2004 Twenty Bench Cabernet Sauvignon

2004 Twenty Bench Cabernet SauvignonPrice: $14.99 @ Friend/Gift

What They Said:

Per Nine North Wines “The 2004 Twenty Bench is one of our more pronounced vintages to date. Aromas of black currants, plums and chocolate accompany the wines dense, inky color, while the palate shows great structure, richness and depth that comes with the first ever addition of Cabernet Franc to the blend. This wine drinks well now and will age gracefully over the next 7 -8 years.”

What I Think:

I’ve heard a lot about this label and no wonder why. This is a very nice Napa Valley Cab for less than $20 and certainly one I will be revisiting soon. If I like the current release as much this may end up on my Christmas giving list. Stay tuned for my thoughts on the 2007 which is available at K&L Wines for $16. In the meantime here are my notes on the 2004…

(14.1%) – 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc – Great, aromatic nose that shows loads of black pepper and dark fruits on top of herbal notes. The palate is still very lively with slightly sweet plum flavors and nice acidity. The finish is dry and leathery showing spice, barrel notes and lingering dusty, chocolate tannins. Good structure throughout but it seems the fruit is thins toward the end of the palate which to me means you should be drinking this one if you have it…

Rating: Wow!

2004 Santino Sierra Foothills Zinfandel

2004 Santino Sierra Foothills ZinfandelPrice: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per No Merlot on the ’03 “The Santino Zin is sturdy and full of rich raspberries and blackberries, plums, and spice aromas. The mouth is flush with berry fruit that hook up with almonds, cinnamon and pepper that finishes with slight tartness but shows some sense of harmonic convergence. Nice Zin for the price. Matches well with spicy and hearty foods.” (editors note: they also give great back story on how Santino became part of Renwood)

What I Think:

Per my database here this is my fourth bottle of the Santino Zin and I have yet to post, shame on me. Why not? Let’s blame it on research. The Santino site only mentions the ’06, so I emailed them to check in on the ’04. Never heard back. Then, from the above, I learned of the internal dysfunction that led to Santino becoming part of Renwood, a very well respected winery from the region. Regardless Matt Kramer of the Wine Spectator had this to say of the winery in his recent book ”One of the leading wineries in the Sierra Foothills.” Couple all of this with my curiosity of the region, they grow a ton of off the beaten path grapes (Italian mostly) and people whose opinion I respect such as Megan, of Wine Clubbie being such huge fans of the area, and I have been thrilled to see this time and time again as I visit Trader Joe’s…

On to the main event. This wine is simple but a winner. On the nose a mix of red fruit and wood. In the mouth you get dark forward fruit with a dry, tannic herbal mid-palate (think sage) that leads to a slightly sour note reminiscent of raspberries. The finish is chewy, lingering and peppery. This wine falls in line with what I think of as typical from this region; particularly the finish. All in all, well balanced and worth the money. Another wine that fits this profile is the TJ’s Growers Reserve Zin. Same price, just as nice; but fruitier…

As for the Santino, I am going to get some more. After I do so everyone else should feel free to do the same.

Rating: Buy It

2004 Columbia Crest Two Vines Cabernet Sauvignon

Price: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per wine.com: “This minimally oaked Cabernet Sauvignon offers fruit-forward aromas and flavors of slight cherry and blueberry throughout. The balance of fruit and soft oak provides a lingering finish with hints of cocoa.” -Ray Einberger, Winemaker

What I Think:

The Columbia Crest Two Vines varietal tour continues with this being the fourth offering I have sampled. Having been pleased with the previous three bottles I had promised to grab the Cab next and as a man of my word am here to report even more good news.

This one makes itself known as soon as you pull the cork. The nose has strong aromas of dark, black fruit with just a hint of chocolate. On the palate this same fruit is lush and readily apparent. As the tasting profile continues the flavors evolve to vanilla and toast (usually barrel induced) leading to a nice velvety finish.

As I said last time, 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. I’m going to try the rest of them, maybe the Chard will be next!

Rating: Buy It

2004 Tessier Cour Cheverny “La Porte Doree”

Price: $11.99 @ K&L Wines imported by Premier Wine Company

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines “This is from very old vines, 60-85 years of age, to be exact, and these aren’t your average white grape vines, either. This wine is made from the rare Romorantin grape, grown on heavy clay soils. The wine is fermented in three to five-year old Burgundy barrels and undergoes partial malo-lactic fermentation, which lends a very rich, almost viscous mouthfeel to an otherwise extremely mineral white. You can taste this beautiful, esoteric white for days after you’ve enjoyed a glass. Wow! Philippe Tessier has just converted the domaine to totally organic viticulture, too.”

What I Think:

This wine, from the Loire value caught my eye in the K&L newsletter based on the description above. After that I did a little research and found the following: Romorantin is a traditional French variety of white wine grape, that is a sibling of Chardonnay. Once quite widely grown in the Loire, it has now only seen in the Cour-Cheverny AOC. It produces intense, minerally wines somewhat reminiscent of Chablis. I found elsewhere that Cour-Cheverny has a total of 11 wineries that call it home. Love to find these types of bottles.

Now on to the wine which we served it with Mediterranean style fish. Interesting I find a golden brown coloring, not the straw or yellow you may expect. Also interesting as the texture on the tongue is that of a dessert wine but the taste is something altogether different. Here you find almost zero sweetness. The nose shows mostly mineral leaving the texture to come as an even larger surprise. You get citrus notes to accompany this on the palate before a finish advertised as long that I found somewhat disappointing based on all the hype. At the end of the day this wine was extremely interesting but I didn’t dig it. Maybe you will, maybe you won’t but either way I guarantee you’ll have an interesting experience. The kind you only need once.

Rating: Pricey

2004 Evans & Tate Cabernet Sauvignon Underground Series

Price: $3.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Scott Street Portfolio

What They Said:

Per the distributor or at least I thought so. As you can see her no links for the 2004 Cab nor the ’03. I emailed them to see if they had anything but no response. Wonder what gives. Nothing to be found anywhere on the internet for the ’04. I remember hearing about them going bankrupt. Is that it? Think the sold the whole lot to TJ’s?

What I Think:

This one was a surprise which makes my experience described above even more confounding. I know this winery is located in Western Australia in the Margaret River region. Given that the rest of their bottlings are from this area I am guessing the majority of the fruit for this one must be as well. On the nose you get loads of dark fruit with hints of pepper and spice. The fruit follows in the mouth with spicy overtones leading through to a finish of black fruits that lingers nicely. This wine isn’t complex but it is quaffable and enjoyable. Not sure you can ask for much more at $4. It’s also a screwcap to boot!

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

2004 Mazzocco Sonoma County Chardonnay

Price: $6.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the winery “Fragrances of crème brulee, pears and iris blossom tantalize your nose while rich creamy butterscotch coats the palate. This crisp Chardonnay finishes with spice, vanilla bean and hints of chamomile.”

What I Think:

Not sure why I bought this one. I am on the record as not liking Chardonnay. That said I’ve had some red wines from this label that I did enjoy so thought I would give it a try. Mistake! California Chardonnay, 99% of the time, is exactly what I expect it or be. Either too buttery or barrelly. This one on the side of oak. Not for me but if you are a Chard fan feel free to give it a go!

Rating: Skip It

2004 Benson Ferry Lodi Shiraz

Price: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per quaffability “Ever drive by a vineyard late in the season – I mean really late, after the kids have finished off the last of their Halloween candy – and seen vines still laden with fruit, even though the autumn colors of the leaves are fading to brown. And yet you still see a full crop of red grapes hanging from these vines, and if you look closely, you’ll see that the fruit is losing its plumpness, shriveling, and turning into raisins. What the heck are they making here? Late-harvest zin? Maybe, but more likely they’re going for a super-ripe style like this wine, which I found last week on a big end-of-aisle display at Trader Joes?

So how is it? Kinda like liquid Raisinettes. Never had them? Well, if you like wines that taste like chocolate raisin juice mixed generously with toasted oak, then this is the swill for you.”

What I Think:

After seeing the write up above I am actually visibly upset that this wine has ended up in my house. Funny how these things work, you know how often that movie all your friends bag on thus lowering your expectations tends to lead to you being pleasantly surprised? That is what happened here. Rich in fruit and heavy in alcohol this wine makes itself known. Not that I thought it was great but it was decent, though tasted of being created in the winery rather than in the fields. Give it a try if you feel the need. At this price point I’ll be looking elsewhere.

Rating: Skip 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

2004 La Famiglia California Pinot Grigio

Price: $2.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the winery “I’m incredibly proud of this 2004 Pinot Grigio,” said Proprietor Steve Cousins. “The back bone of this blend is fruit from ultra premium vineyards in Monterey and Santa Barbara counties including vineyards in Arroyo Seco, the Santa Lucia Highlands and Santa Maria. Our 2004 Pinot Grigio is Italian in style with abundant California ripe fruit expression. It has classic Italian mineral character, which I attribute to the river rock and gravel soils of the vineyards around Arroyo Seco in Monterey County.” This vintage of Pinot Grigio has excellent weight and complexity on the palate, with generous fruit character – apple, citrus and lemon zest – woven with mineral, floral and spice nuances. The crisp, dry flavors culminate with a burst of tangerine in the finish and the Tocai Friulano and Chardonnay in the blend bring body and elegance to the texture. This wine begs to be paired with oysters or sushi.

What I Think:

Pinot Grigio from California for $2.99 it seems liked it was worth a try, you with me so far? Knowing that La Famiglia was a former Mondavi brand I figure it was worth a go. Getting it home a little research showed me that the blend was as follows: 87% Pinot Grigio, 10% Chardonnay, 3% Tocai Friulano and I found a Monterrey only bottling on the winery web site priced at $15. Expectations were being tempted; drink it now so I can get more? It was a thought but it faded quickly and I only recently pulled it from the back of the rack.

My notes as of always recently were less than extensive but in a nutshell I am glad I didn’t hurry on this one. Nothing seems to shine through; it seemed to taste mostly like nothing. You could at times feel stones or minerals and at others light fruit and floral notes but it never resulted in anything. I tried to think it was more like a Sauvignon Blanc but couldn’t get that to work. Not knowing what else to try I gave up. Even at this price I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, not when you can get a much nicer Italian version such as this 2006 Gaetano DAquino for a dollar more.

Rating: Skip It