Trader Joe’s Thanksgiving Vine Report

Trader Joe's Thanksgiving Vine ReportI got home today and low and behold who wanted to recommend my Thanksgiving Wines (and my meal too!) but Trader Joe’s. Their Food Pilgrimager was loaded with everything you needed to make a feast and the wines to go along with it. So what did they have in mind?

A series of reds from Fife Vineyards to start. Information on these seems sparse, unless the vintage on these is ’05 or ’06, which I am guessing it is not, it looks as if this winery has been laying low for a few years. The latest vintage shown on their trade site is 2005. Perhaps they are once again emerging. These are followed by two offerings from the Novella Synergy label which is made by Eos Estates. I’ve previously enjoyed the white but been a bit indifferent to the red. I do have a few friends that dig it though so perhaps I’ll give it another try. And last up, one more blend from Robert Hall, this one is the ’06 Rhone de Robles which retails on the winery site for $12. Early comments here on the site are positive. For 33% percent I’ll give this one a shot.

Have any of you had these wines? Let me know your thoughts in the comments. Now let’s get to what Trader Joe’s had to say about these wines…

Fife Wines

Let liquid inventory leftover from a winery sale linger? We think not. Tap those barrels and tanks! And that’s what we did when we collaborated with the Fife team, including consulting winemaker Alison Crowe, to create bottles of unique Fife Wine blends. Leveraging the wealth of pedigree varietals and the skill of blending visionaries, we developed a line of reds, each with a distinct character and layers of subtle complexities. They are all exceptional and the essence of great value – $6.99 for each 750 ml bottle.

Fife Cabernet: Alluring and rich. Ripe blackberry flavors with hints of cassis and subtle rose petal aromas. Classically big with well-integrated tannins. Ovation worthy (standing) finish.

Fife Petite Sirah: Petite? Only in name. This PS boasts generous fruit – cherry, plum & dark berries burst in the mouth. Smooth and sprightly – a well-structured blend with medium tannins and a long, balanced finish.

Fife Zinfandel: Inviting – like a warm hug with the right amount of squeeze. Juicy cherries and warm, sweet cloves harmonize with soft French oak. The finish holds on just long enough.

Fife Max Cuvée: Layered. Lovely. Dynamic. This quintessential cuvée fills the mouth with jammy red raspberry and blackberry fruit flavors that unveil splendid earthly accents – chocolate, pepper, tea…? What do you taste? Pure poetry.

Cuvée Classics

The winemaker’s chef-d’oeuvre, cuvées combine the flavor and structural properties of various varietals to create a deliberate profile that supercedes the sum of its parts. That’s why we think a great cuvée captures (in a glass) the spirit of this American holiday. Crafted from fruit grown in the distinguished Paso Robles region, these wine blends reverberate with energy.

Novella Synergy Red 2007: Jazz in a bottle ala Armstrong, “play the good kind.” Oak-aged 37% Petite Sirah, 25% Zinfandel, 20% Merlot, 18% Sangiovese harmonize into a smooth, juicy voice. Spicy blackberry aromas lead to cherry & raspberry flavors with subtle earthy hints (chocolate?). Finishes long, leaving notes of berry and spice lingering. Playful, complementary, razzmatazz-lu-lu-bazz in a $6.99 bottle.

Novella Synergy Blanc 2008: 70% Sauvignon Blanc, 15% Pinot Grigio, 8% Muscat Canelli &7% Chardonnay, it exudes “excited conversation” character. Aromas of fresh grass and flavors of green apple lead to a light sweetness and a clean, citrus-y finish. Pleasantly persistent effervescence permeates, perpetuating the charisma. As does the price of $4.99 for a bottle.

Robert Hall 2006 Rhone de Robles: Pours from the bottle or the decanter gracefully; plays well with eclectic palates; wears a big bow beautifully – a sociable red. Hand-harvested, oak aged grapes – 46% Grenache, 45% Syrah, 6% Cinsaut and 3% Counoise – fragrant with fresh berries & clove, it fills the mouth with cherry and cranberry flavors, delicately offset by silky tannins and hints of black pepper and spice. A bottle is $11.99 begging for a party.

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9 thoughts on “Trader Joe’s Thanksgiving Vine Report

  1. Hi Jason, thanks for the Fife reviews. Of the Fife’s, I’ve only tried the Petite Sirah. While certainly drinkable, I was not terribly impressed with this wine. It seemed harsh and unbalanced to me, with the tannins overpowering the fruit. I’ve been drinking a lot of Bogle P.S., and I think that has spoiled me somewhat – I believe that is a good value for a <$10 P.S. I will probably give the Fife zin a try, based on your notes; if I like the zin, I might yet give the P.S. another try!

  2. Drinking my first glass of the Fife Max Cuvee. I think if there was any disappointment with the Petite Sirah, you’ll definitely find this one much more balanced. I won’t even try to use wine tasting terminology as I’m ill-equipped for that, but I will say that it is simultaneously smooth and complex. I’m pleasantly surprised and would definitely buy this again.

  3. I thought the Petite Sirah tasted unbalanced & coarse and finished with more than a hint of creosote which really turned me off.

    The Cab could have fooled me in a blind tasting into thinking it was a merlot. Pass… (I would rather drink the 07 Fetzer Cab for the same money).

    The Max Cuvee is anything but Max, although it is quite drinkable, I found it a bit thin overall but the Zin shows it’s spice. IMHO, L’Authentique is a better wine for 2 bucks less.

    I thought the Zin was the best of the bunch by far and several have come home with me since the VERY limited quantity was released.

  4. Contrary to Troubadour Joe’s scintillating ad copy, I found no poetry, pure or otherwise, in the Fife Max Cuvee which bears the name of what in happier times must have been a wine of some character and breeding, but at $6.99 a bottle it was a pretty decent drink. The Zinfandel with its modest alcohol was tastier and very serviceable as an everyday, pizza-for-dinner type of wine, well worth the entrance fee. Have yet to try the Petite Sirah, but previous commentary bodes ill.

  5. Hey J. Been out of touch but catching back up with the blogosphere. I seem to recall the Fife Max Cuvee at a much higher price point years ago (could it have been $20+). I was surprised to see it at the Joe but grabbed a bottle and like the rest of the commenters liked it but didn’t love it. Did Fife stop making wine and get back in, selling all their stuff to TJ’s or have I just not been in a real wine shop for too long???

  6. @Joe Just to be clear these weren’t my reviews, straight from the TJ’s flyer. Though I am writing a review on the Zinfandel now. I hear you on the Bogle, long time favorite of mine.

    @May I grabbed a bottle of the Cuvee but have yet to try, hopefully I enjoy it as much as you did!

    @Winoclast Thanks for the 2nd on the Petite Sirah as well as your thoughts on the others. I did enjoy the Zin. I would best describe it as “juicy” but have yet to try the others. Let me know if you have any other thoughts!

    @Under Thanks for your take as well, as mentioned I 2nd your notion that the Zin is indeed serviceable, a very apt description. Yet to try the Cuvee but will share thoughts when I do…

    @Eric Good to hear from you! As noted above this winery goes dark after their ’05 vintage to some extent. Like you I found references for older bottles selling between $20-$30 a bottle. That said I haven’t been able to fill in the blanks of what happened in the last few years. My thinking on them “once again emerging” was pure speculation. I’ve been asking around a bit and will let you know if I come up with anything worth sharing…

  7. I second the opinion of winoclast, the petite sirah was a bit harsh and unbalanced (maybe another year in the bottle would help it?).

    While it was drinkable, I’m glad I didn’t pay more than $7 for it and I think I’d be pretty unhappy if I paid $20 or $30.

    Based on the reviews, I might try the Zin next.

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