2005 Howell Mountain Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon

Price: $14.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2005 Howell Mountain Vineyards Cabernet SauvignonPer Trader Joe’s Ten For The Tasting (pdf) “Come on; get your nose in there. Way in there… the deep crimson hue, the aromas, the body… oh, yes! Handcrafted from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes grown in Napa Valley’s renowned Howell Mountain appellation, this wine has body. Grown in volcanic ash and clay soils along sloping hillside at elevations well over 1,800 feet, the grapes develop distinctly thick skins and robust tannins. And this vintage demonstrates a little more weight and richness than in years past. A hint of bell peppers on the nose dissipates into warm aromas of cedar-y forest and dark berries. On the mouth, the flavors of succulent black cherry are followed by slight hints of hazelnut and tobacco. And because we are helping the producers move out inventories that had been set aside for on-premise markets (aka fine restaurants), we’re selling this lusty Cab for $14.99 – oh, yes!”

What I Think:

As mentioned in the Trader Joe’s Ten for Tasting post I was tipped off on this one by DP. Likewise we covered that this offering typically retails for $60+, given that you can imagine how eager I was to try it once I brought it home. So I quickly found a steak and pulled the cork on this one…

In the glass I found a great nose of fruit balanced perfectly with spice. Some blackberry, allspice and a hint of green rhubarb. On the palate a bit tart up front but quickly balanced with gorgeous, rich fruit as well as spice and mint/methyl notes. The mid-palate is smooth and silky leading to a chalky, inky, dry and lasting finish. This wine is complex, to me, offering, layers and layers that keep you contemplating exactly what it is you are tasting. Regardless, you know it is good things while going through the exercise. As I look for comparisons I quickly come to the Chateau Chevalier from Spring Mountain which took Grape Madness by storm some months back. Both from Napa, both from TJ’s, both fifteen bones and both with a dry, chalky finish but most of all both great values. That said, thank goodness I didn’t drop $60 here or I would likely be disappointed. Others, here in the comments on the site, haven’t been as big as fans as me so feel free to give this one a pass if it is north of your usual price range.

Rating: Wow!

2006 Sobon Estate Rocky Top Zinfandel

Price: $12.99 @ K&L Wines

What They Said:

2006 Sobon Estate Rocky Top Zinfandel Per K&L Wines “Rocky Top Tennessee may be home sweet home to Lynn Anderson, but Rocky Top in Amador is home to some fine old Zinfandel vines, and that’s good news for all of us! A very shy producing vineyard with soils of volcanic ash and boulders, this site produces old vine Zinfandel of immense proportions. The very floral, vanilla and raspberry jam aromas are very forward and inviting. The flavors match the aromas, with a rich juicy component. The finish is long and velvety-rich.”

What I Think:

For those that say twitter doesn’t sell wine like Steve Heimoff, here is a firm example of where it does. After coming across @sobonwine hearing about their wines my curiosity was piqued. This led me to K&L Wines where I paid for this bottle of Rocky Top with money. Wow a real example of selling something on twitter… Oh, by the way Dell also made a little bit of money via twitter. But I digress, let’s get to the wine.

This wine is 92% Zinfandel, 4% Petite Syrah, 2% Carignane and 2% Barbera. K&L nicely describes the terroir of this wine above. On the nose you are greeted with rich aromas of dark berries and dusty mocha chocolate. On the palate you are greeted with more purple fruits; plums and blackberries, with a slightly tart cherry component that along with the tannins keeps this wine in perfect balance. The finish was long, velvety and delightful. This is the best Zinfandel I have been introduced to in a while and another reminder that I need to get out and visit Amador County (and Lodi too!) soon. There are a ton of interesting wines coming out of the area that are friendly on the pocketbook. This one is a great example of that and I highly recommend it for Zindependence Day. What are you drinking tomorrow?

Rating: Wow!

2007 Navarro Edelzwicker

2007 Navarro EdelzwickerPrice: $13.00 direct from the winery

What They Said:

Per Navarro Vineyards “A specialty of Alsace is a blend called Edelzwicker; literally a mixture (zwicker) of Alsace’s noble (edel) grapes: Gewürztraminer (34%), Riesling (32%), Pinot Gris (29%), and Muscat (5%). The price may be small but the flavors and aromas are generous and world class.”

What I Think:

I have many previous disclaimers on my love of Navarro, where I am approaching my ten year anniversary as a member of their wine club (interesting post on this in the future), as well as my love of the Alsace since Hubert Keller long ago culinarily romanced me at Fleur de Lys here in San Francisco. With those facts on the table it should come as a surprise to no one that I have been a long time fan of this offering. That despite its lofty, for me, $13 price tag. On the palate you are greeted with some crisp apple, peach and nectarine flavors that quickly become fuller bodied as we head for the mid palate. Here the fruit becomes more delicate and leads to a sweet, honey finish that lingers nicely, inviting you back for your next sip. There are also pretty floral notes throughout. While I agree with Steve Heimoff that this is good on its own or with spicy food; don’t feel the need to define it so narrowly as the sweetness is balanced by acid. This combination makes it food friendly so feel free to pair this across a wider spectrum of cuisines. Think this one is only available from the winery so if you want some you have to go to the source…

Rating: Wow!

2000 Jade Mountain Mourvedre

2000 Jade Mountain MourvedrePrice: $16.99 @ BevMo

What They Said:

Per the winery (pdf) “The old vines, combined with low yields of two tons per acre, transform this normally rustic red grape into a fine complex red wine that is both hearty and satisfying. Mourvèdre is broadly planted in the famed Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation in the southern Rhône valley, but it is seldom bottled as a single variety. Its characteristic aromas of pepper, spice and sweet tobacco are mixed with raspberry and blackberry fruit that linger on the palate. The wine’s dense flavor and silky tannin make it versatile for food pairing. The 2000 vintage shows great concentration and is meant for the richest foods of Southern France and the Mediterranean. Mourvèdre is a perfect partner for leg of lamb, Mediterranean beef stew, pasta primavera, and grilled fish, such as sea bass. In warm weather, chill this wine to 50 degrees and serve it with summer barbecue to enjoy its complex, delicious fruit flavors. Optimum time for consumption 2002—2012″

What I Think:

I’ve had this one since almost the beginning of time, my wine drinking time that is. One of my early splurges which I have looked at year after year. For those that may not be familiar with Mourvedre it most commonly appears in Rhone blends along with Grenache and Syrah. Until I took a look at the pdf I tracked down I had forgotten that Jade Mountain was part of the much larger Chalone Wine Group.

Not sure why it lasted so long nor why I decided to open it this given night but I am very thankful I did. The nose was subdued seeming a bit smoky and warm. It hits heavy at the front of the palate, seems almost inky and shadows the presence of dark purple fruit. The flavors turn to dark berries (blackberry and boysenberry) and towards the end of palate the wine turns slightly chewy leading to a great tangy, nice tannic finish. This was much richer and deeper that I would have initially thought. A very complex powering that doesn’t over power, certainly leaning towards the old world in style. I’m a fan. I’m also looking to try a few more of Jade’s offerings, I asked for tips on twitter and @JugShop recommended the La Provencale. Anyone here have tips for me? As for this one is an early wine of the year favorite and could start a Mourvedre buying and drinking run… Anyone want to come along for the ride?

Rating: Wow!

2006 Copain “L’Automne” Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

Price: $19.99 @ K&L Wines

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines “Made from 100% pinot noir from the Anderson Valley, this is yet another release from rising star winemaker Wells Guthrie. Completely destemmed and cold soaked for five days, the grapes were fermented using their native yeasts, finishing malolactic fermentation in a combination of new and used French oak barrels (15% new/remainder twice used). But enough with the technical mumbo-jumbo. This is simply a great value in the world of pinot noir. So many pinots these days have well surpased the $30 dollar mark leaving this loved varetial unaffordable for most “everyday drinkers.” Well look no further. This bright tangy pinot is full of freshly cut roses and spiced orange peel aromatics. Turning to more lip-smacking pomegranate fruit and a deep core of supple black cherry on the palate, this is a crowd pleasing pinot sure to quench most peoples deepest thirsts. (Bryan Brick, K&L)”

What I Think:

I am predisposed to Anderson Valley based on years of Navarro Pinot Noir’s exceeding expectations. When my wife bought me this one for our anniversary I was keen to give it a try. After cheffing up an, what turned out to be, awesome steak tenderloin filet this was on the table for pairing. And boy what a pairing it was. Earth on nose, nice harmonious red fruit on the palate and just getting better with every sip. Incredibly elegant at the end, if only there was some left.

Rating: Wow!

2006 Groth Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc

Price: $13.99 @ K&L Wines

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines “This 2006 Sauvignon Blanc was produced from grapes grown in various microclimates of the Napa Valley. The warmer Napa Valley microclimates give us grapes that result in wines with a lush, full melon/citrus character in the aroma and in the flavor. The cooler Napa Valley fruit provides a solid, crisp backbone that gives the wine an exciting liveliness that balances the rich creaminess from “sur lie” aging.”

What I Think:

You know those friends you’re lucky to have? Well we had one of those over the other night and the same couple kind enough to share the impressive 2005 with us brought this ’06 to the table. Since I had already put this 06 Santa Ynez in the fridge I figured we had an excellent chance to do some true side by side tasting. Two similar bottlings from the same year and region but from different areas and at different price points. Now onto the results…

When compared to the Santa Ynez this seemed much more classic to me. It was light, dry and tart on the tongue with flavors hinting towards melon tied together on a backbone of mineral and stone. It in now way resembled its tasting partner and would have been better suited to pair with this New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. That said this wine was and is a clear winner. If you’re looking to splurge don’t hesitate to grab it, you can’t go wrong.

Rating: Wow!

2002 Sausal Old Vine Family Zinfandel

Price: $18.00 direct from the winery

What They Said:

Per the winery “89 points 2002 Sausal “Old Vine Zinfandel” Alexander Valley — Medium-dark purplish ruby; attractive, spicy, cedary, very ripe blackberry fruit aroma with notes of cinnamon, dill, and vanilla; full body; big, forward, rich, jammy, ripe berry and brown sugar flavors; medium-full to full tannin; slightly harsh on the finish; lingering after taste. Highly recommended.”

and from the winery “This wine greets you with a dark ruby color that hints of the fruit to come. The nose is loaded with berries, predominately blackberries highlighted by a touch of cinnamon. There is a heavy richness on the mid-palate with an undertone of vanillin. Blueberries abound in the soft, velvety finish. Whether you drink it now or allow it to mature in your cellar, you will be delighted with this outstanding Zin. The 2002 Family Zinfandel was produced from estate grown grape vines averaging 50 years old. Following fermentation, the wine was aged twenty-two months in a combination of American and French oak barrels, adding complexity. This wine can be aged four to six years from its January 2005 release date.Pairing it with spicy pastas, pork and grilled chicken is recommended.”

What I Think:

Speaking of Tahoe, this was my contribution for the weekend. There were 10 couples and each was to bring a wine, the reason I pulled this one out? Simple! It was the only magnum I had. That said going against the other wines it went over incredibly well. I think we ended up polishing it off in a bit of a stupor but those that paid attention certainly enjoyed it.

This isn’t the huge Zinfandel you may be use to. Given the old vines it must have mellowed over the years. Where you might think bold, this is more rich and savory. The nose borders on blackberry but the typical hint of spices to come is not present. On the mouth it is full of fruit before fading to vanilla accents toward the middle. The end lingers with a nice velvety coating of light fruit. This was a winner. I need to get me some more magnums!

Rating: Wow!

2003 Hogue Genesis Cabernet Sauvignon

Price: $11.99 @ K&L Wines

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines “94 points The Wine News: Lush, seamlessly integrated flavors of ripe, sweet blackberry, blueberry and minerals; totally in control in the face of so much rich fruit…” 90 points and 1 Puff from the Connoisseurs’ Guide to California Wine, “Ripe, rich, a bit spicy for its sins and full of black cherry and cassis fruitiness, this full-bodied wine takes a fairly direct line on the palate and garners its high points for its depth and flesh more than for complexity. Still, there is an awful lot of flavor and honest drinkability to be found here, and when its oh-so-inviting price tag is put into the calculus, this one adds up to a big winner for current consumption. (12/2006)”

What I Think:

This one came highly recommended to me from a friend at work. Given that my experience with Washington wines has been mostly pleasant I was keen to give it a try. On opening in a word Wow! Let us linger and enjoy that for a moment before getting into the specifics…

Pre-meal I gave this one a go and found mint and tannins on the nose. The front to mid palate showed dark cassis like fruit with the end showing well integrated tannins. It left me looking forward to adding some steak to the mix. What a pair. The steak brought our a bit of pepper and spice but the fruit remained lush. It went a bit dry towards the middle but then rounded out for a long pleasant finish. The experience lasted long after the wine was out of your mouth which is my tell tale sign for a good wine. I’m getting more at this price, heaven forbid this Hogue offering ever shows up at TJ’s (they have others). I’ll buy them out on day one.

Rating: Wow!

2005 Martin Estate Chardonnay, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County

Price: $14.00 direct from the winery

What They Said:

Per the winery “From the home ranch in Dry Creek Valley, this rich and creamy chardonnay is a big favorite with our customers. Made in a rich ebullient style with hints of butter and caramel, this lovely chardonnay has a great mouthfeel and long lingering finish.”

What I Think:

When tasting in Dry Creek some week back I decided to drop into Martin Family Vineyards, good decision. I still have the flyer here and am likely to join their wine club in the near future. While there I picked up this Chardonnay. Sadly, it appears this was the last time the Chardonnay will be available. Most of the fruit was usually sold, I believe to Clos du Bois, and apparently the business plan had changed and these vines were uprooted. Perhaps I will order more before the last of it disappears…

From the get go an impressive wine. Crisp, rich, opulent mouth feel with white spicy fruits edging on citrus followed by traditional vanilla and butter flavors on finish. I recently learned that the butter is not the barrel as I have long thought. Instead it is malolactic fermentation. Not sure if that is true but worth following up on. That said these flavors aren’t overbearing and the fruit shines through. From someone that would never be confused with a Chard fan I was quite impressed. Should have saved some more to enjoy!

Rating: Wow!

2005 Muralhas de Monaco Vinho Verde

Price: $12.99 @ Friend/Gift imported by Aidil Wines

What They Said:

Per everywine.uk “The cooperative Adega de Moncao started out in 1958 with 25 growers while today they have more than 1,600. An enjoyable white wine full of fruity peach and apricot aromas, it is well balanced, persistent, smooth with a dry flavour.”

What I Think:

After the champagne was finished we opened this bottle of Portuguese Vinho Verde that our friends had brought with them. At the time I had some misconceptions as to what Vinho Verde was all about. I had long wanted to try it but had always thought it was a lower end white offering which led me to believe I could find some values in this area. It is amazing how a quick trip to Wikipedia can clear up misconceptions, love that.

It is always interesting to drink a wine and then fill in the “they said” part afterwards. With my preconceptions of Vinho Verde fully in tact at the time of consumption it is interesting to see how this new knowledge compares to my tasting notes. Here they were brief as we had guests. This wine has a bouquet full of nectarines and like fruits. On the palate it was slightly champagne like with a light spritz and flavors of grapefruit leading to a dry finish. Definitely a young wine and it appears to be made to be consumed that way. Perhaps a little too much acid for me on the finish, but certainly a eye opening experience.

So now what I learned afterwards, first off Vinho Verde is not a grape, it is a wine growing area which translates to “green wine”. Not for the color but because they are meant to be consumed young, hey I got that part. This bottle was actually an albarino blend with trajadura. Wow, I never would have guessed! I had a great time getting to know this wine and will certainly be on the look out for more wines from this region next time I am in the store.

Rating: Wow!