2008 Vinum Cellars Chenin – Vio

Based on my recent post on the Sauvignon Republic I’ve had many ask if King Shag is no longer your go to summer white what is? While the answer is multi-dimensional (see my Summer 2011 Top 10 List in the works) for today let’s just stick to the best white Trader Joe’s had to offer at this time (and I admittedly haven’t sampled them all…). That said I’m guessing you’ve seen the title of this post so let’s get to the wine itself (which while admittedly a bit simple) over delivers at the sub $8 price point.

2008 Vinum Cellars Chenin - VioPrice: $3.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per Vinum Cellars (pdf) “Light golden straw color, intensely fresh guava nectar, jasmine and honeysuckle aromas are the generous offerings of this unique blend. The palate quite clearly expresses a purity in acidity which is attributable to the wine’s majority contributor; Chenin Blanc. This acid profile is balanced deftly with appealing apricot flavors, texture and light rose pedal musk that can be derived only from Viognier. The palate is left with crisp green apple acidity, the nectary goodness of Peach/Apricot with an intermittent honeycomb finish. This wine is a marvelous accompaniment to fine goat cheese dishes like tarts, baked goat cheese over a mesclun of greens and champagne vinaigrette and small thin crust aged goat cheese pizzettas, with sun dried tomatoes of course. It is an excellent aperitif, favorite summertime sipper and Sunday brunch staple.”

What I Think:

(13.4%) 86% Chenin Blanc, 14% Viognier – Green/yellow tinged in the glass the Viognier owns the nose with honeyed floral aromas and banana notes. The palate starts crisp and clean with Chenin’s firm acidity leading the way. On the mid-palate the Viognier kicks in and the wine gets a bit richer with ripe peach flavors before a stony, mineral component emerges and drives through a (slightly creamy) green apple driven finish. An easy drinking, enjoyable bottle for $4. Count me in for a few more bottles…

Rating: Buy It

2007 Vinum Cellars Petite Sirah

Price: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2007 Vinum Cellars Clarksburg Petite Sirah ReservePer Wine Spectator “Appealing for its bright and juicy red and black fruit flavors, with a smooth texture and vivid spice, cola and toast details. Gains some tannic traction on the finish. Drink now through 2016. 8,000 cases made.” (87 points, $14) — M.W.

What I Think:

A few months back Andy gave me the heads up that they had this one in stock. I had previously tried the ’06 which I picked up via a recommendation for $13 18 months or so ago. My impression then was that while this wine was good it did not deliver on a double digit price point. Granted, I expect a lot there! Seeing this at Trader Joe’s for more than 50% off I figured it was worth giving this one another shot. Since then I’ve had a couple bottles of this but had yet to review as I kept expecting it to disappear much like the Chenin Blanc (which I enjoyed!) did. But to my surprise this one was still smiling from the shelves on my most recent shopping trip so I figured it was due time to share my thoughts.

Big nose loaded with aromas of black olives. This wine is thick & inky in the glass. On that palate you are greeted with juicy, slightly under ripe, blueberry flavors on a tight, acidic structure. Big, toasty tannins emerge very early on the mid palate before giving way to loads of black pepper on an overly dry (and slightly sour) finish. This wine is tightly wound throughout and I don’t think that is meant to change (even with aging). Still not my favorite but guessing many will see it as a lot of wine for the money. For my palate I would pair this one with a rich foods or strong cheeses to help smooth out the tannins. If I grab another bottle I’ll let you know how that goes. In the mean time I would love to hear your thoughts…

Rating: 12th Bottle

2007 Vinum Cellars Chenin Blanc

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2007 Vinum Cellars Chenin BlancPer Vinum Cellars “Clarksburg might be called the Chenin Blanc capital of California, and this polished wine shows why. It’s completely dry and mouthwateringly crisp in acidity, with interesting flavors of citrus fruits, ripe fresh green beans, spices and vanilla. Try as an alternative to Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc.” – 88 Points – S.H. Wine Enthusiast Magazine, October 1, 2009

“Fragrant lemongrass and lemon-lime flavors are light-bodied, crisp and refreshing, with fresh-cut grass and herb notes echoing on the finish. Drink now. 4,500 cases made.” – 86 Points – MW
Wine Spectator, June 15, 2009

What I Think:

What does CNW stand for? Chard-No-Way! A wine after my own heart and I agree it is nothing like a chardonnay. This one is very clean in color and on the nose as well as the palate. Lemon prevalent throughout, in a curdish, custard like manner. It has a solid structure with racy acidity. Maybe some food could tease out more flavor? Still quite refreshing, would be great in the summer heat on its own. It’s good but I really wanted it to be better than that. Almost like a Sauvignon Blanc without the tangy finish. I bought three bottles on sight and am likely to grab a few more for the summer. Feel free to consider doing the same…

Rating: Buy It

2006 Vinum Cellars Clarksburg Petite Sirah Reserve

2006 Vinum Cellars Clarksburg Petite Sirah ReservePrice: $12.99 @ Whole Foods

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines “Nothing like a little inside joke to spark your curiosity. “Pets” is a nickname for Petite Sirah used by vet (veteran, not veterinarian) growers like Ken Wilson, who owns the vineyard where the fruit for this wine comes from. A portion of the profits for this wine will be donated to the San Francisco SPCA animal shelter in memory of Wilson’s dog, Tanker. Inky in color, this is wine that will leave a mark on your teeth and your memory. Notes of wet clay, lavender and clove lead into dark huckleberry fruit on the nose and palate. Subtle notes of vanilla cola linger on the finish. The wine had massive, teethcoating tannins and intense concentration to boot. It’s easy to see another correlation between this and pets, in the more traditional sense, it can easily become your new best friend.”

What I Think:

My curiosity on this one was easy to capture when my friend and colleague of RJ’s Wine Blog gave it a thumbs up and later ranked it as his #5 wine in his Top 10 of 2008 list. Couple his thumbs up with my enjoyment of all things Petite Sirah and it was an easy sale. In trying to tie this back to the winery site I found this PETS offering which seems to be the same, that said you can see my label clearly doesn’t match, can anyone confirm this is the same bottle?

Once the bottle made it home I was quick to open it. The nose was typical Petite Sirah. Initially, I was not to impressed. $13? Thinking immediately what do I have from Trader Joe’s to do a taste-off with… I felt this was tightly wound and full of tannins. To be certain it didn’t need some air I was sure to drink it over a few days, not much help. Full of dark but muted fruit and lacking the type of finish I expect from a Petite Sirah. I’m a fan of big and chewy but this one didn’t get it done. Even my wife, who rarely does so, gave it a thumbs down. Now, perhaps this is the case of the overhyped movie that ends up falling flat. Couple that with my dramatic rise in expectations with double digit price tags and this one may have had the chips stacked against it from the get go. Not bad by any means but at this price point I was expecting a bit more. That said feel free to give it a try, most love it. Perhaps I stand along on this one but I’ll spend my money elsewhere. Seen two Petite Sirahs at Trader Joe’s, one was the Rendition, I’ll give a try and see if it turns out better.

Rating: Pricey

2006 Rare Find Clarksburg Gewurztraminer

Price: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

These next few I am going to post are some stubborn ones that I have been digging around on the internet for to no avail for days. It looks like I am on my own here….

What I Think:

This is a Gewurztraminer from Clarksburg which I always thought was an area somewhere around Napa and/or Sonoma. It turns out it is in Yolo County on the California Delta about fifteen miles south of Sacramento. This wine is most certainly a private label offering with the vinter being “Rare Find Wine Purveyors”. As mentioned before rare find summarizes what I was able to find in regards to them on the internet, guessing they don’t really want to be found.

Now for the wine itself…Not much on the nose this wine appears to be rather clean. On the palate it starts rather plain before a whole lot of sweetness kicks in. You get some hints of fruits as it progresses, maybe some apples amongst others. All in all the sweetness takes its toll on me, the Michel Leon is an easy choice over this one. If you are going to give it a go make sure you have some super spicy food to pair it with.

Rating: Skip It