2009 The Wingman Shiraz

Price: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2009 The Wingman ShirazPer the bottle “Our curiously rich and spicy blend gets its dark color and robust crushed raspberry and Bing cherry characteristics from Shiraz while the Viognier adds a subtle aromatic tropical fruit flavor. Enjoy with BBQ, pizza and pasta in a spicy tomato sauce.”

What I Think:

I couldn’t recall seeing a Shiraz-Viognier blend from California before so given the price I thought I would give it a shot. This one is made in the Owl Ridge Wine Services facility where the Sebastopol Hills Pinot Noir also hails. Gives it a bit of street cred but let’s see what’s in the bottle…

(14.3%) 90% Shiraz, 10% Viognier – On pop and pour this one is harsh. I hardly had a sip before putting the cork back in. On night two it showed a little better. Juicy currants and tart cranberry on entry. This one shows a bit more weight (courtesy of the Viognier) on mid-palate but it is otherwise non-existent other than a sharp acidity which emerges. This leads straight into a hot finish that shows some hints of barrel creaminess. Sure you can drink it but if you are paying attention chances are you’ll be wishing you were drinking something else. Not even a good value at this price.

If you are looking for a Shiraz at Trader Joe’s I’d recommend checking out the Chook Shed (disclaimer: I haven’t had the latest vintage) And by the way if you think I didn’t like it Jeff over at Viva la Wino minces even fewer words on this one…

Rating: Skip It

Any one out there have a favorite value Shiraz to share? If so do tell…

2009 12 Apostles Shiraz

2009 12 Apostles ShirazPrice: $3.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Frank-Lin International

What They Said:

Per Aussie Vineyards “The authentic Australian flavors of our Shiraz make a bold introduction and finish with finesse. Aromas of dark berry and licorice fill the palate ahead of fine oak tannins, providing a most satisfying finish.”

What I Think:

If you haven’t paid a visit to the Great Ocean Road and the 12 Apostles in Australia it is well worth the trip, not to mention the riches of the nearby wine country! Now back to living vicariously, when I first saw this one it gave me flashbacks to the Chasing Clouds Shiraz offering which went for $3 and I enjoyed for quite some time. With that in mind I grabbed a bottle hoping for the best. Given the pressure the wine industry down under appears to be facing we have every reason to do so. Just recently I saw some Jacob’s Creek Shiraz available at my local TJ’s for $5 but it was gone before I knew it. This one appears to have been initially distributed via the Grocery Outlet which claimed that the elsewhere price was $16. 75% off? They must be hurting. Now I’m not the type of guy that cares what I saved, all I care about is what I spent. So what was in the bottle?

Green, chocolate dusty nose with rich plumy fruit on entry that is immediately checked/balanced by acidity. The same nice, bright juicy acidity is present throughout leading to a warm tannic finish that lingers on. Not great but about as good as you are going to get for $4. I already grabbed another bottle just to make sure I wasn’t duped by this one. If it passes that test it would certainly be interesting to taste this one side by side with the Chook Shed. Let me know if anyone else gets to that before I do. Otherwise, if you are a fan of Australian Shiraz give this one a try and if you do let me know what you think…

Rating: Buy It (if your a Shiraz fan…)

2008 Chook Shed Shiraz

2008 Chook Shed ShirazPrice: $7.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Aussie Wine Direct

What They Said:

Per The Province “On the other end of the red wine spectrum -both in geography and style -this new bottle from Down Under plays rock ‘n’roll on the tastebuds. Chook Shed is unapologetically 100 per cent Barossa Valley Shiraz, ripe and opulent with plum, blackberries and cracked pepper. Completely approachable in a generous fruit-forward style, it will play well to a crowd. Better get the barbecue ready, this Shiraz is ready to take on all grilled fare.”

What I Think:

Dark purple in color this one has red fruit, vanilla notes and barrel spices on the nose. Great, inky smooth mouthfeel on entry this one starts nicely balanced. The acidity here is firm,on the cusp of being overbearing but the fruit holds it off to deliver a nice warm, tangy, tannic finish. While not a standout this wine is well made and I’m tempted to grab another bottle. That said I might rather just roll the dice on something else instead. If you are a Shiraz fan definitely give it a try and let me know what you think!

Rating: Pricey

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 Cartwheel Shiraz

Price: $3.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Wine World Estates

What They Said:

Per Saratoga Wine Exchange “This is an elegant yet full-bodied Shiraz. It is not overdone like some other Shiraz producers have been doing lately. Ripe black cherry fruit combined with a gorgeous mouthfeel makes this an amazing Australian wine loaded with flavor.”

What I Think:

I found the brief blurb above from the Saratoga Wine Exchange. Good thing, because the winery didn’t even want to mention this one. A little sleuthing turned this nugget up, Cartwheel is a new stand-alone brand range from Beringer Blass. They come in two quality/price tiers: Western Australia and Margaret River respectively. I followed up with their contact us form to try and get some information on this offering but they couldn’t provide anything beyond “Cartwheel Wine is a part of the Foster’s portfolio. Please click onto the link below where you will be re directed to the website. Any information that we are able to disclose, can be found here”. Interesting… I also found a mention that this may have been bottled by the importer here in the US which I believe would be unique…

Now on to the wine, it actually says it is from South Eastern Australia, this doesn’t appear to be a designation that is recognized. Guess they mean the eastern part of the state of Victoria. Anyhow, Trader Joe’s was actually stocking the GSM version of this wine as well, though that disappeared in a hurry. On popping the top I am quickly reminded of the Chasing Clouds, that said the white pepper is readily apparent over a nice layer of initial fruit that fades just a bit too fast! Still, a decent bang for the buck and better than my early impressions of the Kono Baru.

Rating: 12th Bottle

2005 Yalumba “Y” Series Shiraz Viognier

Price: $8.99 @ Cost Plus imported by Negociants Napa

What They Said:

Per the winery “This wine is deep purple red in colour with the nose showing initial aromas of violets and sweet berry fruits, messed with the subtle fragrance of apricot and musk. The palate is stylish and approachable, showing sweet berry mid palate fruits with a soft even texture and fine tannin finish.”

What I Think:

I know I promised to get to this one soon after drinking the ’04 but alas, eleven months later I am finally delivering. Back then freshly returned from my vacation in Australia I was somewhat let down on the price ($14) and the bottle itself. On a positive note I did learn some lessons on pairing Shiraz with that bottling that are detailed in the previous post.

Given I’ve had the ’04 and I have notes this offers an interesting opportunity to look at a vertical. The winemaker is the same and I have the statistics on hand. Before looking I would expect this version to be much more acidic. And survey says…

2004 2005
Alc/Vol 14% 13.5%
Total Acid 6.2g/L 6.5g/L
pH 3.57 3.48

Not sure if the difference in Total Acid is significant or not. Also not sure how the Total Acid relates to pH which from my pre-med days I recall as a measure of acid as well. Time for some additional research so stay tuned! Anyhow, happily with the ’05, which is the vintage I was drinking when I was down under, the world has righted itself. At $9 this wine has a lot to offer!

Following my pairing rule we pulled the cork on this one with Filet on the table. This bottle is 94% Shiraz/6% Viognier. In the glass it looks light, ruby but almost effervescent. On the nose you get some floral aromas, from the Viognier which I had a hard time identifying in the ’04 bottling. A bit of dark fruit on the palate before the Viognier takes over leading to a bit of a racy finish with just a hint of sourness. All in all very enjoyable. With the ’06 out I’ll look to continue this experiment. I’ll have to find it…92% Shiraz/8% Viognier. Hopefully it will take me less than 11 months!

Rating: Buy It

2004 Columbia Crest Two Vines Shiraz

Price: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per wine.com: “The Two Vines Shiraz features New World-style, ripe, jammy fruitiness blended from varieties traditional in the Rhone Valley. Black cherry and white pepper aromatics are also pronounced on the palate along with hints of boysenberry and raspberry. The lingering finish is pleasingly supple.” -Ray Einberger, Winemaker

What I Think:

Having enjoyed the Columbia Crest Two Vines Merlot and being pleased with the Gewurztraminer I thought I would give this Shiraz a try as well. I was trying to build upon a premise of being able to recommend this labeling to those new to wine as an affordable varietal tour of the landscape. On that note this wine certainly delivered. This was a big, ripe, jammy offering with dark berries and spice on the nose that led to a supple fruit forward palate and a pleasant finish. The one odd note I had written when tasting this was that I found hints of orange rind throughout. When reading the full winemaker’s notes I found my explanation as the final blend includes Viognier (as well as Grenache).
So if you are newer to wine or know someone that is point them to these Columbia Crest Two Vines offerings as a way to get a good lay of the land. Next up I think I will try the Cab!

Rating: 12th Bottle

2005 Block 50 Shiraz

Price: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Cumulus Wines

What They Said:

Per Wine Warehouse’s Wine Blog “2005 was an ideal growing season for the Block 50 Shiraz as it was characterized by low crops in a warm, dry year. The fruit for this wine was sourced from two prime blocks, one with limestone soil and the other an elevated section with stony, red soil. The grape crop was kept low at around 2.5 tons per acre, which tends to intensify the grape’s flavor. Harvest was in the middle of March. At that time, the grapes showed ample acidity and balance, capturing plum like flavors and avoiding any overripe characteristics. This Shiraz macerated on its skins for 5 -10 days to gently extract fine grape tannins. A small portion was taken off skins and transferred to American oak barrels for 12 months for maturation.

The Block 50 Shiraz displays aromas of attractive dark berry fruit with a hint of white pepper. On the palate one can find deep and rich plum and blueberry characters that combine to exhibit a rich and vibrant fruit core with a solid vanilla compote component at the finish.”

What I Think:

Obviously we all know TJ’s delivers tremendous value but I continue to be amazed whenever I see the details. Per the post above this wine is suppose to retail at $14 and at warehouse pricing you get it for $9. TJ’s $6… Interestingly I have heard much about Stelvin’s (also mentioned above) as a seal enclosure but never knew it was just a plain old screw top. That reminded me of the great debate in the wind field regarding corks and screw tops. A conversation for another day…

When searching for this one I used the tools mentioned in my Wine Search Engine post. Google was the clear winner here tracking down the above, the rest really had nothing to offer. Great find as when I was doing the research for the Chasing Clouds I had considerable difficulty. The winery website mentions neither this Block 50 label or the Chasing Clouds. Nor does the post referred to above. That leads me to believe that perhaps these vineyards are too young to make the wines described on the winery website in mass. Perhaps these are dumped but not relabeled to another winery… Now onto the wine…

To make it quick the Chasing Clouds was better at half the cost. This had much more acid on the forefront of that palate. This overshadowed the fruit that tried to make its way through and resulted in something that almost ended up tasting carbonated. Perhaps I’ll like that sparkling shiraz I have waiting in the rack but for now I’ll stick to the Chasing Clouds…

2006 Milton Park Thorn Clarke Shiraz

Price: $7.99 @ K&L Wines imported by Kysela Pere Et Fils

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines According to Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar: “Ruby-red. Jammy blackberry and mulberry on the nose; reminds me of a zinfandel. Fresh, juicy dark berry flavors display a nice combination of poise and sweetness, with mocha and candied licorice notes adding complexity. Soft, silky and sweet on the concentrated, persistent finish. There are no apparent tannins to get in the way of the vibrant fruit. This is one serious bargain.” (Jul/Aug 07) 89pts

The Wine Advocate Wine Advocate # 173 Oct 2007 Jay Miller 89 Drink – $8-$12 (12) “The 2006 Shiraz contains 6% Nebbiolo. Crimson-colored, it has an attractive nose of spice box, blueberry, and blackberry. Medium-bodied, it has more than ample ripe fruit, good depth, and solid length. It is a Best Buy in savory Shiraz. The Milton Park label is produced by Thorn-Clarke. The wines have been Best Buys year after year and the current releases continue the pattern.”

What I Think:

I’ve long heard good things about Thorne Clark’s offerings, at this price I was more than willing to give it a try…Good decision! Very fresh with bursts of light, ripe fruit on the palate over a nice mulled spice background. I liked this one enough to get a case for office Xmas gifts. Now I just have to get myself some more!

Rating: Buy It

2004 Chasing Clouds Central Ranges Shiraz

Price: $2.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Cumulus Wines

What They Said:

Per corkd.com we get a variety of insight from others like me. Here is the best of the bunch “Some jammy plum in the nose w/ light tannin & blackberry. The taste is light in body but juicy, with some tannin but some sweetness as well. Only a hint of the typical Shiraz pepper.”

What I Think:

As for the research this one seems to come from Cumulus Wines though they don’t acknowledge it there. Given that this is a newer winery perhaps these are the planting they don’t consider up to snuff at this time. If that were the case I would expect them to relabel the wine but perhaps not. I have reason to believe they are behind the “Block 50” offerings we have been seeing at TJ’s as well.

Now to the main event, a bit of barnyard and earthiness in the nose with dark fruits and chocolate lingering within. Interesting but not the most pleasant. On the palate this holds itself together quite well for the $3 investment. This is not a typical Shiraz as the white pepper I expect is absent as is the richness of the fruit. That said while the wine is light the finish lasts longer than one would expect at this price range. A bit thin perhaps to those on the pickier side but at this price point this is the best bang for the buck. If Aussie isn’t your thing drop the extra dollar for this 2006 Abrazo Del Toro Carinena Tinto, otherwise don’t hesitate to put a bottle in the cart.

Rating: 12th Bottle