2009 Trader Joe’s Petit Reserve Pinot Noir

This one is made by DNA Vineyards and Dennis Patton who is known as the Merlin of Mendocino and is one of the chief proponents of the Coro Mendocino initiative. While his Trader Joe’s track record is strong this one is a bit curious as Pinot is not his forte (at least based on my somewhat limited knowledge) and the Edna Valley in San Luis Obispo county from which this one hails is a good distance away from his familiar stomping grounds in Mendocino County. That said let’s have the wine speak for itself…

Price: $6.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2009 Trader Joes Petit Reserve Pinot NoirPer Trader Joe’s “The San Luis Obispo AVA (American Viticultural Area) is known for its cool climate and long growing season, conditions that make it an ideal region for Pinot Noir grapes. The Edna Valley, nestled in the middle of this AVA, amplifies everything about San Luis Obispo that makes it Pinot’s perfect partner.

Trader Joe’s Petit Reserve Pinot Noir Edna Valley is made exclusively for us using 100% Pinot Noir grapes from Edna Valley, aged in French oak for 12 months. Pinot Noir from warmer regions tends to be super dark and highly tannic; not this one. The longer, cooler growing season afforded by Edna Valley’s climate results here in a lush, floral and vibrant wine with aromas of raspberries and violets, and hints of nutmeg. It’s an easy drinking wine, with a soft, round finish. Pair it with Pork Tenderloin, Mushroom Ravioli or an evening by the fire with a good book.

Wines of this quality, with this kind of pedigree, generally come with a hefty price tag. Our price of $6.99 proves that you can get really excellent wine at a really excellent price. Cheers!”

What I Think:

(13.9%) Tried at TJ’s and was going to pass but second thoughts made me reconsider. Light, bright in color. Aggressive candied cranberry with earthy, forest floor notes on the nose. Remains aggressive on palate with sweetish raspberry fruit. Slightly harsh on the edges with a clean, peppery finish. The thin flavor profile packed with big fruit leaves this one out of balance IMHO. Not one I’ll buy again but guessing there will be those that beg to differ…

Wine Geek Notes: 100% Pinot Noir aged for 12 months in French Oak. 13.8% ABV (although the label states 13.9%)

Rating: Skip It

2009 Benefactor Cellars Red

Way late to the party here but when I saw a lone bottle staring at me from the shelves this weekend I figured it was high time for me to actually get around to this review! The outfit behind this one is DnA Vineyards which opened up shop in 2006. Dennis Patton and his wife Andrea are the proprietors there. Some may recognize Dennis’s name as he has been in the business for 30+ years. He founded Hidden Cellars in 1981 which was sold to Parducci in 1999. He also spearheaded the Coro Mendocino wine consortium along with Paul Dolan.Coro Mendocino

Per the DnA Vineyards site their focus is to make “Custom Crafted Wines” at “Incomparable Price/Quality Ratio”. They do this for numerous clients; Trader Joe’s chief amongst them. This is the third wine of theirs I’ve tried. The first two were both Zinfandels; the 2006 TBD California Zinfandel and the 2007 Rootstock Zinfandel where Dennis himself gave me a lesson in negociant wine-making. Makes sense as this is the grape he is most known for (along with Petite Sirah). You can read more about Dennis in this excellent article.

2009 Benefactor Cellars RedNow per the Coro Mendocino guidelines (or protocol as they say) the wines must have 40-70% Zinfandel; and no second-tier varietal (Barbera, Carignane, Charbono, Grenache, Dolcetto, Primitivo, Petite Sirah and Syrah) can exceed the percentage of the Zinfandel. Lastly a winemaker has “free play” to choose any varietal to comprise up to 10 percent of the final product. The Benefactor Cellars blend is 50% Zinfandel, 40% Syrah and 10% Carignane which meets the Coro Mendocino standards. That said as these wines are distinctively labeled and require peer review I’ve still yet to try one. Anyhow let’s get to this one…

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2009 Benefactor Cellars Red (back label)Per the bottle “Oh erstwhile unstoppable wine market! There are those who have mourned your passing with many a tear, many a boo hoo. But we celebreate the generosity of your death. Those wines which once haunted us from beyond our price range now pour happily – affordably, deliciously, attainably – into our glasses, thanks to you. A toast to failed predictions! To bloated, insupportable markets! Here’s to the Benefactor!”

What I Think:

(14.9%) 50% Zinfandel, 40% Syrah, 10% Carignane – Dark purple in color with warm briary, berry fruit and spice on the nose. It starts with almost candied plum and cherry before a firm acidic structure emerges on the mid-palate to maintain balance. From there it turns oaky and creamy showing vanilla on the finish which thins quickly. From there it lingers on nicely (albeit a bit hot) with a bit of spice and dusty chocolate. This wine is plush, comfortable (familiar) and fruity. An easy, smooth drinker for a $5 spot.

Rating: Buy It

Interested in reading more about the Benefactor Cellars Red?

  • Jeff from Viva la Wino thinks its “actually quite good, especially for $5″. High praise for those that know him…
  • Matt from Trader Joe’s Wine Notes says “Dennis Patton has set the bar very high for wines now occupying the $5 price point”.
  • The folks (or folk) over at Beards & Bellies calls it “a damn fine wine for $4.99″.

2007 Rootstock Zinfandel

Price: $6.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2007 Rootstock ZinfandelMy initial Google search returned nothing. The back of the bottle noted that this one is made by DnA Vineyareds which I recognized from two previous offerings; Trader Joe’s Captain’s Catch and the TBD Zinfandel. The DnA Vineyards site hardly exists hasn’t been updated in ages. Failing on that front I decide to give the COLA registry a try and learned that the Mendocino Wine Group is ultimately behind this one. They are responsible for numerous labels with Paraducci being the most widely known offering (and for football fans the Mike Ditka wine label which I didn’t know existed…). Neither Rootstock or DnA Vineyards are mentioned on the site. Looks like yet another TJ’s orphan wine!

So what did the bottle have to say? “Combining four different Lodi Zinfandels and blending in a special lot of Lodi Petite Sirah gives this succulent wine added depth and color. This wine is full bodied and round with very integrated tannins that lead to a long and silky finish. The mouthfeel harbors licorice and cedar with a slight fennel note in the background. Versatility is the key here when considering what food to pair with; burgers, pastas and grilled veggies all work wonderfully.”

What I Think:

Reading my review on the TBD Zin which also was mostly Lodi Zinfandel I can’t help but wonder if this isn’t almost the same juice, with the same winemaking team under a different label. I find myself playing the role of skeptic as I put this on the table to pair with meatloaf.

So, what’s in the bottle? On the nose you are greeted with bright, hot cherry notes. On the palate this one is big & fruity but mostly one dimensional. You think a spice component is going to emerge near the mid palate but it quickly falls apart. The wine then turns hot leading to a slightly chalky finish before the heat once again emerges and lingers on. This one is not to be had on its own (IMHO), much better with food. But then even still it is rough around the edges. I may be being a bit harsh but couple my experience with the $6.99 price tag and I am not likely to buy this one again. By the way to my earlier point on playing the skeptic, my notes on the TBD Zin don’t sound all that different. But then again I do always enjoy a good conspiracy theory…

Rating: Skip It

2006 TBD California Zinfandel

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer ““Zinfandel TBD…To Be Determined.” Exactly what was noted when our wine buyer began a quest for a rich, fruity wine that would pair perfectly with a Thanksgiving meal and live up the to character of the holiday – zesty and all American. We went straight to the quintessential Zin region of Lodi and the cool climate regions of Mendocino County to source a vivacious blend of the yet to be named wine. By the time the magic came together – 81% Zinfandel, 17% Petite Sirah, with a dash of Syrah & Carignan for structure (and quite a bit of humor for good spirit) – “Zinfandel TBD” had taken on a life of its own, worthy of being bottled with a label to match. The enticing aromas of raspberry and boysenberry laced with a hint of clove and black pepper will complement the complex flavors of an autumnal feast and the lively spirits of your guests. All that’s left TBD now, is how many bottles you’ll need. We are selling each 750 ml bottle for just $4.99.”

What I Think:

I always start my research by checking the winery. DnA Vineyards doesn’t seem to be in operation yet over in Mendocino so I am guessing whatever grapes came from there are young and were paired with some other bulk bought grapes to come up with this conncoction for Trader Joe’s. It is mostly Zinfandel and Syrah. Couple that with the fact that the only other region mentioned is Lodi and the Syrah must be from DnA’s new estate.

To be honest I didn’t take an notes here and it has been a week or so since I had the bottle but for the price I was impressed by it’s easy drinking style. Big, bold red fruit on the nose and through the initial palate as well before fading to a peppery finish. A smooth wine that doesn’t reek of the manufactured taste you often find in something this price range. This is a bottle well suited for any occasion including Thanksgiving according to the TJ’s Fearless Flyer. I recommend you give it a go.

Rating: Buy It