2008 Trader Joes GSM Reserve

2008 Trader Joes GSM ReservePrice: $9.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the bottle “Violets, medjool dates, anise and plum.” Guess they thought that was enough said…

What I Think:

(14.5%) 24% Grenache, 55% Syrah, 21% Mourvedre – Ripe but backed by acidity with some jammy fruit around the edges that lingers with spice all the way through to an earthy, lasting finish. Warm, smooth, a touch rich, spiced and lasting. A nice effort here and if this wine had a proper face I’d be inclined to buy it again. But at $10 these mystery labels are losing their allure for me…

Wine Geek Notes: This one tracks to Vine Intervention LLC which is owned by Marc Cummings who also happens to be the winemaker at Kelsey See Canyon Vineyards and has his own label at Drake Vineyards

Rating: Good but… (as mentioned I’d prefer putting a face to this name)

2010 Trader Joe’s Petit Reserve Refosco

Price: $6.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2010 Trader Joes Petit Reserve RefoscoPer the bottle “Black cherry, plum, cassis with hints of thyme.” As usual not much on these TJ’s offerings. A quick search on Refosco and Paso Robles turns up some interesting things but nothing concrete. Guess this bottle needs to speak for itself…

What I Think:

Refosco you say? What the hell is that! That was my initial reaction when Andy Rathbone kindly sent this recommendation my way. But those of you who read regularly likely already now I am always game for a new wine adventure so I quickly snagged a bottle to see what this was all about…

(13.3%) 75% Refosco, 25% Merlot – Nice, ripe, smooth and juicy berry fruit balanced by a nice earth and spice leading to rustic finish with light lingering tannins and pleasant acidity. My first Refosco experience and this one is a fun change of pace. At $7 I’m not rushing out to grab a case but given its very food friendly I can certainly see another bottle in my future.

Wine Geek Notes: Made by Familia Nueva which rolls up to Ancient Peaks Winery

Rating: Interesting <- a nice bottle that makes me want to try another Refosco…

2007 Core White

2007 Core WhitePrice: $18.00 @ Core Wine

What They Said:

Per Core Wine “70% Grenache Blanc, 29% Roussanne and 1% Marsanne. 11 months in a combination of stainless steel and older barrels. Beautiful balance of white flowers, stone fruit, apples and pears. This wine has developed excellent complexity with added bottle age. You’ll love this amazing wine at an amazing price.”

What I Think:

(14.5%) 70% Grenache Blanc, 29% Roussanne, 1% Marsanne – Honeyed gold in the glass with a nice, rich floral spiced nose. Like liquid nectar on the palate. Great, lush, creamy mouthfeel here. I absolutely love the texture of this wine. Loaded with white nectarines and tart apricot notes. From there a nice acidity emerges leading to a dry, refreshing finish that lingers nicely. A beautiful blend that makes me want to buy more; especially at the $12 I paid…

Wine Geek Notes: Unfiltered (sediment on finish), aged in stainless steel and older barrels, 300 cases made

Rating: Wow!

And as a bonus round…The Core Red Blend is a winner as well. My brief notes read “spiced cherry pie flavors that lead to meaty mid-palate with nice acidity. Finish is brambly and bit earthy (while showing some heat). An easy going, food friendly, enjoyable wine.”

2008 Core Grenache

Price: $20.00 @ Core Wine

What They Said:

2008 Core GrenachePer Core Wine “85% Grenache and 15% Syrah. 100% of the fruit comes from the Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard grown at 3000 feet. 24 months in neutral barrels and bottled without fining or filtration.

Huge nose of juicy red fruits and grilled meat. On the palate the wine is loaded with lush red and blue fruits, brown spices and nice concentration. A crowd pleasing wine at a great value that you won’t find everywhere. This is a follow-up to our hugely popular 2007 Grenache. If you ask me I’ll say it’s better, but you be the judge.”

What I Think:

(14.9%) 85% Grenache, 15% Syrah – Cloudy and clearly unfiltered to the eye this one starts bright and pure with dense, tart berry and cherry flavors on an earthy palate. This is all backed by a firm acidity that leads to a nice, lengthy, spiced finish. Surprisingly on the lighter side given its ABV (and the inclusion of Syrah) this is a perfect dinner wine. It will pair with virtually anything; that said I choose pizza and it was a hit for all.

Wine Geek Notes: 89pts Jeb Dunnuck/Rhone Report , 600 cases made, 24 months in neutral oak

Rating: Buy It (fair at $20; nice QPR at the $12 I paid…)

2008 Core Mourvedre

Price: $20.00 @ Core Wine

What They Said:

Per Core Wine “Primarily Mourvedre with a small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah to round it out. 100% of the fruit comes from the Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard grown at 3000 feet. 35 months in neutral barrels and bottled without fining or filtration.

Huge nose of juicy red, blue and black fruits, mushrooms and grilled meat. On the palate the wine is loaded with lush black, red and blue fruits, brown spices and nice concentration. A crowd pleasing wine at a great value that you won’t find everywhere.”

What I Think:

(14.9%) Per the winery there is some Cabernet and Syrah mixed in here but I can’t find any blend percentages. That said as usual for Core Wines this one appears cloudy to the eye as it is unfiltered. Juicy blueberry and tart strawberry with dense (pleasant), chalky tannins. From there a spiced acidity takes hold that leads to a short but nice finish. More good stuff here and food friendly to boot.

Wine Geek Notes: 240 cases made; 35 months in neutral barrels; unfiltered

Rating: Interesting (at the $12 I paid likely to buy again; at $20 not so sure…)

2010 Comique Revolution Blanc

Another offering from our friends at the Central Coast Wine Warehouse this one seems similar to the Emergence White that was on the shelves last year. A quick look shows they are the same four grapes though this one is labeled as Central Coast (instead of Paso Robles). Will the results be any different? Let us see…

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2010 Comique Revolution BlancPer Trader Joe’s “Comique Révolution Blanc is a California Central Coast blend of Rhône varietals like Roussanne, Viognier, Grenache Blanc and Marsanne. Aromas of apple blossom, juniper berry and honeydew prepare your palate for the essences of white peaches and custard. It’s revolutionary in its versatility, too.”

What I Think:

(14.2%) A blend of Roussanne, Viognier, Grenache Blanc and Marsanne this one gets better as it warms. Apple blossom, musk melon and honeysuckle greet you on the nose. The palate is rich with overripe peaches and white pear flavors before turning tart (grapefruit/lemon) with a mineral edge. The oily texture lasts throughout the short, spiced (and slightly hot) finish. Make sure to let this one get all the way to room temperature to let it show its wares. Even still this comes up a bit short for me as it seems flabby (could use more acidity IMHO) and the alcohol is dialed a little high. Very similar to my take on the Emergence White mentioned above. That said at $5 if this sounds like it might be up your alley give it a shot…

Rating: 12th Bottle

2010 Rabbit Ridge Allure de Robles

Rabbit Ridge WineryAlways happy to see Rabbit Ridge makes this wine out in the open and proudly offers the same bottling via their winery at a fair price (read more on my take here). For those that aren’t familiar Allure de Robles is an estate grown wine that is made in a Châteauneuf-du-Pape style. This one is a traditional Rhone Blend composed of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. With the grapes being predominantly from clones of the esteemed Tablas Creek Winery which in turn are cut them from the fabled Chateau Beaucastel. For those that don’t recognize the names it is safe to say they are punching well beyond a $5 price tag…

Fairly or not always ends up getting compared to the Chariot Gypsy as the “other cult wine” which begs the same questions I asked last night. Why was this released 4 months earlier? Perhaps we can ask Erich Russell, Rabbit Ridge’s founder.

Speaking of Erich, if you like your Allures de Robles you may want to stock up now. Erich previously shared that “the supply of 2010 will be really low compared to 2009, maybe as much as 60% lower.” And to further compound the issue he reached out again in April to let me know they suffered some pretty significant hail damage that left him wondering whether a 2011 vintage would even be possible. I’ll follow up with him to see how it netted out but in the meantime let’s dig into this 2010…

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2010 Rabbit Ridge Allure de RoblesPer Rabbit Ridge (pdf) “The 2010 vintage is big and round with strawberry and cherry overtones from the Grenache, body from the Syrah and richness from the Mourvèdre. This wine is a great choice for sipping or with a wide variety of foods.”

What I Think:

(14.8%) Made from Tablas Creek clones this one is predominantly from Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. It starts juicy with lush, peppery lifted cherry fruit that swells turning toasty and a touch sweet on the mid-palate before drying out with medium tannins on a barrel spiced finish. I’d prefer more acidity but for those that are fans of bigger, fruit forward wines there is a lot to like here. Available for $8 via Rabbit Ridge.

Rating: Buy It (if you like your wines big with some tannins…)

2010 Found Object Gewurztraminer

This one comes courtesy Castoro Cellars who have long been providing quality wines to the Trader Joes’s shelves but always been short on sharing information from whence they came. That said if I thought the Hungry Hollow Gewurztraminer was a deal at $10 this one is certainly worthy of your consideration at half the price. Expect to see this near the top of my next Trader Joe’s Wines Top 10 Wine List (which I intend to publish this Thursday)…

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2010 Found Object GewurztraminerPer the bottle “Context, it can change everything. Consider, for a moment, a wine among a crowd – yet not if the crowd. What could be taken for granted (grape juice) becomes special when repurposed into something thought provoking.

Consider this Gewürztraminer worthy of your consideration”

What I Think:

(13.3%) Almost clear straw in color, big forward, fruity nose. Peaches, lychee, a bit sweet on the backbone making it off dry with a floral, white pepper spiced finish. Simple, clean and straightforward. No flaws to report and varietally correct to boot. This is certainly a wine I want to have around my house. If you are a fan of Gewurzt this one is worth stocking up on. If not certainly consider giving it a try.

Wine Geek Notes: Surprisingly $2 less than the Viognier (yet to try) from the same label.

Rating: Buy It

2009 Trader Joe’s Petit Reserve Pinot Noir

This one is made by DNA Vineyards and Dennis Patton who is known as the Merlin of Mendocino and is one of the chief proponents of the Coro Mendocino initiative. While his Trader Joe’s track record is strong this one is a bit curious as Pinot is not his forte (at least based on my somewhat limited knowledge) and the Edna Valley in San Luis Obispo county from which this one hails is a good distance away from his familiar stomping grounds in Mendocino County. That said let’s have the wine speak for itself…

Price: $6.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2009 Trader Joes Petit Reserve Pinot NoirPer Trader Joe’s “The San Luis Obispo AVA (American Viticultural Area) is known for its cool climate and long growing season, conditions that make it an ideal region for Pinot Noir grapes. The Edna Valley, nestled in the middle of this AVA, amplifies everything about San Luis Obispo that makes it Pinot’s perfect partner.

Trader Joe’s Petit Reserve Pinot Noir Edna Valley is made exclusively for us using 100% Pinot Noir grapes from Edna Valley, aged in French oak for 12 months. Pinot Noir from warmer regions tends to be super dark and highly tannic; not this one. The longer, cooler growing season afforded by Edna Valley’s climate results here in a lush, floral and vibrant wine with aromas of raspberries and violets, and hints of nutmeg. It’s an easy drinking wine, with a soft, round finish. Pair it with Pork Tenderloin, Mushroom Ravioli or an evening by the fire with a good book.

Wines of this quality, with this kind of pedigree, generally come with a hefty price tag. Our price of $6.99 proves that you can get really excellent wine at a really excellent price. Cheers!”

What I Think:

(13.9%) Tried at TJ’s and was going to pass but second thoughts made me reconsider. Light, bright in color. Aggressive candied cranberry with earthy, forest floor notes on the nose. Remains aggressive on palate with sweetish raspberry fruit. Slightly harsh on the edges with a clean, peppery finish. The thin flavor profile packed with big fruit leaves this one out of balance IMHO. Not one I’ll buy again but guessing there will be those that beg to differ…

Wine Geek Notes: 100% Pinot Noir aged for 12 months in French Oak. 13.8% ABV (although the label states 13.9%)

Rating: Skip It

2007 Bonny Doon Vineyard Le Cigare Volant

2007 Bonny Doon Vineyard Le Cigare VolantPrice: $35.00 @ Bonny Doon Vineyard*

What They Said:

Per Bonny Doon Vineyard “Bright ruby red with a pale purplish rim. Bright cherry aromas with a bit of spice, menthol, and black pepper. On the palate, fresh cherry, currant, and red bramble fruit. Peppery and lively with good acidity around an earthy, savory core.”

What I Think:

(14.4%) 60% Grenache, 32% Syrah, 4% Mourvèdre, 4% Cinsault – Beautiful, layered nose of earthy, berry fruit, herbs and spice. Dark and lush with ripe blueberry flavors and a lot of them on the palate. That said this one isn’t jammy as it has a nice acidity to keep it honest. Slightly tart (yet barrelly sweet and creamy) with dry herbs and soft, lingering tannins on a warm, comforting finish. Nice character and layers of flavor throughout with meaty, herbal, mineral and spice components making appearances. Easily drinkable now and appears ready to age effortlessly. Pair it with steak or the hearty meal of your choice. Perhaps Randall said it best: “the wine is powerful, yet still retains a fair elegance and grace”. A wine I look forward to drinking more of!

Wine Geek Notes: 2,732 cases produced.

Rating: Wow!

*While I did receive a bottle of this wine as a sample I’ve purchased previous versions of this with my very own money and plan on doing so again…