2006 Donna Laura Bramosia Chianti Classico

2006 Donna Laura Bramosia Chianti ClassicoPrice: $14.99 @ Vintage Wine & Spirits imported by Banville & Jones

What They Said:

Per Banville & Jones “With a deep ruby color and intense aromas of cherry and red fruit, this Chianti Classico balances ripe fruit and acidity with well integrated accents of wood and spice. A great match with roasted meats and flavorful pastas, this wine is also delicious to sip on its own without food.”

I also found this from the Wine Spectator “This shows slightly cooked fruit character on the nose and palate, with a medium body and a simple finish. Drink now. 5,000 cases made.” – JS

What I Think:

On Saturday we decided to make pizza and headed down to town to grab the makings. Being in the mood for an Italian wine other than what I had in the house I decided to cross the street and grab a bottle from the local wine store. I walked in and asked them for their favorite everyday Italian, when they handed me this one I had my reservations (given the price point) but decided to roll the dice anyway…

How did it go? Cherry and herb notes greet you on the nose and welcome you on the palate as well. Good acidity emerges to deliver a balanced, food friendly wine. The finish is short with hints of cedar on top of soft tannins. This is a simple, easy drinking wine. At the end of the day I got exactly what I asked for when I walked into the store. While I found it enjoyable, for $15 I also found it to be overpriced. Lesson learned! Next time I need to do a better job communicating my expectations…

Rating: Pricey

2006 Windbreak Pinot Noir

2006 Windbreak Pinot NoirPrice: $9.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per San Antonio Winery “Windbreak is handcrafted at Orcutt Road Cellars in the Edna Valley of San Luis Obispo. Both clonal selections are fermented separately in small, open-top tanks. The cap is “punched down” in order to delicately extract color without creating excessive tannins. After aging in French oak barrels, the individual lots are evaluated and blended. The wine is dark and structured with intense flavors of black cherry and raspberry. Barrel aging contributes nuances of oak spice and cedar with a long, mouth-filling finish.”

What I Think:

This one is a product of the San Antonio Winery and the ’07 goes for $35 a bottle on the site which also mentions in its awards that it received 89 Points from the Wine Enthusiast in September 2008. As to the brand, the description from the bottle describes the Windbreak (brand) as the rows of trees planted to protect the vines from the maritime winds.

This one is light brownish red in color, almost sun-baked mud. 14.5% abv. On the nose this one offers black cherries, rhubarb and green pepper action. The palate greets you with forward, bright fruit and racy acidity. The structure is sound but the acidity is a bit overwhelming for me to grab another bottle. Especially considering the stellar Pinot lineup Trader Joe’s has on the shelves today. Granted I might be getting greedy and expecting a bit much but there are plenty of options out there. What’s your favorite $10 Pinot Noir today?

Rating: Pricey

2006 Summers Napa Valley Charbono

2006 Summers Napa Valley CharbonoPrice: $21.00 @ Mill Valley Market

What They Said:

Per Jon Bonné “Just 85 acres of Charbono are planted in California. Its fans are few but devoted, including Calistoga’s Summers family. Their estate vineyard produces the most Charbono in the state, including the fruit for this lively effort, aged in 50 percent new American oak, with its engaging dusty, floral scents that preface an overt fruit – crushed raspberry and blueberry – with an herbal-tinged finish and buoyant acidity that reminds you why it’s so pleasing with food.”

What I Think:

I had this one a bit ago with pork chops. Pork chops is the inside code for the wife was away as she is not a fan of the swine. This time the kids were away to so it was a quiet and I was looking forward to spending the night with a (pseudo)new grape. I had never had Charbono before but I have had quite a few experiences with Bonarda aka Charbono. After my last trip to Argentina in early 2006 I have been on the lookout for more Bonarda to appear in the US market but it has yet to materialize. As they give the average Malbec a run for their money at half the price I guess it is no surprise. Anyhow, this waiting led me to learn about Charbono which in turn led me to grabbing this bottle to pair with pork chops. Care to hear more?

On the nose this jumps out with juicy, raspberry aromas. Traces of mint linger closely by. Smooth and silky on the palate this wine coats the tongue with smacking tannins on a nice, dry herbal finish. Do you know the kind of finish I mean? An effort that nicely balances fruit with acidity and is easy to drink. At the same time I prefer to see a few more dimensions (or better said a bit more complexity) at this price point. I know, I am hard to please… That said I will be trying more Charbono, anyone out there have any favorites to recommend?

Rating: Pricey

2006 Sobon Estate Rocky Top Zinfandel

Price: $12.99 @ K&L Wines

What They Said:

2006 Sobon Estate Rocky Top Zinfandel Per K&L Wines “Rocky Top Tennessee may be home sweet home to Lynn Anderson, but Rocky Top in Amador is home to some fine old Zinfandel vines, and that’s good news for all of us! A very shy producing vineyard with soils of volcanic ash and boulders, this site produces old vine Zinfandel of immense proportions. The very floral, vanilla and raspberry jam aromas are very forward and inviting. The flavors match the aromas, with a rich juicy component. The finish is long and velvety-rich.”

What I Think:

For those that say twitter doesn’t sell wine like Steve Heimoff, here is a firm example of where it does. After coming across @sobonwine hearing about their wines my curiosity was piqued. This led me to K&L Wines where I paid for this bottle of Rocky Top with money. Wow a real example of selling something on twitter… Oh, by the way Dell also made a little bit of money via twitter. But I digress, let’s get to the wine.

This wine is 92% Zinfandel, 4% Petite Syrah, 2% Carignane and 2% Barbera. K&L nicely describes the terroir of this wine above. On the nose you are greeted with rich aromas of dark berries and dusty mocha chocolate. On the palate you are greeted with more purple fruits; plums and blackberries, with a slightly tart cherry component that along with the tannins keeps this wine in perfect balance. The finish was long, velvety and delightful. This is the best Zinfandel I have been introduced to in a while and another reminder that I need to get out and visit Amador County (and Lodi too!) soon. There are a ton of interesting wines coming out of the area that are friendly on the pocketbook. This one is a great example of that and I highly recommend it for Zindependence Day. What are you drinking tomorrow?

Rating: Wow!

2006 San Greal Red Supper Wine

2006 San Greal Red Supper WinePrice: $6.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the bottle “San Greal the French word for “Holy Grail” is derived from the ancient words sang real, translated to mean “royal blood”. Our “San Greal” Red Supper Wine is produced from our estate vineyards using sustainable farming practices. This wine displays brillant berry aromas with medium astringency and a long expansive finish.”

What I Think:

I hit it off with this wine as soon as I saw it on the shelf. Anytime a new label appears in the Trader Joe’s Wine aisle you know I am going to give it a look. So what did we have here? A red blend from Mendocino (everyone knows I am a big fan, right?) that is humble enough to call itself a “Red Supper Wine”. In the cart it goes. Landing on the San Greal Winery site the good vibes continued. It turns out that the San Greal label is under the Jeriko Estate umbrella which is owned and run by Danny Fetzer. Fetzer? Mendocino? Ring any bells? Danny’s brother Jim, as part of Ceago Vinegarden, was responsible for the 2006 Dynamic Mendocino Red Table Wine which was #1 on the Trader Joe’s Top 10 Wine List while it lasted. It appears Danny is taking a page out of his big brothers book. Actually, I have no idea who is the older brother but both are also fans of sustainable farming and have had their vineyards Demeter certified as biodynamic.

So what about the juice in the bottle? This one is a blend of 55% Syrah, 23% Merlot and 22% Sangiovese. The nose greets you with inviting dark red fruit and spices. On the palate I am immediately reminded of a Cote du Rhone offering. This one took a bit to open up, it was bottled in late February, but grew on me more and more with each sip over the four days I sampled it. Cherries mixed with blackberries coat the the palate while a proper dose of tannins keeps this perfectly balanced, that said it may be too acidic for some. This one has Top 10 potential and has at minimum joined my CdR rotation with the Perrin and J. Vidal-Fleury. Grab one of these and be on the lookout for other varietals from this label. Their website mentions a Pinot Noir and Cabernet as coming soon, hopefully they make it to Trader Joe’s! The Wine Traveler who had an inside scoop on this one, seems to think they may. Let me know if anyone sees them…

Rating: Buy It

2006 Bogle Petite Sirah

2006 Bogle Petite SirahPrice: $8.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per wine.com “First produced in 1978 by the Bogle family, Petite Sirah is considered Bogle’s “heritage” varietal. On the nose, luscious boysenberry teases you along with touches of black pepper and herbs. Trademark inky and jammy tones fill the mouth with ripe fruit and berries. The voluptuous finish lingers with toasty oak and lush fruit.

The firm tannins make this a wine that can develop for years to come, but you won’t want to wait that long to enjoy it! Try this unique wine with rich meat dishes of lamb, pork or game and their hearty sauces.”

What I Think:

I’ve always been curious about this one, have seen it at Trader Joe’s in the wine aisle for years but it was just a hair north of my normal price range and when the wallet opened wider it never seemed to make the cut. After catching it on Wine Library TV that was about to change quickly. Even more so when RJ’s Wine Blog gave it two thumbs up! Quickly in the cart it went…

Looking for an excuse to open it I remembered @GaryVee called it a pizza wine. Low and behold what was in the oven, before you can check the cork is out… The nose was loaded with dark fruit, pepper and an undertone of herbs (sage?). On the palate dark, toasty and inky with solid blueberry and cherry flavors that meet a nice earthy, leathery component in the mid palate. Progresses to a nice rich, smooth and balanced finish throughout with light tannins with flavors that keep on lingering. This wine has a great structure and is very well balanced throughout. The expected heat never arrives. Hands down the winner of the 4 recent Petite Sirah’s I’ve had. Trader Joe’s currently had two others in this price range, the Rendition and the Inheritance. Don’t waste your time. Easily a Top 10 all time Trader Joe’s wine. Buy this one 3 at a time…

Rating: Bulk Buy

2006 Vinum Cellars Clarksburg Petite Sirah Reserve

2006 Vinum Cellars Clarksburg Petite Sirah ReservePrice: $12.99 @ Whole Foods

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines “Nothing like a little inside joke to spark your curiosity. “Pets” is a nickname for Petite Sirah used by vet (veteran, not veterinarian) growers like Ken Wilson, who owns the vineyard where the fruit for this wine comes from. A portion of the profits for this wine will be donated to the San Francisco SPCA animal shelter in memory of Wilson’s dog, Tanker. Inky in color, this is wine that will leave a mark on your teeth and your memory. Notes of wet clay, lavender and clove lead into dark huckleberry fruit on the nose and palate. Subtle notes of vanilla cola linger on the finish. The wine had massive, teethcoating tannins and intense concentration to boot. It’s easy to see another correlation between this and pets, in the more traditional sense, it can easily become your new best friend.”

What I Think:

My curiosity on this one was easy to capture when my friend and colleague of RJ’s Wine Blog gave it a thumbs up and later ranked it as his #5 wine in his Top 10 of 2008 list. Couple his thumbs up with my enjoyment of all things Petite Sirah and it was an easy sale. In trying to tie this back to the winery site I found this PETS offering which seems to be the same, that said you can see my label clearly doesn’t match, can anyone confirm this is the same bottle?

Once the bottle made it home I was quick to open it. The nose was typical Petite Sirah. Initially, I was not to impressed. $13? Thinking immediately what do I have from Trader Joe’s to do a taste-off with… I felt this was tightly wound and full of tannins. To be certain it didn’t need some air I was sure to drink it over a few days, not much help. Full of dark but muted fruit and lacking the type of finish I expect from a Petite Sirah. I’m a fan of big and chewy but this one didn’t get it done. Even my wife, who rarely does so, gave it a thumbs down. Now, perhaps this is the case of the overhyped movie that ends up falling flat. Couple that with my dramatic rise in expectations with double digit price tags and this one may have had the chips stacked against it from the get go. Not bad by any means but at this price point I was expecting a bit more. That said feel free to give it a try, most love it. Perhaps I stand along on this one but I’ll spend my money elsewhere. Seen two Petite Sirahs at Trader Joe’s, one was the Rendition, I’ll give a try and see if it turns out better.

Rating: Pricey

2006 J. Vidal-Fleury Cotes du Rhone

2006 J. Vidal-Fleury Cotes du RhonePrice: $6.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by W.J. Deutsch & Sons

What They Said:

Per wine.com “Brilliant garnet red color. Red fruits and spices on the nose. The mouth reveals rounded tannins (thanks to the stay in the oak barrels), a warm and full-bodied wine with an uncommon and lasting aromatic intensity. The proof that Côtes-du-Rhône can be a serious and elegant wine.”

What I Think:

This wine seems to make an annual appearance at Trader Joe’s and stays briefly before disappearing until the next vintage. This time I grabbed a bottle before it had the chance. Sometimes you have a sense of a brand or label and this has always been one of those cases where I considered this a well pedigreed bottle of $7 wine. I knew J. Vidal-Fleury was an old and famed negociant firm (founded in 1781), what I didn’t know is that they were acquired by Etienne Guigal in 1985 which just further enhances the pedigree referred to above.

Shortly after this wine arrived in the house I pulled the cork out and was greeted by a peppery nose and red fruits aromas. The initial presence on the palate was a bit plain and hot (perhaps tannic) but as it transitioned to the mid-palate lush fruits appeared turning slightly sour as it lingered and was accompanied by white pepper notes on a light tannic finish. The blend seemed to be focused on the grenache side of the typical Cotes du Rhone blending combination thought I couldn’t find any information to validate that. Perhaps I will contact the importer.

This one lives up to its pedigree of being a nice, perfectly balanced blend with fruit and spice making it a good pairing for most spicy and/or meat dishes. I’ll be getting another bottle and would suggest you grab one to try as well…

Rating: Buy It

Editor’s Note (17-Jun-2009): Received an email from the importer that the blend percentage on this one is 50% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre and 10% Other.

2006 Navarro Brut Sparkling Wine

2006 Navarro Brut Sparkling WinePrice: $25.00 direct from the winery

What They Said:

Per Navarro Vineyards “Most winemakers focus on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay for sparkling wine but Navarro admits to a rebel streak. In 1989 we made our first sparkling Gewürztraminer and fans still ask when we’ll make more. This is our third bottling. We don’t make it every vintage because most years we are fairly confident that we will get our grapes to 24° Brix, perfect for our signature still Gewürz. In 2006 we weren’t sure. The vintage was cold and late and the grapes had already turned a lovely ripe, russet color at only 20° Brix. Just as importantly, it was one of the rare vintages where we had several blocks of Gewürztraminer with no millerandage; all the berries were normal-sized two-seeded berries. The ratio of free-run juice to skins was high, promoting fine flavors, clean aromas and high natural acidity, perfect for sparkling wine. We decided to celebrate with this bottling. We blended 10% Chardonnay into the cuvée to strengthen the wine’s backbone. Delicate peach and spice in the aromas and flavors combined with fresh baked-bread yeastiness and a dazzling citrusy finish. Silver Medal winner.”

What I Think:

Gewurzt, interesting. This one came in my last wine club shipment, only the 3rd time they’ve actually made it since 1989. Offers a nice sweetness that isn’t quite as cloyey as usual. Fizzing and yeasty with a bit of citrus on the backbone. Hints of crisp apple notes appear sporadically throughout. Full disclaimer, I’m not a huge fan of Champagne so dropping $25 is pretty much never in the picture. If that seems reasonable to you, definitely get this one. Certainly enjoyable, I’d just rather buy a nice bottle of red…

Rating: Pricey

2006 Dynamic Mendocino Red Table Wine

 2006 Dynamic Red Table WinePrice: $8.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per Ceago Vinegarden well not much about the wine but they did have this to say about biodynamic farming; “Our Vineyards are grown and certified Biodynamic by Demeter which adheres to the DYNAMIC farming methods established in the early 1920s by Rudolf Steiner. The Biodynamic Tower on our property is where, during cycles of the year, homeopathic teas are prepared to enhance and regulate plant growth and soil fertility which brings forward the unique qualities that this wine demonstrates. This is our commitment to you…think DYNAMIC!”

I’ll shoot the winery an email and see if they have any thoughts they want to share on the wine itself…

What I Think:

Another wine I have long enjoyed and yet to post. Being easily intrigued by new labels I was quickly drawn to this offering. Interesting label, from Mendocino, seemingly tasty blend and made with care for the environment. A lot to like, and despite the high $9 price point (anyway for me, especially at Trader Joe’s) in the cart it went. Upon getting home looked up Ceago Vinegarden who is behind the label and found that Jim Fetzer, who sold his eponymous label in 1992, is behind the offering which they are selling exclusively at Trader Joe’s. Reason #1,001 I love Trader Joe’s wine. The cheapest bottle Ceago Vinegardens sells on their site, $18. These grapes are biodynamic so you know they are coming from the same place and grown with the same care. Yes, I know the best of the bunch are used elsewhere but still you get the idea. These are high quality grapes. And I get to drink them for half the cost!

Onto the main event; the blend here is 55% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon. The nose immediately impresses with a blend of earthy tones and fruit aromas. On the tongue you take notice immediately as the fruit packs a punch, not that it is overpowering but there is a richness and warmth to it that grabs your attention. Towards the middle of the palate a nice earthy structure emerges and the fruit become chewy. A nice tanginess develops which leads to a lasting dry, earthy, lip smacking finish. The finish lingers on with light tannins tickling your throat and a hint of mint. I wouldn’t have thought the Merlot characteristics to be so subdued given it is the predominant grape in the blend. The Cab twins strike a nice balance and the overall result is impressive. I was surprised by the negative sentiments I found over on Cellar Tracker. This one is a winner in my book.

Hopefully TJ’s gets the sister offering from Lake County soon. I am already drooling thinking back to one of my all time favorite finds this Beringer Zin. Yes it is pricey but well worth it. If you see either of these grab them on sight. If your budget allows don’t be afraid to buy in quantity.

Rating: Buy It