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…

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

2008 Broadside Cabernet Sauvignon Margarita Vineyard

In honor of today being #CabernetDay (if you are interested in participating you can find details here) I thought I might share a few of my favorites starting with this stunner that “Jon Bonne turned me onto late last year. Broadside is a partnership of Chris Brockway of Broc Cellars and Brian Terrizzi of Giornata that focuses on making artisanal wines with a natural approach that are priced for people to drink, not collect. And based on my experience I must say they are doing a fine job of it (perhaps except that I want to drink and collect this one…)

Price: $18.99 @ Cheese Plus

What They Said:

2008 Broadside Cabernet Sauvignon Margarita VineyardPer Jon Bonne “The new release of Chris Brockway’s naturally fermented Cabernet from this high-elevation Paso site continues a stellar run. Pretty cassis and cured tobacco, with juicy bramble fruit. Try finding similar quality California Cab for the price.”

What I Think:

(14.1%) 97% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Petite Verdot – Made with a super non-intervention philosophy you know you are on to something different as soon as this hits your tongue. Lively and pure this one starts with an aggressive flavor profile from the get go showing bright cherries and juicy brambly berries on a firm mineral backbone. These dry out to show tea leave flavors on a mid-palate that features a cola (along with a bit of caramel) tinged acidity leading to grippy, chewy tannins on a smooth, lingering finish. What can I say? I’m smitten. I will certainly be buying again.

Rating: Wow! (that said not your typical California Cabernet, though I wish it were, with only 2% new oak so approach with an open mind)

How about you? What are you drinking for #CabernetDay?

2009 Rabbit Ridge Allure de Robles

Rabbit Ridge WineryTrader Joe’s “other” cult wine. Over the years there have been more than a few accusations of “hording” this offering and not sharing the wealth. The history of the Allures de Robles as I know it lapsed after the 1998 vintage before being resurrected as an NV sometime around 2006. From there it was followed by a 2007 vintage offering. 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 clones of the grapes being predominantly from 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…

Erich Russell of Rabbit Ridge WineryWhat I find most interesting is that it is made by a real winery. Better yet one that respects their customers first and foremost. I have often lamented those wineries that ship wine off to Trader Joe’s at a steep discount without giving their most valuable customers the opportunity to buy these wines at the same price. When doing so Rabbit Ridge is always my shining example of how to do it right. And while they sell wines from across the pricing spectrum (from $5 up to $30) I’ve always respected the level of detail paid to this offering. Unlike the Chariot Gypsy this one shows variances in ABV (alcohol by volume). The 2009 clocks in at 14.6%; the ‘07 15.4% and ‘08 14.7%. Taking the time, money and effort to refile the label for approval with the TTB annually is just but one indicator that Erich Russell (pictured right) and “the team” from Rabbit Ridge are making the most honest $5 bottle of wine out there to be had.

Per an email from Erich here is what he had to say “The alcohol is indeed a true alcohol at 14.6 and the wine is not manipulated in any way—no acid additions, no water additions, no finning, no mega purple, no concentrate just pure grape juice. It is pretty amazing to me the changes in the wine from 2007 to 2008 to 2009. The 2010 is a really wild one at least individual lots are right now. The bad news is the supply of 2010 will be really low compared to 2009, maybe as much as 60% lower.” And that supply is where things seem to get interesting. Erich mentioned the fact that the Wine Spectator awarding Wine of the Year to another Paso Robles GSM blend is driving prices higher. He is facing a tough conundrum come 2011. One that I have seen many of my favorite value wines face. To raise prices or lower quality. I for one hope Erich will raise the price but am keen to hear your thoughts. If you have a second hop on over to Facebook and cast your vote. In the meantime what do you say we get to this wine…

2009 Rabbit Ridge Allure de RoblesPrice: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer (pdf) “Oh, how we love a good wine. But what we love even more is a good wine at a great price. That’s why we like Rabbit Ridge Allure de Robles so much. You would, in ordinary circumstances, expect to pay considerably more for a wine of this quality from the Paso Robles region. These, however, are extraordinary times in which we live, producing both extraordinary wines and extraordinary values.

Rabbit Ridge Allure de Robles is crafted from grapes grown on four of the Rabbit Ridge vineyards on the west side of Paso Robles. It’s a Côtes du Rhône-style blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre, each grown in a vineyard whose soil and elevation is best suited to the particular varietal. The wine’s strawberry & cherry overtones come courtesy of the Grenache, its medium body a Syrah-specific characteristic and its subtle, earthy undertones from the Mourvèdre. This is an excellent wine to serve with our Vintage Reserve Cheddar (p. 7) and makes a cheery companion to our Stuffed Pork Chops (p. 21) at dinnertime. At $4.99 a bottle, this wine is a terrific value that won’t be around forever. Get yours while it lasts; because when it’s gone, we can’t guarantee we can get more.”

What I Think:

(14.6%) Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre – Lighter, ruby in color. Strawberry and oak nose. Juicy on the palate with rich, peppery, berry fruit this one turns slight sweet and candied on the mid-palate before a somewhat short finish which once again reveals that peppery streak and a heavy dollop of oak. An affordable sipper well suited for a picnic, keeping you company while cooking or accompanying a meal in need of an easy drinking wine. For $5, while not a revelation, this is better than expected and I’ll be grabbing a few more bottles.

Rating: Buy It (While it may disappoint a few spoiled by previous vintages most will find it money well spent…)

2008 Liberte Cabernet Sauvignon

This is a guest post from Bob Dwyer of the The Wellesley Wine Press which, for those not familiar, covers “a consumer’s view on finding, enjoying, and sharing great wines at great prices” so as you can imagine we are often sharing tips! If you are interested in taking a look for yourself check out his value alerts or his latest hyper value finds.
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2008 Liberte Cabernet SauvignonPrice: $9.99 @ Trader Joe’s in Framingham, MA

What They Said:

Per the bottle “With its elegant red huge and powerful palate this 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon delivers an exceptional bouquet of blackberries, autumnal leaves and baking spices followed by opulent flavors of clove and marzipan. Serve with stuffed poblano peppers, roasted beet salad or tortilla soup with pressed Cuban sandwiches. Decant 15 to 30 minutes.”

What Bob Thinks:

A surprisingly hefty bottle with a raised label for a $9.99 California Cab. When I mentioned to the wine helmsman at Trader Joe’s that the label reminded me of the Chariot Gypsy he pointed out 3 or 4 other wines that have a similar looking woman on the label (Novella Synergy for example).

Deep dark red/burgundy in color. Not quite opaque but nearly. On the nose I get black pepper, deep black fruit and a little vegetal component I’d associate with Chilean reds blind. The mouthfeel is quite smooth initially, but on the backend I catch a little heat from alcohol with nice savory aromas lingering on in the glass. All in all a flavorful Paso Robles red priced on par with the amount of enjoyment it delivered.

Bob’s Rating: 12th Bottle
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Thanks again to Bob for sharing this post. Have any of you had this wine? If so we would love to hear what you think in the comments below…

2009 Lazy Bones Cabernet Franc

I headed out to Trader Joe’s last week in search of a few wines. joshiemac told me this one was available and I had my eye out for some others. I thought I’d give the Robert Stemmler a try, received a tip on the Henry’s Drive Shiraz and and having heard good things was on the lookout for the Trader Joe’s Garnacha. The Henry’s Drive was not to be found. Oddly enough (see “Lazy Bones” picture) the Robert Stemmler label threw me off as I remembered it being more classic. After looking around it seems not to have changed though my thought process may have. If I am going to drop $20 on a Pinot there are lots of option out there including this Belle Glos which I have previously enjoyed and comes highly recommended by The Wellesley Wine Press. The Garnacha? Found it but decided to grab a bottle from K&L Wines that I had been wanting to try. Anyhow enough of the chitter chatter. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming…

2009 Lazy Bones Cabernet FrancPrice: $6.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the bottle “I don’t care if you call me Lazy Bones, I love to lounge away the day alone. Why mix with others when being myself is so beautiful? When the day’s at my pace, I can relish small pleasures like ripe cherries, spiced blackberries, the aromas of sweet wood and fresh herbs. Afterall, there’s no shame in putting off today what can truly wait ‘till tomorrow.”

What I Think:

Rarely have I felt so poorly about my decision making as typing in the “What They Said” above already knowing how bad this one was. Sadly, given this was an offering from the Central Coast Wine Warehouse, who I (use to?) trust and as I was coming off the recent success of the Roustabout (which no one, myself included, can now seem to find) I had high hopes for this one.

This one doesn’t go wrong on the nose which shows underripe blueberry and stone notes. Nor on the initial entry which comes off as light and juicy on the palate. But from there it spirals… By the time this one makes it to the middle of the tongue it feels as if an oak barrel has transformed into a WWF wrestler and has you locked in the Iron Shiek’s sleeper hold. There is no acidity or tag team partner to save you and no matter how many times you tap the mat the wood flavors keep on choking you and choking you. I don’t pour much wine down the drain but this left me no choice. Easily the worst offering I’ve had from the Central Coast Wine Warehouse folks. Pick up anything else on the Trader Joe’s wine shelves priced at $7 and you will be better off…

Rating: Avoid It

Despite this I still do love me some Cabernet Franc. I wonder if Trader Joe’s still carries the Santa Ynez Cab Franc (I know they have the Gewurzt); if so perhaps I’ll grab a bottle soon. How about you? Anyone have a favorite Cab Franc under the $12 price range to share? If so would love to hear about it…

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!

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