The wine amateur

Here are some tasting notes from my friend labellestudio. It’s her first wine post! Will have to see if I can find this selection in my area. I hope so.


A few days ago I told a fellow blogger and wine expert Oenophilogical that I intended to write a wine review as a fun addition to this site. I am afraid this is not going to help my reputation as a serious person but why this serious all the time anyway? Let¬īs give it a try and move somewhat out of our comfort zone for once. ūüôā

Heuchelberg Weing√§rtner 2011 Trollinger Ros√© ~ Fruchtig s√ľss ~ W√ľrttemberg

My husband discovered this wine a few months ago and bought it in a small beverage market. Three weeks ago he retaliated and bought another bottle‚Ķ Ros√©s are often labelled as ‚Äúwomen¬īs wines‚ÄĚ in Germany, especially when they are on the rather sweeter side like this one but both my husband and I enjoyed it very much.

The color was a pale golden pink and the scent reminded me of wood, plaster, peppermint…

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J.L. Quinson Ros√© 2014

Provence is known for their Ros√©.¬† Finding a wallet-friendly offering from Provence, it was a foregone conclusion that I would buy a bottle.¬† Wouldn’t you?

Winemaker:  J.L. Quinson
Wine:  Rosé
Vintage:  2014
Appellation:¬† C√ītes de Provence AOC, France
Price:¬† $7.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:   This blush wine was an interesting shade of pink.  It had a tinge of orange to it.  It was light-bodied with good acidity.  The bouquet was very faint with just-there scents of strawberry and pepper. Alcohol was at 12.5%.  Flavors I found were simple but pleasant, including strawberry, grass, and a touch of pepper.  Nothing surprising here in a very good way.  This is a Rosé I would be happy to drink again.


Albero Spanish Ros√© 2014

A few months ago I mentioned that I had tried a varietal wine made of 100% Bobal grapes.¬† I liked it, so my blog friend whirlaway let me know when they saw this Ros√© made from Bobal mentioned in a Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer.¬† Thank you, whirlaway, for giving me a heads up!¬† I definitely wanted to see what this one was like.

Winemaker:  Albero
Wine:  Spanish Rosé
Varietal:  Bobal
Vintage:  2014
Appellation:  Utiel-Requena DOP, Spain
Price:¬† $5.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:¬†¬† In the glass this wine was fairly dark for a ros√©.¬† It was pink, yes, but a dark pink.¬† It was light-bodied, and acidity was OK.¬† On the palate this Albero seemed dryer than it’s 12.5% alcohol content would suggest.¬† Tannins were light with a late onset.¬† Flavors for me included tart cherry, spice notes and a bitter woody finish.¬† It was interesting to try a blush wine made from Bobal grapes.¬† I think, however, that I want to try some more Bobal red selections.¬† This Ros√© was not my personal favorite.

Click on the picture to read the article online.


25 More Inexpensive Wines From Trader Joe’s

Some time ago I posted my first list of inexpensive wines that I’d tried which are sold at Trader Joe’s.¬† Now, over a year later, I have managed to taste another twenty-five budget-friendly offerings from the TJ shelves.¬† As in that first post, I am going to briefly reflect back over the wines by choosing my top five.¬† My personal “ratings” aside, there are plenty of enjoyable selections among the other 20 – also listed below. Among the top five I’ve chosen in this group are three TJ labeled wines, three reds, one ros√©, and one white.¬† The three TJ wines are from California, one red is an Italian import and the white is from Portugal.¬† Here they are along with short tasting notes.

1.¬† Trader Joe‚Äôs Reserve Syrah 2012 — What put this at the top for me was it’s interesting, even challenging, flavor profile.¬† I tasted a lot of seedy/brambly woodiness, leather, some spice, an underlying foundation of dark fruits (blackberry and black currant), and a bitter note on the finish.¬† There was something fun around every corner.

2.¬† Trader Joe’s Petit Reserve¬†Mourv√®dre 2011 — The body of this red from Paso Robles was quite light.¬† Acidity was nice and brisk, and the tannins were light on the palate.¬† I caught flavors of young blueberries, cherry, plenty of pepper and oak.¬† It was it’s bouquet, however, that brought this selection to number two for me.¬† It had a big, ebullient bouquet of barnyard, plum, young blueberries and violets.

3.¬† Trader Joe’s Petit Reserve Ros√© 2013 — At 13.7% alcohol, I‚Äôd call this a dry ros√©.¬† Tannins were gently present.¬† On the palate I tasted a core of red berries (primarily strawberry) with tea leaf, a dash of pepper, some bitter herbs, and a zingy medicinal note on the finish.

4.¬† Espiral Vinho Verde¬† — As is the norm for these wines, it was frothy on the pour.¬† The wine was light-bodied, and the bubbles had surprising staying power.¬† This light Portuguese white had a pleasant flavor profile with a core of peach, citrus and grass accented by almond and floral notes.¬† I think it would make a nice aperitif for a summer dinner party or maybe an inexpensive celebratory toast.

5.¬† Epicuro Vendemmia Salice Salentino 2011 — Get past the rather unexpected bouquet and you have a satisfyingly interesting glass of wine.¬† Flavors were primarily sweet dark cherry drops, dried green herbs, and pinches of salt. The tannins brought a bitter woody flavor after which the long finish echoed cherry drops and saline notes.

The other wines from this group of TJ tastings are listed below ‚Äď in no particular order.¬† Feel free to click on the links to read my full tasting notes on any of the selections.¬† Please remember, I’m a wine enthusiast, and these notes represent my own experiences and opinions.

Sara Bee Moscato
La Caumette L’Authentique Red
Sainte-Croix La Bergerie Syrah-Merlot 2011
Charles Shaw Pinot Grigio 2012
Villa Alena Moscato d’Asti 2012
Révélation Cabernet-Merlot 2011
Penfolds Shiraz-Cabernet 2011
Vola Sangiovese 2012
Martellozzo Prosecco
Tuella Douro Vinho Tinto 2011
Coppola Rosso 2012
Raymond Hill Chardonnay
Rex-Goliath Pinot Noir NV
Grifone Sangiovese 2012
Sphere Zinfandel 2012
Smoking Loon Pinot Noir 2012
Marqués de Cáceres Verdejo Rueda
Williamsburg Two Shilling Red 2013
Picton Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2013
Pontificis Pays d’Oc Red Blend 2012

Happy Holidays!  And Happy Sipping!

A Ros√© By Any Other Vintner ….

I believe I’ve mentioned this before.¬† I love a good mystery.¬† And that is exactly what I found in this bottle of Trader Joe’s ros√©.¬† Actually, the mystery isn’t so much what’s in the bottle – although I don’t know that precisely either.¬† What intrigues me most is the question of who made this bottle of dry blush wine for the folks at Trader Joe’s to sell.¬† And the folks at TJ ain’t talkin’!

OK.¬† What do we know?¬† First, the label says it was vinted and bottled by JBA Cellars of Rutherford, CA.¬† Next, according to a report in the TJ rag Fearless Flyer, this wine “comes to us from a very famous Napa Valley winery ‚Äď they make super wines that tend to be quite expensive.”¬† Following that clue, I was reminded that there are a number of well-known wineries headquartered in Rutherford – BV, Rutherford Hill, Frog’s Leap, Caymus, Inglenook, and Cakebread, among others.¬† That narrows the field, but not nearly enough. ¬† Then I noted that Rutherford Hill Winery is one of a few that makes a ros√©.¬† In addition, the owners are the Terlato family – father Anthony with sons Bill and John.¬† Hmmm.¬† Anthony, Bill and John.¬† John, Bill and Anthony.¬† JBA!¬† JBA Cellars?¬† We might have a winner here.¬† I don’t know, of course.¬† It’s only a guess at best.

Winemaker:¬† JBA Cellars for Trader Joe’s
Wine:¬† Trader Joe’s Petit Reserve Ros√©
Varietal:  Not Available
Vintage:  2013
Appellation:  Napa Valley, CA
Price:¬† $6.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:¬† The color of this Napa Valley blush teeters right on the edge of dark pink and light red.¬† On the nose I found mostly strawberry and a touch of loam with sweet floral hints.¬† Acidity was bright and the body was light.¬† At 13.7% alcohol, I’d call this a dry ros√©.¬† Tannins were gently present.¬† On the palate I tasted a core of red berries (primarily strawberry) with tea leaf, a dash of pepper, some bitter herbs, and a zingy medicinal note on the finish.

By the way, I saw an online review of a prior vintage of the Rutherford Hill rosé.  Evidently, their 2009 was blended from Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Zinfandel grapes.  Is that true of this bottle as well?  I have no idea whatsoever.  If you know, do tell!

Wine Tasting In The NC Piedmont

Not long ago I was traveling through North Carolina.  Having stopped in at Iron Gate Vineyards a little over a year ago (where I had my first Chambourcin), I knew that the Piedmont region of NC is dotted with wineries.  Taking a look at my route and the online listings of wineries in the State, I found that Childress Vineyards was a short detour and open during my trip.  Yup.  No brainer!  Clearly, I was going to have to drop by to see what they are up to.

The facility at Childress is an attractive, impressive, full-service enterprise akin to many of the popular wineries in California – including a tasting bar, a gift shop, and a restaurant.¬† When I arrived I made straight for the tasting room/bar¬† where I learned that I had options.¬† I could taste one selection free – a Sauvignon Blanc that particular day; I could take advantage of a “Cellar Select Tasting” of 8 predominantly off-dry wines for $12; or I could go with their “Barrel Select Tasting” of 8 Barrel Select, Reserve or Signature wines for $15.¬† Well, in for a penny, in for a pound.¬† I went with the third option.

The eight wines they were pouring on my visit included a Reserve Chardonnay, a Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Reserve Cabernet Franc, a red blend called Pinnacle, their Signature Merlot, and a dessert wine called Starbound.¬† Below are my impressions in brief.¬† Please understand these aren’t complete tasting notes, just quickly scribbled thoughts.

1.  Sauvignon Blanc 2010 Рplenty of lemon and grapefruit with a silky mouthfeel.

2.  Pinnacle Рa non-vintage blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Malbec Рthis was their 5th release of this wine (c. 2013).  I found it earthy with lots of buoyant fruit flavors.  13% alcohol.

3.¬† Merlot 2009 – with almost a brownish tinge to it’s color, this Merlot struck me as smokey and peppery.¬† 13.4% alcohol.

4.  Cabernet Franc 2010 Рcopious berry flavors and nice medium tannins with a noticeable grip.

5.  Reserve Chardonnay 2010 Рa bigger style Chardonnay with plentiful citrus flavor as well.

6.  Reserve Cabernet Franc 2010 Рmade from estate-grown grapes.  14.2% alcohol.  tannins are lighter than in the previous Cabernet Franc selection, and flavors were subtler with a little less focus on fruit.

7.  Signature Merlot 2009 Рanother nicely smokey Merlot but with a more complex flavor profile.

8.  Starbound Рa non-vintage blueberry dessert wine in the port style.  this was the last selection tasted.  thought it was very blueberry and very sweet.  for me, could probably make an interesting drizzle over ice cream or pound cake.

The staffer who poured for me was very friendly, knowledgeable and helpful.  I had a very good time sampling their wares and discussing the Childress wines with her.  She was even kind enough to include a bonus taste of their 2010 Reserve Petit Verdot.  This was a first for me, tasting a varietal wine made from Petit Verdot.  I found it lightly earthy with nice blueberry fruit flavor and pepper as well as some green herbals on the finish.

Having finished tasting all this vino, the question came as to what I might want to carry home with me.¬† Oh my!¬† Decisions, decisions!¬† But then I noticed they had a Sangiovese among their full list of selections.¬† They weren’t pouring it that day at the tasting bar, but it was available for purchase by the bottle.¬† Well, then, given my ongoing exploration of Sangiovese, you know what I drove away with.

Overall, this was a really enjoyable tasting experience.¬† It’s a nice facility in a pretty setting with helpful staff and plenty of wine selections to sample.¬† It’s just a tad off the beaten path, but not far.¬† What’s not to like?


There You Go Making Me Blush Again

I mean the summer weather, of course.¬† With the high humidity and high temperatures in my area – we’re talking nineties on both counts – I¬† have definitely been in the hunt for refreshing beverages to cool off with.¬† As far as wine goes, I’ve been buying plenty of light whites, but I’ve also been branching out into new territory.¬† Pink territory.¬† Not that I haven’t done pink before.¬† I used to have a pink tie, and I even had a pink polo shirt for awhile.¬†¬†¬† And, yes, I’ve had some blush wines previously.¬† But – until recently – I’d never had a Pink Moscato.¬† And until this bottle of inexpensive blush, I’d never had a White Merlot.

Winemaker:  Sutter Home
Wine:  White Merlot
Varietal:  Merlot
Vintage:  2012
Appellation:  California
Price:  $8.49

Notes:¬†¬† I’d call the color of this wine a light rose.¬† In the bouquet I detected scents of berries and biscuits.¬† It was a light-to-medium-bodied wine with some viscosity and decent acidity.¬† The tannins were quite light, and alcohol was at 11.5%.¬† Flavors I caught were sweet cherries, grass, some pepper, and biscuits.¬† The last lingering into the finish.¬† It was different that what I had been expecting.¬† Somehow I thought it would be another dessert wine.¬† It is sweet, but not heavily so.¬† Honestly, I don’t know what this might be best with/as/for.¬† Again, this was my first flirtation with a White Merlot.¬† If White Merlot is one of your preferred selections, maybe you can help me think that through.¬† How do you serve it?

Barefootin’ In July – How Sweet It Is

It’s summer, summer, summertime!¬† Well, it’s summer in the northern hemisphere, anyway.¬† For those of us north of the equater, this warm weather season is the perfect time to enjoy light, refreshing wines.¬† Not that we can’t drink them whenever we like, of course, but I feel the experience and enjoyment of these lighter selections is heighted in contrast to the often sweltering heat at this time of year.¬† Don’t you think so?¬† In light of that, I thought I’d experiment with my first Pink Moscato.

Winemaker:   Barefoot
Wine: Pink Moscato
Varietal:  Moscato
Vintage:  NV
Appellation:  California
Price: $7.99

Notes:¬† The color of this sweet California Moscato was a pale . . . wait for it . . . wait for it . . . pink!¬† Shocking, no?¬† On the nose I caught scents of roses and sweet berries.¬† Acidity was quite lively.¬† It was a fairly light-bodied selection, albeit sweet at 9% alcohol.¬† Flavors consisted of an underlying foundation of apricot with an overlay veneer of cherry, some candied melon rind, and a touch of grapefruit on the finish.¬† This is definitely a dessert wine in my opinion.¬† Then again, I’m a savory over sweet kind of guy, so my natural preference is for items ‚Äď foods and drinks ‚Äď that are less sweet.¬† For me, then, this Barefoot was quite sweet, even syrupy at times.¬† As I said, however, it might be a good choice for a summer dessert.¬† I could totally imagine enjoying a strawberry shortcake with this as a complement or a bowl of fresh berries with a dash of it over the top instead of sugar or whipped cream.¬† If you like your wine on the sweet side, you may well enjoy this inexpensive blush.

Screwtop Wine Bar: Worthwhile Waiting

The Wine Rangers headed out to another nearby watering hole to sample some vino.¬† I was the first to arrive at this very popular spot on a Thursday evening.¬† Not wanting to waste the time, I succumbed to the friendly staff’s offer to serve me a little something while I hovered – with quite a few other folks – waiting for a spot.

One thing I really like about this establishment is that their menu offers wines by the bottle, glass, and sip (half glass).  That provides almost an incentive (not that I need one Рlol) to experiment.

After perusing the list, I ordered a half glass of the Early Mountain Viognier 2011 from Charlottesville, VA.  This Viognier was pale straw color.  On the nose I found spiced apple cider.  It was light-bodied with the characteristic touch of viscosity, and acidity was bright.  Flavors were a solid core of apple (no pun intended) with hints of spice and a touch of fig.  It was a pleasant sipper, and disappeared all too quickly.

As my fellow Wine Ranger, Heather, was running late, I had another look at the wine list.¬† Unable to resist the temptation, I ordered a half glass (aka sip) of the Villa Wolf Ros√© 2012 from Pfalz, Germany.¬† The Villa Wolf was a pretty salmon color with a floral bouquet.¬† Although a light-bodied wine, it¬† had good acidity and a fun, almost flirty flavor profile of bing cherry and lemon/lime.¬† Flavors weren’t heavy but light and lively.

Eventually, the Wine Rangers were reunited, and the evening began in earnest.  But a report on that adventure will have to wait for another post.  In the meantime, I wish you worthwhile waiting, too.


25 Inexpensive Wines From Whole Foods

Every journey has it’s milestones, and marking the trail is an important part of any notable sojourn.¬† Whether or not this particular trip is notable can no doubt be debated.¬† Even so, a little under a year ago I began this blog.¬† Since then, I’ve managed to drink a few glasses of wine.¬† Along the way some 25 selections from the Whole Foods shelves – all very modestly priced to boot – have passed my way.¬† 25 being an auspicious number – silver anniversary, for example – I’ve decided it’s time for a marker.

photo by jameson fink

Commemorating this occasion and serving as my own recap of this wine tasting “trip,” I’m going to identify my 5 favorites from among these Whole Food selections.¬† I won’t be giving them a numbered score or tell you whether it’s a buy/don’t buy.¬† We all have different palates; different likes and dislikes.¬† You decide if you want to give any of them a try or pass on the whole lot.¬† I’ll simply list my top 5 in order of personal preference, summarize my own tasting experience, and provide a link to my original post on each where you can find some additional info.¬† Remember, I’m a wine enthusiast.¬† My own tasting notes may or may not agree with yours and those of the bonafide experts.

Kenwood Vineyards Sauvignong Blanc 2012
A balanced Sauvignong Blanc, I found flavors of lemon, peach and honey with hints of pear and kiwi, a light dusting of green bell pepper, and a nice zip of grass on the finish.

Cupcake Red Velvet
A dinner party fave, to me this enjoyable red blend was fruity with plenty of blackberry and plum along with purple clover, earth and hints of carob.

Tres Ojos Garnacha 2011
Dark raspberry, bread and spice flavors almost brought to mind a berry muffin, but at 14.5% alcohol it wasn’t sugary.¬† Additional notes I caught included pepper, a hint of licorice and eucalyptus as the moderate tannins kicked in on the finish.

Ch√Ęteau Millegrand Minervois Ros√©¬†2012
Peck_TresOjosGarnacha2011A light coral in color, this dry rosé was also light on the palate bringing me gentle flavors of tart cherry, a green herbaceousness, floral notes, some minerality, and a touch of quinine on the end.

365 Trackers Crossing Chardonnay 2012
This Chardonnay gave good oak in what I consider the epitome of the Australian style.  I tasted honey, pineapple, a touch of guava, light citrus notes, generous oak, some hints of spice, and a final bite of bitter melon.

It was very difficult narrowing it down to just five.¬† There are certainly other tasty wines among those I’ve sampled.¬† So for those of you who are Whole Food shoppers, the full list of the 20 additional wines I‚Äôve sampled so far is below ‚Äď in no particular order.¬† If I‚Äôve missed your favorite(s), please drop me a note here.¬† I‚Äôm always grateful for recommendations!

  Piccolo Fiore Bianco di Sicilia 2011
  365 Paul Valmer Chardonnay 2011
  Three Wishes Merlot
  Don Simón Seleccion Rosé
  Lello Douro Vinho Tinto 2010
  Big House White 2011
  Excelsior Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
  365 Paul Valmer Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
  Riven Rock Moscato 2012
  Harthill Farm Chardonnay
  365 DiFlora Moscato
  Three Wishes Chardonnay
  Bricco Dei Tati Barbera 2011
   Domaine Carpy Les Pins 2009
  Bubo Pinot Noir 2011
  Don Simón Seleccion Shiraz
  Cupcake Riesling 2011
  La Bastarda Bianco di Toscana 2012
   Tablao Red Wine Navarra 2012
  J.M. Fonseca Twin Vines Vinho Verde

One more quick caveat.¬† I didn’t drink these all in one day, one week, or even one month – it took me just under one year.¬† [Admittedly, I have also been drinking other wines. lol]¬† Retail being a dynamic industry in which stores regularly update and change their stock, some of these wines may no longer be available at your local Whole Foods.

Wherever your wine trail leads you … as always, here‚Äôs wishing you many happy wine adventures!