Well hello there 2012!

Baby StellaLooking here at the calendar I’m a little embarrassed to be telling you all Happy New Year on March 6th that said I do have some valid reasons. First off I took on some additional responsibilities at the day job, for those that didn’t know I don’t write for a living ;-), in early November and have been hard at work integrating those into my daily schedule. But perhaps more importantly we were going through the final month of our third pregnancy which ended on January 22nd when our daughter Stella joined us. And boy did I have high aspirations for what I was going to write about during my two weeks of paternity leave but as you can see that didn’t happen…

So that leaves us here. I usually begin each New Year (see here, here and here) with some thought and reflections. All in all, 2011 was certainly my least enjoyable year of the five I have been blogging. First and foremost getting my site hacked what seemed like a hundred times and continually working through that madness drained a lot of energy and enthusiasm that I would have rather focused on writing. 2005 Sandler Sonoma Coast Pinot NoirSo a sincere apology to the many commenters I left hanging! I owe you all in 2012. And as for the writing itself I wasn’t able to overcome my biggest flaw which is writing about things I deeply enjoy. Like this 2005 Sandler Pinot Noir (which I opened the night of Stella’s birth) or my visits to wineries like Domaine Spiropoulos and Gentilini. For whatever reason it paralyzes my tongue and/or fingers. I don’t think I can find the words (or sometimes I blame it on not having the time) to truly convey my appreciation of these experiences…

After I published the Top 10 list in early December I had grand visions of doing the 12 days of Christmas to help those wondering what to buy the wine geeks in their lives. Making this list is as far as I got and it included things like orange wine, Savoie, Gamay, Gruner, Riesling and Rioja. Further I want to spend more time writing about new wineries I discover, long time favorites and new regions that excite me (like Core, Unti and the wines of Mt. Etna). So here is to 2012 and making sure I write about those things. My plan is to kick start this effort with my annual A to Z list soon; fingers crossed that is…

2005 Sandler Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

In my ode to 2012 I paid tribute to my greatest (yes there are many) shortcoming as a writer. That being clamming up when it comes to sharing something I really enjoy; like this wine. I fear I can’t convey my sense of excitement. Or sometimes convince myself that I want to provide more context for the overall story (like a bio on winemaker Ed Kurtzman) which I never have time to put together (and it has usually already been done). But not this year, for better or worse I’m just going to get these stories out there and build from there. So let’s get this started…

2005 Sandler Sonoma Coast Pinot NoirPrice: $30.00 direct from Sandler Wine Company

What They Said:

Per Weimax “We like his 2005 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. You can’t mistake this for anything other than Pinot Noir. The wine is medium garnet in color and has classic strawberry and cherry-like fruit notes. There’s a touch of a vanillin note in the back. It’s light and aromatic, flavorful and smooth. We suggest cooling it to cellar temperature. It’s not a wine intended for cellaring, so drinking it this year or next is ideal.”

What I Think:

(14.5%) A Pinot made in a bigger style but while retaining its elegance. Nice dark cherry fruit with a touch of cranberry and a “singing” acidity that brings it all together. While the fruit remains this one turns earthy and spicy on a long finish. Intense but not overpowering; a wine that speaks to me. My only regret is that this is my last bottle. Wish I had a few more around. Let that serve as a note for me to start ordering regularly…

Rating: Wow!

Trader Joe’s Thursday Vol. IV

Welcome to episode IV of my not so regular Trader Joe’s Thursday series. The good news is that while I may not have been writing that doesn’t mean I wasn’t drinking. So I say we jump right in but first a quick hat tip to Ben Simons over at Vintology (and Clint Eastwood) for inspiring the theme for our article today…

Trader Joe's Wine: The Good
The Good: (these are future Top 10 candidates…)

Trader Joe's Wine: The Bad
The Bad: (or not so bad if you’re a glass half full kind of person…)

  • 2010 Comique Revolution Blanc ($5) – From our friends over at the Central California Wine Warehouse who have been on a bit of a cold streak as of late. Grew on me with time but not sure enough so to buy another bottle.
  • 2010 Wild Horse Pinot Noir ($15) – Not bad and from a well known producer. That said given this one runs $15 I’ll be sticking to the Buena Vista mentioned above.
  • 2010 Found Object Viognier ($7) – Hmmm. My tasting note here sounds a lot better than I remember this wine. Perhaps I ought to give it another shot.
  • 2010 Spiral Wines Cabernet Sauvignon ($5) – This is a favorite of many and I can see why. Not what I personally want from a Napa Cab but then again I’m never going to find that at this price point.
  • 2009 Patianna Pinot Noir ($12) – Like the Thornwood I tasted this one at a work event. However unlike that one I did not come away impressed. I’ll still be sticking to the Buena Vista mentioned above.
  • NV Long Arm Lot 81 ($6) – More big, overripe fruit here. Nothing offensive here but nothing redeeming either.
  • 2008 Epicuro Primitivo ($5) – Now I know Jesse really liked this one and I’m certainly in the minority here as the average CellarTracker rating is 85+ but I tried it again to make sure and my opinion didn’t change much. I prefer the Grifone as this is missing (IMHO) the rusticity I seek in Italian offerings.
  • 2008 Grifone Toscana ($5) – A (not so) Super Tuscan comes across a bit dense. Not bad but it comes across as rather generic.
  • 2010 Big House Red ($7) – A pleasant blend of 20+ grapes with big forward fruit this lacks the acidity or tannins to balance it out.
  • 2010 Sugar Pie Red ($6) – Not bad (some might say similar to the Gypsy) but too sweet for my taste.

Trader Joe's Wine: The Ugly
The Ugly: (enough said…)

So there you have it. Which of your favorite wines am I missing out on? In addition to the Thornwood Cabernet mentioned above I have the Refosco on my shopping list but am certainly open to adding more…

2010 Grifone Primitivo

2010 Grifone PrimitivoPrice: $3.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Latitude Wines

What They Said:

Per Trader Joe’s “Grifone Primitivo comes to us from Italy, Zinfandel’s ancestral home. Grapes from vineyards in the Manduria region (geographically, in the boot’s heel) are handpicked at their peak and crafted into a deep, inky red wine with concentrated aromas of red berries and licorice. Not quite as spicy as American Zinfandels, this Primitivo is full-bodied, warm & fruity, with strong, lingering tannins. It’s a wine that’s meant to be enjoyed now”

What I Think:

(13%) 100% Primitivo – Ruby red in the glass with a light strawberry/raspberry, floral nose. On the palate this one is fruit forward with more of those tart red berry fruits. This one turns a tad creamy before an acidic streak kicks in delivering loads of spice on a (slightly hot) tangy, tannic finish. While this one has nice forward fruit it is a bit rough and rustic around the edges which I like. For $4 this is an enjoyable wine I am likely to be buying again (but steer clear of the Toscana…)

Rating: Buy It

Interested in reading more about the Grifone Primitivo?

  • My friends over at Beards & Bellies describe this as “Not an overwhelming wine, but a great and enjoyable everyday drink to go with dinner, although it is more than fine on its own.”
  • The folks over at Cheap Wine Finder call this one a “very complete wine for $3.99.”

2008 Mud House Swan Pinot Noir

Price: $10.99 @ K&L Wines imported by Maritime Wine Trading Collective

What They Said:

2008 Mud House Swan Pinot NoirPer K&L Wines “This is a great deal in Pinot Noir coming in at 1/2 the normal price. The fruit comes from Central Otago which is the new “darling” area for New Zealand Pinot and to be specific the sub-region of Bendigo. The wine which spent 10 months in 30% new French oak offers a bouquet of raspberry, cherry, clove, earth and mocha. On the palate, there are fine tannins that frame the core of fruit with good acidity supporting the fine finish. Buy a case of this one. (Jim Chanteloup K&L New Zealand Wine Buyer) Stephen Tanzer adds: “Bright medium red. Red berries and cherry dominate the nose and palate, with some spice notes emerging with air. A juicy, fresh, supple wine with the sweetness of fruit to support its oak element. Finishes with good life and lift.” (Sept/Oct 09)”

What I Think:

(14%) Warm, ripe, supple fruit (tart cherry and raspberry) out of the gate with a beautiful inflection to the proper acidity which also delivers a nice clove spice. This one is a fine choice. Great balance, smooth and lengthy on the palate. A very nice Pinot for the $11 (retail is $24) this one cost me; too bad I didn’t figure that out before they sold out of this one. A very nice, lush, new world, fruit forward Pinot. Would buy more if I could…

Wine Geek Notes: 10 months in 30% new oak; Screwtop; Imported by Maritime Wine Trading Collective

Rating: Buy It

2009 Tormaresca Neprica Puglia IGT

2009 Tormaresca Neprica Puglia IGTPrice: $7.99 @ K&L Wines imported by Chateau Ste. Michelle

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines 90 points and a Best Buy from the Wine Enthusiast: “Neprica is an awesome blend of Negroamaro, Primitivo and Cabernet Sauvignon from southern Italy that offers an unbeatable price versus quality ratio. This rising star of Puglia would pair with meats, pasta or aged cheese and offers clean aromas of ripe fruit, spice and leather.”

What I Think:

(13.5%) 40% Negromaro, 30% Primitivo, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon – Tormaresca is owned by the Antinori family, and distributed by Chateau Ste. Michelle. This bottle hails from the south of Italy and opens with lush but rustic fruit (strawberry, sour cherry, red licorice spice) showing nice depth. It comes across as juicy, smooth and balanced with some pleasant earthiness on the edges. Nice acidity and structure on the mid-palate despite the big fruit. Spiced on the mid-palate this one turns dry, meaty and herbal on the finish with smooth tannins and lingering black pepper notes. There is nothing out of whack here. Gets better with time and air so give it an hour if you can. Either way this is still the most exciting $8 bottle I’ve found in some time. I just bought 6 more!

Rating: Bulk Buy

2010 Comique Revolution Blanc

Another offering from our friends at the Central Coast Wine Warehouse this one seems similar to the Emergence White that was on the shelves last year. A quick look shows they are the same four grapes though this one is labeled as Central Coast (instead of Paso Robles). Will the results be any different? Let us see…

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2010 Comique Revolution BlancPer Trader Joe’s “Comique Révolution Blanc is a California Central Coast blend of Rhône varietals like Roussanne, Viognier, Grenache Blanc and Marsanne. Aromas of apple blossom, juniper berry and honeydew prepare your palate for the essences of white peaches and custard. It’s revolutionary in its versatility, too.”

What I Think:

(14.2%) A blend of Roussanne, Viognier, Grenache Blanc and Marsanne this one gets better as it warms. Apple blossom, musk melon and honeysuckle greet you on the nose. The palate is rich with overripe peaches and white pear flavors before turning tart (grapefruit/lemon) with a mineral edge. The oily texture lasts throughout the short, spiced (and slightly hot) finish. Make sure to let this one get all the way to room temperature to let it show its wares. Even still this comes up a bit short for me as it seems flabby (could use more acidity IMHO) and the alcohol is dialed a little high. Very similar to my take on the Emergence White mentioned above. That said at $5 if this sounds like it might be up your alley give it a shot…

Rating: 12th Bottle

2008 Buena Vista Pinot Noir

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

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

What They Said:

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

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

What I Think:

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

Rating: Buy It

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

Deligeroy Cremant de Loire Brut

Price: $11.99 @ K&L Wines imported by Premier Wine Company

What They Said:

NV Deligeroy Cremant de Loire BrutPer K&L Wines “A pale yellow wine with tiny bubbles, this Cremant de Loire Brut is rounded and delicate with a fine, nervy, complex nose and the freshness of Chenin Blanc, floral Chardonnay and fruity Cabernet Franc from 20- to 30-year-old vines. With its lively attack, it evolves gracefully across the palate with nice aromatic persistence in the mouth and lingering notes of fresh peaches and pear.”

What I Think:

(12.5%) Blend of Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc – From Saumur in the Loire Valley of France which just happens to be the largest producer of sparkling wines outside of Champagne. This one is made in the traditional method and is pale gold, yellowish color in the glass. Fresh, crisp, and lively on the palate this one starts with toasty, baked apples and a firm lemon minerality. This all rides on top of a fine, bubbly, creamy mousse that is present throughout all the way to the dry, lingering finish. A nice QPR at $12. Be sure to let this one warm up a bit after you take it out of the fridge as it shows much better.

Wine Geek Notes: Couldn’t find the varietal percentage on this one for the life of me. If anyone happens to know holler!

Rating: Buy It

Gruet Winery Brut Rosé

NV Gruet Winery Brut RoséPrice: $13.99 @ K&L Wines

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines “Sparkling wine from New Mexico, you say? Yep, and it’s really good, too! The Gruet family makes champagne in France and fell in love with New Mexico when they were visiting. The result of this love is a classically styled Brut Rose with bright strawberry fruit and toasted bread on the nose. Clean, raspberry fruit on the palate with a dry, crisp finish. Only 5000 cases produced. A wonderful bargain!”

What I Think:

(12%) 100% Pinot Noir – Hails from New Mexico which seems a bit unlikely and explains why this has been on my list of wines to try for quite some time. This one is NV (per winery website it is limited to 5,000 cases per year) and starts by showing beautiful color and big bubbles in the glass. On the palate it is lifted with lively strawberry and raspberry and a tinge of orange (Clementine) peel. Yeasty, toasted bread on back side with a touch of minerality. The berry fruits make it all the way through to a nice, dry, crisp finish. I’m a fan!

Wine Geek Notes: 88pts Wine Spectator, Residual Sugar = 1%, Aged 24 months en tirage

Rating: Buy It