Trader Joe’s Coastal Syrah 2014

Another quick post of archival tasting notes.

Oenophilogical_TraderJoesCoastalSyrah2014Winemaker: Trader Joe’s
Wine: Coastal Syrah
Varietal: Syrah
Vintage: 2014
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.

Firefly Ridge Pinot Gris 2013

I love the idea of serendipity.  Merriam Webster defines serendipity as “luck that takes the form of finding valuable or pleasant things that are not looked for.”  While I don’t believe I can live my life relying on it alone, I do try to keep my eyes peeled for it’s occurrence.  I think I may have discovered one.

After jotting down my tasting notes when experiencing a particular wine, I place them in a nifty little file at my desk.  Of course, other items come across my desk from time to time.  In this instance, I seem to have had a Reese’s peanut butter & chocolate type of moment.  You see, stuck to my notes for this selection was a post-it on which was written the titles of two popular Latin songs.  So this is a serendipitous wine & canciones moment.  Enjoy!




Oenophilogical_FireflyRidgePinotGris2013Winemaker:  Firely Ridge
Varietal:  Pinot Gris (Pinot Grigio)
Vintage:  2013
Appellation:  Central Coast, CA
Price:  $15.99

Notes:  The color of pale lemon, the wine echoed citrus in it’s bouquet.  At 13.5% alcohol, this Firefly Ridge selection was light-bodied with bright acidity.  Flavors ran along the tropical lines with a core of citrus throughout and notes of banana and mango.  Near the finish I caught some grass and white pepper as well.  Overall, not a bad Pinot Gris to sip while enjoying some fun music.  I think it might be over-priced at $15.99, so look for it on sale at your local Safeway.

Firefly Ridge Merlot 2013

Accustomed to seeing flashing red and white lights in, around, and coming out of our local fire station, last June I was treated to an entirely different kind of light show.  I was walking by just before dusk and noticed that the front yard was covered with flashing yellow dots.  Fireflies!  It was an amazing sight.  There must have been scores of them in a little, tiny yard.  And even more in the field behind the fire station.

Unfortunately, the camera on my phone was not capable of capturing the full effect.  I took copious amounts of pictures, many of which have no sign of firefly showmanship at all.  I just couldn’t get them to synchronize.  The photo below has the most firefly flashes I was able to catch at one time – 6.  Ha!  Even so, those little fireflies created a definite excitement not only for me but for all the passersby that evening (especially the young kids).  I wasn’t the only one who stopped to enjoy the show.

Perhaps it’s that sense of wonderment and excitement that the artwork on the Firefly Ridge label seeks to tap into.  It’s a great label.  Certainly a lot more romantic and idealized than fireflies against smudged concrete block and drain spouts!

Winemaker: Firefly Ridge
Varietal: Merlot
Vintage: 2013
Appellation: Central Coast, California
Price: $15.99

Notes:  Dark red in color, this California Merlot had a subtle bouquet of berries and cola.  A medium-bodied wine, acidity seemed fine and tannins were light.  On the other hand, I felt this was (for lack of a better term) clunky on the palate.  I thought the flavors of berries, pepper, rubber and oak were just not well integrated.   All the better then, that I was able to grab this on discount at $5.99. 

Wine For Baking?

That was the question I asked myself.  Not because I was putting wine INTO baked goods.  I am an observer rather than a participant when it comes to baking.  It’s probably better that way for everyone concerned.

So, why “wine for baking?”  You see, my household has become addicted to the Great British Bake Off.  As a result, we have been binge-watching the show “on demand” first and then online “streaming.”  Here’s the interesting thing – nobody here is a baker.  So why are we so fascinated by this British reality television competition?

With a sea of reality TV options serving up anger, animosity, self-centered “stars'” and conspicuous self-indulgence, The Great British Bake Off stands out as a positive, interesting, and informative show about real people.  These people are all truly amateur bakers – from housewives to medical students to construction workers.  Some, of course, are hoping to do more with their avocation.  Even so, they remind us of people we know and care about.  And before we know it, we care about how those participants are doing in their bakes.

The judges are tough but not mean.  The two hosts are funny but don’t completely steal the focus from the participants.  And the show is forthright about letting the contestants practice some of the baking challenges at home in advance.  Instead of ruining the competition, it makes the results of their efforts that much more interesting.  It seems practice doesn’t always make perfect!  In other words, what might seem like a potentially boring show is anything but.

Thus, I recently found myself shopping my local wine stores for something to accompany an evening of vicarious baking.  This is one of the bottles I chose for that purpose.

Winemaker:  Robert Mondavi
Wine:  Private Selection Riesling
Varietal:  Riesling
Vintage:  2013
Appellation:  Central Coast, California
Price:  $8.99

Notes:  A pale yellow with a greenish tinge, this light-bodied Riesling was high in acidity and a tad off dry at 12.5% alcohol.  For me it presented a fairly simple flavor profile including tangerine, a touch of honey and grass.  I liked it – especially for something to sip while I watched folks struggle to make perfect macaroons on schedule.  It would also be good with a light cheese course or a gently spicy chicken or seafood entree.


A Paragon of Viniferous Virtue?

San Luis Obispo is a very cool place.  A few years back I had the opportunity to spend several days there on business.  Luckily, the work schedule wasn’t overly taxing, and I got to look around a bit.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have a rental car available.  Thus, I didn’t make it to any of the area wineries.  Taking a quick gander over at – a website devoted to the wine industry in the San Luis Obispo (SLO) area – it looks like there are just under 30 wineries thereabouts.  Good thing I didn’t have a rental car, I may not have gotten any work done!

Edna Valley Winery, it seems, is by far the best known of the SLO wineries.  I’ve had Edna Valley wines in the past, and those experiences have all been good.  Obviously, then, I had no qualms in trying a new vintage of their product.  When I picked up the bottle of this Chardonnay, however, I was a little taken aback by the name on the label – Paragon.  The Oxford Dictionaries define paragon as “a person or thing viewed as a model of excellence.”  Oh boy, now that’s making quite a statement and a big promise as well!  And this is a Chardonnay from the Central Coast …  period.  It’s not Select or Reserve or Vintner’s Reserve or labeled as vineyard specific.  So how much of a paragon could this Edna Valley white be?

Winemaker:  Edna Valley
Wine:  Paragon
Varietal:  Chardonnay
Vintage:  2011
Appellation:  Central Coast, CA
Price:  $10.99

Notes:  The color of this SLO Chardonnay was a pretty, light golden hue.  In the bouquet I caught scents of tart apple, citrus, hints of spice and lemongrass.  On the tongue, it was on the lighter side of Chardonnay.  Acidity was good, and alcohol was at 13.9%.  As far as flavors go, I found light apple and citrus at the fore leading to more citrus with butterscotch highlights here and there.  Toward the end it developed a kerosene note, and toasty spices lingered on the finish.  This was a fun ride for my taste buds.  It wasn’t a full-bodied offering, but it certainly presented enough flavor to keep me interested.  Virtue?  Absolutely.  Paragon?  Well ….

Sterling Vintner’s Collection Chardonnay 2012

Found this selection on sale at a local grocery store.  Based on what I see online, the sale price – $8.99 – is closer to the average price in other markets.  In my area, as you can see, the price is a little higher.  Like 45% higher!  Glad I waited for the sale.

Winemaker:  Sterling Vineyards
Wine:  Vintner’s Collection Chardonnay
Varietal:  Chardonnay
Vintage:  2012
Appellation:  Central Coast, CA
Price:  $16.49

Notes:  This California Chardonnay was a light lemon yellow in the glass.  On the nose I got citrus and pear.  It was light-bodied with good (I’d even say zingy) acidity.  Alcohol was at 13.5%.  On the palate I found loads of lemon, some grapefruit, touches of oak, a hint of butter and grass.  As it warmed to room temperature, I also found a floral note – honeysuckle.  I think this would be a great wine to serve with a fish course.  I wouldn’t call it refined, but it did seem a better balanced Chardonnay than I’ve had in a while.  Then again, I’m focused on inexpensive selections.  At any rate, I enjoyed this Sterling Chardonnay (at the price I paid – lol).