2009 Bonterra Rose

2009 Bonterra RosePrice: $2.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per Bonterra (pdf) “Our Rosé continues to exemplify the standard we set with our first vintage – a dry, crisp, complex and refreshing Rosé with beautiful color. We’ve used a collection of varietals to contribute surprising complexity and a beautiful deep-pink color. For this vintage we focused on Sangiovese, Zinfandel, Carignane and just a little Grenache, all from Mendocino County. The grapes were picked when they had achieved a great balance of ripe fruit and racy acidity. They were then cold-fermented in stainless steel to preserve the great floral and fruit aromas. The knock-your-socks-off color is just the beginning. Chilled a bit, the wine reveals aromas and flavors of strawberry, tart cherry, raspberries, watermelon, and spice with a wonderful dry, lingering finish.

What I Think:

(13.4%) 45% Sangiovese, 26% Zinfandel, 15% Carignane, 9% Grenache – Bright pink (more than I like) and aged this one starts off on the wrong foot but at $3 I couldn’t help but roll the dice. Simple and mineral driven on the palate with spiced edges. Not much fruit left here but you get some faint strawberries on a dry, clean palate with a nice, crisp finish. Certainly not a bad wine to drink but not one you want to spend time “tasting”. Worth buying at $3 if you are looking for something to mindlessly sip on this summer. I may even grab another bottle or two for myself but this isn’t the steal of a deal I was hoping it might have been…

Rating: Try It (at $2.99 you don’t have much to lose…)

Wine Geek Notes: Certified organic; Twist-off

2008 Green Barn Red Field Blend

Ever since I fell in love with a Ridge York Creek Zinfandel long ago I’ve been a sucker for field blends (which this one is). For those that might not new what this indicates it means that the grapes are grown intermixed in the vineyard. There isn’t a row of Zinfandel, a row of Syrah etc. but rather everything is grown side by side. As compared to the vast majority of wines which are grown individually, barreled individually and then in something akin to a science lab test tube tasting bottled together once the magic ratios are identified. But anyhow onto the wine…

2008 Green Barn Red Field BlendPrice: $6.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per Trader Joe’s “Wines made with organically grown grapes have come a long way. We’ve been working with one of the pioneers of this burgeoning segment of the winemaking industry for years, and the wines he produces seem to get better as his efforts at sustainability and biodynamic farming grow even deeper roots (pun intended). We’ve recently partnered with this talented craftsman to create Green Barn Wines, exclusive to Trader Joe’s.

Green Barn Wines are made with organically grown grapes from Mendocino County, north of Sonoma, along the rugged northern California coast. Green Barn Red Wine is a blend of Zinfandel, Syrah, Grenache and Petite Sirah. It’s juicy in the mouth, with black cherry flavors and a bit of orange peel on the finish, with soft tannins.”

What I Think:

(14.5%) 51% Zinfandel, 39% Syrah, 6% Grenache, and 4% Petit Sirah – Nice full nose. On entry this is rich and smooth with juicy, slightly sweet, fruits of blackberry and cherry. These are joined by creamy tannins and a moderate acidity on the mid-palate. From there it turns tart before drying out on dusty, white pepper finish that turns a touch bitter before lingering on. A big wine, but not over the top, to pair with a big meal. If you don’t mind the tart fruit and flash of bitterness perhaps serve it with a nice beef chili on a cold evening…

Rating: 12th Bottle <- While I can imagine buying this one again I’m not likely to do so…

Hungry Hollow Wines

Hungry Hollow WinesAs you might have read here Hungry Hollow is the latest label from one of my long standing favorites; Navarro Vineyards (reviews). As the story goes this is an old railway that used to run lumber from the town of Navarro to be loaded on ships bound for San Francisco. The most eastern end of that track resided in Hungry Hollow where the “wine flowed freely in boarding houses and dance halls”. Previously sold off in bulk Navarro (thankfully) decided to recognize the state of the economy and introduce a new line of “local wines at prices every thrifty and hard-working man or woman can afford.” I applaud them for doing so. The initial release consists of a Riesling, Gewurztraminer and a Syrah. Best of all those interested in trying it can get a sample pack of all three for $30 with one cent shipping which I strongly recommend you do. But first some thoughts on the wines…

  • 2010 Hungry Hollow Riesling ($10) – From Navarro’s fifteen year old Campsite vineyard this one is made from three clones, each barreled separately, spanning three different countries of origin. Juicy and rich on the palate with loads of green apples and a moderate acidity that keeps it crisp throughout. A dry version with (thank goodness for me) not even a hint of sweetness making this extremely food friendly. True to their goal this one is a good working man’s Riesling.
  • 2010 Hungry Hollow Gewurztraminer ($10) – Gewürztraminer is Anderson Valley’s most respected grape and this one is a blend of Navarro estate fruit and the neighboring Valley Foothills Vineyard. Crafted using a blend of modern techniques and ancient methods this one has crisp, floral nose with tropical fruits. Lush and full with more tropical fruit on the palate and a spiced acidity that lasts through a crisp, lightly sweet, finish. If you are a fan of this varietal you’ll want to stock up!
  • 2009 Hungry Hollow Syrah ($12) – Made from two Australian clones (labeled as Shiraz Down Under) of purchased Mendocino County fruit, some from seventy year old vines, this one is bold from the get go. Nice, dark, chewy fruit on the palate with lively, bright acidity leading to a rich, chocolaty finish that lingers pleasantly. Big and balanced enough to remain food friendly. Reminiscent of cool climate Syrah demanding twice the price tag (or more) this one is ready to drink now and it’s worth stashing a few more in the cellar.

So there you have it. Given you can try all three for $30 with one cent shipping I think this offer is almost too good to pass up. Give them a try! And if you do be sure to let me know what you think…

2009 Hungry Hollow Syrah

Again if you are new to Hungry Hollow it is a label from Navarro Vineyards billed as a line of “local wines at prices every thrifty and hard-working man or woman can afford.” You can try their first three offerings; this Syrah, the Riesling and the Gewurztraminer, for $30 plus one cent shipping. Feel free to click on over there and order this now but if you need further proof to inspire you read on…

2009 Hungry Hollow SyrahPrice: $11.99 @ Navarro Vineyards

What They Said:

Per Navarro Vineyards “The vines that produced this Syrah are an Australian selection, which would be labeled as Shiraz Down Under. The vines are trained to an old-fashioned goblet that works extremely well for Syrah grown on the Rhône as well as in Australia. We like the wine produced from these vines and have been lucky enough to purchase these grapes for several years. The berries are small and the clusters compact; the wine produced is darkly colored with complex tannins and delicate aromas of violets and cherry. The wine was aged in seasoned French oak barrels for ten months and aged in the bottle for another year in our temperature controlled cellar. The polar opposite of the 2010 Hungry Hollow Riesling, it is 14.1% alcohol with deep lingering flavors to match; a bold, chewy wine sporting flavors of black cherry, loganberry jam and currants backed up with hints of caramel and bittersweet chocolate. Serve with duck with olives, grilled burgers, shitake mushroom risotto or your favorite juicy steak.”

What I Think:

(14.1%) Nice, dark, chewy fruit with black cherry and currant on the palate. Lively, bright acidity and black olives notes on the mid-palate which lead to a rich, chocolaty finish with oak spice that lingers pleasantly. Tightly wound but food friendly, punching well below its 14.1% weight class. I like the prospects of this one given some short term aging. Well worth the $12 price of admission especially if you are a fan of cool climate Syrah which is hard to find at this price point.

Wine Geek Notes: 1,422 cases made; Sugars at harvest: 24.9° Brix; Made with Australian clones; Aged in seasoned French oak barrels for ten months and aged in the bottle for another year.

Rating: Buy It

2010 Hungry Hollow Gewurztraminer

If you missed the upfront on Hungry Hollow Wines from my last post let’s cut to the skinny. Hungry Hollow is a new label from Navarro Vineyards and is billed as a new line of “local wines at prices every thrifty and hard-working man or woman can afford.” You can try their first three offerings; this Gewurztraminer, the Riesling and the Syrah, for $30 plus one cent shipping. If you are a fan of wine I recommend you click on thru and order this now but if you need further proof to inspire you read on…

Price: $9.99 @ Navarro Vineyards

What They Said:

2010 Hungry Hollow GewurztraminerPer Navarro Vineyards “Gewürztraminer is Anderson Valley’s most respected grape for white wine; the fruit for this bottling was grown by Navarro Vineyards and neighboring Valley Foothills Vineyard. We blended modern technology with ancient winemaking: the wine was fermented and aged in seasoned oak ovals which have been fitted with modern stainless steel cooling panels inside the casks so that the winemaker can control fermentation temperatures. After fermentation, we adhered to traditional practices by allowing the wine to rest for seven months on the yeast that was generated by the fermentation. Gewürztraminer’s signature aromas and flavors are of lychee, grapefruit, ginger and cardamom which are enhanced with hints of bread pudding and toast. A full, spicy wine that particularly complements piquant foods: Indian curries, Asian spicy sesame noodles, carnitas with green salsa or blackened rock fish.”

What I Think:

(13%) Crisp, floral nose with tropical fruits. Lush and full on the palate with lychee and peach flavors. From there a spiced acidity drives through a touch sweet, a touch bright but still crisp finish. A wine I could drink regularly. Given the difficulty of finding an enjoyable sub $10 Gewurzt I’m tempted to stock up. If you are a fan of this varietal I would do so.

Wine Geek Notes: 797 Alcohol cases made; Total Acidity: 7.2 g/L pH Level: 3.37; Residual Sugars: 0.5%

Rating: Buy It

2010 Hungry Hollow Riesling

Hungry Hollow is the latest label from one of my long standing favorites; Navarro Vineyards (reviews). The reference is to an old railway that used to run lumber from the town of Navarro to be loaded on ships bound for San Francisco. The most eastern end of that track resided in Hungry Hollow where the “wine flowed freely in boarding houses and dance halls”. Previously sold off in bulk Navarro (thankfully) decided to recognize the state of the economy and introduce a new line of “local wines at prices every thrifty and hard-working man or woman can afford.” I applaud them for doing so. The initial release consists of a Riesling (review below), Gewurztraminer and a Syrah. Best of all those interested in trying it can get a sample pack of all three for $30 with one cent shipping. I’m enjoying the Gewurztraminer as I write and looking forward to the Syrah soon but in the meantime here are my thoughts on the Riesling…

2010 Hungry Hollow RieslingPrice: $9.99 @ Navarro Vineyards

What They Said:

Per Navarro Vineyards “Navarro’s Campsite vineyard is out favorite source of Riesling. It was planted fifteen years ago on gravely soil to three different clones, each one a preferred choice in three different countries: clone 49 from Alsace, Neustadt 90 from Germany and FPMS 9 from California. We kept the lots separate during winemaking as they ripened at different rates. This vintage was the coolest on record, the grapes ripened very slowly and it was late October before the grapes had turned from green to gold finally signaling that the grapes were ripe. Clone 9 we discovered had less sugar than normal and produced a wine with very low alcohol reminiscent of German Rieslings from the Rheinpfalz. The pretty aromas are of jasmine, green apple and apricot. Pippin apple dominates the flavors with suggestions of lime zest and peach. The finish is remarkably dry due to high natural acidity and the restrained alcohol of only 11.3% keeps it refreshing. This is a light, crisp wine to serve before supper or to accompany crab, abalone, clams, halibut or your own version of fisherman’s stew.”

What I Think:

(11.3%) Citrus, banana and apricot on the nose. Juicy, rich palate with loads of green apples backed up by peach flavors and moderate acidity that keeps it crisp throughout. Including through the citrus driven finish which is short but refreshing. This is a dry version with (thank goodness for me) not even a hint of sweetness. While I’d like a bit more acidity this is certainly fairly priced at $10. My recommendation is to drink this a touch colder than your typical white. Either way Riesling is by nature extremely food friendly and this is easy to recommend with salads, seafood, Asian dishes and more.

Wine Geek Notes: 22.4 brix. Residual Sugar = 0.9g/l. Bottle says 12.5%abv web says 11.3%. Made from a blend of three clones; clone 49 from Alsace, Neustadt 90 from Germany and FPMS 9 from California.

2009 Benefactor Cellars Red

Way late to the party here but when I saw a lone bottle staring at me from the shelves this weekend I figured it was high time for me to actually get around to this review! The outfit behind this one is DnA Vineyards which opened up shop in 2006. Dennis Patton and his wife Andrea are the proprietors there. Some may recognize Dennis’s name as he has been in the business for 30+ years. He founded Hidden Cellars in 1981 which was sold to Parducci in 1999. He also spearheaded the Coro Mendocino wine consortium along with Paul Dolan.Coro Mendocino

Per the DnA Vineyards site their focus is to make “Custom Crafted Wines” at “Incomparable Price/Quality Ratio”. They do this for numerous clients; Trader Joe’s chief amongst them. This is the third wine of theirs I’ve tried. The first two were both Zinfandels; the 2006 TBD California Zinfandel and the 2007 Rootstock Zinfandel where Dennis himself gave me a lesson in negociant wine-making. Makes sense as this is the grape he is most known for (along with Petite Sirah). You can read more about Dennis in this excellent article.

2009 Benefactor Cellars RedNow per the Coro Mendocino guidelines (or protocol as they say) the wines must have 40-70% Zinfandel; and no second-tier varietal (Barbera, Carignane, Charbono, Grenache, Dolcetto, Primitivo, Petite Sirah and Syrah) can exceed the percentage of the Zinfandel. Lastly a winemaker has “free play” to choose any varietal to comprise up to 10 percent of the final product. The Benefactor Cellars blend is 50% Zinfandel, 40% Syrah and 10% Carignane which meets the Coro Mendocino standards. That said as these wines are distinctively labeled and require peer review I’ve still yet to try one. Anyhow let’s get to this one…

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2009 Benefactor Cellars Red (back label)Per the bottle “Oh erstwhile unstoppable wine market! There are those who have mourned your passing with many a tear, many a boo hoo. But we celebreate the generosity of your death. Those wines which once haunted us from beyond our price range now pour happily – affordably, deliciously, attainably – into our glasses, thanks to you. A toast to failed predictions! To bloated, insupportable markets! Here’s to the Benefactor!”

What I Think:

(14.9%) 50% Zinfandel, 40% Syrah, 10% Carignane – Dark purple in color with warm briary, berry fruit and spice on the nose. It starts with almost candied plum and cherry before a firm acidic structure emerges on the mid-palate to maintain balance. From there it turns oaky and creamy showing vanilla on the finish which thins quickly. From there it lingers on nicely (albeit a bit hot) with a bit of spice and dusty chocolate. This wine is plush, comfortable (familiar) and fruity. An easy, smooth drinker for a $5 spot.

Rating: Buy It

Interested in reading more about the Benefactor Cellars Red?

  • Jeff from Viva la Wino thinks its “actually quite good, especially for $5″. High praise for those that know him…
  • Matt from Trader Joe’s Wine Notes says “Dennis Patton has set the bar very high for wines now occupying the $5 price point”.
  • The folks (or folk) over at Beards & Bellies calls it “a damn fine wine for $4.99″.

2007 Sterling Vineyards Organic Cabernet Sauvignon

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2007 Sterling Vineyards Organic Cabernet SauvignonPer the bottle “The organically grown grapes selected for this wine are farmed using natural techniques free from artificial chemicals or pesticides. Set against the dramatic and beautiful backdrop of Mendocino County on California’s North Coast, these organic vineyards produce fresh fruit with pure, exceptional flavors. This Cabernet Sauvignon shows flavors of juicy blackberry, currant and plum, with hints of espresso and toffee.”

What I Think:

This one came double recommended by Jerry and Angela so you know I had to give it a try. While Sterling Vineyards doesn’t recognize this (on their site) they do have the Chardonnay (89 Points Wine Enthusiast) under the same label available for $13 bones. The Cab seems to be available on the broader market for $14-18. So is it worth $5?

Yes it is! Nice minty nose laden with fruit and barrel notes followed by juicy fruit on the palate. Blackberries lead the way while being held in balance by a firm, acidic backbone. Surprisingly full bodied given its 13% ABV (light by Cab standards). The finish shows more of the same juiciness with some dry tannins and dusty chocolate notes. An easy sipper for sure. Need more proof? I’ve finished three bottles in a little more than a week. While I’m a big fan of this wine I am guessing it is may show too much acidity for many of you out there. That said for $5 I would encourage you to try this it and let me know. As for myself I’m going to try and grab a bunch more soon. Get it while you can! All that and I have still yet to mention that this one deserves extra credit for having a screw top… Thanks again to Angela and Jerry for the tip on this one!

Rating: Buy It

2006 San Greal Red Supper Wine

2006 San Greal Red Supper WinePrice: $6.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the bottle “San Greal the French word for “Holy Grail” is derived from the ancient words sang real, translated to mean “royal blood”. Our “San Greal” Red Supper Wine is produced from our estate vineyards using sustainable farming practices. This wine displays brillant berry aromas with medium astringency and a long expansive finish.”

What I Think:

I hit it off with this wine as soon as I saw it on the shelf. Anytime a new label appears in the Trader Joe’s Wine aisle you know I am going to give it a look. So what did we have here? A red blend from Mendocino (everyone knows I am a big fan, right?) that is humble enough to call itself a “Red Supper Wine”. In the cart it goes. Landing on the San Greal Winery site the good vibes continued. It turns out that the San Greal label is under the Jeriko Estate umbrella which is owned and run by Danny Fetzer. Fetzer? Mendocino? Ring any bells? Danny’s brother Jim, as part of Ceago Vinegarden, was responsible for the 2006 Dynamic Mendocino Red Table Wine which was #1 on the Trader Joe’s Top 10 Wine List while it lasted. It appears Danny is taking a page out of his big brothers book. Actually, I have no idea who is the older brother but both are also fans of sustainable farming and have had their vineyards Demeter certified as biodynamic.

So what about the juice in the bottle? This one is a blend of 55% Syrah, 23% Merlot and 22% Sangiovese. The nose greets you with inviting dark red fruit and spices. On the palate I am immediately reminded of a Cote du Rhone offering. This one took a bit to open up, it was bottled in late February, but grew on me more and more with each sip over the four days I sampled it. Cherries mixed with blackberries coat the the palate while a proper dose of tannins keeps this perfectly balanced, that said it may be too acidic for some. This one has Top 10 potential and has at minimum joined my CdR rotation with the Perrin and J. Vidal-Fleury. Grab one of these and be on the lookout for other varietals from this label. Their website mentions a Pinot Noir and Cabernet as coming soon, hopefully they make it to Trader Joe’s! The Wine Traveler who had an inside scoop on this one, seems to think they may. Let me know if anyone sees them…

Rating: Buy It

2007 Navarro Edelzwicker

2007 Navarro EdelzwickerPrice: $13.00 direct from the winery

What They Said:

Per Navarro Vineyards “A specialty of Alsace is a blend called Edelzwicker; literally a mixture (zwicker) of Alsace’s noble (edel) grapes: Gewürztraminer (34%), Riesling (32%), Pinot Gris (29%), and Muscat (5%). The price may be small but the flavors and aromas are generous and world class.”

What I Think:

I have many previous disclaimers on my love of Navarro, where I am approaching my ten year anniversary as a member of their wine club (interesting post on this in the future), as well as my love of the Alsace since Hubert Keller long ago culinarily romanced me at Fleur de Lys here in San Francisco. With those facts on the table it should come as a surprise to no one that I have been a long time fan of this offering. That despite its lofty, for me, $13 price tag. On the palate you are greeted with some crisp apple, peach and nectarine flavors that quickly become fuller bodied as we head for the mid palate. Here the fruit becomes more delicate and leads to a sweet, honey finish that lingers nicely, inviting you back for your next sip. There are also pretty floral notes throughout. While I agree with Steve Heimoff that this is good on its own or with spicy food; don’t feel the need to define it so narrowly as the sweetness is balanced by acid. This combination makes it food friendly so feel free to pair this across a wider spectrum of cuisines. Think this one is only available from the winery so if you want some you have to go to the source…

Rating: Wow!