2010 Rabbit Ridge Allure de Robles

Rabbit Ridge WineryAlways happy to see Rabbit Ridge makes this wine out in the open and proudly offers the same bottling via their winery at a fair price (read more on my take here). For those that aren’t familiar Allure de Robles is an estate grown wine that is made in a Châteauneuf-du-Pape style. This one is a traditional Rhone Blend composed of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. With the grapes being predominantly from clones of the esteemed Tablas Creek Winery which in turn are cut them from the fabled Chateau Beaucastel. For those that don’t recognize the names it is safe to say they are punching well beyond a $5 price tag…

Fairly or not always ends up getting compared to the Chariot Gypsy as the “other cult wine” which begs the same questions I asked last night. Why was this released 4 months earlier? Perhaps we can ask Erich Russell, Rabbit Ridge’s founder.

Speaking of Erich, if you like your Allures de Robles you may want to stock up now. Erich previously shared that “the supply of 2010 will be really low compared to 2009, maybe as much as 60% lower.” And to further compound the issue he reached out again in April to let me know they suffered some pretty significant hail damage that left him wondering whether a 2011 vintage would even be possible. I’ll follow up with him to see how it netted out but in the meantime let’s dig into this 2010…

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2010 Rabbit Ridge Allure de RoblesPer Rabbit Ridge (pdf) “The 2010 vintage is big and round with strawberry and cherry overtones from the Grenache, body from the Syrah and richness from the Mourvèdre. This wine is a great choice for sipping or with a wide variety of foods.”

What I Think:

(14.8%) Made from Tablas Creek clones this one is predominantly from Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. It starts juicy with lush, peppery lifted cherry fruit that swells turning toasty and a touch sweet on the mid-palate before drying out with medium tannins on a barrel spiced finish. I’d prefer more acidity but for those that are fans of bigger, fruit forward wines there is a lot to like here. Available for $8 via Rabbit Ridge.

Rating: Buy It (if you like your wines big with some tannins…)

2009 Rabbit Ridge Allure de Robles

Rabbit Ridge WineryTrader Joe’s “other” cult wine. Over the years there have been more than a few accusations of “hording” this offering and not sharing the wealth. The history of the Allures de Robles as I know it lapsed after the 1998 vintage before being resurrected as an NV sometime around 2006. From there it was followed by a 2007 vintage offering. Allure de Robles is an estate grown wine that is made in a Châteauneuf-du-Pape style. This one is a traditional Rhone Blend composed of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. With the clones of the grapes being predominantly from the esteemed Tablas Creek Winery which in turn are cut them from the fabled Chateau Beaucastel. For those that don’t recognize the names it is safe to say they are punching well beyond a $5 price tag…

Erich Russell of Rabbit Ridge WineryWhat I find most interesting is that it is made by a real winery. Better yet one that respects their customers first and foremost. I have often lamented those wineries that ship wine off to Trader Joe’s at a steep discount without giving their most valuable customers the opportunity to buy these wines at the same price. When doing so Rabbit Ridge is always my shining example of how to do it right. And while they sell wines from across the pricing spectrum (from $5 up to $30) I’ve always respected the level of detail paid to this offering. Unlike the Chariot Gypsy this one shows variances in ABV (alcohol by volume). The 2009 clocks in at 14.6%; the ‘07 15.4% and ‘08 14.7%. Taking the time, money and effort to refile the label for approval with the TTB annually is just but one indicator that Erich Russell (pictured right) and “the team” from Rabbit Ridge are making the most honest $5 bottle of wine out there to be had.

Per an email from Erich here is what he had to say “The alcohol is indeed a true alcohol at 14.6 and the wine is not manipulated in any way—no acid additions, no water additions, no finning, no mega purple, no concentrate just pure grape juice. It is pretty amazing to me the changes in the wine from 2007 to 2008 to 2009. The 2010 is a really wild one at least individual lots are right now. The bad news is the supply of 2010 will be really low compared to 2009, maybe as much as 60% lower.” And that supply is where things seem to get interesting. Erich mentioned the fact that the Wine Spectator awarding Wine of the Year to another Paso Robles GSM blend is driving prices higher. He is facing a tough conundrum come 2011. One that I have seen many of my favorite value wines face. To raise prices or lower quality. I for one hope Erich will raise the price but am keen to hear your thoughts. If you have a second hop on over to Facebook and cast your vote. In the meantime what do you say we get to this wine…

2009 Rabbit Ridge Allure de RoblesPrice: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer (pdf) “Oh, how we love a good wine. But what we love even more is a good wine at a great price. That’s why we like Rabbit Ridge Allure de Robles so much. You would, in ordinary circumstances, expect to pay considerably more for a wine of this quality from the Paso Robles region. These, however, are extraordinary times in which we live, producing both extraordinary wines and extraordinary values.

Rabbit Ridge Allure de Robles is crafted from grapes grown on four of the Rabbit Ridge vineyards on the west side of Paso Robles. It’s a Côtes du Rhône-style blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre, each grown in a vineyard whose soil and elevation is best suited to the particular varietal. The wine’s strawberry & cherry overtones come courtesy of the Grenache, its medium body a Syrah-specific characteristic and its subtle, earthy undertones from the Mourvèdre. This is an excellent wine to serve with our Vintage Reserve Cheddar (p. 7) and makes a cheery companion to our Stuffed Pork Chops (p. 21) at dinnertime. At $4.99 a bottle, this wine is a terrific value that won’t be around forever. Get yours while it lasts; because when it’s gone, we can’t guarantee we can get more.”

What I Think:

(14.6%) Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre – Lighter, ruby in color. Strawberry and oak nose. Juicy on the palate with rich, peppery, berry fruit this one turns slight sweet and candied on the mid-palate before a somewhat short finish which once again reveals that peppery streak and a heavy dollop of oak. An affordable sipper well suited for a picnic, keeping you company while cooking or accompanying a meal in need of an easy drinking wine. For $5, while not a revelation, this is better than expected and I’ll be grabbing a few more bottles.

Rating: Buy It (While it may disappoint a few spoiled by previous vintages most will find it money well spent…)

2008 Rabbit Ridge Allure de Robles

2008 Rabbit Ridge Allure de RoblesPrice: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

As many of you know I’ve long been a fan of the Allure de Robles so I was excited to hear from the winemaker, Erich Russell, that the 2008 vintage would be hitting Trader Joe’s shelves soon. He also had this to say: “The good news is that there is way less alcohol 14.8 instead of 15.3 on the 2007. There are less harsh tannins making the wine even more balanced. This vintage has been the fastest selling vintage around the United States of any Allure de Robles. There is very little Petite Sirah in this vintage and much more Grenache. The very bad news is that since this wine was selling so fast around the country Trader Joes will be getting about 25% less than the 2007.” With Erich’s warning I grabbed a bunch as soon as I saw it.

What I Think:

The nose is big and full of, well I want to say jamberry bramble. Given that is from one of the many children’s books I have memorized why don’t I say brambly red and blackberry aromas so it is more comprehensible. With the wine in my glass I readied myself for the fruit explosion but it never materialized. The front of the palate is loaded with earthy, red fruits on a vanilla bean backbone. These fruits are balanced by a black pepper acidity which not only keeps them in check but dominates the back end of the palate and lingers on through the finish. This wine is much truer to it Rhone style than the previous vintage. I wonder how much lower (’07 was ~28%) on the Syrah/Petite Sirah, I’ll shoot Erich an email and see if I can’t get the final blend percentage. This one is smooth and easy to drink, my favorite yet! Stock up while you can and grab this one next time you are headed out to fire up the grill…

Rating: Bulk Buy

2007 Rabbit Ridge Allure de Robles

2007 Rabbit Ridge Allure de RoblesPrice: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per Trader Joe’s Holiday Guide “This is a Rhône style red wine that could only come from Paso Robles. Why? The nutrient-dense, limestone-rich soils produce grapes of great character. And the variety of climate conditions within the region create distinctive flavor profiles that are unquestionably Rhône-esque, but with a definitively Central Coast vibe.

Rabbit Ridge Allure de Robles is a blend of Petite Sirah, Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre. Medium-bodied with strawberry and cherry overtones from the Grenache, the wine inherits an earthiness from the Mourvedre and supple body from the Syrah. Rabbit Ridge Allure de Robles is an excellent sipping wine, wonderful with strong cheeses and a natural with roasted meats like our Prime Rib Roast or Frenched Pork Chops. It’s a great value at only $4.99 – only at your neighborhood Trader Joe’s.”

What I Think:

This is a wine that seems to be getting better and better with each vintage. I initially enjoyed a NV version some 30 months ago and was excited to see this one in the store recently! And my excitement was justified… My first thoughts via twitter were “Drinking the Rabbit Ridge Allure de Robles (tj’s, $5). Big wine @15.4% a bit hot. But bold, fruity and enjoyable. I’ll be getting more.” And I must admit, I was very happy it had the structure to balance out that high ABV%. I’ve already grabbed another half of a case…

Per Rabbit Ridge winemaker Erich Russell this one is roughly 45-50% Grenache, 25-30% Mourvedre, with the balance being Syrah, Petite Sirah and six or so more grapes (Erich fell free to update once you get the final %’s). Big, bold dark fruit throughout but as mentioned balanced, coating your mouth with plush fruit and tannins. A dry, chalky finish follows that is loaded with white pepper and lingers on and on. From the above the “nutrient-dense” soils ring true. Strawberry and cherry do not. Either way grab yourself a bunch of this one while it last. A perfect wine to serve over the holidays!

Rating: Bulk Buy

2006 Rabbit Ridge Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon

Price: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the winery “This Cabernet Sauvignon was barrel-aged in French and American oak for approximately 16 months to achieve the perfect balance. A judicious amount of Petite Verdot and Petite Sirah was added to create this big, concentrated dark Cabernet Sauvignon boasting a great deal of complexity. The wine is totally natural with the exception of yeast added during fermentation. The limestone characteristics of our vineyards allow us to produce this Cabernet Sauvignon with 100% natural acid. 5,040 cases produced.”

What I Think:

After going through quite a bit of the Allure de Robles I was happy to give another Rabbit Ridge offering a try. So when I stumbled across this one at Trader Joe’s it quickly made its way into the cart. Upon arriving home I was keen to find out how much TJ’s saved me this time as the previous bottle was 50% less than the winery price. This time around I arrived at the site to find a notice that this one was only selling at Trader Joe’s for $5.99. Guessing I don’t have much sway but let me at least let me imagine that was because I called them out last time:).

Off the bat this one engulfs you in fruit. On the nose it is loaded with dark fruits with hints of barrel and spice. On the palate you get a lush mouthful of cherry and plum flavors that last into a finish that is only slightly tannic with a bit of mint. I noticed after I finished this one that it has Petite Sirah added which may explain the heavy accentuation of fruit. If you like that then this one is for you. I myself prefer something a bit more restrained and would recommend these as my top three cabernets at Trader Joe’s today:

Let me know what you think!

Rating: Skip It

NV Rabbit Ridge Allure de Robles

Price: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the winery “Many of you remember the old Rabbit Ridge Allure. It was a Rhône style blend made from various grapes we found that particular year that we thought would make interesting wine. It was very good, was a great value, and was like a wine from Cotes du Rhône or Provence.

We have not produced an Allure since 1998. Now however, a dream comes true for Rabbit Ridge with the release of our Allure de Robles. Our vineyards in Paso Robles are in the ideal climate for Rhône varietal wines. Allure de Robles is an estate grown wine that is a Chateau Neuf du Pape style. This wine is primarily a blend of Grenache, Counoise, Syrah and Mourvedre. The clones of the grapes are predominantly from Tablas Creek Winery and Vineyard Nursery, meaning they are cuttings from Chateau Beaucastle in Chateau Neuf du Pape. The wine is from 2003 and 2004 vintages. We made Allure de Robles a non-vintage wine in order to keep it in true Chateau Neuf du Pape style.

Allure de Robles is priced extremely moderately at one-third to one-half of what similar wines are selling for from the Paso Robles region. 1,994 cases produced.”

What I Think:

Again, TJ’s gets accolades for getting the prices they do, however it is that they do it as this wine cost double direct from the winery. I found myself opening this after dinner one evening as I didn’t want to finish the Rosenblum Petite Sirah nor the Navarro Pinot that were the open and available options. First off, this is never the ideal situation for opening a bottle of wine you’ve never had before. You want a known commodity. Something that when you pop the cork you know it is ready to drink. It doesn’t need air or food to be at its best, something like this Nero d’ Avola. Since I had nothing of the sort on hand I pulled the cork and hoped for the best.

This wine is made out of a mixture of grapes from 2003 and 2004 and was the first of this label that they had produced since 1998. Try as I did, I couldn’t find anything specific on why it had not been made over the years or a blend percentage by year. The wine is primarily a blend GSM (Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre). GSM’s can have quite a different look and feel based on which grape is dominant. I would never think of the Australian version as elegant or the French as a bold offering. Since no blend percentage was readily available and the name implied a leaning towards Europe my expectations were set accordingly.

Even as I was opening this bottle I was thinking that it looked very light in color. I had a misconception that lighter color always meant lower alcohol content. This was quickly erased when I saw this one measured in at nearly 15%. I guess darker only means stronger when it comes to beer… Initially, I was getting more floral notes on the nose than fruit. With some time it seemed to get a bit fruiter and familiar on the nose. When I say familiar over the two days I was drinking this wine there was something nagging my mind that I should know based on what I was drinking, alas it has yet to come to me. On the palate there were loads of light, forward fruits with raspberries being the most prevalent. This held quite well through the mid-palate before giving way to a slightly peppering, simple finish. This was certainly a pleasant effort. With the loads of raspberries and hints of strawberries I came around to thinking of it as a poor man’s, fruit-driven Pinot Noir. This realization really came to the fore when I paired a glass with some turkey tacos which easily overpowered this wine. To recap, everything about this wine is light; perhaps almost even a bit rosy (is that what was nagging me). If this appeals to you I recommend giving this one a go. Given that it is light and refreshing It could be perfect pre-meal wine for a summer barbeque. I wonder if it would work chilled?

Rating: 12th Bottle