2008 Blocks Sauvignon Blanc

Price: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Vinum Global

What They Said:

2008 Blocks Sauvignon BlancPer the bottle “Opening with cut grass and capsicum intermingling with passion fruit and finishing with guava, the nose shows the best of classic Marlborough Sauvignon. The palate is full of citrus with some hints of gooseberry and finishes with heady tropical fruits.”

What I Think:

My first thought in seeing an ’08 is that this has been aging in someone’s warehouse. I was hoping the URL on bottle would tell me where but that no longer resolves to a site. Perhaps a casualty of the ripples in the global economy? Likely so. Looks like it retailed for $16+ in its day. Was it worth it?

Golden straw in color with tropical fruit & green cut grass on the nose. Medium bodied this wine shows lemon stone fruits with hints of guava on the palate leading to a tight acidic backbone with a pleasing crispness. The finish is refreshing with a lasting pucker that leaves you smacking your lips and me thinking of a favorite childhood candy; Lemonheads. In a good way that is. Guessing we will never see the ’09 version of this one (based on my comments above) so buy this one while it lasts. I’ll be getting some more and think a blind tasting may be in order with the King Shag and Sauvignon Republic. Either way one thing is for certain; New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is the most dependable wine category Trader Joe’s carries. As matter fact it is time for me to try some $10+ options to see what it is (if anything) that I am missing out on. Stay tuned! In the meantime if you are so inclined grab a bottle of this one and let me know what you think.

Rating: Buy It

2008 Hamilton-Steven’s Pinot Noir

Price: $8.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2008 Hamilton-Steven's Pinot NoirPer the bottle Deep garnet red with spicy sweet aromas of dark plum, cedar and anise. Rich, complex flavors of cherry pie, spice and bittersweet chocolate finish silky smooth.

What I Think:

I think I was able to track this one back to Grove Street Winery who are affiliated with Windsor Vineyards where the Russian River Pinot goes for $28. I’m not insinuating this is the same wine by any stretch of the imagination but I think it is fair to say that there are resources being shared across this effort that give this bottling, at a third the cost, the potential to be a value play. Can the juice match the potential?

Great light, red strawberry color with the same on the nose coupled with cedar and spice. This one is on the attack bringing a full mouth feel straightaway. Lively acidity and brambly fruits turn juicy on the mid-palate leading to tart, under ripe fruits that mesh with barrel spices and warm tannins on the finish. Though it seems a tad nitpicky there is a bit of a hot spot toward the back of the mid-palate that throws this one momentarily out of sorts. That is enough to keep me from loving this wine but it is still a pleasant, smooth drinking Pinot Noir for $9 which leaves you nothing to complain about. Not to mention it is light years better than the Chateau Chevalier which goes for a buck more. If you are looking for a go to Pinot in this price range you should give this one a try. Otherwise if you already have one I’d love to hear all about it!

Rating: Buy It

2008 Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare

2008 Bonny Doon Vin Gris de CigarePrice: $9.99 @ Cost Plus

What They Said:

Per Bonny Doon Vineyard “Fresh and bright with a pale pink color and a soupçon of blue rose. Hints of wild strawberry, white cherry, apple blossom, and the barest whiff of spearmint. Palate is quite dry and zesty with pale red fruits, blood orange, citrus and a lean yet supple finish. Another excellent example of our skill with Rosé, the 2008 has a greater quantity of grenache than previously yet it’s the cinsault and roussanne which really shine; adding complex notes of stone fruit and the nuanced texture of old vines. Delicious today but will develop added richness and aroma with an additional 6-12 months of bottle age.”

What I Think:

Surprisingly this is my first offering from Randall Grahm’s Bonny Doon Vineyards. Randall is known and called many things but he is always creative and sometimes eccentric in my mind. And best of all he is always pushing the boundaries of traditional thinking. From advocating for full “ingredient” listings being disclosed (beyond the grapes this includes tartaric acid, and sulfur dioxide with indigenous yeast, yeast nutrients, bentonite and French oak barrels used in the winemaking process) to trying to accelerate the process of creating terroir-driven wine in new regions it seems he is always up to something that captures my attention. Dos Equis: the most interesting man in the wine worldGiven that it is no surprise that I can’t help but think of him whenever I come across a Dos Equis advertisement as he is certainly the “most interesting man in the wine world”.

So what about that wine? This offering is a blend of 58% Grenache, 18% Cinsault, 10% Roussanne, 7% Mourvèdre, 4% Syrah and 3% Grenache Blanc. Reddish/salmon in color with loads of strawberry on the nose. On the palate it adds in flavors of the patch from whence they came on a floral/stony backbone. This fuller bodied Rose is dry on the mid-palate with enough acidity to keep it well balanced and delivers a tart, crisp finish. No quaffing allowed here! This one is a well made with enough to ponder on its own and the ability to pair with a meal should you desire. At $10 I’ll be revisiting this again throughout the summer. In fact if you’ll excuse me I believe I have a bottle chilled in the refrigerator right now…

Rating: Buy It

And as an added bonus for those wondering what to pair this with Viviane Bauquet Farre recommends a heirloom tomato caprese salad (and offers her thoughts on the Vin Gris de Cigare). This is a match I will surely have to try!

2008 Porcupine Ridge Syrah

Price: $9.99 @ K&L Wines imported by Vineyard Brands

What They Said:

2008 Porcupine Ridge SyrahPer K&L Wines: 89 points Wine Enthusiast: “This Syrah has a rustic but elegant nature: aromas of raspberry, black pepper, smoked sausage and cloves prevail, while full-bodied but integrated flavors of anise, pepper and berry follow. The wine is robust but has a velvety character and a spicy finish.” (11/09) And, according to Wine Spectator: “Fresh, with an iron note running through the black tea, braised fig and dark cherry fruit notes. There’s a nice plush edge to the open-knit finish. Drink now.” (12/09)

What I Think:

Fresh off the heels of my South African tasting adventures I headed over to K&L Wines to pick up some Wolftrap & Man Vinters Chenin Blanc. Alas they were out of both. Fortunately they had this one which was recommended courtesy of @winewithjameson (who shared some excellent pictures from the winery to boot!). So what did we have here…

A bit green with hot stewed plums on the nose. The oak is apparent on the palate with unripe brambly, berry fruits up front that fall apart as the acidity becomes a bit overbearing on the mid palate. This wine is juicy and spicy throughout with a sharp finish showing black pepper while oscillating between hot and dry. The bottle already showed a healthy bit of sediment on the finish leading me to believe this one was unfiltered. A quality offering, with characteristics you can’t find in something like the 12 Apostles, but still not quite worthy of a repeat for me. That said my thirst for tasting more of the wines from South Africa remains. Stay tuned for more as the World Cup is less than three weeks away!

Rating: Pricey

2008 Chook Shed Shiraz

2008 Chook Shed ShirazPrice: $7.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Aussie Wine Direct

What They Said:

Per The Province “On the other end of the red wine spectrum -both in geography and style -this new bottle from Down Under plays rock ‘n’roll on the tastebuds. Chook Shed is unapologetically 100 per cent Barossa Valley Shiraz, ripe and opulent with plum, blackberries and cracked pepper. Completely approachable in a generous fruit-forward style, it will play well to a crowd. Better get the barbecue ready, this Shiraz is ready to take on all grilled fare.”

What I Think:

Dark purple in color this one has red fruit, vanilla notes and barrel spices on the nose. Great, inky smooth mouthfeel on entry this one starts nicely balanced. The acidity here is firm,on the cusp of being overbearing but the fruit holds it off to deliver a nice warm, tangy, tannic finish. While not a standout this wine is well made and I’m tempted to grab another bottle. That said I might rather just roll the dice on something else instead. If you are a Shiraz fan definitely give it a try and let me know what you think!

Rating: Pricey

2008 Rabbit Ridge Allure de Robles

2008 Rabbit Ridge Allure de RoblesPrice: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

As many of you know I’ve long been a fan of the Allure de Robles so I was excited to hear from the winemaker, Erich Russell, that the 2008 vintage would be hitting Trader Joe’s shelves soon. He also had this to say: “The good news is that there is way less alcohol 14.8 instead of 15.3 on the 2007. There are less harsh tannins making the wine even more balanced. This vintage has been the fastest selling vintage around the United States of any Allure de Robles. There is very little Petite Sirah in this vintage and much more Grenache. The very bad news is that since this wine was selling so fast around the country Trader Joes will be getting about 25% less than the 2007.” With Erich’s warning I grabbed a bunch as soon as I saw it.

What I Think:

The nose is big and full of, well I want to say jamberry bramble. Given that is from one of the many children’s books I have memorized why don’t I say brambly red and blackberry aromas so it is more comprehensible. With the wine in my glass I readied myself for the fruit explosion but it never materialized. The front of the palate is loaded with earthy, red fruits on a vanilla bean backbone. These fruits are balanced by a black pepper acidity which not only keeps them in check but dominates the back end of the palate and lingers on through the finish. This wine is much truer to it Rhone style than the previous vintage. I wonder how much lower (’07 was ~28%) on the Syrah/Petite Sirah, I’ll shoot Erich an email and see if I can’t get the final blend percentage. This one is smooth and easy to drink, my favorite yet! Stock up while you can and grab this one next time you are headed out to fire up the grill…

Rating: Bulk Buy

2008 Chariot Gypsy

We interupt this regularly scheduled post for a public service announcement; there have been confirmed sightings of the Gypsy up the coast in both Portland and Seattle. This concludes the use of the emergency broadcast system.

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2008 Chariot GypsyPer Chariot Wines “The Chariot Gypsy 2008 is a delicious blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel and Sangiovese from great vineyards in the Napa Valley, Sonoma, San Joachin, and Monterey counties. It displays a dark garnet color with a clear violet edge. It shows mixed fresh berry aromas — raspberry and strawberry, with hints of white pepper and pastry. Very clean and lively with juicy berry fruit, firm acidity and a touch of smooth tannin. Excellent and versatile food wine particularly well suited for pork chops and poultry. We think it is the perfect everyday red wine!”

What I Think:

Ah, the long lost post. I had grand plans for this one until the day job threw them to roost. When Steve asked last week where it was I decided it was time to close the loop here. So let’s take a quick trip down memory lane.

My going in question was can they maintain the quality as they expand the production. As a reminder the demand for ‘07 vintage was so high they produced two lots. Given I have seen many of my other Trader Joe’s favorites journey this road to mediocrity I feel I have reason to be skeptical. When it arrived, I headed out to grab some straight away and video blogged my first sips from the parking lot. My take was that the ’08 was juicy, fruit forward and a nice easy quaffer. Now that the wine has had a few months in the bottle and I’ve gotten to sample it a few times what’s my take?

The nose is pleasant showing red fruit, oak/barrel and clove notes. The palate starts with jammy, ripe berry flavors. Towards the mid-palate the fruit becomes slightly flabby before being wiped away by an unexpected lively, racy acidic backbone that is full of white pepper. The finish is of bright, tart raspberries. This one is warm and ever so slightly sweet (less so than the ’07) throughout which make the connotations of the “cherry coke” of wine more true than false. That said, given the acidity it may be better suited for pizza than an early evening on the patio. And for me that is what this one is a simple, straight forward Tuesday night wine that is easy to drink. For $5 this is more than you should expect, use it accordingly and you aren’t likely to be disappointed.

For more on this one check out this great take from Viva la Wino!

Rating: Buy It (while you can)

2008 Sebastopol Hills Pinot Noir

Price: $9.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2008 Sebastopol Hills Pinot NoirNada, the bottle said absolutely nothing. So the detective work began and I think I found my new best friend. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) COLA (Certificate of Label Approval) registry where a search returned these results. This led me to the Owl Ridge Wines which happens to be located in Sebastopol. Once here, Google helped me locate some text near the bottom of the page referencing people to their affiliated winery, Willowbrook Cellars , for information on outstanding Pinot Noirs. A visit there led me to their online store which had a 2008 Sonoma County Pinot on offer with the alcohol content listed as 14.5%, wouldn’t you know it the same as the Sebastopol Hills. Do we have conclusive evidence? Nope, though I have emailed the winery seeking confirmation and will report back if we do. For those that believe we have corroborated enough facts you can find more information about the Willowbrook offering on the winery website where their Sonoma County offering goes for $24.

What I Think:

So what about the wine itself? I opened this with hamburgers on the menu and it’s a beauty. You’re greeted with blueberry, herbs and mint on the nose. The palate delivers deep fruit flavors on a well balanced and structured profile. A nice acidity emerges late in the mid-palate and leads to a dry, herbal lingering finish. This one has some very nice depth and length to it. I need to grab a few more bottles of this one before it disappears…

Rating: Buy It

2008 Il Valore Sangiovese

Price: $2.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Americal Beverage Group

What They Said:

2008 Il Valore SangiovesePer the bottle “This 100% Sangiovese wine from the Puglia region is smooth and fruity with a touch of red berries.”

What I Think:

I had this one a while back and promised to revisit it. I did so, beginning with the label. Sangiovese traditionally hails from Tuscany, the center of the Italian wine world. This one, however, comes from the heel of the boot in Puglia which is located on the southern Italian peninsula. Wonder what the difference in terroir might mean…

With spaghetti squash pasta on the table I decided to take the opportunity to find out. The nose is muted. The palate delivers racy acid that settles nicely with food showing dried cherry & herb notes. This likely isn’t one those new to wine would enjoy and I wouldn’t recommend drinking it on its own. While complimenting its merits I was reminded of a comment I saw from joshiemac on RJ’s Wine Blog. Prior to that I would have called this one a nice table wine, but think joshiemac’s nice cooking wine is much more appropriate. This isn’t something to impress your friends with but it is a perfect wine for sipping while simmering some spaghetti sauce…

If you’re interested in another take check out what The Gourmez had to say about this one.

Rating: Buy It

2008 Spiral Wines Chardonnay

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2008 Spiral Wines ChardonnayPer Trader Joe’s Holiday Guide “Affable, quaffable – this is a Chardonnay that balances acidity, body and flavors gracefully. Having aged for 8 months in French & American Oak, it has a round mouthfeel that spirals in complexity serving to highlight the fruit driven character of the wine. It delivers floral aromas and flavors of crisp green apple, fresh cut peaches… a touch of honey. Elegantly framed by hints of spice, vanilla and toasted oak – it serves well with a holiday meal.”

What I Think:

I covered what I knew about the Spiral Wines label earlier. As mentioned there, this one seems to be a sourced concoction. Are you interested in my take? I find this one full of nectarines but lacking a crispness and/or acid to balance this one out. Fruity and flabby in my opinion though perhaps I should try another bottle before passing judgment. That said the VINTJS is much better for the $ in my humble opinion. What do you think?

Rating: Skip It