2010 Pontificis Red

2010 Pontificis RedPrice: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Latitude Wines

What They Said:

Per Trader Joe’s “The meal isn’t quite ready… still. An interesting, smooth-drinking bottle is just the thing to placate palates and provoke conversation – a “bridge builder,” if you will. This cheeky nod to Châteauneuf-du-Pape is perfect. Made from the signature Côtes du Rhône GSM blend – Grenache, Syrah & Mourvèdre – Pontificis boasts intense aromas of black fruits with spicy nuances and floral hints. With satiny tannins, it’s rich and full-flavored without being dogmatic (too early for that). It’s good. It could even carry you right through the turkey, should you wish, and you may very well at our price of $5.99* for a 750 ml bottle.”

What I Think:

(13.5%) 50% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 20% Mourvedre – This one comes in a formidable bottle and starts with dark, voluminous fruit but balanced, smooth and spiced too. Nice stuff. Not complex but I’d be pleased with this one in the $10-12 range so definitely worth stocking up on at $6. I picked up another half case. And if you’re looking, given the blend, this is a fine match for turkey. Drink up!

Rating: Bulk Buy <- been a long time since I dished one of these out…

Wine Geek Notes: Appears to be associated with Laurent Delaunay and hat tip to my friend Pierre for turning me onto this one

Trader Joe’s Thursday Vol. VI

Navarro VineyardsNavarro Vineyards Once in a Blue Moon saleFirst a public service announcement: Navarro Vineyards, who as long time readers know I am a big fan of, is literally holding a “Once in a Blue Moon” sale with 25% off case purchases plus 1 cent shipping through Sunday, September 23rd. Having been a club member for ten plus years I can attest that this is the first sale of this type I can remember. If you’ve been meaning to try this winery I can’t think of a better opportunity. I heartily recommend the Edelzwicker, Gewurzt and Pinot Noir. You can even round out your case with Hungry Hollow selections at less than $8 a bottle. (Editors Update: Apologies as I’ve since learned Hungry Hollow Wines are excluded) Now back to your regularly scheduled programming…

So as you likely know by now I took the majority of the summer off (a chunk of it in Croatia) to recharge my batteries. Now that I am back stateside I’m trying to get back into the swing of things including regular visits to the Trader Joe’s wine aisles. I was pleased to see the Buena Vista Pinot (still delivering) was still in stock and found some others that came highly recommended. But first be sure to check out Angela’s latest inside scoop which covers the next vintage of Rabbit Ridge, Seismic Sauvignon Blanc and TJ’s Petit Reserve Gewurzt among a litany of their other Reserve and Grand Reserve offerings. And on a more important note congratulations to Angela on launching her new wine business! She has been an extraordinary contributor here and I see lots of happy customers in her future!

Trader Joe’s Thursday Vol. VIAs for what I tasted first up was the 2011 Floriana Gruner Veltliner ($6) from Hungary. Gruner Veltliner? Hungary? You are not misreading and this is the 2nd vintage to boot. Jameson Fink has been lucky enough to try both and preferred the later vintage. I found it simple, dry and refreshing. Not a world beater but certainly delivers on its $6 price range. Next up was the 2009 Landing Place Chardonnay ($3) which I was turned onto by Viva la Wino (as well as Angela). At a mere three bones this one delivers simple satisfaction. Perfect for week night dinners and budget balancing.

I also came across the Concannon Petite Sirah ($6) and Stonehedge Old Vine Zinfandel Reserve ($10) from Amador County at a recent work event. The Concannon was nice, showing some big fruit along with spice while avoiding going completely (it was teetering) over the top. On the other hand I found the Stonehedge to be too much. Loads of fruit without tannins or acidity to keep it in check. If you like bombastic fruit bombs this one should be right up your alley.

So how about you? What are your current favorites at Trader Joe’s? Could certainly use the tips as we gear up for the holidays Top 10 wines list so please do let me know…

2011 Floriana Gruner Veltliner

Price: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:
2011 Floriana Gruner Veltliner
Per the bottle “Fresh and lively with appetizing aromas of lemon and apple and just a touch of white pepper.”

What I Think:

(12%) Gruner Veltliner? Hungary? Yes you’re reading that right and it’s not bad either. A slight spritz to start, this one is simple, dry and straight forward showing lemon notes with medium acidity and spiced edges. While it has some, it lacks that white pepper kick I crave in a Gruner. At $6 it delivers (and you get a twist-off to boot) but given Allram and the like can be had for $11 a liter I’m not racing out to buy it again…

Rating: 12th Bottle <- A nice, simple, dry, everyday wine to consider keeping on hand

2009 Landing Place Chardonnay

2009 Landing Place ChardonnayPrice: $2.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per Landing Place Cellars “Lively apple and lemon aromas and flavors, medium bodied, crisp and creamy with a hint of oak.”

What I Think:

(13.5%) This wine, a Rodney Strong offering, starts soft with lemon edges. Medium bodied with spiced, oak overtones which give way to green apple flavors on a medium/short, creamy finish. Simple, balanced and straightforward. While not overly impressive this certainly delivers beyond its $3 price tag…

Rating: 12th Bottle <- A guilt free bottle worth keeping around the house...

Wine Geek Notes: Winemaker = Greg Morthole

Trader Joe’s Thursday Vol. V

2008 Buena Vista Pinot NoirAs you’ll likely see I shared my thoughts on the Bonterra Rose ($3) but definitely have a multitude of other Trader Joe’s wines on my radar. First and foremost is the Buena Vista Pinot Noir which I have been drinking and enjoying on a regular basis. I am now a case+ into this one and headed out to do yet another bulk buy over the weekend. Folks if you’ve yet to try this one please do. Definitely justifying its position as the #1 rated wine on my Trader Joe’s Top 10 Wine List. In my minds eye it is the best of the best for what you will find in a $10 Pinot.

Outside of that there are a number of other wines I am looking to pick up starting with the Floriana Gruner from Hungary ($6 via Viva la Wino), the Vin Koru New Zealand Sauv Blanc ($6 via Brian who is a wine guy at the La Jolla Trader Joe’s), the latest vintage of the Tribunal ($10 via many; my thoughts on the ’09 here) and finally the Yountville Meritage ($13 via Angela and JB) version of the Trader Joe’s Grand Reserve label. I’ll let you know what I track down but in the meantime please let me know if I am missing any of your new (or old) favorites…

2009 Bonterra Rose

2009 Bonterra RosePrice: $2.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per Bonterra (pdf) “Our Rosé continues to exemplify the standard we set with our first vintage – a dry, crisp, complex and refreshing Rosé with beautiful color. We’ve used a collection of varietals to contribute surprising complexity and a beautiful deep-pink color. For this vintage we focused on Sangiovese, Zinfandel, Carignane and just a little Grenache, all from Mendocino County. The grapes were picked when they had achieved a great balance of ripe fruit and racy acidity. They were then cold-fermented in stainless steel to preserve the great floral and fruit aromas. The knock-your-socks-off color is just the beginning. Chilled a bit, the wine reveals aromas and flavors of strawberry, tart cherry, raspberries, watermelon, and spice with a wonderful dry, lingering finish.

What I Think:

(13.4%) 45% Sangiovese, 26% Zinfandel, 15% Carignane, 9% Grenache – Bright pink (more than I like) and aged this one starts off on the wrong foot but at $3 I couldn’t help but roll the dice. Simple and mineral driven on the palate with spiced edges. Not much fruit left here but you get some faint strawberries on a dry, clean palate with a nice, crisp finish. Certainly not a bad wine to drink but not one you want to spend time “tasting”. Worth buying at $3 if you are looking for something to mindlessly sip on this summer. I may even grab another bottle or two for myself but this isn’t the steal of a deal I was hoping it might have been…

Rating: Try It (at $2.99 you don’t have much to lose…)

Wine Geek Notes: Certified organic; Twist-off

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

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…