it is definitely the best wine for the price, bar none…

  8. @Charlie Think I am ready to get in the car and drive if it appears. I keep asking locally but no luck

    @Steve They still had the ’05 up by you? Let me know if the ’06 shows up, I’d be interested to hear…

  9. I had this wine at Christmas–just picked it up at Trader Joe’s on a lark. It was so good and I’m more of a white wine person. They aren’t stocking it any more as of today!

  10. 2007 Chariot Gypsy will be available late MAY or early June 2009! Primary blend is 70% Cabernet and Zinfandel ++ :-) Get it fast as it will be GONE!

  11. Just scored a case of ’05 from a family friend. I’m treating it as though it were gold. I need to get over that and start popping corks. I wonder when the ’05 will peak…

    Re: the ’07. I’m a little concerned about the high percentage of Cab as I always seem to get horrendous headaches after drinking Cabs. And no, it’s not because I drank too much of them. ;^D

  12. I’ve confirmed DIP’s tip that the 2007 Chariot Gypsy is available. I’ve provided a “flash” of my tasting impressions under the notes for Jason’s 2008 November Top Ten at Trader Joe’s file. Good hunting

  13. The BLEND for the 2007 Gypsy is:
    37% Cabernet
    33% Zinfandel
    10% Pitite Sirah
    10% Syrah
    10% Sangoviese

    Slightly bigger that the ’06 and a bit jammy now as it is young. Very drinkable and once again an excellent value wine. Great summer BBQ wine for almost anything! :-)

  14. Called TJ’s in both Clovis and Fresno this morning and both stores confirmed inventory of the ’07.

    Met the wife at the Fresno store and picked up one bottle for a parking lot tasting. Nice legs, and a good nose. Definitely benefits from aeration. I’d definitely decant at this point. Should benefit from some more time in the bottle.

    Still, really great after a few minutes of breathing, Closer to the ’05 Gypsy than the ’06. Buy now while you can. A great buy at $4.99/bottle!

  15. Been to three Trader Joe’s in the SF area again and no dice. I had the wine buyers check and they said it isn’t available in the NorCal TJ’s distribution center. Given Jim Neal is in the San Luis Obispo area I understand it making it to Cental CA first but if it is in SoCal already where is mine! Angela, can you get some of the Chariot Gypsy into Alameda? I’ll make the trek! Going to do a post on this to let everyone know it is available…

  16. Now for some responses…

    @jerryk you nailed the time line on this one. Who is your inside source? And thanks for the blend percentage…

    @charlie someone gave up a case of the ’05? WTF? I need some friends that have enough of the Gypsy around that they can be giving away cases… Thanks for the notes on decanting the ’07

    @danny thanks for the confirmation and quick tasting notes, I’ll likely use them for my post letting people know it is available

  17. JASON SAID: @charlie someone gave up a case of the ‘05? WTF? I need some friends that have enough of the Gypsy around that they can be giving away cases… Thanks for the notes on decanting the ‘07

    Not only did they let it go, they GAVE it to me! The chap who gave it to me scored about 10 cases of the ’05 last August. His son is a winemaker on the Central Coast, and he’s friends with Jim Neal(the owner of Chariot wines). When the ’05 hit TJ’s last summer, he called his dad who rat-holed a bunch of it.

    Anyways, his dad’s lady friend is an old family friend who I do repairs for. He comped me the case and asked me to cut her a deal the next time I fix something for her… NO PROBLEM!!

    On another note, I did a blind tasting of the ’05, ’06 and ’07 with my wife last night. Actually, she was blind, but I new what was what. She nailed the ’07 because she said it was more tannic than the the other two. She also nailed the Zin in the ’07 too. She’s got quite the palate.

    What was funny was that she thought the ’06 was the ’05 and visa versa. But I may have skewed the test by having a freshly opened and decanted ’05 go up against an ’06 that had already been opened and sitting in the fridge for two days, which obviously would have had more time to mellow.

    BTW: No headaches/hangovers from the ’07, which can be a problem for us with some Cab blends. Got 4 cases already which is good because we were almost out of the ’06. Going back for more today or tomorrow…

  18. Man Charlie, I need to turn this whole thread off. Here I am running around trying to find a single bottle. You? You are raking in a case of a vintage you can’t buy. Running blind vertical tastings of the last three years… Next thing I hear you are going to invite the whole neighborhood over to do some tasting.

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