April 3, 2011
$10 Price Point, 2009, Behind the Scene Wine, Chardonnay, Give-A-Try, Next-Wine-Please!, Rutherford, Trader Joe's Reserve
Trader Joe's Reserve 2009 Chardonnay Rutherford
The Wine: If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area like I do, this past week was a very nice introduction to spring. So you know what that means for wine drinkers, white wines will be on the table more often. This wine has its origins in the appellation of Rutherford. This is big time Napa Valley Cab country home to places like Beaulieu Vineyards (BV), but not so much known for its Chardonnay. So that fact alone lends some interest in this wine and what it potentially has to offer in ‘different’ category. When I searched the fictitious cellar name “Behind the Scene Wine”, the trail really goes cold because this wine comes from a grape broker who used a custom crush facility to create wine to place under some label, in this case, Trader Joes’. It’s kind of wild how pretty much anyone can find grapes for sale to make into wine or wine which needs a label. Here’s a link for example. But let’s get on to this wine…
Color: Light straw and hay.
Nose: A forwardness of apple with minerality lending itself towards metallic and rubber balloon notes. Yes, you read correct, rubber balloon. I made no notes of oak or vanilla, but this wine did see some barrel time.
Palate: Upon the first sip, you will immediately experience a short to medium crispness in this wine but gets taken over by an alcohol laden finish. I didn’t make any notes about particular fruits, but you can imagine the usual cast of apple characteristics and some toasty notes. Nothing really stands out about this wine.
Bottom Line: Next-Wine-Please/Give-A-Try
I don’t want to say this wine is bad, nor do I want to say it’s good; it’s a cookie cutter wine. It’s text book California Chardonnay, some apple, citrus and toasty notes combined with a pretty strong alcohol finish. I tasted this wine next to another Chardonnay which had higher alcohol, but it was made with much denser grape juice which resulted in much more depth and character in the wine. So I’m lead to believe this wine stems from a younger vineyard whose vines haven’t adjusted to their settings or are being produced for quantity over quality resulting in much less depth in the wine. At $10, I’m sure you could find a similar wine for $5-$7, or better for $10. But please share your thoughts on this wine with the community!
- Price: $10
- Cellar: Behind the Scene Wine
- Appellation: Rutherford (in Napa Valley)
- Alcohol: 14.3%
January 7, 2011
$5-$9 Price Point, 2007, Chardonnay, Next-Wine-Please!, Picket Fence, Russian River Valley
Picket Fence is a winery now on the radar of many Trader Joe’s wine drinkers because of the Pinot Noir they produce. The Pinot received the #1 pick over at Jason’s Wine Blog followed by a lengthy discussion in the comments section. Jeff over at Viva La Wino also enjoyed this wine and gave it an A. I thought this was a nice wine and recommend it often. Personally, this is not my first choice of Pinot found at TJ’s, I found this wine too high in alcohol and oak; but this wine would pair excellent with a meat or red pasta sauce dinner. So I wondered, how’s their Chardonnay?
The Wine: And at $9 per cork, that’s a fair price, as opposed to the $20 price tag listed on Picket Fence‘s website. *Picket Fence has since closed it’s e-commerce store from when I first checked several months ago.* I’ve noticed this wine isn’t exactly clearing the shelf at TJ’s; maaaybe a case per week? A Russian River Chardonnay with a rather attractive label is one that could potentially be flying off the shelf. Picket Fence’s website says :”Bright Meyer lemon notes and crisp apple with hints of succulent stone fruit mingle with the toasted oak components of caramelized brown spices, resulting in a rich, sensuous wine that coats the mouth with a long, silky finish”. So what’s going on inside the bottle?
The Experience: You’re going to find a straw golden yellow color with a lot of oak and alcohol welcoming you on the nose. Before even tasting I had a feeling this was going to be an overly oak barrel driven chardonnay and indeed it was. The flavor profiles which showed themselves were first heat/spice from alcohol, oak then some apple and pineapple components. The alcohol is not very refreshing in the mouth and leaves the finish disjointed; 50% of the barrels were new French Oak with a medium toast, which really puts into context why there is too much oak and vanilla in this wine.
The Bottom Line: Next-Wine-Please
If I paid the original listed price of $20, I would be struggling to justify why that purchase was worth it. Even at $9 per cork, I’m left feeling I’m not getting great value out of this wine. I’m pretty sure I didn’t finish that bottle.
Question: What flavor component(s) do you like best in Chardonnay?
Wine Dork Info:
- Appellation: Russian River Valley
- Wine Maker: Don Van Staaveren
- Released: October 2009
- Alcohol: 14.5%
- pH: 3.42
- TA: 0.43 g/L
January 5, 2011
$5-$9 Price Point, Buy-Half-A-Case, Chalk Hill, Chardonnay, Give-A-Try, VINTJS
In California, Chardonnay is big business. My store has two full bays of this varietal, 95% of it from California. So how does a Chardonnay stick out with so much selection to choose from? Be good and be offered at a great price.
The Wine: The Chalk Hill AVA (American Viticultural Area) is one of the better known locations in the northeastern corner of the Russian River Valley. What makes Chalk Hill different from its surroundings is the white chalky volcanic ash found in the soil and higher terrain which keeps the region warmer than the foggy Russian River Valley, but cooler than the Alexander or Knights Valley regions. Chardonnay is king of this mountain, but red grapes (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot) are showing up in greater numbers. There are only a handful of wineries in this limited region; after doing the research where the VINTJS wine was sourced, it seems to have a long and strong connection to this terroir…
The Experience: You will be treated to a sweet and tangy fruit on the nose; think pineapple amplified by another exotic component like guava. This juice was treated to one-year’s time in oak barrels, so you will find vanilla, oak, honey and buttered popcorn on the nose, as well. After my first taste, my initial reaction was “Damn, this is a very drinkable wine!” The wine consists of 96.4% Chardonnay grapes and 3.6% Orange Muscat, which gives this wine a very pleasant sweet finish, yet it remains relatively balanced. The Orange Muscat provides a nice way to sail away on the finish after the acidity and crispness of the Chardonnay. After a few minutes, you will recall this great citrus flavor still lingering in your mouth and it beckons you for another taste of the wine. This is good wine, but not for everyone if you like drier, less sweet wines in general.
The Bottom Line: Give-A-Try/Buy-Half-A-Case
The only thing keeping me from giving this a ‘Buy-A-Case’ rating is the sweetness. This may not be the ideal wine for most typical Chardonnay food pairings, but it’s a great sipping wine for a party. I recommended this to a customer for her holiday party, she came back with the news that one guest said this was one of the best chardonnays she’s ever had and was shocked to learn it came from a Trader Joes’ label and floored it costs only $9 per cork! Stock up on this for your next cocktail party or prepare for Spring/Summer 2011 BBQs while this lasts.
Question: What white wine do you serve when you need to provide several bottles for a party or dinner?
Wine Dork Info:
- Appellation: Chalk Hill – Sonoma County
- Cellar: Healdsburg Cellars, Healdsburg, CA.
- Grape Varietals: 96.4% Chardonnay, 3.6% Orange Muscat
- Barrel Aging: 100% barrel fermented (new oak, 1 year oak, 2 year oak)
- Alcohol: 13.98%
- pH: 3.49
- SO2: 75 ppm
- TA: 5.6 g/L
- RS: <4 g/L
- Fining Agent: Bentonite/Potassium Caseinate