2008 Novella Synergy

2008 Novella SynergyPrice: $6.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

This wine was once a part of the Eos Estate Winery portfolio. If it still is it is no longer recognized as such. Nary a word about it can be found on their site. That said according to my friends at the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) they are indeed still affiliated but appear to be keeping it on the down low. Curious…

Anyhow the bottle had this to say: “Raspberry, black cherry and lilac aromas open this full-bodied, supremely balanced wine. Cherry and berry flavors lead to a long, elegant finish of blackberry, cedar and spice.”

What I Think:

I had this one many moons ago but hadn’t tried it in ages. So when JerryK recently recommended it I decided to give it another shot. A kitchen sink blend this one is 45% Zinfandel, 25% Petite Sirah, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Syrah, 2% Cabernet Franc and 2% Sangiovese. Quite a hodgepodge wouldn’t you say? How did it turn out you ask?

The nose greets you with wafts of black cherry aromas. The first sip shows this same nice, plush fruit. The palate is smooth and balanced throughout before leading to a creamy finish laden with cedar, dark berry and vanilla notes. These eventually give way to pleasant barrel tannins which linger nicely. This wine is not complex by any means. That said it is not one dimensional either and to me that is all you can ask for in a $7 wine (and more). I’ve had many a bottle that cost three times as much and yet deliver far less. If you are a Zinfandel lover looking for a reasonable priced bottle look no further. Same for those of you that just love at a tasty bottle of wine…

Rating: Buy It

2008 Boekenhoutskloof Wolftrap Red

2008 Boekenhoutskloof Wolftrap RedPrice: $8.99 @ K&L Wines imported by Vineyard Brands

What They Said:

Per Wine Enthusiast (via K&L) 89 points and a Best Buy: “A nose of red fruit, spice and violet is followed by fresh but lush aromas of cherries, blackberries and a touch of smoke and dark chocolate. Smooth and integrated, with a pretty, aromatic character.” (11/09)

What I Think:

And my South African wine adventure continues. I had a chance to taste the ’09 version of this one, a blend of 68% Syrah, 30% Mourvèdre, 2% Viognier, at the tasting event I recently attended and had this to say; “Nice bright red fruits and spices. It struck me as a perfect grilling wine.” How did the ’08 pan out?

Smoky and spicy upfront on the nose this one is lively on the palate showing sour cherry and red berry flavors with a tannic acidity taking over before an earthy, black pepper finish leaves your mouth lingering with dry, herbal, chocolate notes. The above makes it sound as if I liked the wine more than I did. I actually found it slightly disjointed which runs counter to the Wine Enthusiast review which called this one “well integrated”. Looks like many of the folks over at CellarTracker agree with me as it has a community rating of 85.4 (vs. WE 89). For me, I didn’t do it side by side but, I remember liking the ’09 more. That said I prefer this to the Porcupine Ridge Syrah but neither compare to the Kanonkop Kadette which is easily still my favorite new discovery.

That’s it for the reds I grabbed the first time around. Perhaps I’ll pickup some more soon. If you have any recommendations let me know. Anyone had the Goats du Roam lately? Remember that one being nice vintages ago…

Rating: Pricey

2008 Kanonkop Kadette

Price: $10.99 @ K&L Wines imported by Cape Classics

What They Said:

2008 Kanonkop KadettePer K&L Wines “91 points and a Best Buy from the Wine Enthusiast: “This blend of Pinotage, Cabernet, Merlot and Cabernet Franc is full-bodied and complex, with layered aromas of cherry, banana and warming spices, and smooth, elegant flavors of cedar, cherry, tobacco smoke and red berries. Velvety, soft tannins and a clean finish give it a classy touch. The wine can age, but drink now and you won’t be disappointed.” (12/09)”

What I Think:

Those that have been following along are aware that after attending a recent tasting of South African wines my interest was piqued to learn more. The first wine I tried was the Porcupine Ridge Syrah which is made by Boekenhoutskloof (see “B” in my 2009 Year in Review post). It was a nice wine in its own right but will now be most remembered for the comment left by reader MenloSteve recommending this one…

The Kadette, a second bottling for Kanonkop, is a blend of 45% Pinotage, 29% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot and 9% Cabernet Franc. Unsurprisingly this one starts Pinotage-ish on the nose greeting you with loads of smokiness while allowing some plums aromas to sneak through. A nice, juicy cherry palate lasts well into the finish before an earthy component loaded with warm barrel spices takes over and drives this one home. Great mouthfeel, balanced fruit with enough acidity to keep it honest.

This wine may not be overly complex but it is extremely enjoyable to drink nonetheless. To put this in context I will present two facts. The first is that I always taste a wine over two days (minimum) to see if there are any changes for the better or the worse. This usually isn’t a problem but I so enjoyed this wine it was hard to resist pouring it all in one sitting (I did). Second and perhaps even more impressive was the feedback from my wife (average rating a sip and push the glass in my direction) who gave this a triple pour! I’d recommend this to anyone open to exploring the wines of South Africa. It is certainly now my favorite value wine from the region. I already placed an order for 3 more bottles. If you decide to give it a try be sure to let me know what you think!

Rating: Wow!

2005 Monte Ducay Cariñena Reserva

2005 Monte Ducay Cariñena ReservaPrice: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Latitude Wines

What They Said:

Per Bodegas San Valero (on the ’06) “Beautiful morello cherry colour, with brick red sparkles. Fragrant and delicate in the nose. Refined bouquet, rich and well balanced. The aftertaste is long and persistent.”

What I Think:

As mentioned in a previous post this one has some interesting packaging as it comes wrapped in brown paper. From a marketing perspective I’m not sure how that would have affected me but we will never know as buying this one was a foregone conclusion based on a mostly positive review by Jeff over at Viva la Wino!. Funny enough like him I ripped the wrapper offer expecting to find something underneath but alas no. Either way, no matter. Let’s get to what’s in the bottle.

This one is a blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha and Cabernet Sauvignon (special shout out to Æsop for tracking that one down!) On opening you get all wood on the nose with the only exception being some barrel spices that manage to sneak through. The palate starts with an overpowering herbal acidity which takes a moment to reveal some sour, under ripe cherry flavors that come across on a juicy backbone before leading to a hot finish. This wine becomes more approachable with time showing some dark fruit aromas on the nose and remnants of the same on the finish. This leaves me in somewhat of a conundrum as initially I almost hated it but found a trace of enjoyment towards the finish. Couple that with the fact that others have liked it and perhaps I’ll give it another try but not likely. If I do, one thing is for sure I’ll be giving it lots of air and pairing it with strong foods or cheeses. Hoping for better I tried the 2008 Darien Tempranillo ($6) the same night and that one didn’t work for me either.

So how about you? Have you had any Spanish wines you’ve enjoyed lately? If so let me know in the comments below. I look forward to hearing!

Rating: 12th Bottle

2008 Rabbit Ridge Allure de Robles

2008 Rabbit Ridge Allure de RoblesPrice: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

As many of you know I’ve long been a fan of the Allure de Robles so I was excited to hear from the winemaker, Erich Russell, that the 2008 vintage would be hitting Trader Joe’s shelves soon. He also had this to say: “The good news is that there is way less alcohol 14.8 instead of 15.3 on the 2007. There are less harsh tannins making the wine even more balanced. This vintage has been the fastest selling vintage around the United States of any Allure de Robles. There is very little Petite Sirah in this vintage and much more Grenache. The very bad news is that since this wine was selling so fast around the country Trader Joes will be getting about 25% less than the 2007.” With Erich’s warning I grabbed a bunch as soon as I saw it.

What I Think:

The nose is big and full of, well I want to say jamberry bramble. Given that is from one of the many children’s books I have memorized why don’t I say brambly red and blackberry aromas so it is more comprehensible. With the wine in my glass I readied myself for the fruit explosion but it never materialized. The front of the palate is loaded with earthy, red fruits on a vanilla bean backbone. These fruits are balanced by a black pepper acidity which not only keeps them in check but dominates the back end of the palate and lingers on through the finish. This wine is much truer to it Rhone style than the previous vintage. I wonder how much lower (’07 was ~28%) on the Syrah/Petite Sirah, I’ll shoot Erich an email and see if I can’t get the final blend percentage. This one is smooth and easy to drink, my favorite yet! Stock up while you can and grab this one next time you are headed out to fire up the grill…

Rating: Bulk Buy

2008 Chariot Gypsy

We interupt this regularly scheduled post for a public service announcement; there have been confirmed sightings of the Gypsy up the coast in both Portland and Seattle. This concludes the use of the emergency broadcast system.

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2008 Chariot GypsyPer Chariot Wines “The Chariot Gypsy 2008 is a delicious blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel and Sangiovese from great vineyards in the Napa Valley, Sonoma, San Joachin, and Monterey counties. It displays a dark garnet color with a clear violet edge. It shows mixed fresh berry aromas — raspberry and strawberry, with hints of white pepper and pastry. Very clean and lively with juicy berry fruit, firm acidity and a touch of smooth tannin. Excellent and versatile food wine particularly well suited for pork chops and poultry. We think it is the perfect everyday red wine!”

What I Think:

Ah, the long lost post. I had grand plans for this one until the day job threw them to roost. When Steve asked last week where it was I decided it was time to close the loop here. So let’s take a quick trip down memory lane.

My going in question was can they maintain the quality as they expand the production. As a reminder the demand for ‘07 vintage was so high they produced two lots. Given I have seen many of my other Trader Joe’s favorites journey this road to mediocrity I feel I have reason to be skeptical. When it arrived, I headed out to grab some straight away and video blogged my first sips from the parking lot. My take was that the ’08 was juicy, fruit forward and a nice easy quaffer. Now that the wine has had a few months in the bottle and I’ve gotten to sample it a few times what’s my take?

The nose is pleasant showing red fruit, oak/barrel and clove notes. The palate starts with jammy, ripe berry flavors. Towards the mid-palate the fruit becomes slightly flabby before being wiped away by an unexpected lively, racy acidic backbone that is full of white pepper. The finish is of bright, tart raspberries. This one is warm and ever so slightly sweet (less so than the ’07) throughout which make the connotations of the “cherry coke” of wine more true than false. That said, given the acidity it may be better suited for pizza than an early evening on the patio. And for me that is what this one is a simple, straight forward Tuesday night wine that is easy to drink. For $5 this is more than you should expect, use it accordingly and you aren’t likely to be disappointed.

For more on this one check out this great take from Viva la Wino!

Rating: Buy It (while you can)

1999 Luna Beberide Tinto

Price: $19.99 @ K&L Wines imported by Grapes of Spain

What They Said:

1999 Luna Beberide Tinto VdT Castilla y LeonPer K&L Wines “This is an incredibly rare, fully mature, Spanish gem. Produced from the steep, slate, terraced vineyards of Bierzo by Spain’s legendary Mariano Garcia (while he was still making wine at Vega Sicilia!), here is a beautiful example of a perfectly aged Spanish wine that has developed quite beautifully in bottle. Produced from 40% Cabernet, 30% Merlot and 30% Mencia, think of it as a supple, balanced, old school styled Bordeaux blend with a Castillian twist. Savory cherry, hints of sage leaf, green and black peppercorn and an unmistakable character of mature Cabernet family aromas (many people liken Mencia to Cabernet Franc, which completes this Graves style blend) make for one gorgeous bottle of wine. And Mariano Garcia made it at the same time he was busy working on Vega Sicilia “Unico,” which is a good few hundred dollars more. For fans of good, honest affordable bordeaux and old school California Cabs, this K&L exclusive could be right up your alley.”

What I Think:

Given I have a case of the ’05 in the cellar I had to take the opportunity to see how this one might age. This bottling, an interesting blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 30% Mencia, is the Spanish version of Bordeaux and seems it may be worthy of a name of its own (e.g Super Tuscan). Perhaps we should let the wine decide…

On the nose it shows gorgeous dark fruit and herbs. The palate shows dry cherries and black olives (with a hint of rhubarb) that frame themselves with a dry, cedar backbone. The finish shows this wines age with perfectly integrated tannins and spices that last and last. For those sensitive this wine may be overly dry but I still find it to be smooth, silky, and elegant. If you missed the chance to try the ’99 K&L Wines just sent me an email to let me know the 2000 (which they described as “more muscular, ageworthy, and a bit more impressive” is now in stock. I already added a bottle to my cart, hope it can deliver on their promise!

Thanks to Viva La Wino for tipping me off to this one! You can find his thoughts here.

Rating: Wow!

2007 Tablas Creek Côtes de Tablas

Price: $21.99 @ K&L Wines

What They Said:

2007 Tablas Creek Côtes de TablasPer K&L Wines “93 points Robert Parker: “The 2007 Côtes de Tablas is a sensational wine as well as a great bargain. The fact that it is finished with a screw cap may give some consumers the wrong impression, but this is a serious, mouthfilling red. A blend of 50% Grenache and the balance equal parts Syrah and Counoise, it exhibits sweet, gamy notes along with plenty of pepper, licorice, roasted herb, blackberry, and cassis characteristics, a velvety, lush texture, a full-bodied richness, beautifully integrated acidity, abundant Provencal typicity, and good minerality for a wine of such remarkable flavor depth. Enjoy it over the next 5-6 years.” (08/09)

Tablas Creek, a partnership between Robert Haas and the Perrin family of France’s famed Château de Beaucastel, has been at the forefront of growing and producing top-notch Rhône varietals for more than 20 years. Their “Côtes de Tablas” blend of Grenache, Syrah and Counoise is an homage to the wines of the Southern Rhône kissed by the California sun. The 2007 vintage is fantastic and alluring from the moment you pop the cork. Lead by bright red cherry aromas underscored by hints of iron, game and fresh cracked black pepper, the bouquet translates seamlessly to the palate, which is fresh and spicy with a vein of anise that weaves itself through to the finish. Like other Perrin wines, this medium-bodied beauty is built for the table. Try it with braised short ribs, grilled hanger steak with shallots or bucatini all’Amatriciana.”

What I Think:

Tablas Creek is a wine I have been meaning to try for years. With that it silently became the movie that everyone raved about. Expectations growing each day as you await the experience. A bit ago they had a tasting at K&L Wines but I managed to catch a cold around that time. From my sick bed I added a couple bottles to my virtual cart which I picked up a few months later. Then the wine sat in the rack begging for me to drink it. Last Friday I took it up on the offer but could it meet the lofty expectations?

This effort was 50% Grenache, 25% Syrah and 25% Counoise. Anyone ever had a varietal bottling of Counoise? I haven’t but would love to give it a try. No better way to learn about a grape. Speaking of learning something crossed my mind when drinking this bottle; currants. This is a smell/taste that crosses my mind often. I need to get more familiar with it. I decided that part of my New Year’s Blogging Resolution (#nybr) will be to explore a different flavor component each month. The goal being to familiarize myself with each and expand my wine tasting vocabulary. Anise may be my early choice for February. Who else has wine related resolutions to share? Ok, ok let’s get to the wine…

The Côtes de Tablas greeted me with an expressive nose showing spicebox, herb, black cherry and dark brambly fruits notes. It was medium to dark garnet in color. The entry to the palate showed a glimpse of fruit that is quickly enveloped into a tight, but balanced, acidic wrapper from which emerges a dry, finish laced with red licorice flavors. My initial impression was that this wine was clearly well made, a bit tight and enjoyable without being memorable. Those that know me are aware I am looking for more than that in a $20 bottle. After four nights I learned that this one just needed more time in the bottle. Though enjoyable initially a few days of air made a world of difference. With time the front of the palate softened and the wine now greeted you with nice, warm fruit on entry while still holding its balance with a nice acidity emerging towards the middle that leads to a long, dry, chalky finish. In hindsight, I would have liked to let this one lie for at least another year (or decanted for a few hours). Had I checked earlier perhaps the Tablas Creek vintage chart (pdf) could have saved the day. It currently lists the ‘07 Côtes de Tablas as “early maturity”. The ’06 is drinking at “peak maturity”. I wonder if I can find a bottle for comparisons sake. In the mean time what to do about that bottle of ’07 Esprit de Beaucastel

Rating: Pricey

2007 Rabbit Ridge Allure de Robles

2007 Rabbit Ridge Allure de RoblesPrice: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per Trader Joe’s Holiday Guide “This is a Rhône style red wine that could only come from Paso Robles. Why? The nutrient-dense, limestone-rich soils produce grapes of great character. And the variety of climate conditions within the region create distinctive flavor profiles that are unquestionably Rhône-esque, but with a definitively Central Coast vibe.

Rabbit Ridge Allure de Robles is a blend of Petite Sirah, Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre. Medium-bodied with strawberry and cherry overtones from the Grenache, the wine inherits an earthiness from the Mourvedre and supple body from the Syrah. Rabbit Ridge Allure de Robles is an excellent sipping wine, wonderful with strong cheeses and a natural with roasted meats like our Prime Rib Roast or Frenched Pork Chops. It’s a great value at only $4.99 – only at your neighborhood Trader Joe’s.”

What I Think:

This is a wine that seems to be getting better and better with each vintage. I initially enjoyed a NV version some 30 months ago and was excited to see this one in the store recently! And my excitement was justified… My first thoughts via twitter were “Drinking the Rabbit Ridge Allure de Robles (tj’s, $5). Big wine @15.4% a bit hot. But bold, fruity and enjoyable. I’ll be getting more.” And I must admit, I was very happy it had the structure to balance out that high ABV%. I’ve already grabbed another half of a case…

Per Rabbit Ridge winemaker Erich Russell this one is roughly 45-50% Grenache, 25-30% Mourvedre, with the balance being Syrah, Petite Sirah and six or so more grapes (Erich fell free to update once you get the final %’s). Big, bold dark fruit throughout but as mentioned balanced, coating your mouth with plush fruit and tannins. A dry, chalky finish follows that is loaded with white pepper and lingers on and on. From the above the “nutrient-dense” soils ring true. Strawberry and cherry do not. Either way grab yourself a bunch of this one while it last. A perfect wine to serve over the holidays!

Rating: Bulk Buy

2007 Trentatre Rosso

2007 Trentatre RossoPrice: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Santini Fine Wines

What They Said:

Per the bottle “Trentatre in Italian means: Thirty-three. We came up with this belnd of three exciting varietals quite by chance when barrel tasting “TATA” a Montepulciano is the winemaker’s cellar. Amongst the barrels of Montepulciano ageing in the wine cellars, we discovered Merlot and Cabernet which had been sitting in oak barrels for quite some time used on occasions for blending. We were of the opinion that if one was to make a wine using Montepulciano (earthy, tannic with hints of cherry) with Cabernet (rich, intense and long lasting) and then add Merlot (soft, ripe and juicy) we may have reinvented the wheel (just kidding). Blending an equal amount of these three varietals, barrel aged for six months and bada-bing you get 33! Hence the name Trentatre.”

What I Think:

Another one I’ve been drinking for a while, this was bottle three or four, but been slow to review. As mentioned above, Trentatre is Italian for “33” which represents the blend percentage for three grapes that make up this wine; Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Montepulciano. This one is super Tuscan-“ish” compared to my standby Italian offerings which are bright and acidic. On the nose you get dried cherry petals and a hint of mint. The palate starts with the same cherries before delivering a coffee (grounds) component. The body is full and plush and the wine is well balanced with tannins throughout. The finish is dry, a bit chalky and shows some oak along with lasting, dusty chocolate notes. It seems to have more age to it than the “2007” listed on the bottle. Perhaps the Cab and Merlot were truly sitting around for “quite some time”. Either way, I’m sure I’ll grab another bottle or two of this one on my next Trader Joe’s run.

Rating: Buy It