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)

2010 Quady North Bomba

2010 Quady North BombaPrice: $20.00 @ Quady North

What They Said:

Well in this case unfortunately not a word. I picked this one up last summer when visiting the tasting room in the Southern Oregon town of Jacksonville. I also learned there that the entire lot of this (more or less) is shipped off to Belgium which might explain why I can’t find a lick of information about it…

What I Think:

(13.5%) Big, lush, juicy fruit (cherry first and foremost) backed by a nice spice and smooth acidity (showing a touch of iron) leading to a lasting, savory finish. A nice example of how a wine can be both fruit forward but food friendly at the same time. I tried this Grenache based blend (can’t find exact percentage) and bought a bottle after a tasting room visit in downtown Jacksonville, Oregon. If I remember right Herb told me most of this (retails at $20) was shipped over to Belgium which is a shame because if I could find it on the shelf here I’d happily grab another bottle…

Rating: Good but… (you can’t get it anyway)

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)

2007 St. Francis Old Vines Zinfandel

2007 St. Francis Old Vines ZinfandelPrice: $19.99 via St. Francis Winery*

What They Said:

Per Wine Enthusiast “A strong Zinfandel, tannic, high in alcohol and fruity, and brimming with wild forest cherry and raspberry liqueur, exotic spices and sweet sandalwood. Drink it with a juicy cheeseburger, a spicy beef burrito and just a nice roast chicken.” Steve Heimoff (2/1/2011) — 86 points

What I Think:

(15.5%) 86% Zinfandel, 5% Mixed Black Grapes, 3% Alicante Bouschet, 3% Petite Sirah, 3% Syrah – Having family in Europe this is what I would think of taking them to join something in quintessential California style (for better or worse). Ripe, forward fruit, jammy, creamy with a sweet toasted vanilla oak finish that shows some pepper spice while lingering warmly. Not my style but I know many that do like this one. Well-made and widely available at ~$17.

Wine Geek Notes: 41,000 cases made, made from vines a minimum of 50 years old, field blended.

Rating: Good but…(not my style. I prefer the Zin’s from Sausal or Sobon)

*This wine was received as a press sample

2010 Jaja de Jau Sauvignon Blanc

Price: $9.99 via Pasternak Wines (pdf)*

What They Said:

2010 Jaja de Jau Sauvignon BlancPer Palate Press “The nose is very aromatic, offering up tropical white flowers, sweet pink grapefruit, and a very light touch of gooseberry. The flavors tend more to citrus on the palate, lemons and white grapefruit lead the attack, adding white flowers and starfruit on the mid-palate. A distinct minerality and salinity underlie all the flavors, from start through the finish. A very strong backbone of acid runs through the wine, giving it very clean, bright flavors and the ability match up to the heaviest foods. Drink it with stuffed flounder. Highly Recommended.”

What I Think:

(11.5%) 100% Sauvignon Blanc – My 2nd vintage of this wine (I covered the ’09 here) this one is pale yellowish gold in color with a grassy nose. Bright and fresh on the nose with some red grapefruit flavors before a zingy acidity (with a tinge of mineral salitness) kicks in leading to a (whole lot of) puckering tart, lemon finish that is crisp and refreshing while lingering nicely. I was again surprised at how much I liked this one. Not tropical but New Zealand like in style this is a simple (yet aggressive) wine. That said with my penchant for exploring I’m not sure I’ll revisit this one but given two years of consistency you could certainly do far worse at the $10 (or less) you can pick this one up for… Ready made to pair with the seafood dish of your choice.

Rating: Good but…(given my exploring ways I’m unlikely to be stocking up)

*This wine was received as a press sample

2009 Heron Hill Unoaked Chardonnay Ingle Vineyard

2009 Heron Hill Vineyards Chardonnay Unoaked Ingle VineyardPrice: $19.99 @ Heron Hill Winery*

What They Said:

Per Heron Hill Winery “Sustainably farmed, grapes were selected from the Ingle Vineyard plots named “Carl & Vern’s Blocks”. These plots are cooler and have a mineral laden, rocky soil. Pure and firmly structured with aromas of crushed granite, lemongrass, citrus and green apple. It has balance and finesse finishing with lingering essences of fresh fruit.”

What I Think:

(12%) Wow did this one surprise. I’m not much of a Chard fan so the “unoaked” certainly left me a glimmer of hope but this wine really stood out. Bright lemon with green apple and a fresh stony mineral driven crispness. Nice pureness and clarity throughout. Certainly simpler but somewhat reminiscent of Chablis. Given its lightness this one is would serve well as an aperitif. $20 via the winery but appears to be available for $16 or so retail which makes it a more compelling choice.

Wine Geek Notes: 87 pts Wine Enthusiast

Rating: Good but… (just a tad too pricey given my wine budget)

*This wine was received as a press sample.

2007 Hannah Nicole Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon

2007 Hannah Nicole Vineyards Cabernet SauvignonPrice: $26.00 via Hannah Nicole Vineyards

What They Said:

Per Hannah Nicole Vineyards “Our 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon boasts aromas of pepper and plum, with hints of smoked toasted
walnuts and fine leather. The finish coats your palate with fine tannins that linger, a taste which will hunger you for a fine cut of choice beef, a perfect accompaniment to this luscious Cabernet Sauvignon”

What I Think:

(13.8%) 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot – A touch green (olives) initially with nice berries, baking spice on chocolate on the nose. Lively on the palate with plum and black pepper flavors. The acidity keep this medium bodied (and very food friendly) before the barrel creaminess kicks in on finish that dries out as it lingers with lasting tannins. For those that like “big” Cabs you might not find this ripe enough or lush enough. That said I found the fruit flavors nice and balanced without being over the top big. My tip? Be sure to open and decant this a few hours before you intend to enjoy.

Wine Geek Notes: 900 cases made; aged for 30 months in new and one year old oak (French & American)

Rating: Nice but… (while enjoyable there are others I prefer at $26 like the Broadside Cabernet)

2009 Bergström Pinot Noir Old Stones

While my vacation may be over I am still in a drinking local state of mine. This was another I picked up at Whole Foods in Bend where I asked for a recommendation. After being asked if I preferred bigger fruit or something more elegant; when I said later I was the told this was the best thing going for $25. Per the winery this one is made for early drinking, while the precious (Lord of the Rings anyone?) single vineyard offerings get a bit of age, from barrel selections of non-estate fruit and received 91 points from the Wine Spectator but how would it fare here?

Price: $24.99 @ Whole Foods

What They Said:

2009 Bergström Old Stones Pinot NoirPer Bergström Winery “We have renamed our “Willamette Valley” Pinot Noir “Old Stones” to give it a personality & an identity that is worth seeking out. A great wine born of the West Coast’s most ancient soils that shows breed & nobility of varietal, but is accessibly priced for everyday drinking. We admit that our single vineyards are definitely wines that need to be cellared to reach maximum potential. In fact, that is how we think great Pinot Noir should be! But we also need great wine that we can drink while we wait for those precious bottles to come around. And so was born our “Old Stones” wines Pinot Noir & Chardonnay. These are wines that are barrel selections from our best non-estate sites that show more accessible texture & lower level of tannin & acidity which benefit from early consumption. The 2009 Old Stones Pinot Noir is a lavish mouthful of red fruits reminiscent of a berry pie with cinnamon & vanilla spices, a sweet pie crust type of flavor that is folded in amongst the waves of ripe & beautifully textured red cherry & raspberry fruit flavors. This is a joyride of a wine & will deliver immediate pleasure & drink well for the next 1-3 years.”

What I Think:

(14.1%) Nose promising as more balanced than most. Medium bodied with a fresh mineral acidity before the fruit arrives on the scene with racy, tart black cherry, raspberry and sandalwood leading to a spicy, tingling tannic finish that dries out and lingers on. Lots of tannins and acidity make me think despite the wineries take otherwise that this will improve with a bit more age.

Wine Geek Notes: 902 cases made, aged in large oak cases versus barrels. No new oak

Rating: Very Nice (At $25 this didn’t disappoint a bit; didn’t necessarily over deliver either making it a fair QPR)

2009 Elk Cove Pinot Gris

And my Oregon summer vacation drinking local series rolls on. Next up a few I picked up at the Whole Foods in Bend. Again I went for the one-two Pinot punch of Gris and Noir. First up this Gris from Elk Cove which has been making wine in the Willamette Valley since 1974…

Price: $15.99 @ Whole Foods

What They Said:

2009 Elk Cove Pinot GrisPer Elk Cove Vineyards “The 2009 Elk Cove Vineyards Pinot Gris starts out with sweet and unctuous aromatics while showing crispness on the palate with citrus and grapefruit. True to Elk Cove Vineyards’ style, a rich mouthfeel leads to a full and satisfying balanced finish. Drink this lovely white wine as an aperitif or with a variety of food pairings from salmon and main-course salads to Asian and Thai influenced dishes.”

What I Think:

(13.5%) Big honeyed, pollinated floral nose. This one is rich, juicy and fruit forward on the palate loaded with peaches and some pear/cantaloupe notes on the edges before a mineral acidity emerges on the backbone leading to a crisp, lingering mineral rock finish with touches of citrus. Best Pinot Gris I’ve had to date but I’d still recommend pairing this one with food. The Thai recommended by the winery seems like a good place to start.

Wine Geek Notes: 18,430 cases produced, under screwtop (which I prefer)

Rating: Good but… (while I consider this the best Pinot Gris I’ve had I’m finding this varietal from Oregon, versus the Alsace, doesn’t deliver the acidity I prefer in my whites)

2009 Lange Pinot Noir

More from my Oregon summer vacation drinking local series. Next up are a few wines I picked up at the local market here in Sunriver (which I keep reading as survivor every time I see it…). First up is this Pinot from Lange Winery which marked their first vintage in Willamette Valley in 1987.

2009 Lange Pinot NoirPrice: $19.99

What They Said:

Per Lange Winery “Our Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is an assemblage of all our North Willamette vineyard sites, delivering a true reflection of the finest viticultural practices and dedicated winemaking. In our true “classique” style, this wine is approachable and fruit-forward upon release.

Tantalizing aromas of candied cherry, crushed raspberry, and cola play over a current of black licorice and refined tannins.”

What I Think:

(13.6%) Warm, earthy, cranberry with a touch of orange rind on the nose. Vibrant & juicy on the palate with bright red fruit (a raspberry, cherry, cranberry mélange) and a nice acidity on a mineral backbone. This leads to a soft, warm, barrel spiced (and creamy) finish with light, lingering tannins. Smooth, fresh and delicious but another layer away from being great in my mind. That said extremely well made, enjoyable and under screwtop to boot! At $20 a favorable QPR for sure but there are others I personally prefer at this price point.

Wine Geek Notes: A little sediment on the finish; 6,000 cases made; 10 months in French oak. 25% new (and very well done IMHO)

Rating: Good but… (as enjoyable as it was I personally prefer others at this price point)