Twisted Wines Old Vine Zinfandel 2011

Sometimes a simple, approachable, flavorful wine is just what the doctor ordered.

Vineyard: Twisted Wines
Wine:  Old Vine Zinfandel
Varietal: Zinfandel
Vintage: 2011
Appellation: California
Price: $15.99 per Magnum

Notes:  This wine was soft, mellow and fruity.  For me the nose carried scents of red fruits – plum and cherry – along with hints of vanilla.  On the palate the red plum and cherry repeated with hints of strawberry as it breathed.  I also tasted some vanilla and an underlying note of anise.  Very light tannins brought a slight fuzziness on the tongue and a bit of menthol to the finish.  The acidity was low, and the label put the alcohol at 13.5%.

It wasn’t a wine epiphany.  It isn’t even, generally speaking, the kind of Zinfandel I prefer.  But I know from personal experience that this Old Vine Zin from Twisted Wines can make a pretty good budget-friendly selection to share at an informal party.   In fact, I took a bottle to a get-together this weekend where it was a big hit.   Of course, this is not for the wine enthusiast group, or the wine tasting event, or the “I insist on Dom Perignon in my Mimosa” crowd: this is for an easy, breezy chat-with-neighbors-in-the-condo-courtyard-and-eat-grilled-burgers kind of gathering.

Important: I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur.  See “About” for the full disclaimer.

DeLoach Pinot Noir California 2011

This is another vintner whose wines I have enjoyed in the past.  In fact, I had quite a marvelous wine tasting dinner at an area restaurant in which each of the courses was paired with a DeLoach wine.  It’s been too many years ago for me to give a blow-by-blow of the evening, but the DeLoach offerings made an impression that still lingers.

Vineyard: DeLoach
Varietal: Pinot Noir
Vintage: 2011
Appellation: California
Price: $11.99

Notes:  This garnet-colored Pinot brought plenty of strawberry, earth, and some spicy undertones to the nose.  On the palate the fairly light-bodied wine presented ripe strawberry with cherry notes, a ruminating earthiness not unlike mushroom (which dissipates as the wine breathes), a lightly astringent tea leaf, pepper, some oak, and a tad of bitter menthol on the finish.  Tannins are gentle but present, acidity is good, and alcohol is at 13.5%.

Important: I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur.  See “About” for the full disclaimer.

Divino Nordheim Müller Thurgau Trocken 2009

Thurgau2009What a nice surprise to find a decent-sized section of German wines available at one of the wine stores in my area.  I’ve mentioned before that this shop – Arrowine – is not as close and convenient for me as are any number of others.  Clearly, though, I will have to make an effort to get there from time to time!

I’d never had a Müller Thurgau before.  Well, let’s say “as far as I can remember” I hadn’t.  When I was a little kid my family lived in Germany.  My parents did give me a taste of one or two wines during that time, but I only remember them talking about Liebfraumilch.  I’ve always assumed that was what I’d sipped.  It’s funny looking back now, because they had to make me try the wines.  I didn’t want to!!   Anyway, this Müller Thurgau was a new experience for me.

Winemaker:   Divino Nordheim
Wine:  Müller Thurgau Trocken
Varietal:  Müller Thurgau
Vintage:  2009
Appellation:  Franken, Germany
Price:  $9.99

Notes:   You may know that trocken means dry in German, and this wine is dry at 13% alcohol.  In the glass it was a pale yellow.  On the nose I caught lively citrus and peach.  This was a light and crisp wine.  Acidity is bright, giving it a very slight feeling of effervescence when it hits the tongue.  Flavors for me were citrus and star fruit with hints of peach and honey.  I also found plentiful grass on the palate that lingers in the fairly long finish.  Seems like this would be a good all-purpose summer white for sipping or enjoying with light summery dishes like a crisp salad, some fresh seafood, or even grilled chicken.

Important: I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur.  See “About” for the full disclaimer.

Fetzer Shaly Loam Gewürtztraminer 2011

The Mendocino County vintner, Fetzer, is a leader in sustainable agriculture and is credited with encouraging agricultural approaches in the county toward sustainability and organic wine production.  Reportedly, almost 25% of the orchards in the county are certified organic.  The grapes Fetzer grows in their own vineyards are grown organically, but the wines are not organic.  Why?  Because Fetzer does purchase some grapes from other growers – not all of whom use organic methods.  But, according to the Fetzer folks, all the growers do use sustainable methods.

Winemaker:  Fetzer
Wine: Shaly Loam Gewürtztraminer
Varietal:  Gewürtztraminer
Vintage:  2011
Appellation:  California
Price:  $8.99

Notes:  This Gewürtztraminer was a vivid yellow in the glass with a bouquet of citrus, apple and peach.  It’s a light-bodied offering with a very gentle effervescence on the tongue.  The flavors for me were sweet apple and peach with citrus notes and a tad of persimmon near the end.  There were also very light hints of warm spices that lingered on the finish.  Alcohol is at 12% and I found the acidity was fine but not as bright as I personally prefer in this varietal.  I think the wine would do pretty well with Asian cuisine or a cheese course – perhaps a good Brie or Havarti.

Important: I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur.  See “About” for the full disclaimer.

25 Inexpensive Wines From Trader Joe’s

It’s always a good feeling to reach a goal.  Some months ago I set a goal of tasting 25 inexpensive wines from my local Trader Joe’s.  In the interim, my liver and my taste buds have been put to the test.  Ha!  With the posting on Sauvignon de Seguin Bordeaux 2012, I have made it across the finish line!!

Now even though I’ve reached my goal, I’m not swearing off drinking wines from Trader Joe’s.  No, no!  But I thought after 25, I should take a breather and – more importantly – a moment to reflect on the wines.  And in reflecting back, I’m going to do something uncharacteristic for this blog – I’m going to rate them, kinda.  Not on a point system or a buy/don’t buy.  I don’t do that here because I’m a wine enthusiast not a wine pro.  But I am going to identify what for me were the top 5 wines out of the 25 I tried.  Why?  Well, why did the Apollo astronauts put a flag on the moon?  In part, as a record of the journey!   So here goes …

1.  Château Haut Blaignan Bordeaux 2011

2.  Red Truck Red Wine 2009

3.  Sauvignon de Seguin Bordeaux 2011

4.  Alamos Malbec 2012

5.  Roccadoro (Castellani) Grifone Primitivo 2011

If you want to read the notes about my experience with each, you can click through using the link on the wine’s name.  I realize there is just one white wine represented in the 5.  The Joseph Händler Riesling 2012 almost made this list but just missed the top 5.  And if I were doing top 10, the Contadino Pinot Grigio delle Venezie 2012  and the Trader Joe’s Viñas Chilenas Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2012 would have been contenders.  But my top 5 out of 25 are heavily red and broadly international with 2 French, 1 Italian, 1 Argentinian, and 1 Californian.

For those of you who are visiting oenophilogical for the first time, this is not a blog about the wines at Trader Joe’s.  Far from it!  Scroll down this site, and you’ll see what I mean.  For those of you who are Trader Joe’s shoppers, however, the other wines from TJ’s I’ve swigged so far are listed below – in no particular order.  If I’ve missed your favorite(s), please drop me a note here.  I’m always grateful for recommendations!

OK, then!  Here’s wishing you many good wine adventures!

La Granja 360 Tempranillo 2011
Trader Joe’s Coastal Syrah 2011
Gaetano D’Aquino Orvieto Classico 2012
La Ferme Julien Vin Blanc 2011
Archeo Ruggero di Tasso Nero d’Avola 2011
Trader Joe’s Viñas Chilenas Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2012
Villa Cerrina Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2011
Contadino Pinot Grigio delle Venezie 2012
Trader Moon, Honey Moon Viognier 2011
Gaetano D’Aquino Sangiovese di Toscana 2010
Joseph Händler Riesling 2012
Coppola Red Label Zin 2010
Les Portes de Bordeaux Bordeaux 2009
Terrenal Chardonnay 2012
Le Grotte Lambrusco dell’Emilia Bianco Dolce
Rocca del’Olmo Barbera d’Asti 2010
Hans Lang Edition Maximilian Pinot Noir 2009
Panilonco Merlot-Malbec Reserva 2011
Purple Moon Shiraz 2011
Albero Tempranillo 2010

Important: I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur. See “About” for the full disclaimer.

Sauvignon de Seguin Bordeaux 2012

Although the makers of wine follow many time-tested methods, it is a dynamic, modern business with all that includes.  This wine was created by a company called Carl Wine.  Carl Wine, which was owned by a Danish shipbuilding family, had been working in Bordeaux for roughly 25 years and exporting much of their product throughout Scandinavia.  In early 2013, however, Bwine (the Mottet family) bought that company and it’s assets.  Of course, fascinating as that may be, what mattered most when I popped the cork was what was in the bottle!

Winemaker:  Chateau de Seguin
Wine:  Sauvignon de Seguin Bordeaux, Selectionné par Carl Wine
Varietal: Sauvignon Blanc
Vintage:  2012
Appellation:  Bordeaux AOC, France
Price:  $6.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  In the glass this white Bordeaux was a pale straw yellow.  On the nose I caught scents of citrus, tropical fruit, floral notes (gardenia?), and … sweat.  Yes, that’s right sweat.  Don’t worry: it was really quite faint.  After the initial surprise of recognizing “that” scent, it didn’t bother me.  After all, there are tasty tropical fruits with some pretty crazy aromas!  On the tongue it’s a light-bodied Sauvignon Blanc with nice bright acidity.  Flavors for me were lemon and sweet papaya, some green melon rind and a touch of grapefruit on the finish.  There were also some very light hints of spice.  Alcohol is at 12.5%.  In my opinion, it’s a light, lively white with some interesting flavors.

Important:  I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur.  See “About” for the full disclaimer.

Albero Tempranillo Barrica 2010

Yet another Spanish Tempranillo.  This one is made from grapes certified organically grown in the Valencia region and aged in oak barrels (barrica).

Winemaker:  Albero
Wine:  Tempranillo Barrica
Vintage:  2010
Appellation:  Spain, Utiel-Requena (Valencia) DO
Price:  $5.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  This selection is made by Spain’s oldest estate bottled winery, dating back to 1335!  To the eye this wine looked inky purple in my glass.  On the nose I found sweet dark fruit and spice.  It was fairly light-bodied with alcohol at 13%.  On the palate I tasted dark fruits, including black currant and some raisin, as well as plenty of olive.  For me the tannins were fairly light, and the finish brought a dash of bitters.  I’m not a big lover of olives except as olive oil, so this won’t become my personal go-to Tempranillo.  Still, it was totally an OK wine.  And I think it will probably do just fine as beverage accompaniment to a pot roast or skirt steak (fajitas are often made from skirt steak, I believe).

Important:  I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur.  See “About” for the full disclaimer.

Arrowine – A Trove of Bottled Treasures

Arrowine has been selling the fruit of the vine in the Lee Heights Shops on Lee Highway in Arlington, VA for many years now.

I can remember discovering the store myself quite some time ago, and it wasn’t new then.  In fact, I believe it was opened in 1985.  Despite having found my way there long ago, I haven’t been there in years … literally years.  Why?  Well, I don’t have any really good excuses.  Laziness, perhaps?  There are many wine merchants closer – in and near my own neighborhood.  So … this weekend I made my way back to Arrowine to refresh my memory.

OMG!  Why did I wait so long to return?  Their website says they are a neighborhood wine shop with a national reputation.  I think that’s a great summation of what they do.  They are a big shop, but not a huge big-box type store.  They stock a very large selection of wines from around the world with quite a few unusual, unexpected, hard-to-find wines.

On Saturday afternoons they have a free wine tasting, and I planned my visit accordingly.  That place was humming with activity when I arrived!  There were folks crowded around the wine tasting table where they were pouring six different wines.  There was also quite a bit of hub-bub around the cheese counter.  On the main floor across a sea of wine racks, I heard people greeting old friends and catching up.  I guess it really IS a neighborhood establishment.

As far as the tasting went, I was impressed.  The gentleman pouring was friendly and very knowledgeable about the wines he had on hand.  In fact, he clearly had been involved in finding those particular selections because he had some fun personal anecdotes about a couple of the boutique wineries represented.  He wasn’t pushy in the least.  But when asked a question, he was very forthcoming with pertinent and interesting info that he was excited to chat about.  His was not a dry regurgitation of memorized wine facts nor a hard-sell pitch.

I had a good time.  Browsing their inventory for a bit, I grabbed a couple of bottles while I was there.  Of course!  I could see how the store might seem a bit daunting if you aren’t comfortable in the world of wine.  Because they have a world of wine on hand, let me tell you.  But the staff is friendly and helpful, so there is no reason not to dive right on in.  I’m glad to have rediscovered Arrowine for myself.  I know I’ll be back soon.




Firefly Ridge Syrah 2011

I think there are lots of reasons for liking a wine.  Sometimes it’s because the wine proves the perfect exemplar of what you understand that particular wine should be.  Other times wines that give me something completely unexpected can be enthralling.  Now I’m not happy with just anything unexpected — like the white I had at one local wine fair that literally tasted like kerosene.  That was unexpected, but not welcome.  lol  Admittedly, Syrah can be many things, depending on the climate and soil, etc.  Even so, this Syrah from Firefly Ridge struck me as – forgive the golf analogy – pretty much down the middle of the fairway.

Winemaker: Firefly Ridge (a Safeway private label)
Varietal: Syrah
Vintage: 2011
Appellation: Central Coast, California
Price: $15.99

Notes:  In the glass it was very dark garnet … very dark.  On the nose I found dark fruit, pepper, and dirt. It was a soft medium-bodied selection.  Initially I tasted loads of cherry, a hint of plum, gobs of pepper, tea, and floral notes including a soapy lavender on the finish.  As it breathed, the cherry deepened into more of a plum with currant notes and the pepper decreased slightly.  At the same time the wine picked up a little bit of earth (or maybe it was just able to get through). I suppose the tannins were the least exemplary facet in this wine – they were on the modest side.  But I found they still give a pleasant little bite near the end.  Alcohol is at 12.5%, and acidity is fine.  I thought this was a nicely balanced offering from Firefly Ridge.  There is enough structure to allow it to pair well with food or cellar just a bit.   It will probably do well with many dishes, but what comes to my mind are duck or Moo Shu Pork.

Important: I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur.  See “About” for the full disclaimer.

Kenwood Vineyards Chardonnay 2010

Well, it was time for this Kenwood Chardonnay.  After all, I had their Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot recently.  This bottle is the last in the Kenwood trio I bought at the store awhile back.

Winemaker:  Kenwood Vineyards
Varietal:  Chardonnay
Vintage:  2010
Appellation:  Sonoma County, CA
Price:  $17.49

Notes:  This California Chardonnay was a bright yellow in the glass.  On the nose I got lemon, apple, and floral notes.  It had a good weight on the tongue.  On the palate I found very ripe pineapple, lemon and toasty oak with hints of butterscotch and artichoke.  For those who don’t like heavily oaked whites, it was a definite but by no means overpowering presence in this Kenwood.  Alcohol is at 13.5%, and acidity is good.  I wish it cost a few bucks less, of course, but I will be checking around now to see if another store has it for less.

Important: I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur.  See “About” for the full disclaimer.