From the Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer: “When you see the VINTJS label on a bottle of wine at Trader Joe’s, you can be sure of a couple of things right off the bat. One, that wine is a good example of the best of what you’ll find from its appellation, and two, that wine represents a stellar value you’ll find only at Trader Joe’s. . . . Using grapes from their vineyards along Monterey County’s coastal mountain ranges, where a cooler climate gives the grapes a chance to ripen slowly and develop more intense fruit flavors, the winemakers have crafted a hefty, almost chewy red, full-bodied and fruit forward yet decidedly dry, aged for nine months in American and Hungarian oak barrels. Rather than a straightforward Petite Sirah, which would be a much bigger wine than its name would suggest, they’ve opted here to blend in a bit of Merlot, Syrah, and a splash of Viognier ….”
Winemaker: VINTJS (aka Trader Joe’s)
Varietal: Petite Sirah
Appellation: Monterey, California
Price: $6.99 at Trader Joe’s
Notes: This wine was 90.7% Petite Sirah with 4.6% Merlot, 2.8% Syrah, and 1.9% Viognier. At almost 91% Petite Sirah, I think it definitely deserved a varietal label rather than that of a blend. In the lovely, full bouquet of this VINTJS I detected scents of dark, juicy berries and forest floor. It was a very dark-colored wine in the glass as well with medium body and good acidity. Tannins were also medium. Flavors for me included cherry, black currant, and oak along with a medicinal note and a zing of pepper on the finish. Despite it being a dry wine at 14.5% alcohol, it had a touch of sweetness on the palate, too. I agree with the Trader Joe’s folks that this wine was most certainly a value purchase.
Feel like dancing? I’m not talking about the headsnapping dance I mentioned previously. I mean something a bit more sedate this time around. You see, a cotillion was an 18th century French dance.
Looks an awful lot like square dancing to me but to quieter more refined music. I was in a square dance club when I was a young kid, so I’ve done my share of do-si-dos, allemande lefts, and promenades. We were called the Wheelers and Dealers. It was fun! Only real drawback for me was that at my tender age I was shorter than most of the girls. Ha!
Winemaker: Cotillion (by Ashford Court)
Varietal: Pinot Noir
Price: $9.99 at Trader Joe’s
Notes: This Pinot Noir was a blend of grapes from three counties in California. The mix was 60% from Monterey County, 24% from Sonoma County, and 16% from Santa Barbara County. In the bouquet I found scents of pine resin, moss, and mushroom with an underpinning of red berries. This light-bodied selection was a dark burgundy hue in the glass with high acidity. Alcohol came in at 13.8%, and tannins were on the light side with a slow grip. On the tongue I detected cherry, boysenberry, tea leaf and bitters.
While I don’t speak Spanish (but wish I did as I mentioned in a previous post), I do speak German at a conversational level. I’ve lived in Germany a couple of times and studied the German language both in the country and at college. In fact, it was almost my minor. I had the credits for it. But book German, or Hochdeutsch, is not the same as the daily spoken language or vernacular. And then you have the variations by region and country. Hochdeutsch is different than Bavarian German which is different that Swiss German which is different than Austrian German, etc. So when I tell you that it took me awhile to work out that Gmörk or Ried Gmörk on this Anton Bauer label means Gmörk Vineyard, please don’t judge me too harshly.
Winemaker: Anton Bauer
Wine: Grüner Veltliner Ried Gmörk
Varietal: Grüner Veltliner
Appellation: Wagram, Austria
Notes: This Austrian sent aromas of zingy green apple and citrus to my olfactory nerves. Color was a light but intense yellow. Acidity was bright and lively in this characteristically effervescent and light-bodied selection. Alcohol was at 12%. When I opened the bottle, the screwtop liner remained affixed to the lip of the bottle until it popped off of its own accord with a sound as satisfying as any champagne cork. Flavors I detected were green apple and lime zest with touches of almond. Pretty tasty and entertaining to boot.
As we move into fall with the impending holidays, I thought I might post these notes from seasons past.
Varietal: Pinot Noir
Price: $7.99 at Trader Joe’s
Notes: The color of this Pinot Noir was a medium garnet. The bouquet contained a generous amount of cedar as well as earth, berries, and a hint of beef. It was light-bodied with good acidity. This Echelon also had 13% alcohol and medium tannins. On the palate I tasted cherry, ash, pomegranate, and tea.
Another quick post of archival tasting notes.
Winemaker: Trader Joe’s
Wine: Coastal Syrah
Appellation: Central Coast, California
Price: $4.99 at Trader Joe’s
Notes: This TJ vino was dark red with tangy dark fruit, sous bois, and violets in the bouquet. Medium-bodied with a pleasant “round” mouthfeel, the Syrah had moderate tannins and 13.9% alcohol. Acidity was fine but perhaps a little on the low side. Flavors tended toward the dark with plum, moss, ash, and a touch of mint. Considering the price, I’d say it was not a bad bottle of wine. While I will not be serving this with any holiday feasts or dinner parties, even, it could serve as a very affordable “house” wine.
As you may have noted, I continue to dig into my archive of tasting notes. This Petite Sirah was drunk several months ago. I can only hope the new vintage is as enjoyable, because I think another Shannon Ridge PS might be part of my holiday shopping list this year.
Winemaker: Shannon Ridge
Varietal: Petite Sirah
Appellation: Lake County, California
Notes: Part of the Shannon Ridge “High Elevation Collection,” this wine was a very deep purple in the glass. It had a full bouquet of jammy blackberry, pine resin and dusty soil. Acidity was good and tannins were medium in this medium-bodied Petite Sirah. Alcohol was 13.9%. Flavors I found were berries atop darker fruit and woody tannins that lingered. In addition, it had a plush mouth feel. That’s the best word I can find to describe the sensation. I liked it pretty darned well. I had this as an accompaniment to a rib roast and it was quite a pleasant pairing.
So … here’s the question. Do you think California Pinot Grigio’s are generally as good as their Italian counterparts?
I took the time to look back and review my tasting notes of PGs to see if they might give me a clue as to my own thinking. Remembering that I focus on inexpensive wines on this blog, it seems my experience suggests that the Californians still have some catching up to do. That isn’t to say California wineries don’t make good Pinot Grigios. In the value priced selections, however, I have evidently preferred the Italians.
Of course, that’s just one man’s limited experience. If you have some suggestions for me as to Pinot Grigios I should sample, I’d be more than happy to hear about them.
Winemaker: Top Hat
Varietal: Pinot Grigio
Notes: The wine was an extremely pale straw color with good acidity and 13.9% alcohol. On the nose I encountered scents of citrus with warm spice notes. It was very light-bodied, almost thin. On the palate I tasted citrus, grass and touches of warm spice. It was an okay PG, but I think there are less expensive options that are equal to this Top Hat and much more interesting selections in the same price range.
I mentioned in a post a couple of weeks ago that my parents never threw anything away. While that may be an overstatement, it isn’t too far from the truth. Thus, they had a four bedroom house filled to the brim even in retirement. They weren’t hoarders, but they were definitely savers.
When my sister and I were cleaning out the house a few years back, I packed up a number of boxes of “stuff” that was somehow connected to me. There were photos, of course. But they had also managed to hold onto, among other things, all of my school report cards. All the way back to kindergarten! K-12. Ha! Imagine how surprised I was when I found included with my fifth grade records a certificate of distinction for my efforts in Spanish. What?! I would love to remember now even as much (little) as I knew back in fifth grade. Unfortunately, if the label on this Alamos red blend weren’t translated into English, I would have had to use “Google translate” to understand it.
Varietal: Red Blend
Appellation: Mendoza, Argentina
Notes: This blend of Malbec, Bonarda, and Tempranillo was dark garnet in the glass with red berries in the nose. Alcohol was at 13.9%, tannins were medium, and the flavor profile was primarily a very pleasant cherry.
According to Merriam Webster, a dark horse is a “little known competitor that makes an unexpectedly good showing.” Interesting how the idea of a dark horse has been inspiration for artists (and politicians) for … well, a long time.
Winemaker: Dark Horse
Notes: In the bouquet this Dark Horse presented jammy dark fruit, cedar, and damp loam. At 13.5% alcohol, it was medium-bodied with moderate tannins. Acidity was good as well. On the palate I found dark berries and plum with touches of cinnamon and molasses. Of course it wasn’t as sweet as molasses. I thought this Merlot might be good served with game fowl, but it was fine to sip alone.
Some time ago I shared a little story of my sojourns through France when I was a young boy. In that instance, we had stopped on the south coast of France (Mediterranean) and spent a day at the beach. At the time, we were living in Germany, so that was not the only trip we made into France. We also made our way to Paris.
Although I was only 6 years old at the time. Paris left a lasting mark on my soul. While my father did his best to herd the family from museum to museum, some of the most vivid memories are from the city itself. For instance, I was fascinated by the hotel we stayed in because it wasn’t at all like the American hotels and motels we had stayed in. It was a small pension hotel in a bustling residential neighborhood. Not far from our hotel, there was an outdoor market where people where produce of every kind straight from the farm was available. We bought some cherries at the market that I can still taste by memory today. They were SO amazing. And although I was very impressed with the art works in the Louvre, I found the Arc de Triomphe infinitely more appealing.
Unfortunately, I haven’t been back since that trip. Yup, more travel for my bucket list. I really would like to experience the City of Light as an adult. Know what I mean? I didn’t have a single sip of wine when I was in Paris last!
Winemaker: La Vieille Ferme
Varietal: White Blend
Price: $7.99 at Whole Foods
Notes: This French white was medium yellow in color with lots of yellow (golden delicous) apple along with citrus notes in the nose. Acidity was good in this medium-bodied blend which had a slight coat-the-tongue quotient. Flavors I detected were kiwi, cream, and hints of toasty oak. I liked it. I have had other vintages that I didn’t enjoy as well, but this bottle was fine by me.