2008 Sebastopol Hills Pinot Noir

Price: $9.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2008 Sebastopol Hills Pinot NoirNada, the bottle said absolutely nothing. So the detective work began and I think I found my new best friend. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) COLA (Certificate of Label Approval) registry where a search returned these results. This led me to the Owl Ridge Wines which happens to be located in Sebastopol. Once here, Google helped me locate some text near the bottom of the page referencing people to their affiliated winery, Willowbrook Cellars , for information on outstanding Pinot Noirs. A visit there led me to their online store which had a 2008 Sonoma County Pinot on offer with the alcohol content listed as 14.5%, wouldn’t you know it the same as the Sebastopol Hills. Do we have conclusive evidence? Nope, though I have emailed the winery seeking confirmation and will report back if we do. For those that believe we have corroborated enough facts you can find more information about the Willowbrook offering on the winery website where their Sonoma County offering goes for $24.

What I Think:

So what about the wine itself? I opened this with hamburgers on the menu and it’s a beauty. You’re greeted with blueberry, herbs and mint on the nose. The palate delivers deep fruit flavors on a well balanced and structured profile. A nice acidity emerges late in the mid-palate and leads to a dry, herbal lingering finish. This one has some very nice depth and length to it. I need to grab a few more bottles of this one before it disappears…

Rating: Buy It

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24 thoughts on “2008 Sebastopol Hills Pinot Noir

  1. Good detective work on this one, and you’ve obviously uncovered a legit Web site.

    But I’m wondering, in these days of too much juice and too few buyers, if vinters create Web pages with artificially inflated prices for some of TJ’s wines. Michel-Schlumberger’s Petanque label comes to mind, selling for $4.99 a bottle at TJs and $18.95 on the label’s Web site (http://bit.ly/4yaDFD). My wife enjoys the Chardonnay, and I’m enjoying the Cab tonight. But methinks the Petanque Web page is a mere marketing ploy, especially since flyers posted at the TJ’s endcap enthusiastically quoted the Web site’s price.

  2. Yeah, we all really liked this one for the second it was still available. If you have any on your local store shelves, grab it now as its off the Order Guide.

  3. Hey Jason,

    Please try the Rootstock Zinfandel, at $6.99 a bottle. I’ve had a few bottles, and am impressed with the value so far. I am REALLY interested in hearing from you on this one.



  4. Sorry all for being a bit late to respond here, headed off on a quick vacation to kick off the new year but wanted to get back to you all…

    @Andy Interesting take. My quick thought is that for Michel Schlumberger & Petanque where they mention it on the website maybe so. In the case of Willowbrook & Sebastopol Hills with no public acknowledgment and thus no opportunity for upsell I’m not so sure. Anyone else have an opinion?

    @Angela I scooped the last three bottles I saw when I got back from vacation last week, guessing it is gone by now…

    @Nate Haven’t seen that one yet but will keep an eye out. Which TJ’s you shopping at?

    @Meghan Thanks! I always appreciate kind words.

    Happy New Year to all!

  5. I am in San Diego. I am sure the San Diego and Los Angeles stores have the same warehouse-inventory, and the bay area will vary a bit.

  6. @Nate As mentioned I was able to track down the Rootstock, guessing you saw the post but this one didn’t quite get it done for me. The one-dimensional aspect was tough to get past. That said, been ages since I’ve had a Zin I really liked from TJ’s. What are your other faves?

  7. Yes, I now agree about the wine being one-dimensional, and far too sweet for most drinkers. But I must admit that I did enjoy the first experience with the wine nonetheless.

    I tried two more bottles, mostly out of fear of being as wrong as I was, between asking you to try the wine and your review. I was less and less impressed… and actually thought I was getting a different quality in the finish of the wine on the second and third bottles(?).

    I am looking for the same great deals in Trader Joe wines as you are, and loving the finds you present in the “top 10″ lists. Your efforts and opinions on wines are always appreciated. Thank you for trying the zinfandel. I look forward to reading all about your 2010 drinking experiences.

    I’ve recently enjoyed the Gascon Malbec(previous year was a bit better), Cellar 8 Cabernet, Robert Hall Cabernet, and Mac Murray Pinot Noir. There are many more TJs wines that I find to be a good bargain, several have been on your top 10.

  8. @Nate Interesting, thanks for the diligent follow-up. Unlikely you got different batches of wine given there was so little time between tasting. That said, I’ve seen before when something sells out that they go back to the well to make more. Obviously the quality of the 2nd batch of grapes won’t be of the same standard. The more common case is that they expand production in the next vintage and to do so, again, overall quality suffers!

    As for the wines you mentioned, I had the ’07 Gascon and while nice I have others I like better at that price point. Cellar 8 and Robert Hall I have yet to try and the Mac Murray is in the rack. I am always happy to get recommendations so keep them coming my way…Happy tasting!

  9. Trader Joe’s is getting 6 cases of 2008 Sebastopol Hills Pinot Noir from Sonoma. We got this Pinot last year and it was really good. I tried to find the vineyard source that was making this for Tj’s but no luck. It goes for $9.99 and worth all the money. Each Southern California TJ’s only got 6 cases, so get it while you can.

    Tasting Notes: Blackcherry, plum, raspberry with hints of vanilla and a long smooth finish. Age 10 months in French oak.

    Alc: 14.40%
    Price: $9.99
    Comp’s Price: $24.99

  10. JB- glad you had that reaction- it was very different from last time for me too- very thin and uninteresting. I bought my bottle in Palo Alto, and the wine guy there described it as a different bottling, with more time in the barrel than the last batch. I guess it’s like 2 Buck Chuck- same label, but different wine.

  11. @JB I tracked down the maker on this last year it was Willowbrook Cellars, I find it funny that this new shipment is the same 2008 vintage that was originally received some months back. The conspiracy theorist in me wonders if they sourced some grapes for another run of this one rather than using estate fruit. Anyone have the ABV handy for the new bottle? The original was 14.5%. Either way bummer it sucks! Thanks to you and @AN I will be steering clear of this one…

  12. I found the new batch to still be an excellent buy @$9.99. And the system is nothing like Shaw which sources grapes from all over the state. This is a small producer, in need of cash and inventory flow, who sold off a small allotment to TJ’s. The ABV on a bottle is not necessarily an indicator of likeness as there is a 1% leeway in labeling for wines over 14%, and 1.5% for those under 14%–thus the general 12.5% for many wines, leaving the actual alcohol content legally acceptable between 11 and 14% for these wines. A cost saving measure that assists the winemakers in not having to reprint labels for every batch.

  13. BTW, this week the 2006 Chateau Chevailler Pinot Noir is supposed to be available also for $9.99. (4 cases max per store)
    I’ll see if comes in tomorrow night, attempt to do a side-by-side Tasting hopefully Thursday and report back.

  14. Much too busy with meetings at the store this week to do tastings, but here’s an update about current & incoming items:

    2006 Chateau Chevallier Pinot Noir is in: $9.99

    Ordered, hopefully we’ll get some:
    TJ’s Grand Reserve Chalk Hill Chardonnay: $12.99

    TJ’s Reserve Rutherford Meritage: $9.99

    Canard Sauvage Dry Creek Zinfandel: $9.99

    Hamilton-Stevens Russian River Pinot Noir: $8.99

    I’ll try to beg for some tasting time soon, let y’all know if my store gets them and what they taste like. Yes, a little pricey compared to the “everyday” wines, but hopefully there’s a ton of QPR.

  15. the mess of comments above obscures the Sebastapol Pinot beneath other wines, and specific comments that appear to be about Rootstock Zin, not the 2008 Sebastapol.

    I found the Sebastapol 2008 incredibly silky, one of the best mouth-feel wines I’ve experienced in years. Subtle strawberry/raspberry, and no mint, blueberry, or herbs (as the first taster noted). Long finish with tart fruit. Soft tannins, but good body and deep structure. A keeper, and still available at TJs in SoCal. If you don’t see it, ask them to order it.

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