Summer Stash: A few from Greece…

Ah, Greece. For those that don’t know I spent some time there eighteen months ago and was treated to some great wine experiences that I failed to chronicle. Thus every time I think about their wines I start feeling guilty but when they won their first World Cup game earlier this summer I couldn’t not open a bottle to celebrate the occasion. So what did I open? a few from Greece...

I opened the Porfyros (13.5%) which was a Bordeaux blend that showed nice dry herbs, mushrooms and cherry on the nose. The palate was light and lively with warm dark fruits and violet flavors. Very well balanced with a touch of acidity and a warm pleasing finish. A very nice wine that unfortunately isn’t available in the states. Guess I’ll have to pack my bags and head back that way ;) As for the two from Skouras these are perfect (and affordable) intros to Greece wine. The white is one of my annual favorites. The delicate Moscofilero (70%) blends with the Roditis (30%) which is decidedly not and the result is splendid. Pure lemon flavors with floral overtones on a mineral backbone with bracing acidity. Crisp & refreshing; this one is perfect for the patio but even better with seafood. The red is a bit smoky with almost sweet red fruit on the nose. Light, juicy (with a bit of the leaves too) and savory on the palate with a nice warm, lingering spice on the finish. An enjoyable and affordable Greek offering that clocks in at a typical Greek 12.5% abv.

There you have it. So what did I learn? That I really appreciate how food friendly their red wines are and that I need to be drinking a whole lot more of them. Have you tried the wines of Greece? If not I highly recommend you do. I can share my introduction to their offerings to help you get started. If you have tried them do you have any favorites to share? Either way would love to hear your thoughts via the comments below.

*other than the Porfyros which I picked up at the winery these were purchased with my own real American dollars…

Summer Stash: Revisting the Port4lio Tasting 2010

While I’m at home working on this post Luis (@VinosUnico) & Frank (@BlueDanubeWine) are busy driving the #25grapes bus all over California. Tonight they are in San Francisco which means I am decidedly in the wrong place. What is this #25grapes tasting you ask? You won’t come across your “ordinary” grapes here but rather a bunch you have likely never heard of (take a look), such as Bical, Maria Gomes, Crljenak Kastelanski and Irsai Oliver. Luckily for me I was able to join them for their Port4lio Tasting back in May and have been revisiting a handful of those wines throughout the summer. Which ones? Glad you asked…

a few Portuguese whites...

You’ll see two bottles of the Trajarinho (my review) but I think I drank more like a hundred. A perfect summer wine; ‘nuff said! The Muralhas ( my review of the ‘05) is a more refined version of Vinho Verde; just as crisp and refreshing but more structured and better fit to pair with a meal. a few reds...

The Urbanite Redart is another of my summer favorites and a wine I often recommend. Here is the review I posted to Grape Stories ; “(13.8%) 40% Cabernet, 30% Syrah and 20% Zinfandel – Big juicy blackberry fruit up front on a creamy vanilla backbone. Seems like it may go over the top but a solid dose of acidity kicks in to help maintain the balance and manage the plush, rich fruit. A smooth and pleasing full flavored wine with a warm, toasty finish showing hints of barrel spice that linger on nicely for some time. Nice depth/complexity for the price point!”
a few from off the beaten path...

The Hilltop (11%) shows a nice, light stony nose with peach notes. Light bodied with a firm mineral backbone and lemon stone fruits on the back of the palate. I found it clean, simple and pleasing. A perfect match for a sunny day. The Dingac (12%) is a light, juicy red that can be paired with meals where you might more traditionally reach for a white. That said it is lively and has enough acidity to stand up to the pasta I enjoyed with this one. The Crnko Jarenincan (1L, 11%) is floral driven and off sweet in texture with nice acidity. A pleasant, refreshing wine that though hailing from Slovenia enlists the common suspects in this blend of Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. A fine quaffer with a pop top to boot…

There you have it. Have you had any of these? Any similar favorites to share? Either way would love to hear your thoughts via the comments below.

* I paid for all these wines with real American dollars though Luis at Vinos Unico did hook me up at wholesale cost. Thanks Luis!

Summer Stash: A few nice red and whites…

Now onto some of the higher priced offerings that I’ve sampled over the last few months. As many of my long time readers know I don’t drink to many wines in this category as I often find myself disappointed as I expect so much more. Given that I am super selective and each of these comes with their own little story to go along with it. Ready to hear them?
a few nice reds...

I’m a long time fan of Sausal (former club member) and their old vine but affordable Zinfandel. This one is no exception. Warm and inviting on the nose. Big and brambly on the palate. This one didn’t show the restraint I typically find and enjoy but this one was a fine wine nonetheless. Sobon is another winery I am a big fan of and again their Zin’s lead the way. The Rocky Top is one of perennial, affordable ($13) favorites. The Paul’s Vineyard is a big and deserves to be paired with a meal that can handle such a wine. The Belle Glos Meiomi Pinot came recommended by the Wellesley Wine Press. It is full bodied with layers of dark fruit that comes across more big than elegant. Not exactly my kind of Pinot but still an enjoyable bottle. Ah, Casa Nuestra. Visiting them had been on my to-do list since I torn a Matt Kramer article out of the June 30, 2003 Wine Spectator. I finally scratched it off this summer and the Charbono is one of the bottles I acquired on my visit. This one showed some barnyard funk on the nose. In the mouth it was light bodied and juicy with brambly fruit. Cherries and plums intermingled with earthy notes and black pepper spice on the palate. A little sour throughout but with a nice lasting finish. I’m thinking another few years in the bottle would have done this one wonders but it was enjoyable now as well.
a few nice whites...

The 2002 Navarro Gewurztraminer is one of the oldest whites I’ve had. In the glass it was the most elegant gold in color. The nose was big and full of floral and white fruit notes. Very rich and full bodied this one showed a nuttiness throughout. It had turned what I would describe as almost dessert-ish. Given this was a first I have nothing to compare it to but it was an interesting experience. As for the Peju Sauvignon Blanc I came across that one as part of a regrettable visit to their tasting room (a friend’s choice). Fortunately this wine was much more enjoyable. Nice lemon lime notes on the nose. On the palate this one is fruity and smooth with a fuller body than the Sauvignon Blancs I typically drink. While crisp the acidity is not as overpowering as others which make this one a better match for food. This is what I think of as the Californian styled Sauvignon Blanc.

There you have it. The reds were far more interesting than the whites. Have you had any of these? Any favorites from this summer to share? Either way would love to hear your thoughts via the comments below.

* I paid for all these wines with my very own wallet.

Summer Stash: The Final Four…

Phew! 51 down! How many more to go you ask? Just five, and what a final 5 they were! We will cover four today and these all deserved a post in their own right. Instead they will share the stage here and go down in history as some of my highlights from the summer of 2010. Be sure to tune in tomorrow for my top pick of the summer but before we jump ahead let’s shower these with some accolades…
two reds...

I’m sure you are looking at these price tags and saying wow! I’m certainly outside of my comfort zone here as I don’t drink wines in this category too often. Both of the below were received as samples and I haven’t repurchased them (or any wines whatsoever in this price category) but if I were an active shopper in this price range these would be at the top of my list. First up is the Emblem Cabernet. Here were my notes; “(14.3%) Big and brawny on entry this young buck is still throwing its weight around. Warm and embracing with rich chewy tannins and constrained oak galore. The dark cherry fruit is not yet taking center stage but plays a sublime secondary role with cassis, tobacco and dried herb notes on the mid palate. This leads to a smooth, toasty finish loaded with dusty chocolate flavors that lingers on pleasantly. Rich and powerful yet smooth and balanced. Drink now or later (it will certainly age well) and if you are lucky enough both.” The Three Sticks Pinot was equally as impressive. From my notes; “(14.4%) Wow! Brick brown in color. The bouquet here is so warm and inviting you may lower your nose so deep into the glass you’ll accidentally stick it in the wine. The palate starts juicy, vibrant and floral with a bit of spice. It has an amazingly big but perfectly balanced flavor profile. A nice acidity manages it through the mid-palate and finish where a bit of soft spice emerges before you get some beautiful smooth, tingly tannins that linger on seemingly forever. The depth is outstanding the oak is well integrated adding just a hint of toastiness. A Pinot of epic proportions. Elegant & powerful yet restrained at the same time. It’s all here. I’d welcome another encounter any time…”

two whites...

The Graf Hardegg was sent to me as a sample and served as a beautiful message as to why I need to further educate myself on Grüner Veltliner. That said I don’t have a lot of tasting experience with this varietal but I sure did like this one. From my notes; “(13%) Awesome lemon rock on the palate with a full white fruit flavor profile. Incredible depth with a nice stony structure which leads to a nice, tingly, mineral finish. Extremely crisp with a nice tartness throughout. Everything I want in an offering and a wine I wish I could find again…” As for the La Clarine Farms Grenache Blanc I noticed a number of people whose palates I respect tweeting @LCFWino) about their wines I decided to seek them out and boy am I glad I did. From my archives; 2008 La Clarine Farms Grenache Blanc “(13.5%) My wife cracked this one and guzzled the first half+ with a friend while taking the kids on a play date proclaiming “I thought it would be okay since it was a screwcap” when I called here on it. Light and golden in color. A sweet, rich floral honeyed nose with pollinated orange blossoms and peach notes. The palate is full and floral with a nice mineral backbone; like a flower bed growing in the middle of a rocky creek. From there it has an almost coal-like smokiness and hints of an oaky creaminess with a slightly spiciness and lingering tannins on the finish. Pure and enjoyable. This Grenache Blanc is now long gone 2008 La Clarine Farms Grenache Blanc(only 48 cases made) but looking forward to trying more of La Clarine Farm’s offerings soon…”

There you have it. Have you tried any of these? Did any wines make your summer of 2010 highlight reel? Either way would love to hear your thoughts via the comments below.

*all of these wines were received as press samples other than the La Clarine Farm which was purchased with my own real American dollars…

Trader Joe’s Sparkling Wines for New Year’s Eve

With New Year’s Eve less than 24 hours away in some places I wanted to take the chance to share my limited insight into the offering in a limited time frame. In an effort to keep this short let’s jump right in. Before doing so I once again want to profess that this is an area where I have had difficulty scoring over the years. Nonetheless, here are my top four value choices. Let me
know your faves and I’ll be sure to give them a try over the next few months as time and circumstances allow. Without further adieu let’s talk bubbles…

NV Zonin Prosecco Brut1) Zonin Prosecco Brut ($6): This one is a long time favorite that I have been serving to guests for years and has yet to disappoint. The nose shows floral aromas with hints of citrus. This wine is a nicely balanced and offers a frothiness in the glass that leads with lemon flavors throughout the palate. The finish is very dry and clean. This is a battle tested sparkler that may be right for your New Year’s Eve celebration! And if not there this is perfectly suited for mimosas the morning after.

RSVP Brut Sparkling2) RSVP Brut Sparkling ($6): A new offering to Trader Joe’s this one arrives with a Bronco Wine Co. pedigree. For those unfamiliar with Bronco they are the owners and producers of Two Buck Chuck amongst fifty or so other labels. Even with that predisposition I couldn’t help but like this one. Nice and frothy up front it is quickly brought into balance and turns slightly sweet on the finish leaving me to dream about lemon custard pie…

NV Blason de Bourgogne Blanc de Noirs3a) Blason de Bourgogne Blanc de Noirs ($11): This is about as close as you are going to get to the ancestral home of Champagne without breaking the bank. Bourgogne, in nearby Burgundy, delivers this sparkler that is full of fizz and bubbles in the glass. In the mouth you can feel the creaminess but a slightly (sour) acidic note continually pushes to the fore. The finish is dry and fades quickly. I’ve liked this one more in the past than I did this time around. As this generally mimics the profile of the above offerings I would steer clear and get two time as much for my money by grabbing one of those other bottles…

NV Schloss Biebrich Sekt3b) Schloss Biebrich Sekt ($5) My initial post tried to shed some light on the history of Sekt for those interested. As for the rest of you let’s get to the juice. This one showed subdued fruit aromas; mostly apples and peaches. The palate starts full and rich, towards the middle the bubbles kick in full force and I mean a lot of bubbles. The finish is light, crispy and just a hint tart making it a crowd pleaser.

And for all of you big spenders looking for a dead ringer, this Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Brut ($40) is always a hit. Enjoy your festivities and don’t forget to let me know what wines were on offer as you welcomed in the New Year…

A case of the reviews…from Trader Joe’s

I’ve been pondering updating the top 10 list but have realized there are few compelling options to highlight which hasn’t been exactly motivating me to tackle the task at hand. So here I am with empties stacking up around me and feeling the need to cover a month’s plus worth of sampling Trader Joe’s wine. Given that let me tell you a little tale about three reds, three whites, three Italians and three Spaniards. Are you up for a story? Where should I begin? Let’s start with the three reds…

Three Reds...from Trader Joe'sThree Reds…
The first up is the 2007 Perrin Cotes du Rhone ($6.99). This is one that I am a long time fan of, currently ranked #6 on the Trader Joe’s Top 10 Wine List and met with almost universal accolades. Even those of K&L Wines which rarely has an inventory that overlaps with Trader Joe’s. Here’s my latest review; the ’05. I’ll rectify that situation soon…

The second was the 2008 Caretaker Pinot Noir ($9.99) which I opened just tonight and was certainly a different wine than I experienced almost six months ago when my original review was posted. This wine now shows very nicely on the nose and starts with orange rind on the palate leading to cherries and spice culminating in a nice long finish. This one is worth a buy now if you can still get it.

The last of the reds is the 2008 Zarafa Pinotage ($3.99) which I reviewed almost a year ago. Don’t know what changed between now and then but I could hardly drink it this time around. This one has long been met with mixed reviews but it leaves me running for another Pinotage before my image of the varietal is permanently scared. Luckily I have one here from Obscurity Cellars made in the Sierra Foothills. Anyone have thoughts on what I should pair it with?

Three Whites...from Trader Joe'sThree Whites…
First on this track is another long time favorite the 2007 Dr. Beckermann Piesporter Michelsberg Riesling Spatlese ($5.99). I just noticed they sneaked a $1 price increase in on the latest vintage but there is still no wine, at this price point, that I would rather be pairing with my Indian and Thai fare. Again here, my latest review is the ’05 but feel free to buy this one today as it has delivered vintage after vintage.

Next on the list is a new favorite. The 2007 Now & Zen Wasabi White ($4.99). Yes I am a sucker for the Alsace but this wine delivers. A nice lemony, mineral structure makes this a nice balanced effort throughout turning pleasantly tart and crisp on the finish. Not sure if this one is still available but if it is I am stocking up…

And the last of the whites is the 2007 Gaetano D’Aquino Orvieto Classico ($4.99). One of a triumvirate of new Italian white varietals, along with the Vermentino and a Trebbiano which I’ve yet to review, that have found there way to Trader Joe’s in recent months. Joe Sears covered this one recently in a guest post and I echo his sentiments. This wine is light and fresh; perhaps best described as innocuous.

Three Italians...from Trader Joe'sThree Italians…
First up in this category is the 2006 Chiusa Grande Tommolo Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo ($4.99). This one is another long time favorite; ranked #8 on the latest Trader Joe’s Top 10 Wine List. This is a wine that has disappointed few and delivers vintage after vintage. I’ll be grabbing a few more bottles on my next visit.

Next up is the 2007 Epicuro Aglianico ($4.99). I recently finished my last bottle of the 2005 version of this bottling. I’ll remember it fondly as one of my first “finds” at Trader Joe’s. That said, it has become less memorable with every vintage and it’s current rating as #4 in the aforementioned Top 10 list is likely lofty given its current credentials.

Last on this list is the 2008 Il Valore Sangiovese ($2.99). This is a label I have long remembered based on a distant memory of their Primitivo. I believe this Primitivio is still available in many places around the country but haven’t seen it here in California for 5+ years. I wonder if that one is drinking well. That may lead you to ask, how is this one drinking? Pretty nicely for three bones. Dried cherry and herb notes. I’ll buy another bottle to confirm my initial thoughts.

Three Spaniards...from Trader Joe'sThree Spaniards…
First up here is the 2008 Abrazo Del Toro Carinena Tinto ($4.99). This is a wine I’ve tried over the vintages with mixed thoughts. I was a fan of the ’06 and found the ’07 (not reviewed) thin and a bit watery. This one likely lands in between. An easy drinker but nothing special.

On second base we have the 2008 Albero Monastrell ($5.99) which says “buy me” every time I peruse the Spanish wines at Trader Joe’s. I’m a big fan of the grape and this one isn’t too far off. That said it doesn’t deliver either and with others, like the Bodegas Luzon Jumilla, lurking at nearby price points you are better off looking elsewhere.

And for the finale we have the 2007 Condesa de Sarabella Garnacha ($4.99). This marks my third bottle without a review. I think this is indicative of two things. The first being this wine isn’t good. The second being that it isn’t bad. Either way it isn’t memorable…

And a finale…
Did anyone make it this far? For bonus points did you notice there were not three but four Spaniards? The fourth being the 2008 La Granja Tempranillo which is a recent favorite. As a full disclaimer it was also consumed while writing this post.

Now to wrap up that story I was telling. What did I learn? Not only did I cover off that on all those empties I also realized I covered four wines that I have enjoyed year after year. In the process I have decided to tap these wines as the subject of my next Top 10 list. The focus: “The Classics”. The wines that I’ve enjoyed vintage over vintage that are more likely to be readily available across the country. Stay tuned! And in the mean time let me know if you have any thoughts on these wines…

Summer Time Barbecuing

Summer time makes me think about barbecuing. Along time ago, when I was newer to wine, I had some generalities and preconceived notions about reds… California = Steak. Italian = Pasta. Spain = Spicy. And last but not least France = Chicken, especially at the lower end of the price range. So when these two value French offerings showed up as samples on my doorstep I knew what to do with them. Given those notions are dying slowly I broke out the barbecue sauce and fired up the grill…

2007 Jaja de Jau Syrah2007 Jaja de Jau Syrah – “JaJa” is slang for the Languedoc’s delicious full-flavored everyday wines. This one, a nice juicy quaffer, fit the bill from the start. Made of 100% Syrah was loaded with dark fruit and spices with just enough acidity to provide some balance. While it didn’t stand out it was pleasant and a good match for barbeque fare. That said, as I was drinking this one I noticed the bottle recommended trying this one slightly chilled so in the fridge it went. What a mistake! From there on out it was undrinkable to me. So if you happen to buy this one whatever you do, don’t let it anywhere near the refrigerator… If you want to read more about this one, check out what the Wine Post had to say. If you’ve heard enough and are ready to track down a bottle check out this handy, dandy search feature from the importer, Pasternak Wines, who can help you find it at a retailer near you.

2007 Les Deux Rives Corbieres Rouge2007 Les Deux Rives Corbieres Rouge – Hard to pronounce (lay doo reev core bee air rooozh), this one is from the Corbieres area of the Languedoc. The Corbieres is one of the largest wine appellations in France and the main grape grown here is Carignan which is often, as here, used for blending. This one is 40% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 20% Mourvedre and 10% Carignan. It too qualifies as a quaffer. A soft nose of light cherry aromas greet you. On the palate this one is easy going with a bit of acidity and tannins to keep it well balanced. Along the way it shows notes from a variety of red fruits; cherries and cranberries, that lead to a warm, dry, slightly tart finish. A great match for grilled chicken. The bottle notes here also recommended serving it “slightly cool” but given my experience with the above I decided to pass this time around. You can read more about this one over on Wine Weekly or if you’re interested in tracking this one down search for a retailer near you here.

There you go, a couple quaffers for sipping by the barbie. Thanks to Pasternak Wine Imports for sending these my way.

The Battle of Nero d’Avola

The Battle of Nero d'Avola

Those that have been reading here a while may remember my past struggles with Italian wines. While I still struggle with Sangiovese, things have greatly improved as I have expanded my horizons within the countries offerings. To name a few of these grapes Dolcetto, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and of course Nero d’Avola have won me over. The tipping point for me were my visits to Delfina Pizzeria where they usually have a varietal on the menu that I have never heard of but upon being introduced ended up enjoying. The majority of these were from Southern Italy, first they turned me on to Aglianico and shortly thereafter to Nero d’Avola which brings us to the point of today’s post.

After trying, and enjoying, a few low cost options I was curious to see what a $10+ bottle could offer that those on the other end of the pricing scale could not deliver. A month or so back I finally grabbed the below mentioned Poggio Bidini from K&L Wines to see if the extra investment was worthwhile. And so it began. Shortly thereafter I received the Dievole Pinocchio as a sample from Pasternak Wine Imports as part of a six pack showcasing some of the value wines from their portfolio (more to come on the others soon). Given that these two were at hand and my two regular offerings from Trader Joe’s were in the rack as well it seemed a shame to pass up the opportunity to taste a flight of Nero d’Avola’s so that is what I did. Thus the “Battle of Nero d’Avola” came to be, fought on a temperate summer night in Northern California. Agreed World War II it was not but I had fun with it, that said I kept it casual, no blind tasting, and invited some other people to join. Here are some quick notes (mainly mine) on each of the wines:

2007 Archero Nero d’Avola Ruggero di Tasso ($4) – The first bottle of Nero d’Avola I ever bought, this one is a Trader Joe’s staple now in its 3rd vintage. Fortunately the quality has remained over the years. Of the wines this was easily the fruitiest showing jammy, chewy fruit. Without food there is not a lick of acid to be spoken of, when paired a bit more shows but it remains a fruit forward offering. Comes off as one dimensional but most certainly an easy quaffer.

2007 Epicuro Nero d’Avola ($5) Another TJ’s staple in its second vintage this one hails from a long line of great value bottles from the Epicuro label that hail from southern Italy. They originally caught my eye with their Aglianico offering which I adored. I would describe this one as a little less fruit forward and I do mean a little. It also show more earthiness and spice and finishes a bit on the tart side which gives this one an extra dimension in the flavor profile (more realistically a half of a dimension) over the Archero.

2008 Dievole Pinocchio Nero d’Avola ($10) – As mentioned I received this one as a sample from Pasternak Wine Imports and was immediately excited on pulling it out of the box. With restraint, I let it rest for a week before entering it into this battle royal. This one is immediately different from the first two on the nose, almost a bit herbal with red fruit in the background. This one is not fruit led on the palate. A bit tarter early on and certainly not jammy at all. Perhaps a hint of mineral (can it be?) provides a nice segway from the mid palate to the finish which is nicely balanced with acid and what is perhaps the first tannins of the day. This one, while still a straight forward wine, offers more structure and balance than the previous two offerings.

2007 Poggio Bidini Nero d’Avola ($13) – Next up was this Poggio Bidini from K&L Wines. On the nose this one showed slightly tart with dark fruit and spices with white pepper rising to the top. On the palate this wine is fresh and delivers a nice dose of acidity up front before the earthy, fruity notes in mid palate lead us away to a soft, clean finish. Provides a balance not found in others that offers layers of flavor that are compelling. Great fruit but at the same time restrained and elegant. A wine to definitely buy again.

So there you have it. Back to my questions; “what does a $10+ bottle could offer that those on the other end of the pricing scale could not deliver?” At the end of the day the answer is balance. Given that sometimes I want something that is a bit more fruit forward (and for some more approachable) the Archero and Epicuro will continue to make their way to my wine rack. That said, with these results in hand I plan on continuing to explore Nero d’Avola bottlings across the pricing spectrum.

With that I have two questions for you: 1) Have you tried Nero d’Avola? 2) If so, what have you tried? Or as an alternate if you have tried many, which is your favorite?

Trader Joe’s Wines: Fast and Furious Reviews

I wanted to quickly cover some of the Trader Joe’s wines I’ve had in the last few weeks. Given I am not so excited about these offerings the chances of them making it into a standalone post are somewhere between slim and non. Some of these are worth trying should the fancy strike you but I can’t recommend any of them at this point. With that, let’s get to it…

2007 Chateau des Cleons Muscadet Sevre et Maine 2007 Chateau des Cleons Muscadet Sevre et Maine “Sur Lie” ($6) – This one is a wine I’ve had before and quite enjoyed. Have an early lunch and an early summer day I was expecting a repeat of the last go round when I found this one to be “light, surprisingly crisp and refreshing. A nice dry, tart beginning gives way to a nice long lemon, citrusy finish.” This time it was overly tart throughout and left you with a slight pucker face on the finish. I still have another bottle left but for the time being I am downgrading this one.

2007 La Ferme Julien Rose 2007 La Ferme Julien Rose ($5) – On the nose you get a typical, crisp refreshing nose. This one is 50% Cinsault, 40% Grenache and 10% Syrah. Full bodied but lacks acidity and/or crispness that I am looking for a rose to deliver. Perhaps this needs a meal to compliment it but it is not rose as I intended to be. Will I give it another go? Maybe…

2003 Roza Ridge Yakima Valley Merlot 2003 Roza Ridge Yakima Valley Merlot ($6) – This is a prodcut, based on their site guessing a very young one, of Hyatt Vineyards in Washington. Once in the glass you find an herbal spicy nose. On the palate it is surprisingly dry in nature despite a healthy dose of red fruit. Nice with with pasta bolognese. Still have the Rattlesnake Hills version at home so until then I’ll reserve judgement. That said for now I prefer the Columbia Crest Two Vines Merlot

2008 Vin-Koru Sauvignon Blanc 2008 Vin-Koru Sauvignon Blanc ($6) – Dip dug this ones while Danny begged to differ. Given it was from the same importers as the similiarly named Kono and I was sure to cast the deciding vote. In the glass the color is typical, golden and promising. The nose delivers stainless steel notes and a hint of crisp lemon. On the palate it is overly lemon a component even showing a hint of sweetness at the top of the palate. The balance seems off throughout and the the end is overly tart and acidic. It lacks the backbone of minerality that I like to see. It declines even further with food. Perhaps best solo or with appetizers as fuller flavors shut down the tasting profile. This review is certainly over harsh as the quality if likewise priced New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc at Trader Joe’s is excellent, this bottle is not robbing you for your six bones. That said, having to cast a vote between two of my long time readers I’ll opt once again for the King Shag which ranked #3 in my latest Top 10.

NV Espiral Vinho Verde NV Espiral Vinho Verde ($4) – On the nose, well nothing… Same on the front of the palate, a bit of fizz but otherwise cool, balanced liquid. This one is not typical, I’ve had others that are truer to the region; braching and refreshing. This one is neither, it is effervescent with lemon at the back of the palate with a tart, citrusy bubbly finish. The only people I would recommend this to is those that like white but have yet to appreciate sparkling wines,; it seems to straddle the middle ground. If that is you, for $4 give it a try and you’ll know if you like it or hate it on the first sip. Somehow I’m stuck in the middle, perhaps fortuitous given I have another bottle in the rack.

2007 Clay Station Viognier 2007 Clay Station Viognier ($4) – Another repeat bottle, this one has the body and structure one might expect from viognier but the tartness leaves you wanting more. At the same price point the Honeymoon Viognier is a much more pleasing option.

2005 Black Mountain Malbec 2005 Black Mountain Malbec ($4) – Yet another Bronco Wine Co. offering, this one was a back channel recommendation led me to this one and while fruity and juicy it was no where near varietally correct. The spice and dark fruit were there on the nose but it turned overly sour on the palate and could not correct itself. Drinkable yes, but there are much better options available.

That’s a wrap, hope you found the format helpful. Let me know if you have any particular thoughts. If not, cheers until next time!

Trader Joe’s Wine Reviews – Clearing the Queue

Trader Joe’s Wine Reviews

Maybe you noticed maybe you didn’t but I snuck away for a week of vacation recently and catching up on my day job held me up another.  That said, I’ve gotten back to blogging over the last few days. I’m excited about the coming weeks thought they are going to be busy but more on that in the next post. Taking that into account and taking a peek at my daunting review backlog I wanted to do a quick review roundup to get you the information you need in a timely fashion. Hold on to your hat, this will be fast…

Best of the Bunch:

2007 Castle Rock Mendocino County Pinot Noir ($10) – Potential #1 for the next Top 10. Delicate, with a floral nose and nice fruit. Worth every penny!

• 2007 Ruston Semillon ($6) – Rich, full texture in the mouth.  If you’ve never had Semillon give this one a go.  Even if you have do the same.

• NV Porto Morgado Ruby Port ($6.49) – A perfect low cost option for dessert wine when you have friends over.  Taste good and lets the conversation flow.

Above Average and Interesting:

• 2005 Stormy Bay Tasmania Chardonnay ($9) – It’s from Tasmania, the nose is Chard but then it gets tart before the oak powers through.  Not your average Chard and a wine from somewhere unfamiliar.

• 2008 Dynamic Sauvignon Blanc ($5) – Slightly smitten with the Dyanamic label right now so beware.  This one is 3% Gewurzt and full of great fruit and is smooth throughout.  Lacks the tartness I expect in the finish of a Sauv Blanc.

• NV Porto Morgado Tawny Port ($6) – Good but I prefer the ruby mentioned above.

Worth a try:

• 2005 Rabbit Ridge Allure de Robles ($5) – Many fans of this one on the site this one didn’t get a fair chance.  I’m going to give it another try.  Feel free to do the same.

• 2007 Rendition Alexander Valley Zinfandel ($9) –Nice, dark chalky fruit and quite dry.  Easy drinking but I wasn’t making me taste it if you know what I mean…

• 2007 Bruno Porro Dolcetto di Dogliani ($10) – Digging Dolcetto lately, this one was nice but not my favorite.  At $10 I want more.

Skip It:

• 2007 Trader Joe’s Captain’s Catch California Red Wine ($5) – I’d stay away from this and pass on the TBD as well.  Both are made by DnA.  The Captain’s Catch will live in infamy for ending Daddy Winebucks run at Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak in the wine world…

And here’s a few bonus wines that aren’t from Trader Joe’s:

2006 Sausal Purrfect Petite Sirah ($12) – Love Sausal, love Petite Sirah so thought I had a home run.  Tasted like an overhype movie.  Wasn’t as bad as I thought it was I just wanted it to be better than it was suppose to.

2007 Les Jamelles Pinot Noir ($10) – A new Pinot region for me, this hauls from the south of France.  Nice fruit, perhaps a tad sweet earlier before it shows some acidity and finishes hot.  No need to go here, grab the Castle Rock mentioned above.