2008 BearBoat Pinot Gris

2008 BearBoat Pinot GrisPrice: $3.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per BearBoat Wines “Bearboat Pinot Gris, made from 100% Pinot Gris grapes, has aromas of apricots, nectarines and a perfumed spice. The wine is fairly full-bodied with balanced acidity and oily texture. The finish is clean with good length and extract. Pinot Gris grapes come from cool climate areas – 30% from Russian River, 30% from Sonoma Coast and 40% from Carneros. All these 3 growing areas in Sonoma allow the Pinot Gris to retain pronounced aromatics and fresh acidity. 60% of the wine is fermented in stainless steel to retain nectarine fruit aromas. The rest is fermented in new French oak for added complexity. A half of the wine goes through malolactic fermentation for acidity balance. It’s aged for five months in 40% new French oak for added complexity.”

What I Think:

(13.5%) I really wanted to like this one I did. But I don’t. Seems like he has a decent enough pedigree as K&L Wines was selling the 2007 vintage for $14 but I just don’t get it here. Ripe nectarine and stone fruits on the nose. On the palate this is medium bodied, rich apples, oily & spiced, lemon acidity but the black licorice on the edges distracts throughout never allowing this to come together. Perhaps better with food (I tried it on its own) but I’m not likely to give it another chance…

By the way 2008 seems a little late for this simple offering to be hitting the market; wonder what gives?

Wine Geek Notes: Part of the Rémy Cointreau portfolio

Rating: Skip It

2009 Trader Joe’s Petit Reserve Pinot Noir

This one is made by DNA Vineyards and Dennis Patton who is known as the Merlin of Mendocino and is one of the chief proponents of the Coro Mendocino initiative. While his Trader Joe’s track record is strong this one is a bit curious as Pinot is not his forte (at least based on my somewhat limited knowledge) and the Edna Valley in San Luis Obispo county from which this one hails is a good distance away from his familiar stomping grounds in Mendocino County. That said let’s have the wine speak for itself…

Price: $6.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2009 Trader Joes Petit Reserve Pinot NoirPer Trader Joe’s “The San Luis Obispo AVA (American Viticultural Area) is known for its cool climate and long growing season, conditions that make it an ideal region for Pinot Noir grapes. The Edna Valley, nestled in the middle of this AVA, amplifies everything about San Luis Obispo that makes it Pinot’s perfect partner.

Trader Joe’s Petit Reserve Pinot Noir Edna Valley is made exclusively for us using 100% Pinot Noir grapes from Edna Valley, aged in French oak for 12 months. Pinot Noir from warmer regions tends to be super dark and highly tannic; not this one. The longer, cooler growing season afforded by Edna Valley’s climate results here in a lush, floral and vibrant wine with aromas of raspberries and violets, and hints of nutmeg. It’s an easy drinking wine, with a soft, round finish. Pair it with Pork Tenderloin, Mushroom Ravioli or an evening by the fire with a good book.

Wines of this quality, with this kind of pedigree, generally come with a hefty price tag. Our price of $6.99 proves that you can get really excellent wine at a really excellent price. Cheers!”

What I Think:

(13.9%) Tried at TJ’s and was going to pass but second thoughts made me reconsider. Light, bright in color. Aggressive candied cranberry with earthy, forest floor notes on the nose. Remains aggressive on palate with sweetish raspberry fruit. Slightly harsh on the edges with a clean, peppery finish. The thin flavor profile packed with big fruit leaves this one out of balance IMHO. Not one I’ll buy again but guessing there will be those that beg to differ…

Wine Geek Notes: 100% Pinot Noir aged for 12 months in French Oak. 13.8% ABV (although the label states 13.9%)

Rating: Skip It

2009 The Wingman Shiraz

Price: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2009 The Wingman ShirazPer the bottle “Our curiously rich and spicy blend gets its dark color and robust crushed raspberry and Bing cherry characteristics from Shiraz while the Viognier adds a subtle aromatic tropical fruit flavor. Enjoy with BBQ, pizza and pasta in a spicy tomato sauce.”

What I Think:

I couldn’t recall seeing a Shiraz-Viognier blend from California before so given the price I thought I would give it a shot. This one is made in the Owl Ridge Wine Services facility where the Sebastopol Hills Pinot Noir also hails. Gives it a bit of street cred but let’s see what’s in the bottle…

(14.3%) 90% Shiraz, 10% Viognier – On pop and pour this one is harsh. I hardly had a sip before putting the cork back in. On night two it showed a little better. Juicy currants and tart cranberry on entry. This one shows a bit more weight (courtesy of the Viognier) on mid-palate but it is otherwise non-existent other than a sharp acidity which emerges. This leads straight into a hot finish that shows some hints of barrel creaminess. Sure you can drink it but if you are paying attention chances are you’ll be wishing you were drinking something else. Not even a good value at this price.

If you are looking for a Shiraz at Trader Joe’s I’d recommend checking out the Chook Shed (disclaimer: I haven’t had the latest vintage) And by the way if you think I didn’t like it Jeff over at Viva la Wino minces even fewer words on this one…

Rating: Skip It

Any one out there have a favorite value Shiraz to share? If so do tell…

2008 Santa Barbara Landing Pinot Noir

2008 Santa Barbara Landing Pinot NoirPrice: $3.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer (pdf) “Oh, how we love a good wine. But what we love even more is a good wine at a great value. That’s why we like Santa Barbara Landing Pinot Noir so much. You would, in ordinary circumstances, expect to pay considerably more for a wine of this quality from the Santa Barbara region. These, however, are extraordinary times in which we live, and it seems that extraordinary times produce both extraordinary wines and extraordinary values. Santa Barbara Landing Pinot Noir is a silky red wine crafted from grapes grown throughout the coastal vineyards of the Santa Barbara growing region. At first blush, you’ll notice aromas of strawberry, cherry and cedar. At first sip, the berries burst on your tongue and mingle with a bit of oaky-ness that leads to soft tannins and a smooth finish. This is an excellent wine to serve with our Vintage Reserve Cheddar (p. 7) and makes a cheery companion to our Stuffed Pork Chops (p. 21) at dinnertime. At $3.99 a bottle, this wine is a really terrific value that won’t be around forever. Get yours while it lasts, because when it’s gone we can’t guarantee we can get more.”

What I Think:

2008 Santa Barbara Landing Pinot Noir (color in bottle)(13.5%) On the lighter side (see picture) but the right color. Garnet at the core with light reddish, orange edges. Right nose as it shows some strawberry notes with cloves. On the palate it is smooth and goes down easy. Rich but decent acidity with fake oak creaminess and manageable heat on the finish. It is clear this is nowhere near 100% Pinot and I’m guessing Syrah is its partner in crime. Far better than the Blue Fin offering Bronco put out last year. I’d have to say it is drinkable in a lighter, generic red kind of way. That said for $4 it could be far worse. I’d like to be harsher but while I won’t be buying this wine I have a hard time telling you not to if you were initially inclined to do so…

Rating: Skip It

2009 Dynamic Lake County Red Table Wine

I was familiar with the Dynamic Vineyards label and Ceago Vinegarden when I picked this one up. Ceago was founded by Jim Fetzer whose family started their winery in 1968, turned it to organic in 1984 and sold it to Brown-Forman, one of America’s largest alcohol conglomerate, in 1992. He started Ceago soon after (1993) in Mendocino before moving to Clear Lake in Lake County in 2001. Per their site Ceago’s “mission is to craft small lots of wine from estate grown organic and biodynamic grapes using the best of Old and New World winemaking techniques.”

As mentioned I was familiar with this one when I picked it up. For I had very much enjoyed their 2006 offereing. Little did I remember it was the Mendocino which I enjoyed and not the Lake County which I neglected to review at the time given my disappointment. The blend back in 2006 was completely different (45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Syrah, 20% Malbec) so perhaps it would fare better this time around. Let’s check it out…

2009 Dynamic Lake County Red Table WinePrice: $8.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

I can’t find a word on this one and since the Ceago Vineyards site still references the 2006 version you’ll have to take my word for it…

What I Think:

(14%) 53% Syrah, 43% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon – Almost cloying on the nose. Off sweet with warm red fruits and spice. Dark in the glass, full bodied and lush on the palate. Problem is little happens between there and the time it dries out on the finish with creamy, vanilla notes on top of light tannins. IMHO this could use more Cabernet in the blend to add some acidity and balance. Then again wine making is not me forte. I’d say this one is good but one dimensional (as noted above). I won’t be buying again but if a fruit forward slightly sweet red is your style feel free to give this one a try.

Rating: Skip It

2009 Chariot Gypsy White

Sorry to do that to you! I’m sure you read that and right up to the end were expecting something different. That said I felt compelled to share my thoughts here as I have visited at least two stores where they are pitching the white right next to the red version of the Chariot Gypsy. Couple that with the fact that it just showed up in the latest Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer that hit my mailbox and I had to share my thoughts. Long story short I’m not a fan of the white (nor was I of their Sauvignon Blanc from vintages ago). Read on…

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2009 Chariot Gypsy WhitePer Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer (pdf) “Chariot Gypsy White is made just for us by a small winemaker with a big talent for handcrafting exquisite wines. Known for his ability to combine distinctive grapes to create stellar blends, for Chariot Gypsy White he went with a mind-blowing mélange of some enticing grapes from northern and central California – Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Muscat and Marsanne.

The result is a wine that’s bursting with fresh floral aromas and flavors ranging from fig and almond to apple & pear, with a crisp acidity throughout. Try it with your favorite chicken recipe, our Spinach Lasagna or Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Butter & Sage. We’re selling each bottle of Chariot Gypsy White for $4.99, which means our goal of delivering a satisfying wine experience for very little money has been accomplished – with style!”

What I Think:

(13%) 37% Chardonnay, 32% Sauvignon Blanc, 15% Gewurtraminer, 11% Muscat, 5% Marsanne – Crisp floral nose with honeydew. Juicy sweet nectarine on the palate with a floral, acidic structure that shows a bit sweet and a tad syrupy throughout. Keeping this one thoroughly chilled will take the edge off that. At the end of the day I don’t have anything bad to say about this wine but it has a very limited range for my palate. Beyond pairing with spicy Asian cuisine I don’t have much use for it. Couple that with the fact that these off dry offerings are a dime a dozen at Trader Joe’s (see Green Fin, Now & Zen) and I’m not likely to buy again…

Rating: Skip It

2009 Trader Joe’s Petit Reserve Cabernet Franc

2009 Trader Joe's Petit Reserve Cabernet FrancPrice: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the bottle “The cool nights and warm days of Paso Robles bring out savory currant and dry cranberry nuances in our Petit Reserve Cabernet Franc.”

What I Think:

I’m not exactly sure why I had such high hopes for this one but something made me buy three bottles on sight. Granted I am a big fan of Cab Franc but that is some aggressive buying. Did it pay off? Let’s see…

Made by Familia Nueva Vineyards this one is light purple with translucent violet on the edges and has a pleasant nose of berries and spice. The palate starts nice with dried cranberry notes but quickly turns thin and becomes disjointed. On the finish heavy barrel driven tannins emerge with only a hint of the sour cherry fruit surviving. Even if it survived in full glory this one leaves a lot to be desired. I bought three of these hoping for good things. I am now plotting on how I can return the other two. I suggest you steer clear but if you happen to give this one a try I would love to hear your thoughts.

Rating: Skip It

2009 VINTJS Pinot Noir

2009 VINTJS Pinot NoirPrice: $8.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per Wine by Joe (on the 2008 which goes for $19 on the winery site) “Listen to the fine and enticing “snap-crack” of the seal as you twist it off. Put the Band-Aids back in the medicine cabinet… this aint no cork sealed wine. This wine slips into your mouth with gorgeous rich blackberry aromas with a touch of leather, too. The flavors mirror the aromas with a soft and velvety mouthfeel which wraps around your tongue delivering the impression of sweetness from the soft ripe tannins. I know what you are thinking… How can Joe deliver such a good Oregon Pinot Noir for the money you are asking!!?? Yes, I know, you want to drink more…”

What I Think:

I found this Willamette offering from the same maker as the recently reviewed Pinot Gris and, as Gary Vee would say, I decided to give it a whirl. How did it go?

Faint in color at the core and almost brown on the edges this one is light from the get go. Bright on the nose this one starts nicely showing racy acidity which leads to tart cranberry and orange rind flavors before giving way to a slightly harsh finish. That’s the best that can be said. On the flip side I might look at this one as thin, sour and under ripe. Whereas the Pinot Gris was well made I don’t get that sense here as it seems disjointed at times. Not enough Jekyll & too much Hyde for me. I won’t be buying this one again. Anyone have a recent favorite Pinot favorite in this price range to share?

Rating: Skip It

2009 Winnefred Chardonnay

2009 Winnefred ChardonnayPrice: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer “Winnefred is 100% Chardonnay aged in 82% French oak and 18% sur-lie (on lees), giving it added complexity and creaminess. It’s a citrus-forward wine with pear, lemon and a hint of fennel. Winnefred, like Winnefred, makes an excellent dinner companion. Try it with chicken or whatever suits your fancy.”

What I Think:

As mentioned recently I can identify the new offerings of the Central Coast Wine Services team before picking them up. This one was a no doubter with a fanciful label and story (Winnefred is a competitive pizza eating champion) to boot. Given their track record I had to give it a try despite my disposition to Chardonnay as a varietal. Would I live to regret it?

In a word no, there was nothing to regret. Literally nothing. This was one of the most flavorless wines I’ve had. The nose was muted with a bit of pear and peach coming through. The palate was oily with thin lemon flavors leading to a short toasty finish with cinnamon spice. It isn’t that this wine was undrinkable it was just soulless. If you have to have a Chardonnay in this price range I’d stick to the Santa Barbara Landing. How about you? What is your favorite value Chardonnay?

Rating: Skip It

2006 Chateau Chevalier Pinot Noir

Price: $9.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2006 Chateau Chevalier Pinot NoirBarely a whisper of this one on their site. Being a fan of their Cab offering and initially giving this bottle the once over I become suspect. But the facts check out. I had just never noticed that Chateau Chevalier is made by Spring Mountain Vineyard (perhaps a 2nd label? The ’06 Spring Mountain Pinot went for $55) and comes in a bottle unbefiiting of the projected quality. All indications are that the same team and same effort is involved here and, as mentioned, given I am a fan of the Cab that is a good thing. Despite that the only mention from the winery is a “coming soon” designation on their awards page.

What I Think:

So what’s in the bottle? In a word “disappointment”. The brownish, amber color on this one makes it look beyond its years. The nose starts super promising with dried cherry and black tea aromas. In the mouth this one starts flat with thin cherry flavors (and an accompanying acidity for balance) and sadly never changes before eventually drying out to a moderate tannic finish. It almost tasted as if its best days were behind it. Given the color I wonder if that wasn’t the case. Either way, quite a letdown!

Rating: Skip It