2009 Sebastopol Hills Pinot Noir

Price: $9.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2009 Sebastopol Hills Pinot NoirPer Trader Joe’s Food Pilgrimager “Last year, our buyers procured a limited quantity of Sebastopol Hills Pinot for an unmatched in the market price. As quickly as the word got out, the wine ran out. It happens. But it also happens that because we approach our partnerships with respect and prompt payment, we were able to do it again! (It helps, too, that we prefer a great price per bottle to a prominent vineyard on a label.) Our Sonoma County Sebastopol Hills Pinot Noir is ripe and fleshy. Aged in French oak for 10 months, it’s well structured. And at $9.99 for a 750 ml bottle, it’s very well priced.”

What I Think:

As mentioned in my review of the ’08 I was able to trace this offering back to Willowbrook Cellars where their standard bottle goes for $24. I was a fan of the ’08 but am always apprehensive when the next vintage arrives (see below for my reasoning). Given that I was curious to see how the ’09 would play out. Here were my notes…

(14.5%) Loads of orange rind, currant and cranberries on the nose. Medium to full bodied on the palate with juicy blueberry fruit and more orange rind flavors along the edges. The mouth feel is smooth and creamy showing just a bit of heat from the barrel. The finish is short but pleasant and lingers on warmly. Given the big fruit and big style (what I call “Pinot on Steroids” which I think I lifted from @RobertDwyer) I suspect this one is getting some help from another varietal or two. A nice wine for sure but I prefer the Picket Fence which I felt was a bit more varietally correct (and it’s a buck cheaper). That said if that weren’t available I’d probably be grabbing some more of this one.

Now back to my new vintage apprehension. When comparing this to the previous vintage I’m guessing the ’08 was the real deal. As in a wine that was made from day one with the intention of being labeled “Willowbrook Cellars”. On the other hand I’m guessing this one was made for Trader Joe’s from the get go. That would likely mean two things: 1) trying to scale production while 2) trying to maintain the price point. And therein lies the conundrum of a successful wine offering at Trader Joe’s From that perspective they did a pretty admirable job of maintaining quality while scaling production. Wonder what the 2010 will be like…

Rating: Pricey

Interested in reading more about the Sebastopol Hills Pinot Noir?

  • Good Cheap Vino prefers the Sebastopol Hills to the Picket Fence
  • WineBites likes the Sebastopol Hills but wishes they had made a wine with more subtle complexity

2009 Trader Joe’s Petit Reserve Cabernet Franc

2009 Trader Joe's Petit Reserve Cabernet FrancPrice: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the bottle “The cool nights and warm days of Paso Robles bring out savory currant and dry cranberry nuances in our Petit Reserve Cabernet Franc.”

What I Think:

I’m not exactly sure why I had such high hopes for this one but something made me buy three bottles on sight. Granted I am a big fan of Cab Franc but that is some aggressive buying. Did it pay off? Let’s see…

Made by Familia Nueva Vineyards this one is light purple with translucent violet on the edges and has a pleasant nose of berries and spice. The palate starts nice with dried cranberry notes but quickly turns thin and becomes disjointed. On the finish heavy barrel driven tannins emerge with only a hint of the sour cherry fruit surviving. Even if it survived in full glory this one leaves a lot to be desired. I bought three of these hoping for good things. I am now plotting on how I can return the other two. I suggest you steer clear but if you happen to give this one a try I would love to hear your thoughts.

Rating: Skip It

2009 Laurent Reverdy Sancerre

2009 Laurent Reverdy SancerrePrice: $9.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Latitude Wines

What They Said:

De nada which comes as no surprise given the importer here, Latitude wines, only handles import and logistics for Trader Joe’s. Given that I would love to hear the story of how this one ended up on the shelves of my local store. Does Trader Joe’s send buyers to France to scout out these bargain offerings? If so I clearly have the wrong job…

What I Think:

When something comes recommended from Angela you have to try it (the Trader Joe’s Reserve Carneros Pinot Noir is on deck). Given the conversations we have had over the last years I could count the palates I trust more on one hand. So when she gave the word I headed straight out to scoop up a bottle of this one. What did I find?

Mineral, fresh grass and loads of lemon on the nose. You get more of the same on the palate where you find mild white pepper overtones as well. Slight pucker emerges but quickly fades into a tangy, balanced finish. I haven’t had much Sauvignon Blanc from France but this finish surprised me. The acidity on this one was not overpowering which is different from what I generally see in the new world offerings (which I typically drink) from New Zealand or Chile. This made it come across as somewhat “refined” and makes it quite food friendly. At $10 this wine, while straightforward, is very well made and delivers a fair quality to price ratio. If you are a fan of or interested in Sancerre (or are interested in a mellower version of Sauvignon Blanc) this one is certainly worth a try…

Rating: Pricey

What did others think about the Laurent Reverdy Sancerre? Here’s Jeff’s thoughts from over at Viva La Wino

Summer Stash: And the winner is…

Thanks to those that have been following along as I have been cleaning out my Summer Stash. We started with 50+ wines and revealed the final four yesterday which meant there was just one more remaining. With almost the same anticipation as the Wine Spectator 2010 Wine of the Year I am ready to reveal the results. But which should I tell first? The wine or the story….

Let’s go with the story. First I’m not sure who I have given more pet nicknames. This wine or my daughter. I’ve called it “Sunshine”, my favorite was “The Weekend” and my latest with colder weather on the horizon has been “Summer”. Needless to say I have never had a wine that has been more “fun”. It practically begs to be shared with friends; wine geeks first but so enough anyone who will listen! Can I get a drum roll please…

2009 Natural Process Alliance Sauvignon Blanc

I’m sure this isn’t a surprise for many. I first experienced the NPA at a Vintank event earlier this summer and have been smitten by it ever since. Here’s my latest and greatest tasting notes; “(12.8%) Rusty, burnt orange in color (clearly not filtered) almost like the most beautiful sunset you’ve ever seen. The nose in and of itself is so enjoyable I could spend an hour on it; pineapple, guava, definitely a crazy juicy fruit concoction going on here. On the palate you need to expect the unexpected. Given how big this one is on the nose you are in no way overpowered on the palate. Nice acidity and minerality merges with the aforementioned fruit; as well as nectarine, grapefruit and lime. This absolutely bursts with flavor that last straight through a refreshing finish. So much going on here it’s hard to harness it all… It does what I expect of all wines I love. It keeps me contemplating. And even better makes me not want to write… I look just as forward to dissecting my next bottle of this one as much as I did my first! Hard to believe the excitement has yet to wear off. Here’s to hoping it never does!”2009 Natural Process Alliance Sauvignon Blanc

There you have it. Have you been lucky enough to try the NPA Sauvignon Blanc? Yeah I forgot to mention the downside to this one. It is more or less only available at the winery but for those that live nearby check their restaurant list (@theNPAhardy is that up to date?) where you can at least score a glass… Hope you enjoyed the Summer Stash series. I would love to hear your thoughts via the comments below.

*this wine was purchased with money from my wallet. Many, many, many times…

2009 Trader Joe’s Petite Verdot Reserve

2009 Trader Joe's Petit Verdot ReservePrice: $9.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the bottle not a thing. Even more surprisingly given the label I was astonished to learn this one was made by the folks at Central Coast Wine Warehouse whom regualar readers will recognize as one of my favorite producers in the Trader Joe’s wine aisle. That said everyone appears to be keeping tight lips on this offering. The best I was able to find is that the 2006 (and I believe the ’07) were grown and bottled by Ancient Peaks Winery, whose Petite Verdot retails for over $30. Was the 2009 as well? If anyone out there has any information to share please send it my way…

What I Think:

This came highly recommended from a few of my Trader Joe’s insiders (Angela and Matt) so you know I had to give it a try. This one starts rich, plush and velvety with blackberry fruit before grippy tannins emerge and intermingle with peppery spices that last through a lingering finish that dries your mouth straight to a pucker. I like it! Reminds me that I need to be drinking more of this varietal. Given the price point this is a great first bottle to explore but I’m thinking I want to expand my Petite Verdot horizons with my next purchase. Perhaps revisiting this Urbano Cellars I enjoyed late last year would be prudent. How about you all out there? Any favorite Petite Verdot’s to point me in the direction of?

Rating: Pricey

2009 Emergence White

2009 Emergence WhitePrice: $6.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the bottle “In the soil of Paso Robles this traditional cuvee reaches a new elevation. Classic in style with bright acidity, prevalent minerality and rich, round midpalate, Emergence possesses a bouquet of red grapefruit zest, ripe melon, muddled lime and warmed marzipan. This precocious wine pairs easily with vegetable Marsala burgers, grilled chicken sausages or Pad Prik King.”

What I Think:

This one is a blend of 33% Grenache Blanc, 29% Marsanne, 25% Viognier and 13% Roussanne. Certainly a mix of white grapes from off the beaten path. That said the bottle calls this a “traditional cuvee”. Really? Where? Now the wine world is big and I could very well be sticking my foot in my mouth but I’m calling BS here. All that aside this one is made by the folks over at Central Coast Wine Warehouse who have delivered their fair share of winners. That said I tried the red and while it delivered for the price point it didn’t do much more. So how about the white? This one started with dissenting opinions from two trusted palates. Danny on the downside found it bland and CabFrancophile found it to be exciting. Staring at the 14.5% ABV I was curious as to what my take would be.

You are greeted with a big, rich floral blast on the nose. On the palate this one is viscous, almost sweet, with flavors of peaches and cantaloupe before a nice acidity (though I would prefer more) emerges to keep this one in balance. The finish is mineral driven, though slightly hot (14.5%), and pleasant. For me this one is made for food as it doesn’t have the crispness or acidity to meet my refreshment criteria. That said I’m still a fan. I’ll grab another bottle and see if I can’t figure out a good pairing for this one. Stay tuned!

Rating: Buy It

2009 VINTJS Pinot Noir

2009 VINTJS Pinot NoirPrice: $8.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per Wine by Joe (on the 2008 which goes for $19 on the winery site) “Listen to the fine and enticing “snap-crack” of the seal as you twist it off. Put the Band-Aids back in the medicine cabinet… this aint no cork sealed wine. This wine slips into your mouth with gorgeous rich blackberry aromas with a touch of leather, too. The flavors mirror the aromas with a soft and velvety mouthfeel which wraps around your tongue delivering the impression of sweetness from the soft ripe tannins. I know what you are thinking… How can Joe deliver such a good Oregon Pinot Noir for the money you are asking!!?? Yes, I know, you want to drink more…”

What I Think:

I found this Willamette offering from the same maker as the recently reviewed Pinot Gris and, as Gary Vee would say, I decided to give it a whirl. How did it go?

Faint in color at the core and almost brown on the edges this one is light from the get go. Bright on the nose this one starts nicely showing racy acidity which leads to tart cranberry and orange rind flavors before giving way to a slightly harsh finish. That’s the best that can be said. On the flip side I might look at this one as thin, sour and under ripe. Whereas the Pinot Gris was well made I don’t get that sense here as it seems disjointed at times. Not enough Jekyll & too much Hyde for me. I won’t be buying this one again. Anyone have a recent favorite Pinot favorite in this price range to share?

Rating: Skip It

2009 Overlake Chardonnay

Price: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2009 Overlake ChardonnayPer the bottle “Classic Chardonnay in style. Toasty oak and vanilla lead to green apple and lemon drop aromas. A mix of fig, melon and mineral accented by ample acidity. Displays a creamy moderately buttered finish.”

What I Think:

I reviewed the Overlake Sauvignon Blanc offering a few days back and as mentioned then I had grabbed the Chardonnay as well. The first think that struck me about this one, as mentioned by JB, was the quality of the bottle itself. This wine came across as more expensive than the price tag based on the sheer weight when holding it in your hand. Could it deliver in the glass?

Straight buttered popcorn on the nose. This is a full bodied wine with the vanilla barrel flavors heavily present throughout. Some acidity emerges late in the mid palate and allows some green apple and lemon notes to sneak through though they are quickly muted. The finish is very creamy and buttery (can’t believe they used “moderately” above) though lingers nicely. Guessing many would enjoy this (my wife loves it!) as it seems I’ve had many similar offerings for three times the price. Still though this wine seems well made I am looking for a lot more fruit and acidity than can be found here. If you are a fan of a big buttery Chardonnay this may be right up your alley. Feel free to give it a try.

Rating: 12th Bottle

2009 VINTJS Pinot Gris

2009 VINTJS Pinot GrisPrice: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer “VINTJS Willamette Valley Pinot Gris, from Oregon’s most renowned growing region, is a silky & vibrant wine, more full-bodied and lush than its cousin, Pinot Grigio. The Willamette Valley’s long, cool growing season challenges the grapes to ripen, which results in much more complexity of flavor and body than often found in wines from warmer regions. Bright flavors of pineapple, green apple & pear make this a good partner to a salad of Organic Baby Lettuce topped with our Goat Cheese Medallions. Our price of $5.99 makes this a great partner to your sense of frugality, too.”

What I Think:

Another in the series of VINTJS offerings I found this on page 8 of my most recent Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer. I really wanted to like this one as it has been a while since I enjoyed a Pinot Gris. How did this one work out? Straw hued with a slight spritz on the pour (not the palate though) and a nose showing tart citrus, mineral and rock aromas. Green apples greet you on the palate before a mineral backbone kicks in leading to a crisp finish. Enough acid but I prefer a bit more snap (and truth be told a bit more fruit as well). This wine is well made but not a standout. You get what you pay for; a simple, solid sipper. I bought two bottles initially but don’t see this one making it into my cart again. That said guessing some might like this more than I do. If you are a Pinot Gris fan feel free to give this one a try.

Rating: 12th Bottle

2009 Overlake Sauvignon Blanc

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2009 Overlake Sauvignon BlancPer Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer “North of Napa & northeast of Sonoma, California’s Lake County may not be as well known as its movie-star-famous neighbors, but its wines are at least as worthy of your attention. In fact, Lake County has long been a favorite “hidden” source for many of California’s most prodigious winemakers due to both the quality and availability of its terroir. So when top-notch wines from Lake County are priced at $4.99 a bottle, they’re definitely ready for their close-up.

All of this leads us to introduce Overlake Sauvignon Blanc, a celebrity-in-the making from Lake County. On the nose, it’s vibrant & fresh with grapefruit, pineapple & grass aromas. On the palate, you’ll find an excellent balance of tangy, rich and smooth elements, followed by a long, refreshing finish. On the wallet, Overlake Sauvignon Blanc’s low price of $4.99 is sure to get your attention – for wine of this quality, this is a real superstar of a price.”

What I Think:

When I first saw this on the back cover of my most recent Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer my mind immediately, with excitement, leapt back to the 2007 Overlake Cabernet Sauvignon which was ranked #2 in the Trader Joe’s Top 10 Wines List in May of 2009. Initially disappointed I continued reading further down and found a mention of the Cab which was in stock as well. Off to my local store I went with corkscrew and glass in hand as I felt another parking lot tasting was in order. That was strike one on the Cab (I am 0-3 on tracking that one down now, anyone have any luck?) but I did grab this Sauvignon Blanc as well as the Chardonnay. One item of note is that the previous versions of these wines were made by “Kitchen Sink Wines” which appeared to be affiliated with Coppola and these latest offerings are courtesy of “Plunkett Creek Vineyards” which is apparently tied to Wildhurst Vineyards (where a similar bottle goes for $12). That mystery will have to wait for another day though as I want to get to this bottle…

The nose is loaded with grapefruit and nectarine aromas. Unexpectedly heavy and viscous on the palate, you are quickly aware this is not your typical Sauvignon Blanc. That said it is still enjoyable starting; smooth with the same nectarine flavors emerging first. A lemon component kicks in around the mid palate before delivering a tart and refreshing finish that lingers nicely. It definitely finishes fuller in body, a hint sweet and lacking much of the acidity you typically find reminding me of a previous VINTJS offering. Not what I was expecting from a Sauvignon Blanc but I found myself pleased nonetheless. I already grabbed three more bottles; feel free to grab one yourself!

Rating: Buy It