Trader Joe’s Thursday Vol. VI

Navarro VineyardsNavarro Vineyards Once in a Blue Moon saleFirst a public service announcement: Navarro Vineyards, who as long time readers know I am a big fan of, is literally holding a “Once in a Blue Moon” sale with 25% off case purchases plus 1 cent shipping through Sunday, September 23rd. Having been a club member for ten plus years I can attest that this is the first sale of this type I can remember. If you’ve been meaning to try this winery I can’t think of a better opportunity. I heartily recommend the Edelzwicker, Gewurzt and Pinot Noir. You can even round out your case with Hungry Hollow selections at less than $8 a bottle. (Editors Update: Apologies as I’ve since learned Hungry Hollow Wines are excluded) Now back to your regularly scheduled programming…

So as you likely know by now I took the majority of the summer off (a chunk of it in Croatia) to recharge my batteries. Now that I am back stateside I’m trying to get back into the swing of things including regular visits to the Trader Joe’s wine aisles. I was pleased to see the Buena Vista Pinot (still delivering) was still in stock and found some others that came highly recommended. But first be sure to check out Angela’s latest inside scoop which covers the next vintage of Rabbit Ridge, Seismic Sauvignon Blanc and TJ’s Petit Reserve Gewurzt among a litany of their other Reserve and Grand Reserve offerings. And on a more important note congratulations to Angela on launching her new wine business! She has been an extraordinary contributor here and I see lots of happy customers in her future!

Trader Joe’s Thursday Vol. VIAs for what I tasted first up was the 2011 Floriana Gruner Veltliner ($6) from Hungary. Gruner Veltliner? Hungary? You are not misreading and this is the 2nd vintage to boot. Jameson Fink has been lucky enough to try both and preferred the later vintage. I found it simple, dry and refreshing. Not a world beater but certainly delivers on its $6 price range. Next up was the 2009 Landing Place Chardonnay ($3) which I was turned onto by Viva la Wino (as well as Angela). At a mere three bones this one delivers simple satisfaction. Perfect for week night dinners and budget balancing.

I also came across the Concannon Petite Sirah ($6) and Stonehedge Old Vine Zinfandel Reserve ($10) from Amador County at a recent work event. The Concannon was nice, showing some big fruit along with spice while avoiding going completely (it was teetering) over the top. On the other hand I found the Stonehedge to be too much. Loads of fruit without tannins or acidity to keep it in check. If you like bombastic fruit bombs this one should be right up your alley.

So how about you? What are your current favorites at Trader Joe’s? Could certainly use the tips as we gear up for the holidays Top 10 wines list so please do let me know…

Trader Joe’s Thursday Vol. V

2008 Buena Vista Pinot NoirAs you’ll likely see I shared my thoughts on the Bonterra Rose ($3) but definitely have a multitude of other Trader Joe’s wines on my radar. First and foremost is the Buena Vista Pinot Noir which I have been drinking and enjoying on a regular basis. I am now a case+ into this one and headed out to do yet another bulk buy over the weekend. Folks if you’ve yet to try this one please do. Definitely justifying its position as the #1 rated wine on my Trader Joe’s Top 10 Wine List. In my minds eye it is the best of the best for what you will find in a $10 Pinot.

Outside of that there are a number of other wines I am looking to pick up starting with the Floriana Gruner from Hungary ($6 via Viva la Wino), the Vin Koru New Zealand Sauv Blanc ($6 via Brian who is a wine guy at the La Jolla Trader Joe’s), the latest vintage of the Tribunal ($10 via many; my thoughts on the ’09 here) and finally the Yountville Meritage ($13 via Angela and JB) version of the Trader Joe’s Grand Reserve label. I’ll let you know what I track down but in the meantime please let me know if I am missing any of your new (or old) favorites…

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…

Trader Joe’s Thursday Vol. III

Trader Joe’s Thursday Vol. IIIWelcome to the special Thanksgiving addition of Trader Joe’s Thursdays. As many of you have hopefully noticed I have been heads down working my way through a wide range (26+ bottles and $160+ in…) of Trader Joe’s wine as I narrow in on my next Top 10 list. Just ask my poor friend Robert Dwyer (who blogs over at The Wellesley Wine Press); when he visited last week I had him drinking through a lineup of 6+ TJ’s wines with me. That said we are nearly there. I still have a few loose ends to wrap up but expect to publish the new and improved list by the close of the weekend so stay tuned.

In the meantime for any of those in last minute need of help for Thanksgiving here is what I’ll be serving tomorrow. This may be entirely too much wine based on the size of your gathering but pick and choose as needed. I’ll list some favorites first followed by Trader Joe’s alternatives second. And before I forget Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

  1. Start with bubbles:
  2. Go to Riesling (or Gewurztraminer):
  3. Turn to Pinot Noir:
  4. Finish with Zinfandel:

How about you? What are your drinking for Thanksgiving? I’d love to hear!

Trader Joe’s Thursday Vol. II

Trader Joe'sWelcome back for the second edition (first here) of Trader Joe’s Thursdays. As mentioned last time around Trader Joe’s hasn’t been getting the attention here it once did for a variety of reasons. That said with the holidays around the corner and a very old, dusty Top 10 list I wanted to get back to doing some value hunting in my old stomping grounds. The first edition saw me go 0 – 2 as I started looking for new best of candidates. The good news is that I think I found two (of five sampled) that are certain to grace the list and another that may round it out (though I hope we find better…).

    Before we get started if you have any current Trader Joe’s favorites please list them in the comments below so I can add them to my list…

In the meantime next up in my queue are the 2010 version of the Chariot Gypsy (which I picked up today and will pop tonight so stay tuned!) and an old favorite the Epicuro Aglianico. Both former recipients of the top spot on my list. That said I still have plenty of shopping to do so send your recommendations my way. Now onto this week’s wines…

  • 2009 Trentatre Rosso ($6) – (14%) 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 33% Montepulciano – Shocker alert! I almost didn’t pick this up as I didn’t want my adoration of the 2007 to be tarnished. Good news! This one is as easy drinking as ever. Nice clove spice, smooth with nice fruit and balanced acidity. Not complex a well-made wine without the rough edges or cloying sweetness you find in similar wines at this ($6) price point. Any early favorite to grab a top spot in my next Top 10 list…
  • 2011 Ferngreen Sauvignon Blanc ($6) – (13%) I believe I’ve found the answer for those that are still lamenting the disappearance of the King Shag. This is a spot on New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc from the big, bright mouthfeel to the dry, lip smacking finish. No doubt a good value for fans of this style and a sure contender for a mid-range spot on my next Top 10 list..
  • 2008 Green Barn Red Field Blend ($7) – (14.5%) 51% Zinfandel, 39% Syrah, 6% Grenache, 4% Petite Sirah – This kitchen sink blend is rich and smooth with juicy, slightly sweet, dark fruits that turn creamy before drying out on a peppery finish. A big wine, slightly hot on the tongue, to pair with a cold evening. Could possibly grab the last spot in my Top 10 list but hope we can do better.
  • 2009 Trader Joes Petit Reserve Pinot Noir ($7) – (13.9%) Inclination was to pass here but reconsidered. Pinot like color with an aggressive candied nose and sweetish raspberry fruit on the palate. For my taste this is lacking any of the qualities that make me love Pinot the way I do. I won’t be buying again but guessing some will beg to differ…
  • 2007 Epicuro Salice Salentino Riserva ($5) – (13%) 80% Negroamaro, 20% Malvasia Nera – Wet cardboard/woody nose are a warning sign. Yet I find dark fruits on the palate before this one turns a touch sweet. Thinking (or perhaps hoping) this one was flawed as I have enjoyed this one in the past but can’t get past the cardboard on the nose here. Should try another bottle but not likely to happen…

There you have it! I’ll see you next Thursday (and look for my thoughts on the Chariot Gypsy even sooner) and in the meantime don’t forget to add your recommendations to the comments below…

Trader Joe’s Thursday

Trader Joe'sI know Trader Joe’s hasn’t been getting as much coverage here as they once had. The reasons for this are varied. 1) I haven’t been shopping at Trader Joe’s quite as much as I use to (for groceries). 2) At the same time I’ve recently scored a few cases from K&L Wines (check my latest haul), Vinos Unico and Cheese Plus (plus samples) which have left me a treasure trove of wine I’ve been (enjoyably) working my way through. Further I am finding that as my thirst for wine knowledge grows I am gravitating towards bottles I can learn more about (vineyards, brix, sugar levels, etc.). Given there is so little information available about the vino from Trader Joe’s (though the employees seem to get a boatload…) it has sapped some of my enthusiasm for these wines…

That said with the holidays around the corner and my Top 10 list ridiculously out of date I am going to once again be frequenting the Trader Joe’s wine aisles. My initial thought is that I’ll share my thoughts on those that aren’t top 10 candidates as part of this new Trader Joe’s Thursday’s series. As a side note I usually post notes to Cellar Tracker before they make their way here. You can find all my tasting notes here.

    Before we get started if you have any current Trader Joe’s favorites please list them in the comments below so I have a cheat sheet when I head over…

While we are waiting on me to go shopping why don’t we start with a few made an appearance at a work event last week…

  • 2009 Caretaker Wines Pinot Noir ($9) – (14.5%) Dark nose, cherry, red berries with wood notes and some slightly harsh, bitter notes. Full fruit, slightly creamy but falls apart quickly as a sour, tart acidity emerges leading to a short, heated, bitter finish. Crafted to be bigger in style but doesn’t quite deliver. That said I wasn’t a fan of the ’08 either but many others were. That said I am still passing on this one.
  • 2009 Bogle Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon ($10) – (13.5%) Dark fruit with some eucalyptus on the nose and the overwhelming aromas of sunscreen. SPF50 perhaps. Medium to full bodied on the palate with juicy cassis and dark cherry notes. A creaminess emerges on the mid-palate and lasts into a toasted, oaky, vanilla spiced finish. Little tannins or acidity to speak of downgrading the ability to pair this one with food widely. That said good for chili, a hamburger or to warm you up on a cold night. Quaffable and pleasant but better for drinking than tasting. Long a fan of Bogle (their Petite Sirah is a fave) they continue to deliver (despite the sunscreen) at the sub $10 price point. As for this particular bottle no need to seek it out but it is widely available should you ever find yourself in a jam…

There you have it! I’ll see you next Thursday and in the meantime don’t forget to add your recommendations to the comments below…