December 30, 2010
$11-$20 Price Point, 2006, Buy-A-Case, Give-A-Try, Napa Valley, Sparkling, Trader Joe's Grand Reserve
The holidays brings out some wines I don’t drink very often through out the year. Sparkling wine of any sort is not a wine I drink often and I’m not sure quite why; it’s almost always under great or ‘in keeping with tradition’ settings corks are popping. Sales of sparkling wine after a tough two-years are on the rise; we all might be seeing more sparkling wine on our tables in near future. Oh, and it’s New Years tomorrow. What could you be drinking?
A wine which has been on my list for more than five months but could never close a sale on myself was Trader Joes’ Grand Reserve – 2006 Sparkling Wine Demi-Sec – Napa Valley. But things are going great as of late, I did my homework on this wine and it’s the holidays; I bought this one after my shift.
This is a $16 sparkling wine. Some gawk at that (too high/low) price; to me it’s in the middle. I’d spend much more for a truly spectacular sparkling wine after tasting it, but I’d gamble under $10 random selection, so I put in extra moves to ensure I get a good mid-priced wine without tasting it first.
The Wine: Demi-Sec is a medium “half-dry” sweet Champagne which often can be referred to as a Crémant if its origin is outside of the Champagne region, but adheres to the traditional Methode Champagnoise production process. Similar to my post on Meritage, Crémant is a designation of which carries certain high standards and expectations. Wikipedia turned up a decent introduction to Crémant. It’s given sweetness often through the use of Chardonnay grapes. Cool. Here’s a Wine Dork Chart if you really care to learn about how residual sugar (RS) determines how ‘dry’ or ‘sweet’ different kinds of sparkling are.
The Experience: The cork fit very snuggly into the bottle and took some extra work to free it hearing the classic popping sound. The bubble display was everpresent and was absolutely surrounded an inviting crisp golden color. You can tell this wine has seen a rich dose of oak barrel aging and probably has both aged Gewürztraminer and Chardonnay. The nose with apricot/pear preserve, apple cider layers also reflects the described wine’s appearance with the addition grassy notes to it which remind me I’m not about to drink Cook’s ($2?).
The flavor and wine are richer than I’m used to in a Brut driven market and wine section. I recently had an aged Gewürztraminer from Napa and this reminded me of that – mild salt water taffy qualities to the preserved apricot/pear, apple cider and honey flavors with emerging and slowly fading thick bubbles. Sweet, but not too sweet. Savory.
This wine’s origin is from a very well known Napa source. If you came into my store, you wouldn’t have to look very far from the TJ’s Grand Reserve to find its brother and sister from the same winery and $15 more. I like wine deals, a lot.
Bottom Line: Give-A-Try/Buy-A-Case: Are you staying at home this NYE? Make this the after dinner Crémant to be slowly work on a long countdown to midnight. It’s a rich and heavier sparkling wine, which might be a new experience for many. This bottle and dark bitter chocolate could be dessert. Or if you’re cooking up some spicy Asian food, this would pair very well with it. Sometimes it’s worth splashing out $16 bucks, this wine is one of those times. I love finding something different, good and fairly priced.
Question: When are you enjoying some sort of sparkling wine this NYE? With dinner? After dinner? At midnight? All night?!
Wine Dork Info:
- Alcohol: 13%
- pH: 2.91
- SO2: 35ppm
- TA: 8.8 g/L
- RS: <3.5g/L
- Fining Agent: None
December 29, 2010
$11-$20 Price Point, 2008, Buy-A-Case, Meritage, Napa Valley, Red Wine, Trader Joe's Grand Reserve
Here’s is a wine with a few things to talk about.
The Wine: Firstly, what kind of grapes does a Meritage consist of? Isn’t it just another Red Wine? Not exactly. A quick glance at Wikipedia will tell you Meritage is a Bordeaux styled wine consisting only of grape varietals from that region of France. Secondly, wine makers must join an association called ‘The Meritage Alliance’ in order for their wines to carry the Meritage designation. And they take maintaining brand quality and consistency pretty serious. For you lawyer types or those interested in legal jargon and definitions, here’s a link to the contract wine makers must sign in order to carry the Meritage label. These are key indications that the juice inside these Trader Joe’s Grand Reserve bottles is going to be of a higher quality. And does this wine is just that, high quality!
During a Wine Crew tasting about a month ago, we paired the TJ’s Grand Reserve Meritage ($13) against a Sterling 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon ($20) and BV Georges de Latour 2006 ($90) with great results. Unanimously we all preferred the Meritage the most. It’s not that the other wines weren’t good, but this wine just beckons you for another glass since it’s so friendly and inviting to drink. I was recommending this wine to a customer in the market for a deal at about the $10 price point as a wine worth the extra $3 based on how he wanted to just enjoy a wine sans food; another customer dropped the comment behind us that this wine is amazing and pulled six bottles off the shelf for his cart. I don’t think I could have asked for a better deal closer; he took two.
The Experience: By just looking at this wine in a nice red wine glass lets you know you are going to like it; it shows such a deep ripe plum purple with hues of dark red velvet. The nose of this wine has got some depth and interesting tones to it. I was picking up cigar box, ceder, smoke, Irish peat, sea breeze, dark fruits, vanilla and really enjoyed it all. The palate delivers in a big way, too. Juicy dark berries which develops into jammy flavors then sour cherries finished by friendly tannins. I even picked up this faint lime peel flavor which was a nice addition. Returning to this wine after trying the dusty and tannic Sterling and Georges de Latour only highlighted this wine’s fruit and velvety texture.
The Bottom Line: Buy-A-Case: This wine brings reassuring faith in the quality Trader Joe’s can source for their private label selections. I’ve done the research on this label on the TTB’s website and found the origin of this wine; I think most people would be super impressed with this source. I’ve read a few blogs who have been critical of past TJ’s releases and I completely agree with some of the observations. Not all have been winners. That’s why I’m building this blog on my own time and very often my own dime. I enjoy the thrill of the hunt for great wines at steal prices. Personally, saving $20+ bucks tastes damn good to me. The Trader Joe’s Grand Reserve is one of those wines. Buy this wine before I get it all.
Question: Has anyone ever tried a very premium Meritage and tried this wine? I’d like to hear your thoughts and observations in the comments.
Bonus Dork Info
- Grape Varietals – 71% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot and 3% Malbec.
- Alcohol – 14.1%
- pH – 3.68
- SO2 – 96 ppm
- TA – 6.5 g/L
- RS – <5 g/L
- Fining Agent – None
December 28, 2010
$10 Price Point, $50+ Price Point, 2006, Give-A-Try, Napa Valley, Next-Wine-Please!, Our Cellars, Petite Sirah, Russian River Valley, Trader Joe's Reserve
BV Georges de Latour, BV Vineyards, Petite Syrah, Russian River Valley, Trader Joe's Reserve
TJ's Reserve Petite Syrah
The Wine: This wine provides the perfect opportunity to learn a few things. Namely: Syrah, Shiraz, Petite Sirah, Petit Syrah, what’s going on here? Check out this link for a lengthy but very read worthy explanation, particularly if you are interested in California’s wine history.
Here’s a wine I’m up in the air about; we recently had a Crew wine tasting and this wine universally received the lowest remarks. But after chewing on what was said about this wine, it was because this wine is so restrained on the nose and so tannic in the mouth which made people frown. You have to hear the story behind this wine to begin to either appreciate or knock this wine.
This juice spent a whopping 48months! in French and American oak barrels! According to TJ’s, this wine was intended to be used in a premium label’s wine library program (I think it was going to be used to blend), but the winery opted to do else with it – Welcome to Trader Joe’s wine shelf!
The Experince: So what does this leave us, the consumer with? My co-workers were spot on, this wine is TIGHT on the nose, practically no dark fruit. It kind of reminded me of smelling an older piece of lumber, you can pick up a small scent type of the wood and a little bit of dust – the 5% Dry Creek Zinfandel is certainly adding to this – and the color is thick and intense. This wine has a DEEP purple color; the kind of wine your mom would kill you if you spilled it on her white carpet. On first taste, this wine will seriously make you pucker with its MASSIVE tannin structure. The kind of pucker you’d get from having both fresh squeezed lemon juice and a cotton ball in your mouth. You’re left with practically no fruit flavor profiles and just a hint of oak/vanilla.
This wine reminded me of the BV 2006 Georges de Latour ($90) we tasted on the special occasion of the day before Thanksgiving (that’s a slightly busy day for anyone working Trader Joe’s); Georges was not ready for drinking nor were we able to provide the air it needed to even really begin opening up. This is definitely a gift wine with an almost mandatory request to drink it later. The Petite Sirah gave you an indication with its powerful tannins, this wine was meant to move a bottle well into the future. **And just to be clear, the Petite Sirah being such a closed wine reminded me of Georges, not that the quality of wine was the same.**
OK, so what do I do when looking at this bottle on the shelf? This is definitely not a wine for immediate daily consumption. Considering almost every wine I place in someone’s hands is being consumed within one week of purchase, this wine is not for that market. Unless you have an araetor, a decanter and some patience before drinking, I would recommend skipping this wine.
The Bottom Line: Next-Please/Give-A-Try: If you are new to wine and want to experience a mega tannic wine, buy this. If you are willing to purchase this wine and forget about it for 3+ years, buy this wine and roll your dice in a few years to see if you got a wine which just needed a bit more time to move past its growing pains. If you want wine tonight, don’t buy this wine. And if anyone is willing to provide a bottle of George de Latour, I will happily provide this wine for a blind tasting!
Bonus Dork Info:
- Varietals - 95% Petite Sirah, 5% Dry Creek Zinfandel
- Barrel Aging – French and American oak, 48 months
- Alcohol – 13.5%
- pH – 3.66
- SO2 – 93ppm
- TA – 5.7 g/L
- RS – <3 g/L
- Fining Agent – None