2008 Caretaker Pinot Noir

 2008 Caretaker Pinot NoirPrice: $9.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the bottle “Ruby in color the 2008 Caretaker delicate and floral with rose petal, raspberry and strawberry aromas. The palate is exuberant with sweet red berries that continue into a soft, earthy plum finish.”

What I Think:

Nary a word about this one to be found on the internet but that’s okay I knew that before I brought it home. You see, this one is a product of the Central Coast Wine Warehouse which appears to be a shared production facility. This is the same place that delivered the The California Wine Party Franc Merlot and the Pancake Cellars Big Day White. I’m still pretty certain the Central Coast Wine Warehouse is an operation/business that uses this facility to create the wine. But that is becoming less clear by the bottle… Here nor there, based on my history with the Franc Merlot I bought two bottles of this one on site. Seeing the listing of the  2008 Caretaker Pinot Noir
Pinot clones they used on the back label only reinforced my decision.

Shortly after bringing it in the house it is on the table. Opening it my first thought is really! A 2008 Pinot already? 7 months from the vine to my table. My initial inclinations proved right as this one came across disjointed and with little balance. I sensed the delicate, floral nature on the nose. But the palate couldn’t bring anything together. Not a bad wine, likely very young and needing some time. For now, no fruit and lots of acidity. No way I could recommend this over the Castle Rock Mendocino Pinot. I’ll let you know if the 2nd bottle changes my mind but thinking unlikely at this point…

Rating: Skip It

2008 Picton Bay Sauvignon Blanc

2008 Picton Bay Sauvignon BlancPrice: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by L. Watson Inc.

What They Said:

Per the bottle “Picton, at the northern tip of New Zealand’s South Island is the gateway to Marlborough. Our wine is produced from world famous Marlborough vineyards. Picton Bay Sauvignon Blanc is classic Marlborough in style – vibrant, fresh and fruity.”

What I Think:

Nose of lemon, custard…almost jolly rancherish. Some candied grapefruit lingering in the background. In the mouth, tart and bracing. Some sour lemons on the palate. Tons of mineral and a lot of acidity. It doesn’t have the balance I am looking for at times coming off as overly grassy. This one isn’t bad but I know of two more New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc’s at Trader Joe’s that I prefer; the King Shag ($7) and the Kono ($8). Should the Kiwi style not work for you the Geyser Peak ($8) is also a winner.

Rating: Skip It (with the caveat that if you are not a fan of those Sauv Blanc’s above this one is well worth trying)

Editor’s Note (09-Jul-2009): Added a disclaimer to the rating

2005 Benson Ferry California North Coast Select Chardonnay

2005 Benson Ferry California North Coast Select ChardonnayPrice: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the bottle “This delicious Chardonnay showcases the vibrant fruit the grape develops in the North Coast’s coolest vineyard locations. Fresh aromas and flavors of green apple and citrus are accented by understated barrel spice. The light, lithe palate is enhanced by a crisp, lingering finish.”

What I Think:

After my day job gave me a reason to celebrate my wife decided to splurge on some wines and asked for some recommendations at the local Trader Joe’s. This was the 2nd choice as a comparison wine to the La Crema Chardonnay which is soon to be reviewed. I’m not going to dally much on the topic here. This one was unexpected. It was like a Sauvignon Blanc in a Chard bottle. Cutting lemon, citrus notes on a heavy stainless steel backbone courtesy of the barrel. Not for me. Perhaps if you love Sauv Blanc and like Chardonnay you could enjoy this. Just set your expectation accordingly before opening. I’ll be looking past this one in the wine aisle when I visit again to see what’s next.

Rating: Skip It

2005 Kono Baru Shiraz

Price: $3.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Don Sebastiani & Sons

What They Said:

Per the winery “This exceptional Shiraz from down under expresses the deep concentration typical of the famous Barossa Valley. The color is inky purple with intense blue fruit such as wild huckleberry and ripe crushed blueberry. The palate has a supple entry while the silky texture is backed by big grape tannins wrapped around boysenberry extract and finishing with a touch of brown sugar and vanillin.

This wine is an exceptional sipper. The generous profile will stand up to braised beef shortribs on a port wine sauce with a parsnip puree or complimentary to grilled wild Salmon fillets, served with heirloom tomato salsa over a bed of arugula.

Most of Australia’s wine is produced in the south-eastern region of the country, an area which, like California, boasts considerable geographic and climatic diversity. Flavors born in the high altitude vineyards of the Adelaide hills, the cool coastal climate of Tasmania, and the deep granitic soils of the Strathbogie Ranges contribute to the distinct characters that gives these wines an international appeal.”

What I Think:

As mentioned when I tried their Riesling some time back these wines were made for blogging. That one wasn’t a hit but the easy to find tasting notes and podcasts have kept these wines top of mind for me. Kudos to Sebastiani & Son’s and the Three Loose Screws label for helping out those of us that are publicizing their products.

Now on to the main event, like the Riesling, this wine was quaffable but seemingly made for the masses as there was little memorable about it. As mentioned via twitter here and here, this wine is marginal stoking thoughts of melted cherry cough drops. That was my initial thought which slowly unwound itself to being medicinal then to herbal and then to the green peppers. I got the tannins but missed the fruit described above. I prefer the Cartwheel so if you have had neither grab that one. If you weren’t happy with the Cartwheel at $4 give this one a try. Maybe it will work for you.

Rating: Skip It

2005 Jepson Mendocino Sauvignon Blanc

Price: $2.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the winery “Bright, clean and crisp. Reflecting characteristics of hay, herbs and citrus. The grapefruit and lime flavors are subtly balanced by a little melon and kiwi. A very versatile wine, paring up nicely with seafood, chicken breast, salads and creamy pasta dishes.”

What I Think:

This one started and finished nice on the palate but was a mess in between… Was it too cold? As always more flavors started to emerge as it warmed up. Nice minerally finish but tart leaving you with a slight tang…hints of floral, lemon and citrus throughout. If you don’t taste it let it cool. Perhaps it is time for a wine fridge so I can get the temperature right…Any generous readers out there?

Worth a go if you don’t want to spend for the more expensive Geyser Peak ($8), Kono ($8) or (yet to be reviewed) King Shag ($7). That said I would recommend splurging, that is what I’ll be doing. By the way, $11.50 on the Jepson website. $2.99 at Trader Joe’s…

Rating: Skip It

2006 Rabbit Ridge Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon

Price: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the winery “This Cabernet Sauvignon was barrel-aged in French and American oak for approximately 16 months to achieve the perfect balance. A judicious amount of Petite Verdot and Petite Sirah was added to create this big, concentrated dark Cabernet Sauvignon boasting a great deal of complexity. The wine is totally natural with the exception of yeast added during fermentation. The limestone characteristics of our vineyards allow us to produce this Cabernet Sauvignon with 100% natural acid. 5,040 cases produced.”

What I Think:

After going through quite a bit of the Allure de Robles I was happy to give another Rabbit Ridge offering a try. So when I stumbled across this one at Trader Joe’s it quickly made its way into the cart. Upon arriving home I was keen to find out how much TJ’s saved me this time as the previous bottle was 50% less than the winery price. This time around I arrived at the site to find a notice that this one was only selling at Trader Joe’s for $5.99. Guessing I don’t have much sway but let me at least let me imagine that was because I called them out last time:).

Off the bat this one engulfs you in fruit. On the nose it is loaded with dark fruits with hints of barrel and spice. On the palate you get a lush mouthful of cherry and plum flavors that last into a finish that is only slightly tannic with a bit of mint. I noticed after I finished this one that it has Petite Sirah added which may explain the heavy accentuation of fruit. If you like that then this one is for you. I myself prefer something a bit more restrained and would recommend these as my top three cabernets at Trader Joe’s today:

Let me know what you think!

Rating: Skip It

2003 Gaetano D’Aquino Chianti Riserva

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by D’Aquino Italian Imports

What They Said:

Per the winery “With a vinous bouquet of good intensity that refines with aging, a Riserva is barrel-aged at least two years. It consists of a full, dry, slightly tannic, harmonious flavor and is best served with grilled meats, game and seasoned cheeses. Serve at room temperature and open one hour before serving.”

What I Think:

Given my lackluster experience with Trader Joe’s Chianti I was enthused to find a recommendation for this one. Most of the other chatter in the blogsphere was much less glowing so I open the bottle cautiously optimistic.

Now onto the wine. .. A search of the importer’s site showed that this one has some Canaiole Nero and Trebbiano blended in with the Sangiovese. On the nose you are greeted with notes of cherry. The palate starts a bit off with some barrel type flavors up front that give way to a nice light fruit and lead to a minty, slightly tannic finish. This one didn’t work for me but most Chianti’s haven’t historically. Anyone think they have one that can break the spell?

Rating: Skip It

2007 Don Miguel Gascon Malbec

Price: $9.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Gascon USA

What They Said:

guess it is too early to have anything official here….

What I Think:

This all started when Melody asked me to give the La Boca Malbec another try after a lackluster first experience. While out to grab another bottle I came across this one. Though a bit pricey at $10 I decided to try and give it a go. Once home I did a quick search and found that this is part of the famed Nicholas Catena family (thought no mention of it on their site) who has been at the forefront of bringing quality Argentinean wines to the world. That raised my expectations a bit…. Parker gave the ’06 a 90. Expectations still growing…

Then I realized this was a ’07, seems soon for a ’07 doesn’t it? Expectations shrinking…It showed its age with a bit of green on the nose. The palate is that of a typical but forgettable Malbec. This wine isn’t bad by any means and may shine if I haven’t had the wines I have had. But I have and thus there is now way I can recommend this or any other Malbec at Trader Joe’s. As much as I love TJ’s go elsewhere for low cost Malbec. Especially with so many winners easily and widely available. Grab one of these (rank ordered) and you will be much happier!

- 2006 Pascual Toso Maipu Valley Malbec ($9)
- 2006 Terrazas de los Andes Malbec ($9)
- 2006 Alamos Malbec ($8)

Rating: Skip It

2006 Falcon Ridge Syrah

Price: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

A multitude of opinions on this one in the blogsphere but no luck finding any information from the winemaker here…All I can tell you as they seem to be negociant as they appear to be located in Healdsburg but make Syrah in the Central Coast and Zinfandel from Lodi.

What I Think:

After reading this post I added this one to my shopping list and looked forward to giving it a try. Upon opening it you were greeted with a spicy nose, heavy in tannins. On the palate black fruit was apparent early but quickly disappeared and left you with a mineralish finish again heavy in tannins. Think they did some work on this one in the lab. I certainly can’t recommend it, especially with this Gravity Hills Syrah available.

Rating: Skip It

2005 Red Diamond Cabernet Sauvignon

Price: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per wine.com “Aromas of truffle, blackberry liqueur and hints of tobacco precede a rich, silky, velvet-textured palate of ripe black fruits and chocolate with a touch of toasty oak on the long, pure finish.” – Juan Munoz Oca, Winemaker

What I Think:

Given my recent success with the Columbia Crest Grand Estates and Two Vines offerings I was curious to see how this old favorite would be after such a bittersweet ending last time around. It quickly became apparent that my fleeting memories were the correct ones. This wine is eminently drinkable but that is about the highest compliment I can pay it. It comes off as made in the laboratory with over the top fruits and a manufactured type of varietal-less appeal. The fruit is big and overwhelming but there isn’t much else going in this one’s favor. You can keep the money in the Chateau Ste. Michelle family but be sure to direct it towards those Columbia Crest bottles. For a $1 less you can get a wine that I would call two times as good. Anyone else out there had both? What do you think?

Rating: Skip It