About jason

Jason enjoys exploring the world of wine, a new varietal or region lies around every corner. He views the wine world as a treasure hunt for grown-ups. This often leads him to the Trader Joe’s wine aisle where he can assess the latest finds to search for nuggets. He has no credentials and doesn’t claim to. Jason describes himself as a “professional consumer”. He’s just sharing what he liked, didn’t or loved and lessons he is learning along the way. In doing so, he hopes to help all filter through the masses of wines to find those that deliver tremendous value to the wallet and the palate. So next time you head out to Trader Joe’s grab his latest Top 10 list and if you feel so inclined leave it in the aisle for the person behind you when you are done. Jason can be reached via email at jason at jasonswineblog dot com or on twitter: @jasonswineblog.

Quick Takes Vol. II

Hi-Tech Tasting Notes…

Quick Takes Vol IIMy 2nd installment of “Quick Takes” as I aim to share some thoughts on wines that have made it across my table recently. Here we have a quick trip around the globe with a nice group of wines. Nothing disappointed here. The Buena Vista still deservingly holds the top spot in my Trader Joe’s Top 10 Wine List and is surprisingly still available. I’ve gone through 8+ bottles and just bought another half case. Though slightly more expensive the Dr. Pauly-Bergweiler Spätlese was something else and at $8 the Tintara is certainly worth revisiting. Here’s the details (most links go to CellarTracker) on this group:

2008 Buena Vista Pinot Noir – (13.5%) Initially this one comes across as more earthy and minerally before opening up to dark, lush (mainly cherry) fruit with sandalwood and spice. The rich, creamy finish lingers softly with cherry-cola spice. Once given time to breathe this one is smooth and easy drinking throughout. That said be sure to crack the top on this one an hour or two prior to planned consumption. If you can handle that this one offers some nice QPR at $10.

2007 Château La Nerthe Châteauneuf-du-Pape* – (14.5%) Grenache 48%, Syrah 28%, Mourvèdre 14%, Cinsault 5%, Divers 5% – Earthy and juicy with nice, ripe cherry and dark currant flavors that come across as a touch creamy here. The palate is backed by components of floral, graphite and mineral acidity before leading to a dry, herbal finish with lasting, smooth tannins. Nice depth to the rich fruit here but the complementary acidity it this balanced throughout. This wine is layered and enjoyable. 93pts Wine Advocate, $52.

2009 Hans Lang Riesling Vom Bunten Schiefer* – (12.5%) A QbA designate this is dry and clean on the tongue. Wound tight with lemon rock acidity (hints of orange peel) and grapefruit minerality it stays zingy and refreshing until the finish goes all wrong (charcoal, heat and totally counter to expectations). Not sure what is going on here but it certainly hurts my overall impression of the wine…

2009 Dr. Pauly-Bergweiler Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese* – (8%) Yes you read that right; 8%! This is what I am talking about. More rich then sweet with honey, apple and pears coupled with a bright lemon acidity through a nice crisp finish. Really digging this wine. Pure and delicious! At $33 it is a bit spendy but worth every penny and more…

2007 Tintara Shiraz – (14%) Picked this one up for $8 (marked down from $18) on sale. Smoky, rich and dark fruit on a spiced nose with hints of minerals and meats. Warm and juicy on the palate with a similar profile though perhaps a touch tarter than the nose would indicate. More mineral too which leads into a nice lasting finish with fine grained tannins. Smooth, balanced and nice acidity. I’m a fan. A nice QPR at 8; perhaps I should grab half a case for short term cellaring?

2010 Goldwater Sauvignon Blanc Wairau Valley* – Lifted, grassy nose. bright citrus palate with refreshing acidity and a touch of dry mineral talc on the finish. New Zealand Sauv Blanc through and through. Nice but not a standout. Drink with company.

Those with * indicate wines that were received as samples.

Quick Takes Vol. I

Hi-Tech Tasting Notes…

Quick Takes v1 - Hi-tech tasting notes...As per usual just because the writing slows doesn’t mean the enjoyment does. To that end I have nearly thirty empties awaiting my attention before disposal. My wife asked nicely that some find there way out of the house very soon and given Mother’s Day is just around the corner I thought it would be wise to oblige. So the first group I grabbed? You guessed it! Those with the easy to find tasting notes. This was a steady and consistent group. If I were to buy one again it would be the Mas Carlot which I picked up on closeout from K&L Wines for $9.99. A nice, complex white and my first experience with Clairette to boot. Here’s the details (all links go to CellarTracker) on this group:

2008 Cavas De Crianza Malbec – (14.5%) Brief notes here as a friend brought this over and we opened it for dinner. Not bad but average and over oaked for me. That said nothing wrong here but given the plethora of values (Alamos, Pascual Toso, Terrazas de los Andes) in this category (at ~$12) wouldn’t buy again…

2010 Mas Carlot Costières-de-Nîmes Clairette de Bellegarde – (13.5%) 100% Clairette – My first experience with this varietal which starts crisp and floral with orange rinds. As it warms it turns to nectarine stone fruit with a nice mineral backbone and crisp, refreshing finish. This one is well worth the $10 introduction to the AOC Clairette de Bellegarde and its primary varietal. Grape explorers should definitely track this one down!

2010 Domaine de Moulines Vin de Pays de l’Hérault – (13.5%) Pitched to me as a marriage saver (my wife loves CA cab, me not so much) this one starts with green apple on the nose and a zesty, mineral driven palate framed with lemon rind acidity. The backbone is crisp and surprisingly rich yet focused which I am always happy to find in a Chard. That said my wife not so much. So while we both found it quaffable it didn’t hit the target for either of us. At ~$12 that seems fair enough…

2009 Navarro Vineyards Grenache – (14.6%) Very nice, balanced and bursting with red (cherry) and purple (plum) fruit flavors. A little too rich for me to be in love but I sure enjoyed flirting with the “new”. That said at ~$23 I still prefer something a bit more earthy and nuanced in style.

2008 St. Supéry Vineyards Moscato – (9.6%) Had some friends bring this one over. Ripe and sweet with lush peaches. This isn’t your light and crisp Moscato. A bit too sweet for me to enjoy with anything besides desert. If you want to serve this as an aperitif I recommend doing so over chilled. That said a nice wine if served within the proper context.

How about you? Drink anything worth sharing this week?

Wines of Germany: Riesling & Co. World Tour 2012

Wines of Germany: Riesling & Co. World Tour 2012 Today I was lucky enough to attend the Riesling & Co World Tour 2012 when they made their pit stop in San Francisco. The folks at Wines of Germany always put on an excellent and enjoyable event which I look forward to year after year. And it was indeed a fun day of tastings. Rieslings across the spectrum, a handful of Sylvaner and Pinot Noir (or Spätburgunder depending on the label) and a few miscellaneous sparklers, reds and whites. So what were the standouts?

Well it is fun to catch up with favorites. First up was St. Urbans-Hof from the Mosel (where the picture at the top of this page was taken) and their lineup once again shined. The balance here was impeccable as was the ability for the wines to remain light while retaining such presence and weight. While I’ll be looking for any of these the 2011 Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Spätlese (~$22) was once again (like the ’09) bedeviling. Next up were Leitz from the Rheingau (again hard to go wrong here but the 2011 Rudesheimer Klosterlay Kabinett is hard to beat at ~$18) and Schloss Schönborn (here the 2010 Hattenheimer Pfaffenberg Kabinett, ~$18, stood out). From there it is always nice to talk with Claus Burmeister, the CEO and winemaker at Weingut Heitlinger, who is as engaging and entertaining as they come. Not to mention his 2010 Pinot Blanc was something else. I’d surely recommend it but Claus mentioned he’s in search of a new importer stateside so hopefully that happens soon…

Weingut Clemens BuschNow onto the best part; new discoveries. And boy oh boy did I find a great one today in the likes of Clemens Busch. Their lineup was thrilling from top to bottom. The 2010 Rothenpfad (~$32) was my wine of the day but I am eager to spend more time with their whole portfolio. Hat tip to my friend John Trinidad, the man behind SF Wine Blog, for making sure I didn’t miss this one. They are represented by Dee Vine Wines here in the Bay Area so fingers crossed I can score some soon. When and if I do I’ll certainly share…

And finally what would a day of German tasting be without some aged and sweet wines. My favorites here were the ’89 Spätlese from Brüder Dr. Becker which still seemed fresh, the 2006 Beerenauslese from Weingut Knebel and the 2004 Eiswein from Dr. Fischer. Guessing these are all nearly impossible to find but if you happen to stumble upon them you’ll be happy you did!

I was lucky enough to have Angela join me at this event so you can likely look forward to another perspective soon. But in the meantime what’s your favorite German wine? Leave me a note in the comments below as I’d love to hear…

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.

2008 Trader Joes GSM Reserve

2008 Trader Joes GSM ReservePrice: $9.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the bottle “Violets, medjool dates, anise and plum.” Guess they thought that was enough said…

What I Think:

(14.5%) 24% Grenache, 55% Syrah, 21% Mourvedre – Ripe but backed by acidity with some jammy fruit around the edges that lingers with spice all the way through to an earthy, lasting finish. Warm, smooth, a touch rich, spiced and lasting. A nice effort here and if this wine had a proper face I’d be inclined to buy it again. But at $10 these mystery labels are losing their allure for me…

Wine Geek Notes: This one tracks to Vine Intervention LLC which is owned by Marc Cummings who also happens to be the winemaker at Kelsey See Canyon Vineyards and has his own label at Drake Vineyards

Rating: Good but… (as mentioned I’d prefer putting a face to this name)

2008 BearBoat Pinot Gris

2008 BearBoat Pinot GrisPrice: $3.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per BearBoat Wines “Bearboat Pinot Gris, made from 100% Pinot Gris grapes, has aromas of apricots, nectarines and a perfumed spice. The wine is fairly full-bodied with balanced acidity and oily texture. The finish is clean with good length and extract. Pinot Gris grapes come from cool climate areas – 30% from Russian River, 30% from Sonoma Coast and 40% from Carneros. All these 3 growing areas in Sonoma allow the Pinot Gris to retain pronounced aromatics and fresh acidity. 60% of the wine is fermented in stainless steel to retain nectarine fruit aromas. The rest is fermented in new French oak for added complexity. A half of the wine goes through malolactic fermentation for acidity balance. It’s aged for five months in 40% new French oak for added complexity.”

What I Think:

(13.5%) I really wanted to like this one I did. But I don’t. Seems like he has a decent enough pedigree as K&L Wines was selling the 2007 vintage for $14 but I just don’t get it here. Ripe nectarine and stone fruits on the nose. On the palate this is medium bodied, rich apples, oily & spiced, lemon acidity but the black licorice on the edges distracts throughout never allowing this to come together. Perhaps better with food (I tried it on its own) but I’m not likely to give it another chance…

By the way 2008 seems a little late for this simple offering to be hitting the market; wonder what gives?

Wine Geek Notes: Part of the Rémy Cointreau portfolio

Rating: Skip It

2009 Dos Minas Malbec

2009 Dos Minas MalbecPrice: $11.99 @ K&L Wines imported by Michael Skurnik Wines

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines “Plain and simple, this is delicious, organic malbec, perhaps the best $12 and under version we’ve tasted all year. It is produced from 15 year-old vines in sandy, rocky clay in the high (5,500 feet plus) elevations of Cafayate, Argentina. A brief four month elevage in used French oak helps to add some texture without taking away from the wonderful fruit. Rich dark fruit aromas lead to a seriously structured palate, full of dark plum fruit and a refreshingly dry, serious quality.”

What I Think:

(14%) Ok, I’ll admit it! When I first bought this one I thought I was trying a wine from El Calafate near Patagonia rather than Cafayate in Salta. Nonetheless still interesting as this one is grown at 5,500+ feet in altitude. Nice mouthfeel here with rough, rocky acidity around the edges protecting a core of plush dark fruits that emerges to coat the mid-palate before velvety, tangy tannins kick in (along with a touch of heat) on a lasting, pepper streaked finish. Delicious! Best Malbec I’ve had in ages. I really like the rocky, earthy balance added to the as expected lush, rich Malbec fruit. This one also gives me the sense it can age. An almost unbelievable value at $12. I’ve already bought more!

Rating: Wow!

Top 10 Trader Joe’s Wines: 2012 Spring Edition

Top 10 Trader Joe’s Wines: 2012 Spring EditionWell perhaps you are surprised as I am to see this but the fact is that Trader Joe’s is on a decent little run of getting some nice juice in. Certainly the best that I can remember in at least the last 18 months. Coupled with the fact that many from my previous version are no longer available and it seemed like the time was ripe to refresh the list. So without further ado I present the latest:

Enjoy! And let me know your thoughts and more importantly your favorites; Trader Joe’s or not. Until then may you find something good in your glass!

2010 Trader Joe’s Petit Reserve Refosco

Price: $6.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2010 Trader Joes Petit Reserve RefoscoPer the bottle “Black cherry, plum, cassis with hints of thyme.” As usual not much on these TJ’s offerings. A quick search on Refosco and Paso Robles turns up some interesting things but nothing concrete. Guess this bottle needs to speak for itself…

What I Think:

Refosco you say? What the hell is that! That was my initial reaction when Andy Rathbone kindly sent this recommendation my way. But those of you who read regularly likely already now I am always game for a new wine adventure so I quickly snagged a bottle to see what this was all about…

(13.3%) 75% Refosco, 25% Merlot – Nice, ripe, smooth and juicy berry fruit balanced by a nice earth and spice leading to rustic finish with light lingering tannins and pleasant acidity. My first Refosco experience and this one is a fun change of pace. At $7 I’m not rushing out to grab a case but given its very food friendly I can certainly see another bottle in my future.

Wine Geek Notes: Made by Familia Nueva which rolls up to Ancient Peaks Winery

Rating: Interesting <- a nice bottle that makes me want to try another Refosco…

2010 Fetzer Echo Ridge Sauvignon Blanc

2010 Fetzer Echo Ridge Sauvignon BlancPrice: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the bottle Balance. I’m a grape-friendly winemaker. Rather than push, I persuade. Our Sauvignon Blanc is a wine that calls for a soft hand to capture the crisp, clean flavors of lemon, green apple and mint making this a popular, food-friendly wine. With its balance of refreshing flavors and smooth taste, this is a great wine to start the end of your day. Pairs well with a salad with goat cheese and shellfish, especially oysters or lighter dishes.

What I Think:

(13.5%) Fresh and grassy on the nose backed by Lemon and mineral notes. Round on the palate with ripe pineapple and grapefruit balanced by a tart acidity. The acidity is followed by a talcy spice and leads to a crisp but short finish. While a bit flabby (could use more acidity IMHO) this is a simple sipper. Can’t knock it but at the same time it isn’t that exciting either. Serviceable may be the word I’m looking for…

Rating: Serviceable <- to absentmindedly drink but not recommended to “taste”…