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

2003 Gaetano D’Aquino Chianti Riserva

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by D’Aquino Italian Imports

What They Said:

Per the winery “With a vinous bouquet of good intensity that refines with aging, a Riserva is barrel-aged at least two years. It consists of a full, dry, slightly tannic, harmonious flavor and is best served with grilled meats, game and seasoned cheeses. Serve at room temperature and open one hour before serving.”

What I Think:

Given my lackluster experience with Trader Joe’s Chianti I was enthused to find a recommendation for this one. Most of the other chatter in the blogsphere was much less glowing so I open the bottle cautiously optimistic.

Now onto the wine. .. A search of the importer’s site showed that this one has some Canaiole Nero and Trebbiano blended in with the Sangiovese. On the nose you are greeted with notes of cherry. The palate starts a bit off with some barrel type flavors up front that give way to a nice light fruit and lead to a minty, slightly tannic finish. This one didn’t work for me but most Chianti’s haven’t historically. Anyone think they have one that can break the spell?

Rating: Skip It

2003 Red Flyer California Red

Price: $2.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the winery “This secret blend of Syrah, Mouvedre, Grenache, Carignan, and Clone X is blended in the tradition of the French Rhone wines. Clone X, the secret ingredient, was smuggled from outer space in the hyperbolic chamber of one of the forward thinking grays.”

Also from TJ’s Fearless Flyer, “It’s a Rhone Style Red that’s made for us by Hahn Winery. It features vibrant pepper and spice with bright red fruit and well balanced acidity.”

What I Think:

A ton of intrigue here starting with one of the most curious web sites I have ever seen for a wine. Take a look for yourself! The Rhone blend is certainly interesting, never seen anything like it, it even includes some Durif which I had to look up to determine was equal to Petite Sirah. Certain this was a Trader Joe’s exclusive given the Fearless Flyer selection (why isn’t this on the web so I can link to it!) I was surprised to learn this was not a TJ’s only bottling. A quick web search showed this pricing out in the $8-$9 range here and here. How can TJ’s possibly sell this at $3…and how could anyone pay triple that… Mysteries upon mysteries!

With the wine open would they continue? They certainly would as this wine was concocted in the lab. Not an ounce of vineyard or terroir here, this wine tastes manufactured. That said, as much as I want to hold that against it, I can’t bring myself to do so. This is a big, overtop the wine. Guessing that even those that don’t care for wine might like something like this. It showed loads of fruit up front with pepper and spice intermingling towards the mid-palate leading to a pleasant finish. While not great, this is a magnificent one to have around the house to open after everyone has had a glass or two! At $3 it is hard to go wrong…

Also some more coverage in the blogsphere from justagrape.com, Wine Tastings and World Wine Weblog.

Rating: Buy It

2003 Columbia Crest Two Vines Merlot

Price: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per wine.com: “This pleasing Merlot offers intense aromas of spice, blackberry, and raspberry with expressions of cocoa and soft velvet on the palate. A hint of chocolate completes the lingering finish.” -Ray Einberger, Winemaker

What I Think:

This one was a pleasant surprise. I’ve always coupled Washington and Merlot in my head so I thought this was a good time to do my quarterly check in on this varietal. Amazingly out of the 286 bottles I have consumed since starting this blog a mere 2 have been merlot. This one opened the doors for me to try others. Nice, round red fruit throughout followed by a lingering hint of chocolate on the finish before fading to vanilla/barrel flavors. Nice and smooth throughout. I’ve already grabbed myself another bottle, don’t hesitate to grab one of your own!

Rating: Buy It

2003 Epicuro Salice Salentino Riserva

2003 Epicuro Salice Salentino RiservaPrice: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by D’Aquino Italian Imports

What They Said:

Per snooth.com “A great value, I’d be happy to drink this on a regular basis. It’s a blend of 80% negroamaro and 20% malvasia nera, with mineral and berry notes. It is dry, and light-bodied for a red wine. Some may find this a little watery, but it has a flavorful finish. No heavy alcohol fumes or need to breathe first, like so many wines at this price point.”

What I Think:

After trying their Aglianico I was willing to try the rest of their offerings. Like the previous bottle and the Nero d’ Avola I’ve previously enjoyed this wine was also from southern Italy. This one was a blend of 80% Negroamaro, 20% Malvasia Nera which immediately sends me to Wikipedia as I have heard of neither. Negroamaro is grown almost exclusively in Puglia which is also the home of Primitivo (a relative of Zinfandel) which I have much enjoyed. All signs seem to be pointing in this ones favor.

On opening my interest is piqued. The nose was full of earth and herbs. On the palate more of the same, very earthy and robust with hints of cherries. The finish was long and flavorful, with fruit tailing off to a woody, smoky ending. Another keeper from southern Italy which has clearly put itself on my map.

Rating: Buy It

2003 Hogue Genesis Cabernet Sauvignon

Price: $11.99 @ K&L Wines

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines “94 points The Wine News: Lush, seamlessly integrated flavors of ripe, sweet blackberry, blueberry and minerals; totally in control in the face of so much rich fruit…” 90 points and 1 Puff from the Connoisseurs’ Guide to California Wine, “Ripe, rich, a bit spicy for its sins and full of black cherry and cassis fruitiness, this full-bodied wine takes a fairly direct line on the palate and garners its high points for its depth and flesh more than for complexity. Still, there is an awful lot of flavor and honest drinkability to be found here, and when its oh-so-inviting price tag is put into the calculus, this one adds up to a big winner for current consumption. (12/2006)”

What I Think:

This one came highly recommended to me from a friend at work. Given that my experience with Washington wines has been mostly pleasant I was keen to give it a try. On opening in a word Wow! Let us linger and enjoy that for a moment before getting into the specifics…

Pre-meal I gave this one a go and found mint and tannins on the nose. The front to mid palate showed dark cassis like fruit with the end showing well integrated tannins. It left me looking forward to adding some steak to the mix. What a pair. The steak brought our a bit of pepper and spice but the fruit remained lush. It went a bit dry towards the middle but then rounded out for a long pleasant finish. The experience lasted long after the wine was out of your mouth which is my tell tale sign for a good wine. I’m getting more at this price, heaven forbid this Hogue offering ever shows up at TJ’s (they have others). I’ll buy them out on day one.

Rating: Wow!

2003 Rosemount Shiraz Hill of Gold

Price: $9.02 @ BevMo imported by PWG Vinters USA (retails at $17.99 a bottle)

What They Said:

Per the winery “To the eye, vibrant crimson with ruby hues. To the nose, aromas of liquorice, thyme and herbs lead to a sweet lift of vanilla oak, mocha and plums. On the palate, mocha and plum aromas follow from the nose onto an inky palate redolent of spicy fruit and pepper. A fresh, vibrant and youthful wine with well integrated tannins and an elegant finish.”

What I Think:

This one was nicer than I remembered from my last go round. Perhaps my inclination that it needed a bit more time to settle down was proving correct. This bottle showed mint & licorice on the nose. The palate showed some chocolate flavoring though the finish was fast and tannic. All in all seemed a bit light for a Shiraz, in my opinion you are better off trying something else. I would look for this Yalumba “Y” Series as a potential alternative.

Rating: Skip It

2003 Rocking Horse Garvey Family Vineyard Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon

Price: $9.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the winery “Great structure and layers of complexity are the hallmarks of this full bodied Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Sumptuous upon entry and showing a dark crimson hue, this delectable wine hints of classic bell pepper, violets and a lingering suggestion of chocolate before bursting into a full bodied black cherry finish. This hand crafted wine was aged in hand selected oak barrels and will be rewarded by proper cellaring.”

What I Think:

After my brother-in-law sampled the Rosenblum we moved on to this Rocking Horse Cab which had enthralled me on first encounter. Shortly after I opened it, given the lack of a meal to accompany it, I was a bit concerned that the dry, dustiness may not have been as appealing as I had found it last.

On the nose this seems like a complex cabernet. The dryness starts at the front of the palate with some fat, rich fruit flavors on top that move towards briar and spice in the mid-palate until the floor drops out and it gets chalky, dry and dusty. Still wondering how this one will age. I think I have another 2 bottles so I’ll have another one over the next few weeks and if I am still enjoying it I’ll be back at TJ’s (it was readily available on last visit) to load up again.

Rating: Buy It

2003 Beringer Clear Lake Zinfandel

Price: $6.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per quaffability “If you’ve spent any time around Napa, particularly “up valley”, you’ll find that many of the locals like to quip about Lake County as some kind of “Deliverance” style backwater, where the all the toothless residents are either crank addicts, mentally disabled, or both. Without commenting about the merits of such jokes or what it says about denizens of either county, I will say that some Napa wineries are seeing greener, or at least cheaper, grass on the other side of the fence, and planting and growing good wines up in Lake County.

Among those is Napa and Knights Valley behemoth Beringer, which has put out this Clear Lake Zin, the first wine I have seen from that appellation.

This wine makes a good first impression, with a nose of peppery, briary fruit, braced with with a beam of toasty oak and a touch of chaparral.

There is true zin fruit in the mouth, medium bodied, ripe but a little drier than you’d expect, leading to a finish marked by firm tannins. Very pleasant, especially at this price”

What I Think:

We opened this one for comparison sake when having steak and drinking the Sausal Century Vine Zinfandel. Given that this is my third bottle of the Clear Lake I had a pretty good idea of what to expect. But, wow, the difference was extraordinary! The boldness here versus the mellowness of the 130 year old Sausal vines was something else. Now this wine is probably bigger than your average Zinfandel but even still.

On opening this one you get scents of sweet, ripe and definitely hot, brambly fruit with that same mint/menthyl aroma lingering in the background. On the nose you get loads of ripe, bursting blueberries that last through the mid-palate before giving way to a dry dusty backbone that leads to a lip smacking finish. Even better than the last, a sure winner! I’m going to have to keep my eye out for some other wines from the Lake County appellation, be nice to see how this compares to something a little closer to home. Granted with the differences so vivid it was hard to do an apple to apples comparison but this surely held its own versus the Sausal offering though that one cost 4 times as much. I am going to have to start going through these bottles more slowly, only six more to go.

Rating: Bulk Buy

2003 Rocking Horse Garvey Family Vineyard Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon

Price: $9.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the winery “Great structure and layers of complexity are the hallmarks of this full bodied Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Sumptuous upon entry and showing a dark crimson hue, this delectable wine hints of classic bell pepper, violets and a lingering suggestion of chocolate before bursting into a full bodied black cherry finish. This hand crafted wine was aged in hand selected oak barrels and will be rewarded by proper cellaring.”

What I Think:

Trying to have some patience as I type, yet again what a ridculous value! $24 for the same bottle on the winery site! You have to love TJ’s! That said I can’t help but cut to the chase, get this wine now! Read this when you come back….

Okay good, I opened this after the Marietta as I knew we were having steak and this would be an appropriate pairing. Before I opened it I read the above and thought to myself; Bell Peppers are classic? Who would have ever known? Back to the wine, how high can I sing the praises? On opening this it had a true cabernet noise, what is that? I think I now, so I’ll say this was it. The complexity was apparent at that point. The aromas were briary fruit with oak and a bit of spice lingering behind. On the palate you are struck immediately by dryness. I mean almost puckering dryness that ends up opening to some fruit and then fades back to this (with some time I determine the dryness equals this) earthy and dusty finish. Somewhere you can catch floral notes, I think violets, intermixed with those earthy tones. The texture seemed almost velvety, there is so much to describe here that I feel like I have ADD. The look is deep purple, almost silky. I wonder what the vintage rating was this year, let me add that to my list of things to do… Does this taste older than it is? I want someone that really knows wine to tackle this one and tell me why it seems so unique to me. Either way I want to watch this one age so I’m going to get more now.

Rating: Bulk Buy (for me, you should just grab a bottle until you are sure this style agrees with you)