Thanksgiving: Family, Food, Fellowship and Fahrvergnuegen

Although I had initially hoped for a quiet Thanksgiving at home, family duty rose to the fore and quickly banished all thoughts of staying put.

Don’t misunderstand me: I love my family. But because of circumstances at work, I had only the one day off. So when we got the almost last-minute call to attend a family gathering …. It was a fair amount of driving and so forth all in one day. Could we have begged off? Sure. But not really. Know what I mean?

Luckily, the crew had mercy on us. We didn’t have to cook anything for the festivities. And, of course, it was awesome to see everyone and catch up in person. For the gathering we had many traditional Thanksgiving dishes. Turkey, mashed potatoes, dressing, gravy, corn, salad, and pies galore. Seriously, there was one pie to every two people. The only thing slightly non-traditional was the choice of wine. Not that it was way out in left field.

IMG_20171123_114032950~2Winemaker: Trader Joe’s
Varietal: Petit Verdot
Vintage: 2014
Appellation: Paso Robles, CA
Price: $9.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes: The Trader Joe’s Petit Verdot was dark in the glass with scents of berries, meat and forest floor. It was medium-bodied with good acidity and tannins on the lighter side of medium. The flavor profile included menthol, black cherry, baking spices, pepper, and a touch of rubber. I thought it was pretty good. Perhaps a heartier selection than the average turkey day glass, but everyone was going back for seconds. I know I did.

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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.

A Homespun Home-fun Xmas Eve

My sweetheart and I celebrated the holidays quietly at home this year.  Thus, we decided to make it a full-fledged staycation featuring plenty of food and time together.

oenophilogical_xmaseve16Our Xmas Eve celebration, then, began around noon with preparations for an early homestyle dinner – 5:00 ish.   Our kitchen is very small: we are not. Since we were sharing the responsibility for dishes, we had to work out a kitchen schedule.  What a fun challenge for us and a test of our collaborative skills.  I’m happy to say we passed the test!

The dinner was a simple one consisting of crab cakes (from our local Whole Foods seafood section), pearl couscous with mixed bell peppers, and a cucumber/radish salad.  It doesn’t seem that difficult at first blush till you factor in the substitutions we had to make (because we really are follow-the-recipe cooks) plus our “make ahead” work on dishes for Xmas Day dinner.  After much excitement, we finally got the meal on the table around 6:00 … maybe 6:30.  I confess the delay was mostly my fault.  With our meal we enjoyed a bottle of Vermentino from Trader Joe’s under the VINTJS  label.

After dinner, we finished watching the first season of “The Crown.”  This TV show is one of the best historical dramas I’ve ever seen.  If you like the genre, you should see it.  Sumptuous cinematography and solid performances across the board.

Then we put together a little snack tray of cheese, crackers, prosciutto, and nuts.  After all, we’d worked hard on the couch helping get Queen Elizabeth through the trials and tribulations of her early reign.  Next we turned out all the lights except the tree and sang our favorite Xmas carols.  And that was that!  Time to hit the hay and rest up for our Xmas Day festivities.

oenophilogical_vintjsvermintino2015Winemaker:  VINTJS
Varietal:  Vermentino
Vintage:  2015
Appellation:  Lodi, California
Price:  $7.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  For me, this light white had a strong, zingy bouquet of citrus, peach and spice.  On the tongue I tasted orange, grass, and citrus zest.  It had a surprisingly long and pleasant finish as the orange lingered on the palate.  I liked this VINTJS Vermentino.  I was a little surprised that the piquancy of the bouquet didn’t translate fully to the tongue, but perhaps that’s just part of it’s character.

 

Trader Joe’s Grower’s Reserve Merlot 2014

I picked this Merlot up on a very recent visit to my neighborhood Trader Joe’s.  Sometimes …

Other times “whatcha see” is an illusion, and what lies in store can be either a horrible shock or a pleasant surprise.  Personally, I like pleasant surprises, and this wine turned out to be one of those.

Winemaker:  Trader Joe’s
Wine:  Grower’s Reserve Merlot
Varietal:  Merlot
Vintage:  2014
Appellation:  California
Price:  $4.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  A medium-bodied red with good acidity and medium-plus tannins, this inexpensive Merlot had a definite purplish hue which brought to mind big, juicy, ripe plums.  My eyes, however, deceived me.  What I found in the bouquet was a mix of cedar, earth and barnyard with sweet floral notes.  On the tongue it had an almost chalky texture with cola, blackberry, and tea leaf along with some sweet cherry that blossomed after oxidation.  Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a sweet wine: alcohol is at 13.2%.  Anyway, I liked it.  It’s cheap, and it’s competent – even interesting – as inexpensive wines go.  House red for me?  It’s a possibility.

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 rosé, 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’s 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 Mourvèdre 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 Rosé 2013 — At 13.7% alcohol, I’d call this a dry rosé.  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 – 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 Rosé 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 rosé.  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 – 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 rosé.  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 Rosé
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 rosé.  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!

Trader Joe’s Petit Reserve Mourvèdre 2011

I gotta say, I don’t think I’ve ever had a single varietal Mourvèdre before.  I’ve had it any number of times as part of a red blend, but I can’t recall having tasted it seul, as it were.  That’s French for “alone.”  Sorry, I was just feeling the French for a second there.  Perhaps the wine gave me some Frenchspiration.  Oh!  I apologize.  I seem to be in a goofy mood.  Regathering my wits now ….

I realize that this grape is used in single varietals by several U.S. producers, including Cline, Bonny Doon, Tablas Creek, etc.  So it’s not like it would have been impossible to find one.  Until now I just wasn’t Mourvèdred to.  [Ugh!  That was really bad.  LOL]  Anyway, the good news for me was that Paso Robles is pretty much the hot spot in the U.S. for the production of good Mourvèdre wines.  Evidently, the climate and the soil are as good as anywhere for this particular varietal.  Knowing that certainly got my hopes up as I popped the cork on this typically budget-friendly TJ offering!

Winemaker: Trader Joe’s (bottled by Central Coast Wine Warehouse)
Wine: Petit Reserve Mourvèdre Paso Robles
Varietal: Mourvèdre
Vintage: 2011
Appellation:  Paso Robles, CA
Price:  $7.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  The wine was garnet-colored and had a big bouquet of barnyard (sous-bois?), plum, young blueberries and violets.  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 (ripe but just, if you know what I mean), cherry, plenty of pepper and oak.  Alcohol was at 13%.  First, let me say that I really enjoyed the smell of this wine.  It was a pleasure to breathe in the fragrant earthy and fruity scents.  I won’t go so far as to say that I didn’t even need to drink it after having sniffed it’s heady aromas.  No, I definitely bought the bottle to be drunk.  So, as far as flavor was concerned, I would put this one solidly in the good category.  It wasn’t a revelation, but it was pretty darned enjoyable.