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

2008 Sauvignon Republic Stellenbosch Sauvignon Blanc

Price: $6.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Sauvignon Republic

What They Said:

2008 Sauvignon Republic Stellenbosch Sauvignon BlancPer Sauvignon Republic “Ancient shale and granitic soils, ocean breezes, and a favorable exposure result in tropical juicy-fruit flavors with herbal nuances and minerality. Serve with spicy world foods including Southeast Asisan, Indian and New World Hispanic. Citrus notes refresh the palate for each bite.”

What I Think:

I grabbed this one and put it in the cart, within moments I saw another offering from the Russian River under the same label. I reacted with suspicion, not sure why as there are a number of vintners out there now tying together wines from around the world under the same brand umbrella. The Espiritu de Argentina and Espiritu de Chile sister labels are the first that come to mind. Cameron Hughes is perhaps the most well known of those that operate on this model. By the way, have I mentioned lately why I love Trader Joe’s wine? If you are one of the unfortunate few without one nearby you can pick up a bottle of this from wine.com for $22. Just slightly north of 3x the $7 you can grab it for at TJ’s. Savings aren’t the end of the story you still have to deliver! So let’s see what’s in the bottle…

The bottle recommended a pairing with spicy Southeast Asian food so this one was opened with Thai red chicken curry on the table. In the glass this one was very light in color, not golden by any means more of a straw color. On the nose I find a bit of citrus with nice white stone fruit intermingled throughout. The palate opens with lemons that are backed by a nice crisp, mineral backbone. A hint of grassiness appears toward the middle before mineral, stony notes emerge on the finish. A very nice wine, one that I will be buying again. I’m guessing the same can be said for the Marlborough, in my fridge and 91 points from the Wine Spectator, and the Russian River bottling. For a gift idea, check out this tasting mat (pdf) and grab all three. Hurry as I am sure they won’t last long!

Rating: Buy It

2005 Davis Bynum Allen Vineyard Pinot Noir

Price: $14.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2005 Davis Bynum Allen Vineyard Pinot NoirPer Davis Bynum “Davis Bynum Pinot Noir is driven by vineyard sites. From the legendary Allen vineyard between the river itself and Westside Road – adjacent to Rochioli – this Pinot Noir is redolent of dried cherry, herb and cola aromas, with a soft mouthfeel and bold flavors of cherry, earth, and orange zest which carry brightly to the finish.”

What I Think:

While the recession may be cramping your style in some areas your wine drinking palate is subject to getting spoiled if you can find a spare $15 every now and again. The first example of this at Trader Joe’s was this Howell Mountain Cab which retailed at $60. This single vineyard Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley that retailed at an already relative “bargain” $40 is another in what I am sure is to be a long line of many more to come.

Beautiful aromas of dried cherries and herbs greet you on the nose. It is readily apparent that this is not a fruit driven Pinot from the start. With a smile on my face, I find more cherries at the front of the palate. These are held in check by a firm acid backbone that delivers the cherry cola flavors that I have come to expect from this region. Earthy and mineral components are present as well. The mouthfeel is velvety and smooth throughout and finishes bright and (orange) zesty. This wine is beautiful and elegant. People may say this goes better with this or that but feel free to ignore them and drink this with whatever you wish, even on its own. I am already looking forward to my next bottle…

Rating: Wow!

Top 10 Trader Joe’s Wines Update: The Summer Version

 Trader Joe’s Wines: Top 10 Wine ListIt’s been almost three months and I didn’t want to miss the change to introduce a new, summer inspired Top 10 Trader Joe’s Wine list. There have been many that have come and gone in this time including what I would refer to as TJ’s one and only cult wine; the Chariot Gypsy. The list has undergone quite a shuffle with only six of the previous ten remaining. That said two old favorites have clawed their way back up the rankings. So before we get to it once again here is the only ground rule. All wines listed have to have been either purchased or available in the last month. Keep in mind I am located in the San Francisco Bay area so availability (and prices) may be different than your local Trader Joe’s. Without further adieu I present the latest:

Trader Joe’s Top 10 Wine List

Enjoy!

BTW, for those fellow wine bloggers that may be reading there has been many here asking for similar list from Costco and Cost Plus among others. Let me know if anyone has interest and I’ll be happy to share.

2008 Honey Moon Viognier

2008 Honey Moon ViognierPrice: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the bottle “Viognier is a rare and stylish grape with golden hues and amazing floral scents. Our Honey Moon Viognier is named after the June full moon, which signifies the moment when the sweet scent of the flowers turn into young grapes, creating this lush, full bodied wine with peach, apricot and honeysuckle aromas followed by luscious honey, mango and nectar finish.

What I Think:

One of those that seems to be a Bronco Wine Co. offering but isn’t, Trader Moon is just as secretive though. They are responsible for the many other moons on the TJ’s wine shelves… Old Moon Zin, Venetian Moon Pinot Grigio, Tuscan Moon Sangiovese and Velvet Moon Cab. Regardless this Honey Moon Viognier has been one of my favorites for years and I was amazed to see that I had yet to review it. Given that I wanted to quickly rectify the situation.

This one has a great nose, like fully pollinated red/orange fruit, loaded with peaches and apricots. On the palate peach and honey are prevalent on a full bodied frame of white stony, fruits. The finish is rich and plush with ripe peaches and just a hint of sweetness. To some, this may be too much sweetness but it works well for me. Drink this one on its own or with anything, literally. This one won a bronze medal in the recent 2009 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and is a sure thing to appear in my next Top 10 list…

Rating: Buy It

Trader Joe’s Wines: Top 10 List…it’s back!

 Trader Joe’s Wines: Top 10 Wine Listbetter late than never… just in time for Memorial Day… by popular demand… I know, I know. How hard can it be to write a post about ten wines. These things can snowball in your imagination when you start to think about the possibilities. I can do this, I can do that and soon you can’t do anything because there is so much to do. Wow, I just reread that. Pretty crappy way to apologize to all of you. Let’s try to make it more straightforward, sorry this has taken so long!

So, what caused this snowball effect. I wanted to make the Top 10 list a readily available on the home page. I wanted to make it available easily from the iPhone. I wanted to have pictures of all the wines and include your rankings. comments on each. Baby steps it will be. I have slightly integrated it to the home page via the clickable image on the top left, not to intuitive yet so look for improvements shortly. In addition I have made the list a standalone page which is good news. No more confusion over is this the latest or is that the latest. Bookmark it once and you can be sure you are getting the most up to date information for life. Again, baby steps. Look for further improvements shortly. Now, before we get to the main event here once again are the ground rules, all one of them. All wines listed have to have been either purchased or available in the last month. Keep in mind I am located in the San Francisco Bay area so availability (and prices) may be different than your local Trader Joe’s. Without further adieu I present the latest…the greatest…

Trader Joe’s Top 10 Wine List

Enjoy!

As an added bonus, should you not be inclined to Trader Joe’s wine or just prefer fishing in more than one pond after months of negotiations I’ve convinced RJ’s of RJ’s Wine Blog to start publishing the Whole Foods Top 10 Wine List. Next up is someone to take on Costco, think Bob of the The Wellesley Wine Press and I will be talking shortly…

2007 Overlake Cabernet Sauvignon

 2007 Overlake Cabernet SauvignonPrice: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Nothing to be found. Looks like you are stuck with me on this one…

What I Think:

This one came recommended a month or so ago via a Trader Joe’s (often my beaten path in South San Francisco) cashier who saw me lugging out a case plus of wine and thought I was missing the boat. Y’all know me, love recommendations. We headed over to the aisle to hunt this one down but alas it was out of stock. Fast forward three weeks, headed home from the airport and need to do grocery shopping so headed back here. Perusing the wine aisle and sha-bam there it is. Decent looking label, Lake County which I have some loves for (see Beringer Clear Lake Zin and Dynamic Lake County Red) plus a personal recommendation and three bottles are quickly in the cart. Big buy for me before tasting a drop…

Obviously with expectations high what I needed is for someone to tell me this sucked right before I drank it to get those back in line. Alas no one was available to assist. The nose is typical of a $6 Trader Joe’s Cabernet consisting of darker fruit and oak. The front of the palate initially seems a bit flabby but quickly pulls itself together. The mid palate show nice balance with rich, dark fruit holding throughout which all makes it to the finish where a hint of black pepper is added to the mix. 14.75% alcohol? Are you kidding me? No heat and virtually no tannins. Amazing at $6! My only word of warning (given I’ve consumed 2 of these bottles already) think twice before crossing this one with spicy food (tacos) as that was a pairing that didn’t work, save it for simpler meat dishes

This is the best fruit forward sub $6 Trader Joe’s can since the XS. The “fruit forward” disclaimer came due to my Grape Madness experience with the Fetzer (which upset Sterling in the opening round) which was much more subtle and is worth a try as well. Trying to say what you see is what you get with this one, l don’t expect complexity or layers. That said, if you are interested in a nice, everyday, fruit forward drinker this may be one for you. It is for me, I have a ½ case minimum in mind for me next time I see this one. Sure to make my next Top 10 list which you should be seeing in the next 48 hours.

Rating: Bulk Buy

Additional Thoughts: Lake County: Been a big fan lately. Look for good values out of this region in the next few years as it is relatively “undiscovered”. Had some nice wines from there and am keen to explore further. Next two tasting trips, after Greece (did I mention I leave in less than a week? Any tips?) are here and to Lodi/El Dorado County… Anyone have recommendations for either?

2006 Bogle Petite Sirah

2006 Bogle Petite SirahPrice: $8.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per wine.com “First produced in 1978 by the Bogle family, Petite Sirah is considered Bogle’s “heritage” varietal. On the nose, luscious boysenberry teases you along with touches of black pepper and herbs. Trademark inky and jammy tones fill the mouth with ripe fruit and berries. The voluptuous finish lingers with toasty oak and lush fruit.

The firm tannins make this a wine that can develop for years to come, but you won’t want to wait that long to enjoy it! Try this unique wine with rich meat dishes of lamb, pork or game and their hearty sauces.”

What I Think:

I’ve always been curious about this one, have seen it at Trader Joe’s in the wine aisle for years but it was just a hair north of my normal price range and when the wallet opened wider it never seemed to make the cut. After catching it on Wine Library TV that was about to change quickly. Even more so when RJ’s Wine Blog gave it two thumbs up! Quickly in the cart it went…

Looking for an excuse to open it I remembered @GaryVee called it a pizza wine. Low and behold what was in the oven, before you can check the cork is out… The nose was loaded with dark fruit, pepper and an undertone of herbs (sage?). On the palate dark, toasty and inky with solid blueberry and cherry flavors that meet a nice earthy, leathery component in the mid palate. Progresses to a nice rich, smooth and balanced finish throughout with light tannins with flavors that keep on lingering. This wine has a great structure and is very well balanced throughout. The expected heat never arrives. Hands down the winner of the 4 recent Petite Sirah’s I’ve had. Trader Joe’s currently had two others in this price range, the Rendition and the Inheritance. Don’t waste your time. Easily a Top 10 all time Trader Joe’s wine. Buy this one 3 at a time…

Rating: Bulk Buy

2007 Castle Rock Mendocino County Pinot Noir

2007 Castle Rock Mendocino County Pinot NoirPrice: $9.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per Castle Rock “Our Castle Rock Pinot Noir was produced from grapes grown in Northern California’s beautiful Mendocino County, where vineyards were first planted in the early 1860’s. Here, the headwaters of the Russian River carve a fertile and rugged landscape. The warm summers, cool springs, crisp falls and wet winters make ideal growing conditions for Pinot Noir grapes, in a climate similar to that of the Burgundy region of France, where the grapes were first established. This elegant and medium-bodied wine has delicate aromas of violet and rose petals, complex flavors and long silky textures, with layers of strawberry and raspberry leading into a long refined finish.”

What I Think:

This wine was first brought to my attention via a comment from Diane Diane in late October. As my experience with the ’06 wasn’t that great I wasn’t super keen to grab it. After it scored another recommendation on twitter from Big Wine Blog I decided to track it down.

And boy, am I glad I did! Delicate, floral perfumed nose. Lilacs? Rose petals? I definitely need to smell more flowers to get better at isolating these scents as floral is about as far as I can usually get. At the front of the palate nice, soft strawberries. Lingers nicely through the mid palate leading to a slightly dry finish with silky tannins and flavors of orange rind. Easily worth every cent of the $10 I paid. Slightly reminds me of all time favorite Pinot which is also from Mendocino, the Navarro I grabbed some more and am thrilled to have a go to bottle of Pinot for the near future!

Rating: Buy It+

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2005 Callabriga Dao Red

2005 Callabriga Dao RedPrice: $8.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Evaton Inc.

What They Said:

Per wine.com “CALLABRIGA DÃO 2005 is deep red in colour with lively aromas of fresh and ripe fruits, and has some notes of resin and aromatic herbs. Full-bodied, it is abundant and firm in tannins, with lively acidity. This acidity is still present on the finish which is lively with notes of fruits.

Callabriga Dão 2005 is produced from a blend of red varieties Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional and Alfrocheiro Preto, expressing the region’s characteristic sensory liveliness.

#57 Wine Spectator Top 100 of 2008″

What I Think:

I came across both this Dao and the Douro offering at Trader Joe’s. Having long coveted a TJ’s Portuguese offering (2nd only to my desire for a $5 quaffable Malbec) I grabbed both despite the $9 (lofty by my standard TJ’s price point) at first blush. For those that may not know Portugal has long been known for dessert wines and has only recently begun focusing on producing quality red wines for exports (I know this is a massive generalization). The good news for those of us stateside is that are ultra-affordable. One of my first wine loves was a $9 bottle of Ramos Pinto, ever since I’ve been smitten with these offerings.

Now onto this one, pure pleasure from the start. Rich blackberries on the nose with pepper and mint in the periphery. The color is a dense purple. On the palate you are greeted with flavorful fruit on a dry, leathery, backbone which lingers/tickles on a lasting finish. Velvety smooth and smoky throughout. Warning! I like drier reds and am a sucker for Portugal. That said this is the best sub $10 bottle of Portuguese wine I’ve had in years…Skip the Douro, but splurge and grab a bottle or two of this now. Were it a few dollars cheaper I would likely be buying by the case.

Rating: Buy It