2005 Columbia Crest Two Vines Chardonnay

Price: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the winery “The Two Vines Chardonnay offers fruit-forward apple and pear aromas with a hint of lemon citrus leading into a balanced crispness and creaminess on the palate and a lingering, lushly fruity finish. This Chardonnay, crafted in a lighter style designed for immediate enjoyment, perfectly captures the varietal intensity indicative of Columbia Valley wines.” -Ray Einberger, Winemaker

What I Think:

And the varietal tour rolls on! After enjoying the Cabernet I mentioned that I would give the Chardonnay a go. As a man of my word I am here to report on the results. To make it brief, lots of barrel, too much. This wine might work for others but not for me. I like my Chard in stainless steel or somehow else lacking the toast and barrel flavors that are overly prevalent in North America. That sounds disparaging but that is my opinion. This is a wine worth drinking and still serves as an excellent introductory bottle for those experiencing new grapes. As for me I’ll be sticking to the Callaway and hoping it can back up the results from my first tasting!

Rating: Skip It

2005 Gravity Hills Base Camp Syrah

Update 2008-Oct-07 – Trader Joe’s has reduced the price on this bottling to $2.99

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the winery “Take a sip, and the velvety-smooth body caresses your palate as flavors tumble over one another in succession – strawberry, black cherry, plum, blueberries, licorice, white pepper, leather – continuing on to an extra-long finish. Down, boy! Base Camp Syrah goes out of its way to make friends with all kinds of food. With its mineral-fresh, lively acidity, it plays well with creamy cheese, pasta, roasted chicken, red meat and exotic, spicy dishes, like a Moroccan lamb stew.”

What I Think:

As mentioned with the Zinfandel it again appears Trader Joe’s is selling at $15 bottle of wine for $5. Unlike the Zin, this one seems to be worth the price of admission!

The start was a bit rocky as the nose was muted to non-existent on night one. From there it was all upside. Nice dark fruit as it enters the mouth intermingled with earthy notes. As a bonus, I was even able to find varietal characteristics as it showed some mint mid-palate. That gives way to spice that lingers on through a velvety finish. A pleasant surprise, as the Zin drastically lowered my expectations. I’ll be grabbing another bottle or two of this one.

Rating: Buy It

2005 Gravity Hills Tumbling Tractor Zinfandel

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the winery which seems to be on the ’02 but the Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer used the same description so we will roll with it….”But it all results in a delightful wine with elegance and complexity that’s lacking in some of the super-ripe, alcoholic Zins from the area. Sniff the exuberant bouquet of raspberries, blackberries, cinnamon and ginger. Feel the ample roundness in your mouth, with layers of fruit, spice and oak continually unfolding. Savor the long, balanced finish.”

What I Think:

This goes for $15 on the winery website. Again amazing and curious as to how Trader Joe’s can offer it at $5. Perhaps the winery is defunct? Nothing on the website is updated since August 2006.

Now to the bottle, not overly fruity, more dry…is it Zin or is it just any red? No berries and only a bit of the spice that I would expect. Mint and hints of herb are more apparent and remind me more of a Cab and that is even before the slightly medicinal finish. Not over the top like the Red Flyer so it doesn’t seem like this was made in the lab.

All that said, not sure why I want to give this one a pass. Guessing because I wished I liked it more as I’d feel like I was getting a steal. I did grab the syrah, perhaps that will make me feel better! As for this one you should take a pass, if you want a $5 Zin grab this TBD offering…

Rating: Skip It

2005 Yalumba “Y” Series Shiraz Viognier

Price: $8.99 @ Cost Plus imported by Negociants Napa

What They Said:

Per the winery “This wine is deep purple red in colour with the nose showing initial aromas of violets and sweet berry fruits, messed with the subtle fragrance of apricot and musk. The palate is stylish and approachable, showing sweet berry mid palate fruits with a soft even texture and fine tannin finish.”

What I Think:

I know I promised to get to this one soon after drinking the ’04 but alas, eleven months later I am finally delivering. Back then freshly returned from my vacation in Australia I was somewhat let down on the price ($14) and the bottle itself. On a positive note I did learn some lessons on pairing Shiraz with that bottling that are detailed in the previous post.

Given I’ve had the ’04 and I have notes this offers an interesting opportunity to look at a vertical. The winemaker is the same and I have the statistics on hand. Before looking I would expect this version to be much more acidic. And survey says…

2004 2005
Alc/Vol 14% 13.5%
Total Acid 6.2g/L 6.5g/L
pH 3.57 3.48

Not sure if the difference in Total Acid is significant or not. Also not sure how the Total Acid relates to pH which from my pre-med days I recall as a measure of acid as well. Time for some additional research so stay tuned! Anyhow, happily with the ’05, which is the vintage I was drinking when I was down under, the world has righted itself. At $9 this wine has a lot to offer!

Following my pairing rule we pulled the cork on this one with Filet on the table. This bottle is 94% Shiraz/6% Viognier. In the glass it looks light, ruby but almost effervescent. On the nose you get some floral aromas, from the Viognier which I had a hard time identifying in the ’04 bottling. A bit of dark fruit on the palate before the Viognier takes over leading to a bit of a racy finish with just a hint of sourness. All in all very enjoyable. With the ’06 out I’ll look to continue this experiment. I’ll have to find it…92% Shiraz/8% Viognier. Hopefully it will take me less than 11 months!

Rating: Buy It

2005 Perrin Cotes du Rhone Reserve

Price: $6.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per wine.com “Jean Pierre and Francois Perrin have taken particular care that this Cotes du Rhone meets their stringent standards of excellence. As proprietors of Chateau de Beaucastel in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, the Perrin family has demonstrated exceptionally high standards for nearly a century.

The Rouge originates from a significant portion of the Perrin’s own vineyards, including those at Château Grand Prebois. Produced from 60% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 20% Mourvèdre, some of which are flash-heated using the same methods as those at Château de Beaucastel, the fruit is rich and jammy with peppery spice, concentration and intensity.”

What I Think:

This one was also written up on quaffability which encouraged me to finally give it a go after looking at it luke-warmly for so long…We have a typical Rhone GSM blend here (60/20/20) with light fruit on the nose followed by loads of spice and pepper. On the palate you get some cherry and blackberry before the spice takes over midway and merges into woody/barrel flavors for a finish. The last Rhone I’ve had from TJ’s was this Les Moirets from the same vintage. Which do I prefer? Not sure but both are nice. Next time I hit the store I’ll grab them both for a side by side tasting. Then I can definitively select a winner! Anyone out there have an opinion on which is better?

Rating: Buy It

2005 Kono Baru Riesling

Price: $3.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the winery “The aromatics of this wine are tropical with mango, passion fruit and apricot fruit notes. The palate is concentrated with stone fruit, ripe Fuji apple and Bartlett pear notes intermingled with honeycomb, petrol, wet stone and mineral flavors. These old vine Rieslings have great capacity to age attractively, in this case into 2010 and possibly beyond.

This Riesling is an excellent food wine. Try it with a John Dory filet in parchment with truffled mashed potatoes and haricot vert. The bright acidity of the wine with spicey bouillabaisse seafood stew, Kumamoto oysters on the half shell with a Champagne mignonette, or refreshing grapefruit and mint salad, is a perfect midsummer, poolside combination.

Most of Australia’s wine is produced in the south-eastern region of the country, an area which, like California, boasts considerable geographic and climatic diversity. It is well known that the Central Goulburn of Victoria area produces an excellent Riesling. Flavors born in the high altitude vineyards of the Adelaide hills, the cool coastal climate of Tasmania, and the deep granitic soils of the Strathbogie Ranges contribute to the distinct characters that gives these wines an international appeal.”

What I Think:

This wine was made for blogging, check out the link above and you’ll see what I mean. Tasting notes, bottle shots and the podcast all linked directly to the wine. That is usability I had never before come across on a winery website. I’m already ready to buy another bottle. The interest continued when I found on the site that Don Sebastiani & Son’s are responsible for this wine under their Three Loose Screws label. This was surprising given that this is an Australian offering.

Unfortunately much of my interest in this bottle ended about here. While the wine was quaffable it certainly didn’t distinguish itself. At times it tasted like Sauvignon Blanc and others just any generic white, I struggled to constantly remind myself that this was suppose to be a Riesling. I’ll be sticking to my favorite German offering but perhaps I’ll give another one of the Kono Baru offerings a try at some point.

Rating: Skip It

2005 Ravenswood Vintners Blend Zinfandel

Price: $7.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the winery “Bright, flashy, ripe raspberry, blackberry and vanilla flavors are wrapped around a soft sweet fruit core highlighted by scents of cinnamon”

What I Think:

My quest to find the best $8 Zinfandel led me to this bottle as the final of a trio of contestants. Not quite American Idol but you get the idea. This showed well. On the nose the fruit interlaced nicely with hints of spice. The palate showed dark fruit rounded out with that familiar vanilla/barrel taste. The finish was nice but left you longing for more. That last bit pretty much sums this one up for me. This wine shows promise and tries to deliver but never quite gets there….

With that the final results for the Zinfandel showdown:
1. 2005 Rocking Horse Napa Valley Zinfandel
2. 2005 Ravenswood Vintners Blend Zinfandel
3. 2006 Cline California Zinfandel

That said should the Rocking Horse not be the one for you, feel free to give this one a go.

Rating: 12th Bottle

2005 Les Moirets Cotes du Rhone

Price: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Cannon Wines

What They Said:

Per quaffability “I am happy to report that I agree with other readers who have tried the 2005 — it’s a worthy successor to the 2004, which received one of this blog’s highest scores.

The nose is spice box, cigar box, cherries, plums, wet dirt. It’s juicy in the mouth, without being too ripe. The finish is long with fruit and a little oak.

This is another great $5.99 Rhone.”

What I Think:

I’m going to keep my notes brief. I was turned on to this wine in my pre-blogging days by the ’04 write up on quaffability. Based on the new ’05 write up and my history I grabbed a bottle. I wasn’t disappointed. Great Grenache flavors! Big fruit on a drier, sage backbone. A clear winner. Though this is a rare case where the audience has made me reconsider. Comments are riddled to the point where it seems that 1 out of 2 bottles may be bad. The good news is that you can apparently return these to Trader Joe’s. As for me I’ll be buying more of this is small amounts until the first bottle fails. I like it, don’t get me wrong. Just not enough to make one trip to buy it and another to return it.

Rating: Buy It

2005 Avila Syrah

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the winery “Our Avila Syrah is a deep, dark, dense, and chewy wine with an abundant mouthful of blueberry, black plum, and black currant fruit flavors. Generous in the nose, this Syrah is approachable with plush fruit flavors layered with Asian spice, fig, black pepper, and orange peel. A versatile number, this wine can hold it’s own with a wide range of cuisine from spicy buffalo wings to black pepper steak or a midnight snack of cherry, chocolate brownies.”

What I Think:

At $5 with a Santa Barbara designation I was willing to give this one a try. Coming from here I was expecting a big jelly jar effort and that is more or less what I received. Certainly dense and chewy with heavy fruit flavors that muted the tannins and finished with a minty spice. That said the finish ends abruptly and it lacks complexity. I know I expect a lot for a fiver! If you were thinking about grabbing this one feel free to do so. At worst you will come away indifferent. I am more likely to work back through some of the efforts from Columbia Crest that I have enjoyed in the past.

Rating: 12th Bottle

2005 Block 50 Shiraz

Price: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Cumulus Wines

What They Said:

Per Wine Warehouse’s Wine Blog “2005 was an ideal growing season for the Block 50 Shiraz as it was characterized by low crops in a warm, dry year. The fruit for this wine was sourced from two prime blocks, one with limestone soil and the other an elevated section with stony, red soil. The grape crop was kept low at around 2.5 tons per acre, which tends to intensify the grape’s flavor. Harvest was in the middle of March. At that time, the grapes showed ample acidity and balance, capturing plum like flavors and avoiding any overripe characteristics. This Shiraz macerated on its skins for 5 -10 days to gently extract fine grape tannins. A small portion was taken off skins and transferred to American oak barrels for 12 months for maturation.

The Block 50 Shiraz displays aromas of attractive dark berry fruit with a hint of white pepper. On the palate one can find deep and rich plum and blueberry characters that combine to exhibit a rich and vibrant fruit core with a solid vanilla compote component at the finish.”

What I Think:

Obviously we all know TJ’s delivers tremendous value but I continue to be amazed whenever I see the details. Per the post above this wine is suppose to retail at $14 and at warehouse pricing you get it for $9. TJ’s $6… Interestingly I have heard much about Stelvin’s (also mentioned above) as a seal enclosure but never knew it was just a plain old screw top. That reminded me of the great debate in the wind field regarding corks and screw tops. A conversation for another day…

When searching for this one I used the tools mentioned in my Wine Search Engine post. Google was the clear winner here tracking down the above, the rest really had nothing to offer. Great find as when I was doing the research for the Chasing Clouds I had considerable difficulty. The winery website mentions neither this Block 50 label or the Chasing Clouds. Nor does the post referred to above. That leads me to believe that perhaps these vineyards are too young to make the wines described on the winery website in mass. Perhaps these are dumped but not relabeled to another winery… Now onto the wine…

To make it quick the Chasing Clouds was better at half the cost. This had much more acid on the forefront of that palate. This overshadowed the fruit that tried to make its way through and resulted in something that almost ended up tasting carbonated. Perhaps I’ll like that sparkling shiraz I have waiting in the rack but for now I’ll stick to the Chasing Clouds…