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.

Kendall-Jackson Syrah 2012

Que Syrah, Syrah
Whatever will be, will be ….

My parents had a recording of Doris Day singing this tune.  OK, so her lyrics were actually “Que sera, sera.”  But the two words (both French) are nearly homophones, and it isn’t the first time someone has taken a little artistic license with an old song.  Probably isn’t the first time someone has tried to make this joke.  Ha!  Now that I think about it, though, I’m surprised there aren’t more songs written celebrating the attributes of wine of all kinds.  Maybe I should give it a go – compose a tune about vino.  If I do, I promise to post it.  Well … I’ll post it if I think it’s any good, that is.

Winemaker: Kendall-Jackson
Wine:  Vintner’s Reserve Syrah
Varietal: Syrah
Vintage: 2012
Appellation: California
Price: $16.99

Notes:  The color of this wine was a dark, inky purple.  In the bouquet I found dark berry, pine tar and spice.  Acidity was high in this medium-bodied red.  Tannins were also fairly high with a quick attack.  Alcohol was 13.5%. Overall, the affect on the palate was medicinal.  There were flavors of dark currant, woody brambles, pepper, clorophyll, and a chemical note on the long finish.  I wish I’d had a nice, juicy steak to eat with this Syrah.

Trader Joe’s Reserve Syrah 2012

OK.  I know Paso Robles is well known for it’s Zinfandel wines.  They even have an annual Zinfandel festival.  I am also aware that wineries in the area have been successfully making blends and varietal wines using grapes that are typically associated with the Rhône region of France.  Not so long ago I had a pretty decent TJ Mourvèdre from Paso Robles.  Well, Syrah being the main red produced in the Northern Rhône, I really thought I ought to give this wine a try.

Winemaker: Trader Joe’s
Wine: Trader Joe’s Reserve Syrah, Lot #100
Vintage: 2012
Appellation: Paso Robles, California
Price: $9.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  The Trader Joe’s Reserve Syrah was a deep, dark red color.  On the nose I detected pepper, spice, blackberry and hints of leather and pine.  Acidity was good.  It was a medium-bodied selection with a silky feel to it while tannins were on the upper end of medium.  As far as flavors went, 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.  I have to say that I liked this one.  I really did enjoy that silky mouth feel, and it was a challenging flavor profile in a good way.  Oh, and it was only ten bucks.

Pontificis Red Blend 2012

Please forgive me, but my language geek is coming to the fore.  I see a word, and I want to know what it means.  I come by it honestly, though.  My father used to actually pack relevant volumes of our home encyclopedia when we went on trips.  I kid you not!!  This is something my sister and I would hear when we were supposedly on vacation as he pulled out a book from underneath the driver’s seat where it was very sneakily packed.  “Here you go kids.  Here’s the “A” volume.  We’ll be driving through Arizona today, so take a few minutes and read through that entry.  When you’re done, tell me about how Arizona got it’s name.”  At that point, loud mournful groans would be heard from the back seat of our station wagon.

Anyway, back to geeking out.  Pontificis is Latin and (according to my online research) the genetive – i.e. possessive – singular form of pontifex. Pontifex originally meant bridge-maker or “one who negotiates between gods and men.”  In old Rome it was a high priest or the like.  In the modern context it has come to signify the pontiff and specifically the Pope.  Thus, the vintner is suggesting this wine is “of or belonging to” the Pope.  Well, then what’s it doing on sale at my grocery store?!

Winemaker:  Badet Clement & Cie
Wine: Pontificis
Varietal:  Red Blend
Vintage:  2012
Appellation:  Pays d’Oc IGP, France
Price: $6.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  This one was a deep, dark purple in the glass from which wafted scents of berries and musty earth.  Acidity was good; tannins were in the medium range; alchol was at 13.5%.  According to the label, this Pays d’Oc red is a blend of 40% Grenache grapes, 40% Syrah grapes, and 20% Mourvedre grapes.  Not surprising, then, that I found an interesting variety of flavors.  There was first and foremost quite a bit of fruit – plum, cherry and raspberry.  In addition, I found oak, touches of grass, and hints of fennel as well as coffee notes. Like many reds, the flavor profile and the tannic attack lightened as it had more time to breathe.  Overall, I was suprised by the moderate complexity of this budget blend.  This will never merit a 95 from The Wine Spectator, but it could top someone’s list of red table wines – maybe yours.

 

A Naming Convention For My Wine

There are times when I find the “name game” in wine labeling just a bit frustrating.  That’s because there are a number of varietals that are known by numerous titles.  At times it just feels like folks are trying to make things hard to suss out.  I can appreciate that much of it may stem from long-held, local traditions, but it still feels a bit like secret code sometimes.  On the other hand, there are instances when a naming convention provides important information about what a person may reasonably expect from the wine they’re choosing.  Shiraz v. Syrah is just that.

Consulting the Wikipedia Page on the subject of the Syrah grape and Syrah wine we find “As a general rule, most Australian and South African wines are labelled Shiraz, and most European wines (from such regions where varietal labelling is practiced) are labelled Syrah. In other countries, practices vary and winemakers (or wine marketers) sometimes choose either Syrah or Shiraz to signify a stylistic difference in the wine they have made. “Syrah”-labelled wines are sometimes thought to be more similar to classic Northern Rhône reds; presumably more elegant, tannic, smoke-flavoured and restrained with respect to their fruit component. “Shiraz”-labelled wines, on the other hand, would then be more similar to archetypical Australian or other New World examples; presumably made from riper berries, more fruit-driven, higher in alcohol, less obviously tannic, peppery rather than smokey, usually more easily approached when young, and possibly slightly sweetish in impression.

Having seen but never tried a Little Penguin wine, the question remaining for me was, “Is the Little Penguin selection exemplary of this Shiraz v. Syrah delineation?”  Well …

Winemaker:  The Little Penguin
Varietal:  Shiraz
Vintage:  2012
Appellation:  South Eastern Australia
Price:  $6.99

Notes:  The color of this medium-bodied Shiraz was dark ruby.  On the nose I found pepper, spice, berries and damp earth.  It showed good acidity and a certain “coat-the-tongue” quotient that was reflected in very present legs on the glass.  Tannins were moderate, and alcohol was at 13.5%.  Flavors for me were straightforward and engaging, including plentiful oak, pepper, plum and tea leaf.  I’d call it a simple, casual wine that would be fine with some take-out pizza.

And, yes, I think the use of Shiraz on the label followed the convention nicely.

Sainte-Croix La Bergerie Syrah-Merlot 2011

Here is an interesting red blend – 50% Syrah and 50% Merlot – imported from France and sold at Trader Joe’s.  On first blush you may assume this is from Domaine Sainte Croix, and you might be correct.  This wine’s label, however, doesn’t use the word Domaine anywhere; doesn’t carry the Domaine Sainte Croix logo but another; and the name Saint-Croix itself is hyphenated on this bottle but not on those from Domaine Sainte Croix.  That being said, the wine does come from the Languedoc-Roussillon region where Domaine Sainte Croix is located.  Of course, in that region there are three towns I found which carry the same name – Sainte-Croix-de-Caderle, Sainte-Croix-Vallée-Française and Sainte-Croix-de-Quintillargues.  I guess I’ll just have to hop on a plane if I want to find out who actually makes this wine.  Hmmm ….  Maybe I will!

Winemaker:  Sainte-Croix
Wine: La Bergerie Syrah-Merlot, Vin de Pays d’Oc
Vintage: 2011
Appellation:  Languedoc, France
Price:  $4.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  This Vin de Pays d’Oc is a deep purple in the glass.  On the nose I caught scents of earth, plum, and a médicament similar to Vic’s VapoRub.  It was fairly thin-bodied with light tannins and good acidity.  Alcohol is at 13.5%.  As far as flavors went, I encountered plummy, jammy fruit, cedar, and light hints of clove and other spices.  This is a decent, inexpensive table wine that will do just fine for relaxed sipping or for drinking alongside that roasted chicken you picked up at the grocery store so you wouldn’t have to cook anything.

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

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.