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!)

2007 Picket Fence Pinot Noir

Price: $8.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2007 Picket Fence Pinot NoirPer Picket Fence “This wine has an elegant, pure fruit forward style with the brilliant intensity of rich mouthwatering Bing cherry, blackberry and spice. The luxurious density, beautiful structure and velvety texture on the palate are hallmarks of this vintage and make this wine a superlative example of Russian River Valley Pinot.” – Don Van Staaveren, Winemaker

What I Think:

Really? The winery is selling this one for $30 a bottle on their site (see above link). As if that isn’t bad enough they are making you buy 3 bottles at a time. Typically (warning marketing speak ahead) customers that buy direct are your most valuable (and deliver the highest profit margin). They deserve special consideration instead of getting an extra $20 lifted out of their wallet for each bottle. If I am a winery and I have to unload wine I am making sure that I am sharing those same prices with my most loyal customers. I could go on and on about how wrong this is on so many levels. That said I’ll spare you. Let’s get to the wine…

Warm spice and tart cranberry notes on the nose. The palate starts with surprising weight given how light it looks in the glass. This wine is wound tight with cranberry flavors that merge with bright cherry overtones. The mid-palate shows flashes of cola acidity to keep it nicely balanced. From there the barrel notes emerge and lead to a nice creamy, vanilla finish.

Most Pinots in this price range are what I refer to as “on steroids” with heavier grapes (e.g. Petite Sirah) blended in (see Fin, Blue). This one is a very nice example of what much more expensive Pinot’s deliver. Load up (if you can) and pop one open whenever the mood strikes you. Better yet if you are looking for a Thanksgiving wine on a budget (it is November) look no further!

Rating: Buy It <- And I'm not the only one who thinks so. Interested in reading more about the Picket Fence Pinot Noir? Check out what Robert Dwyer had to say over on the Wellesley Wine Press.

Summer Stash: And the winner is…

Thanks to those that have been following along as I have been cleaning out my Summer Stash. We started with 50+ wines and revealed the final four yesterday which meant there was just one more remaining. With almost the same anticipation as the Wine Spectator 2010 Wine of the Year I am ready to reveal the results. But which should I tell first? The wine or the story….

Let’s go with the story. First I’m not sure who I have given more pet nicknames. This wine or my daughter. I’ve called it “Sunshine”, my favorite was “The Weekend” and my latest with colder weather on the horizon has been “Summer”. Needless to say I have never had a wine that has been more “fun”. It practically begs to be shared with friends; wine geeks first but so enough anyone who will listen! Can I get a drum roll please…

2009 Natural Process Alliance Sauvignon Blanc

I’m sure this isn’t a surprise for many. I first experienced the NPA at a Vintank event earlier this summer and have been smitten by it ever since. Here’s my latest and greatest tasting notes; “(12.8%) Rusty, burnt orange in color (clearly not filtered) almost like the most beautiful sunset you’ve ever seen. The nose in and of itself is so enjoyable I could spend an hour on it; pineapple, guava, definitely a crazy juicy fruit concoction going on here. On the palate you need to expect the unexpected. Given how big this one is on the nose you are in no way overpowered on the palate. Nice acidity and minerality merges with the aforementioned fruit; as well as nectarine, grapefruit and lime. This absolutely bursts with flavor that last straight through a refreshing finish. So much going on here it’s hard to harness it all… It does what I expect of all wines I love. It keeps me contemplating. And even better makes me not want to write… I look just as forward to dissecting my next bottle of this one as much as I did my first! Hard to believe the excitement has yet to wear off. Here’s to hoping it never does!”2009 Natural Process Alliance Sauvignon Blanc

There you have it. Have you been lucky enough to try the NPA Sauvignon Blanc? Yeah I forgot to mention the downside to this one. It is more or less only available at the winery but for those that live nearby check their restaurant list (@theNPAhardy is that up to date?) where you can at least score a glass… Hope you enjoyed the Summer Stash series. I would love to hear your thoughts via the comments below.

*this wine was purchased with money from my wallet. Many, many, many times…

2008 Hamilton-Steven’s Pinot Noir

Price: $8.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2008 Hamilton-Steven's Pinot NoirPer the bottle Deep garnet red with spicy sweet aromas of dark plum, cedar and anise. Rich, complex flavors of cherry pie, spice and bittersweet chocolate finish silky smooth.

What I Think:

I think I was able to track this one back to Grove Street Winery who are affiliated with Windsor Vineyards where the Russian River Pinot goes for $28. I’m not insinuating this is the same wine by any stretch of the imagination but I think it is fair to say that there are resources being shared across this effort that give this bottling, at a third the cost, the potential to be a value play. Can the juice match the potential?

Great light, red strawberry color with the same on the nose coupled with cedar and spice. This one is on the attack bringing a full mouth feel straightaway. Lively acidity and brambly fruits turn juicy on the mid-palate leading to tart, under ripe fruits that mesh with barrel spices and warm tannins on the finish. Though it seems a tad nitpicky there is a bit of a hot spot toward the back of the mid-palate that throws this one momentarily out of sorts. That is enough to keep me from loving this wine but it is still a pleasant, smooth drinking Pinot Noir for $9 which leaves you nothing to complain about. Not to mention it is light years better than the Chateau Chevalier which goes for a buck more. If you are looking for a go to Pinot in this price range you should give this one a try. Otherwise if you already have one I’d love to hear all about it!

Rating: Buy It

2005 Davis Bynum Allen Vineyard Pinot Noir

Price: $14.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2005 Davis Bynum Allen Vineyard Pinot NoirPer Davis Bynum “Davis Bynum Pinot Noir is driven by vineyard sites. From the legendary Allen vineyard between the river itself and Westside Road – adjacent to Rochioli – this Pinot Noir is redolent of dried cherry, herb and cola aromas, with a soft mouthfeel and bold flavors of cherry, earth, and orange zest which carry brightly to the finish.”

What I Think:

While the recession may be cramping your style in some areas your wine drinking palate is subject to getting spoiled if you can find a spare $15 every now and again. The first example of this at Trader Joe’s was this Howell Mountain Cab which retailed at $60. This single vineyard Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley that retailed at an already relative “bargain” $40 is another in what I am sure is to be a long line of many more to come.

Beautiful aromas of dried cherries and herbs greet you on the nose. It is readily apparent that this is not a fruit driven Pinot from the start. With a smile on my face, I find more cherries at the front of the palate. These are held in check by a firm acid backbone that delivers the cherry cola flavors that I have come to expect from this region. Earthy and mineral components are present as well. The mouthfeel is velvety and smooth throughout and finishes bright and (orange) zesty. This wine is beautiful and elegant. People may say this goes better with this or that but feel free to ignore them and drink this with whatever you wish, even on its own. I am already looking forward to my next bottle…

Rating: Wow!

2005 Fritz Russian River Chardonnay

Price: $30.00 @ Friend/Gift

What They Said:

Per the winery “A classic golden straw-colored Chardonnay, showing a full body with the elegance of a crisp finish influenced by the coastal fog the Russian River Valley. This wine features a beautiful balance of tropical fruits, mineral notes, oak and bright lively acidity.

This balance will offer fullness in the mouth, without being unctuous, and ends in a delicate lingering finish.”

What I Think:

This was a very interesting Chardonnay, darker in color and minerally on the nose. On the tongue it was almost slightly syrupy, I think this comes from spending some time aging on the skins. In the mouth it tastes of peach, apples and lemon that lingered briefly before the oak took over. Per the winery it was aged 100% in Oak with 40% being new. Not sure if that is a lot or not. I will have to pay some attention moving forward to see what ratio it takes to remove this from my flavor profile when it comes to Chardonnay.

Rating: Pricey