Best of Trader Joe’s Wine – Top 10 Wines of November 2008

 Best of Trader Joe’s Wine - Top 10 Wines of November 2008

Many months have come and gone and with the holiday season upon us now seems an optimal time to revisit my Top 10 Trader Joe’s Wines. Perhaps you can use it to pick out some economically sensible gifts for the winos on your shopping list. Let’s get to it…the ground rules; wines listed all have to have been either purchased or available during the month to which the post refers. The rankings from the previous Top 10 will be provided in parenthesis and those that have fallen out of the rankings will also be noted. Now for the main event!

1. 2006 Dynamic Red Table Wine – $9 (Previous Rank: 4) – Wow this is good, somehow missed the depth here initially. Fantastic bottle for the price. Grabbed a case, you should too while you can, that is if you can make your mortgage payment…

2. 2006 The California Wine Party Franc Merlot – $5 (Previous Rank: 1) – Debate season is over but I am still enjoying this one like it is October… My most purchased Christmas gift…

3. 2003 Alderbrook Old Vine Zinfandel – $8 (Previous Rank: NR) – This one had fallen out of the ranking as it was unavailable. I lamented I should have grabbed more. Well it reappeared and I grabbed a case! (review not yet posted, stay tuned…)

4. 2006 Chiusa Grande Tommolo Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo – Thanks to @oenanist for putting this one of my radar. I have been enjoying it regularly and it is my new favorite in the Italian section.

5. 2007 King Shag Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc – $7 (Previous Rank: 5) It’s winter, but this is still good with salmon…

6. 2004 Santino Sierra Foothills Zinfandel – A nice, easy drinking Zin. For $4, sign me up! Better yet this one is from the Sierra Foothills which @Megan recommends and I need to explore more.

7. 2007 Novella Synergy Blanc – $6 (Previous Rank: 7) –This has a little more pairing versatility than Sauvignon Blanc and is still the “other” white wine of choice.

8. 2006 Geyser Peak California Sauvignon Blanc – $8 (Previous Rank: 3) – This one is suffering a bit as it is best had on its own, in shorts, watching the sunset. Did I mention it snowed in San Francisco this morning? (link is for 2006)

9. 2006 Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo Carmenere – $8 (Previous Rank: 8) – The weather is getting colder and this is getting better. At least from a pairing perspective. Goes great with chili!

10. 2005 Epicuro Aglianico – $5 (Previous Rank: 6) All the Epicuro offerings are well worth the money. You won’t be disappointed if you chose this, the Salice Salentino or the Nero d’ Avola. Get’em all!

Falling – these have seen their stock fall over the last month…

2005 Santa Ynez Valley Winery Cabernet Franc – $9 (Previous Rank: 9) – My latest bottle was nice, but hey this is Trader Joe’s wine we are talking about. For $9, nice doesn’t cut it. (link is for 2005)

2007 Chateau des Cleons Muscadet Sevre et Maine “Sur Lie” – $6 (Previous Rank: 10) – A nice, light refreshing wine has a hard time getting opened during the winter. This one needs frequent flyer tickets to the southern hemisphere.

Gone – sadly these appear to no longer be available…
2005 Chariot Gypsy – $5 (Previous Rank: 2) – Rumors of the ’06 abound with sighting in SoCal and Fresno, nothing in the Bay Area yet…

Let me know what you think. Did I miss any? Feel something is overrated? Would love to hear your thoughts!

Cheers,
Jason

2006 Dynamic Mendocino Red Table Wine

 2006 Dynamic Red Table WinePrice: $8.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per Ceago Vinegarden well not much about the wine but they did have this to say about biodynamic farming; “Our Vineyards are grown and certified Biodynamic by Demeter which adheres to the DYNAMIC farming methods established in the early 1920s by Rudolf Steiner. The Biodynamic Tower on our property is where, during cycles of the year, homeopathic teas are prepared to enhance and regulate plant growth and soil fertility which brings forward the unique qualities that this wine demonstrates. This is our commitment to you…think DYNAMIC!”

I’ll shoot the winery an email and see if they have any thoughts they want to share on the wine itself…

What I Think:

Another wine I have long enjoyed and yet to post. Being easily intrigued by new labels I was quickly drawn to this offering. Interesting label, from Mendocino, seemingly tasty blend and made with care for the environment. A lot to like, and despite the high $9 price point (anyway for me, especially at Trader Joe’s) in the cart it went. Upon getting home looked up Ceago Vinegarden who is behind the label and found that Jim Fetzer, who sold his eponymous label in 1992, is behind the offering which they are selling exclusively at Trader Joe’s. Reason #1,001 I love Trader Joe’s wine. The cheapest bottle Ceago Vinegardens sells on their site, $18. These grapes are biodynamic so you know they are coming from the same place and grown with the same care. Yes, I know the best of the bunch are used elsewhere but still you get the idea. These are high quality grapes. And I get to drink them for half the cost!

Onto the main event; the blend here is 55% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon. The nose immediately impresses with a blend of earthy tones and fruit aromas. On the tongue you take notice immediately as the fruit packs a punch, not that it is overpowering but there is a richness and warmth to it that grabs your attention. Towards the middle of the palate a nice earthy structure emerges and the fruit become chewy. A nice tanginess develops which leads to a lasting dry, earthy, lip smacking finish. The finish lingers on with light tannins tickling your throat and a hint of mint. I wouldn’t have thought the Merlot characteristics to be so subdued given it is the predominant grape in the blend. The Cab twins strike a nice balance and the overall result is impressive. I was surprised by the negative sentiments I found over on Cellar Tracker. This one is a winner in my book.

Hopefully TJ’s gets the sister offering from Lake County soon. I am already drooling thinking back to one of my all time favorite finds this Beringer Zin. Yes it is pricey but well worth it. If you see either of these grab them on sight. If your budget allows don’t be afraid to buy in quantity.

Rating: Buy It

Best of Trader Joe’s Wine – Top 10 Wines of September 2008

If you arrived here and are interested in the latest top 10 list, click here. Otherwise please read on.

Another month has come and gone making it time to revisit my Top 10 Trader Joe’s Wines. With the seasons changing I thought whites might become scarcer but the weather in my neck of the woods is still doing plenty to encourage early evening quaffing with the sun setting in the background. Without further adieu…the ground rules; wines listed all have to have been either purchased or available during the month to which the post refers. The rankings from the previous month will be provided in parenthesis and I will provide some details on those that have fallen out of the rankings. With two new entrants in the top two spots this month let’s get to it.

1. 2006 The California Wine Party Franc Merlot – $5 (Previous Rank: 2) – Perfect for the debate season, get some before tomorrow night!

2. 2005 Chariot Gypsy – $5 (Previous Rank: NR) – Reminds me of my favorite wine ever, at a fraction of the price.

3. 2006 Geyser Peak California Sauvignon Blanc – $8 (Previous Rank: 1) – Seasons are changing but this one is standing the test of time. (link is for 2006)

4. 2006 Dynamic Red Table Wine- $9 (Previous Rank: 6) – Perhaps you could say this is a much more elegant version of the Franc Merlot. Certainly worth every penny but a bit pricey. (review not yet posted)

5. 2007 King Shag Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc – $7 (Previous Rank: 10) Enjoy this one more and more each time I drink it.

6. 2005 Epicuro Aglianico – $5 (Previous Rank: 9) This one has made it back into my rotation and reminded me why it was ranked number one for so many months in a row.

7. 2007 Novella Synergy Blanc – $6 (Previous Rank: 7) –Mistakenly referred to as Chardonnay last month, while the name has changed the enjoyment factor has not. A great white blend that will surely please all.

8. 2006 Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo Carmenere – $8 (Previous Rank: 8) – Still dependable but with the Franc Merlot and Chariot Gypsy in the picture getting relegated to the back burner. (link is for 2006)

9. 2005 Santa Ynez Valley Winery Cabernet Franc – $9 (Previous Rank: 4) – Like the Carmenere this has been a bit overshadowed by the excellent Cabernet Franc blends available right now. Still, looking forward to the next bottle soon. (link is for 2005)

10. 2007 Chateau des Cleons Muscadet Sevre et Maine “Sur Lie” – $6 (Previous Rank: NR) – A nice, light refreshing wine made to be consumed on the patio with friends on a warm summer evening.

Falling – these have seen their stock fall over the last month…

2005 Kono Sauvignon Blanc – $8 (Previous Rank: 5) – It may be the hideous new label throwing me off here, or the $2 extra per bottle versus the King Shag either way it has at least temporarily lost its luster.

Gone – these appear to no longer be available…let me know if you have seen them!

• 2003 Alderbrook Old Vine Zinfandel – $8 (Previous Rank: 3) – Should have gotten more of this one while I had the chance…

2005 Chariot Gypsy

2005 Chariot Gypsy

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per Zhadi’s Den “The label shows a woman in a red head scarf astride a chariot, very much in the vein of a Major Arcana tarot card. The back only says it was bottled by Jim Neal wines in St. Helena, California. Nothing about varietals. I have no idea what grapes were used in the making of this wine (although its rich, spicy characteristics lead me to suspect a zinfandel or syrah in the blend). The price tag? $4.99. The placard in the store said One Time Buy. When it’s gone, it’s gone. So I had to try it. We took it to the SinC meeting and cracked it open aong with an inexpensive Spanish cava. The cava was okay. The Chariot?

…Drooool…”

What I Think:

Wow, this Jim Neal guy (found on the back of the bottle) is a tough one to track down. But after spending some quality time with my friends at Google (your welcome!) I was able to get to the bottom of this one. I was able to track down both the site for the winery which is terribly out of date and in desperate need of my SEO (Search Engine Optimization) services and his first love which happens to be Verjus which I need to look into further (Jessie any pointers…). Fortunately for all of us, his wines are much more approachable than the brand behind them. As mentioned above I was tipped off to this one by Zhadi’s Den and immediately picked up three bottles. Those are now all empty and I am here to sing this wines accolades as well…

In a word “winner, winner”. The nose seemed almost typical California with rich, dark, musty fruit notes. On the palate it seemed very familiar; silky smooth and bold with heavy mint overtones. Then it struck me, this wine had a resounding resemblance to one of my favorites, the Rosenblum San Francisco Bay Petite Sirah. Despite Dana’s report that it is a blend of “Sangiovese, Petite Syrah, Syrah, and Cab” I am guessing this is 60-70% Petite Sirah minimum….And the remaining is likely Syrah (or at least mostly…) The finish was a lasting mix of dark fruits and dry, tingling tannins, extremely pleasant. Get yourself some now as I am heading out to clear out the bay area stores soon…

In the times of this economy I can unequivocally tell you this wine and the Franc Merlot are easily the best $5 bottles of wine I have seen at Trader Joe’s in some time. If you are used to spending $15 or more a bottle and stumbled across this site looking for ways to cut back your budget start here and start fast!

Rating: Bulk Buy

2006 The California Wine Party Franc Merlot

2006 The California Wine Party Franc MerlotPrice: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per corkd.com “Recent find at Trader Joe’s. The nose has an intriguing mix of earth, fruit and herbs (rosemary? basil?). Good tannin & some fennel. The taste has some luscious blackberry and an herby finish. Different, and I really like it. Much more interesting than the typical $5 wine.”

What I Think:

As I mentioned here this one is a winner. I backed up that sentiment again ranking the Franc Merlot #2 in my Top 10 list of Trader Joe’s Wines and even more so when I cleaned the last case off of the shelf at my local TJ’s last weekend. All that said I am a sucker for Cabernet Franc and this one is heavy in that department (70% Cabernet Franc, 26% Merlot and 4% Petite Sirah). Given a varietal bottling of Cabernet Franc can rarely be found for less than $10 and we have a potential steal on our hands already!

On pouring this one in the glass you find a great nose full of spice and peppers. Slightly green but in a pleasant way. You can tell it is heavy on the Cabernet Franc as the characteristics shine through. That said the fruit is a little more robust here. It is smooth up front before cherries burst through the peppery undertones. The soft tannins stay in the background and the chewy, cherry flavors linger on leading to a long dry finish. One word of caution put it away if your dessert comes with chocolate. That said buy a case for every other occasion! This is the best $5 red I’ve had at Trader Joe’s in quite some time.

Rating: Bulk Buy

Best of Trader Joe’s Wine – Top 10 Wines of August 2008

If you arrived here and are interested in the latest top 10 list, follow this link now!

Hard to believe it has been so long since we have last done this. With my laundry list of quick Trader Joe’s Wine reviews published I am finally ready to tackle this after a long absence. Many of those posted below have yet to be reviewed individually, look for these soon. As always, the rankings from the last post are provided in parenthesis and I will provide some details on those that have fallen out of the rankings. Let’s get to it…

1. 2007 Geyser Peak California Sauvignon Blanc – $8 (Previous Rank: 1) – link is for 2006 but the ’07 is not missing a beat. The best white at TJ’s, hands down!

2. 2006 The California Wine Party Franc Merlot – $5 (Previous Rank: NR) – A perfect wine for the election season. A blend of Cab Franc and Merlot, grab it fast it seems to be disappearing already. I’ll grab a case if I can find it.

3. 2003 Alderbrook Old Vine Zinfandel – $8 (Previous Rank: NR) – $20 on wine.com and you can taste complexity. I’m looking for more

4. 2006 Santa Ynez Valley Winery Cabernet Franc – $9 (Previous Rank: NR) – link is for 2005 (which was #2 on my Top 10 list for 2007) but not sensing much fall off with the ’06. High quality as well.

5. 2007 Kono Sauvignon Blanc – $8 (Previous Rank: 5) – If my notes serve me correctly we just went from the ’05 to the 2007. This isn’t the Geyser Peak but it is sure a nice change of pace. Especially if you prefer Citrus on the palate.

6. 2006 Dynamic Red Table Wine- $9 (Previous Rank: NR) – An excellent wine, a Cab Franc, Cabernet, Merlot blend and from Mendocino to boot. Just not sure I can justify an additional four dollars beyond the “Franc Merlot”

7. NV Novella Chardonnay- $6 (Previous Rank: NR) –This one replaced the Callaway as the house Chardonnay.

8. 2007 Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo Carmenere – $8 (Previous Rank: 6) – Now the ’07 which also added a $1 to the price tag. That said, it seems as dependable as always.

9. 2005 Epicuro Aglianico – $5 (Previous Rank: 2) Still drinking nice with easy fruit up front. Time to get another case as the first two have more or less disappeared…

10. 2007 King Shag Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc- $7 (Previous Rank: NR) A buck cheaper than the Kono and just as good. A little more zing and a little less citrus.

Out…
2006 Michel Leon Gewurztraminer – $7 (Previous Rank: 9) – Still good, just haven’t been preferring the sweeter wines lately.

2006 Callaway California Chardonnay – $5 (Previous Rank: 10) – Taken out of the equation by the Novella Synergy

2005 Columbia Crest Two Vines Cabernet Sauvignon – $6 (Previous Rank: 7) – now the ’05 rather than the 2004. Vintage shift also saw appellation switch to Washington from Columbia Valley. Seems a bit greener but settled it with time. Worth revisiting in a few months.

2005 Gravity Hills Base Camp Syrah – $5 (Previous Rank: 8) – Still better than most, just a plethora of options.

Gone
2005 XS Red California Cabernet Sauvignon – $4 (Previous Rank: 3) – Disappeared all too fast. Had a case, would like a few more…

2003 Red Flyer California Red – $3 (Previous Rank: 4) – A nice blend of many grapes. Many imitators at Trader Joe’s today. Just few that can do it this well.

Let me know if you have any others that I may be missing. or if you have any thoughts let me know as well.

Cheers,

Jason

Shopping for Trader Joe’s Wine…Again!

I wanted to see if I could track down any of this Red Flyer but again struck out. Little did I care as I found the 2006 version of this Santa Ynez Cabernet Franc which I ranked as my #2 wine of 2007. I bought three bottles on sight. You all should probably wait to get some until I stock up. Just kidding of course, get yours now!

Best of Trader Joe’s Wine – Top 10 Wines of May 2008

If you arrived here and are interested in the latest top 10 list, follow this link now!

Is it already June! Time for another list…The ground rules; wines listed all have to have been either purchased or available during the month to which the post refers. The rankings from the previous month will be provided in parenthesis and I will provide some details on those that have fallen out of the rankings. With a new #1 this month let’s get to it. Without further adieu…

1. 2006 Geyser Peak California Sauvignon Blanc – $8 (Apr Rank: 5) – This is the best Sauvignon Blanc I have ever had including that stuff from the Kiwi’s…

2. 2005 Epicuro Aglianico – $5 (Apr Rank: 1) Off the pedestal, half itching to make a change, half getting used to it. It didn’t stop me from buying another case this month…

3. 2005 XS Red California Cabernet Sauvignon – $4 – From the Hess Family at this price hard to go wrong. Varietal characteristics included. A perfect quaffer. Just don’t buy it at Cost Plus where it cost 50% more.

4. 2003 Red Flyer California Red – $3 – Another low budget winner from Trader Joe’s. With the unique blend here thought about rating this higher than the XS based on uniqueness alone. Do yourself a favor and grab three bottles of each for a case ($60), sit back and enjoy!

5. 2005 Kono Sauvignon Blanc – $8 (Apr Rank: 7) – With the move to a warmer client look for the whites to climb the ranking. This isn’t the Geyser Peak but it is sure a nice change of pace.

6. 2006 Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo Carmenere – $7 (Apr Rank: 3) – I feel guilty seeing this one all the way down here. Still loving it and sure it will climb back up soon enough.

7. 2004 Columbia Crest Two Vines Cabernet Sauvignon – $6 (Apr Rank: 6) – I had the Grand Estates and still prefer this one.

8. 2005 Gravity Hills Base Camp Syrah – $5 – A winner amongst the Syrah. Most of the offerings here leave me wanting for more. This one has me buying more.

9. 2006 Michel Leon Gewurztraminer – $7 (Apr Rank: 2) – Sweet wines don’t work well with warm weather. That said this is again widely available and great with spicy food.

10. 2006 Callaway California Chardonnay – $5 (Apr Rank: 9) – Still the only California Chard I have enjoyed from Trader Joe’s

Falling – these have seen their stock fall over the last month…

2004 Evans & Tate Cabernet Sauvignon Underground Series – $4 (Apr Rank: 10) – With the XS in town this one has fallen to the wayside. Though will likely give it a try again someday.

2005 Les Moirets Cotes du Rhone – 6 (Apr Rank: 8T)/ 2005 Perrin Cotes du Rhone Reserve – $7 (Apr Rank: 8T) – These two were tied for 8th in April and I have a bottle of each awaiting the tiebreaker. They have been waiting all month thus the fall from glory. One will likely rejoin in June. Stay tuned…

2003 Columbia Crest Two Vines Merlot – $6 – This one wasn’t ranked in April but since I am still buying more it is on the fringe and worthy of note.

Gone – these appear to no longer be available…let me know if you have seen them!

2006 Castle Rock Monterrey County Pinot Noir – $10 (Apr Rank: 4) – Looks like the Mendocino and the California labels are the only ones remaining.

And that’s 10 for May…Let me know what you think via the comments and ratings. Appreciate all those to date and do realize I owe some responses.  I will catch up soon! Look for a lot of new white reviews in June and perhaps even some bubbly….

Cheers,

Jason

2005 XS Red California Cabernet Sauvignon

Price: $3.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per uncork29.com “A couple weeks back while out doing some shopping, we happened upon a relatively new offering from the The Hess Group, which operates one of our favorite wineries here in the valley–The Hess Collection up on beautiful Mount Veeder. It seems as though the 2005 vintage produced a lot of Cabernet Sauvignon, some excess as it were, which Hess has turned into its $6 XS Red 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon. Never one to pass up trying something new, we bought a bottle and gave it a shot with our homemade pizza. At 13.5% alcohol, the wine was soft on the nose and very fruit forward on the palate. We got hints of plum, blackberry and bell pepper and found it to have a somewhat disappointing finish. All told though, for six bucks you can’t really go wrong with the XS Red for any everyday table wine type-deal”

What I Think:

As mentioned I got the inside scoop on this one from the good people over at letsgokings.com and headed out to track it down. Nearby we have a Trader Joe’s and Cost Plus next door to each either. Upon arrival I ran into Cost Plus to check some things out and as always ended up taking a look at the wine. Low and behold saw this bottle for $5.99. I was on my way to Trader Joe’s next but given that I had my 2 year old son with me I wasn’t coming back to get this one if they didn’t have it next door. So I forked over the $6 just in case. Get next door, they have it, $3.99. I don’t know about you but if I am working at Cost Plus I am taking this bottle out of peoples’ hands and sending them next door. I couldn’t live with that on my conscience. Again I ask, Trader Joe’s how do you do it!

Shortly after I get it home I twist off the screw cap and am greeted with green pepper aromas on the nose. This triggers warning bells for me. In my uneducated mind I attribute this two ways. To fresh wine that has been bottled recently and needs to settle. Or to wine that is just not good. Given the results that follow we know this is indeed a worthwhile effort so “fresh” must be the correct answer in this case. On the palate the wine is fruit forward, but not in an overpowering way which is so often typical in lower priced offerings to hide all of the other flaws. Flavors of plum and dark currant were laid over heavy barrel notes leading to a smoky, spicy finish with just a tinge of green pepper. On day 2, the green pepper was gone from both the nose and the finish making it even that much more pleasant. This wine is very straight forward, a perfect quaffer. Only one question remains, is this declassified juice from the Hess Collection better than the $2.99 Red Flyer offering from Hahn Estates. That is a question I will be happy to answer for you. In the meantime grab a bottle of each and let me know what you think!

Rating: Buy It

Best of Trader Joe’s Wine – Top 10 Wines of April 2008

If you arrived here and are interested in the latest top 10 list, follow this link now!

Another month, another list! Quick refresher on the ground rules; wines listed all have to have been either purchased or available during the month to which the post refers. The rankings from the previous month will be provided in parenthesis and I will provide some details on those that have fallen out of the rankings. Now on to the good stuff…

1. 2005 Epicuro Aglianico – $5 (Mar Rank: 1) – Four months running…I wanted to move it down, but it is too unique and enjoyable at this price to do so without a worthy replacement.

2. 2006 Michel Leon Gewurztraminer – $7 (Mar Rank: 5) – Leaving me before I even knew you. I grabbed another bottle of this earlier in the month but haven’t seen it since.

3. 2006 Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo Carmenere – $7 (Mar Rank: 2) – Still delivering. When it just “needs” to be good I grab this one every time.

4. 2006 Castle Rock Monterrey County Pinot Noir – $10 (Mar Rank: 6) – Getting back on a Pinot kick and this one is delivering.

5. 2006 Geyser Peak California Sauvignon Blanc – $8 (Mar Rank: 4) – I love the Groth but this is just as good at half the cost.

6. 2004 Columbia Crest Two Vines Cabernet Sauvignon – $6 (Mar Rank: 3) – I enjoyed this one enough to spend the extra $2 on the Grand Estates. Stay tuned to see what a difference it makes.

7. 2005 Kono Sauvignon Blanc – $8 (Mar Rank: 8) – Warmer weather on the horizon means time to stock up.

8 (tie). 2005 Les Moirets Cotes du Rhone – 6 (Mar Rank: NR)/ 2005 Perrin Cotes du Rhone Reserve – $7 (Mar Rank: NR) – It was hard to make a call on these first time around. They are due for a face to face taste off. The comments on quaffability leave me nervous about the Les Moirets.

9. 2006 Callaway California Chardonnay – $5 (Mar Rank: 7) – Chardonnay where you can taste the fruit. What a pleasant surprise!

10. 2004 Evans & Tate Cabernet Sauvignon Underground Series – $4 (Mar Rank: 9) – Good news it was only $4, looking forward to the next bottle.

Falling – these have seen their stock fall over the last month…

2003 Columbia Crest Two Vines Merlot – $6 (Mar Rank: 10) – I bought another bottle just days ago so it hasn’t fallen all that far but something had to go…

Gone – these appear to no longer be available…let me know if you have seen them!

I think both the Michel Leon Gewurztraminer and the Castle Rock Monterry Pinot are in slim supply if not gone so if of interest grab them sooner rather than later!

And that’s 10 for April…Look for a big mix up in May as I have a bunch of new wines on hands and the first few look promising. I’ll get those posted soon!

Cheers,

Jason