2007 Roustabout Meritage

2007 Roustabout MeritagePrice: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the bottle “With silky tannins and exceptional texture, this wine opens with notes of black cherries, wild blueberries and cigar box, finishing with nuances of dark chocolate and espresso. Serve with food made by your own hand. Decant for up to an hour.”

What I Think:

Yet another find from the folks over at the Central Coast Wine Warehouse. Looking at the blend percentage I once again start dreaming of a follow-up to the Franc Merlot. Could it deliver on that potential? Let’s check the notes…

(14%) 56% Cabernet Franc, 26% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Petite Verdot, 2% Malbec – Dark purple in color with brown sugar, blackberry fruit and spice on the nose. This one starts smooth with juicy blueberry flavors and silky tannins. Towards the middle the fruit turns jammy and slightly sweet before starting to dry out with nice cedar notes. The finish shows sweet tobacco and dry, tangy tannins. A true successor (or as close as we can hope for) to the aforementioned Franc Merlot. This one is nice, warm and comforting. A wine well suited for a winter evening. I’m so close to loving this one… Just a bit more acidity to see this through on the finish and I am buying by the case. Despite that I’ll still be grabbing a few more on my next visit as this is a enjoyable wine for the price.

Rating: Buy It

*a quick footnote here that this is a review of the ’07. It looks like the ’08 may be available in some areas as well. I have yet to try that vintage. If you have let us know what you think!

2007 Picket Fence Pinot Noir

Price: $8.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2007 Picket Fence Pinot NoirPer Picket Fence “This wine has an elegant, pure fruit forward style with the brilliant intensity of rich mouthwatering Bing cherry, blackberry and spice. The luxurious density, beautiful structure and velvety texture on the palate are hallmarks of this vintage and make this wine a superlative example of Russian River Valley Pinot.” – Don Van Staaveren, Winemaker

What I Think:

Really? The winery is selling this one for $30 a bottle on their site (see above link). As if that isn’t bad enough they are making you buy 3 bottles at a time. Typically (warning marketing speak ahead) customers that buy direct are your most valuable (and deliver the highest profit margin). They deserve special consideration instead of getting an extra $20 lifted out of their wallet for each bottle. If I am a winery and I have to unload wine I am making sure that I am sharing those same prices with my most loyal customers. I could go on and on about how wrong this is on so many levels. That said I’ll spare you. Let’s get to the wine…

Warm spice and tart cranberry notes on the nose. The palate starts with surprising weight given how light it looks in the glass. This wine is wound tight with cranberry flavors that merge with bright cherry overtones. The mid-palate shows flashes of cola acidity to keep it nicely balanced. From there the barrel notes emerge and lead to a nice creamy, vanilla finish.

Most Pinots in this price range are what I refer to as “on steroids” with heavier grapes (e.g. Petite Sirah) blended in (see Fin, Blue). This one is a very nice example of what much more expensive Pinot’s deliver. Load up (if you can) and pop one open whenever the mood strikes you. Better yet if you are looking for a Thanksgiving wine on a budget (it is November) look no further!

Rating: Buy It <- And I'm not the only one who thinks so. Interested in reading more about the Picket Fence Pinot Noir? Check out what Robert Dwyer had to say over on the Wellesley Wine Press.

2007 Sterling Vineyards Organic Cabernet Sauvignon

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2007 Sterling Vineyards Organic Cabernet SauvignonPer the bottle “The organically grown grapes selected for this wine are farmed using natural techniques free from artificial chemicals or pesticides. Set against the dramatic and beautiful backdrop of Mendocino County on California’s North Coast, these organic vineyards produce fresh fruit with pure, exceptional flavors. This Cabernet Sauvignon shows flavors of juicy blackberry, currant and plum, with hints of espresso and toffee.”

What I Think:

This one came double recommended by Jerry and Angela so you know I had to give it a try. While Sterling Vineyards doesn’t recognize this (on their site) they do have the Chardonnay (89 Points Wine Enthusiast) under the same label available for $13 bones. The Cab seems to be available on the broader market for $14-18. So is it worth $5?

Yes it is! Nice minty nose laden with fruit and barrel notes followed by juicy fruit on the palate. Blackberries lead the way while being held in balance by a firm, acidic backbone. Surprisingly full bodied given its 13% ABV (light by Cab standards). The finish shows more of the same juiciness with some dry tannins and dusty chocolate notes. An easy sipper for sure. Need more proof? I’ve finished three bottles in a little more than a week. While I’m a big fan of this wine I am guessing it is may show too much acidity for many of you out there. That said for $5 I would encourage you to try this it and let me know. As for myself I’m going to try and grab a bunch more soon. Get it while you can! All that and I have still yet to mention that this one deserves extra credit for having a screw top… Thanks again to Angela and Jerry for the tip on this one!

Rating: Buy It

2007 Vinum Cellars Petite Sirah

Price: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2007 Vinum Cellars Clarksburg Petite Sirah ReservePer Wine Spectator “Appealing for its bright and juicy red and black fruit flavors, with a smooth texture and vivid spice, cola and toast details. Gains some tannic traction on the finish. Drink now through 2016. 8,000 cases made.” (87 points, $14) — M.W.

What I Think:

A few months back Andy gave me the heads up that they had this one in stock. I had previously tried the ’06 which I picked up via a recommendation for $13 18 months or so ago. My impression then was that while this wine was good it did not deliver on a double digit price point. Granted, I expect a lot there! Seeing this at Trader Joe’s for more than 50% off I figured it was worth giving this one another shot. Since then I’ve had a couple bottles of this but had yet to review as I kept expecting it to disappear much like the Chenin Blanc (which I enjoyed!) did. But to my surprise this one was still smiling from the shelves on my most recent shopping trip so I figured it was due time to share my thoughts.

Big nose loaded with aromas of black olives. This wine is thick & inky in the glass. On that palate you are greeted with juicy, slightly under ripe, blueberry flavors on a tight, acidic structure. Big, toasty tannins emerge very early on the mid palate before giving way to loads of black pepper on an overly dry (and slightly sour) finish. This wine is tightly wound throughout and I don’t think that is meant to change (even with aging). Still not my favorite but guessing many will see it as a lot of wine for the money. For my palate I would pair this one with a rich foods or strong cheeses to help smooth out the tannins. If I grab another bottle I’ll let you know how that goes. In the mean time I would love to hear your thoughts…

Rating: 12th Bottle

2007 Concannon Central Coast Petite Sirah

2007 Concannon Central Coast Petite SirahPrice: $6.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per Concannon “Bright blackberry and raspberry fruit aromas and flavors mingle with hints of nutmeg and toasty oak. Full body and nice complexity.”

What I Think:

Warm fruit and barrel spice on the nose. In the mouth you are greeted with under ripe, juicy blueberry flavors. This one could use just a little more depth or a touch more fruit as acidity leaves the mid-palate a bit tart. The finish is dry and toasty with chewy soft tannins that linger on. Not the rich flavor profile I’ve come to expect from a Petite Sirah but well made and fairly priced at $7. Just lacking that little something to get me to pull the trigger on buying this one again.

Rating: 12th Bottle

2007 Sonoma Vineyards Chardonnay

2007 Sonoma Vineyards ChardonnayPrice: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the bottle “Our Sonoma Vineyards chardonnay is unoaked, forward and fresh, brimming with juicy ripe fruit like tropical pineapple and wild mountain pears. N o need for a lemon squeeze, you’ll discover plenty of citrus and maybe even apricot as you sip through the rich, lovely layers. Experience Sonoma County first hand with every sip of our 2007 Chardonnay.”

What I Think:

A Rodney Strong label in disguise this is a rare Chardonnay that resonates with me in both style and price ($6). Crisp on entry, it holds through the mid-palate. From there white (pear) fruits briefly appear before being overtaken by a very nice lemon, citrus component which delivers a tart, refreshing finish. Beautifully balanced, no oak, no butter and you can taste fruit! This may be my new favorite Chard, my wife will be thrilled…

Rating: Buy It

2007 Luna Vineyards Freakout

2007 Luna Vineyards FreakoutPrice: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per Luna Vineyards “The 2007 Freakout is a light golden color, with an enticing nose of ripe pear and hints of lemon. On the palate, the mouthwatering acidity of lemon zest mingles with baked bread and coconut milk, accented by a good dose of minerality. The finish is a delicious blend of pears and vanilla.”

What I Think:

This one is a white blend of 35% Chardonnay, 33% Pinot Grigio, 25% Sauvignon Blanc and 7% Ribolla Gialla. The winery site, where you will find this one for $16, has some great information on the individual vineyards these grapes are sourced from. The most interesting note is on the Ribolla Gialla which I know as Robola from the time I spent in Greece when I was introduced to the varietal during my visit to Gentilini. The Ribolla Gialla in this bottling is sourced from Elsa’s Vineyard in Napa Valley which is proclaimed to be the only vineyard in America planted with this varietal. So what’s in the bottle?

Floral on the nose, the Sauvignon Blanc dominates early. The palate starts crisp with lemon and floral notes emerging towards the middle and carrying through to the finish. While clean and simple this one lacks the acidity that would make it a go-to summer quaffer in my house. That said, guessing many others will like this more than I do. Certainly nothing wrong with this one for $6, give it a try and let me know what you think.

Rating: 12th Bottle

2007 Trinchero Family Riesling

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2007 Trinchero Family RieslingPer Trinchero “The nose is a seductive blend of honeysuckle and white peaches. Green apple, kiwi and banana mingle on the palate. The hint of residual sugar is perfectly balanced with sufficient acidity to display a nice long tropical fruit finish. This is not the typical sweet-style California Riesling—it is clean, and not cloying.”

What I Think:

Floral, honeyed and a bit syrupy on the nose. This one was overly sweet to go with the chicken I prepared. Based on the wineries description this was not what I was hoping for. That said, not bad either. For the 2nd bottle I’ll stick to my traditional spicy Asian food pairing here as this one does not have a hint of crispness. All that said, I’m not likely to buy this one again.

Rating: Skip It

2007 Vinum Cellars Chenin Blanc

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2007 Vinum Cellars Chenin BlancPer Vinum Cellars “Clarksburg might be called the Chenin Blanc capital of California, and this polished wine shows why. It’s completely dry and mouthwateringly crisp in acidity, with interesting flavors of citrus fruits, ripe fresh green beans, spices and vanilla. Try as an alternative to Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc.” – 88 Points – S.H. Wine Enthusiast Magazine, October 1, 2009

“Fragrant lemongrass and lemon-lime flavors are light-bodied, crisp and refreshing, with fresh-cut grass and herb notes echoing on the finish. Drink now. 4,500 cases made.” – 86 Points – MW
Wine Spectator, June 15, 2009

What I Think:

What does CNW stand for? Chard-No-Way! A wine after my own heart and I agree it is nothing like a chardonnay. This one is very clean in color and on the nose as well as the palate. Lemon prevalent throughout, in a curdish, custard like manner. It has a solid structure with racy acidity. Maybe some food could tease out more flavor? Still quite refreshing, would be great in the summer heat on its own. It’s good but I really wanted it to be better than that. Almost like a Sauvignon Blanc without the tangy finish. I bought three bottles on sight and am likely to grab a few more for the summer. Feel free to consider doing the same…

Rating: Buy It

2007 MacMurray Central Coast Pinot Noir

Price: $13.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2007 MacMurray Central Coast Pinot Noir90 points Wine Enthusiast: Currently hard and tart in acids and tannins, but loaded with sweet, ripe fruit, this Pinot is silky enough to drink now, which most consumers probably will. But if you give it until sometime in 2010, the cherries, cola, sandalwood and spices will mesh and improve.” (12/09)

89 points Wine Spectator Review: Ripe, floral, perfumed aromas of black cherry and raspberry are pure and zesty. Full-bodied, balanced and delicate, showing just the right touch of acidity and tannins, with pleasant mineral and earth notes. Drink now through 2012.

What I Think:

As you know Trader Joe’s has been flush in reasonably priced, well made Pinot. It started with the Castle Rock, then the Caretaker to the Davis Bynum followed by the Sebastopol Hills…you get the idea. And I haven’t even tried the Lane Tanner offerings yet! Next on that list is this MacMurray Ranch which is part of the Gallo brand portfolio. Suggested retail price on this bottle is $24 and it primarily sourced from the Olson Ranch in the Santa Lucia Highlands. What about the juice inside you say…

This one is like sticking your nose in a berry patch, complete with leaf and brambly accents. Very inviting begs you to dive in and delivers loads of juiciness when you do. Nice acidity emerges towards the mid-palate and is balanced by a nice cranberry component that is present throughout. The finish is tart but pleasant (reminded me exactly of Ocean Spray Cranberry juice) and has a spicy (clove) kick that lingers on long after you have put the glass down. A nice wine that delivers on the price point. That said I would go lower than the 90 from Wine Enthusiast and maybe even the 89 from Wine Spectator on this one. My ultimate gauge, would I buy it again? For $10 I would. At $14 I’m on the fence, we will see next time I hit the store!

Rating: Pricey