2008 Picton Bay Pinot Noir

Price: $7.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by L. Watson Inc.

What They Said:

2008 Picton Bay Pinot NoirPer the bottle “This wine is made from grapes grown in Marlborough and Nelson, Picton Bay Pinot Noir is fresh with delicious red fruit flavours, enticing spicy aromas, and a smooth, fine texture. Drink now or cellar until 2012.”

What I Think:

I’ve been meaning to get to this one for a while and on a recent evening it finally made its way to the table. On opening the bottle it was bursting with red berry fruits on the nose. On the palate this one starts smooth and balanced. Towards the middle an acidic backbone emerges showing light fruit flavors which lead to warm, tingly tannins on the finish. On opening it was a bit hot but it blew off with time leaving behind this tight, racy acidic wine that delivers a lot of bang for the buck. If I were to redo the Trader Joe’s Top 10 Wine List today this one would certainly claim a spot.

That said, this one may not be for everybody as it doesn’t deliver the big fruit many look for. It is much closer to, what I think of as, a Pinot from Oregon with a leaner style balancing red fruit and structured acidity. So how does it compare to the Redtree Pinot Noir ($7) which the Wine Spectator loved. Though I’ve yet to review it, I have tried the Redtree and it comes off more juicy and fruit forward. It also lacks the structure and balance that the Picton Bay, which I prefer, delivers. With the Castle Rock, the Caretaker and this one Trader Joe’s currently finds itself awash in nice drinking Pinot’s that cost you less than a ten spot. Which is your fave? Think I’ll grab some more of all three.

Rating: Buy It

2008 Picton Bay Sauvignon Blanc

2008 Picton Bay Sauvignon BlancPrice: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by L. Watson Inc.

What They Said:

Per the bottle “Picton, at the northern tip of New Zealand’s South Island is the gateway to Marlborough. Our wine is produced from world famous Marlborough vineyards. Picton Bay Sauvignon Blanc is classic Marlborough in style – vibrant, fresh and fruity.”

What I Think:

Nose of lemon, custard…almost jolly rancherish. Some candied grapefruit lingering in the background. In the mouth, tart and bracing. Some sour lemons on the palate. Tons of mineral and a lot of acidity. It doesn’t have the balance I am looking for at times coming off as overly grassy. This one isn’t bad but I know of two more New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc’s at Trader Joe’s that I prefer; the King Shag ($7) and the Kono ($8). Should the Kiwi style not work for you the Geyser Peak ($8) is also a winner.

Rating: Skip It (with the caveat that if you are not a fan of those Sauv Blanc’s above this one is well worth trying)

Editor’s Note (09-Jul-2009): Added a disclaimer to the rating

2006 Terrenal Mendoza Cabernet Sauvignon

2006 Terrenal Mendoza Cabernet SauvignonPrice: $3.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by L. Watson Inc.

What They Said:

Per Daniel Rogov “Dark ruby towards garnet, with soft tannins, hints of spices and a note of chocolate highlighting blackberry and black cherry fruits. Round and appealing, a very good entry-level wine. Drink now.” Score 86. K (Tasted 9 Oct 2008)

What I Think:

I’ve been looking forward to posting this one as it has been a rewarding experience thanks to Shimshon of Welner Wines! From the bottle I was able to track this to Vinas Argentinas which led me to Telteca Winery. From there I emailed the contact us info and Shimshon responded with the wealth of information I am about to share. Didn’t even have to use the other information at my disposal (hand harvested for the Cartellone Family and Jose Pedro Gomez was the winemaker)

The first item of note is that this predominately sells under the Tierra Salvaje label. I’ve had a Carmenere ($4) from them at Trader Joe’s a while back. Tried to track down my tasting notes but not much there. My recollection is that it was good but not great.

As for this one specifically, Terranal (from the label) is a cousin of the term terroir and means earthy. Given I have a Cab from Ruca Malen (btw, if you ever visit Mendoza be sure to have their wine pairing lunch. Fantastic!) I picked up on my trip to Argentina in ’06 I considered this a free preview. On sight, the wine is dark but the nose brings me light raspberry fruit notes with a bit of tannin. It certainly lacks the California Cab characteristics you might expect so prepare yourself. The initial taste is familiar but what…something, can’t place it! A nice tannic backbone and a pleasant mid-palate full of plum and cherry flavors. The only disappointment is that there was little from a finish perspective. All in all, for $4 this is a great introduction to what Cabernet from another región is all about; lighter, fruitier and less tanic. Give it a try. I’m going to grab another bottle. They also have a Malbec in stock which I intend to drink/review soon. Stay tuned…

Rating: 12th Bottle

2007 Chateau Bois de Lamothe Cotes de Duras Red

2007 Chateau Bois de Lamothe Cotes de Duras RedPrice: $3.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by L. Watson Inc.

What They Said:

Per Coffee Like Wine Another great affordable wine. I think I got this for less than $10 at Trader Joe’s.

On the nose, lots of green veggies, especially asparagus, as well as some red berries.

In the mouth, the asparagus flavor carries through from the nose, and there are also cranberries and some herbs. This is a very tart wine, good acidity and some tannins on the finish. At 12.5 percent alcohol level, this is a wine you can drink several glasses of during dinner and not stagger away in a daze.

Red wines made from the Cotes de Duras region use Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec grapes, according to The Wine Info Site.

What I Think:

Not sure what made me grab this but when I did I was sure it was from the south of France, but it appears the Duras neighbors Bordeaux. On opening the nose is super green or is it all mint? Nice light tannin taste, not much fruit. With time the nose is getting interesting, sensing some spice. Start thinking grenache based but can’t be given the region. Where does the dryness come from….Cab Franc? Bet your bottom dollar I am buying another bottle to try and figure it out. For now let’s call it a 12th bottle but stay tuned for more…

btw, found this blend percentage randomly in my notes Merlot 52%, Cabernet Sauvignon 27%, Cabernet Franc 20%, and Malbec 1%. Thinking I must have gotten it off the bottle. Will confirm when I grab another.

Rating: 12th Bottle

2006 No Man’s Land Red

Price: $3.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by L. Watson Inc.

What They Said:

Per Purple Liquid on the 2003: “The wine is produced by Damianitza, a winery established in 1940 and located in the Struma river valley in Southwest Bulgaria. The Struma river valley is a warm and dry region with hilly terrains of volcanic origin, maybe one of the best wine regions in the country. The 2003 No Man’s Land Silver Label is a blend of 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon. It had a dark color and a mix of herbal and dark fruit scents on the nose. On the palate, it was medium-bodied and bone dry (we were afraid it would be sweet). The wine worked nicely with our grilled lamb chops and tasted better served slightly chilled.”

What I Think:

This is my second experience with wine from Bulgaria. The first one was interesting but not worth repeating. But when I saw this Bordeaux type blend (69% Merlot, 31% Cab) I decided to grab it. While this was again interesting I am now convinced that in Bulgaria when they say dry they mean dry! This wine showed some nice fruit and some cloves on the nose but they quickly disappeared on the palate and left me smacking my tongue… 0-2. Wonder what will happen next time I see one!

Rating: Skip It