2005 Howell Mountain Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon

Price: $14.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2005 Howell Mountain Vineyards Cabernet SauvignonPer Trader Joe’s Ten For The Tasting (pdf) “Come on; get your nose in there. Way in there… the deep crimson hue, the aromas, the body… oh, yes! Handcrafted from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes grown in Napa Valley’s renowned Howell Mountain appellation, this wine has body. Grown in volcanic ash and clay soils along sloping hillside at elevations well over 1,800 feet, the grapes develop distinctly thick skins and robust tannins. And this vintage demonstrates a little more weight and richness than in years past. A hint of bell peppers on the nose dissipates into warm aromas of cedar-y forest and dark berries. On the mouth, the flavors of succulent black cherry are followed by slight hints of hazelnut and tobacco. And because we are helping the producers move out inventories that had been set aside for on-premise markets (aka fine restaurants), we’re selling this lusty Cab for $14.99 – oh, yes!”

What I Think:

As mentioned in the Trader Joe’s Ten for Tasting post I was tipped off on this one by DP. Likewise we covered that this offering typically retails for $60+, given that you can imagine how eager I was to try it once I brought it home. So I quickly found a steak and pulled the cork on this one…

In the glass I found a great nose of fruit balanced perfectly with spice. Some blackberry, allspice and a hint of green rhubarb. On the palate a bit tart up front but quickly balanced with gorgeous, rich fruit as well as spice and mint/methyl notes. The mid-palate is smooth and silky leading to a chalky, inky, dry and lasting finish. This wine is complex, to me, offering, layers and layers that keep you contemplating exactly what it is you are tasting. Regardless, you know it is good things while going through the exercise. As I look for comparisons I quickly come to the Chateau Chevalier from Spring Mountain which took Grape Madness by storm some months back. Both from Napa, both from TJ’s, both fifteen bones and both with a dry, chalky finish but most of all both great values. That said, thank goodness I didn’t drop $60 here or I would likely be disappointed. Others, here in the comments on the site, haven’t been as big as fans as me so feel free to give this one a pass if it is north of your usual price range.

Rating: Wow!

2008 VINTJS Sauvignon Blanc

Price: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2008 VINTJS Sauvignon BlancPer Trader Joe’s Ten For The Tasting (pdf) “Attention grabbing, but not the kind of slap-you-in-the-face of a New Zealand vintage, our 2008 VINTJS Sauvignon Blanc boasts focused intensity and rounded floral characteristics. Produced by a famed, family-owned, sustainably-farmed winery in Rutherford, this is a crisp, mouthwatering blend of 78% Sauvignon Blanc and 22% Sémillon. It delivers zesty aromas and flavors of lemon, ruby red grapefruit, guava and juicy lime. Deliciously smooth in the mouth, the finish is long and cleansing.”

What I Think:

As mentioned yesterday I found this one via the Trader Joe’s Ten For The Tasting. Why did it stand out? As I said there; after watching many of my fellow bloggers enjoy the St. Supery as part of Twitter Taste Live Sauvignon Blanc from Napa Valley was top of mind. Couple that with this one being a blend of Sauvignon Blanc (78%) and Semillion (22%), a combination I feel in love with years back in New Zealand on my honeymoon, and this one was an easy choice.

That’s all good and dandy but what about what was in the bottle. This one is not for those looking for the grassy New Zealand style and is worlds different than my mainstay CA Sauvignon Blanc, the Geyser Peak. On the nose your greeted with nice, ripe lime and guava notes. It starts with a bit of acid navigating from crisper, slightly tart fruits at the front of the palate to ripe tropical fruits towards the end. It finishes fuller in body, a hint sweet and dripping with candied nectarines. Not what I was expecting from a Sauvignon Blanc but I was pleased nonetheless. Think I may grab another.

Rating: 12th Bottle

2003 Trinchero Mary’s Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc

2003 Trinchero Mary's Vineyard Sauvignon BlancPrice: $16.00 @ Friend/Gift

What They Said:

Per Trinchero “Ripe fruit, great acid. Year in, year out, that’s the modus operandi of Mary’s Sauvignon Blanc. The 2003 is one of our best ever from this site. The nose is all grass, dried herbs, lanolin and a hint of Vanilla; the palate is dense, concentrated and firm. Good stuff!”

What I Think:

Trinchero already held a special place in my heart as we served their 1999 Family Cabernet Sauvignon at our wedding in 2003. I was surprised to find that I have yet to review that wine as we still have a case left and open one every year on our anniversary. So when a friend brought by this Mary’s Vineyard, which is located in Napa Valley, I was excited to give it a try. Couple that with the fact that my only other experience with Sauvignon Blanc from this region has been the memorable Groth offering and we seemed well positioned for a enjoyable experience.

Shall I set the mood? On a sunny day, lunch was served on the patio. With a southwestern chicken salad on the table the cork was pulled. The nose? Somewhat typical, light citrus notes with grass and mineral undertones. On the palate? Strange, different. Some initial light white fruits on the palate. A hint of citrus on the finish. And some off putting, creamy, oak in between with no acidity to speak of. This one took some getting used to. The mouth feel and texture leaned towards chardonnay as both were heavier than expected. This was likely due to half of the wine being aged in used oak for four months. One of the side effects of this was a wet wood component that muted many of the other flavors that were present. Perhaps, being a 2003, this one was past its prime. Either way it delivered a different experience that what I thought was on tap. Was it interesting? For me, different usually is. Was it one I want to have again? Not so much. Those that know me are aware Chardonnay is not my favorite. So next time I want a Sauvignon Blanc from the US I’ll be grabbing the Geyser Peak.

Rating: Pricey

2005 Rocking Horse Napa Valley Zinfandel

Price: $7.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Lots of trials and tribulations here. First I tried the winery’s site. Nothing. Next I put them through the ringer as discussed in my post on wine search engines and I was 0-3 with Google, Able Grape, and Scrugy. Next up I expanded the test to include Corkd, Snooth and WineMad. No dice. 0-7. At least I should be assured a good SEO ranking here.

If you don’t want to count solely on me check quaffability’s write up on the 2002 and the 2004.

What I Think:

Thinking about this one brought up loads of cross links in my head before I even pulled the cork out of the bottle. I had the 2002 offering of this one last year and was impressed but it was quickly overshadowed by the Beringer Clear Lake Zinfandel which was ranked #1 in my TJ’s top 10 for 2007. Couple that with my recent experiences with the Sausal which I enjoyed but seemed pricey and Cline which was slightly disappointing I was keen to see where this one slotted in.

In a nutshell if you call the Cline too fruity and the Sausal to mellow this found a happy middle between them with the price on the lower end of that scale. It was a bit tannin filled up front but this tightness gave way to some lush fruits that lingered on through the finish with a spiciness throughout. I’ll definitely be grabbing another bottle of this one but just like last year if the Beringer reappears I’ll drop it like a bad habit.

Rating: Buy It

2006 Groth Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc

Price: $13.99 @ K&L Wines

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines “This 2006 Sauvignon Blanc was produced from grapes grown in various microclimates of the Napa Valley. The warmer Napa Valley microclimates give us grapes that result in wines with a lush, full melon/citrus character in the aroma and in the flavor. The cooler Napa Valley fruit provides a solid, crisp backbone that gives the wine an exciting liveliness that balances the rich creaminess from “sur lie” aging.”

What I Think:

You know those friends you’re lucky to have? Well we had one of those over the other night and the same couple kind enough to share the impressive 2005 with us brought this ’06 to the table. Since I had already put this 06 Santa Ynez in the fridge I figured we had an excellent chance to do some true side by side tasting. Two similar bottlings from the same year and region but from different areas and at different price points. Now onto the results…

When compared to the Santa Ynez this seemed much more classic to me. It was light, dry and tart on the tongue with flavors hinting towards melon tied together on a backbone of mineral and stone. It in now way resembled its tasting partner and would have been better suited to pair with this New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. That said this wine was and is a clear winner. If you’re looking to splurge don’t hesitate to grab it, you can’t go wrong.

Rating: Wow!

2005 Pope Valley Winery Napa Valley Sangiovese

Price: $6.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the winery, well nothing on the ’05 which appears to be from Haus Creek but I did find an ’06 that is likely a different bottling here

What I Think:

A sangiovese in Napa Valley? If you are like me you’re thinking WTF? On opening the question is not answered. The wine is light and seems thin, almost pinot-ish. More fruit forward than its Italian brethren it started to show some cherries on day 2. Still so light that it is better without food which overpowered this diminutive wine. Perhaps this would be better chilled like a rose, which this winery does make from sangiovese.  I’ll let someone else find out. 

Rating: Skip It

2006 Rosenblum Rust Ridge Napa Valley Chardonnay

Price: $20.00 direct from the winery

What They Said:

Per the winery “This beautiful vineyard sits at 1,000 feet in elevation on a ridge above eastern Napa Valley. Planted in the 1970’s it is a part of a small sub-appellation of Napa known as Lower Chiles Valley. This wine shows fresh green apple and key-lime pie with elements of flint and spice. It pairs well with pan-seared trout, fettuccine alfredo, or roasted fowl. Drink now or cellar 1–3 years”

What I Think:

We opened this one up to pair with the cheese plate before dinner on New Year’s Eve. For those that don’t frequent this site a few quick disclaimers. 1) Whites aren’t my favorite so I have a bias to ranking them towards mediocrity. 2) Chardonnay is at the bottom of the list for whites. Now back to this bottle. It was one of the two Rosenblum wines we opened to welcome in 2008. Overall I would describe it as light, not robust in the fruit department and lacking the typical heavy butter notes that I associate with California Chardonnay. That said, at $20 you wouldn’t find me buying this again, this Martin was far better and adds a fiver to your wallet. I likely wouldn’t buy this for $10 either, even at a lower price I may just try my luck searching for gem at TJ’s.

Rating: Not for Me

2005 Ridge York Creek Zinfandel

Price: $27.99 @ K&L Wines

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines “Located high on Spring Mountain, overlooking the Napa Valley, York Creek Vineyard has been the source for some of Ridge’s most notable zins. Aged in a combination of new, two and four year old oak allows the vineyard and the varietal’s mountain iterations to shine through. The addition of petite sirah adds richness and structure. Bound to be another Ridge favorite, grab some for your cellar and watch this develop over the next five or six years.”

What I Think:

This is a wine recently given to me by my wife to celebrate a special occasion. I loved the 2003 Ridge, put a half case of the ’04 in the cellar and decided to open this one to celebrate New Year’s. Given the write-up above has no mention of tasting notes it likely should have been an indicator to let it lie a little longer. Of course I didn’t heed the advice. Like the others I had tried the Petite Sirah in this field blend already added a subtleness that you wouldn’t expect in a Zinfandel. Unfortunately the time in the bottle has yet to allow the flavors to shine through. Or perhaps it was the sub-optimal pairing with roasted chicken. Either way this wasn’t the revelation I was hoping for. It doesn’t dampen my enthusiasm for the offering but should this make it my way again I’ll give it a couple more years in the bottle. I recommend you do the same.

By the way, interestingly I noticed that the blend does change slightly from year to year which I initially did not expect from a field blend, guessing it is based on yields, any other thoughts?

Rating: Pricey

2005 Pope Valley Winery Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Price: $7.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the winery…well couldn’t find anything on the ’05, nor the ’04 but the winery owns up to the ’03 at a tune of $26 a bottle for the Eakle Ranch, not sure if this was what I had or not. Anyone out there know? Otherwise I’ll check on my next TJ’s visit.

Here nor there, it looks like you are stuck with me on this one!

What I Think:

As mentioned in the Santa Cruz Mountain Cabernet post I tried these two more or less side by side.  Again, no help here from the experts so you are stuck with me…This wine must be freshly bottled; wish I could find some information as the end of the cork was not even red yet. Was it bottled yesterday? This wine was good. Big, bold and dark but it came off as slightly manufactured. Nice forward fruit. This wine is somehow disappointing & better than the Santa Cruz Cab mentioned above at the same time. I am guessing because it is made for the mass consumer market and therefore straight forward, familiar and comfortable. On Day 2 the nose seems to have shut down a bit but the wine is still rich and opulent. I finish the bottle confused. Pretend I’m not here and try it if you would have. Who knows if the stars align I may try it again to…

Rating: 12th Bottle

2003 Rocking Horse Garvey Family Vineyard Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon

Price: $9.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the winery “Great structure and layers of complexity are the hallmarks of this full bodied Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Sumptuous upon entry and showing a dark crimson hue, this delectable wine hints of classic bell pepper, violets and a lingering suggestion of chocolate before bursting into a full bodied black cherry finish. This hand crafted wine was aged in hand selected oak barrels and will be rewarded by proper cellaring.”

What I Think:

After my brother-in-law sampled the Rosenblum we moved on to this Rocking Horse Cab which had enthralled me on first encounter. Shortly after I opened it, given the lack of a meal to accompany it, I was a bit concerned that the dry, dustiness may not have been as appealing as I had found it last.

On the nose this seems like a complex cabernet. The dryness starts at the front of the palate with some fat, rich fruit flavors on top that move towards briar and spice in the mid-palate until the floor drops out and it gets chalky, dry and dusty. Still wondering how this one will age. I think I have another 2 bottles so I’ll have another one over the next few weeks and if I am still enjoying it I’ll be back at TJ’s (it was readily available on last visit) to load up again.

Rating: Buy It