2004 Evans & Tate Cabernet Sauvignon Underground Series

Price: $3.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Scott Street Portfolio

What They Said:

Per the distributor or at least I thought so. As you can see her no links for the 2004 Cab nor the ’03. I emailed them to see if they had anything but no response. Wonder what gives. Nothing to be found anywhere on the internet for the ’04. I remember hearing about them going bankrupt. Is that it? Think the sold the whole lot to TJ’s?

What I Think:

This one was a surprise which makes my experience described above even more confounding. I know this winery is located in Western Australia in the Margaret River region. Given that the rest of their bottlings are from this area I am guessing the majority of the fruit for this one must be as well. On the nose you get loads of dark fruit with hints of pepper and spice. The fruit follows in the mouth with spicy overtones leading through to a finish of black fruits that lingers nicely. This wine isn’t complex but it is quaffable and enjoyable. Not sure you can ask for much more at $4. It’s also a screwcap to boot!

Rating: Buy It

2006 Santa Rita 120 Cabernet Sauvignon

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Palm Bay Imports

What They Said:

Per wine.com on the 2006 Santa Rita 120 Cabernet Sauvignon: “Surprisingly powerful and rich in fruit for its price, this offers black currant and cassis over youthfully rustic tannins. Give it some pork.” -Wines & Spirits “Value Picks”

What I Think:

The Wine & Spirits write up perked my hopes on this one. That said quaffability didn’t say much about this but one word can be pretty powerful!

With my expectations significantly lower I popped the cork. The nose is full of nice medium fruit with a bit of dust and spice. Not unlike the Carmenere without the smokiness. On the palate plums prevail before fading to a finish that is attempting to be velvet like with just a hint of tannin. All in all, a perfect quaffer. At this price point I prefer it to the Chalk Creek, you may not. If you prefer fruit this Chalk Creek should be your choice but if you prefer something a bit more diverse give this one a go.

Rating: 12th Bottle

2005 JW Morris Cabernet Sauvignon

Price: $2.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

As typical with these Bronco wines there is not a word to be found on the web. This one has yet to even make it into the blog sphere.

What I Think:

After numerous pleasant experiences with their Gewurztraminer I thought I would branch out and try a few other offerings. I started here. In a word, discouraging. This tasted manufactured, and very poorly so. This wine was very high in acid and showed little to no fruit. Stay away from this one. My branching out experience is likely over.

Rating: Avoid It

2006 Viña Cobos “Cocodrilo” Cabernet Sauvignon

Price: $15.99 @ K&L Wines imported by Paul Hobbs Imports

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines “The big pull for this wine has always been that it is made by the seemingly infallible Paul Hobbs, and that surely hasn’t changed. The other big pull is that it has always been the tastiest of Cabs from Mendoza. Full of the polish and sweet ripeness that Hobbs is know for this is packed with slick, creamy currant puree, unsweetened black chocolate, and loveable mouth-filling texture. Compare this to his cabs out of Napa for $60+ and you have yourself a bargain.” (Bryan Brick, K&L)

What I Think:

As easy sale for me, everything Hobbs touches goes for a mint. To get my hands on this one even at the upper end of my personal price range was a no brainer. The first bottle knocked my socks off. Robust and smooth at the same time if that even makes sense. Loads of dark fruit on a chocolate back bone that last forever. The finish could not be smoother or longer. I put another case in the cellar. This could compete with the Ridge for the best bottle I’ve had since starting this blog!

Rating: Cellar It

2007 La Boca Cabernet Sauvignon

Price: $2.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Classic Wines of California

What They Said:

Not a word, guess I’ll be the authority on this one…

What I Think:

The first 2007 of the year! I couldn’t help but take a flier. Before everyone gets to excited yes I know Beaujolais was out last November, not a fan, sorry! Named after the home of the Tango you may think this is from Buenos Aries but it is indeed from Mendoza. After my favorable experience with the Bonarda I was open to trying another little known bottle from Mendoza. Unfortunately, this one disappointed. I could taste them trying to get the stems and greenness out of the bottle. Alas, it didn’t help. I know it was only $3 and perhaps the Malbec was better but at this price point I’ll spend the extra $2 for this Chalk Creek. If you want to stay at the same price point perhaps this JW Morris makes sense. I enjoyed their Gewurzt.

Rating: Skip It

2005 Red Horse Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon

Price: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per webwine.com “Made for casual enjoyment, Red Horse Ranch wines offer bold, rich flavors in a fruit-forward style that is immediately appealing. Sourced entirely from the finest Central Coast grapes available, these wines truly express the character of the land in which they are grown.”

What I Think:

This one I grabbed from an end cap placement down in South San Francisco. Research found that it is the second label of Silver Stone winery which seems to produce high quality wines under their own label, does that mean I can hope for the same here…. Further research found this one selling on webwine for $13.30 a bottle versus the $5 at TJ’s. Oh the poor person who gets connived into buying there.

With the cork out the nose is on the earthy side. On the palate you get loads of chocolate and plums but overall this wine come off on the manufactured side. At the same price point I’ll stick to the Chalk Creek. That said if you are interested in trying something new feel free to give this one a go.

Rating: Skip It

2002 Chalk Creek Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Guaranteed Google #1 search result as I could find but a mere mention of this wines existence…

What I Think:

Here’s one for more recent times. I was down in Santa Cruz to do a triathlon last weekend and hit the local TJ’s while in the area. They had this one featured with an end cap placement. Seeing Paso Robles on the label I was game for $5. I’ve always seemed to think there were bargain gems to be found from the Central Coast.

Taking a look at the bottle I initially thought that it was Chalk Hill which is a designation used in Sonoma. Adding to the confusion the vinter, Windsor Vineyards, further indicated it may be from north rather than south. It took me a full hour or so to realize the label was Chalk Creek. On checking the winery site I quickly confirmed they weren’t interested in claiming it. This is traditionally not the best sign. On opening the bottle and taking the first sip my initial thoughts were that the wine was unremarkable. As I continued through the bottle this feeling grew on me. Upon level setting my expectations on what a $5 of Cab should be that initial thought changed. The wine showed good depth and fruit while not appearing overly manufactured or “plonky”. Though not many varietal characteristics were apparent this would still qualify as a textbook quaffer. My initial thought was to “Skip It” which if you don’t care for Cab is still the way to go. Give that I do this will be the “12th Bottle” in my cart until I find something better under $8.

Rating: 12th Bottle

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 Pope Valley Winery Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Price: $7.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the winery…well couldn’t find anything on the ’05, nor the ’04 but the winery owns up to the ’03 at a tune of $26 a bottle for the Eakle Ranch, not sure if this was what I had or not. Anyone out there know? Otherwise I’ll check on my next TJ’s visit.

Here nor there, it looks like you are stuck with me on this one!

What I Think:

As mentioned in the Santa Cruz Mountain Cabernet post I tried these two more or less side by side.  Again, no help here from the experts so you are stuck with me…This wine must be freshly bottled; wish I could find some information as the end of the cork was not even red yet. Was it bottled yesterday? This wine was good. Big, bold and dark but it came off as slightly manufactured. Nice forward fruit. This wine is somehow disappointing & better than the Santa Cruz Cab mentioned above at the same time. I am guessing because it is made for the mass consumer market and therefore straight forward, familiar and comfortable. On Day 2 the nose seems to have shut down a bit but the wine is still rich and opulent. I finish the bottle confused. Pretend I’m not here and try it if you would have. Who knows if the stars align I may try it again to…

Rating: 12th Bottle

2004 Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard Central Coast Cabernet Sauvignon

Price: $8.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Not a peep on this one. I did find a Pierce Ranch Tempranillo, this cab is from there, acknowledged by the winery bit nothing for a cabernet…

What I Think:

I bought this as my favorite TJ’s down at the wharf here in San Francisco, the place is empty! Have to love that in a TJ’s. I was there looking for this Santa Ynez Valley Winery Cabernet Franc but couldn’t find it. Instead I grabbed a hodgepodge of others including this one and the Pope Valley Cabernet. I tried them both over the same weekend side by side.

As mentioned in “What They Said” above, no help from anyone here so I am on my own, same as the Pope Valley Cab. Google #1 search result here I come. Now to the wine; I have often coveted wines from Santa Cruz Mountain winery and had previously seen the Merlot. Seeing the Cab though was truly exciting as TJ’s experiences go. This excitement started to wane when I saw that this bottle had been disowned by the winery. Perhaps not disowned but anytime I can’t find acknowledgement on the winery website I begin to think the worse. Then the $9 price tag gets me excited and overall I am expecting good things…and all this before the bottle is open.

Now with the cork out, I am looking forward to enjoying myself. Looking at my notes it must have been almost better than I remember. Starting from the end and moving forward it must have been complex. It seems that I couldn’t peg anything. All my notes seem to be maybe this but hedging in another direction. Big, but not really. Subtle but dark. Fruit seems lighter but dark bing cherries. Chewy on top, with mint underneath. Overall this wine is what I would call elegant compared to most cabs. If you want to be clobbered over the head this wine is not for you. This wine requires some patience and a definitive focus on enjoying the wine. Have it at a dinner party and you won’t even notice it. Give this time to impress you and I think you will appreciate it. I did and I plan on doing so again.

Rating: Buy It