2009 Trader Joe’s Petite Verdot Reserve

2009 Trader Joe's Petit Verdot ReservePrice: $9.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the bottle not a thing. Even more surprisingly given the label I was astonished to learn this one was made by the folks at Central Coast Wine Warehouse whom regualar readers will recognize as one of my favorite producers in the Trader Joe’s wine aisle. That said everyone appears to be keeping tight lips on this offering. The best I was able to find is that the 2006 (and I believe the ’07) were grown and bottled by Ancient Peaks Winery, whose Petite Verdot retails for over $30. Was the 2009 as well? If anyone out there has any information to share please send it my way…

What I Think:

This came highly recommended from a few of my Trader Joe’s insiders (Angela and Matt) so you know I had to give it a try. This one starts rich, plush and velvety with blackberry fruit before grippy tannins emerge and intermingle with peppery spices that last through a lingering finish that dries your mouth straight to a pucker. I like it! Reminds me that I need to be drinking more of this varietal. Given the price point this is a great first bottle to explore but I’m thinking I want to expand my Petite Verdot horizons with my next purchase. Perhaps revisiting this Urbano Cellars I enjoyed late last year would be prudent. How about you all out there? Any favorite Petite Verdot’s to point me in the direction of?

Rating: Pricey

2006 Zaca Mesa Syrah

2006 Zaca Mesa SyrahPrice: $16.99 @ K&L Wines

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines “93 points and a “Smart Buy” designation from Wine Spectator: “Offering wonderful floral, grapey plum and wild berry aromas, this is rich, smooth and supple on the palate, with tiers of dark berry, mocha, mineral and spice flavors that glide along. Drink now through 2015.” (02/10) Zaca Mesa has been on a serious roll over the last few vintages with their Santa Ynez Valley Syrah bottling. The 2005 was wonderful with its mix of ripe fruit and intense spice, the 2006 is more of the same except that it is even bigger and has a little more of everything packed into the same $16.99 package. The nose is perfect varietal Syrah, full of roast fennel, hot tar, muffuletta, and sweet black berry jam. Back that with deep, perfectly ripe flavors of white pepper, cassis, fried sage and violet and this is one intense, full throttle Syrah. For well under $20 this is one of the biggest steals we currently have in the Domestic section. (Bryan Brick, K&L)”

What I Think:

After reading an intriguing tasting note from Steve Heimoff I set out to find the Zaca Mesa Grenache. That didn’t work out but I did find this Syrah and boy am I glad I did. Wow! It starts with a great nose. Deep fruit with brambly spice on a jammy nose. The palate is powerful with a surprisingly nice acidity that keeps it perfectly balanced. Nice layered flavors showing violets, blackberries, bacon, dusted chocolate and a nice mineral component to boot. The finish is loaded with herbs and spices and lingers on ever so nicely. This one makes me want to drink a whole lot more Syrah. Wine Spectator gave this one 93 points and I see why! This is the most enjoyable bottle of wine I have had in quite a while. I just bought a few more bottles and after taking a quick look as the other Zaca Mesa offerings this is a winery I need to explore further. Now if I can somehow just get my hands on that Grenache…

Rating: Wow! <- And I'm not the only one who thinks so. Interested in reading more about the Zaca Mesa Syrah?

2009 Emergence White

2009 Emergence WhitePrice: $6.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the bottle “In the soil of Paso Robles this traditional cuvee reaches a new elevation. Classic in style with bright acidity, prevalent minerality and rich, round midpalate, Emergence possesses a bouquet of red grapefruit zest, ripe melon, muddled lime and warmed marzipan. This precocious wine pairs easily with vegetable Marsala burgers, grilled chicken sausages or Pad Prik King.”

What I Think:

This one is a blend of 33% Grenache Blanc, 29% Marsanne, 25% Viognier and 13% Roussanne. Certainly a mix of white grapes from off the beaten path. That said the bottle calls this a “traditional cuvee”. Really? Where? Now the wine world is big and I could very well be sticking my foot in my mouth but I’m calling BS here. All that aside this one is made by the folks over at Central Coast Wine Warehouse who have delivered their fair share of winners. That said I tried the red and while it delivered for the price point it didn’t do much more. So how about the white? This one started with dissenting opinions from two trusted palates. Danny on the downside found it bland and CabFrancophile found it to be exciting. Staring at the 14.5% ABV I was curious as to what my take would be.

You are greeted with a big, rich floral blast on the nose. On the palate this one is viscous, almost sweet, with flavors of peaches and cantaloupe before a nice acidity (though I would prefer more) emerges to keep this one in balance. The finish is mineral driven, though slightly hot (14.5%), and pleasant. For me this one is made for food as it doesn’t have the crispness or acidity to meet my refreshment criteria. That said I’m still a fan. I’ll grab another bottle and see if I can’t figure out a good pairing for this one. Stay tuned!

Rating: Buy It

2008 Novella Synergy

2008 Novella SynergyPrice: $6.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

This wine was once a part of the Eos Estate Winery portfolio. If it still is it is no longer recognized as such. Nary a word about it can be found on their site. That said according to my friends at the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) they are indeed still affiliated but appear to be keeping it on the down low. Curious…

Anyhow the bottle had this to say: “Raspberry, black cherry and lilac aromas open this full-bodied, supremely balanced wine. Cherry and berry flavors lead to a long, elegant finish of blackberry, cedar and spice.”

What I Think:

I had this one many moons ago but hadn’t tried it in ages. So when JerryK recently recommended it I decided to give it another shot. A kitchen sink blend this one is 45% Zinfandel, 25% Petite Sirah, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Syrah, 2% Cabernet Franc and 2% Sangiovese. Quite a hodgepodge wouldn’t you say? How did it turn out you ask?

The nose greets you with wafts of black cherry aromas. The first sip shows this same nice, plush fruit. The palate is smooth and balanced throughout before leading to a creamy finish laden with cedar, dark berry and vanilla notes. These eventually give way to pleasant barrel tannins which linger nicely. This wine is not complex by any means. That said it is not one dimensional either and to me that is all you can ask for in a $7 wine (and more). I’ve had many a bottle that cost three times as much and yet deliver far less. If you are a Zinfandel lover looking for a reasonable priced bottle look no further. Same for those of you that just love at a tasty bottle of wine…

Rating: Buy It

2009 Winnefred Chardonnay

2009 Winnefred ChardonnayPrice: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer “Winnefred is 100% Chardonnay aged in 82% French oak and 18% sur-lie (on lees), giving it added complexity and creaminess. It’s a citrus-forward wine with pear, lemon and a hint of fennel. Winnefred, like Winnefred, makes an excellent dinner companion. Try it with chicken or whatever suits your fancy.”

What I Think:

As mentioned recently I can identify the new offerings of the Central Coast Wine Services team before picking them up. This one was a no doubter with a fanciful label and story (Winnefred is a competitive pizza eating champion) to boot. Given their track record I had to give it a try despite my disposition to Chardonnay as a varietal. Would I live to regret it?

In a word no, there was nothing to regret. Literally nothing. This was one of the most flavorless wines I’ve had. The nose was muted with a bit of pear and peach coming through. The palate was oily with thin lemon flavors leading to a short toasty finish with cinnamon spice. It isn’t that this wine was undrinkable it was just soulless. If you have to have a Chardonnay in this price range I’d stick to the Santa Barbara Landing. How about you? What is your favorite value Chardonnay?

Rating: Skip It

2009 Pancake Cellars Big Day White

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2009 Pancake Cellars Big Day WhiteAnother in the series of wines made by the ultra secretive Central Coast Wine Services team. It appears this is primarily a warehouse wine making facility where wines such as Hitching Post Pinot are made. Obviously in their spare time though they are making some juice of their own (and not telling the world about it).

What I Think:

It was funny that I came across this cork’d article that discussed labels as a major factor in driving purchases the day after I opened this wine. That is certainly how this one first made it into my home back in 2007. And it is not only this one; the folks behind this outfit our known for distinctive labels. So much so that I know if they have a new offering available before I even pick it up off the shelf. My personal favorite is still the Franc Merlot. But enough about the label, what about the juice?

This one is a blend of 27% Chardonnay, 24% Sauvignon Blanc, 24% Viognier, 21% Muscat Canelli and 4% Pinot Blanc. Not looking at the blend when I first opened this one on its own I found it entirely too sweet. Not what I had remembered from prior experiences. Taking that in stride I paired it with shrimp tacos and refried beans the next night and while it didn’t make me pay attention (or take a lot of notes) it came across as a simple, enjoyable (though slightly characterless) wine showing melon and floral notes throughout. I prefer a Riesling or Gewurztraminer with my spicier food but if you don’t this may be a good alternative.

Rating: 12th Bottle

2007 Concannon Central Coast Petite Sirah

2007 Concannon Central Coast Petite SirahPrice: $6.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per Concannon “Bright blackberry and raspberry fruit aromas and flavors mingle with hints of nutmeg and toasty oak. Full body and nice complexity.”

What I Think:

Warm fruit and barrel spice on the nose. In the mouth you are greeted with under ripe, juicy blueberry flavors. This one could use just a little more depth or a touch more fruit as acidity leaves the mid-palate a bit tart. The finish is dry and toasty with chewy soft tannins that linger on. Not the rich flavor profile I’ve come to expect from a Petite Sirah but well made and fairly priced at $7. Just lacking that little something to get me to pull the trigger on buying this one again.

Rating: 12th Bottle

2009 Trader Joe’s Albariño Petit Reserve

Price: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2009 Trader Joe's Albariño Petit ReservePer the bottle “Bring on the seafood! Citrusy and crisp with Tangerine and Bosc Pear nuances”

What I Think:

For those new to Albariño it is grape native to the Iberian peninsula. I’ve had it made in a number of styles from the Portuguese Vinho Verde to the Spanish varietal bottling and been a fan of them all. So given a chance to see what California can do with the grape I didn’t think twice. This one is designated as a Central Coast bottling from Anyday Wine Cellars. From there, much to my chagrin, I can’t pick up its trail. Those that read here often know that I enjoy solving the mystery of where these wines originated but this one did a meticulous job in covering its tracks. So looking at a dead end, and with shrimp tacos on the table, I decided to pop this one open and see what was in store for me…

The nose was fragrant with peach and tangerine notes. On the palate the same rich flavors greet you before a bright, racy acidity emerges leading the way to a tart, crisp, lasting finish. This refreshing wine is sure to grab your attention and is a sound paring for any summertime al fresco dining occasion. I recommend it next time you have seafood on your menu.

Rating: Buy It

2006 Clos LaChance Merlot

2006 Clos LaChance MerlotPrice: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per Clos LaChance “Aromas of red plums and cranberries. Vanilla and cinnamon with undertones of dried cherry and a slight herbal note. Soft, velvety entry with subtle cherry fruit and plumy flavors. If I could use one word to describe this wine, it would be “smooth.” The mid-palate is soft, yet has a presence. A touch of dusty vanilla and spice. The finish is supple, but has some length to it. Try with a grilled pork tenderloin or spaghetti marinara.”

What I Think:

A short time back I mentioned my angst around wineries who offer their product via Trader Joe’s but continue to sell them at greater prices on their own website. To me this is a poke in the eye to your most loyal customers. As I mentioned then, Rabbit Ridge sets the gold standard here for making their wine available to club members for $50 a case before shipping it off to Trader Joe’s. While Clos LaChance did offer this mea culpa of sorts guessing they never offered this to club members for $5 a bottle. Why? Because as you will see below this wine is way too good not to get bought up by those in the know. So onto the wine…

On the nose you get bold, dark fruits with olive and black pepper notes. Nice mouthfeel starts with rich red fruit that mellows with some acidity emerging mid palate to keep it balanced and finishes in a rush of chocolate dusted red (cherry?) fruit. This is a solid wine from start to finish. With little to no tannins throughout this one is soft and smooth which make it easy for a whole bottle to disappear before you even notice. At $5 I have to give this one a bulk buy as it is worth double the money. That said I fear I’m teasing you as I am it seems availability is almost zero so good luck hunting it down. Let me know if/where you find it!

Rating: Bulk Buy

2008 Rabbit Ridge Allure de Robles

2008 Rabbit Ridge Allure de RoblesPrice: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

As many of you know I’ve long been a fan of the Allure de Robles so I was excited to hear from the winemaker, Erich Russell, that the 2008 vintage would be hitting Trader Joe’s shelves soon. He also had this to say: “The good news is that there is way less alcohol 14.8 instead of 15.3 on the 2007. There are less harsh tannins making the wine even more balanced. This vintage has been the fastest selling vintage around the United States of any Allure de Robles. There is very little Petite Sirah in this vintage and much more Grenache. The very bad news is that since this wine was selling so fast around the country Trader Joes will be getting about 25% less than the 2007.” With Erich’s warning I grabbed a bunch as soon as I saw it.

What I Think:

The nose is big and full of, well I want to say jamberry bramble. Given that is from one of the many children’s books I have memorized why don’t I say brambly red and blackberry aromas so it is more comprehensible. With the wine in my glass I readied myself for the fruit explosion but it never materialized. The front of the palate is loaded with earthy, red fruits on a vanilla bean backbone. These fruits are balanced by a black pepper acidity which not only keeps them in check but dominates the back end of the palate and lingers on through the finish. This wine is much truer to it Rhone style than the previous vintage. I wonder how much lower (’07 was ~28%) on the Syrah/Petite Sirah, I’ll shoot Erich an email and see if I can’t get the final blend percentage. This one is smooth and easy to drink, my favorite yet! Stock up while you can and grab this one next time you are headed out to fire up the grill…

Rating: Bulk Buy