Price: $9.99 @ Trader Joe’s
What They Said:
Per San Antonio Winery “Windbreak is handcrafted at Orcutt Road Cellars in the Edna Valley of San Luis Obispo. Both clonal selections are fermented separately in small, open-top tanks. The cap is “punched down” in order to delicately extract color without creating excessive tannins. After aging in French oak barrels, the individual lots are evaluated and blended. The wine is dark and structured with intense flavors of black cherry and raspberry. Barrel aging contributes nuances of oak spice and cedar with a long, mouth-filling finish.”
What I Think:
This one is a product of the San Antonio Winery and the ’07 goes for $35 a bottle on the site which also mentions in its awards that it received 89 Points from the Wine Enthusiast in September 2008. As to the brand, the description from the bottle describes the Windbreak (brand) as the rows of trees planted to protect the vines from the maritime winds.
This one is light brownish red in color, almost sun-baked mud. 14.5% abv. On the nose this one offers black cherries, rhubarb and green pepper action. The palate greets you with forward, bright fruit and racy acidity. The structure is sound but the acidity is a bit overwhelming for me to grab another bottle. Especially considering the stellar Pinot lineup Trader Joe’s has on the shelves today. Granted I might be getting greedy and expecting a bit much but there are plenty of options out there. What’s your favorite $10 Pinot Noir today?
Price: $12.99 @ Trader Joe’s
What They Said:
Per Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer (pdf) We set out to find a couple of magical wines that had the character, style and pedigree of really good reds. And yet, we dreamed both would have reasonable prices far lower than wines of this caliber normally command. Fulfilling our fantasies required a dedication to tasting and patience. Really good wines don’t grow on trees after all. Many tasting panels later, we discovered these wines worthy of the moniker Trader Joe’s Reserve. The Grand Reserve Pinot Noir has spent six months in oak to develop its grand complexity. This wine is rich with smoky plum, black cherry and raspberry. We watch our costs carefully, so we can offer values that might make others blush (or, rosé). We’re selling each 750 ml bottle of Trader Joe’s Grand Reserve Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands for $12.99.
What I Think:
Wow, upon reflection I still can’t believe I paid $13 for a bottle of wine at Trader Joe’s. Further confounding this is that it was one of their very own private labeled bottles. This one had some background before it arrived. Angela and her crew called it a favorite in reviewing the majority of Trader Joe’s Pinot Noir offerings. Shortly thereafter Danny gave it a solid two thumbs down, saying after a single sip that he saved himself some coin. Obviously at this price point my expectations are sky high. The only thing tempering them is knowing how good it is to find quality Pinot at a reasonable price point.
Now let’s move on to the main event. On opening an aromatic nose smelling of light fruits, cherries and raspberries, with hints of cola. On the palate holy moly! I am initially blown away by fruit, a bit on the sweet side even. This needed time to blow off, wonder if that is the sip Danny had. After giving this one some time the fruits mellow with cherries and cranberries predominant on a light frame that lasts and linger through a long finish with barrel notes, a bit of spice and sour fruit. All in all, this was nice but I need a bit more than just fruit. I would have liked a bit more complexity or if not a range of flavors. I much prefer this Hayman & Hill which also hails from Santa Lucia and is even a few bucks cheaper…
Price: $9.99 @ The Wine Club
What They Said:
Per the winery “Lifted strawberry and sweet ripe raspberry characters attack you on the nose and palate. Subtle dusty overtones with a sweet smokiness help to make this a powerful yet elegant Pinot with plenty of class.”
It was also selected as one of the top 100 wines by the San Francisco Chronicle who had this to say; ‘THREE STARS 2005 Hayman & Hill Reserve Selection No. 41 Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir ($14) One of only two three-star wines in this group, this is also the least expensive. Run, don’t walk, to buy this pretty, balanced Pinot, with vivid raspberry, cherry and cranberry fruit, juicy acidity and a soft, supple mouthfeel. Subtle notes of black pepper and black olive add complexity.
What I Think:
This wine was part of a half dozen I picked up while shopping for the Ridge a while back at The Wine Club. What initially attracted me to this bottle was the opportunity to by a Santa Lucia Highlands designated Pinot for $10. It seemed unbelievable as you usually have a hard time getting yourself a bottled classified as California at this price point. Once I got home and did some initial research it seemed that I may have stumbled on to something as this had been selected to the top 100 wines of 2006 by the San Francisco Chronicle (see above). Given all of this excitement it is somewhat amazing that it took me this long to open it but with steak (which more aptly turned out to be beef roast) planned for dinner I decided to pop the top on this. It would square off against the 2000 Bordeaux I had opened the previous evening in anticipation of this meal.
On first impression it had a nose that didn’t stop. It was like walking into a strawberry patch. The light fruit was followed by leafy aromas with a dusty, earthy backbone tying it all together. On the palate I thought I initially had sensed some cherries but if I did they quickly gave way to the strawberries. Either way the fruit was red and ripe, perhaps overripe as it seems hot throughout (my wife called it spicy). The wine had nice structure but wasn’t overly complex as it has same flavor profile throughout. As I put the cork back in that first night I thought this is a nice, light easy drinking wine. The second day it seemed much better integrated adding a new dimension to the wine, it was still strawberries from beginning to end but they seemed to be balanced throughout by the ever so mild peppery notes that came on in the finish. By day three there was a little less on the nose and mid-palate seemed to be shrinking though the start and finish were in fine form. It was also starting to get slightly sour with hints of cranberry making an appearance. Sadly there are no notes from day four as I finished the previous evening.
As I placed the empty bottle with the recyclables I thought to myself that was a very pleasant wine. Nothing strong or overpowering about it but very enjoyable. This would be a great first red for those of you that prefer whites. I may get another bottle, but I am not running, and if I do you can be sure I will pair it with lighter fare, perhaps salmon or roast chicken. Given that most of the Pinot’s out there today are much bigger, bolder (hence my thoughts of pairing with beef) efforts this was a pleasant break and a reminder of how delicate Pinot can be. If you like to see both sides of the coin grab yourself a bottle of this and ponder the differences.
Rating: Buy It