2009 The Wingman Shiraz

Price: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2009 The Wingman ShirazPer the bottle “Our curiously rich and spicy blend gets its dark color and robust crushed raspberry and Bing cherry characteristics from Shiraz while the Viognier adds a subtle aromatic tropical fruit flavor. Enjoy with BBQ, pizza and pasta in a spicy tomato sauce.”

What I Think:

I couldn’t recall seeing a Shiraz-Viognier blend from California before so given the price I thought I would give it a shot. This one is made in the Owl Ridge Wine Services facility where the Sebastopol Hills Pinot Noir also hails. Gives it a bit of street cred but let’s see what’s in the bottle…

(14.3%) 90% Shiraz, 10% Viognier – On pop and pour this one is harsh. I hardly had a sip before putting the cork back in. On night two it showed a little better. Juicy currants and tart cranberry on entry. This one shows a bit more weight (courtesy of the Viognier) on mid-palate but it is otherwise non-existent other than a sharp acidity which emerges. This leads straight into a hot finish that shows some hints of barrel creaminess. Sure you can drink it but if you are paying attention chances are you’ll be wishing you were drinking something else. Not even a good value at this price.

If you are looking for a Shiraz at Trader Joe’s I’d recommend checking out the Chook Shed (disclaimer: I haven’t had the latest vintage) And by the way if you think I didn’t like it Jeff over at Viva la Wino minces even fewer words on this one…

Rating: Skip It

Any one out there have a favorite value Shiraz to share? If so do tell…

2009 Sebastopol Hills Pinot Noir

Price: $9.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2009 Sebastopol Hills Pinot NoirPer Trader Joe’s Food Pilgrimager “Last year, our buyers procured a limited quantity of Sebastopol Hills Pinot for an unmatched in the market price. As quickly as the word got out, the wine ran out. It happens. But it also happens that because we approach our partnerships with respect and prompt payment, we were able to do it again! (It helps, too, that we prefer a great price per bottle to a prominent vineyard on a label.) Our Sonoma County Sebastopol Hills Pinot Noir is ripe and fleshy. Aged in French oak for 10 months, it’s well structured. And at $9.99 for a 750 ml bottle, it’s very well priced.”

What I Think:

As mentioned in my review of the ’08 I was able to trace this offering back to Willowbrook Cellars where their standard bottle goes for $24. I was a fan of the ’08 but am always apprehensive when the next vintage arrives (see below for my reasoning). Given that I was curious to see how the ’09 would play out. Here were my notes…

(14.5%) Loads of orange rind, currant and cranberries on the nose. Medium to full bodied on the palate with juicy blueberry fruit and more orange rind flavors along the edges. The mouth feel is smooth and creamy showing just a bit of heat from the barrel. The finish is short but pleasant and lingers on warmly. Given the big fruit and big style (what I call “Pinot on Steroids” which I think I lifted from @RobertDwyer) I suspect this one is getting some help from another varietal or two. A nice wine for sure but I prefer the Picket Fence which I felt was a bit more varietally correct (and it’s a buck cheaper). That said if that weren’t available I’d probably be grabbing some more of this one.

Now back to my new vintage apprehension. When comparing this to the previous vintage I’m guessing the ’08 was the real deal. As in a wine that was made from day one with the intention of being labeled “Willowbrook Cellars”. On the other hand I’m guessing this one was made for Trader Joe’s from the get go. That would likely mean two things: 1) trying to scale production while 2) trying to maintain the price point. And therein lies the conundrum of a successful wine offering at Trader Joe’s From that perspective they did a pretty admirable job of maintaining quality while scaling production. Wonder what the 2010 will be like…

Rating: Pricey

Interested in reading more about the Sebastopol Hills Pinot Noir?

  • Good Cheap Vino prefers the Sebastopol Hills to the Picket Fence
  • WineBites likes the Sebastopol Hills but wishes they had made a wine with more subtle complexity

2008 Sebastopol Hills Pinot Noir

Price: $9.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2008 Sebastopol Hills Pinot NoirNada, the bottle said absolutely nothing. So the detective work began and I think I found my new best friend. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) COLA (Certificate of Label Approval) registry where a search returned these results. This led me to the Owl Ridge Wines which happens to be located in Sebastopol. Once here, Google helped me locate some text near the bottom of the page referencing people to their affiliated winery, Willowbrook Cellars , for information on outstanding Pinot Noirs. A visit there led me to their online store which had a 2008 Sonoma County Pinot on offer with the alcohol content listed as 14.5%, wouldn’t you know it the same as the Sebastopol Hills. Do we have conclusive evidence? Nope, though I have emailed the winery seeking confirmation and will report back if we do. For those that believe we have corroborated enough facts you can find more information about the Willowbrook offering on the winery website where their Sonoma County offering goes for $24.

What I Think:

So what about the wine itself? I opened this with hamburgers on the menu and it’s a beauty. You’re greeted with blueberry, herbs and mint on the nose. The palate delivers deep fruit flavors on a well balanced and structured profile. A nice acidity emerges late in the mid-palate and leads to a dry, herbal lingering finish. This one has some very nice depth and length to it. I need to grab a few more bottles of this one before it disappears…

Rating: Buy It