Summer Stash: And the winner is…

Thanks to those that have been following along as I have been cleaning out my Summer Stash. We started with 50+ wines and revealed the final four yesterday which meant there was just one more remaining. With almost the same anticipation as the Wine Spectator 2010 Wine of the Year I am ready to reveal the results. But which should I tell first? The wine or the story….

Let’s go with the story. First I’m not sure who I have given more pet nicknames. This wine or my daughter. I’ve called it “Sunshine”, my favorite was “The Weekend” and my latest with colder weather on the horizon has been “Summer”. Needless to say I have never had a wine that has been more “fun”. It practically begs to be shared with friends; wine geeks first but so enough anyone who will listen! Can I get a drum roll please…

2009 Natural Process Alliance Sauvignon Blanc

I’m sure this isn’t a surprise for many. I first experienced the NPA at a Vintank event earlier this summer and have been smitten by it ever since. Here’s my latest and greatest tasting notes; “(12.8%) Rusty, burnt orange in color (clearly not filtered) almost like the most beautiful sunset you’ve ever seen. The nose in and of itself is so enjoyable I could spend an hour on it; pineapple, guava, definitely a crazy juicy fruit concoction going on here. On the palate you need to expect the unexpected. Given how big this one is on the nose you are in no way overpowered on the palate. Nice acidity and minerality merges with the aforementioned fruit; as well as nectarine, grapefruit and lime. This absolutely bursts with flavor that last straight through a refreshing finish. So much going on here it’s hard to harness it all… It does what I expect of all wines I love. It keeps me contemplating. And even better makes me not want to write… I look just as forward to dissecting my next bottle of this one as much as I did my first! Hard to believe the excitement has yet to wear off. Here’s to hoping it never does!”2009 Natural Process Alliance Sauvignon Blanc

There you have it. Have you been lucky enough to try the NPA Sauvignon Blanc? Yeah I forgot to mention the downside to this one. It is more or less only available at the winery but for those that live nearby check their restaurant list (@theNPAhardy is that up to date?) where you can at least score a glass… Hope you enjoyed the Summer Stash series. I would love to hear your thoughts via the comments below.

*this wine was purchased with money from my wallet. Many, many, many times…

2009 Overlake Sauvignon Blanc

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2009 Overlake Sauvignon BlancPer Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer “North of Napa & northeast of Sonoma, California’s Lake County may not be as well known as its movie-star-famous neighbors, but its wines are at least as worthy of your attention. In fact, Lake County has long been a favorite “hidden” source for many of California’s most prodigious winemakers due to both the quality and availability of its terroir. So when top-notch wines from Lake County are priced at $4.99 a bottle, they’re definitely ready for their close-up.

All of this leads us to introduce Overlake Sauvignon Blanc, a celebrity-in-the making from Lake County. On the nose, it’s vibrant & fresh with grapefruit, pineapple & grass aromas. On the palate, you’ll find an excellent balance of tangy, rich and smooth elements, followed by a long, refreshing finish. On the wallet, Overlake Sauvignon Blanc’s low price of $4.99 is sure to get your attention – for wine of this quality, this is a real superstar of a price.”

What I Think:

When I first saw this on the back cover of my most recent Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer my mind immediately, with excitement, leapt back to the 2007 Overlake Cabernet Sauvignon which was ranked #2 in the Trader Joe’s Top 10 Wines List in May of 2009. Initially disappointed I continued reading further down and found a mention of the Cab which was in stock as well. Off to my local store I went with corkscrew and glass in hand as I felt another parking lot tasting was in order. That was strike one on the Cab (I am 0-3 on tracking that one down now, anyone have any luck?) but I did grab this Sauvignon Blanc as well as the Chardonnay. One item of note is that the previous versions of these wines were made by “Kitchen Sink Wines” which appeared to be affiliated with Coppola and these latest offerings are courtesy of “Plunkett Creek Vineyards” which is apparently tied to Wildhurst Vineyards (where a similar bottle goes for $12). That mystery will have to wait for another day though as I want to get to this bottle…

The nose is loaded with grapefruit and nectarine aromas. Unexpectedly heavy and viscous on the palate, you are quickly aware this is not your typical Sauvignon Blanc. That said it is still enjoyable starting; smooth with the same nectarine flavors emerging first. A lemon component kicks in around the mid palate before delivering a tart and refreshing finish that lingers nicely. It definitely finishes fuller in body, a hint sweet and lacking much of the acidity you typically find reminding me of a previous VINTJS offering. Not what I was expecting from a Sauvignon Blanc but I found myself pleased nonetheless. I already grabbed three more bottles; feel free to grab one yourself!

Rating: Buy It

2008 Blocks Sauvignon Blanc

Price: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Vinum Global

What They Said:

2008 Blocks Sauvignon BlancPer the bottle “Opening with cut grass and capsicum intermingling with passion fruit and finishing with guava, the nose shows the best of classic Marlborough Sauvignon. The palate is full of citrus with some hints of gooseberry and finishes with heady tropical fruits.”

What I Think:

My first thought in seeing an ’08 is that this has been aging in someone’s warehouse. I was hoping the URL on bottle would tell me where but that no longer resolves to a site. Perhaps a casualty of the ripples in the global economy? Likely so. Looks like it retailed for $16+ in its day. Was it worth it?

Golden straw in color with tropical fruit & green cut grass on the nose. Medium bodied this wine shows lemon stone fruits with hints of guava on the palate leading to a tight acidic backbone with a pleasing crispness. The finish is refreshing with a lasting pucker that leaves you smacking your lips and me thinking of a favorite childhood candy; Lemonheads. In a good way that is. Guessing we will never see the ’09 version of this one (based on my comments above) so buy this one while it lasts. I’ll be getting some more and think a blind tasting may be in order with the King Shag and Sauvignon Republic. Either way one thing is for certain; New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is the most dependable wine category Trader Joe’s carries. As matter fact it is time for me to try some $10+ options to see what it is (if anything) that I am missing out on. Stay tuned! In the meantime if you are so inclined grab a bottle of this one and let me know what you think.

Rating: Buy It

2009 Zarafa Sauvignon Blanc

2009 Zarafa Sauvignon BlancPrice: $3.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Bordeaux Etc.

What They Said:

I was able to track down Mountain River Wines, who is responsible for making this one, on the intrawebs but their site still highlights the ’08 bottling. They have yet to post any notes on the latest vintage. From previous versions it appear the grapes for this one are sourced from the West Cape. Given we have nothing concrete here is what the bottle has to say: “Mountain River Wines proudly presents the 2009 vintage Sauvignon Blanc. This fresh, crisp white wine has a beautiful nose of figs and melon.”

What I Think:

I’ve had mixed success with the Pinotage from the same maker but had been hearing good things about this one so I decided to give it a go. As I took my first sip I realized that this was likely my first wine from the ’09 vintage. Guess it is true, time does fly when you are having fun. So what was on offer?

The nose was crisp showing lemon notes. The palate started slight tart but not to the point of puckering (which for the record I like). After the initial impression cantaloupe and lemon flavors emerged to dominate the mid palate. Perhaps there were some gooseberry notes as well? I always think so but I just added buying some to mentally record their smell to my list of wine resolutions for 2010 (post coming shortly…) so I’ll be sure next time. The finish shows a balanced acidity with lemon flavors leading to a stony/flinty ending that lasts for some time.

For $3.99 this is a nice, value priced quaffer suitable for any occasion. That said, I think it could really excel when paired with cold shellfish. I know I’ll be buying more. If you decide to grab a bottle, or have previously, please let me know what you think in the comments below…

Rating: Buy It

2008 Sauvignon Republic Stellenbosch Sauvignon Blanc

Price: $6.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Sauvignon Republic

What They Said:

2008 Sauvignon Republic Stellenbosch Sauvignon BlancPer Sauvignon Republic “Ancient shale and granitic soils, ocean breezes, and a favorable exposure result in tropical juicy-fruit flavors with herbal nuances and minerality. Serve with spicy world foods including Southeast Asisan, Indian and New World Hispanic. Citrus notes refresh the palate for each bite.”

What I Think:

I grabbed this one and put it in the cart, within moments I saw another offering from the Russian River under the same label. I reacted with suspicion, not sure why as there are a number of vintners out there now tying together wines from around the world under the same brand umbrella. The Espiritu de Argentina and Espiritu de Chile sister labels are the first that come to mind. Cameron Hughes is perhaps the most well known of those that operate on this model. By the way, have I mentioned lately why I love Trader Joe’s wine? If you are one of the unfortunate few without one nearby you can pick up a bottle of this from wine.com for $22. Just slightly north of 3x the $7 you can grab it for at TJ’s. Savings aren’t the end of the story you still have to deliver! So let’s see what’s in the bottle…

The bottle recommended a pairing with spicy Southeast Asian food so this one was opened with Thai red chicken curry on the table. In the glass this one was very light in color, not golden by any means more of a straw color. On the nose I find a bit of citrus with nice white stone fruit intermingled throughout. The palate opens with lemons that are backed by a nice crisp, mineral backbone. A hint of grassiness appears toward the middle before mineral, stony notes emerge on the finish. A very nice wine, one that I will be buying again. I’m guessing the same can be said for the Marlborough, in my fridge and 91 points from the Wine Spectator, and the Russian River bottling. For a gift idea, check out this tasting mat (pdf) and grab all three. Hurry as I am sure they won’t last long!

Rating: Buy It

2008 Dashwood Sauvignon Blanc

Price: $8.99 @ K&L Wines imported by Pasternak Wine

What They Said:

2008 Dashwood Sauvignon BlancPer K&L Wines “90 points in the Wine Spectator: “Vivid, refreshing and brimming with lime-accented pear, star fruit and light vanilla flavors, lingering nicely on the expressive finish. Drink now. 2,000 cases imported” (April 2009) Meyer lemon, tangerine, lime zest, papaya and pineapple. A veritable cocktail of fruit flavors, but fortunately the Dashwood never tastes like fruit cocktail. Nor is it overwhelmed with the grassy, herbal flavors that sometimes plague the value wines of New Zealand. This wine has lovely delineation of flavors ranging from the citrus to the tropical, but it never becomes cloying or overbearing. The Kim Crawford SB may currently hold the crown as our best-selling Kiwi wine, but for less money (and, I feel, better quality) the Dashwood should easily knock it from its throne.. All this and a terrific review in the Wine Spectator and you have our best bargain in Sauvignon Blanc this year. (Keith Mabry, K&L Hollywood)”

What I Think:

I was tipped off to this one by Danny a while back and shortly thereafter picked up a bottle. The bottle made it to the fridge and eventually onto the table and into the glass. As I stuck my nose in for the @garyvee sniffy, sniff it was as if I was standing under a lime tree near a pile of freshly cut grass which was dumped over a bed of rocks lying next to a cool stream. Were you able to follow all that? Now that I’ve had my fun with words let’s try this a different way. You get fresh cut grass and mineral on the nose. Once in the mouth you’re greeted with limes galore on a nice acidic backbone. Meyer lemons and gooseberry greet you on the mid palate leading to a tart, crisp finish. This one is a winner. There is a lot of great value Sauvignon Blanc’s coming out of New Zealand. If you’re still looking for your go to bottle, of if me you like a little variety, definitely give this one a try. Thanks again to Danny for the tip!

Rating: Buy It

2008 VINTJS Sauvignon Blanc

Price: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2008 VINTJS Sauvignon BlancPer Trader Joe’s Ten For The Tasting (pdf) “Attention grabbing, but not the kind of slap-you-in-the-face of a New Zealand vintage, our 2008 VINTJS Sauvignon Blanc boasts focused intensity and rounded floral characteristics. Produced by a famed, family-owned, sustainably-farmed winery in Rutherford, this is a crisp, mouthwatering blend of 78% Sauvignon Blanc and 22% Sémillon. It delivers zesty aromas and flavors of lemon, ruby red grapefruit, guava and juicy lime. Deliciously smooth in the mouth, the finish is long and cleansing.”

What I Think:

As mentioned yesterday I found this one via the Trader Joe’s Ten For The Tasting. Why did it stand out? As I said there; after watching many of my fellow bloggers enjoy the St. Supery as part of Twitter Taste Live Sauvignon Blanc from Napa Valley was top of mind. Couple that with this one being a blend of Sauvignon Blanc (78%) and Semillion (22%), a combination I feel in love with years back in New Zealand on my honeymoon, and this one was an easy choice.

That’s all good and dandy but what about what was in the bottle. This one is not for those looking for the grassy New Zealand style and is worlds different than my mainstay CA Sauvignon Blanc, the Geyser Peak. On the nose your greeted with nice, ripe lime and guava notes. It starts with a bit of acid navigating from crisper, slightly tart fruits at the front of the palate to ripe tropical fruits towards the end. It finishes fuller in body, a hint sweet and dripping with candied nectarines. Not what I was expecting from a Sauvignon Blanc but I was pleased nonetheless. Think I may grab another.

Rating: 12th Bottle

2008 Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc

2008 Veramonte Sauvignon BlancPrice: $8.99 @ K&L Wines imported by Huneeus Vinters LLC

What They Said:

Per wine.com “Captures the pungent, alert character inherent to Sauvignon Blanc. This is a peppy wine with spiky tropical and green-fruit aromas and flavors. It’s a mash up of citrus and nettles, with a controlled, fairly long grapefruit-driven finish. Modest in price, but the real thing.” 89 Points, Best Buy, Wine Enthusiast, March 2009

From Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar: “Pale straw. Lively aromas of grapefruit, lime, white pepper and herbs. Fresh on the palate too, displaying vibrant citrus and orchard fruit qualities and good mineral snap. Finishes dry and delineated, with the lime element repeating.” (Mar/Apr ’09)

What I Think:

After sampling the Veramonte Primus as part of the Wines of Chile Online Tasting, and with higher temperatures on the horizon, I was reminded of my love for this one which I have often referred to as the most refreshing wine I have ever had. The color is of pale straw. On the nose you get citrus aromas on top of a mineral base and some floral notes. On the palate you are greeted with loads of fruit on a nice stony backbone that give way to a long, dry, crisp grapefruit and lime finish. This wine is fresh (but not in a mowed grass way like you get from New Zealand) and vibrant throughout. I already grabbed a case, my only warning is this may be too much tang for some so you might want to try a bottle first before you invest further. For those of you who can’t find it or prefer shopping via the internet this one is available via wine.com.

Rating: Bulk Buy

2003 Trinchero Mary’s Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc

2003 Trinchero Mary's Vineyard Sauvignon BlancPrice: $16.00 @ Friend/Gift

What They Said:

Per Trinchero “Ripe fruit, great acid. Year in, year out, that’s the modus operandi of Mary’s Sauvignon Blanc. The 2003 is one of our best ever from this site. The nose is all grass, dried herbs, lanolin and a hint of Vanilla; the palate is dense, concentrated and firm. Good stuff!”

What I Think:

Trinchero already held a special place in my heart as we served their 1999 Family Cabernet Sauvignon at our wedding in 2003. I was surprised to find that I have yet to review that wine as we still have a case left and open one every year on our anniversary. So when a friend brought by this Mary’s Vineyard, which is located in Napa Valley, I was excited to give it a try. Couple that with the fact that my only other experience with Sauvignon Blanc from this region has been the memorable Groth offering and we seemed well positioned for a enjoyable experience.

Shall I set the mood? On a sunny day, lunch was served on the patio. With a southwestern chicken salad on the table the cork was pulled. The nose? Somewhat typical, light citrus notes with grass and mineral undertones. On the palate? Strange, different. Some initial light white fruits on the palate. A hint of citrus on the finish. And some off putting, creamy, oak in between with no acidity to speak of. This one took some getting used to. The mouth feel and texture leaned towards chardonnay as both were heavier than expected. This was likely due to half of the wine being aged in used oak for four months. One of the side effects of this was a wet wood component that muted many of the other flavors that were present. Perhaps, being a 2003, this one was past its prime. Either way it delivered a different experience that what I thought was on tap. Was it interesting? For me, different usually is. Was it one I want to have again? Not so much. Those that know me are aware Chardonnay is not my favorite. So next time I want a Sauvignon Blanc from the US I’ll be grabbing the Geyser Peak.

Rating: Pricey

2008 Picton Bay Sauvignon Blanc

2008 Picton Bay Sauvignon BlancPrice: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by L. Watson Inc.

What They Said:

Per the bottle “Picton, at the northern tip of New Zealand’s South Island is the gateway to Marlborough. Our wine is produced from world famous Marlborough vineyards. Picton Bay Sauvignon Blanc is classic Marlborough in style – vibrant, fresh and fruity.”

What I Think:

Nose of lemon, custard…almost jolly rancherish. Some candied grapefruit lingering in the background. In the mouth, tart and bracing. Some sour lemons on the palate. Tons of mineral and a lot of acidity. It doesn’t have the balance I am looking for at times coming off as overly grassy. This one isn’t bad but I know of two more New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc’s at Trader Joe’s that I prefer; the King Shag ($7) and the Kono ($8). Should the Kiwi style not work for you the Geyser Peak ($8) is also a winner.

Rating: Skip It (with the caveat that if you are not a fan of those Sauv Blanc’s above this one is well worth trying)

Editor’s Note (09-Jul-2009): Added a disclaimer to the rating