2010 Pontificis Red

2010 Pontificis RedPrice: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Latitude Wines

What They Said:

Per Trader Joe’s “The meal isn’t quite ready… still. An interesting, smooth-drinking bottle is just the thing to placate palates and provoke conversation – a “bridge builder,” if you will. This cheeky nod to Châteauneuf-du-Pape is perfect. Made from the signature Côtes du Rhône GSM blend – Grenache, Syrah & Mourvèdre – Pontificis boasts intense aromas of black fruits with spicy nuances and floral hints. With satiny tannins, it’s rich and full-flavored without being dogmatic (too early for that). It’s good. It could even carry you right through the turkey, should you wish, and you may very well at our price of $5.99* for a 750 ml bottle.”

What I Think:

(13.5%) 50% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 20% Mourvedre – This one comes in a formidable bottle and starts with dark, voluminous fruit but balanced, smooth and spiced too. Nice stuff. Not complex but I’d be pleased with this one in the $10-12 range so definitely worth stocking up on at $6. I picked up another half case. And if you’re looking, given the blend, this is a fine match for turkey. Drink up!

Rating: Bulk Buy <- been a long time since I dished one of these out…

Wine Geek Notes: Appears to be associated with Laurent Delaunay and hat tip to my friend Pierre for turning me onto this one

2009 Tormaresca Neprica Puglia IGT

2009 Tormaresca Neprica Puglia IGTPrice: $7.99 @ K&L Wines imported by Chateau Ste. Michelle

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines 90 points and a Best Buy from the Wine Enthusiast: “Neprica is an awesome blend of Negroamaro, Primitivo and Cabernet Sauvignon from southern Italy that offers an unbeatable price versus quality ratio. This rising star of Puglia would pair with meats, pasta or aged cheese and offers clean aromas of ripe fruit, spice and leather.”

What I Think:

(13.5%) 40% Negromaro, 30% Primitivo, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon – Tormaresca is owned by the Antinori family, and distributed by Chateau Ste. Michelle. This bottle hails from the south of Italy and opens with lush but rustic fruit (strawberry, sour cherry, red licorice spice) showing nice depth. It comes across as juicy, smooth and balanced with some pleasant earthiness on the edges. Nice acidity and structure on the mid-palate despite the big fruit. Spiced on the mid-palate this one turns dry, meaty and herbal on the finish with smooth tannins and lingering black pepper notes. There is nothing out of whack here. Gets better with time and air so give it an hour if you can. Either way this is still the most exciting $8 bottle I’ve found in some time. I just bought 6 more!

Rating: Bulk Buy

2007 Picket Fence Pinot Noir

Price: $8.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2007 Picket Fence Pinot NoirPer Picket Fence “This wine has an elegant, pure fruit forward style with the brilliant intensity of rich mouthwatering Bing cherry, blackberry and spice. The luxurious density, beautiful structure and velvety texture on the palate are hallmarks of this vintage and make this wine a superlative example of Russian River Valley Pinot.” – Don Van Staaveren, Winemaker

What I Think:

Really? The winery is selling this one for $30 a bottle on their site (see above link). As if that isn’t bad enough they are making you buy 3 bottles at a time. Typically (warning marketing speak ahead) customers that buy direct are your most valuable (and deliver the highest profit margin). They deserve special consideration instead of getting an extra $20 lifted out of their wallet for each bottle. If I am a winery and I have to unload wine I am making sure that I am sharing those same prices with my most loyal customers. I could go on and on about how wrong this is on so many levels. That said I’ll spare you. Let’s get to the wine…

Warm spice and tart cranberry notes on the nose. The palate starts with surprising weight given how light it looks in the glass. This wine is wound tight with cranberry flavors that merge with bright cherry overtones. The mid-palate shows flashes of cola acidity to keep it nicely balanced. From there the barrel notes emerge and lead to a nice creamy, vanilla finish.

Most Pinots in this price range are what I refer to as “on steroids” with heavier grapes (e.g. Petite Sirah) blended in (see Fin, Blue). This one is a very nice example of what much more expensive Pinot’s deliver. Load up (if you can) and pop one open whenever the mood strikes you. Better yet if you are looking for a Thanksgiving wine on a budget (it is November) look no further!

Rating: Buy It <- And I'm not the only one who thinks so. Interested in reading more about the Picket Fence Pinot Noir? Check out what Robert Dwyer had to say over on the Wellesley Wine Press.

2006 Clos LaChance Merlot

2006 Clos LaChance MerlotPrice: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per Clos LaChance “Aromas of red plums and cranberries. Vanilla and cinnamon with undertones of dried cherry and a slight herbal note. Soft, velvety entry with subtle cherry fruit and plumy flavors. If I could use one word to describe this wine, it would be “smooth.” The mid-palate is soft, yet has a presence. A touch of dusty vanilla and spice. The finish is supple, but has some length to it. Try with a grilled pork tenderloin or spaghetti marinara.”

What I Think:

A short time back I mentioned my angst around wineries who offer their product via Trader Joe’s but continue to sell them at greater prices on their own website. To me this is a poke in the eye to your most loyal customers. As I mentioned then, Rabbit Ridge sets the gold standard here for making their wine available to club members for $50 a case before shipping it off to Trader Joe’s. While Clos LaChance did offer this mea culpa of sorts guessing they never offered this to club members for $5 a bottle. Why? Because as you will see below this wine is way too good not to get bought up by those in the know. So onto the wine…

On the nose you get bold, dark fruits with olive and black pepper notes. Nice mouthfeel starts with rich red fruit that mellows with some acidity emerging mid palate to keep it balanced and finishes in a rush of chocolate dusted red (cherry?) fruit. This is a solid wine from start to finish. With little to no tannins throughout this one is soft and smooth which make it easy for a whole bottle to disappear before you even notice. At $5 I have to give this one a bulk buy as it is worth double the money. That said I fear I’m teasing you as I am it seems availability is almost zero so good luck hunting it down. Let me know if/where you find it!

Rating: Bulk Buy

2008 Rabbit Ridge Allure de Robles

2008 Rabbit Ridge Allure de RoblesPrice: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

As many of you know I’ve long been a fan of the Allure de Robles so I was excited to hear from the winemaker, Erich Russell, that the 2008 vintage would be hitting Trader Joe’s shelves soon. He also had this to say: “The good news is that there is way less alcohol 14.8 instead of 15.3 on the 2007. There are less harsh tannins making the wine even more balanced. This vintage has been the fastest selling vintage around the United States of any Allure de Robles. There is very little Petite Sirah in this vintage and much more Grenache. The very bad news is that since this wine was selling so fast around the country Trader Joes will be getting about 25% less than the 2007.” With Erich’s warning I grabbed a bunch as soon as I saw it.

What I Think:

The nose is big and full of, well I want to say jamberry bramble. Given that is from one of the many children’s books I have memorized why don’t I say brambly red and blackberry aromas so it is more comprehensible. With the wine in my glass I readied myself for the fruit explosion but it never materialized. The front of the palate is loaded with earthy, red fruits on a vanilla bean backbone. These fruits are balanced by a black pepper acidity which not only keeps them in check but dominates the back end of the palate and lingers on through the finish. This wine is much truer to it Rhone style than the previous vintage. I wonder how much lower (’07 was ~28%) on the Syrah/Petite Sirah, I’ll shoot Erich an email and see if I can’t get the final blend percentage. This one is smooth and easy to drink, my favorite yet! Stock up while you can and grab this one next time you are headed out to fire up the grill…

Rating: Bulk Buy

2008 Chariot Gypsy

We interupt this regularly scheduled post for a public service announcement; there have been confirmed sightings of the Gypsy up the coast in both Portland and Seattle. This concludes the use of the emergency broadcast system.

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2008 Chariot GypsyPer Chariot Wines “The Chariot Gypsy 2008 is a delicious blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel and Sangiovese from great vineyards in the Napa Valley, Sonoma, San Joachin, and Monterey counties. It displays a dark garnet color with a clear violet edge. It shows mixed fresh berry aromas — raspberry and strawberry, with hints of white pepper and pastry. Very clean and lively with juicy berry fruit, firm acidity and a touch of smooth tannin. Excellent and versatile food wine particularly well suited for pork chops and poultry. We think it is the perfect everyday red wine!”

What I Think:

Ah, the long lost post. I had grand plans for this one until the day job threw them to roost. When Steve asked last week where it was I decided it was time to close the loop here. So let’s take a quick trip down memory lane.

My going in question was can they maintain the quality as they expand the production. As a reminder the demand for ‘07 vintage was so high they produced two lots. Given I have seen many of my other Trader Joe’s favorites journey this road to mediocrity I feel I have reason to be skeptical. When it arrived, I headed out to grab some straight away and video blogged my first sips from the parking lot. My take was that the ’08 was juicy, fruit forward and a nice easy quaffer. Now that the wine has had a few months in the bottle and I’ve gotten to sample it a few times what’s my take?

The nose is pleasant showing red fruit, oak/barrel and clove notes. The palate starts with jammy, ripe berry flavors. Towards the mid-palate the fruit becomes slightly flabby before being wiped away by an unexpected lively, racy acidic backbone that is full of white pepper. The finish is of bright, tart raspberries. This one is warm and ever so slightly sweet (less so than the ’07) throughout which make the connotations of the “cherry coke” of wine more true than false. That said, given the acidity it may be better suited for pizza than an early evening on the patio. And for me that is what this one is a simple, straight forward Tuesday night wine that is easy to drink. For $5 this is more than you should expect, use it accordingly and you aren’t likely to be disappointed.

For more on this one check out this great take from Viva la Wino!

Rating: Buy It (while you can)

2007 Rabbit Ridge Allure de Robles

2007 Rabbit Ridge Allure de RoblesPrice: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per Trader Joe’s Holiday Guide “This is a Rhône style red wine that could only come from Paso Robles. Why? The nutrient-dense, limestone-rich soils produce grapes of great character. And the variety of climate conditions within the region create distinctive flavor profiles that are unquestionably Rhône-esque, but with a definitively Central Coast vibe.

Rabbit Ridge Allure de Robles is a blend of Petite Sirah, Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre. Medium-bodied with strawberry and cherry overtones from the Grenache, the wine inherits an earthiness from the Mourvedre and supple body from the Syrah. Rabbit Ridge Allure de Robles is an excellent sipping wine, wonderful with strong cheeses and a natural with roasted meats like our Prime Rib Roast or Frenched Pork Chops. It’s a great value at only $4.99 – only at your neighborhood Trader Joe’s.”

What I Think:

This is a wine that seems to be getting better and better with each vintage. I initially enjoyed a NV version some 30 months ago and was excited to see this one in the store recently! And my excitement was justified… My first thoughts via twitter were “Drinking the Rabbit Ridge Allure de Robles (tj’s, $5). Big wine @15.4% a bit hot. But bold, fruity and enjoyable. I’ll be getting more.” And I must admit, I was very happy it had the structure to balance out that high ABV%. I’ve already grabbed another half of a case…

Per Rabbit Ridge winemaker Erich Russell this one is roughly 45-50% Grenache, 25-30% Mourvedre, with the balance being Syrah, Petite Sirah and six or so more grapes (Erich fell free to update once you get the final %’s). Big, bold dark fruit throughout but as mentioned balanced, coating your mouth with plush fruit and tannins. A dry, chalky finish follows that is loaded with white pepper and lingers on and on. From the above the “nutrient-dense” soils ring true. Strawberry and cherry do not. Either way grab yourself a bunch of this one while it last. A perfect wine to serve over the holidays!

Rating: Bulk Buy

2008 Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc

2008 Veramonte Sauvignon BlancPrice: $8.99 @ K&L Wines imported by Huneeus Vinters LLC

What They Said:

Per wine.com “Captures the pungent, alert character inherent to Sauvignon Blanc. This is a peppy wine with spiky tropical and green-fruit aromas and flavors. It’s a mash up of citrus and nettles, with a controlled, fairly long grapefruit-driven finish. Modest in price, but the real thing.” 89 Points, Best Buy, Wine Enthusiast, March 2009

From Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar: “Pale straw. Lively aromas of grapefruit, lime, white pepper and herbs. Fresh on the palate too, displaying vibrant citrus and orchard fruit qualities and good mineral snap. Finishes dry and delineated, with the lime element repeating.” (Mar/Apr ’09)

What I Think:

After sampling the Veramonte Primus as part of the Wines of Chile Online Tasting, and with higher temperatures on the horizon, I was reminded of my love for this one which I have often referred to as the most refreshing wine I have ever had. The color is of pale straw. On the nose you get citrus aromas on top of a mineral base and some floral notes. On the palate you are greeted with loads of fruit on a nice stony backbone that give way to a long, dry, crisp grapefruit and lime finish. This wine is fresh (but not in a mowed grass way like you get from New Zealand) and vibrant throughout. I already grabbed a case, my only warning is this may be too much tang for some so you might want to try a bottle first before you invest further. For those of you who can’t find it or prefer shopping via the internet this one is available via wine.com.

Rating: Bulk Buy

2007 Overlake Cabernet Sauvignon

 2007 Overlake Cabernet SauvignonPrice: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Nothing to be found. Looks like you are stuck with me on this one…

What I Think:

This one came recommended a month or so ago via a Trader Joe’s (often my beaten path in South San Francisco) cashier who saw me lugging out a case plus of wine and thought I was missing the boat. Y’all know me, love recommendations. We headed over to the aisle to hunt this one down but alas it was out of stock. Fast forward three weeks, headed home from the airport and need to do grocery shopping so headed back here. Perusing the wine aisle and sha-bam there it is. Decent looking label, Lake County which I have some loves for (see Beringer Clear Lake Zin and Dynamic Lake County Red) plus a personal recommendation and three bottles are quickly in the cart. Big buy for me before tasting a drop…

Obviously with expectations high what I needed is for someone to tell me this sucked right before I drank it to get those back in line. Alas no one was available to assist. The nose is typical of a $6 Trader Joe’s Cabernet consisting of darker fruit and oak. The front of the palate initially seems a bit flabby but quickly pulls itself together. The mid palate show nice balance with rich, dark fruit holding throughout which all makes it to the finish where a hint of black pepper is added to the mix. 14.75% alcohol? Are you kidding me? No heat and virtually no tannins. Amazing at $6! My only word of warning (given I’ve consumed 2 of these bottles already) think twice before crossing this one with spicy food (tacos) as that was a pairing that didn’t work, save it for simpler meat dishes

This is the best fruit forward sub $6 Trader Joe’s can since the XS. The “fruit forward” disclaimer came due to my Grape Madness experience with the Fetzer (which upset Sterling in the opening round) which was much more subtle and is worth a try as well. Trying to say what you see is what you get with this one, l don’t expect complexity or layers. That said, if you are interested in a nice, everyday, fruit forward drinker this may be one for you. It is for me, I have a ½ case minimum in mind for me next time I see this one. Sure to make my next Top 10 list which you should be seeing in the next 48 hours.

Rating: Bulk Buy

Additional Thoughts: Lake County: Been a big fan lately. Look for good values out of this region in the next few years as it is relatively “undiscovered”. Had some nice wines from there and am keen to explore further. Next two tasting trips, after Greece (did I mention I leave in less than a week? Any tips?) are here and to Lodi/El Dorado County… Anyone have recommendations for either?

2006 Bogle Petite Sirah

2006 Bogle Petite SirahPrice: $8.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per wine.com “First produced in 1978 by the Bogle family, Petite Sirah is considered Bogle’s “heritage” varietal. On the nose, luscious boysenberry teases you along with touches of black pepper and herbs. Trademark inky and jammy tones fill the mouth with ripe fruit and berries. The voluptuous finish lingers with toasty oak and lush fruit.

The firm tannins make this a wine that can develop for years to come, but you won’t want to wait that long to enjoy it! Try this unique wine with rich meat dishes of lamb, pork or game and their hearty sauces.”

What I Think:

I’ve always been curious about this one, have seen it at Trader Joe’s in the wine aisle for years but it was just a hair north of my normal price range and when the wallet opened wider it never seemed to make the cut. After catching it on Wine Library TV that was about to change quickly. Even more so when RJ’s Wine Blog gave it two thumbs up! Quickly in the cart it went…

Looking for an excuse to open it I remembered @GaryVee called it a pizza wine. Low and behold what was in the oven, before you can check the cork is out… The nose was loaded with dark fruit, pepper and an undertone of herbs (sage?). On the palate dark, toasty and inky with solid blueberry and cherry flavors that meet a nice earthy, leathery component in the mid palate. Progresses to a nice rich, smooth and balanced finish throughout with light tannins with flavors that keep on lingering. This wine has a great structure and is very well balanced throughout. The expected heat never arrives. Hands down the winner of the 4 recent Petite Sirah’s I’ve had. Trader Joe’s currently had two others in this price range, the Rendition and the Inheritance. Don’t waste your time. Easily a Top 10 all time Trader Joe’s wine. Buy this one 3 at a time…

Rating: Bulk Buy