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”…

2010 Trader Joe’s Petit Reserve Grenache

Price: $6.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2010 Trader Joes Petit Reserve GrenacheAs usual little to be heard here given the Trader Joe’s designation. The only thing we learn from turning the bottle around is that this one is made by the Hahn Family Wines. Checking their site shows a GSM but no varietal bottling of Grenache so it looks like we are on our own here…

What I Think:

(14.2%) Made by the Hahn Family this Grenache hails from Lodi. It starts rich, ripe and juicy with loads of black cherry flavor. A bit over the top and a touch sweet (can almost feel tomorrow’s headache…) before toning down a bit on the backend to deliver some spice on a short finish. This one could have used some acidity for balance. That said if you like your wines fruit forward (and don’t mind a touch of sweetness) this one might be for you.

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

2010 Seismic Sauvignon Blanc

2010 Seismic Sauvignon BlancPrice: $7.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by V2 Wine Group

What They Said:

Per the bottle “Situated on the “Ring of Fire”, an enormous fault line skirting the Pacific Ocean, New Zealand has its share of seismic activity. The fault line goes directly through the center Marlborough’s Wairau Valley and our vineyards where we craft earth-shattering wines. Our Sauvignon Blanc is a true revelation of the great growing season, careful vineyard site selection, and stringent fruit development that result in exceptional, distinctly varietal wines. Showing ripe lychee notes and underlying grassiness this refreshing wine finishes with hints of flint. Enjoy chilled as an aperitif or with seafood or Asian flavors.”

What I Think:

(13.5%) Bright with nice round, juicy fruit (passionfruit, nectarines and more) but on a flinty, mineral based backbone before giving way to a tart, grassy acidity that drives this one to a crisp. (white pepper) spiced finish. I dig it. If you are a Sauv Blanc fan and looking to stock up give this one a try. I’m likely to grab a handful more as summer nears…

Rating: Buy It

2006 Lance & Windmill Petite Syrah

Price: $14.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2006 Lance & Windmill Petite SyrahRumor has it this one is a $60 bottling from Quixote Winery. Some research over at the TTB quickly confirms this and it further backed by the 2005 being offered at $60 on the winery website. As I understand the ’05 garnered 93pts from the Wine Spectator I’m a bit surprised to find this one on the shelves at Trader Joe’s but intrigued to try it as well…

What I Think:

(14.4%) This one starts with bursting blueberry flavors and tons of dark lush fruit. Juicy, rich and velvety but with nice mouth coating tannins with a touch of leather to keep it “restrained”. As it dries out some spice (along with a touch of heat) emerges on a finish that while short lingers on. Despite the big fruit there are enough other components here to keep it interesting (and intact). It’s been a while since I recall enjoying a Petite Sirah as much as I did this one. Pair this one with a steak or a cigar…

Rating: Buy It (a bit spendy but if you are a fan of Petite Sirah well worth trying)

Interested in reading more about the Lance & Windmill Petite Syrah?

  • My friends over at Beards & Bellies describe this as “stain your tongue deliciousness” and rate it 4.5 out of 5 Bellies
  • My friend Matt over at Trader Joe’s Wine Notes summarizes his thoughts on this one by saying “Simply awesome”

Trader Joe’s Thursday Vol. IV

Welcome to episode IV of my not so regular Trader Joe’s Thursday series. The good news is that while I may not have been writing that doesn’t mean I wasn’t drinking. So I say we jump right in but first a quick hat tip to Ben Simons over at Vintology (and Clint Eastwood) for inspiring the theme for our article today…

Trader Joe's Wine: The Good
The Good: (these are future Top 10 candidates…)

Trader Joe's Wine: The Bad
The Bad: (or not so bad if you’re a glass half full kind of person…)

  • 2010 Comique Revolution Blanc ($5) – From our friends over at the Central California Wine Warehouse who have been on a bit of a cold streak as of late. Grew on me with time but not sure enough so to buy another bottle.
  • 2010 Wild Horse Pinot Noir ($15) – Not bad and from a well known producer. That said given this one runs $15 I’ll be sticking to the Buena Vista mentioned above.
  • 2010 Found Object Viognier ($7) – Hmmm. My tasting note here sounds a lot better than I remember this wine. Perhaps I ought to give it another shot.
  • 2010 Spiral Wines Cabernet Sauvignon ($5) – This is a favorite of many and I can see why. Not what I personally want from a Napa Cab but then again I’m never going to find that at this price point.
  • 2009 Patianna Pinot Noir ($12) – Like the Thornwood I tasted this one at a work event. However unlike that one I did not come away impressed. I’ll still be sticking to the Buena Vista mentioned above.
  • NV Long Arm Lot 81 ($6) – More big, overripe fruit here. Nothing offensive here but nothing redeeming either.
  • 2008 Epicuro Primitivo ($5) – Now I know Jesse really liked this one and I’m certainly in the minority here as the average CellarTracker rating is 85+ but I tried it again to make sure and my opinion didn’t change much. I prefer the Grifone as this is missing (IMHO) the rusticity I seek in Italian offerings.
  • 2008 Grifone Toscana ($5) – A (not so) Super Tuscan comes across a bit dense. Not bad but it comes across as rather generic.
  • 2010 Big House Red ($7) – A pleasant blend of 20+ grapes with big forward fruit this lacks the acidity or tannins to balance it out.
  • 2010 Sugar Pie Red ($6) – Not bad (some might say similar to the Gypsy) but too sweet for my taste.

Trader Joe's Wine: The Ugly
The Ugly: (enough said…)

So there you have it. Which of your favorite wines am I missing out on? In addition to the Thornwood Cabernet mentioned above I have the Refosco on my shopping list but am certainly open to adding more…

2010 Grifone Primitivo

2010 Grifone PrimitivoPrice: $3.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Latitude Wines

What They Said:

Per Trader Joe’s “Grifone Primitivo comes to us from Italy, Zinfandel’s ancestral home. Grapes from vineyards in the Manduria region (geographically, in the boot’s heel) are handpicked at their peak and crafted into a deep, inky red wine with concentrated aromas of red berries and licorice. Not quite as spicy as American Zinfandels, this Primitivo is full-bodied, warm & fruity, with strong, lingering tannins. It’s a wine that’s meant to be enjoyed now”

What I Think:

(13%) 100% Primitivo – Ruby red in the glass with a light strawberry/raspberry, floral nose. On the palate this one is fruit forward with more of those tart red berry fruits. This one turns a tad creamy before an acidic streak kicks in delivering loads of spice on a (slightly hot) tangy, tannic finish. While this one has nice forward fruit it is a bit rough and rustic around the edges which I like. For $4 this is an enjoyable wine I am likely to be buying again (but steer clear of the Toscana…)

Rating: Buy It

Interested in reading more about the Grifone Primitivo?

  • My friends over at Beards & Bellies describe this as “Not an overwhelming wine, but a great and enjoyable everyday drink to go with dinner, although it is more than fine on its own.”
  • The folks over at Cheap Wine Finder call this one a “very complete wine for $3.99.”

2010 Comique Revolution Blanc

Another offering from our friends at the Central Coast Wine Warehouse this one seems similar to the Emergence White that was on the shelves last year. A quick look shows they are the same four grapes though this one is labeled as Central Coast (instead of Paso Robles). Will the results be any different? Let us see…

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2010 Comique Revolution BlancPer Trader Joe’s “Comique Révolution Blanc is a California Central Coast blend of Rhône varietals like Roussanne, Viognier, Grenache Blanc and Marsanne. Aromas of apple blossom, juniper berry and honeydew prepare your palate for the essences of white peaches and custard. It’s revolutionary in its versatility, too.”

What I Think:

(14.2%) A blend of Roussanne, Viognier, Grenache Blanc and Marsanne this one gets better as it warms. Apple blossom, musk melon and honeysuckle greet you on the nose. The palate is rich with overripe peaches and white pear flavors before turning tart (grapefruit/lemon) with a mineral edge. The oily texture lasts throughout the short, spiced (and slightly hot) finish. Make sure to let this one get all the way to room temperature to let it show its wares. Even still this comes up a bit short for me as it seems flabby (could use more acidity IMHO) and the alcohol is dialed a little high. Very similar to my take on the Emergence White mentioned above. That said at $5 if this sounds like it might be up your alley give it a shot…

Rating: 12th Bottle

2008 Buena Vista Pinot Noir

While we wait for me to get in gear on formally starting the 2012 writing season I thought I’d sneak this out in the meantime. And what better place to start than with one of Angela’s, my right hand (wo)man’s, recommendations. For those that don’t know she is a very trusted palate so when she says run I do and you should feel free to do the same. Not that I needed it but this one also earned some accolades from Joe and the crew over at GoodCheapVino.com which is another trusted resource. Now as for James’s take that this one is no big shakes in comparison to daily deal sites the difference to me is I don’t have to commit to multiple bottles in advance and/or pay shipping charges. Now as for the Fort Ross Pinot he mentions as available at Grocery Outlet ($13) I’d love to give it a try. But in the meantime let’s see what I think of this one…

2008 Buena Vista Pinot NoirPrice: $9.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per Trader Joe’sBuena Vista Carneros Pinot Noir is made with grapes grown in the Carneros region, the area that spans the distance between the Napa & Sonoma Valleys. The grapes were handpicked at night to preserve the fruit’s character, then hand sorted to ensure only the very best of the lot were used in the winemaking. After fermentation, the wine is aged for eight months in 33% new French oak barrels, with the remaining wine aged in one to two year old barrels.

This Pinot Noir is bright with Bing cherry, allspice and earthy elements. Blackberry & plum fruit flavors give way to undertones of coffee and clove and a long, supple finish.”

What I Think:

(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.

Rating: Buy It

Wine Geek Notes: Screwtop, Aged in 33% new French oak

2010 Rabbit Ridge Allure de Robles

Rabbit Ridge WineryAlways happy to see Rabbit Ridge makes this wine out in the open and proudly offers the same bottling via their winery at a fair price (read more on my take here). For those that aren’t familiar Allure de Robles is an estate grown wine that is made in a Châteauneuf-du-Pape style. This one is a traditional Rhone Blend composed of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. With the grapes being predominantly from clones of the esteemed Tablas Creek Winery which in turn are cut them from the fabled Chateau Beaucastel. For those that don’t recognize the names it is safe to say they are punching well beyond a $5 price tag…

Fairly or not always ends up getting compared to the Chariot Gypsy as the “other cult wine” which begs the same questions I asked last night. Why was this released 4 months earlier? Perhaps we can ask Erich Russell, Rabbit Ridge’s founder.

Speaking of Erich, if you like your Allures de Robles you may want to stock up now. Erich previously shared that “the supply of 2010 will be really low compared to 2009, maybe as much as 60% lower.” And to further compound the issue he reached out again in April to let me know they suffered some pretty significant hail damage that left him wondering whether a 2011 vintage would even be possible. I’ll follow up with him to see how it netted out but in the meantime let’s dig into this 2010…

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2010 Rabbit Ridge Allure de RoblesPer Rabbit Ridge (pdf) “The 2010 vintage is big and round with strawberry and cherry overtones from the Grenache, body from the Syrah and richness from the Mourvèdre. This wine is a great choice for sipping or with a wide variety of foods.”

What I Think:

(14.8%) Made from Tablas Creek clones this one is predominantly from Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. It starts juicy with lush, peppery lifted cherry fruit that swells turning toasty and a touch sweet on the mid-palate before drying out with medium tannins on a barrel spiced finish. I’d prefer more acidity but for those that are fans of bigger, fruit forward wines there is a lot to like here. Available for $8 via Rabbit Ridge.

Rating: Buy It (if you like your wines big with some tannins…)

2010 Chariot Gypsy

2010 Chariot Gypsy Shelf TalkerOnce again the Gypsy… Trader Joe’s one and only cult wine has become more and more of a polarizing topic with each vintage (it’s first was 2005). Is it still good or merely riding on the coattails of what it once was? If there is one thing I’ve learned about Trader Joe’s wine over the years it is that popularity expands production. Coupled that with the fact that price points don’t change and there is only one direction quality can go. And the Gypsy has been following this general trajectory for years. Perhaps most interesting to me (and thanks to Don for pointing this out via email) is wondering why this wine was released 4 months earlier than typical? Previous vintages of this wine have hit the shelves generally around February. Couple that with the fact that it appears the production of this vintage is half of what it was in 2009 and it leaves a lot of questions. Where did that leave us on the 2010 vintage? Read on…

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2010 Chariot GypsyPer Chariot Wines …well actually they are still talking about the ’09 so for now here were my first thoughts on sampling the 2010 vintage.

What I Think:

(13.5%) 63% “Mystery Dry Red”, 22% Cabernet, 15% Merlot – Gone is the heavy Zinfandel component and accompanying Petite Sirah typical in previous vintages. The 2010 is sweet on the nose and a touch on the palate with juicy cherries, soft acidity and a short, spiced, creamy finish. Simple and pleasing but (while a bit heavy on the palate) perhaps as good for what it isn’t, not cloying, harsh or flabby, as what it is. While this wine doesn’t excite me if you need a solid $5 table wine you can sure do a lot worse than this…

Rating: Good but… (this is a $5 bottle that tastes like $8 at best. Best for those that prefer a sweet, juicy red)