2009 Erath Pinot Gris

I’m in Oregon for a few weeks on vacation and outside of the six pack I brought with me will be sampling what I can of the local wines. I’ll be spending the majority of my time in Bend and sadly won’t make it to Willamette though am hoping to stop in one of the southern wine regions on my way back home. Let me know if you have any favorites from Oregon I should be on the lookout for…

Price: $10.99 @ Safeway

What They Said:

2009 Erath Pinot GrisPer Erath Winery “Fragranced with mandarin orange, ripe pear, subtle talc and lavender notes, the 2009 Pinot Gris promises plenty. The promise is fulfilled when the silky texture and uplifting acidity come together with flavors reminiscent of melon, citrus, apple and honey. Classically Erath.”

What I Think:

(13.5%) Pale gold with a honeyed floral blossom nose. Crisp on entry with rich, peach stone fruits that lead to a dry, mineral finish. A bit flabby (could use a touch more acidity for my liking) but nice enough if you aren’t paying too close of attention…

Rating: Pricey

2007 Viña Honda Monastrell Jumilla

Price: $9.99 @ K&L Wines imported by Grapes of Spain

What They Said:

2007 Viña Honda Monastrell Jumilla90 points from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate: “The 2007 Vina Honda Monastrell (100% varietal) was raised in stainless steel tanks. Purple-colored, it offers up a fragrant nose of underbrush, mineral, spice box, and blueberry. Layered, mouth-filling, and succulent, this forward effort will offer much pleasure over the next four years.” This monastrell is amongst the best I have tasted this year. Warm plum aromas, with hints of pomegranate and a trace of a spicy, pungent root vegetable quality, lead to a terrific mouthful of inexpensive red wine. Intense pomegranate, cherry and cranberry fruits show plenty of presence and purity. A great deal in everyday drinking red.

What I Think:

(13.5%) 100% Monastrell (or Mourvèdre) – Ruby at its core and thins to garnet on the edges. This one shows cherries with green peppercorn and clove notes on a slightly sweet nose. The wine starts medium bodied with juicy red currant and cherry flavors. A mineral component emerges along with a nice acidity and notes of cedar which keep this well balanced and smooth throughout. The finish is short and slightly sweet with an oak driven creaminess and hints of pepper that lead to a lingering tannic finish. Despite the finish being on the shorter side this is an lively, appealing wine that is well structured and at $10 delivers fair value for the price point.

Rating: Pricey

2009 Sebastopol Hills Pinot Noir

Price: $9.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2009 Sebastopol Hills Pinot NoirPer Trader Joe’s Food Pilgrimager “Last year, our buyers procured a limited quantity of Sebastopol Hills Pinot for an unmatched in the market price. As quickly as the word got out, the wine ran out. It happens. But it also happens that because we approach our partnerships with respect and prompt payment, we were able to do it again! (It helps, too, that we prefer a great price per bottle to a prominent vineyard on a label.) Our Sonoma County Sebastopol Hills Pinot Noir is ripe and fleshy. Aged in French oak for 10 months, it’s well structured. And at $9.99 for a 750 ml bottle, it’s very well priced.”

What I Think:

As mentioned in my review of the ’08 I was able to trace this offering back to Willowbrook Cellars where their standard bottle goes for $24. I was a fan of the ’08 but am always apprehensive when the next vintage arrives (see below for my reasoning). Given that I was curious to see how the ’09 would play out. Here were my notes…

(14.5%) Loads of orange rind, currant and cranberries on the nose. Medium to full bodied on the palate with juicy blueberry fruit and more orange rind flavors along the edges. The mouth feel is smooth and creamy showing just a bit of heat from the barrel. The finish is short but pleasant and lingers on warmly. Given the big fruit and big style (what I call “Pinot on Steroids” which I think I lifted from @RobertDwyer) I suspect this one is getting some help from another varietal or two. A nice wine for sure but I prefer the Picket Fence which I felt was a bit more varietally correct (and it’s a buck cheaper). That said if that weren’t available I’d probably be grabbing some more of this one.

Now back to my new vintage apprehension. When comparing this to the previous vintage I’m guessing the ’08 was the real deal. As in a wine that was made from day one with the intention of being labeled “Willowbrook Cellars”. On the other hand I’m guessing this one was made for Trader Joe’s from the get go. That would likely mean two things: 1) trying to scale production while 2) trying to maintain the price point. And therein lies the conundrum of a successful wine offering at Trader Joe’s From that perspective they did a pretty admirable job of maintaining quality while scaling production. Wonder what the 2010 will be like…

Rating: Pricey

Interested in reading more about the Sebastopol Hills Pinot Noir?

  • Good Cheap Vino prefers the Sebastopol Hills to the Picket Fence
  • WineBites likes the Sebastopol Hills but wishes they had made a wine with more subtle complexity

2009 Laurent Reverdy Sancerre

2009 Laurent Reverdy SancerrePrice: $9.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Latitude Wines

What They Said:

De nada which comes as no surprise given the importer here, Latitude wines, only handles import and logistics for Trader Joe’s. Given that I would love to hear the story of how this one ended up on the shelves of my local store. Does Trader Joe’s send buyers to France to scout out these bargain offerings? If so I clearly have the wrong job…

What I Think:

When something comes recommended from Angela you have to try it (the Trader Joe’s Reserve Carneros Pinot Noir is on deck). Given the conversations we have had over the last years I could count the palates I trust more on one hand. So when she gave the word I headed straight out to scoop up a bottle of this one. What did I find?

Mineral, fresh grass and loads of lemon on the nose. You get more of the same on the palate where you find mild white pepper overtones as well. Slight pucker emerges but quickly fades into a tangy, balanced finish. I haven’t had much Sauvignon Blanc from France but this finish surprised me. The acidity on this one was not overpowering which is different from what I generally see in the new world offerings (which I typically drink) from New Zealand or Chile. This made it come across as somewhat “refined” and makes it quite food friendly. At $10 this wine, while straightforward, is very well made and delivers a fair quality to price ratio. If you are a fan of or interested in Sancerre (or are interested in a mellower version of Sauvignon Blanc) this one is certainly worth a try…

Rating: Pricey

What did others think about the Laurent Reverdy Sancerre? Here’s Jeff’s thoughts from over at Viva La Wino

2009 Trader Joe’s Petite Verdot Reserve

2009 Trader Joe's Petit Verdot ReservePrice: $9.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the bottle not a thing. Even more surprisingly given the label I was astonished to learn this one was made by the folks at Central Coast Wine Warehouse whom regualar readers will recognize as one of my favorite producers in the Trader Joe’s wine aisle. That said everyone appears to be keeping tight lips on this offering. The best I was able to find is that the 2006 (and I believe the ’07) were grown and bottled by Ancient Peaks Winery, whose Petite Verdot retails for over $30. Was the 2009 as well? If anyone out there has any information to share please send it my way…

What I Think:

This came highly recommended from a few of my Trader Joe’s insiders (Angela and Matt) so you know I had to give it a try. This one starts rich, plush and velvety with blackberry fruit before grippy tannins emerge and intermingle with peppery spices that last through a lingering finish that dries your mouth straight to a pucker. I like it! Reminds me that I need to be drinking more of this varietal. Given the price point this is a great first bottle to explore but I’m thinking I want to expand my Petite Verdot horizons with my next purchase. Perhaps revisiting this Urbano Cellars I enjoyed late last year would be prudent. How about you all out there? Any favorite Petite Verdot’s to point me in the direction of?

Rating: Pricey

2009 Finca La Linda Torrontes

2009 Finca La Linda TorrontesPrice: $10.99 @ Sample

What They Said:

Per Luigi Bosca “Clear yellow-greenish color. Floral aromas related to rose globeflower and some lavender. The first impression in mouth is sweet with balanced acidity, white peaches are perceived and hints of sugar coated orange skin. Excellent balance between floral and fruity characteristics.”

What I Think:

Many already know there is more to Argentina than Malbec. You can drink some fine Cabernet among other things but they also have two more local grapes that are worth exploring; Bonarda (the local favorite) or Torrontes. For those that may be new to Torrontes I most often compare it to Viognier given that both are very aromatic wines. When drinking either my nose spends a significant amount of time in the glass (and I again remind myself I need to expand my vocabulary beyond “floral”). That being said I am no expert on this varietal so when this sample arrived I was happy to give it a try. So how was it?

Pale straw in color. Fresh, floral (see above reminder) and inviting on the nose. The palate starts pure and clean but quickly becomes a bit heavy with a hint of sweetness. A rich, full-bodied wine this shows flavors of orange peels and white tropical fruits. The finish is slightly crisp with a dried flowers (lavender) and spices (white pepper). This one lacks the acidity I like for drinking on its own. I’d recommend pairing this one with food. Perhaps a pasta with a white cream sauce would be fitting.

Given the overall flavor profile of this one it is not well suited for my palate as I prefer my white with racy acidity. Despite that this is a nice wine and a perfect bottle to learn more about a varietal (slightly) off the beaten path. So how about you? Have you had a Torrontes before? If so let me know what you think or if you have any to recommend. If not, give this or another one a try and share your thoughts.

Rating: Pricey

*as indicated above this wine was indeed received as a press sample

2008 Boekenhoutskloof Wolftrap Red

2008 Boekenhoutskloof Wolftrap RedPrice: $8.99 @ K&L Wines imported by Vineyard Brands

What They Said:

Per Wine Enthusiast (via K&L) 89 points and a Best Buy: “A nose of red fruit, spice and violet is followed by fresh but lush aromas of cherries, blackberries and a touch of smoke and dark chocolate. Smooth and integrated, with a pretty, aromatic character.” (11/09)

What I Think:

And my South African wine adventure continues. I had a chance to taste the ’09 version of this one, a blend of 68% Syrah, 30% Mourvèdre, 2% Viognier, at the tasting event I recently attended and had this to say; “Nice bright red fruits and spices. It struck me as a perfect grilling wine.” How did the ’08 pan out?

Smoky and spicy upfront on the nose this one is lively on the palate showing sour cherry and red berry flavors with a tannic acidity taking over before an earthy, black pepper finish leaves your mouth lingering with dry, herbal, chocolate notes. The above makes it sound as if I liked the wine more than I did. I actually found it slightly disjointed which runs counter to the Wine Enthusiast review which called this one “well integrated”. Looks like many of the folks over at CellarTracker agree with me as it has a community rating of 85.4 (vs. WE 89). For me, I didn’t do it side by side but, I remember liking the ’09 more. That said I prefer this to the Porcupine Ridge Syrah but neither compare to the Kanonkop Kadette which is easily still my favorite new discovery.

That’s it for the reds I grabbed the first time around. Perhaps I’ll pickup some more soon. If you have any recommendations let me know. Anyone had the Goats du Roam lately? Remember that one being nice vintages ago…

Rating: Pricey

2008 Porcupine Ridge Syrah

Price: $9.99 @ K&L Wines imported by Vineyard Brands

What They Said:

2008 Porcupine Ridge SyrahPer K&L Wines: 89 points Wine Enthusiast: “This Syrah has a rustic but elegant nature: aromas of raspberry, black pepper, smoked sausage and cloves prevail, while full-bodied but integrated flavors of anise, pepper and berry follow. The wine is robust but has a velvety character and a spicy finish.” (11/09) And, according to Wine Spectator: “Fresh, with an iron note running through the black tea, braised fig and dark cherry fruit notes. There’s a nice plush edge to the open-knit finish. Drink now.” (12/09)

What I Think:

Fresh off the heels of my South African tasting adventures I headed over to K&L Wines to pick up some Wolftrap & Man Vinters Chenin Blanc. Alas they were out of both. Fortunately they had this one which was recommended courtesy of @winewithjameson (who shared some excellent pictures from the winery to boot!). So what did we have here…

A bit green with hot stewed plums on the nose. The oak is apparent on the palate with unripe brambly, berry fruits up front that fall apart as the acidity becomes a bit overbearing on the mid palate. This wine is juicy and spicy throughout with a sharp finish showing black pepper while oscillating between hot and dry. The bottle already showed a healthy bit of sediment on the finish leading me to believe this one was unfiltered. A quality offering, with characteristics you can’t find in something like the 12 Apostles, but still not quite worthy of a repeat for me. That said my thirst for tasting more of the wines from South Africa remains. Stay tuned for more as the World Cup is less than three weeks away!

Rating: Pricey

2008 Chook Shed Shiraz

2008 Chook Shed ShirazPrice: $7.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Aussie Wine Direct

What They Said:

Per The Province “On the other end of the red wine spectrum -both in geography and style -this new bottle from Down Under plays rock ‘n’roll on the tastebuds. Chook Shed is unapologetically 100 per cent Barossa Valley Shiraz, ripe and opulent with plum, blackberries and cracked pepper. Completely approachable in a generous fruit-forward style, it will play well to a crowd. Better get the barbecue ready, this Shiraz is ready to take on all grilled fare.”

What I Think:

Dark purple in color this one has red fruit, vanilla notes and barrel spices on the nose. Great, inky smooth mouthfeel on entry this one starts nicely balanced. The acidity here is firm,on the cusp of being overbearing but the fruit holds it off to deliver a nice warm, tangy, tannic finish. While not a standout this wine is well made and I’m tempted to grab another bottle. That said I might rather just roll the dice on something else instead. If you are a Shiraz fan definitely give it a try and let me know what you think!

Rating: Pricey

2006 Donna Laura Bramosia Chianti Classico

2006 Donna Laura Bramosia Chianti ClassicoPrice: $14.99 @ Vintage Wine & Spirits imported by Banville & Jones

What They Said:

Per Banville & Jones “With a deep ruby color and intense aromas of cherry and red fruit, this Chianti Classico balances ripe fruit and acidity with well integrated accents of wood and spice. A great match with roasted meats and flavorful pastas, this wine is also delicious to sip on its own without food.”

I also found this from the Wine Spectator “This shows slightly cooked fruit character on the nose and palate, with a medium body and a simple finish. Drink now. 5,000 cases made.” – JS

What I Think:

On Saturday we decided to make pizza and headed down to town to grab the makings. Being in the mood for an Italian wine other than what I had in the house I decided to cross the street and grab a bottle from the local wine store. I walked in and asked them for their favorite everyday Italian, when they handed me this one I had my reservations (given the price point) but decided to roll the dice anyway…

How did it go? Cherry and herb notes greet you on the nose and welcome you on the palate as well. Good acidity emerges to deliver a balanced, food friendly wine. The finish is short with hints of cedar on top of soft tannins. This is a simple, easy drinking wine. At the end of the day I got exactly what I asked for when I walked into the store. While I found it enjoyable, for $15 I also found it to be overpriced. Lesson learned! Next time I need to do a better job communicating my expectations…

Rating: Pricey