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

2009 Domaine de Guillemarine Picpoul de Pinet

2009 Domaine de Guillemarine Picpoul de Pinet Price: $9.99 @ K&L Wines imported by Premier Wine Company

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines “Picpoul de Pinet is considered the “Muscadet” of the south. Grown just meters from the oyster beds of the Bassin de Thau, the wine marries perfectly with fish and shellfish. Picpoul (also known as Folle Blanche or Gros Plant) means “lip stinger,” which refers to the high acidity of its must. Great with oysters and seafood. This wine is crisp, but quite long and full with nice floral and mineral notes in the nose. Bracing acidity backs up a wine with surprising breed for this price point.”

What I Think:

First a bit on the varietal. Picpoul de Pinet is considered the “Muscadet” of the south and Picpoul means “lip stinger” in reference to the high acidity of these wines. This one shows papaya and lemon notes on the nose while hinting of effervescence (that never does come through) and a saline quality. The palate as expected shows a tight, racy acidity with a firm rocky, mineral backbone that displays notes of lemon and green apple flavors. The finish is the definition of refreshing; crisp, tart and lasting. For a wine with this much acidity I found it to be fuller of body and bright fruit flavors than expected. No doubt that the traditional pairing of oysters and seafood is right on for this one. For those looking for a new varietal to try this one will serve as an excellent (and affordable) introduction to Picpoul de Pinet.

Rating: Buy It

2008 Now & Zen Alsace White

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Underdog Wine

What They Said:

2008 Now & Zen Alsace WhitePer the bottle “Every Now & Zen you’ll find your tastebuds capsizing from the spicy surge of Asian cuisine. Now & Zen’s bright tropical fruit of pineapple, mango and lemon twist awaken the delicious flavors of spicy food and bring peace to the palate.

Now & Zen is a blend of Alsatian varietals that will help you relax, chill and enjoy plates like spicy Szechuan shrimp, chicken or pork stir fry. Bring peace to your dinner.”

What I Think:

This wine, one of my favorites, has been a bit of a chameleon. The 2007 started off as the “Wasabi White” before becoming the “Alsace White” that we know it by today. For the 2008 vintage they decided to add the “Helfrich” name prominently to the label. Guess the ’07 was a bigger success then hoped and they decided they would like some recognition. In fairness it seems it should be shared with the importer, Underdog Wine Merchants, who collaborated with them on this project. Either way label changes make me nervous and I was really hoping this effort would be a worthy successor to the ’07 I so much enjoyed.

In a word it was. This vintage was a blend of 29% Pinot Blanc, 25% Sylvaner, 16% Riesling, 15% Muscat, 15% Gewurztraminer and is classically referred to as Edelzwicker. The Muscat was an addition but the remainder of the blend percentage was fairly consistent from the previous year. This wine starts with citrus and floral notes on the nose which translate nicely to the palate where a bit of mango adds a pleasant sweetness to the texture. The tart, crisp finish delivers lemon and mineral flavors that leave you refreshed and ready for your next sip. An easy drinker that is nicely balanced throughout. As you’ll see above they are strong proponents of pairing this one with spicy Asian cuisine and I wholeheartedly agree this is ideal. Factor in my Alsace bias (see the ’07 post) as you see fit but this is a wine I will be buying again.

Rating: Buy It

2008 Domaine de la Fouquette Rosee d’Aurore

Price: $14.99 @ Vintage Wine & Spirits imported by Wine Agencies

What They Said:

2008 Domaine de la Fouquette Rosee d'AurorePer K&L Wines “A lovely wine from a beautiful part of France, the 35-acre Domaine de la Fouquette sits at the heart of the Cotes de Provence appellation. This is an environmentally friendly estate that works without chemicals and hand harvests entirely. The cepage is 65% Grenache and 30% Cinsault. A small amount of the white grape Rolle (5% – aka Vermentino in Italy) is added, elevating the citrus aromatics and acidity.”

What I Think:

I’m still searching for my summer Rose. With none in the house I decided to stop by Vintage Wine & Spirits, one of my local shops here in Mill Valley, and this was their pick. A bit pricey for an every weekend sipper for me but given it was from Provence I was willing to give it a try.

I’d normally call this salmon but it was amazingly pale in color (which I hope I captured in the picture). Loads of delicate strawberry notes on an aromatic nose rolled out the welcome mat. Though the color was light the body was medium. The strawberries were joined by citrus notes early on the palate before they were met with a bracing, refreshing acidity. Mineral notes shined through on a dry crisp finish. A nice bottle for sure but not worthy of splurging on all summer long. Anyone have any Rose recommendations around $10 for me?

Rating: Pricey

2007 Now & Zen Wasabi White

2007 Now & Zen Wasabi WinePrice: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Underdog Wine

What They Said:

Per the bottle “Every Now & Zen you’ll find your tastebuds about to capsize from the spicy surge of Asian cuisine enticing you to enjoy a calming sip of our Wasabi White. The bright tropical fruit of pineapple, mango and lemon twist awaken the delicious flavors of spicy food and bring peace to your palate.

Grown in the Alsace region of France, the climate develops well-structured, food-friendly wines. Relax, chill and enjoy a splash of Now & Zen with spicy Szechuan shrimp, chicken or pork stir fry. Now & Zen will bring your dinner peace.”

What I Think:

This one had a lot going for it on sight being from the Alsace. You see I’ve been a big fan ever since my wife to be took me out for my first fine dining experience at Hubert Keller’s Fleur de Lys here in San Francisco. You see he hails from the Alsace and delectably paired the wines of the region with an incredible meal. To even spark those memories is worth the fiver I dropped on this bottle. How’s that for full disclosure.

On getting it home I did a quick search and found that this one has wider distribution than you usually see from a TJ’s offering. Given that I would generally think this is a bad or “marked” lot that someone needed to liquidate. Around the net the best price on this one is $8, $10 appears to be the average. For locals with a BevMo in the area they are asking $11. I also took note of the importer on this one, Underdog Wine Merchants, a new one to the Trader Joe’s wine aisle. On checking their site I was pleased to see another of my favorites; A Mano. Hope to see some more offerings from this importer at Trader Joe’s soon… Too bad the site didn’t have any information on this bottle itself.

This one was a blend, my first from the region, of 40% Sylvaner, 30% Pinot Blanc, 15% Riesling, 15% Gewurztraminer. Thin pineapple notes on a pretty nose, just a hint of sweetness I could do without. On the palate I find lemon notes and perhaps a hint of lychee. The mouth feel is mellow and refreshing without being overly sweet. The mineral structure makes this a nice balanced effort throughout turning pleasantly tart on the finish. For $8 I might be on the fence but at $5, factor my Alsace bias in as you see fit, I already bought another bottle. Next time maybe I’ll even have it with spicy Szechuan shrimp as they recommend.

Rating: Buy It

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.

2007 Chateau Bois de Lamothe Cotes de Duras Red

2007 Chateau Bois de Lamothe Cotes de Duras RedPrice: $3.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by L. Watson Inc.

What They Said:

Per Coffee Like Wine Another great affordable wine. I think I got this for less than $10 at Trader Joe’s.

On the nose, lots of green veggies, especially asparagus, as well as some red berries.

In the mouth, the asparagus flavor carries through from the nose, and there are also cranberries and some herbs. This is a very tart wine, good acidity and some tannins on the finish. At 12.5 percent alcohol level, this is a wine you can drink several glasses of during dinner and not stagger away in a daze.

Red wines made from the Cotes de Duras region use Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec grapes, according to The Wine Info Site.

What I Think:

Not sure what made me grab this but when I did I was sure it was from the south of France, but it appears the Duras neighbors Bordeaux. On opening the nose is super green or is it all mint? Nice light tannin taste, not much fruit. With time the nose is getting interesting, sensing some spice. Start thinking grenache based but can’t be given the region. Where does the dryness come from….Cab Franc? Bet your bottom dollar I am buying another bottle to try and figure it out. For now let’s call it a 12th bottle but stay tuned for more…

btw, found this blend percentage randomly in my notes Merlot 52%, Cabernet Sauvignon 27%, Cabernet Franc 20%, and Malbec 1%. Thinking I must have gotten it off the bottle. Will confirm when I grab another.

Rating: 12th Bottle

NV Fleur de Maison Red Table Wine

Price: $2.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Bercut & Vandervoort

What They Said:

Per the bottle Round and velvety with a bouquet of ripe fruit flavors, this dry red wine perfectly compliments a variety of meat dishes, pastas and cheese. Produced in France by a family with a long tradition of exceptions winemaking, Fleur de Maison offers recognized quality and affordability. A great everyday wine to always keep on hand. To be served at room temperature or slightly chilled.

What I Think:

When I saw this one on the shelf I had it confused with the La Maison from George Duboeuf (of Beaujolais fame, almost that time!) in my head, so at $3 it seemed worth a shot. As I searched for information I quickly realized my mistake. Surprisingly I was able to track down the importer and thought I had info but alas a 404 error. I emailed to see if they could share any notes on this wine but have yet to hear back.

NV Fleur de Maison Red Table Wine down the drainHopefully you saw my twitter feed on this one. When I find bad wines bad my first option is to try and ignore them… Don’t write tasting notes, don’t try to figure out what is wrong. Keep sipping and hope it gets better. Option one failed. I almost dumped it which (almost) never happens (this would be the 2nd time in like 500 bottles). That said I did open something else. I put a cork in this but wasn’t holding out much hope for another try tomorrow which is bad wine option #2. Alas, no luck which left me with only option #3, drink it when you are already drunk. Given the two youngsters in my household I didn’t see being able to put that into practice anytime soon so down the drain it went. If you have to have a bottle under $3 stick to the Two Buck Chuck, hear the Shiraz is the best now. If you can afford a fiver check the latest Top 10 list for recommendations. But please, keep this $3 in your pocket.

Rating: Avoid It

*photo by j. botter

2007 Chateau des Cleons Muscadet Sevre et Maine “Sur Lie”

Price: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Plume Ridge Wine Negotiants

What They Said:

Per FrenchWineGift.com, on the ’06, “Château des Cléons is located in the Loire Valley, close to the city of Nantes and the Atlantic Ocean. It is a dry white wine made of 100% Melon de Bourgogne. As its name implies, this is a variety which was imported (expelled might be a better term) from the vineyard of Burgundy. Most Muscadet is sold as Muscadet de Sèvres et Maine. It is produced on the gently hilly banks of the Sèvres and Maine rivers, two tributaries of the Loire. Château des Cléons is a Muscadet sur Lie, meaning that the wine is matured on the lees, and bottled straight from the barrel.

Château des Cléons has a light yellow color with green nuances. It has a subtle and complex nose with citrus aromas. In the mouth it is aromatic and intense with a long finish. Enjoy it with fish, seafood or on its own. It should be drunk young.”

What I Think:

Always willing to give a new varietal a try I grabbed this one off the shelf. Half the fun of these bottles is learning more about the grape. Melon de Bourgogne is so associated with this popular appellation of the western Loire that the grape itself is often known as Muscadet. As mentioned above this grape originated in Burgundy where it was found to be a nuisance and thus ordered destroyed. This led to its reappearance in the Muscadet. Other items of interest include this wine being made by the Lacheteau family. This is of note because I have seen bottlings at Trader Joe’s bearing this name. Also “Sur Lie” means aged on the skins.

Now as for the wine itself, I think we have a winner. A week or so before having this one I had a similar offering from K&L Wines. This one compared very well. To describe it in a nutshell it was light, surprisingly crisp and refreshing. A nice dry, tart beginning gives way to a nice long lemon, citrusy finish. This is a perfect bottle for a summer picnic or barbecue. Another great Trader Joe’s wine find!

Rating: Buy It

2006 Les Caves Joseph White Bordeaux

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Plume Ridge Wine Negotiants

What They Said:

Per the bottle “This blend of Sauvignon Blanc (50%) and Semillon (50%) produces a brilliant and silvery robe. The complex nose, blending floral and citrus aromas, reveals a perfect balance between fruit and wood, which makes this very enjoyable.”

What I Think:

After an amazing glass at Fleur de Lys a few months back I went combing the shelves at Trader Joe’s for a Pouilly Fuisse (a French appellation widely known for Chardonnay) to see how it could compare. I didn’t find one then I did come across this Sauvignon/Semillon blend that my wife and I fell in love with back on our honeymoon in New Zealand (especially the Pegasus Bay!).  I grabbed it without hesitation.

After pulling the cork this one seems like a winner. As it got closer to room temperature it began to show some chinks in the armor. The racy, mineral backbone that I thought was there disappeared leaving only light floral notes intermingled with barrel type flavors. Not bad, just not what I was hoping for after the first sip. This could sneak into my cart again but more likely not. You are better off grabbing a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc like this Geyser Peak.

Rating: 12th Bottle