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…)

2008 Santa Barbara Landing Pinot Noir

2008 Santa Barbara Landing Pinot NoirPrice: $3.99 @ 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 value. That’s why we like Santa Barbara Landing Pinot Noir so much. You would, in ordinary circumstances, expect to pay considerably more for a wine of this quality from the Santa Barbara region. These, however, are extraordinary times in which we live, and it seems that extraordinary times produce both extraordinary wines and extraordinary values. Santa Barbara Landing Pinot Noir is a silky red wine crafted from grapes grown throughout the coastal vineyards of the Santa Barbara growing region. At first blush, you’ll notice aromas of strawberry, cherry and cedar. At first sip, the berries burst on your tongue and mingle with a bit of oaky-ness that leads to soft tannins and a smooth finish. 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 $3.99 a bottle, this wine is a really 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:

2008 Santa Barbara Landing Pinot Noir (color in bottle)(13.5%) On the lighter side (see picture) but the right color. Garnet at the core with light reddish, orange edges. Right nose as it shows some strawberry notes with cloves. On the palate it is smooth and goes down easy. Rich but decent acidity with fake oak creaminess and manageable heat on the finish. It is clear this is nowhere near 100% Pinot and I’m guessing Syrah is its partner in crime. Far better than the Blue Fin offering Bronco put out last year. I’d have to say it is drinkable in a lighter, generic red kind of way. That said for $4 it could be far worse. I’d like to be harsher but while I won’t be buying this wine I have a hard time telling you not to if you were initially inclined to do so…

Rating: Skip It

2008 Caretaker Pinot Noir

 2008 Caretaker Pinot NoirPrice: $9.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the bottle “Ruby in color the 2008 Caretaker delicate and floral with rose petal, raspberry and strawberry aromas. The palate is exuberant with sweet red berries that continue into a soft, earthy plum finish.”

What I Think:

Nary a word about this one to be found on the internet but that’s okay I knew that before I brought it home. You see, this one is a product of the Central Coast Wine Warehouse which appears to be a shared production facility. This is the same place that delivered the The California Wine Party Franc Merlot and the Pancake Cellars Big Day White. I’m still pretty certain the Central Coast Wine Warehouse is an operation/business that uses this facility to create the wine. But that is becoming less clear by the bottle… Here nor there, based on my history with the Franc Merlot I bought two bottles of this one on site. Seeing the listing of the  2008 Caretaker Pinot Noir
Pinot clones they used on the back label only reinforced my decision.

Shortly after bringing it in the house it is on the table. Opening it my first thought is really! A 2008 Pinot already? 7 months from the vine to my table. My initial inclinations proved right as this one came across disjointed and with little balance. I sensed the delicate, floral nature on the nose. But the palate couldn’t bring anything together. Not a bad wine, likely very young and needing some time. For now, no fruit and lots of acidity. No way I could recommend this over the Castle Rock Mendocino Pinot. I’ll let you know if the 2nd bottle changes my mind but thinking unlikely at this point…

Rating: Skip It

2005 Avila Syrah

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the winery “Our Avila Syrah is a deep, dark, dense, and chewy wine with an abundant mouthful of blueberry, black plum, and black currant fruit flavors. Generous in the nose, this Syrah is approachable with plush fruit flavors layered with Asian spice, fig, black pepper, and orange peel. A versatile number, this wine can hold it’s own with a wide range of cuisine from spicy buffalo wings to black pepper steak or a midnight snack of cherry, chocolate brownies.”

What I Think:

At $5 with a Santa Barbara designation I was willing to give this one a try. Coming from here I was expecting a big jelly jar effort and that is more or less what I received. Certainly dense and chewy with heavy fruit flavors that muted the tannins and finished with a minty spice. That said the finish ends abruptly and it lacks complexity. I know I expect a lot for a fiver! If you were thinking about grabbing this one feel free to do so. At worst you will come away indifferent. I am more likely to work back through some of the efforts from Columbia Crest that I have enjoyed in the past.

Rating: 12th Bottle

2003 Holbrook Santa Barbara Syrah

Price: $12.99 @ K&L Wines

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines “Cory Holbrook, former winemaker and proprietor of Bridlewood Winery, makes this intense, richly fruited syrah. Full of freshly picked boyenberry, slathered in vanilla-y oak and spiced lightly with just the slighest pinch of lavender this is a wine for any fan of domestic or Australian Syrah. (Bryan Brick, K&L) 90 points

“Smart Buy” in Wine Spectator: “A forward, ripe and fleshy style, compelling for its supple mix of wild berry, boysenberry and blackberry fruit and pretty toasty oak shadings. Drink now through 2011.” (3/31/07)”

What I Think:

So K&L convinced me to buy this one when they highlighted it in their monthly news letter. I had never heard of the winemaker nor the winery mentioned so what was it that drew me to this one? Two things, I always want to try (and further more) to like wines from the Central Coast and two, I really want to like Syrah. Hmm, looks like it is pretty easy to catch my eye. So we cracked open the screwtop on this one and were hit by loads of light fruit on the nose with some woody overtones adding some spice and tannins to the bouquet. In the mouth it showed a nice, polished round structure balancing the fruit and tannins of the barrel nicely and lingering on the tongue through the finish. Finished with it that night we twisted the screwcap back on and let it sit for a few days. Wow! By day three this showed great layers of complexity! I was amazed by how a good wine had become so much more. Does it need to aged? Or does it just be open for a while? For the next three days I had small sips of this lamenting the day when they would come to an end…I even shared the last sip with a friend who likes to spend money on his wines and he was a bit surprised as he does not tend to care for syrah. Sadly that night the bottle ended.

I would love to compare this to the Columbia Crest Syrah they had at TJ’s a while back for $6.99 that I enjoyed so much. I am pretty sure this would blow it out of the water but it is always nice to have it side by side with something you consider your base line. Wish there was a way you could easily save taste of these wines so I could pull it out of the cabinet and have them side by side now….

Not sure if I will really buy this one as it is at a tricky price point for me but if the stars align I certainly wouldn’t mind finding it in the rack again…

Rating: Wow!