2010 Trader Joe’s Petit Reserve Grenache

Price: $6.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2010 Trader Joes Petit Reserve GrenacheAs usual little to be heard here given the Trader Joe’s designation. The only thing we learn from turning the bottle around is that this one is made by the Hahn Family Wines. Checking their site shows a GSM but no varietal bottling of Grenache so it looks like we are on our own here…

What I Think:

(14.2%) Made by the Hahn Family this Grenache hails from Lodi. It starts rich, ripe and juicy with loads of black cherry flavor. A bit over the top and a touch sweet (can almost feel tomorrow’s headache…) before toning down a bit on the backend to deliver some spice on a short finish. This one could have used some acidity for balance. That said if you like your wines fruit forward (and don’t mind a touch of sweetness) this one might be for you.

Rating: Serviceable <- to absentmindedly drink but not recommended to “taste”…

2009 Uvaggio Vermentino

Uvaggio is a winery that focuses on “interesting Italian grape varieties offered at extremely interesting prices”. Now that is one way to get my attention in a hurry. Not only is Vermentino their flagship wine, it is more than half of their annual making them the largest producer of the varietal in California. Their take on Vermentino is that if you like Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc that you definitely need to give Vermentino a try. I have before, on a limited basis, but was glad to get a chance to do so again. How’d it go?

2009 Uvaggio VermentinoPrice: $14.00 @ via the winery*

What They Said:

Per Uvaggio “We harvested beginning in early Sept, finishing by the end of the month, all at peak maturity – yet at relatively low brix, making this an ideal variety for a lower alcohol wine. All the lots were free-run juice (no pressing) and cool fermented in tank with a fruit enhancing strain of yeast and without a malo-lactic conversion. About 10% was aged in neutral oak for complexity. Post fermentation it was racked twice followed by a light fining, then another racking and filtration prior to bottling.

Our descriptors: fresh and supple; lively yet subtle lime, quince and pear aromas; flavors of melon and stone fruits.”

What I Think:

(11%) Light golden yellowish (reminiscent of Sauvignon Blanc). Great nose, multi layered with green apples and floral blossoms. You are going to want to keep your nose in the glass for awhile. Equally as exciting on the palate where it starts fresh and bright before delivering a plush dose of cantaloupe flavors. A smooth, balanced acidity emerges on the mid-palate before a nice salty, saline tinge on a minerally finish that lingers on refreshingly. Makes me want to drink more Vermentino. Perfect as an aperitif on a sunny patio or pair it with the summer fare of your choice. At $14 this one is well worth the price of entry.

Rating: Buy It (another one to add to my list of Summer faves)

*This wine was received as a press sample but I would purchase another bottle with my very own US$ if I see it…

2007 Rootstock Zinfandel

Price: $6.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2007 Rootstock ZinfandelMy initial Google search returned nothing. The back of the bottle noted that this one is made by DnA Vineyareds which I recognized from two previous offerings; Trader Joe’s Captain’s Catch and the TBD Zinfandel. The DnA Vineyards site hardly exists hasn’t been updated in ages. Failing on that front I decide to give the COLA registry a try and learned that the Mendocino Wine Group is ultimately behind this one. They are responsible for numerous labels with Paraducci being the most widely known offering (and for football fans the Mike Ditka wine label which I didn’t know existed…). Neither Rootstock or DnA Vineyards are mentioned on the site. Looks like yet another TJ’s orphan wine!

So what did the bottle have to say? “Combining four different Lodi Zinfandels and blending in a special lot of Lodi Petite Sirah gives this succulent wine added depth and color. This wine is full bodied and round with very integrated tannins that lead to a long and silky finish. The mouthfeel harbors licorice and cedar with a slight fennel note in the background. Versatility is the key here when considering what food to pair with; burgers, pastas and grilled veggies all work wonderfully.”

What I Think:

Reading my review on the TBD Zin which also was mostly Lodi Zinfandel I can’t help but wonder if this isn’t almost the same juice, with the same winemaking team under a different label. I find myself playing the role of skeptic as I put this on the table to pair with meatloaf.

So, what’s in the bottle? On the nose you are greeted with bright, hot cherry notes. On the palate this one is big & fruity but mostly one dimensional. You think a spice component is going to emerge near the mid palate but it quickly falls apart. The wine then turns hot leading to a slightly chalky finish before the heat once again emerges and lingers on. This one is not to be had on its own (IMHO), much better with food. But then even still it is rough around the edges. I may be being a bit harsh but couple my experience with the $6.99 price tag and I am not likely to buy this one again. By the way to my earlier point on playing the skeptic, my notes on the TBD Zin don’t sound all that different. But then again I do always enjoy a good conspiracy theory…

Rating: Skip It

2007 Clay Station Viognier

2007 Clay Station ViognierPrice: $3.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the bottle “Viognier (vee-oh-NYAY) is an elegant, aromatic wine that pairs well with many foods including scallops, pasta with pest and Szechwan green beans. Our Viognier displays notes of honeysuckle, jasmine and orange blossom layered with juicy guava and peach character for a refreshing finish that lingers.”

What I Think:

I got tipped off on this one by my Trader Joe’s insider Angela. I struck out the first time I tracked this down but had success in round two. Good thing as a trip to BevMo would have cost me $11 while TJ’s rings it up at $4. Per the bottle Clay Station describes themselves as “formerly a nineteenth century stage coach stop, offers wines crafted for the adventurous palate. Created from rare or more difficult to grow grape varieties, these wines deliver refreshing aromatic whites and boldly structured reds.” Per their site they make a Zinfandel, a Petite Sirah and Pinot Gris. I’ve heard via the comments Trader Joe’s has the Zinfandel, yet to see it myself though Angela gives it at least one thumb down. I’ll likely try it anyhow and dream of one day seeing the Petite Sirah…

Now onto the wine; on the first day this one was a bit over the top, or better said forward. Day three textbook Viognier. Pretty nose of honey & fresh cut flowers. On the palate you get the same floral tastes with hints of peach and lemon notes on the finish. Viscosity disappears beyond mid-palate. Nice, long tart end over a citrus backbone. All the reasons Viognier is my favorite “hearty” white wine.

Rating: Buy It

2004 Benson Ferry Lodi Shiraz

Price: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per quaffability “Ever drive by a vineyard late in the season – I mean really late, after the kids have finished off the last of their Halloween candy – and seen vines still laden with fruit, even though the autumn colors of the leaves are fading to brown. And yet you still see a full crop of red grapes hanging from these vines, and if you look closely, you’ll see that the fruit is losing its plumpness, shriveling, and turning into raisins. What the heck are they making here? Late-harvest zin? Maybe, but more likely they’re going for a super-ripe style like this wine, which I found last week on a big end-of-aisle display at Trader Joes?

So how is it? Kinda like liquid Raisinettes. Never had them? Well, if you like wines that taste like chocolate raisin juice mixed generously with toasted oak, then this is the swill for you.”

What I Think:

After seeing the write up above I am actually visibly upset that this wine has ended up in my house. Funny how these things work, you know how often that movie all your friends bag on thus lowering your expectations tends to lead to you being pleasantly surprised? That is what happened here. Rich in fruit and heavy in alcohol this wine makes itself known. Not that I thought it was great but it was decent, though tasted of being created in the winery rather than in the fields. Give it a try if you feel the need. At this price point I’ll be looking elsewhere.

Rating: Skip It

2005 Zynthesis Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel

Price: $7.52 @ BevMo  (retails at $14.99 a bottle)

What They Said:

Per BevMo “Close to saturation, the generous ’05 Zynthesis Old Vine Zinfandel delivers fully ripened flavors that approach the nuances of sun-dried raisins; excellent with savory stews.”

What I Think:

This is the second half of a nickel sale pair that we opened on short notice as the Shiraz we opened couldn’t stand up to the acidity in the pasta. It’s twin received the highest rating out of the 7 bottles I bought during this sale. Boy was this one a different animal. This one started with perhaps musty garden smells. At one point it almost reminded of cleaning fish, that scaly metallic kind of smell. I was a bit worried that this one had gone bad, certainly a different bottle than the other half of the duo. Previously I remembered identifying the syrah portion of the blend straight off the nose. No such worries tonight. The odors were actually so strong that my wife could not bring herself to drink though after you let it get some air for a few minutes it was a drinkable wine. Once in the mouth it didn’t seem as bad as the smell had been, certainly different but perhaps interesting. It was very musty, with smoky overtones complimented by dark fruit running along the palate. The more air it got the better it tasted. By the end the inkiness I remembered had begun to show its way through. All that being said I think some kind of taint must have been in play and I certainly wouldn’t recommend a bottle that opened smelling like that unless there was a very compelling reason, which this one did not provide. Thus it slips two rungs down the rating scale, warranting a skip.

Rating: Skip It

2005 Zynthesis Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel

Price: $7.52 @ BevMo (retails at $14.99 a bottle)

What They Said:

Per BevMo “Close to saturation, the generous ’05 Zynthesis Old Vine Zinfandel delivers fully ripened flavors that approach the nuances of sun-dried raisins; excellent with savory stews.”

What I Think:

Again this was part of the 5c sale and at retail price this isn’t a pleasant discussion as for me the difference between $15 and $7.50 is quite monstrous in terms of expecations.  The first thing I remember about this was sensing syrah.  Sure enough turned around the bottle and found that there was both syrah and petite syrah blended into this.  It claimed to be from 100 year old vines which seems difficult to believe at this price.  I have another bottle waiting in the wings and if it matches the effort of this one I would be happy to grab a few more bottles at this price point.

Rating: Buy It (the 2nd bottle could put it on the Bulk Buy list)