2009 Dos Minas Malbec

2009 Dos Minas MalbecPrice: $11.99 @ K&L Wines imported by Michael Skurnik Wines

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines “Plain and simple, this is delicious, organic malbec, perhaps the best $12 and under version we’ve tasted all year. It is produced from 15 year-old vines in sandy, rocky clay in the high (5,500 feet plus) elevations of Cafayate, Argentina. A brief four month elevage in used French oak helps to add some texture without taking away from the wonderful fruit. Rich dark fruit aromas lead to a seriously structured palate, full of dark plum fruit and a refreshingly dry, serious quality.”

What I Think:

(14%) Ok, I’ll admit it! When I first bought this one I thought I was trying a wine from El Calafate near Patagonia rather than Cafayate in Salta. Nonetheless still interesting as this one is grown at 5,500+ feet in altitude. Nice mouthfeel here with rough, rocky acidity around the edges protecting a core of plush dark fruits that emerges to coat the mid-palate before velvety, tangy tannins kick in (along with a touch of heat) on a lasting, pepper streaked finish. Delicious! Best Malbec I’ve had in ages. I really like the rocky, earthy balance added to the as expected lush, rich Malbec fruit. This one also gives me the sense it can age. An almost unbelievable value at $12. I’ve already bought more!

Rating: Wow!

2006 VINTJS Malbec

Price: $6.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2006 VINTJS MalbecPer the bottle “hails from the prime growing regions of Alexander Valley in Sonoma County. Known for rich, fleshy wines, this Malbec delivers with dark berry, licorice and integrated tannins.”

What I Think:

The bottle tells you this one is made by Mosaic Winery. When visiting their site you are quickly redirected to deLorimier Winery, looks like it was a long term partnership that they folded into a single label at some point. I can’t find many references to Mosaic but what I do see is that deLorimier Winery released a 2006 Alexander Malbec of their own in September 2009. Looking at pricing on their previous vintages the typical offering would be in the $25 range. Given I can’t find a word about this one online my assumption is that this is the estate juice and that they sold the whole lot to TJ’s, lucky us!

Juicy up front, though this fades as the wine breathes, with an earthy backbone this one dries out towards the mid of the palate where dusted chocolate flavors emerge leading to smooth finish loaded with chewy tannins and barrel spices with just a bit of heat/toastiness. This one doesn’t say Malbec to me (Argentina is my ballast) but it does say nice, easy drinking wine. Per JB, each store only got six cases so make sure to get some while the getting is good. Guessing those outside of CA are out of luck on this one but let me know if you happen to see it!

Rating: Buy It

2008 La Finca Malbec

Price: $3.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Americal Beverage Group

What They Said:

2008 La Finca MalbecPer the bottle “The vineyards of Finca La Celia lie in the foothills of the Argentine Andes. Stunning purple color. Its bouquet is intense, rich in blackcurrant, vanilla and spices. On the palate the soft and succulent ripe fruits follow through with surprising delicacy. The tannins are silky, coming subtly from the forefront and giving a lingering finish. This is a wine to enjoy with meat dishes and pasta with meat and tomato sauces.”

What I Think:

Long a sucker for the wines of Argentina I have waited endlessly for Trader Joe’s to deliver me a knockout in the super value category as there are an abundance of very pleasing wines available in the $8-$12 price range. But the list of wines that has disappointed me is long and distinguished; La Boca, Terrenal and Fuerza roll readily from my tongue. Could these La Finca offerings change the tides of history? It started off positive with a mention of not only a winery but the website for Finca La Celia. Granted, I had never heard of the winery but for many Trader Joe’s offerings I can spend quite some time trying to determine exactly who it was that made the wine in the bottle. In this case someone was proud that they were behind this one. As I browsed the site it became clear that maybe “proud” wasn’t the right choice of words as there was no mention of the “La Finca” offerings to be found. But hey at least they were willing to admit it! Let’s see what the wine had to say about itself…

Quite a build up, followed by quite a letdown. Hey, I wanted to share my real life experience with this bottle! Surprisingly light in color, really hot on the nose with hints of white pepper. The palate has some berry flavors on top of a highly acidic backbone that holds on through the the finish. This wine shows no varietal correctness and at best is innocuous. Looking at the bottle the 12.5% alcohol content confirms my suspicion that this is much lighter than your ordinary Malbec that typically clocks in at 14-15%. By the way, La Finca is also offering a Cabernet, steer clear of that one as well. Nothing special here.

It continues to puzzle me that Trader Joe’s can’t deliver on my favorite red value varietal. Look like I’ll be stocking up on the Pascual Toso again soon…

Rating: Skip It

2007 Trumpeter Malbec

2007 Trumpeter MalbecPrice: $9.99 @ Pasternak Wines imported by Pasternak Wine

What They Said:

Per wine.com “Inky and dense with attractive berry aromas and a touch of cinnamon and sweet spice. A fully, fruity wine, with excellent body, intense tannins, flavors of cherry, blackberry, boysenberry and plum intermingled with hints of cardamom and pepper, and a long, full finish.”

“Juicy raspberry, blackberry and fig flavors are backed by well-integrated toast on the medium-weight finish. Drink now.” 87 Points, Wine Spectator, February 28, 2009

What I Think:

The Trumpeter label is under the Familia Rutini umbrella which dates back to 1885. They currently own estates in five different areas of Mendoza. If I recall correctly, this one use to carry the Tupungato designation on its label though that now seems to have disappeared. Given that this wine is widely available and Familia Rutini has 255 hectares under vine I was thinking perhaps these grapes are being, at least partially, sourced. Then I realized I had no idea what I was talking about and set out to learn a bit more. To get to bottles you need to know how many hectoliters of wine they get per hectare. This can vary drastically and averages near 25hl in Spain to areas of the Mosel that yield 100hl. Let’s assume 60hl here. Given I know 1 hectoliter equals 133 bottles we arrive at approximately 170,000 cases from 255 hectares. Visiting the Rutini Wines website I found that they reported producing 7-8 million (80k hl) liters annually which equates to 888,000 cases. Reversing my previous exercise this would require a yield 313hl per hectare. It looks like my instinct on them sourcing grapes is correct. Wow did I wander off the topic here, apologies! Let’s get back to the wine shall we…

This wine, which I received as a sample some time back, is exactly what you’d expect from a Malbec. Juicy and dense, loaded with plum flavors intermingled with spices that lead to a warm, vanilla toasty (barrel tannins?) finish. Add this one to the long line (Alamos, Pascual Toso, Terrazas de los Andes) of quality Malbec’s out there for less than a $10 spot. Don’t hesitate to pick this one up should it grab your attention, it makes a perfect pairing with nearly any evening summer barbeque.

Rating: Buy 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 La Boca Malbec

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

What They Said:

Per Tom & Melody “This Barrio La Boca Malbec 2006 is a pearly, opalescent purple in the glass and a fresh and spicy nose reminiscent of cherries and cured meats. It is a dry and tannic, yet quite fruity. The wine has a sharp mouth feel with a smooth finish on the palate. The taste is plums, vanilla, and cherries. The finish is chocolate-covered cherries.”

What I Think:

Enjoying the Pascual Toso a little too much I decided to save the rest for another day and pop this one. Expectations were low as I grabbed the Cabernet Sauvignon from the same label a few weeks back.  I grabbed this one just to ensure I was doing my due diligence for my readers.  After all Argentina is known for value Malbec’s.  Maybe this could be the super value.

And survey says….No! Not much to like here. Nothing but acid on the nose and the same follows on the palate. The next night I tried it with some food and it was a bit better. Oddly on night three it started to show something, not much…but something. Certainly not enough to buy another bottle but just enough to miss the dreaded “Avoid It” label.

Rating: Skip It

2006 Pascual Toso Maipu Valley Malbec

Price: $8.99 @ K&L Wines imported by TGIC Importers

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines ”91 points and the #1 wine on the “Top 100 Best Buys of 2007″ from Wine Enthusiast: “A year or two ago when Paul Hobbs began consulting for Toso things changed for the better. This is the rare Best Buy that can swim with the big fish and give them a run for the money. Pop the cork and enjoy lusty dark aromas of Turkish tobacco and berry compote. In the mouth, there’s a riot of fruit flavors to ponder followed by a smooth, lusty finish.” (12/1/2007) 90 points and a “Best Buy” in Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. (no tasting note given, Dec. 2007) That’s right we can actually offer you a #1 wine from someone’s list. Those end of the year best lists are so frustrating for us. We usually have our stock answer, “Sorry, it sold out months ago.” But not this time, this time we can say, “How much would you like?” And I couldn’t think of a better wine to give to any customer looking for sheer value. This Malbec is attached to Paul Hobbs and it shows. His trademark velvety texture and boisterous fruit flavors are all on display here. The solid tannins keep everything held together while the sappy boysenberry fruit, clove spice and vanilla laced finish are sure to please. (Bryan Brick, K&L)”

What I Think:

I had been meaning to grab this one for a while. Ever since K&L sent out an email proclaiming this the “Best Red Available under $10” it has been hard to come by. Couple that with being ranked the “#1 wine on the “Top 100 Best Buys of 2007″ from Wine Enthusiast and you can imagine it is getting difficult. The third feather in the cap was Paul Hobbs involvement who made this “Cocodrilo” that I just had to grab a case of. And I still haven’t mentioned a price tag of single digits ($9). And uh, oh yah, it is a single vineyard offering. It’s been a struggle but recently a friend of mine scored me a bottle and it was worth the wait!

Loads of dark fruit and smoke on the nose, on the palate the fruit delivers with hints of vanilla and barrel spice making the finish as velvety as can be. The combination makes this a hands down winner. To be fair, value wines are plentiful coming out of Argentina. I’ve had offerings from Alamos and Terrazas de los Andes that blow the quality to price ratio straight out of the water. That said those two were enjoyable based on the forwardness of their fruit and didn’t display near the complexity of this one. Wonder if I can find anymore! I’ll sure be looking…

Rating: Bulk Buy

2005 Vigna del Gelso Malbech

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Santini Fine Wines

What They Said:

Per quaffability “Quick – I say Malbec, you say… ?

What did you say? Argentina, probably. Maybe Cahors. Perhaps Bordeaux or Napa, if you’re a student of wine history, as the grape has fallen out of favor in both.

Did you know a little Malbec is grown in Veneto? I didn’t, until I spotted this wine at Trader Joe’s. The Italians call it Malbech. Evidently, the warm climate there helps to tame the grape’s notoriously firm grip.

This wine has a plumy nose with a minor herbal element of black tea and tobacco. In the mouth the wine isn’t brooding, like one expects, but supple and surprisingly light. Tannins are soft, the finish is clean. This is interesting and drinkable at this price, though not remarkable, so I would buy one but hold off on buying a case.”

What I Think:

Again, grabbed this when shopping to for the Rocking Horse last week. I had this grand idea of side by side tasting of Malbec from four different countries as I currently had bottles from the US, France and Argentina. It was a thought but it didn’t make it beyond that stage.

I grabbed this for the fajitas the other night when the Riesling wasn’t doing it for me. It did an okay job there. Over the next few days as I tried this wine I found it to be very light bodied. The palate seemed to mainly consist of black cherries that bordered on the sour side. There was nary a tannin to be found. Given that it was Italian and Malbec I thought this had the potential to be of interest but there is nothing to see here besides a simple, light wine. I’d recommend trying another.

Rating: Skip It

2006 El Portillo Malbec

Price: $6.99 @ The Wine Club imported by The San Francisco Wine Exchange

What They Said:

Per the Importer “Deep hues of ruby red gain intensity from shades of shimmering violet in this Malbec with good structure, medium acidity and a long finish. Rich with fruit, the nose is reminiscent of plums and blackberries. Tannins as soft as velvet set the stage for an enviably round finish.”

What I Think:

This is a bottle I picked up while grabbing the Ridge when I was shopping at The Wine Club. As mentioned previously I have been impressed by their prices. This one retails at $13.99 at BevMo and even if you get it at their sale price of $9.99 you are still paying almost 50% more than the $6.99 price tag you find at The Wine Club.

This one we opened when we had my dad and his wife, as well as another couple, over for dinner so my notes and thoughts on this bottle are limited. On opening this and taking a look there is nothing notable about the color but when you stick your nose in the glass the fruit interlaced with spices that I was expecting doesn’t appear. I think to myself that this doesn’t bode well. On the palate you find a nice light texture laced with light fruit that gives way to darker, chocolate-y flavors as we move along the palate before winding down to a soft finishing of lingering tannins in the back of the mouth. Perhaps pasta wasn’t the best pairing as the fruit seemed somewhat repressed and muted in comparison to my expectations. The bottle did improve as the night went on but never really moved beyond an average effort. Given that I prefer bottles I have had in the past. If you want an easy drinker stick to the Alamos or if you prefer something more complex grab a bottle of the Terrazas de los Andes.

A final thought on the wine club, of the six bottles I brought home along with the Ridge to date I have consumed four. It appears I have chosen poorly. It makes me believe that roaming the store and buying wine on the spot based on the staff write-up isn’t a good idea for me. Perhaps the two Pinot’s I have remaining will change my mind.

Rating: Skip It

2006 Terrazas de los Andes Malbec

Price: $8.99 @ K&L Wines imported by Schieffelin & Co

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines “Its deep dark violet color prepares you for the wonderful aromatics of this value-packed Malbec. On the nose mingle blackberries, plums, strawberries and more violets, while the palate is soft and refreshing, with a concentrated fruit core along with licorice notes and savory tannins. Oh so easy to drink, too!”

And the wine spectator had this to say; “A fresh, easygoing style, with raspberry and briar notes backed by a touch of toast. Drink now. 44,000 cases imported.” – James Molesworth, June 4, 2007 (85 points, $10)

What I Think:

I had this wine with some friends, turkey tacos and a bottle of 2006 Alamos Malbec which was the first wine from this evening to be written up. For this to make the most sense probably best to check that one first.

In comparison to the Alamos this wine was much more complex. On opening the bottle this wine was a little closed. You could get traces of darker fruit but the tannins and spices were more forward. On initial taste the palate reflected much of the same, you could see the fruit was there but was having difficulty making it to the forefront. We opened both of these together and sampled side by side and I believe we were all unanimously in favor of the Alamos in the early going. As this started to get some air and begin to open that tune would begin to change. The fruit began to come through showing layers of darkness, at times it seemed like blackberry and then more like raspberry. The tannins began to fade a bit and a much better integrated wine started to appear. The Alamos was beginning to lose its faithful. By the end of the night we had a split decision. Ideally you can take both of these home and try this exercise on your own. I know I’d like to give it another try. If forced to decide you can’t go wrong with either, but if this is your choice make sure to let it get some air. I always hate finding myself over half way through a bottle before I realize what I really have.

Rating: Buy It