2008 Trader Joes GSM Reserve

2008 Trader Joes GSM ReservePrice: $9.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the bottle “Violets, medjool dates, anise and plum.” Guess they thought that was enough said…

What I Think:

(14.5%) 24% Grenache, 55% Syrah, 21% Mourvedre – Ripe but backed by acidity with some jammy fruit around the edges that lingers with spice all the way through to an earthy, lasting finish. Warm, smooth, a touch rich, spiced and lasting. A nice effort here and if this wine had a proper face I’d be inclined to buy it again. But at $10 these mystery labels are losing their allure for me…

Wine Geek Notes: This one tracks to Vine Intervention LLC which is owned by Marc Cummings who also happens to be the winemaker at Kelsey See Canyon Vineyards and has his own label at Drake Vineyards

Rating: Good but… (as mentioned I’d prefer putting a face to this name)

2010 Quady North Bomba

2010 Quady North BombaPrice: $20.00 @ Quady North

What They Said:

Well in this case unfortunately not a word. I picked this one up last summer when visiting the tasting room in the Southern Oregon town of Jacksonville. I also learned there that the entire lot of this (more or less) is shipped off to Belgium which might explain why I can’t find a lick of information about it…

What I Think:

(13.5%) Big, lush, juicy fruit (cherry first and foremost) backed by a nice spice and smooth acidity (showing a touch of iron) leading to a lasting, savory finish. A nice example of how a wine can be both fruit forward but food friendly at the same time. I tried this Grenache based blend (can’t find exact percentage) and bought a bottle after a tasting room visit in downtown Jacksonville, Oregon. If I remember right Herb told me most of this (retails at $20) was shipped over to Belgium which is a shame because if I could find it on the shelf here I’d happily grab another bottle…

Rating: Good but… (you can’t get it anyway)

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

2010 Rabbit Ridge Allure de Robles

Rabbit Ridge WineryAlways happy to see Rabbit Ridge makes this wine out in the open and proudly offers the same bottling via their winery at a fair price (read more on my take here). For those that aren’t familiar Allure de Robles is an estate grown wine that is made in a Châteauneuf-du-Pape style. This one is a traditional Rhone Blend composed of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. With the grapes being predominantly from clones of the esteemed Tablas Creek Winery which in turn are cut them from the fabled Chateau Beaucastel. For those that don’t recognize the names it is safe to say they are punching well beyond a $5 price tag…

Fairly or not always ends up getting compared to the Chariot Gypsy as the “other cult wine” which begs the same questions I asked last night. Why was this released 4 months earlier? Perhaps we can ask Erich Russell, Rabbit Ridge’s founder.

Speaking of Erich, if you like your Allures de Robles you may want to stock up now. Erich previously shared that “the supply of 2010 will be really low compared to 2009, maybe as much as 60% lower.” And to further compound the issue he reached out again in April to let me know they suffered some pretty significant hail damage that left him wondering whether a 2011 vintage would even be possible. I’ll follow up with him to see how it netted out but in the meantime let’s dig into this 2010…

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2010 Rabbit Ridge Allure de RoblesPer Rabbit Ridge (pdf) “The 2010 vintage is big and round with strawberry and cherry overtones from the Grenache, body from the Syrah and richness from the Mourvèdre. This wine is a great choice for sipping or with a wide variety of foods.”

What I Think:

(14.8%) Made from Tablas Creek clones this one is predominantly from Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. It starts juicy with lush, peppery lifted cherry fruit that swells turning toasty and a touch sweet on the mid-palate before drying out with medium tannins on a barrel spiced finish. I’d prefer more acidity but for those that are fans of bigger, fruit forward wines there is a lot to like here. Available for $8 via Rabbit Ridge.

Rating: Buy It (if you like your wines big with some tannins…)

2010 Chariot Gypsy

2010 Chariot Gypsy Shelf TalkerOnce again the Gypsy… Trader Joe’s one and only cult wine has become more and more of a polarizing topic with each vintage (it’s first was 2005). Is it still good or merely riding on the coattails of what it once was? If there is one thing I’ve learned about Trader Joe’s wine over the years it is that popularity expands production. Coupled that with the fact that price points don’t change and there is only one direction quality can go. And the Gypsy has been following this general trajectory for years. Perhaps most interesting to me (and thanks to Don for pointing this out via email) is wondering why this wine was released 4 months earlier than typical? Previous vintages of this wine have hit the shelves generally around February. Couple that with the fact that it appears the production of this vintage is half of what it was in 2009 and it leaves a lot of questions. Where did that leave us on the 2010 vintage? Read on…

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2010 Chariot GypsyPer Chariot Wines …well actually they are still talking about the ’09 so for now here were my first thoughts on sampling the 2010 vintage.

What I Think:

(13.5%) 63% “Mystery Dry Red”, 22% Cabernet, 15% Merlot – Gone is the heavy Zinfandel component and accompanying Petite Sirah typical in previous vintages. The 2010 is sweet on the nose and a touch on the palate with juicy cherries, soft acidity and a short, spiced, creamy finish. Simple and pleasing but (while a bit heavy on the palate) perhaps as good for what it isn’t, not cloying, harsh or flabby, as what it is. While this wine doesn’t excite me if you need a solid $5 table wine you can sure do a lot worse than this…

Rating: Good but… (this is a $5 bottle that tastes like $8 at best. Best for those that prefer a sweet, juicy red)

2009 Perrin Cotes du Rhone Reserve

This wine is the equivalent of a long time friend. We can not talk for ages but once we do we can pick up right where we left off. Made by the Perrin brothers, the owners of the famed Chateau de Beaucastel in Châteauneuf-du-Pape in the Southern Rhone (and involved more locally with Tablas Creek) this has long been on of my go to wines. That said this was my first experience with the 2009, what did I find?

Price: $6.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Vineyard Brands

What They Said:

2009 Perrin Cotes du Rhone ReservePer wine.com “A sensational bargain, the 2009 Perrin et Fils Cotes du Rhone Reserve red is composed of 60% Grenache (from the estate vineyards at Prebois), 20% Syrah (from the estate vineyards in Vinsobres), and 20% Mourvedre. It offers lots of black cherry fruit, underbrush, licorice, pepper, and spice notes in a medium-bodied, richly fruity style with no hard edges. Their 2008 was a surprisingly good effort, but the 2009 is slightly riper and bigger.” 89pts, The Wine Advocate

What I Think:

(13.5%) 60% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 20% Mourvedre – A classic Rhone blend this is a tried and true value wine. Like the CdP efforts this one is predominately Grenache and starts ripe and juicy with pomegranate, cherry, raspberry and spiced red licorice on the palate. From there the acidity dries turning this one meaty, earthy and rustic before a short peppery finish. That said overall this one is bright, fruity, spicy and delicious. Should only get better with age to boot…

Wine Geek Notes: 87pts Wine Spectator, 89 pts Wine Advocate, 75,000 cases made

Rating: Buy It (I’m leaning towards grabbing 6+ bottles for some short term cellaring)

2009 Tribunal Cellars Red

2009 Tribunal Cellars RedPrice: $16.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the “top secret” Trader Joe’s spec sheet “Aromas of raspberry and sage combine with a mouthful of chocolate richness to uniquely express our part of California. Prime rib or a juicy T-bone with garlicy rabe are the first things we think of when we sip this wine.”

What I Think:

Tribunal Cellars Red Shelf Talker(15.6%) 26% Zinfandel, 22% Petite Sirah, 30% Syrah, and 22% other Rhone and Bordeaux varietals – Starts on the downside of up as it is only available via 1.5L bottles (this is the 2nd batch of 2009 and the first to appear as only magnums) which makes me feel like I am being hustled at this price point. That said this wine is big from the get go but integrated. Juicy and focused with spiced fruit turning a bit sweet on the backbone. From there it turns dry on a leathery spiced finish with tangy tannins. Big for me but I know many prefer this style and you could do far worse. For those lucky enough to be spending some time in the mountains this seems like a perfect wine to have by the fire after a day on the slopes…

Wine Geek Notes: ABV per bottle is 15.1%; 7 Months in oak, 25% New French & American; 17 cases to a store, 6 bottles to case

Rating: Buy It

2009 Trentatre Rosso

A long-time favorite the 2007 version of this wine has previously graced the #1 spot in my Trader Joe’s Top 10 Wine List . Back then the label mentioned it was discovered “quite by chance” given that (plus the history, or lack thereof, of Trader Joe’s wines delivering from vintage to vintage) I was somewhat reticent to grab the latest offering. Would my gut read be right? Let’s see…

2009 Trentatre RossoPrice: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Santini Fine Wines

What They Said:

Per the bottle “This unique wine comes from the Apulia Region located in the depth of Southern Italy. The blend is an equal amount of three different varietals. Cabernet Sauvignon 33,3%, Merlot 33,3%, and Montepulciano 33,4% collectively aged six months in oak barrels, hence the name “Trentatre” which in Italian means Thirtythree. The color is a deep purple-red with a pleasant fruity nose with hints of plum, cherry, and chocolate. Full bodied, it has a supple finish with soft tannins. Enjoy it with pasta, pizza, grilled meats, seasoned cheese…or even on its own!”

What I Think:

(14%) 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 33% Montepulciano – An old time favorite that I haven’t revisited I was surprised (and happy) to find this one is still as easy drinking as ever. Nice clove spice on the nose. The palate is smooth with nice fruit (perhaps a touch sweet) and a balanced acidity. From there the clove spice emerges and leads to a dry, warm, lingering finish with hints of dusty cocoa powder. Not nuanced or complex in anyway but a well-made wine without the rough edges or cloying sweetness you find in many similar wines at this ($6) price point. Any early favorite to grab a top spot in my 2011 Holidays Edition of the Trader Joe’s Top 10 Wines List…

Rating: Buy It

2008 Green Barn Red Field Blend

Ever since I fell in love with a Ridge York Creek Zinfandel long ago I’ve been a sucker for field blends (which this one is). For those that might not new what this indicates it means that the grapes are grown intermixed in the vineyard. There isn’t a row of Zinfandel, a row of Syrah etc. but rather everything is grown side by side. As compared to the vast majority of wines which are grown individually, barreled individually and then in something akin to a science lab test tube tasting bottled together once the magic ratios are identified. But anyhow onto the wine…

2008 Green Barn Red Field BlendPrice: $6.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per Trader Joe’s “Wines made with organically grown grapes have come a long way. We’ve been working with one of the pioneers of this burgeoning segment of the winemaking industry for years, and the wines he produces seem to get better as his efforts at sustainability and biodynamic farming grow even deeper roots (pun intended). We’ve recently partnered with this talented craftsman to create Green Barn Wines, exclusive to Trader Joe’s.

Green Barn Wines are made with organically grown grapes from Mendocino County, north of Sonoma, along the rugged northern California coast. Green Barn Red Wine is a blend of Zinfandel, Syrah, Grenache and Petite Sirah. It’s juicy in the mouth, with black cherry flavors and a bit of orange peel on the finish, with soft tannins.”

What I Think:

(14.5%) 51% Zinfandel, 39% Syrah, 6% Grenache, and 4% Petit Sirah – Nice full nose. On entry this is rich and smooth with juicy, slightly sweet, fruits of blackberry and cherry. These are joined by creamy tannins and a moderate acidity on the mid-palate. From there it turns tart before drying out on dusty, white pepper finish that turns a touch bitter before lingering on. A big wine, but not over the top, to pair with a big meal. If you don’t mind the tart fruit and flash of bitterness perhaps serve it with a nice beef chili on a cold evening…

Rating: 12th Bottle <- While I can imagine buying this one again I’m not likely to do so…

2007 Bonny Doon Vineyard Le Cigare Volant

2007 Bonny Doon Vineyard Le Cigare VolantPrice: $35.00 @ Bonny Doon Vineyard*

What They Said:

Per Bonny Doon Vineyard “Bright ruby red with a pale purplish rim. Bright cherry aromas with a bit of spice, menthol, and black pepper. On the palate, fresh cherry, currant, and red bramble fruit. Peppery and lively with good acidity around an earthy, savory core.”

What I Think:

(14.4%) 60% Grenache, 32% Syrah, 4% Mourvèdre, 4% Cinsault – Beautiful, layered nose of earthy, berry fruit, herbs and spice. Dark and lush with ripe blueberry flavors and a lot of them on the palate. That said this one isn’t jammy as it has a nice acidity to keep it honest. Slightly tart (yet barrelly sweet and creamy) with dry herbs and soft, lingering tannins on a warm, comforting finish. Nice character and layers of flavor throughout with meaty, herbal, mineral and spice components making appearances. Easily drinkable now and appears ready to age effortlessly. Pair it with steak or the hearty meal of your choice. Perhaps Randall said it best: “the wine is powerful, yet still retains a fair elegance and grace”. A wine I look forward to drinking more of!

Wine Geek Notes: 2,732 cases produced.

Rating: Wow!

*While I did receive a bottle of this wine as a sample I’ve purchased previous versions of this with my very own money and plan on doing so again…