2002 Chalk Creek Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Guaranteed Google #1 search result as I could find but a mere mention of this wines existence…

What I Think:

Here’s one for more recent times. I was down in Santa Cruz to do a triathlon last weekend and hit the local TJ’s while in the area. They had this one featured with an end cap placement. Seeing Paso Robles on the label I was game for $5. I’ve always seemed to think there were bargain gems to be found from the Central Coast.

Taking a look at the bottle I initially thought that it was Chalk Hill which is a designation used in Sonoma. Adding to the confusion the vinter, Windsor Vineyards, further indicated it may be from north rather than south. It took me a full hour or so to realize the label was Chalk Creek. On checking the winery site I quickly confirmed they weren’t interested in claiming it. This is traditionally not the best sign. On opening the bottle and taking the first sip my initial thoughts were that the wine was unremarkable. As I continued through the bottle this feeling grew on me. Upon level setting my expectations on what a $5 of Cab should be that initial thought changed. The wine showed good depth and fruit while not appearing overly manufactured or “plonky”. Though not many varietal characteristics were apparent this would still qualify as a textbook quaffer. My initial thought was to “Skip It” which if you don’t care for Cab is still the way to go. Give that I do this will be the “12th Bottle” in my cart until I find something better under $8.

Rating: 12th Bottle

2002 Sausal Old Vine Family Zinfandel

Price: $18.00 direct from the winery

What They Said:

Per the winery “89 points 2002 Sausal “Old Vine Zinfandel” Alexander Valley — Medium-dark purplish ruby; attractive, spicy, cedary, very ripe blackberry fruit aroma with notes of cinnamon, dill, and vanilla; full body; big, forward, rich, jammy, ripe berry and brown sugar flavors; medium-full to full tannin; slightly harsh on the finish; lingering after taste. Highly recommended.”

and from the winery “This wine greets you with a dark ruby color that hints of the fruit to come. The nose is loaded with berries, predominately blackberries highlighted by a touch of cinnamon. There is a heavy richness on the mid-palate with an undertone of vanillin. Blueberries abound in the soft, velvety finish. Whether you drink it now or allow it to mature in your cellar, you will be delighted with this outstanding Zin. The 2002 Family Zinfandel was produced from estate grown grape vines averaging 50 years old. Following fermentation, the wine was aged twenty-two months in a combination of American and French oak barrels, adding complexity. This wine can be aged four to six years from its January 2005 release date.Pairing it with spicy pastas, pork and grilled chicken is recommended.”

What I Think:

Speaking of Tahoe, this was my contribution for the weekend. There were 10 couples and each was to bring a wine, the reason I pulled this one out? Simple! It was the only magnum I had. That said going against the other wines it went over incredibly well. I think we ended up polishing it off in a bit of a stupor but those that paid attention certainly enjoyed it.

This isn’t the huge Zinfandel you may be use to. Given the old vines it must have mellowed over the years. Where you might think bold, this is more rich and savory. The nose borders on blackberry but the typical hint of spices to come is not present. On the mouth it is full of fruit before fading to vanilla accents toward the middle. The end lingers with a nice velvety coating of light fruit. This was a winner. I need to get me some more magnums!

Rating: Wow!

2002 Navarro Anderson Valley Pinot Gris

Price: $12.60 direct from the winery

What They Said:

Per the winery Refreshingly vibrant, with lovely floral aromas of creamy nectarine, with a touch of fresh grain and fennel. Crisp, dry and intense, with pear and orange fruit and a finish that fans out. – Wine Spectator, May 15, 2004.

What I Think:

Had this one nearly a month ago when friends came over for dinner. As I was in charge of cooking I missed the majority of this wine as it was served with snacks/appetizers. That said, I put my friend Paul in charge of writing this one up. Here is what he had to say:

Light nose, hint of lychee (his favorite descriptor by the way)
Strong citrus with sharp lemon on the start
Fade reveals hint of strawberry lingering longer than a typical white.

What I didn’t get him to do was rate and score it. That said I’ll repeat my rating from last time I had this wine and call it “Pricey”.

Rating: Pricey

2002 Trader Joe’s Paso Robles Estate Bottled Late Harvest Moscato

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Couldn’t find anything. All I know is that it appears to be made by Canyon Ridge. To be honest I’m not sure how much I paid, though I know it was on the lower end. Next time I am at the store I will check to see if they have something similar.

What I Think:

To be honest I had zero intention of writing this one up. I found it opened, but sealed, while cleaning out my fridge where it must have been for a minimum of 6 months. I was sure that it must be completely spoiled but figured in the interest of science I should at least find out. Given that my wife was making peach cobbler as dessert for my Father’s Day dinner there was clearly an opportunity on the horizon. I must say we were both astonished at how nice this was, when considering the circumstances of this bottle it was downright amazing! It still had nice texture and forward sweet, fruity flavors without being syrupy. Again dessert wine is not my specialty, not that any others are but in this case I don’t even care to pretend. If you like white dessert wines, and TJ’s still has anything like it, this would definitely be worth giving a try. Since my wife really enjoys these efforts I am guessing one may be appearing in our house again soon.

Rating: 12th Bottle

2002 Rocking Horse Zinfandel

Price: $7.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per quaffability “Here is the second of three offerings from this winery currently featured at Trader Joe’s.

This zin jumps out of the glass with a big blast of oak, peppery Zinfandel spice, and superripe, autumn blackberries.

There’s more oak in the mouth, a sense of heat, and ripe, spicy, brambly blackberry curd. The combination of heat, ripe fruit and spice reminds me of a rough-hewn ruby port. This wine is a bit over the top — check that — way over the top, but it’s also a whole lot of wine for the money, so try a bottle if you like this style.”

What I Think:

I didn’t check til after I finished the bottle, but the same stuff directly from the winery…$19! Amazing! This wine is 65% Napa Valley, 35% Sonoma and is a big one. All wood when first opened with some aggressive swirling it opened slightly and showed some raspberry mingling with darker fruit battling with the tannins. The dark fruits again appear on the palate before fading to a peppery, brambly big fruity finish. This wine has lots of character, it kind of reminds me of the loud kid in class that you couldn’t missed if you tried. Even if you don’t like it guessing you would have to do a double take to see what the heck it is.

Rating: Buy It

2002 Marques de Riscal Rioja Reserva

Price: $11.99 @ Friend/Gift imported by Shaw Ross International Importers

What They Said:

Per the winery “The reserva wines of Marqués de Riscal are made principally from Tempranillo vines which are over 15 years old. This is a variety that ages well in wood, producing wines with a good tannic structure, colour and acidity. The reserva wines of Riscal spend approximately two years in American oak barrels, forming a wine that adheres to the principles of classic Rioja wines.

TASTING CHARACTERISTICS
Aroma: Slightly closed initial impression on the nose but quickly opening up to reveal ripe fruit and vanilla notes.
Colour: Intense colour with a crimson rim and a deeper more concentrated ruby red core.
Palate: In the mouth, the initial impression is of freshness from the acidity with soft ripe red fruits and and American oak on the mid palate. The wine has good concentration and length.

What I Think:

Another wine with which I have an illustrusious history. This was one of the first ever upscale bottles I though I ever bought. At the time I was close to fresh out of college and was living in Germany for a spell. My time there was winding down so I started bringing back some wine with each visit. This one made it home and with the fancy wrap managed to age for some time. At least four years later I made some paella for friends, still might be the best meal I ever cooked, and we had that bottle of wine with it. Ever since I always look at this longingly at TJ’s before moving on because of the price tag. We were lucky enough to have some friends bring it over for dinner and it was certainly good but I seem to remember it being much better. I wouldn’t hesitate to get the bottle againn, but it would have to be to go with the paella.

Rating: Pricey

2002 Navarro Pinot Gris

Price: $14.00 direct from the winery

What They Said:

Refreshingly vibrant, with lovely floral aromas of creamy nectarine, with a touch of fresh grain and fennel. Crisp, dry and intense, with pear and orange fruit and a finish that fans out. – Wine Spectator, May 15, 2004.

What I Think:

So this wine has been waiting to get written up for a while and I haven’t quite known how to approach it. Sometime back while at the Navarro barbeque we decided to splurge on a couple cases of wine. Not sure how this one snuck in there. Perhaps with the weather and food it seemed like a good idea at the time. Don’t get me wrong, this is a good wine but as far as their whites go I would put it in the bottom half, granted they set the scale pretty high. It had a nice crisp taste with some soft fruits on top of a mineral backbone that lingered. It certainly wasn’t scoffed at while on the table. Just given a second chance at this price I would be grabbing their Edelzwicker and that is just because I am already stocked up on the Gewurzt.

Rating: Pricey