5 things I’ve learned in 5 years…

Happy Birthday to me!Or another way of saying happy birthday to me. Jason’s Wine Blog turned 5 today. Started shortly after returning from Australia with a simple post it has been a roller coaster of a ride ever since. I’ve met loads of people (both online and off), made new friends and become part of a community that has helped me grow, learn and explore the world of wine. So a hearty thanks to all of you for participating and helping me along the way!

So to celebrate (like only a blogger would) I thought I would share 5 lessons I’ve learned along the way so here they go…

  1. There is a lot to learn and explore – I just recently noted on twitter that according to CellarTracker I had tried 123 varieties across 20 countries. Some friends shared their approach is much narrower (and therefore deeper) but as you likely already know I am an explorer by nature. I imagine some day in the future I might spend six weeks exploring Chinon but for now I still need to try my first Zweigelt and so many more. There’s a great, big beautiful world out there!
  2. Your palate and preferences will change – When I first started I was interesting in finding and being able to explain a single bottle of wine I enjoyed. Soon I wanted to open multiple bottles of the same varietal to explore nuances. From there it was specific winemakers or trying to understand the sense of place that makes a Sonoma Coast Pinot different from those of Russian River. This just speaks to how I like to taste changed but my palate has also evolved over time. Years ago I bought 3 cases of the 2004 Rosenblum “Heritage Clone” Petite Sirah but now I much prefer the wines of La Clarine Farm. It will be interesting to see what I enjoy 5 years from now as my palate continues to evolve…
  3. There is (much) more to wine than Trader Joe’s (or your local grocer) – Yes its convenient as we shop there, yes they are affordable, yes many are good but if you want to expand and grow your palate you need to look outside the wine aisles of Trader Joe’s. To start with find a local wine store. Go in and ask what tastings they have coming up. Ask them what their best value or favorite wine is under $10 (or the price point of your choice is). You will soon find they can turn you onto some very compelling offerings in the $8-$12 range. In the Bay Area I am lucky enough to have K&L, Arlequin and many more at my fingertips. So get out there and explore your neighborhoods!
  4. Know thy reviewers palate (and importers too) – This is perhaps my greatest lesson; if buying on points or recommendations keep a tally on what you like versus what you don’t from each source; palate matching if you will. In my early days I bought many Parker wines that were well rated and affordable that didn’t deliver for me. So when you buy a wine based on a review, my recommendation or that of the clerk in your local wine store do yourself a favor and keep score. This can apply to importers as well. Get to the know some of their portfolios (which you’ll likely explore at some of those tastings I recommended above). I know I am well aligned with Jon Bonne’s palate and therefore buy his recommendations with confidence; Parker not so much anymore. Find your match!
  5. You don’t have to compare everything – I’m analytical by nature so my instinct is to logically order things. In the case of wine, especially coupled with the fact that I’m a writer (don’t laugh please…), that means always wanting to know which is better or best. For example when enjoying my 2nd orange wine, the Pheasant’s Tears late last year my mind immediately raced to the Coenobium which knocked my socks off earlier that year. The thought? A side by side tasting to determine which was better. Some days later it occurred to me what a waste that would have been. Don’t get me wrong there are many times where comparing and contrasting is a great way to learn. But in this case it seemed wasteful to not just enjoy each for what they were free of any other considerations. Sometimes you just have to stop and enjoy what is in your glass!

So there you have five years worth of learning in a nutshell. And just for trivia sake if anyone ever ask which was the the first wine ever reviewed on Jason’s Wine Blog the answer would be the 2001 Navarro Pinot Noir Methode Alancienne.

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13 thoughts on “5 things I’ve learned in 5 years…

  1. “Yes its convenient as we shop there, yes they are affordable, yes many are good but if you want to expand and grow your palate you need to look outside the wine aisles of Trader Joe’s.”

    While I have work for Trader Joe’s almost 10 years I do agree with you for the most part. I do think we have great prices on a lot of value wines and also branded wine where you can get any where. You are right Jason, one most go out of the Trader Joe’s Box and try new items. I have joined 2 wine clubs, one that gives wine from around the world and the other where I am getting married at (Leoness Cellars in Temecula). Since joining these clubs I have had some awesome wine that I know I can’t get a TJ’s. One thing I can say is that you are getting great wine from Traders at an great everyday price and also some wine you can’t get unless you go to their winery. This is why Trader Joe’s sells the most wine in the world (mostly because of Charles Shaw). TJ’s has been getting more branded wine lately and I was told that wine is going to be the focus section coming up. With this, you will probably seem more variety of wine coming soon.

    • @JB I no doubt depend on Trader Joe’s to provide great value. If you will to drink like it is the weekend or a special occasion every night. And they can certainly deliver. Recently I’ve gone through a case+ of the Buena Vista Pinot and I still enjoy perusing the aisles for the latest finds. Today’s were the Dark Horse offerings.

      And BTW congratulations on your upcoming nuptials! When is the big date? Been hearing a lot of great things about the wines from the San Diego area and hope to try some of them soon!

      • October 7th is the big day. You have to make a trip down to the San Diego/Temecula area. They are making some great juice. I live in Orange County, so Temecula is the nearest Wine country for me.

  2. Congratulations gentlemen!
    @Jason: Wow! 5 yrs already?
    May you continue to be an awesome resource for the wine public and pop down the TJ’s aisle occasionally to find a gem or two. ; )
    I know you’re not as into the Reserve and Grand Reserve wines as you once we were, but the Dry Creek Cabernet is back, a Paso Robles Grenache, the Carneros Pinot and the Yountville Meritage: 50 % Petit Verdot, 40% Merlot 10% Cabernet sound like good possibilities.
    BTW, I’ll be at the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival on the 19th.
    Are you going? I’ll definitely be stopping by Navarro’s Open House on Sunday.

    @JB: May you be as happy in your marriage as I’ve been in mine.
    She’s a lucky gal.
    Oh, I’m not sure if your store has the Latour Marsannay in your Order Guide, but it was a fairly decent village expression of a Burgundy, especially for $13.
    As far away from a CA fruit bomb as you can get with smoky, gamey flavors, red fruit and a beautiful garnet color. I’d drink a whole lot more Burgundy and New World Pinot if I had the budget for it.
    FYI: The May Flyer wines turned out to be OK. The Revolution Chard has tropical flavors and the Acre is classic CA Chard but the oak is well integrated. The Revolution Cab-Merlot was liked by many, but thought it was a little flat and the St. Somewhere Syrah had some nice fruit but pretty aggressive tannins. Give that baby at least an hour in the decanter.


    • @Angela 5yrs indeed! The Yountville Meritage is certainly appealing at 50% Petite Verdot! Unfortunately not going to make the Anderson Valley Pinot festival though I love them so… That said I am attending a Riesling tasting next week I think you might be interested in. I’ll email you some details…

  3. @Angela

    Yes, we do have the Latour Marsannay available to us. Haven’t try it yer, But I will have to put it in the next tasting. I do agree the flyer wines this time around were OK. Like I said before, the next focus section for the store is going to be the wine section. I think you will see a lot more branded wines coming our way.

  4. JB, do you happen to have a source that TJ’s sells the most wine in the world? I thought Costco was the biggest wine retailer in the US. I know that TJ’s is not just privately owned but has an especially secretive corporate culture, so I’d be interested in anything on the record about their wine sales. Thanks.

  5. Im sorry, I miss posted information. Trader joes sell the most wine as a retailer in the us, but Costco sells the most liquor and wine all together in the US. Tjs doesn’t sell even close to the amount of liquor as Costco does.

    Also, if you like the Meritage then try the trader joes grand reserve meritage 2007. Amazing wine for $12.99.

  6. @JB: Oooh, you are so right about the Meritage. Dark fruits, slightly earthy, a tad rustic but smooth at the same time. A Crew Favorite at this week’s Tasting.
    Give me some meat and dark chocolate and I’d be a happy girl!
    BTW, the Bridlewood was quite nice as well. Big dark cherries, good structure, nice depth, it’s the more muscular big brother to Menage.
    Mostly Syrah with Cab & Zin, pretty good for the price: $12
    We tried the Estancia Meritage as well, but for me the tannins grabbed my cheeks and didn’t let go. Of course the Big Red Crew loved it but not for me.
    I also tried the Blason St. Veran White Burgundy: $7.99
    Light to medium bodied, nice fruit, fairly crisp, decent minerality and no oak.
    Great for easy drinking hot weather days, light fish dishes and summer salads. Our $5 Gruner isn’t bad either, starting off pretty dry and finishing off with lots of apple.
    I’m looking forward to re-merchandizing a good part of my Wine section next week so we can have more shelf space for the better tasting wines and less emphasis on Shaw.

  7. @Jason

    OK Jason have to get your hands on a bottle of the Trader Joe’s Grand Reserve Meritage. This has to be one of the best bottle of wine that I have gotten from TJ’s in a long time. We had a Trader Joe’s Reserve tasting the other day and every bottle was so good. One bottle I think you should also try is the Trader Joe’s Reserve Garnacha from Paso Robles (One of my favorite wine countries.) ($9.99). The TJ’s Reserve tasting was one of the best tasting I have every had at work. I even had a employee wine snob at the tasting who loved everything (That says a lot in my mind.) Right now in Southern California we have the following Trader Joe’s Reserves available:

    TJ’s Chardonnay Reserve Edna Valley ($9.99)
    TJ’s Chardonnay Grand Reserve Napa ($12.99)

    TJ’s Reserve Garnacha Paso Robles ($9.99)

    TJ’s Grand Reserve Pinot Noir ($12.99)

    TJ’s Reserve Dry Creek Valley Cabernet ($9.99)

    TJ’s Grand Reserve Meritage 2007 ($12.99)- Was told by another employee from another store that this wine was rated a 99 in a private label tasting. Not sure who rated it but when I find out I will report back.

    Trader Joe’s Reserve Labels are quality wine for under $13. If these Reserve Labels were not under the Trader Joe’s Private label they would be $20 and up in price else where.

  8. @JB: Well, now you know what to serve at your event in October ; )
    Seriously though, the Meritage is killer and at 50% Petite Verdot is right up Jason’s alley. Can’t wait to see what the Knights Valley Meritage will have in it.
    As most of you know I’m not a huge Cali Chard fan, but the Grand Reserve is bright, delicious and not all buttery/oaky fenoky.
    I’m looking forward to trying the Grenache and Pinot, but the 2007 La Tiare du Pape Chateauneuf du Pape is what I’m really excited to taste. A little more expensive at $19, but considering it has retailed elsewhere for $35-40 and that 2007 was an awesome year in the Rhone, bring it on!
    I’m off to the Anderson Valley for the Pinot Festival tomorrow and today I get to oversee the rest of re-merchandising the Bubblies, Whites and Imports in my store. Goodbye large island of Shaw, to the back wall with you where you belong and hello to more space for Imports and Domestic Whites. : )

    • @Angela

      Yeah I have to do a major reset of the wine section soon before we get a visit from the Regional managers and other VP’s. I hate the Shaw Island! I wish we could just get rid of it, but that’s what they want I guess. Just wondering are you a Merchant or Mate?

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