2010 Pontificis Red

2010 Pontificis RedPrice: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Latitude Wines

What They Said:

Per Trader Joe’s “The meal isn’t quite ready… still. An interesting, smooth-drinking bottle is just the thing to placate palates and provoke conversation – a “bridge builder,” if you will. This cheeky nod to Châteauneuf-du-Pape is perfect. Made from the signature Côtes du Rhône GSM blend – Grenache, Syrah & Mourvèdre – Pontificis boasts intense aromas of black fruits with spicy nuances and floral hints. With satiny tannins, it’s rich and full-flavored without being dogmatic (too early for that). It’s good. It could even carry you right through the turkey, should you wish, and you may very well at our price of $5.99* for a 750 ml bottle.”

What I Think:

(13.5%) 50% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 20% Mourvedre – This one comes in a formidable bottle and starts with dark, voluminous fruit but balanced, smooth and spiced too. Nice stuff. Not complex but I’d be pleased with this one in the $10-12 range so definitely worth stocking up on at $6. I picked up another half case. And if you’re looking, given the blend, this is a fine match for turkey. Drink up!

Rating: Bulk Buy <- been a long time since I dished one of these out…

Wine Geek Notes: Appears to be associated with Laurent Delaunay and hat tip to my friend Pierre for turning me onto this one

Top 10 Trader Joe’s Wines: 2012 Spring Edition

Top 10 Trader Joe’s Wines: 2012 Spring EditionWell perhaps you are surprised as I am to see this but the fact is that Trader Joe’s is on a decent little run of getting some nice juice in. Certainly the best that I can remember in at least the last 18 months. Coupled with the fact that many from my previous version are no longer available and it seemed like the time was ripe to refresh the list. So without further ado I present the latest:

Enjoy! And let me know your thoughts and more importantly your favorites; Trader Joe’s or not. Until then may you find something good in your glass!

2008 Buena Vista Pinot Noir

While we wait for me to get in gear on formally starting the 2012 writing season I thought I’d sneak this out in the meantime. And what better place to start than with one of Angela’s, my right hand (wo)man’s, recommendations. For those that don’t know she is a very trusted palate so when she says run I do and you should feel free to do the same. Not that I needed it but this one also earned some accolades from Joe and the crew over at GoodCheapVino.com which is another trusted resource. Now as for James’s take that this one is no big shakes in comparison to daily deal sites the difference to me is I don’t have to commit to multiple bottles in advance and/or pay shipping charges. Now as for the Fort Ross Pinot he mentions as available at Grocery Outlet ($13) I’d love to give it a try. But in the meantime let’s see what I think of this one…

2008 Buena Vista Pinot NoirPrice: $9.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per Trader Joe’sBuena Vista Carneros Pinot Noir is made with grapes grown in the Carneros region, the area that spans the distance between the Napa & Sonoma Valleys. The grapes were handpicked at night to preserve the fruit’s character, then hand sorted to ensure only the very best of the lot were used in the winemaking. After fermentation, the wine is aged for eight months in 33% new French oak barrels, with the remaining wine aged in one to two year old barrels.

This Pinot Noir is bright with Bing cherry, allspice and earthy elements. Blackberry & plum fruit flavors give way to undertones of coffee and clove and a long, supple finish.”

What I Think:

(13.5%) Initially this one comes across as more earthy and minerally before opening up to dark, lush (mainly cherry) fruit with sandalwood and spice. The rich, creamy finish lingers softly with cherry-cola spice. Once given time to breathe this one is smooth and easy drinking throughout. That said be sure to crack the top on this one an hour or two prior to planned consumption. If you can handle that this one offers some nice QPR at $10.

Rating: Buy It

Wine Geek Notes: Screwtop, Aged in 33% new French oak

Top 10 Trader Joe’s Wines: 2011 Holiday Edition

Top 10 Trader Joe’s Wines: 2011 Holiday EditionI’ve been patiently awaiting the arrival of the Trader Joe’s Holiday Guide so I could unveil the latest version of the Top 10 list. So when it arrived in the mail last night I hopped right to action. Well not exactly… This is long overdue and I apologize for anyone that I left hanging for Thanksgiving but have no fear. The The new and improved Trader Joe’s Top 10 Wine List is now available with gift ideas for Christmas and wines to ring in the New Year. Hopefully a little something for everybody. And for those that can’t find these don’t fret. Leave me a comment and I’ll do my best to help you find something you like. So without further ado I present the latest:

Enjoy! And let me know your thoughts. Stay tuned for my report on my top wines of 2011 (where did the year go!). Until then may you find something good in your glass!

2009 Perrin Cotes du Rhone Reserve

This wine is the equivalent of a long time friend. We can not talk for ages but once we do we can pick up right where we left off. Made by the Perrin brothers, the owners of the famed Chateau de Beaucastel in Châteauneuf-du-Pape in the Southern Rhone (and involved more locally with Tablas Creek) this has long been on of my go to wines. That said this was my first experience with the 2009, what did I find?

Price: $6.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Vineyard Brands

What They Said:

2009 Perrin Cotes du Rhone ReservePer wine.com “A sensational bargain, the 2009 Perrin et Fils Cotes du Rhone Reserve red is composed of 60% Grenache (from the estate vineyards at Prebois), 20% Syrah (from the estate vineyards in Vinsobres), and 20% Mourvedre. It offers lots of black cherry fruit, underbrush, licorice, pepper, and spice notes in a medium-bodied, richly fruity style with no hard edges. Their 2008 was a surprisingly good effort, but the 2009 is slightly riper and bigger.” 89pts, The Wine Advocate

What I Think:

(13.5%) 60% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 20% Mourvedre – A classic Rhone blend this is a tried and true value wine. Like the CdP efforts this one is predominately Grenache and starts ripe and juicy with pomegranate, cherry, raspberry and spiced red licorice on the palate. From there the acidity dries turning this one meaty, earthy and rustic before a short peppery finish. That said overall this one is bright, fruity, spicy and delicious. Should only get better with age to boot…

Wine Geek Notes: 87pts Wine Spectator, 89 pts Wine Advocate, 75,000 cases made

Rating: Buy It (I’m leaning towards grabbing 6+ bottles for some short term cellaring)

2010 Roccalta Sangiovese

2010 Roccalta SangiovesePrice: $3.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer “This is a bring-the-family-together bottle. Since the 1800s, the Castellani family has been producing high quality, Italian wines that have become well regarded around the world. With deep roots in antique viticulture and an open, exploratory spirit, the family continues to craft new, exciting wines. Our family has forged strong ties with the Castellanis, and that allows us to bring your families their tremendous wines for prices that feel like, well, family discounts. Take our $3.99 Roccalta Sangiovese. Crafted from Sangiovese grapes from Puglia, the juice is fermented in stainless steel. It’s a straightforward, easy-drinking wine full of spices and flavors of plum and dark cherry that will appeal broadly. To family!”

What I Think:

(13%) Starts soft and smooth with clean cherry flavors showing nice depth. Dried herbs and spice along with a nice acidity on the mid-palate lead to a slight metallic tinge on the finish which is the only perceptible fault here (but blows off some the longer the bottle is open). Too bad they couldn’t have found a big wood cask (or cement) for this puppy as we could have had a true gem. That said still an easy candidate to be the base for all of my sauces moving forward (while sneaking more than a few sips on the side). I had mine out when making chicken cacciatore and would be happy to do so again. Simple and pleasing and for $4 that is more than you can really expect…

Rating: Buy It (to drink while you cook…)

2010 Found Object Gewurztraminer

This one comes courtesy Castoro Cellars who have long been providing quality wines to the Trader Joes’s shelves but always been short on sharing information from whence they came. That said if I thought the Hungry Hollow Gewurztraminer was a deal at $10 this one is certainly worthy of your consideration at half the price. Expect to see this near the top of my next Trader Joe’s Wines Top 10 Wine List (which I intend to publish this Thursday)…

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2010 Found Object GewurztraminerPer the bottle “Context, it can change everything. Consider, for a moment, a wine among a crowd – yet not if the crowd. What could be taken for granted (grape juice) becomes special when repurposed into something thought provoking.

Consider this Gewürztraminer worthy of your consideration”

What I Think:

(13.3%) Almost clear straw in color, big forward, fruity nose. Peaches, lychee, a bit sweet on the backbone making it off dry with a floral, white pepper spiced finish. Simple, clean and straightforward. No flaws to report and varietally correct to boot. This is certainly a wine I want to have around my house. If you are a fan of Gewurzt this one is worth stocking up on. If not certainly consider giving it a try.

Wine Geek Notes: Surprisingly $2 less than the Viognier (yet to try) from the same label.

Rating: Buy It

2009 Trentatre Rosso

A long-time favorite the 2007 version of this wine has previously graced the #1 spot in my Trader Joe’s Top 10 Wine List . Back then the label mentioned it was discovered “quite by chance” given that (plus the history, or lack thereof, of Trader Joe’s wines delivering from vintage to vintage) I was somewhat reticent to grab the latest offering. Would my gut read be right? Let’s see…

2009 Trentatre RossoPrice: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Santini Fine Wines

What They Said:

Per the bottle “This unique wine comes from the Apulia Region located in the depth of Southern Italy. The blend is an equal amount of three different varietals. Cabernet Sauvignon 33,3%, Merlot 33,3%, and Montepulciano 33,4% collectively aged six months in oak barrels, hence the name “Trentatre” which in Italian means Thirtythree. The color is a deep purple-red with a pleasant fruity nose with hints of plum, cherry, and chocolate. Full bodied, it has a supple finish with soft tannins. Enjoy it with pasta, pizza, grilled meats, seasoned cheese…or even on its own!”

What I Think:

(14%) 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 33% Montepulciano – An old time favorite that I haven’t revisited I was surprised (and happy) to find this one is still as easy drinking as ever. Nice clove spice on the nose. The palate is smooth with nice fruit (perhaps a touch sweet) and a balanced acidity. From there the clove spice emerges and leads to a dry, warm, lingering finish with hints of dusty cocoa powder. Not nuanced or complex in anyway but a well-made wine without the rough edges or cloying sweetness you find in many similar wines at this ($6) price point. Any early favorite to grab a top spot in my 2011 Holidays Edition of the Trader Joe’s Top 10 Wines List…

Rating: Buy It

2008 Vinum Cellars Chenin – Vio

Based on my recent post on the Sauvignon Republic I’ve had many ask if King Shag is no longer your go to summer white what is? While the answer is multi-dimensional (see my Summer 2011 Top 10 List in the works) for today let’s just stick to the best white Trader Joe’s had to offer at this time (and I admittedly haven’t sampled them all…). That said I’m guessing you’ve seen the title of this post so let’s get to the wine itself (which while admittedly a bit simple) over delivers at the sub $8 price point.

2008 Vinum Cellars Chenin - VioPrice: $3.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per Vinum Cellars (pdf) “Light golden straw color, intensely fresh guava nectar, jasmine and honeysuckle aromas are the generous offerings of this unique blend. The palate quite clearly expresses a purity in acidity which is attributable to the wine’s majority contributor; Chenin Blanc. This acid profile is balanced deftly with appealing apricot flavors, texture and light rose pedal musk that can be derived only from Viognier. The palate is left with crisp green apple acidity, the nectary goodness of Peach/Apricot with an intermittent honeycomb finish. This wine is a marvelous accompaniment to fine goat cheese dishes like tarts, baked goat cheese over a mesclun of greens and champagne vinaigrette and small thin crust aged goat cheese pizzettas, with sun dried tomatoes of course. It is an excellent aperitif, favorite summertime sipper and Sunday brunch staple.”

What I Think:

(13.4%) 86% Chenin Blanc, 14% Viognier – Green/yellow tinged in the glass the Viognier owns the nose with honeyed floral aromas and banana notes. The palate starts crisp and clean with Chenin’s firm acidity leading the way. On the mid-palate the Viognier kicks in and the wine gets a bit richer with ripe peach flavors before a stony, mineral component emerges and drives through a (slightly creamy) green apple driven finish. An easy drinking, enjoyable bottle for $4. Count me in for a few more bottles…

Rating: Buy It

2009 Hillgate Zinfandel

Price: $6.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2009 Hillgate ZinfandelPer the bottle “Just beyond these gates are the majestic hillside vineyards that reach into untouched and untamed wilderness of a region known for its beauty and clear air, where the wines have become notable for their fruit forward syle and awards are more and more abundant. Welcome to Hillgate, Gate to the Hills Lake County, California.” <- Wow that is helpful, isn't it!

What I Think:

My friends at the TTB tell me this label is tied to the Laird Family Estate in Napa. As my initial search turned up no connection between the estate and Lake County the origins of this one will remain a mystery. I’ve reached out to the winery to see if they would be willing to share any information and will certainly let you know if I hear back. But for now onto the main event…

(14.9%) To cut to the chase the most impressive Trader Joe’s wine find I’ve had in some time. Big nose of dark, peppery fruit. Smooth, rich and bold on the palate. Certainly fruit forward but without turning jammy (as many at this price point do). Soft tannins with a nice vanilla (barrel driven) creaminess on a pleasant, lasting peppery finish. A perfect match for summer barbeque. I plan on grabbing at least six more. Give it a try and let me know what you think…

Rating: Buy It

And while you’re out and about you might want to grab the Rousanne under the same label to see if it hits the mark. Mine is chilling in the refrigerator now…