2006 Rabbit Ridge Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon

Price: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the winery “This Cabernet Sauvignon was barrel-aged in French and American oak for approximately 16 months to achieve the perfect balance. A judicious amount of Petite Verdot and Petite Sirah was added to create this big, concentrated dark Cabernet Sauvignon boasting a great deal of complexity. The wine is totally natural with the exception of yeast added during fermentation. The limestone characteristics of our vineyards allow us to produce this Cabernet Sauvignon with 100% natural acid. 5,040 cases produced.”

What I Think:

After going through quite a bit of the Allure de Robles I was happy to give another Rabbit Ridge offering a try. So when I stumbled across this one at Trader Joe’s it quickly made its way into the cart. Upon arriving home I was keen to find out how much TJ’s saved me this time as the previous bottle was 50% less than the winery price. This time around I arrived at the site to find a notice that this one was only selling at Trader Joe’s for $5.99. Guessing I don’t have much sway but let me at least let me imagine that was because I called them out last time:).

Off the bat this one engulfs you in fruit. On the nose it is loaded with dark fruits with hints of barrel and spice. On the palate you get a lush mouthful of cherry and plum flavors that last into a finish that is only slightly tannic with a bit of mint. I noticed after I finished this one that it has Petite Sirah added which may explain the heavy accentuation of fruit. If you like that then this one is for you. I myself prefer something a bit more restrained and would recommend these as my top three cabernets at Trader Joe’s today:

Let me know what you think!

Rating: Skip It

2005 York Mountain Paso Robles Viognier

Price: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the winery (pdf) “Our Viognier is rich and complex with aromas of peaches, apricots and honeysuckle, along with a lingering spicy finish. Its bold flavors will match well with Asian, Cajun or Indian cuisine. We love it with sushi.”

What I Think:

I picked this one up the same day I grabbed the Martin & Weyrich Nebbiolo Reserve, at the time I had no idea that they were both made by the same company (Martin & Weyrich). Similar to the Nebbiolo Trader Joe’s seems to be dealing a steal on this Viognier which is going for $22 on the winery site. Would love a peek inside how the process of these finding their way into a Trader Joe’s works. My guess on these is that they are taking up space in a warehouse and need to be moved. A broker is called to liquidate stock. The broker calls Trader Joe’s. Trader Joe’s tastes. Trader Joe’s likes. Trader Joe’s offers $1 a bottle, broker says $20, they meet around $4 and Trader Joe’s sells for $6. I wonder how close to accurate that is.

Anyway back to the matter at hand. We had salmon on the menu and friends on the way over for dinner so I threw this in the fridge and opened the Castle Rock Mendocino Pinot so that we had a few options available. Randomly, my friend Eric brought over this same exact bottle over that night which was a curios coincidence. In a previous post I mentioned that I thought Viognier’s from the US were on the sweeter side. This one certainly helped debunk that myth. On the nose it showed some light notes of white fruit on top of a mineral, stony backdrop. On the palate white peach and pear came to the fore. The texture was full and rich before fading to a slightly crisp finale. I didn’t get any hint of the spicy finish they mentioned on the bottle. I initially thought perhaps I had overcooled the wine but upon letting it get to room temperature it was still nowhere to be found. Regardless, this is worth another thought I would pass on the Asian food pairing recommended above. Luckily I have another on standby. Look for an update here soon.

Rating: 12th Bottle

2001 Martin & Weyrich Nebbiolo “Il Vecchio” Reserve

Price: $6.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

nothing here for you other than the tasting notes for the 2002, this ’01 appears to be non-existent or disowned by the winery…

What I Think:

You are probably saying the same thing that I was, a Nebbiolo at Trader Joe’s? From California? For $7? Aren’t those supposed to be from Italy and cost a fortune? What in the world? Aw heck! I might as well give it a try. If for nothing else for novelties sake. That is a glance at what went on in my head for about 10 seconds before this bottle ended up in my cart. Some initial research showed that the winery was selling the 2000 on their site for $15 and the 2002 for $22 (but $99 a case) so my guess was that they were having a hard time moving these wines. A few days later a York Mountain Viognier showed up as well as a Matador Rose from this same winery so guessing that was the case.

Now onto the main event! This is a nice effort and enjoyable for its uniqueness above all else. That said I would guess this is strikingly new world in style. Given my lack of experience with Nebbiolo I don’t have much to base that on other than that I was expecting a more complex, tannic offering rather than a straight forward drinker that went down without even tickling the throat. I found an interesting post comparing drinking the ’03 vintage of this one side by side with an Italian version here. Sadly this has disappeared since I grabbed this bottle as I would surely do so again. It would be fun to give to my friend who enjoys high-priced Nebbiolo as a blind gift to see what he thinks. Alas, doesn’t look like that is going to happen as this already appears to be gone.  Should it reappear I surely would give it a spot it in my Top 10 list. If you see this first grab a bottle for yourself, then let me know!

Rating: Buy It

2005 Gravity Hills Base Camp Syrah

Update 2008-Oct-07 – Trader Joe’s has reduced the price on this bottling to $2.99

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the winery “Take a sip, and the velvety-smooth body caresses your palate as flavors tumble over one another in succession – strawberry, black cherry, plum, blueberries, licorice, white pepper, leather – continuing on to an extra-long finish. Down, boy! Base Camp Syrah goes out of its way to make friends with all kinds of food. With its mineral-fresh, lively acidity, it plays well with creamy cheese, pasta, roasted chicken, red meat and exotic, spicy dishes, like a Moroccan lamb stew.”

What I Think:

As mentioned with the Zinfandel it again appears Trader Joe’s is selling at $15 bottle of wine for $5. Unlike the Zin, this one seems to be worth the price of admission!

The start was a bit rocky as the nose was muted to non-existent on night one. From there it was all upside. Nice dark fruit as it enters the mouth intermingled with earthy notes. As a bonus, I was even able to find varietal characteristics as it showed some mint mid-palate. That gives way to spice that lingers on through a velvety finish. A pleasant surprise, as the Zin drastically lowered my expectations. I’ll be grabbing another bottle or two of this one.

Rating: Buy It

2005 Gravity Hills Tumbling Tractor Zinfandel

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the winery which seems to be on the ’02 but the Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer used the same description so we will roll with it….”But it all results in a delightful wine with elegance and complexity that’s lacking in some of the super-ripe, alcoholic Zins from the area. Sniff the exuberant bouquet of raspberries, blackberries, cinnamon and ginger. Feel the ample roundness in your mouth, with layers of fruit, spice and oak continually unfolding. Savor the long, balanced finish.”

What I Think:

This goes for $15 on the winery website. Again amazing and curious as to how Trader Joe’s can offer it at $5. Perhaps the winery is defunct? Nothing on the website is updated since August 2006.

Now to the bottle, not overly fruity, more dry…is it Zin or is it just any red? No berries and only a bit of the spice that I would expect. Mint and hints of herb are more apparent and remind me more of a Cab and that is even before the slightly medicinal finish. Not over the top like the Red Flyer so it doesn’t seem like this was made in the lab.

All that said, not sure why I want to give this one a pass. Guessing because I wished I liked it more as I’d feel like I was getting a steal. I did grab the syrah, perhaps that will make me feel better! As for this one you should take a pass, if you want a $5 Zin grab this TBD offering…

Rating: Skip It

2005 Red Horse Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon

Price: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per webwine.com “Made for casual enjoyment, Red Horse Ranch wines offer bold, rich flavors in a fruit-forward style that is immediately appealing. Sourced entirely from the finest Central Coast grapes available, these wines truly express the character of the land in which they are grown.”

What I Think:

This one I grabbed from an end cap placement down in South San Francisco. Research found that it is the second label of Silver Stone winery which seems to produce high quality wines under their own label, does that mean I can hope for the same here…. Further research found this one selling on webwine for $13.30 a bottle versus the $5 at TJ’s. Oh the poor person who gets connived into buying there.

With the cork out the nose is on the earthy side. On the palate you get loads of chocolate and plums but overall this wine come off on the manufactured side. At the same price point I’ll stick to the Chalk Creek. That said if you are interested in trying something new feel free to give this one a go.

Rating: Skip It

2004 Novella Synergy

Price: $6.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the winery “Spicy notes of clove and black pepper enhance blossomy aromas of cherry and blackberry. The flavors of freshly picked raspberries and blueberries explode in the mouth leading into a lingering finish of smoky oak with hints of tobacco.”

What I Think:

Not sure what led me to grab this bottle. Most likely I saw it, knew it was a newer label at TJ’s and wanted to give it a go in case it was a gem. Getting home I find a whole new world. This wine is made by EOS. I had a few bottles of their Zinfandel during the BevMo 5 cent sale. I found that the blend was mainly based on Petite Sirah (62% Petite Sirah, 19% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and minute amounts of others). Not sure how this adjusted my expectations but found it all interesting while the cork was in the bottle.

The notes are a bit sparse. On opening the nose seemed hot and spicy. On the tongue it started the same with cloves leading the way. Towards the middle it showed some darker berry flavors that were on the weak/flaccid (when is the last time that has been used when not discussing ED) side before ending even a bit tart. After a few days it showed a bit more. The fruit was a bit richer, a bit bolder tending towards chewy. The nose still seemed hot with some subdued dark fruit lingering. On the palate the fruit was apparent but the overall profile tended to the generic side.

All in all a typical manufactured type red, trying hard to please everyone which while usually making a decent wine also limits the upside as it can only be so good. At $7 it is tough to reconsider. At $5 it would be worthy. Even with all that this is a wine that someone else could love. Give it a go if it suits your style. For me at this price I am buying Carmenere.

Rating: Skip It

NV Rabbit Ridge Allure de Robles

Price: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the winery “Many of you remember the old Rabbit Ridge Allure. It was a Rhône style blend made from various grapes we found that particular year that we thought would make interesting wine. It was very good, was a great value, and was like a wine from Cotes du Rhône or Provence.

We have not produced an Allure since 1998. Now however, a dream comes true for Rabbit Ridge with the release of our Allure de Robles. Our vineyards in Paso Robles are in the ideal climate for Rhône varietal wines. Allure de Robles is an estate grown wine that is a Chateau Neuf du Pape style. This wine is primarily a blend of Grenache, Counoise, Syrah and Mourvedre. The clones of the grapes are predominantly from Tablas Creek Winery and Vineyard Nursery, meaning they are cuttings from Chateau Beaucastle in Chateau Neuf du Pape. The wine is from 2003 and 2004 vintages. We made Allure de Robles a non-vintage wine in order to keep it in true Chateau Neuf du Pape style.

Allure de Robles is priced extremely moderately at one-third to one-half of what similar wines are selling for from the Paso Robles region. 1,994 cases produced.”

What I Think:

Again, TJ’s gets accolades for getting the prices they do, however it is that they do it as this wine cost double direct from the winery. I found myself opening this after dinner one evening as I didn’t want to finish the Rosenblum Petite Sirah nor the Navarro Pinot that were the open and available options. First off, this is never the ideal situation for opening a bottle of wine you’ve never had before. You want a known commodity. Something that when you pop the cork you know it is ready to drink. It doesn’t need air or food to be at its best, something like this Nero d’ Avola. Since I had nothing of the sort on hand I pulled the cork and hoped for the best.

This wine is made out of a mixture of grapes from 2003 and 2004 and was the first of this label that they had produced since 1998. Try as I did, I couldn’t find anything specific on why it had not been made over the years or a blend percentage by year. The wine is primarily a blend GSM (Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre). GSM’s can have quite a different look and feel based on which grape is dominant. I would never think of the Australian version as elegant or the French as a bold offering. Since no blend percentage was readily available and the name implied a leaning towards Europe my expectations were set accordingly.

Even as I was opening this bottle I was thinking that it looked very light in color. I had a misconception that lighter color always meant lower alcohol content. This was quickly erased when I saw this one measured in at nearly 15%. I guess darker only means stronger when it comes to beer… Initially, I was getting more floral notes on the nose than fruit. With some time it seemed to get a bit fruiter and familiar on the nose. When I say familiar over the two days I was drinking this wine there was something nagging my mind that I should know based on what I was drinking, alas it has yet to come to me. On the palate there were loads of light, forward fruits with raspberries being the most prevalent. This held quite well through the mid-palate before giving way to a slightly peppering, simple finish. This was certainly a pleasant effort. With the loads of raspberries and hints of strawberries I came around to thinking of it as a poor man’s, fruit-driven Pinot Noir. This realization really came to the fore when I paired a glass with some turkey tacos which easily overpowered this wine. To recap, everything about this wine is light; perhaps almost even a bit rosy (is that what was nagging me). If this appeals to you I recommend giving this one a go. Given that it is light and refreshing It could be perfect pre-meal wine for a summer barbeque. I wonder if it would work chilled?

Rating: 12th Bottle

2002 Trader Joe’s Paso Robles Estate Bottled Late Harvest Moscato

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Couldn’t find anything. All I know is that it appears to be made by Canyon Ridge. To be honest I’m not sure how much I paid, though I know it was on the lower end. Next time I am at the store I will check to see if they have something similar.

What I Think:

To be honest I had zero intention of writing this one up. I found it opened, but sealed, while cleaning out my fridge where it must have been for a minimum of 6 months. I was sure that it must be completely spoiled but figured in the interest of science I should at least find out. Given that my wife was making peach cobbler as dessert for my Father’s Day dinner there was clearly an opportunity on the horizon. I must say we were both astonished at how nice this was, when considering the circumstances of this bottle it was downright amazing! It still had nice texture and forward sweet, fruity flavors without being syrupy. Again dessert wine is not my specialty, not that any others are but in this case I don’t even care to pretend. If you like white dessert wines, and TJ’s still has anything like it, this would definitely be worth giving a try. Since my wife really enjoys these efforts I am guessing one may be appearing in our house again soon.

Rating: 12th Bottle

2003 Eos Zinfandel

Price: $7.02 @ BevMo (retails at $13.99 a bottle)

What They Said:

Per the winery “Aromas of earth, cedar and black cherries backed up by soft, smoky notes of leather lead to rich smoke on the pallet with bright fruit flavors of black cherries and plumbs, and hints of raspberries. The wine finishes with lingering tannin, earthiness and spice.”

What I Think:

Must not have been expecting much as I opened it when I knew my taste buds were pretty much shot. That sentiment pretty much carried over to the next day as well. Thank goodness I didn’t pay retail. This was drinkable but don’t think this label will find its way into my house anytime soon. All that said, this wine hardly had a fair or impartial showing this time around. I could see doing a blind tasting and pulling this out of the bag with a very different opinion. Then again maybe not…

 On a side note I am going to watch Paso Robles a little more, don’t think I have had a Zinfandel from that area that I cared for much.  Wonder if my research over time will prove that out.  Hold a sec…yeah scratch that.  I’ve had some nice Rosenblum efforts out of that area.

Rating: Skip It