2004 Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard Central Coast Cabernet Sauvignon

Price: $8.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Not a peep on this one. I did find a Pierce Ranch Tempranillo, this cab is from there, acknowledged by the winery bit nothing for a cabernet…

What I Think:

I bought this as my favorite TJ’s down at the wharf here in San Francisco, the place is empty! Have to love that in a TJ’s. I was there looking for this Santa Ynez Valley Winery Cabernet Franc but couldn’t find it. Instead I grabbed a hodgepodge of others including this one and the Pope Valley Cabernet. I tried them both over the same weekend side by side.

As mentioned in “What They Said” above, no help from anyone here so I am on my own, same as the Pope Valley Cab. Google #1 search result here I come. Now to the wine; I have often coveted wines from Santa Cruz Mountain winery and had previously seen the Merlot. Seeing the Cab though was truly exciting as TJ’s experiences go. This excitement started to wane when I saw that this bottle had been disowned by the winery. Perhaps not disowned but anytime I can’t find acknowledgement on the winery website I begin to think the worse. Then the $9 price tag gets me excited and overall I am expecting good things…and all this before the bottle is open.

Now with the cork out, I am looking forward to enjoying myself. Looking at my notes it must have been almost better than I remember. Starting from the end and moving forward it must have been complex. It seems that I couldn’t peg anything. All my notes seem to be maybe this but hedging in another direction. Big, but not really. Subtle but dark. Fruit seems lighter but dark bing cherries. Chewy on top, with mint underneath. Overall this wine is what I would call elegant compared to most cabs. If you want to be clobbered over the head this wine is not for you. This wine requires some patience and a definitive focus on enjoying the wine. Have it at a dinner party and you won’t even notice it. Give this time to impress you and I think you will appreciate it. I did and I plan on doing so again.

Rating: Buy It

2004 Vin de Pays des Bouches du Rhône Marselan Domaine l’Attilon

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

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines “Marselan, a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache, is a new grape variety being developed in the Aude and Bouches du Rhone areas of southern France. Vinified for the first time in 2002, Marselan has quickly become a darling of many French wine professionals and consumers. Domaine l’Attilon’s organic version of this new cepage is bursting with bright, crunchy black currant and cherry fruit balanced by violet floramatics and a vibrant acidity. This deliciously user friendly red is a wine you can feel good about on all levels, as it delivers delicious enjoyment at a fantastic price! Another terrific value from the South of France!”

They also said this in the May 2007 newsletter, “A dichotomy on the palate. Initially you get the levity and light temper of the grenache followed by the stern gravity of the cabernet. Overall this marriage is pleasing. Pronounced violets on the nose next to a mouthful of lively and snappy fruit with fresh, deep black currant flavors. There is nothing gushy or goopy about this wine. It’s got a strong acidic presence that mingles with dusty tannins. Enjoy this “little big guy” with bistro fare.”

What I Think:

A new grape, as usual, right up my alley. Anything to keep it interesting. As mentioned above this grape is a cross between cab and grenache mix. I had this one a few weeks back with steak while my wife was out of town. I sampled this side by side with the recently posted Guigal. My notes for this were more plentiful than for the other. Does that a winner make?

On the nose you were greeted with aromas that tended towards barnyard and dust. On the palate the fruit was subtle. Overall I would say the wine has sturdy flavors and dry overtones. The finish was a bit on the tart side. Given the uniqueness factor perhaps this wine may have seemed more compelling than it otherwise could have been. I am guessing the second bottle I have will tell the story. For now I will remain on the fence.

Rating: Pricey

2004 E. Guigal Cotes du Rhone

Price: $9.99 @ The Wine Club imported by Ex Cellars Wine Agencies

What They Said:

Per Wine Advocate “The Wine Advocate A strong effort, the deeply-hued, seductive 2004 Cotes du Rhone (primarily Syrah with some Grenache included in the blend) displays loads of berry fruit, not a great deal of complexity, but beautiful texture, softness, and silkiness. Guigal’s master blends are always consistent and uniform despite different bottling dates. Most of these wines drink well for 3-4 years. If readers can still find any, 2003 was a very strong vintage for Guigal, with the 2003 Chateauneuf du Pape meriting a solid 90 points. It is a slightly more tannic version than the 2004, with more meat, kirsch, and body. I also thought the 2003 Gigondas (89) was better than the 2004. You can’t go wrong with the 2003 Cotes du Rhone (88) as it offers loads of berry fruit. Guigal, who also owns fabulous vineyards in the Northern Rhone, is a superb blender when it comes to his Southern Rhones. He is turning out enormous quantities of high quality Cotes du Rhone reds, whites, and roses as well as fine Chateauneuf du Papes, Gigondas, and a terrific rose from Tavel. Score: 87. —Robert Parker, February 2007.”

What I Think:

I still remember E. Guigal from when they received the #1 ranking in Wine Spectator’s top hundred wines of the year back a few years ago. I knew their offerings ran the gamut but it isn’t often you see them in front of you. Given it was there I grabbed it. With my wife out of town a few weeks back I was on back to back steak dinner nights which seemed like an opportune time to put this on the table. The notes are sparse but this wine falls into the upper tier of the ho-hum category. It isn’t manufactured; it is nice and starts to show something of interest. Unfortunately it stops along the way. Given that I would say that it is nice but not exceptional. This price point makes it particularly difficult; I give it a pricey rating. Good intro to Rhone wine, for those that can use this. As for me I’ll be trying to find a better version at TJ’s. This Pont du Rhone is the best I know of now, but I will be trying some of the others soon.

Rating: Pricey

2004 Novella Synergy

Price: $6.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the winery “Spicy notes of clove and black pepper enhance blossomy aromas of cherry and blackberry. The flavors of freshly picked raspberries and blueberries explode in the mouth leading into a lingering finish of smoky oak with hints of tobacco.”

What I Think:

Not sure what led me to grab this bottle. Most likely I saw it, knew it was a newer label at TJ’s and wanted to give it a go in case it was a gem. Getting home I find a whole new world. This wine is made by EOS. I had a few bottles of their Zinfandel during the BevMo 5 cent sale. I found that the blend was mainly based on Petite Sirah (62% Petite Sirah, 19% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and minute amounts of others). Not sure how this adjusted my expectations but found it all interesting while the cork was in the bottle.

The notes are a bit sparse. On opening the nose seemed hot and spicy. On the tongue it started the same with cloves leading the way. Towards the middle it showed some darker berry flavors that were on the weak/flaccid (when is the last time that has been used when not discussing ED) side before ending even a bit tart. After a few days it showed a bit more. The fruit was a bit richer, a bit bolder tending towards chewy. The nose still seemed hot with some subdued dark fruit lingering. On the palate the fruit was apparent but the overall profile tended to the generic side.

All in all a typical manufactured type red, trying hard to please everyone which while usually making a decent wine also limits the upside as it can only be so good. At $7 it is tough to reconsider. At $5 it would be worthy. Even with all that this is a wine that someone else could love. Give it a go if it suits your style. For me at this price I am buying Carmenere.

Rating: Skip It

2004 La Ferme Julien Rouge

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by International Wine Imports

What They Said:

Per quaffability “For some reason, despite the exalted pedigree I wasn’t expecting much from this wine. My experience with really large bulk producers from Southern French appellations hasn’t been good. Think Les Jamelle. The good cheap stuff seems to come from smaller producers in Bordeaux.

Basically, I was right. This wine is drinkable, but only borderline Quaffable. It offers Grenache cherry-spice in the nose, along with a little band-aid and dirt. We get the same flavors in the mouth with a touch of greenish plonkiness. The finish is short and simple. Much better than Two Buck Chuck, and not bad for five bucks, but nothing to get lathered up about”

What I Think:

Given that I am now a full 33 wines behind it seems that it is time to get cranking and say goodbye to my pretty world of posting all my wines in the exact order that I consumed them. With that I am first filtering my list to first time TJ’s entries as these are the ones that drive the vast majority of my traffic, who by the way I would love to see a post from after they try a wine. Good or bad, interaction is fun.

I have always heard good things about the Perrin family so seeing this on the shelf, though I believe it has been there for ages, it seemed worthy of a try. Per cork’d.com the blend percentage is as follows: 50% Grenache 20% Syrah 15% Carigan 15% Cinsault. We opened this one a few weeks back I don’t seem to have recorded the situation or the meal that it may have or not been paired with. What I did scribble is that it smelled “plonky” and a bit sour with perhaps a bit of spice hiding. The middle of the palate showed some fruit but it was extremely thin and tended towards cherries. The end was on the chewy side and not all unpleasant. At the end of the day your better rolling the dice on something else at this price point. There’s not much to see here so may as well move on.

Rating: Skip It

2004 Grant Burge Barossa Vines Shiraz

Price: $7.52 @ BevMo imported by Wilson Daniels (retails at $14.99 a bottle)

What They Said:

Per Wine Spectator “Ripe in flavor, but not too hearty, achieving a nice balance of focused plum and berry fruit against fine tannins and not too much alcohol. Drink now through 2009. 7,500 cases imported.” – Harvey Steiman, May 01, 2006 (87 point, $14)

What I Think:

This is one of my last bottles from the 5c sale at BevMo. I had the other bottle quite some time ago and have viewed this one with some trepidation ever since. I think I referred to the first bottle as ho-hum.

With pizza on the menu Shiraz wouldn’t be my choice but my wife was picking the wine tonight, in hindsight the pairing wasn’t an issue. On the nose there were plumy aromas with a dollop of mint. The palate was full of fruit before the mint kicked in and led to a tannic finish. The wine did turn a bit green in the mid-palate which was somewhat unpleasant. This was better then remembered but at the end of the day it didn’t cause you to raise an eyebrow so I am afraid the ho-hum label remains. Get it if you think you have an inclination for liking this, whatever your reason. Otherwise pass and give something else a try.

Rating: Skip It

2004 Rosenblum “Heritage Clone” San Francisco Bay Petite Sirah

Price: $14.99 direct from the winery

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines 92 points Robert Parker: “There are nearly 10,000 cases of the stunning 2004 Petite Sirah Heritage Clone. A dense ruby/purple hue is accompanied by glorious aromas of creme de cassis, vanilla, incense, crushed rocks, blackberries, and smoke. It is a full-bodied, tannic, chewy, rich, pedal-to-the-metal effort with low acidity as well as ripe tannin. The latter two components will make it difficult to resist, but it should age well for 15-20 years.” (08/06)

What I Think:

First off, I apologize for the time between posts. The good news is that I haven’t stopped drinking so there is a backlog that I will try to empty as quickly as possible. Given that, my notes on some may be briefer than normal so bear with me. Now to the wine…

My brother-in-law from Germany came over a few weeks ago for desert. He enjoys wine and even owns a portion of a vineyard in his home country. As I mentioned when tasting the 2005 version of this wine I have almost 3 cases of it in the cellar. Given that I was so impressed I figured it would have half a shot of doing the same with him.

This wine is big, full and even looking at it you can tell by the dark color heavy in alcohol (15%+). On the nose you get just about anything under the sun mild earthy notes to plum through darker fruits before finishing with some chocolate aromas. On the tongue it is silky smooth and very bold, it has rich velvety fruit with smoky overtones. It feels like you can almost chew on this wine. The fruit last through the mid-palate and into the finish before giving way to tannins which are held in balance by what you have just experienced.

Given my interest in aging this wine, as I drank this I tried to imagine how it will continued to develop in the bottle. Parker says it should last for 15-20 years. I am guessing that it will begin to mellow, the fruit, the tannins, the heavy alcohol. I wonder if I will like that better than it is now. Likely I have enough to try it both ways…

Rating: Cellar It

2004 Montebuena Rioja

Price: $7.99 @ K&L Wines imported by J & D Selections

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines “90 points Robert Parker: “A contender for best value in my Spanish tastings, this delicious Rioja is dark ruby in color, with aromas of earth, spice, and red fruits. It has surprising depth, ripe, smoky, cherry flavors, light tannin, and an excellent pure finish. This terrific bargain can be enjoyed over the next 2-3 years.” (02/07)”

What I Think:

While I gave my guests the option of the Gewurztraminer or this one, there was no doubt which was going in my glass. This was part of the two case set I bought back in early May from K&L. The results for this group had been favorable to date. Given that I had recently red that Rioja and Merlot were the food friendliest red wines I figured with enchiladas on the table we give this one a go. On the nose this seemed hot and showed spiciness with light fruit lingering on top of a drier backbone. On the palate these light fruits continued to lead the way. I caught hints of cherry and some lighter berries flavors that had a light touch of brambles towards the mid-palate. There was no fruit that made it to the finish as this wine faded quickly and ended spicy and dry. A nice wine, but despite what they said there is nothing to get excited about here. It must be a bad career move not to agree with Parker, especially given the praise he lavished above. Fortunately, I have a day job as I much prefer this Barahonda Carro Tinto (to which he also gave 90 points) I had a while back. Perhaps I am wrong. We will get a chance to see soon as there is still another bottle in the rack. I’m guessing Parker is the safer bet for your money in that showdown.

Rating: Skip It

2004 Sausal Century Vine Zinfandel

Price: $30.00 direct from the winery

What They Said:

Per the winery “The Century Vines Zinfandel is made from estate-grown Zinfandel vines planted along Sausal Creek prior to 1877. These vines are still producing juice Sausal considers as having the truest varietal characteristics of any they have sampled.

The 2004 vintage’s dark, ruby color is soon followed by a rich, full nose of chocolate and cherry aromas with a subtle yet distinct vanilla spice. The full flavor of the wine comes out as soon as it hits the palate; candied cherry and soft hints of spice create a full mouthfeel. Well structured tannins lend themselves to a long finish, contributing greater depth to an already full-flavored, full-bodied wine.

The 2004 Century Vines Zinfandel is definitely great now, but with a few more years in the bottle will offer an even greater reward. Whether now or later, pair this wine with a juicy steak, wild game, or marinated pork tenderloin.”

What I Think:

First and foremost, in the spirit of full disclosure, as mentioned in a previous post, I am a member of the wine club at Sausal. I enjoy all their wines due to their reasonable price to quality ratio. but especially the Zinfandels for which they have built their reputation on. They have four different bottlings. This is the crème de la crème. And is followed by the Family Reserve ($24), Private Reserve ($18) and down to the Cellar Cats ($12). I think all are made from estate fruit with the main difference being the age of the vines from which the grapes for each bottle are harvested.

This was the first time I had this offering outside of the tasting room and boy was it a learning experience. Given that I have had wine from a 130 year old vines about zero times in my life I wasn’t exactly sure how much my expectations should change from that of a typical high class Zinfandel offering, The steaks were marinating on the table, so it seemed like a prime opportunity to find out. I pulled the cork out of this one and was greeted with loads of cherry and plums on the nose, with a mint/methyl aroma lingering in the back ground. In the mouth it has excellent structure as the cherries were again out in force. As the mid-palate began to fade this wine teased you as if some spice were going to appear but nothing but the lightest of tannins were perceptible as the fruit lasted to the end. You could certainly lend credence to the age of the vines. This was a polished, well rounded and perfectly integrated bottle. That said it was not your typical Zinfandel. In a word, it was mellow. The boldness you may have expected on opening this bottle never appeared. Given the high quality of this offering I must credit that affect to the age of the vines. Hopefully my one year old will start to mellow a little earlier!

We tried this one along side the Beringer Clear Lake Zinfandel which gave me some context, but next time I want to do it with the basic Sausal Zin, Cellar Cats, offering. This should offer the best insight. Given that I have another bottle of this one I will get me chance. That said I am going to let it lie for a year or two but given how polished this is I can’t see what there is to be gained by waiting but I’ll defer to the ones that know better for the time being. Maybe later I’ll try to pass judgment. Given that you are unlikely to track down this bottle I would recommend trying a wine that comes from old vines. It is an eye opening experience.

Rating: Wow!

2004 Navarro Mendocino Pinot Noir

Price: $14.00 direct from the winery

What They Said:

Per the winery “This declassified wine from a great vintage is actually better than pricier Pinots from more difficult years. It may be labeled Mendocino but it tastes and smells like Anderson Valley Pinot. Whiffs of ripe cherry, lavender and cedar followed by a crisp finish will make you think you are drinking a much more expensive bottle. Because of the continuing rise of Pinot prices we have less to sell this year than last and probably even less next vintage. Don’t wait too long! Moderately priced Pinots are getting as rare as family-owned farms. Gold Medal winner”

What I Think:

I opened this wine after having a bit of a let down when trying the 2005 bottling of the same wine. Given that I had a half glass of that left and knowing that I bought a case of this wine I found myself suddenly worrying about a case of buyer’s remorse. With the opportunity to alleviate that concern in the name of a vertical taste comparison I headed straight downstairs, grabbed a bottle

Given my experience with the last two bottles of Navarro I opened this one 7 hours before we ate to give it ample breathing time. Immediately on opening these two you could easily identify differences between the two. The 2004 was much richer, more supple with darker fruits forward. There were boysenberries that lasted well through the mid-palate and it was a very well integrated effort. Buyers remorse is now in the rear view mirror.

So this brings the questions. Could one year really have made that much of a difference? As Navarro publishes the specs for their wines I checked the two and found not much difference but when reviewing the winery notes on the bottlings I think I found the clue. Specifically on the 2004 which refers to it as a “declassified wine labeled Mendocino but it tastes and smells like Anderson Valley Pinot” or so I thought until I saw the ’05 mentioned this “89% of this wine was grown right here in the Anderson Valley.” Oh well perhaps it is personal preference….

By the way the winery called this one “Family Farmed”. This one certainly brings the “Wow!” factor out for me. Glad to have some more around.

Rating: Wow!