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)

First Take: 2010 Chariot Gypsy

As mentioned in yesterday’s Trader Joe’s Thursday post the 2010 vintage of the Chariot Gypsy has hit the shelves. Long time readers know that with each annual release I tend to leverage a rare video segment to share some initial thoughts whether that be from the Trader Joe’s parking lot (circa 2008) or later that evening from home. Without further introduction here is my initial take on the 2010 Chariot Gypsy…

To recap, we have a blend of 63% mystery “dry red”, 22% Cabernet and 15% Merlot versus the heavy Zinfandel component and accompanying Petite Sirah typical in previous vintages. Sweet on the nose and a touch on the palate with juicy cherries and soft acidity. Simple and pleasing but perhaps as good for what it isn’t, not cloying, harsh or flabby, as what it is. A solid $5 table wine for any occasion.

Have you had it yet? If so I’d love to hear your thoughts! If not let me know what your favorite value wine has been as of late…

2009 Chariot Gypsy

Ah the Gypsy… Now I’ve written enough a dissertations worth on this one over the years. Trader Joe’s one and only cult wine has become quite a polarizing topic. Is it still good or merely riding on the coattails of what it once was? I can tell you based on my first take that without a doubt this wine was once much better than it is today. That said where did I net out on the 2009 vintage?

2009 Chariot GypsyPrice: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per Chariot Wines ” The Chariot Gypsy 2009 tasting notes are coming soon!” Well that sure is helpful! Looks like you are stuck with my opinion…

What I Think:

(13.5%) 34% Zinfandel, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Petite Sirah, 15% Merlot, 5% Sangiovese – Dark fruit, spice and barrel on the nose. Juicy on the palate, decent acidity through the mid-palate before a short to medium sweet, creamy vanilla finish. This one fares better when just opened or with food in my humble opinion otherwise it comes off as overly sweet at times (much like the ’08). Speaking of the ’08 I’ll have to do a vertical Gypsy tasting sometime soon to confirm my suspicions. While this wine doesn’t excite me for $5 you you can sure do a lot worse than this…

Should you buy it? The Gypsy is a polarizing wine so let’s start with whether or not you’ve had the Gypsy before. If you have did you like it? Your answer to that question is the same as to whether or not you should buy this vintage. For those that haven’t tried it give it a go. For $5 you can do a whole lot worse. I bought six and am half way through that batch. I like it for what it is; a simple, easy going Tuesday night wine pizza kind of wine that you don’t have to feel guilty you’re not paying too much attention too.

Rating: Buy It <- If you answered the questions above correctly...

What’s your take? Do you like the ’09 Gypsy? Or think it is just riding coattails and memories?

2009 Chariot Gypsy White

Sorry to do that to you! I’m sure you read that and right up to the end were expecting something different. That said I felt compelled to share my thoughts here as I have visited at least two stores where they are pitching the white right next to the red version of the Chariot Gypsy. Couple that with the fact that it just showed up in the latest Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer that hit my mailbox and I had to share my thoughts. Long story short I’m not a fan of the white (nor was I of their Sauvignon Blanc from vintages ago). Read on…

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2009 Chariot Gypsy WhitePer Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer (pdf) “Chariot Gypsy White is made just for us by a small winemaker with a big talent for handcrafting exquisite wines. Known for his ability to combine distinctive grapes to create stellar blends, for Chariot Gypsy White he went with a mind-blowing mélange of some enticing grapes from northern and central California – Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Muscat and Marsanne.

The result is a wine that’s bursting with fresh floral aromas and flavors ranging from fig and almond to apple & pear, with a crisp acidity throughout. Try it with your favorite chicken recipe, our Spinach Lasagna or Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Butter & Sage. We’re selling each bottle of Chariot Gypsy White for $4.99, which means our goal of delivering a satisfying wine experience for very little money has been accomplished – with style!”

What I Think:

(13%) 37% Chardonnay, 32% Sauvignon Blanc, 15% Gewurtraminer, 11% Muscat, 5% Marsanne – Crisp floral nose with honeydew. Juicy sweet nectarine on the palate with a floral, acidic structure that shows a bit sweet and a tad syrupy throughout. Keeping this one thoroughly chilled will take the edge off that. At the end of the day I don’t have anything bad to say about this wine but it has a very limited range for my palate. Beyond pairing with spicy Asian cuisine I don’t have much use for it. Couple that with the fact that these off dry offerings are a dime a dozen at Trader Joe’s (see Green Fin, Now & Zen) and I’m not likely to buy again…

Rating: Skip It

First Take: 2009 Chariot Gypsy

Just last night I mentioned that the return of the Gypsy and was near and that sighting were beginning to be reported throughout California. Given that I decided to head over to my regular Trader Joe’s (Bay St. in San Francisco) after work tonight and see if I couldn’t track it down for myself. After checking the end caps I wasn’t expecting to find it but there it was sitting on the shelf. So I grabbed a bottle and headed off. I fully intended to taste it in the parking lot (ala 2008) but as I was already late in getting home I had to alter my plans. That said once home (and I got the kids in bed) I immediately popped the cork to see what was in store. And to stay true to the intent here are my first thoughts…

To recap, the blend percentage here (heavy on Zin/Cab) is more similar to the 2007 than the 2008 which was dominated by a Zinfandel – Petite Sirah component. That was immediately on the palate where this one has a lot more acidity than the ’08 which at times came across as overly sweet. Not quite as fruit forward but much more balanced and even for my preference. Not a great wine by any means but a nice $5 table wine for any occasion. I’ll be grabbing some more soon.

Outside of that I thought it was interesting this one was labeled at 13.5% abv. Identical to that of the 2007 and 2008. Now you can be certain this aren’t all the same given the +/- 1.5% leeway that is legal from a labeling perspective. If nothing else curious to compare to the 2009 Rabbit Ridge (for those that made it to the end of the video you’ll know I picked this one up) which clocks in at 14.6%. I grabbed the ’07 and ’08 and was expecting to see the same but nope. 2007 was 15.4% and 2008 14.7%. Now these on the other hand I am guessing are accurate. It just got me to thinking as I read an article earlier this week by Tim Fish entitled What Does It Take to Make an $8 Wine?. Given the incremental cost is getting a new label approved by the TTB it once again shows that Erich Russell and the team from Rabbit Ridge are making the most honest $5 bottle of wine out there to be had. Look forward to giving it a try soon!

Anyhow back to the Gypsy (or the Rabbit Ridge). I’d love to hear your thoughts. Did you find it? Let us know where. Did you try? What did you think?

View 2009 Chariot Gypsy Finder in a larger map

It’s back! The 2009 Chariot Gypsy returns…

Chariot GypsyIt’s official! Between comments, email, twitter and facebook I have heard numerous reports of the 2009 Chariot Gypsy appearing on shelves across California. Now those familiar with the blog will need no further introduction. For those that don’t, the Gypsy is as close as it gets to a $5 cult wine. What’s that? A cult wine has to be expensive? I disagree, it only has to inspire wide spread passion! And trust me this one does.

So what can we expect from the wine? Sadly the Chariot Wines site has yet to be updated with the latest vintage but sources tell me it is a blend of 34% Zinfandel, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Petite Sirah, 15% Merlot, 5% Sangiovese (thanks JB!). How does this compare to past vintages? The stellar 2005 didn’t have any Zinfandel or Merlot. The 2007 closely resembles this sans Merlot (37% Cabernet, 33% Zinfandel, 10% Petite Sirah, 10% Syrah, 10% Sangiovese) whereas the ’08 had a much heavier Petite Sirah & lighter Cabernet component. I think the bigger question is can they maintain the quality as they continue to expand the production. The normal road for many of my old Trader Joe’s favorites is a journey to mediocrity after a few vintages and I fear the Gypsy may be headed down that path. What are people saying so far?

I’ve seen a review posted on Beards & Bellies, a tasting note on Cellar Tracker, received three emails and four Facebook notes on appearances and opinions. Thankfully most of them have been favorable to date. As for myself I have yet to track this one down but will surely be headed to Trader Joe’s tomorrow to see if I can’t find it. I am surely anxious to give it a try.

How about you? Have you found it yet? If so what did you think? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Happy hunting!

2009 Chariot Gypsy Finder Map
As I know people often wonder where they can find the Gypsy I decided to create a map to tracking sightings. Let me know where you’ve spotted via the comments and I’ll add it (or you can do it yourself as I shared it) to the map! Cheers and thanks in advance for making everyone elses hunt easier…

View 2009 Chariot Gypsy Finder in a larger map

2008 Chariot Gypsy

We interupt this regularly scheduled post for a public service announcement; there have been confirmed sightings of the Gypsy up the coast in both Portland and Seattle. This concludes the use of the emergency broadcast system.

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2008 Chariot GypsyPer Chariot Wines “The Chariot Gypsy 2008 is a delicious blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel and Sangiovese from great vineyards in the Napa Valley, Sonoma, San Joachin, and Monterey counties. It displays a dark garnet color with a clear violet edge. It shows mixed fresh berry aromas — raspberry and strawberry, with hints of white pepper and pastry. Very clean and lively with juicy berry fruit, firm acidity and a touch of smooth tannin. Excellent and versatile food wine particularly well suited for pork chops and poultry. We think it is the perfect everyday red wine!”

What I Think:

Ah, the long lost post. I had grand plans for this one until the day job threw them to roost. When Steve asked last week where it was I decided it was time to close the loop here. So let’s take a quick trip down memory lane.

My going in question was can they maintain the quality as they expand the production. As a reminder the demand for ‘07 vintage was so high they produced two lots. Given I have seen many of my other Trader Joe’s favorites journey this road to mediocrity I feel I have reason to be skeptical. When it arrived, I headed out to grab some straight away and video blogged my first sips from the parking lot. My take was that the ’08 was juicy, fruit forward and a nice easy quaffer. Now that the wine has had a few months in the bottle and I’ve gotten to sample it a few times what’s my take?

The nose is pleasant showing red fruit, oak/barrel and clove notes. The palate starts with jammy, ripe berry flavors. Towards the mid-palate the fruit becomes slightly flabby before being wiped away by an unexpected lively, racy acidic backbone that is full of white pepper. The finish is of bright, tart raspberries. This one is warm and ever so slightly sweet (less so than the ’07) throughout which make the connotations of the “cherry coke” of wine more true than false. That said, given the acidity it may be better suited for pizza than an early evening on the patio. And for me that is what this one is a simple, straight forward Tuesday night wine that is easy to drink. For $5 this is more than you should expect, use it accordingly and you aren’t likely to be disappointed.

For more on this one check out this great take from Viva la Wino!

Rating: Buy It (while you can)

Your Take on the Gypsy

2008 Chariot GypsyWith my review of the ’08 vintage still a few days away (I wanted to give it 3 weeks in the bottle first) I thought it would be fun to highlight some of tasting notes that you all from the community have shared over the last few weeks. Many of those mentioned below are long time contributors whose opinions I value. You will see they all are fans to a large extent, that said there have been a few naysayers (two to be exact) but none left any detailed notes to include. My opinion, as it stands, is that this is a juicy, straight forward, enjoyable wine and at this point worth $5. My hope is that with some rest it becomes something more. Now let’s see what you all think…

Mike Kauzer: If you didn’t know, you might think it’s a Pinot. Not at all like the 07. Light, not sweet. Subtle mid palate. I like it …. maybe 3-4 cases, but it’s not the wine I was expecting.

UCLA92: Picked up 2 case last night in Irvine (Woodbury location). Nice wine. As others have stated, it is different than the ‘07. You can almost see your hand through the glass. Nose of red fruit, white pepper and menthol. Fruit forward wine with some pepper and oak. Medium body with some structure. Not sweet like the ‘07. Great everyday wine.

Danny: Wow! Are you kidding me? This winner has a QPR which is off the chart, in a good way. The 2008 Chariot Gypsy is an excellent multi-purpose quaffer that offers enticing aromas of bright, wild, red berries, smokey toast and spice leading to fresh, red fruit flavors with a white pepper core and a zesty finish of orange peel and dark chocolate. Easy, smooth and delightful. My rating, as converted in conformance with Jason’s Wine Blog ratings, is “Bulk Buy.” I think this wine would be great with pizza, burgers, BBQ, steak, lamb, meat stew or by itself. I’m told that the Irvine Trader Joe’s has an allocation of 90 cases and no more. When they’re gone, they’re gone.

Charlie: The 2008 Chariot Gypsy is in at the Clovis CA TJ’s!! Bought a bottle this morning and had a lunchtime tasting with the wife. Another winner from Jim Neal, the 2008 is a solid value at $4.99. A young fruity 13.5 wine that should benefit from more time in the bottle. The missus says it’s less sweet than the 2007 and I have to agree. We aerated ours and it still needed time in the glass to open up. Still, we liked it and plan on buying more tomorrow!

Jerry Klein: YES the 2008 version of Gypsy may be the best yet. At $4.99 this wine drinks like a $12-15 bottle. Agreed it does need more time in the bottle. (Only in 3 weeks b4 release. Did have 12 months ageing b4 release. 72% Zin/Petite sirah; Cab & Sanjo 24% balance 2% each merlot & Syrah. After another six months in the bottle should be even better. !! Hurry and grab this one now!

Jesse Porter: I just poured my first bottle of the ‘08 to a group of friends following a Sauv Blanc tasting. After all that tart acidity, the Gypsy came on really strong and jammy, but once our palates had acclimated to the fruit, it proved a big winner. Doesn’t change in the glass or “open up” as much as previous vintages did, probably because it’s a bit less full in body and intensity, but the flavors are definitely still there. I agree with what’s been said… this is a more versatile wine than the ‘07, if slightly less uninhibited.

joshiemac: Had my first bottle over 2 nights. Not much nose. Softer than the ‘07, showing supple berry fruit and a splash of acidity. Doesn’t have the jamminess of the ‘07, either. Has the mouth feel of a Merlot. Somewhat weak in the mid-palate, but gained more density here on night 2. Drank this right off the truck so I look forward to seeing where it goes in the next few months. Glad I have a case to track its development. Enjoyable right now, if somewhat simple, it could become another QPR superstar with some time in the bottle!

The Chariot Arrives

I’m sure many of you are already read my post on the return of the Gypsy. Also guessing those interested are well aware of the multitude of comments confirming sightings of this wine all across California (I have asked my insiders to look into potential arrival in Phoenix and beyond). Michael Rodgers was the first one to break the release date which was indeed yesterday, February 9th. So after work I headed over to my local store. Once inside I was expecting a big end cap display but found nothing. Checking the shelves I found it and grabbed a bottle. One you say? Indeed! You see, I had a corkscrew and glass waiting in the car. So I headed out to the parking lot to do some tasting. For those interested in my first, and perhaps last, attempt at video blogging here was my initial take…

To recap, thinking this one was juicy, fruit forward and a nice easy quaffer. What have I learned sampling it over the last 24 hours? The fruit on this one softer and rounder which at first led me to believe this was a lighter version. Night #2 I’m thinking that is not the case. The wine added some depth over night. Overall, early perceptions are that this one is “very pleasant” and is likely to improve as it settles into the bottle. Easily as good as 1/2 the $12 bottles I drink. A perfect red table wine for any house.

Given the change in the first 24 hours, I’m going to give it another 48 hours or so before doing a more thorough review. In the meantime feel free to share your thoughts!

It’s (almost) back! The ’08 Gypsy looms…

Chariot GypsyFor those that know this blog the introduction above serves aplenty. For those that don’t, the Gypsy is as close as it gets to a Trader Joe’s cult wine. That’s right, a $5 cult wine. What’s that? A cult wine has to be expensive? I disagree, it only has to inspire wide spread passion! And trust me this one does. I’ve written three posts on this wine and those compose my top three commented post, generating almost 200 responses. Over the weekend, the buzz over this one kicked into full gear. RMS first tipped me off after noticing the ’08 vintage mentioned on the Chariot Wines website. Angela, my Trader Joe’s insider, added shortly thereafter that the new vintage is scheduled to appear in the next Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer. At almost the same time Jerry, who tipped me off to the ’07, checked in to let me know he had the scoop that this one will be appearing in stores before the end of February. Since you are all my friends I’ll be more forthcoming, Angela let me know that the next Fearless Flyer is scheduled for February 16th. Given that we can expect to see this bottle in stores within the next two weeks…

So what can we expect from the wine? I think the big question is can they maintain the quality as they expand the production. For the ’07 vintage the demand was so high that I am all but certain they produced two different versions of this wine. I have seen many old Trader Joe’s favorites journey this road to mediocrity which leaves me plenty skeptical. Hopefully my angst is for not. We will know shortly! I’ll look forward to hearing all your thoughts once this one hits the shelves. Until then, here is what the winery has to say about the latest vintage:

    “The Chariot Gypsy 2008 is a delicious blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel and Sangiovese from great vineyards in the Napa Valley, Sonoma, San Joaquin, and Monterey counties.

    Winemakers Jeff Hunsaker, Marco DiGiulio and Nancy Walker describe the wine like this: “The 2008 ‘Gypsy’ displays a dark garnet color with a clear violet edge. It shows mixed fresh berry aromas — raspberry and strawberry, with hints of white pepper and pastry. Very clean and lively with juicy berry fruit, firm acidity and a touch of smooth tannin. Excellent and versatile food wine particularly well suited for pork chops and poultry”.

    We think it is the perfect everyday red wine!”