2007 Blue Fin Petite Sirah

Price: $3.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2007 Blue Fin Petite SirahPer Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer “Considering its longevity and historical significance, we think Petite Sirah is a wine that hasn’t gotten too much respect. It has often been accused of being too strong, too forceful, and too red (as if that makes sense) for the fancy folks in the wine world. But we’ve recently found a number of Petite Sirahs that break this stereotype – they’re bold and fruity, to be sure, but they also feature softer tannins, making them much more easy-drinking and accessible.

If a wine tastes good but is too heavy for your wallet, though, we’re back in “no respect” territory. And that’s really what makes Blue Fin Petite Sirah such a find. This is an “only at Trader Joe’s” California red that was 40% aged in American oak barrels to soften the tannins. The result is a full-bodied yet mellow-drinking wine, with cherry and black plum aromas and a hint of chocolate raspberry on the palate. Appropriate with pizza and red sauced pastas as well as with grilled meats, at only $3.99 a bottle, Blue Fin Petite Sirah is always appropriate for your pocketbook. Quality + price = value. A simple equation. Only at Trader Joe’s.”

What I Think:

The third of the offerings from Blue Fin which is another product of Bronco Wine Co.. I thought the Chard was nice and didn’t think so highly of the Pinot so I guess this Petite Sirah is now the tie breaker. So would it deliver?

What can I say? In this case I think the description from Trader Joe’s may be one of the more accurate I have ever seen. It pretty much says this wine is a Petite Sirah that isn’t a Petite Sirah. And that is true. A pleasant wine, with little to no varietal characteristics. Smooth drinking with muted fruit and light acids that provide some soft, unexpected tannins. It can surprisingly be referred to as “mellow”. Easy to sip if you are pre-occupied elsewhere but not much to taste here. I’ll be steering clear of this one in the future but at $4 if you have the impulse to give it a try good ahead and do so.

Rating: Skip It

2008 Blue Fin Pinot Noir

2008 Blue Fin Pinot NoirPrice: $3.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer “Blue Fin Pinot Noir, a new addition to the Blue Fin family, is a vibrant, ruby-colored wine with rich, fresh berry and currant flavors and a velvety smooth finish. This wine is priced at the ridiculously low $3.99 a bottle – a perfect example of our favorite equation: quality + price = value.”

What I Think:

The counterpart to the Chardonnay this is a $4 Pinot Noir which violates my sensibilities given the struggles I have finding good Pinots under $10. But given the story line here includes Fred Franzia and Bronco Wine Co. I am intrigued to see if this could be the Two Buck Chuck of the Pinot world. In short, it might be.

My initial impression was not good. My first notes were thin, hot with a hint of fruit notes. Over the next few days the nose revealed some faint strawberry aromas and even showed the slightest hint of varietal characteristics but the heat and tannins remained. Guessing this one includes a lot of stems. That thought got me wondering; what is the minimum percentage required by law to label something as Pinot? Would including the stems make it easier to get to that number? Guessing it can’t get better than this at $4 otherwise Fred would know how. Not worth it to me, I’ll still be dropping a ten spot on the Castle Rock.

And that is how my review would have ended had it not been for so many people defending the Blue Fin both on twitter and in the comments here on the blog. Did I miss something that everyone else is getting? Was my bottle bad? This is only the 2nd time I’ve felt this way. For Exhibit 1a see: Sparkling ,Albero. Next shopping trip I’ll grab another bottle of each and give both a do over. I know Bob Dwyer is working on a review for this wine over on The Wellesley Wine Press but in the mean time here is what he had to say on Cellar Tracker:

“A very simple, straightforward and drinkable wine. Mild strawberry and cherry aromas on the nose. Perhaps limited aromatically. Really tasty on the initial attack (with a surprising amount of flavor), but fades extremely quickly and is gone in a flash (both the finish and the bottle). An intriguing play at $3.99.”

UPDATE: Bob has now posted his full review. For those interested check it our over on The Wellesley Wine Press.

Stay tuned for more on this one…

Rating: Skip It (for now)

Editor’s Note (07-Jul-2009):Updated the post to include a link to The Wellesley Wine Press review.

2008 Blue Fin Chardonnay

2008 Blue Fin ChardonnayPrice: $3.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer “For a number of years, we sold a great-tasting Chardonnay called Blue Fin that was made for us by one of Napa’s oldest wineries. And then they decided to “retire” the label. Bad. Then, fortuitously, one of our long-term wine partners bought the label, and offered us a great deal on Blue Fin Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Good. As we mentioned, this is a label we (and you) know and love, so quality and consistency are key. After all, what good is a low price if the wine doesn’t taste good? We guarantee Blue Fin Wines taste as good as ever. Blue Fin Chardonnay features elegant flavors of fig, tropical fruit and spice, with just a hint of vanilla. This is a truly refreshing wine.”

What I Think:

An unnamed long-term wine partner? Do tell… it has now proven to be yet another offering from Bronco Wine Co. most famously known for lavishing the world in Two Buck Chuck. With that out of the way let me try to remain objective. Couple that with the fact that I usually don’t get along with Chardonnay and that may be a difficult task. With the wine in the glass I was greeted with a bouquet of nectarines. On the palate the wine was fresh and crisp. At this end of the price scale the only oak you get is toasted chips which they thankfully passed on for this offering. The palate is filled with white apple flavors leading to a steely balance on the finish. This one brings an old saying to mind; “Simple is as simple does.” Chalk this one up as a surprise, a nice, easy going picnic wine.

Rating: 12th Bottle