VINTJS Petite Sirah 2013

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 ….”

Oenophilogical_VINTJSPetiteSirah2013Winemaker: VINTJS (aka Trader Joe’s)
Varietal: Petite Sirah
Vintage: 2013
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.

The Monterey Vineyards Chardonnay 2013

As you know, I’m always on the lookout for a good value in wine.  A few weeks ago I was at my local Giant grocery store and spotted a fellow at a table giving out tastes of wine.  When I strode over to see what was up, I found he had several selections from The Monterey Vineyards by Chalone Vineyards at a special super-low, closeout price.  I tried them and decided I liked the Chardonnay best.

Interestingly enough, the name “Monterey” struck a chord with me.  I don’t have any history or personal connection with Monterey, California or Monterrey, Mexico.  However … my grandmother grew up in Monterey, Tennessee – what she called Monkeytown.  Believe me, that nickname was by no means meant in disrespect.  It was a term of endearment she and her siblings used in referring to their childhood home.  Some remained in Monterey their entire lives.  My grandmother, however, was swept off her feet and away by a handsome young mailman.

Whether it was the great price (got it for $7.99) or some sentimental impulse, I bought and enjoyed a bottle of their Chardonnay.

Winemaker:  The Monterey Vineyards
Varietal:  Chardonnay
Vintage:  2013
Appellation:  Monterey County, CA
Price:  $18.50

Notes:  This Monterey white was pretty pale yellow in color.  On the nose I got a tart lemon-lime scent.  It was medium-bodied with high acidity.  Alcohol was at 13%.  It had plenty of flavor – abundant citrus, toasty oak, butterscotch notes, and green herbs.  It had a nice long finish, too.  Pretty darned good in my book.  Will look for it again.

Fetzer Gewürtztraminer 2013

Awhile back I had the 2011 Fetzer Shaly Loam Gewürtztraminer, so I wanted to compare the experiences.  But upon closer inspection, I realized this one is from Monterey County not the broader California appellation.  Even so, I decided to taste and see how the two vintages compare.  Notes from my first Fetzer Gewürtztraminer can be found by clicking here.

Winemaker:  Fetzer
Varietal:  Gewürtztraminer
Vintage:  2013
Appellation:  Monterey County, CA
Price:  $12.49

Notes:  This selection was a golden yellow in the glass with a bouquet of peach and warm spices.  It’s a medium-bodied wine with good acidity.  The flavors for me were sweet – almost syrupy – peach with spice, a touch of grass, and a tart citrusy finish.  Alcohol was at 12%.  I think this would serve well as an accompaniment to a light cake or as a sweet sip at a warm-weather outdoor reception.

So how do they compare?  Well, in my opinion this selection seems a bit more in the typical varietal style – medium-bodied and a tad sweeter to the taste buds – than the 2011.  Even so, both were perfectly fine wines.

Hayman and Hill Meritage 2009

I believe that part of the “art” of good wine-making is finding the right balance which will create an interesting yet enjoyable experience for those who drink the resulting brew.  There are so many variables, I’m glad I’m not tasked with the job!   As a wine enthusiast, I liken it in my own mind to the balance necessary in making a song fun to listen to.  Of course, you have to start with good material.  But what instruments are chosen to bring it to life and how much of each instrument is highlighted in the final mix can make a big difference in the way a song is perceived.

Take, for instance, the difference between these two versions of the same pop tune —

Now don’t get excited about full-blown studio production versus at-home solo efforts.  I know, already!  Here’s the deal: I can appreciate both, but I definitely have a preference.  I believe it’s similar with wines – most especially blended wines. Although, admittedly, the winemaker has somewhat less control than the studio engineer. Which brings me to this Meritage.

Winemaker: Hayman & Hill
Wine: Meritage
Varietal: Red Blend
Vintage: 2009
Appellation: Monterey County, California
Price: $12.99

Photo credit corkbin.comNotes: This red is a blend of 48% Merlot, 31% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Malbec, 5% Petite Verdot, 1% Cabernet Franc. It was a dark burgundy in the glass. On the nose I got a lot of musty earthiness with some dark berry and mocha notes. On the palate I found some very dark berry (black currant), plenty of woodiness, heaps of barnyard, and some little hints of mocha here and there. Light tannins brought a bit of eucalyptus to the finish. With oxidation, the wood receded some to the benefit of a tad more dark berry. But the barnyard and woodiness remained by-in-large the primary takeaway from my experience with this wine. Alcohol is at 13.5%.

It reminded me of another wine I tried several years ago. I had the opportunity to go on a private tour of a boutique California winery. (Colleagues of mine arranged it. I’ve got no juice. lol) Anyway, our group of work colleagues were treated to a taste of a very young, not-ready-for-public-consumption Cabernet Franc. It was explained that they would use it in a few years to blend into the Cabernet Sauvignon, adding some complexity – especially to the bouquet. The scents and the flavors of that immature Cabernet Franc were crazy overwhelming. And THAT is how I felt about this Meritage from Hayman & Hill. You may disagree. That’s OK. Maybe I had a bad day on this one, but …

Adding fuel to my fire, I recently had another Meritage – the 2009 Mulderbosch Faithful Hound from South Africa. In this case the blend was 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, 8% Petite Verdot, 8% Cabernet Franc and 3% Malbec. Alcohol at 13.7%. Same grape varietals; different mix and grape sources; very different experiences. The Faithful Hound was settled with plenty of ripe fruit, vanilla and spice. It also had some earthiness, but it was more an underlying foundation over which sat the fruit and spices. Tannins were very mild, so the Mulderbosch is a definite “drink now” selection in my book.  The Hayman & Hill, on the other hand, I feel needs another year or two in the cellar to see if it will even out a bit. Tannins aren’t going to support long years in the bottle, I think. But for me, this is a “hold” selection.

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

J Lohr Riesling 2011

This time I went with a California Riesling.

Winemaker:  J Lohr
Wine:  Bay Mist White Riesling
Varietal:  Riesling
Vintage:  2011
Appellation:  Monterey County, California
Price:  $8.99

Notes:  Interestingly, this wine is a blend of 92% White Riesling, 6% Gewurztraminer and 2% Orange Muscat.  It was a pale yellow in the glass, and I got scents of apple and citrus in the bouquet.  On the palate the wine has a very light effervescence.  Flavors for me were primarily apple and lime with peach notes.  There was grass on the finish and some light hints of spice as well.  Alcohol is at 13.1% – dry by comparison with most Rieslings.  Acidity seemed fine but not as bright as with others I’ve had.  Overall, it’s a pleasant wine.

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