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”

2005 Sandler Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

In my ode to 2012 I paid tribute to my greatest (yes there are many) shortcoming as a writer. That being clamming up when it comes to sharing something I really enjoy; like this wine. I fear I can’t convey my sense of excitement. Or sometimes convince myself that I want to provide more context for the overall story (like a bio on winemaker Ed Kurtzman) which I never have time to put together (and it has usually already been done). But not this year, for better or worse I’m just going to get these stories out there and build from there. So let’s get this started…

2005 Sandler Sonoma Coast Pinot NoirPrice: $30.00 direct from Sandler Wine Company

What They Said:

Per Weimax “We like his 2005 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. You can’t mistake this for anything other than Pinot Noir. The wine is medium garnet in color and has classic strawberry and cherry-like fruit notes. There’s a touch of a vanillin note in the back. It’s light and aromatic, flavorful and smooth. We suggest cooling it to cellar temperature. It’s not a wine intended for cellaring, so drinking it this year or next is ideal.”

What I Think:

(14.5%) A Pinot made in a bigger style but while retaining its elegance. Nice dark cherry fruit with a touch of cranberry and a “singing” acidity that brings it all together. While the fruit remains this one turns earthy and spicy on a long finish. Intense but not overpowering; a wine that speaks to me. My only regret is that this is my last bottle. Wish I had a few more around. Let that serve as a note for me to start ordering regularly…

Rating: Wow!

2010 Comique Revolution Blanc

Another offering from our friends at the Central Coast Wine Warehouse this one seems similar to the Emergence White that was on the shelves last year. A quick look shows they are the same four grapes though this one is labeled as Central Coast (instead of Paso Robles). Will the results be any different? Let us see…

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2010 Comique Revolution BlancPer Trader Joe’s “Comique Révolution Blanc is a California Central Coast blend of Rhône varietals like Roussanne, Viognier, Grenache Blanc and Marsanne. Aromas of apple blossom, juniper berry and honeydew prepare your palate for the essences of white peaches and custard. It’s revolutionary in its versatility, too.”

What I Think:

(14.2%) A blend of Roussanne, Viognier, Grenache Blanc and Marsanne this one gets better as it warms. Apple blossom, musk melon and honeysuckle greet you on the nose. The palate is rich with overripe peaches and white pear flavors before turning tart (grapefruit/lemon) with a mineral edge. The oily texture lasts throughout the short, spiced (and slightly hot) finish. Make sure to let this one get all the way to room temperature to let it show its wares. Even still this comes up a bit short for me as it seems flabby (could use more acidity IMHO) and the alcohol is dialed a little high. Very similar to my take on the Emergence White mentioned above. That said at $5 if this sounds like it might be up your alley give it a shot…

Rating: 12th Bottle

2008 Buena Vista Pinot Noir

While we wait for me to get in gear on formally starting the 2012 writing season I thought I’d sneak this out in the meantime. And what better place to start than with one of Angela’s, my right hand (wo)man’s, recommendations. For those that don’t know she is a very trusted palate so when she says run I do and you should feel free to do the same. Not that I needed it but this one also earned some accolades from Joe and the crew over at GoodCheapVino.com which is another trusted resource. Now as for James’s take that this one is no big shakes in comparison to daily deal sites the difference to me is I don’t have to commit to multiple bottles in advance and/or pay shipping charges. Now as for the Fort Ross Pinot he mentions as available at Grocery Outlet ($13) I’d love to give it a try. But in the meantime let’s see what I think of this one…

2008 Buena Vista Pinot NoirPrice: $9.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per Trader Joe’sBuena Vista Carneros Pinot Noir is made with grapes grown in the Carneros region, the area that spans the distance between the Napa & Sonoma Valleys. The grapes were handpicked at night to preserve the fruit’s character, then hand sorted to ensure only the very best of the lot were used in the winemaking. After fermentation, the wine is aged for eight months in 33% new French oak barrels, with the remaining wine aged in one to two year old barrels.

This Pinot Noir is bright with Bing cherry, allspice and earthy elements. Blackberry & plum fruit flavors give way to undertones of coffee and clove and a long, supple finish.”

What I Think:

(13.5%) Initially this one comes across as more earthy and minerally before opening up to dark, lush (mainly cherry) fruit with sandalwood and spice. The rich, creamy finish lingers softly with cherry-cola spice. Once given time to breathe this one is smooth and easy drinking throughout. That said be sure to crack the top on this one an hour or two prior to planned consumption. If you can handle that this one offers some nice QPR at $10.

Rating: Buy It

Wine Geek Notes: Screwtop, Aged in 33% new French oak

2006 Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs

2006 Schramsberg Blanc de Noir Sparkling WinePrice: $29.99 @ Friend/Gift

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines: 90 points and 1 Puff from the Connoisseurs’ Guide to California Wine: “90% Pinot Noir; 10% Chardonnay. A full dose of creamy yeast backed up by light, directly cherryish notes and by hints of burnt paper and baked brioche brands this wine as the real thing. It is explosively bubbled and is bristling with acidity and becomes a trifle hard and austere, yet it counters that minor bother with a minerally streak and a long finish.” (Volume 34 Issue 1: November 2009) And, according to Wine Spectator: “Enticing aromas of lemon tart and raspberry lead to creamy, decadent baked pear, toasty spice and crème brulee flavors. Drink now through 2013.”

What I Think:

(13.8%) 90% Pinot Noir, 10% Chardonnay – A long time favorite this one did not disappoint. Yeasty nose with crisp peach notes. A nice, creamy mousse greets you on a dry palate with green apple and lime flavors. Hints of white raspberry add a tad of sweetness to the acidity on a crisp, toasty, bubbly finish that lasts nicely. Load up on this one if you can!

Rating: Wow!

2010 Rabbit Ridge Allure de Robles

Rabbit Ridge WineryAlways happy to see Rabbit Ridge makes this wine out in the open and proudly offers the same bottling via their winery at a fair price (read more on my take here). For those that aren’t familiar Allure de Robles is an estate grown wine that is made in a Châteauneuf-du-Pape style. This one is a traditional Rhone Blend composed of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. With the grapes being predominantly from clones of the esteemed Tablas Creek Winery which in turn are cut them from the fabled Chateau Beaucastel. For those that don’t recognize the names it is safe to say they are punching well beyond a $5 price tag…

Fairly or not always ends up getting compared to the Chariot Gypsy as the “other cult wine” which begs the same questions I asked last night. Why was this released 4 months earlier? Perhaps we can ask Erich Russell, Rabbit Ridge’s founder.

Speaking of Erich, if you like your Allures de Robles you may want to stock up now. Erich previously shared that “the supply of 2010 will be really low compared to 2009, maybe as much as 60% lower.” And to further compound the issue he reached out again in April to let me know they suffered some pretty significant hail damage that left him wondering whether a 2011 vintage would even be possible. I’ll follow up with him to see how it netted out but in the meantime let’s dig into this 2010…

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2010 Rabbit Ridge Allure de RoblesPer Rabbit Ridge (pdf) “The 2010 vintage is big and round with strawberry and cherry overtones from the Grenache, body from the Syrah and richness from the Mourvèdre. This wine is a great choice for sipping or with a wide variety of foods.”

What I Think:

(14.8%) Made from Tablas Creek clones this one is predominantly from Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. It starts juicy with lush, peppery lifted cherry fruit that swells turning toasty and a touch sweet on the mid-palate before drying out with medium tannins on a barrel spiced finish. I’d prefer more acidity but for those that are fans of bigger, fruit forward wines there is a lot to like here. Available for $8 via Rabbit Ridge.

Rating: Buy It (if you like your wines big with some tannins…)

2010 Chariot Gypsy

2010 Chariot Gypsy Shelf TalkerOnce again the Gypsy… Trader Joe’s one and only cult wine has become more and more of a polarizing topic with each vintage (it’s first was 2005). Is it still good or merely riding on the coattails of what it once was? If there is one thing I’ve learned about Trader Joe’s wine over the years it is that popularity expands production. Coupled that with the fact that price points don’t change and there is only one direction quality can go. And the Gypsy has been following this general trajectory for years. Perhaps most interesting to me (and thanks to Don for pointing this out via email) is wondering why this wine was released 4 months earlier than typical? Previous vintages of this wine have hit the shelves generally around February. Couple that with the fact that it appears the production of this vintage is half of what it was in 2009 and it leaves a lot of questions. Where did that leave us on the 2010 vintage? Read on…

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2010 Chariot GypsyPer Chariot Wines …well actually they are still talking about the ’09 so for now here were my first thoughts on sampling the 2010 vintage.

What I Think:

(13.5%) 63% “Mystery Dry Red”, 22% Cabernet, 15% Merlot – Gone is the heavy Zinfandel component and accompanying Petite Sirah typical in previous vintages. The 2010 is sweet on the nose and a touch on the palate with juicy cherries, soft acidity and a short, spiced, creamy finish. Simple and pleasing but (while a bit heavy on the palate) perhaps as good for what it isn’t, not cloying, harsh or flabby, as what it is. While this wine doesn’t excite me if you need a solid $5 table wine you can sure do a lot worse than this…

Rating: Good but… (this is a $5 bottle that tastes like $8 at best. Best for those that prefer a sweet, juicy red)

2007 St. Francis Old Vines Zinfandel

2007 St. Francis Old Vines ZinfandelPrice: $19.99 via St. Francis Winery*

What They Said:

Per Wine Enthusiast “A strong Zinfandel, tannic, high in alcohol and fruity, and brimming with wild forest cherry and raspberry liqueur, exotic spices and sweet sandalwood. Drink it with a juicy cheeseburger, a spicy beef burrito and just a nice roast chicken.” Steve Heimoff (2/1/2011) — 86 points

What I Think:

(15.5%) 86% Zinfandel, 5% Mixed Black Grapes, 3% Alicante Bouschet, 3% Petite Sirah, 3% Syrah – Having family in Europe this is what I would think of taking them to join something in quintessential California style (for better or worse). Ripe, forward fruit, jammy, creamy with a sweet toasted vanilla oak finish that shows some pepper spice while lingering warmly. Not my style but I know many that do like this one. Well-made and widely available at ~$17.

Wine Geek Notes: 41,000 cases made, made from vines a minimum of 50 years old, field blended.

Rating: Good but…(not my style. I prefer the Zin’s from Sausal or Sobon)

*This wine was received as a press sample

2009 Tribunal Cellars Red

2009 Tribunal Cellars RedPrice: $16.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the “top secret” Trader Joe’s spec sheet “Aromas of raspberry and sage combine with a mouthful of chocolate richness to uniquely express our part of California. Prime rib or a juicy T-bone with garlicy rabe are the first things we think of when we sip this wine.”

What I Think:

Tribunal Cellars Red Shelf Talker(15.6%) 26% Zinfandel, 22% Petite Sirah, 30% Syrah, and 22% other Rhone and Bordeaux varietals – Starts on the downside of up as it is only available via 1.5L bottles (this is the 2nd batch of 2009 and the first to appear as only magnums) which makes me feel like I am being hustled at this price point. That said this wine is big from the get go but integrated. Juicy and focused with spiced fruit turning a bit sweet on the backbone. From there it turns dry on a leathery spiced finish with tangy tannins. Big for me but I know many prefer this style and you could do far worse. For those lucky enough to be spending some time in the mountains this seems like a perfect wine to have by the fire after a day on the slopes…

Wine Geek Notes: ABV per bottle is 15.1%; 7 Months in oak, 25% New French & American; 17 cases to a store, 6 bottles to case

Rating: Buy It

2009 C. Donatiello Pinot Noir

Price: $9.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2009 C. Donatiello Winery Pinot NoirPer C. Donatiello Winery “Spicy black pepper, dried cranberries, cola, mocha and cherries on the nose. The palate starts bright and clean with deeply layered flavors of raspberry and rhubarb which give way to flavors of cinnamon and chocolate. The finish is long and clean with balanced tannins, acidity and oak.”

What I Think:

(13.5%) $38 via the winery in an etched bottle, clearly not intended for Trader Joe’s where I picked it up for $10. Bright, big and clean while at the same time balanced. Forward fruit with cherry (cranberry) cola flavors and vibrant acidity. A bit of oak creaminess on the backbone before the fruit turns a tad tart with cinnamon spice (and a bit of heat) on the finish. Not my preferred style but well made, no harsh edges and smooth throughout. If you’re a fan of Russian River (or even more broadly California) Pinot Noir you likely can’t go wrong here…

Rating: Buy It (if you’re a California Pinot fan!)