2006 Lance & Windmill Petite Syrah

Price: $14.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2006 Lance & Windmill Petite SyrahRumor has it this one is a $60 bottling from Quixote Winery. Some research over at the TTB quickly confirms this and it further backed by the 2005 being offered at $60 on the winery website. As I understand the ’05 garnered 93pts from the Wine Spectator I’m a bit surprised to find this one on the shelves at Trader Joe’s but intrigued to try it as well…

What I Think:

(14.4%) This one starts with bursting blueberry flavors and tons of dark lush fruit. Juicy, rich and velvety but with nice mouth coating tannins with a touch of leather to keep it “restrained”. As it dries out some spice (along with a touch of heat) emerges on a finish that while short lingers on. Despite the big fruit there are enough other components here to keep it interesting (and intact). It’s been a while since I recall enjoying a Petite Sirah as much as I did this one. Pair this one with a steak or a cigar…

Rating: Buy It (a bit spendy but if you are a fan of Petite Sirah well worth trying)

Interested in reading more about the Lance & Windmill Petite Syrah?

  • My friends over at Beards & Bellies describe this as “stain your tongue deliciousness” and rate it 4.5 out of 5 Bellies
  • My friend Matt over at Trader Joe’s Wine Notes summarizes his thoughts on this one by saying “Simply awesome”

2007 Napa Station Chardonnay

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2007 Napa Station ChardonnayPer Napa Station “Sourced from four exceptional vineyards in the cool southern region of Napa Valley, this Chardonnay was aged on the lees in stainless steel tanks and small French oak barrels. The wine underwent partial malolactic fermentation to add richness without overpowering the fruit. The wine exhibits aromas of ripe peach, pear and citrus, with crisp green apple and hints of tropical fruit on the palate. The finish is long and clean with fresh acidity.”

What I Think:

On initial glance this may seem like another Bronco Wine Co. label but it isn’t. Instead it is the inaugural release of a new winery that garnered an 87 point rating from Robert Parker saying “Readers looking for Excellent Values should check out Napa Station. Their delicious 2007 Chardonnay exhibits plenty of fresh citrus interwoven with hints of white peaches and apples in its natural, lively, pure personality. Medium-bodied and zesty, its ideal for drinking over the next 1-2 years.” – (December 2009)

Now the suggested retail on this one is $18 and the best price online is the $11 BevMo offers this one for. Given that I was keen to see what this one had to offer for the five spot it will cost you to pick up a bottle at Trader Joe’s. Before we jump in my typical disclaimer; I’m not a huge Chardonnay fan (despite tasting 25 bottles last year) so you may want to take the below with a grain of salt…

(13.5%) Lightly oaked on a floral nose showing faint white apricots. The palate starts pure and focused before turning toasty with slightly sweet green apple flavors. This is full bodied wine with a crisp acidity on the backbone. The finish is big & creamy while not being over the top oaky. Overall this wine is (for me) slightly refreshing. Given that those that prefer their Chardonnay dripping in butter (like the Overlake Chardonnay) may want to pass but I’m guessing this will please plenty of palates. For $5 give it a try and let me know if you agree with Parker’s take.

Rating: 12th Bottle

2004 Twenty Bench Cabernet Sauvignon

2004 Twenty Bench Cabernet SauvignonPrice: $14.99 @ Friend/Gift

What They Said:

Per Nine North Wines “The 2004 Twenty Bench is one of our more pronounced vintages to date. Aromas of black currants, plums and chocolate accompany the wines dense, inky color, while the palate shows great structure, richness and depth that comes with the first ever addition of Cabernet Franc to the blend. This wine drinks well now and will age gracefully over the next 7 -8 years.”

What I Think:

I’ve heard a lot about this label and no wonder why. This is a very nice Napa Valley Cab for less than $20 and certainly one I will be revisiting soon. If I like the current release as much this may end up on my Christmas giving list. Stay tuned for my thoughts on the 2007 which is available at K&L Wines for $16. In the meantime here are my notes on the 2004…

(14.1%) – 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc – Great, aromatic nose that shows loads of black pepper and dark fruits on top of herbal notes. The palate is still very lively with slightly sweet plum flavors and nice acidity. The finish is dry and leathery showing spice, barrel notes and lingering dusty, chocolate tannins. Good structure throughout but it seems the fruit is thins toward the end of the palate which to me means you should be drinking this one if you have it…

Rating: Wow!

2006 Chateau Chevalier Pinot Noir

Price: $9.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2006 Chateau Chevalier Pinot NoirBarely a whisper of this one on their site. Being a fan of their Cab offering and initially giving this bottle the once over I become suspect. But the facts check out. I had just never noticed that Chateau Chevalier is made by Spring Mountain Vineyard (perhaps a 2nd label? The ’06 Spring Mountain Pinot went for $55) and comes in a bottle unbefiiting of the projected quality. All indications are that the same team and same effort is involved here and, as mentioned, given I am a fan of the Cab that is a good thing. Despite that the only mention from the winery is a “coming soon” designation on their awards page.

What I Think:

So what’s in the bottle? In a word “disappointment”. The brownish, amber color on this one makes it look beyond its years. The nose starts super promising with dried cherry and black tea aromas. In the mouth this one starts flat with thin cherry flavors (and an accompanying acidity for balance) and sadly never changes before eventually drying out to a moderate tannic finish. It almost tasted as if its best days were behind it. Given the color I wonder if that wasn’t the case. Either way, quite a letdown!

Rating: Skip It

2007 Luna Vineyards Freakout

2007 Luna Vineyards FreakoutPrice: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per Luna Vineyards “The 2007 Freakout is a light golden color, with an enticing nose of ripe pear and hints of lemon. On the palate, the mouthwatering acidity of lemon zest mingles with baked bread and coconut milk, accented by a good dose of minerality. The finish is a delicious blend of pears and vanilla.”

What I Think:

This one is a white blend of 35% Chardonnay, 33% Pinot Grigio, 25% Sauvignon Blanc and 7% Ribolla Gialla. The winery site, where you will find this one for $16, has some great information on the individual vineyards these grapes are sourced from. The most interesting note is on the Ribolla Gialla which I know as Robola from the time I spent in Greece when I was introduced to the varietal during my visit to Gentilini. The Ribolla Gialla in this bottling is sourced from Elsa’s Vineyard in Napa Valley which is proclaimed to be the only vineyard in America planted with this varietal. So what’s in the bottle?

Floral on the nose, the Sauvignon Blanc dominates early. The palate starts crisp with lemon and floral notes emerging towards the middle and carrying through to the finish. While clean and simple this one lacks the acidity that would make it a go-to summer quaffer in my house. That said, guessing many others will like this more than I do. Certainly nothing wrong with this one for $6, give it a try and let me know what you think.

Rating: 12th Bottle

2005 Cameron Hughes Lot 112 Napa Valley Merlot

2005 Cameron Hughes Lot 112 Napa Valley MerlotPrice: $12.00 @ Friend/Gift

What They Said:

Cameron Confidential: Lot 112 Napa County Merlot represents exceptional value. Sourced from the un-appellated Coombsville and Jamieson Canyon regions (which is why it has the Napa County designation), this wines has the beautiful, supple structure and classic fruit profile of great Napa Merlot (which requires a few minutes of swirling in the glass to get going). Sourced from one of the most-respected wineries in the Napa Valley (where it is sold for $24/bottle), this wine is sure to please those of you who crave Merlot or those of you looking for a supple wine with harmonious mouth feel and great character.

Taste: Dark, almost blackened crimson color; Aromas of cherry, spice, and chocolate spring from the glass underpinned by bright fruit notes of strawberries and plums. A supple, rich mouth feel coupled with well-integrated oak presents a complex, yet smooth Merlot, perfect for that wintertime cocktail party.

What I Think:

Though I am very aware of Cameron Hughes I have rarely tasted his wines. In fact my records show I’ve that this is just the second of his offerings that I’ve sampled (the other being Lot 55 Napa Valley Meritage). For those that need an intro Cameron Hughes is very well known négociant who sources high quality wines from around the world and sells each as a lot in his series. The easiest place to find his wines for those interested is Costco, at least from what I hear…

So let’s get to the wine. On the nose this one shows cherry and oak. When the wine hits your tongue you get a glimpse of soft red fruits that disappear before you can decide if it was strawberry or raspberry. From there the wine becomes dark and rich. This is a very well structured effort that is smooth and balanced throughout. The finish is dusty and chocolaty and leaves your mouth coated with tannins long after the glass is empty. A nice, smooth, easy drinking bottle. I would argue everything you expect for $12 but not more at the same time. If I had to choose whether or not to buy another bottle I’d likely roll the dice on trying something new.

Rating: Pricey

And for those interested in another opinion how about one from the man himself… Check Cameron Hughes in the video below, he start talking about this one around 4:50 into the video. Enjoy!


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2006 Summers Napa Valley Charbono

2006 Summers Napa Valley CharbonoPrice: $21.00 @ Mill Valley Market

What They Said:

Per Jon Bonné “Just 85 acres of Charbono are planted in California. Its fans are few but devoted, including Calistoga’s Summers family. Their estate vineyard produces the most Charbono in the state, including the fruit for this lively effort, aged in 50 percent new American oak, with its engaging dusty, floral scents that preface an overt fruit – crushed raspberry and blueberry – with an herbal-tinged finish and buoyant acidity that reminds you why it’s so pleasing with food.”

What I Think:

I had this one a bit ago with pork chops. Pork chops is the inside code for the wife was away as she is not a fan of the swine. This time the kids were away to so it was a quiet and I was looking forward to spending the night with a (pseudo)new grape. I had never had Charbono before but I have had quite a few experiences with Bonarda aka Charbono. After my last trip to Argentina in early 2006 I have been on the lookout for more Bonarda to appear in the US market but it has yet to materialize. As they give the average Malbec a run for their money at half the price I guess it is no surprise. Anyhow, this waiting led me to learn about Charbono which in turn led me to grabbing this bottle to pair with pork chops. Care to hear more?

On the nose this jumps out with juicy, raspberry aromas. Traces of mint linger closely by. Smooth and silky on the palate this wine coats the tongue with smacking tannins on a nice, dry herbal finish. Do you know the kind of finish I mean? An effort that nicely balances fruit with acidity and is easy to drink. At the same time I prefer to see a few more dimensions (or better said a bit more complexity) at this price point. I know, I am hard to please… That said I will be trying more Charbono, anyone out there have any favorites to recommend?

Rating: Pricey

2008 Spiral Wines Chardonnay

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2008 Spiral Wines ChardonnayPer Trader Joe’s Holiday Guide “Affable, quaffable – this is a Chardonnay that balances acidity, body and flavors gracefully. Having aged for 8 months in French & American Oak, it has a round mouthfeel that spirals in complexity serving to highlight the fruit driven character of the wine. It delivers floral aromas and flavors of crisp green apple, fresh cut peaches… a touch of honey. Elegantly framed by hints of spice, vanilla and toasted oak – it serves well with a holiday meal.”

What I Think:

I covered what I knew about the Spiral Wines label earlier. As mentioned there, this one seems to be a sourced concoction. Are you interested in my take? I find this one full of nectarines but lacking a crispness and/or acid to balance this one out. Fruity and flabby in my opinion though perhaps I should try another bottle before passing judgment. That said the VINTJS is much better for the $ in my humble opinion. What do you think?

Rating: Skip It

2008 Spiral Wines Cabernet Sauvignon

2008 Spiral Wines Cabernet SauvignonPrice: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Not a word, some mumbo jumbo that had nothing to do with the wine on the bottle. A google search turned up a phone number, a call to the number led to Fior di Sole which is a premium bulk wine supplier in Napa Valley who “separates itself from the competition by creating quality, not just quantity-based lots purposed for the bulk wine market.” To wrap up the story the custom/private label winemaking unit goes by the moniker Spiral Wines. Anyhow I sent them a message, I’ll let you know should I hear anything back on the wine itself…

What I Think:

A Napa Cab for five bones? First thought, must be a Bronco Wine Co. offering in the same vain as Napa Creek or Napa Landing. If DP hadn’t tipped me off to this one in his comment I might have glossed right past it. As you can tell from the research above my initial perception was not correct. Which leads me to my next thought…is the economy really at the point where we can get a bottle of Napa Valley Cab for $4.99? It seems so, next thought. Who sold this wine off in bulk? We will likely never know. But there is one questions we can answer: Is it any good?

The nose is muted but displays some faint cherry and oak aromas. In the mouth this medium bodied efforts starts juicy before a firm acidity quickly shows itself. Towards the mid-palate cherry and plum notes emerge. These give way to a dry, herbal finish that shows a hint of creaminess on a finish that lingers nicely. As I mentioned on twitter this one grew on me with each sip. Though it shows some good pieces; fruit, creaminess, herbs and acidity, they don’t quite all come together here. That said, I see a glimpse of potential here. It is worth another bottle to see if perhaps some more time to integrate these components will treat this bottle kindly. Stay tuned…

Rating: 12th Bottle (for now…)

Anyone else out there had this one? Love to hear your thoughts.

2005 Hunter Ashby Cabernet Sauvignon

2005 Hunter Ashby Cabernet SauvignonPrice: $9.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per Wine Enthusiast “Black currant and cherry flavors, accented with a touch of smoky oak, mark this dry, smooth wine. It has the textural hallmarks of the best of Napa Valley Cabernet, but lacks the richness. Drink now.” — 86 points S.H. (6/1/2008)

What I Think:

This one is made by 2Sons Winery in Rutherford, which I can hardly find a word about. That said I was able to conclusively link the Hinter Ashby name to the Terlato Wines International. Looks like they use it as a “logo” wine as it appears in all their press releases but I can’t find another word about it on their site. I also saw some things that lead me to believe that this label may fall under their Tangley Oaks label. Here nor there, there are plenty of other names I know that can be found under the Terlato umbrella, including Alderbrook, which was a favorite Zin of mine TJ’s was selling a while back. Anyhow, what do you say we take the detectives hat off and get to the wine.

The nose shows cherry and spice. On the palate it is lively early on, dancing on the tongue with a nice acidity coming through. Towards the middle it fades, showing loads of ripe fruits that linger to the finish. A nice effort, this one shows a smooth texture balancing oak, fruit and mineral. If you’re a fan of Napa Cab looking for a discount or looking for an intro to the region this bottle is worth checking out.

Rating: Buy It