2007 Napa Station Chardonnay

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2007 Napa Station ChardonnayPer Napa Station “Sourced from four exceptional vineyards in the cool southern region of Napa Valley, this Chardonnay was aged on the lees in stainless steel tanks and small French oak barrels. The wine underwent partial malolactic fermentation to add richness without overpowering the fruit. The wine exhibits aromas of ripe peach, pear and citrus, with crisp green apple and hints of tropical fruit on the palate. The finish is long and clean with fresh acidity.”

What I Think:

On initial glance this may seem like another Bronco Wine Co. label but it isn’t. Instead it is the inaugural release of a new winery that garnered an 87 point rating from Robert Parker saying “Readers looking for Excellent Values should check out Napa Station. Their delicious 2007 Chardonnay exhibits plenty of fresh citrus interwoven with hints of white peaches and apples in its natural, lively, pure personality. Medium-bodied and zesty, its ideal for drinking over the next 1-2 years.” – (December 2009)

Now the suggested retail on this one is $18 and the best price online is the $11 BevMo offers this one for. Given that I was keen to see what this one had to offer for the five spot it will cost you to pick up a bottle at Trader Joe’s. Before we jump in my typical disclaimer; I’m not a huge Chardonnay fan (despite tasting 25 bottles last year) so you may want to take the below with a grain of salt…

(13.5%) Lightly oaked on a floral nose showing faint white apricots. The palate starts pure and focused before turning toasty with slightly sweet green apple flavors. This is full bodied wine with a crisp acidity on the backbone. The finish is big & creamy while not being over the top oaky. Overall this wine is (for me) slightly refreshing. Given that those that prefer their Chardonnay dripping in butter (like the Overlake Chardonnay) may want to pass but I’m guessing this will please plenty of palates. For $5 give it a try and let me know if you agree with Parker’s take.

Rating: 12th Bottle

2008 St. Lukes Blind River Sauvignon Blanc

2008 St. Lukes Blind River Sauvignon BlancPrice: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Lineage Imports

What They Said:

Per St. Lukes Estate Wines well nothing… We do get this from the bottle: “This elegant Sauvignon Blanc was made with grapes grown on the company’s Blind River vineyards in the Awatere Valley region of Marlborough. The nose shows lifted stone fruit aromas. The richly structured palate has an underlying mineral note and a long finish, expressing the terroir of the region.

What I Think:

It seems this one normally goes for around $24 and has been relatively well respected over the last few vintages. The ’06 was confused with Sancerre (Angela would love to hear your thoughts…) and the ’07 received some positive press as well. The ’08? Missing in action. About the only mention I can find is a “coming soon” from the winery itself. Why the mystery? Don’t know but rather than ponder let’s get to the wine…

(13.5%) This one is more mineral driven than would be expected of a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with a flinty, charcoal component immediately prevalent. That said there are still plenty of lemon/citrus notes here and as it warms some of that more traditional grassiness comes to bear. Crisp with bright acidity throughout on a firm mineral structure that leads to a finish which lingers nicely. Not your everyday Kiwi offering and a pleasant alternative (if you drink lots of NZ Sauv Blanc like me) to the status quo. This isn’t a wine for everyone but I’ll likely be grabbing another bottle sometime soon.

Rating: 12th Bottle

2008 Dos Brotos Ranch Red

Price: $6.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2008 Dos Brotos Ranch RedPer the bottle “Every vine we grow us meticulously hand pruned annually by our extended family of vineyard workers. We cherish and respect these folks for the expertise they bring to our vineyards. All of our vines are spur pruned, leaving two buds per spur (Dos Brotos). “Dos Brotos, Por Favor” is a term you will hear echoed throughout our vineyards every pruning season from January through March. Our Ranch Red is a blend of Syrah, Zinfandel, Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mourvedre and Tempranillo. So please try our wines and like our extended family would say Disfrutalo! (Enjoy)”

What I Think:

As mentioned in my value hunting post this one is a kitchen sink blend of Zinfandel, Syrah, Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mourvedre, and Tempranillo that per my friends at the TTB appears to be at least loosely affiliated with the folks at Francis Ford Coppola Winery.

Dark garnet in color with nice, dark fruit and spice on a pleasant nose. Juicy and jammy on the palate with dark black cherry fruit flavors. Smooth but completely lacking in tannins and acidity. This allows barrel notes to quickly assert themselves before turning damp and earthy which ultimately dries out the finish. While this wine has redeeming qualities and is easy to drink I find myself walking away undecided. At times this wine seems rich and velvety (especially at 13.5% abv) and at others fruit bomb-ish with a disappointingly short finish. Will I give it a 2nd try? At $7 I’m thinking not but you never know…

Rating: 12th Bottle

What did others have to say about the Dos Brotos Ranch Red? Here’s some thoughts from the gang at justagrape.com.

2009 Overlake Chardonnay

Price: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2009 Overlake ChardonnayPer the bottle “Classic Chardonnay in style. Toasty oak and vanilla lead to green apple and lemon drop aromas. A mix of fig, melon and mineral accented by ample acidity. Displays a creamy moderately buttered finish.”

What I Think:

I reviewed the Overlake Sauvignon Blanc offering a few days back and as mentioned then I had grabbed the Chardonnay as well. The first think that struck me about this one, as mentioned by JB, was the quality of the bottle itself. This wine came across as more expensive than the price tag based on the sheer weight when holding it in your hand. Could it deliver in the glass?

Straight buttered popcorn on the nose. This is a full bodied wine with the vanilla barrel flavors heavily present throughout. Some acidity emerges late in the mid palate and allows some green apple and lemon notes to sneak through though they are quickly muted. The finish is very creamy and buttery (can’t believe they used “moderately” above) though lingers nicely. Guessing many would enjoy this (my wife loves it!) as it seems I’ve had many similar offerings for three times the price. Still though this wine seems well made I am looking for a lot more fruit and acidity than can be found here. If you are a fan of a big buttery Chardonnay this may be right up your alley. Feel free to give it a try.

Rating: 12th Bottle

2009 VINTJS Pinot Gris

2009 VINTJS Pinot GrisPrice: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer “VINTJS Willamette Valley Pinot Gris, from Oregon’s most renowned growing region, is a silky & vibrant wine, more full-bodied and lush than its cousin, Pinot Grigio. The Willamette Valley’s long, cool growing season challenges the grapes to ripen, which results in much more complexity of flavor and body than often found in wines from warmer regions. Bright flavors of pineapple, green apple & pear make this a good partner to a salad of Organic Baby Lettuce topped with our Goat Cheese Medallions. Our price of $5.99 makes this a great partner to your sense of frugality, too.”

What I Think:

Another in the series of VINTJS offerings I found this on page 8 of my most recent Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer. I really wanted to like this one as it has been a while since I enjoyed a Pinot Gris. How did this one work out? Straw hued with a slight spritz on the pour (not the palate though) and a nose showing tart citrus, mineral and rock aromas. Green apples greet you on the palate before a mineral backbone kicks in leading to a crisp finish. Enough acid but I prefer a bit more snap (and truth be told a bit more fruit as well). This wine is well made but not a standout. You get what you pay for; a simple, solid sipper. I bought two bottles initially but don’t see this one making it into my cart again. That said guessing some might like this more than I do. If you are a Pinot Gris fan feel free to give this one a try.

Rating: 12th Bottle

2007 Vinum Cellars Petite Sirah

Price: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2007 Vinum Cellars Clarksburg Petite Sirah ReservePer Wine Spectator “Appealing for its bright and juicy red and black fruit flavors, with a smooth texture and vivid spice, cola and toast details. Gains some tannic traction on the finish. Drink now through 2016. 8,000 cases made.” (87 points, $14) — M.W.

What I Think:

A few months back Andy gave me the heads up that they had this one in stock. I had previously tried the ’06 which I picked up via a recommendation for $13 18 months or so ago. My impression then was that while this wine was good it did not deliver on a double digit price point. Granted, I expect a lot there! Seeing this at Trader Joe’s for more than 50% off I figured it was worth giving this one another shot. Since then I’ve had a couple bottles of this but had yet to review as I kept expecting it to disappear much like the Chenin Blanc (which I enjoyed!) did. But to my surprise this one was still smiling from the shelves on my most recent shopping trip so I figured it was due time to share my thoughts.

Big nose loaded with aromas of black olives. This wine is thick & inky in the glass. On that palate you are greeted with juicy, slightly under ripe, blueberry flavors on a tight, acidic structure. Big, toasty tannins emerge very early on the mid palate before giving way to loads of black pepper on an overly dry (and slightly sour) finish. This wine is tightly wound throughout and I don’t think that is meant to change (even with aging). Still not my favorite but guessing many will see it as a lot of wine for the money. For my palate I would pair this one with a rich foods or strong cheeses to help smooth out the tannins. If I grab another bottle I’ll let you know how that goes. In the mean time I would love to hear your thoughts…

Rating: 12th Bottle

2006 Campo Viejo Tempranillo Crianza

2006 Campo Viejo Tempranillo CrianzaPrice: $9.99 imported by Pernod Richard

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines “This blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha and Mazuelo is an intense ruby red wine with aromas of black fruit and vanilla. Velvety and elegant, it’s an old world wine with a new world attitude, and it is downright addictive with roasts and firm cheeses.”

What I Think:

Given I’ve been having a rough patch with Tempranillo of late when I was offered the opportunity to sample this Campo Viejo which is the gold standard for a value offering in this category I didn’t hesitate to accept. Random aside, do you know what Crianza indicates? I didn’t but Wikipedia did. Spanish wines are often labeled based on their ageing. The three most common designations are Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva. Crianza is aged two year with a minimum of six months in oak, Reserva three years with a full year in oak and Gran Reserva five years with eighteen months in oak. That requirement for two years of ageing makes this 2006 the current release from Campo Viejo. There some wine trivia for you. Now let’s get back to the wine.

Dark fruit and spices on the nose with barrel notes omnipresent throughout. This wine is warm and comforting on the palate with soft cherry and floral notes. It almost reminds me of wrapping up in a familiar blanket on a cold winter (or San Francisco summer) night. The mid palate shows a firm acidity to keep this one nicely balanced before giving way to a creamy vanilla finish laden with barrel notes and sour cherries. A simple, enjoyable wine that it is widely available and better yet affordable. Given that you can always consider this a safe choice when you have paella (or a simple BBQ dish) on the menu. Also a great place to start if you’ve yet to try Tempranillo. How about you? Anyone out there have a favorite Tempranillo of their own to share? Let us know in the comments section below.

Rating: 12th Bottle

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

2009 Pancake Cellars Big Day White

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2009 Pancake Cellars Big Day WhiteAnother in the series of wines made by the ultra secretive Central Coast Wine Services team. It appears this is primarily a warehouse wine making facility where wines such as Hitching Post Pinot are made. Obviously in their spare time though they are making some juice of their own (and not telling the world about it).

What I Think:

It was funny that I came across this cork’d article that discussed labels as a major factor in driving purchases the day after I opened this wine. That is certainly how this one first made it into my home back in 2007. And it is not only this one; the folks behind this outfit our known for distinctive labels. So much so that I know if they have a new offering available before I even pick it up off the shelf. My personal favorite is still the Franc Merlot. But enough about the label, what about the juice?

This one is a blend of 27% Chardonnay, 24% Sauvignon Blanc, 24% Viognier, 21% Muscat Canelli and 4% Pinot Blanc. Not looking at the blend when I first opened this one on its own I found it entirely too sweet. Not what I had remembered from prior experiences. Taking that in stride I paired it with shrimp tacos and refried beans the next night and while it didn’t make me pay attention (or take a lot of notes) it came across as a simple, enjoyable (though slightly characterless) wine showing melon and floral notes throughout. I prefer a Riesling or Gewurztraminer with my spicier food but if you don’t this may be a good alternative.

Rating: 12th Bottle

2007 Concannon Central Coast Petite Sirah

2007 Concannon Central Coast Petite SirahPrice: $6.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per Concannon “Bright blackberry and raspberry fruit aromas and flavors mingle with hints of nutmeg and toasty oak. Full body and nice complexity.”

What I Think:

Warm fruit and barrel spice on the nose. In the mouth you are greeted with under ripe, juicy blueberry flavors. This one could use just a little more depth or a touch more fruit as acidity leaves the mid-palate a bit tart. The finish is dry and toasty with chewy soft tannins that linger on. Not the rich flavor profile I’ve come to expect from a Petite Sirah but well made and fairly priced at $7. Just lacking that little something to get me to pull the trigger on buying this one again.

Rating: 12th Bottle

2005 Monte Ducay Cariñena Reserva

2005 Monte Ducay Cariñena ReservaPrice: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Latitude Wines

What They Said:

Per Bodegas San Valero (on the ’06) “Beautiful morello cherry colour, with brick red sparkles. Fragrant and delicate in the nose. Refined bouquet, rich and well balanced. The aftertaste is long and persistent.”

What I Think:

As mentioned in a previous post this one has some interesting packaging as it comes wrapped in brown paper. From a marketing perspective I’m not sure how that would have affected me but we will never know as buying this one was a foregone conclusion based on a mostly positive review by Jeff over at Viva la Wino!. Funny enough like him I ripped the wrapper offer expecting to find something underneath but alas no. Either way, no matter. Let’s get to what’s in the bottle.

This one is a blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha and Cabernet Sauvignon (special shout out to Æsop for tracking that one down!) On opening you get all wood on the nose with the only exception being some barrel spices that manage to sneak through. The palate starts with an overpowering herbal acidity which takes a moment to reveal some sour, under ripe cherry flavors that come across on a juicy backbone before leading to a hot finish. This wine becomes more approachable with time showing some dark fruit aromas on the nose and remnants of the same on the finish. This leaves me in somewhat of a conundrum as initially I almost hated it but found a trace of enjoyment towards the finish. Couple that with the fact that others have liked it and perhaps I’ll give it another try but not likely. If I do, one thing is for sure I’ll be giving it lots of air and pairing it with strong foods or cheeses. Hoping for better I tried the 2008 Darien Tempranillo ($6) the same night and that one didn’t work for me either.

So how about you? Have you had any Spanish wines you’ve enjoyed lately? If so let me know in the comments below. I look forward to hearing!

Rating: 12th Bottle