Archive for January, 2009

2005 Trader Joe’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Posted in Cabernet on January 30, 2009 by Brad

p1010982I was interested to see this “Trader Joes” branded wine the other day mysteriously labeled “Reserve”.  It’s origin was shrouded in mystery, but it was a Cab… had “reserve” in the name which made me feel special… and it was a 2005, which seems a little older than most of the Cabs I have been buying so I thought it would be interesting to try.

It’s got a deep black currant color when poured in the glass.  A good sign so far.  The first taste I had was a bit sour… but when I had another glass the next day I think I tasted more what this wine is capable of.  It has an intense black licorice flavor, mixed with blackberries and some black cherries.  That’s a lot of black.  There’s also a hint of oakiness in there too (black oak?).  I’m not a big oak fan, but there not enough of it here to turn me off.

This wine’s growing on me.  I didn’t really like it at first, but now I’m starting to dig it.  But at close to $10 for the bottle (I don’t remember the exact bill, but it was 8 or 9 at least) and such intense flavors, I think it’s a bit limited in it’s opportunities.  Maybe with a big peppery steak.  Yum!

***1/2 (3 and a half stars… maybe 4 if I keep drinking)

UPDATE: I went back to TJ’s today to check the price, but this wine was no where to be found.  Must have been some limited time thing.


2007 CNW Chenin Blanc

Posted in Whites on January 28, 2009 by Brad


This bottle was $10.99 at Nugget Markets (a local Northern California grocery store).  The brand hails from Clarksburg, California (about 5 miles from my home apparently, who knew?) and the wine expert that sold me on it did so by saying that the Berringers and other big name brand Chenin Blanc’s add sugar water to their wines to make them sweet.  Not so here he claims.  This is Chenin in the more tradition French mold.  It comes with a screw top… something which I am warming to more and more.  I really love my corkscrew though and the ritual of opening a bottle.  But the screw cap is a close second, and really beats the annoying rubber stopper hands-down.

Typical white on the nose… pear and apple.  But in taste it is much more tart than I expected.  Still the typical Chenin flavors, but not nearly as sweet, but not quite dry either.  Tart apple and maybe melon.  A hint of honey?

Sorry I have little else to say, my pallet for white wine is still an insolent child.  Not up to the lofty levels of “angsty teen” that my red wine tastes have grown to be.  Nevertheless I don’t mind this wine.  I was pleasantly surprised considering all the other Chenin’s were borderline undrinkable for me.  It’s got a strong flavor though so be careful it doesn’t overpower what you’re eating (like say fish).  But impossible to justify for me at $10.99 a bottle.

*** (3 stars)


Posted in Other on January 12, 2009 by Brad


I’ve been cruelly struck down by the flu bug that’s been sweeping the area rather indiscriminately.  And for me at least, wine or any alcohol is the last thing that sounds good when I’m sick.  Same with dairy and coffee and soda.  So both my wine and coffee addictions are on hold for the time being.

The results of the “great white wine” challenge are on hold as well.  But I’m posting anyway to keep my momentum going and keep the activity on the site.


2007 Bear’s Lair Chardonnay

Posted in Whites on January 3, 2009 by Brad

p1010935Second in our journey to the dark side with white wines, it’s the Bair’s Lair Chardonnay, also from Trader Joes.  Chardonnay is more of my idea of a decent white as it is the only one I can identify as “dry”.  I’m also familiar with the Bear’s Lair label as their Cabernet is the first good bargain wine I ever found (once I wandered out of the valley of 2 buck chuck).

The smell on this one is almost non-existent, but it does have just a hint of that typical chardonnay butteriness.  In tasting it is exactly as I expected… dry, pear, buttery… a touch flowery.  And without so much as a tip of the hat,  it’s gone.  Clean.  Just the way I like a white.  If I have to have a white.  And on this occasion, I do.

Dawn managed to polish it off, but she prefers the Chenin Blanc.

*** (3 stars)  Tipping in at a mere $3.99, I could imagine this might actually be tasty with a spicy shellfish dish.

2007 J.W. Morris Chenin Blanc

Posted in Whites on January 3, 2009 by Brad

p1010936I like white wines like I like Barbra Streisand… that is to say I don’t.  While red wines are warm, dark and mysterious, white wines for me are like taking a bite out of Punky Bewster… sweet, bright, and unbearably cheerful.  While you can fully expect this blog to be 99% Red wines, I have recently been forced to buy some whites to appease my wife.  And so as not to completely waste the experience I am going to review some of them here.

When I do drink a white, it’s usually at gunpoint… and it always is something on the dry side.  My wife, Dawn, has the opposite taste unfortunately.  She says her favorite is Chenin Blanc, and since I don’t know one from the other, I bought four different sub $5 whites from Trader Joe’s and another from a local grocery store, two of which are Chenin Blanc.

The first is a JW Morris Chenin Blanc.  It’s pale… smells vaguely of apples and honey… and tastes like if you made a syrup out of a Granny Smith and sweet tarts, then chased it down with a blast of Binacca.  I really wanted no more than a couple of sips.  Diabetics beware.

** (2 stars)  It’s not vile, it’s just too sweet for me.

2006 Pillar Box Red

Posted in Blend on January 2, 2009 by Brad

pillar_box_red_2004This is a wine I saw recommended on the WinelibraryTV podcast and decided to hunt it down.  I finally found it at Nugget Market for $11.99 and since that is typically out of my price range (especially for an unknown wine) it took me a while to try it.  I finally broke down and gave it a whirl a couple of months ago and then just last week saw that Costco carries it now for just over $8.  Joy!

When I originally started to take the plunge into the wine world I avoided blends… figuring it was winemaker’s attempts to hide the bad taste of their original creations.  “This Cab tastes like dirt!  This merlot tastes like grape jelly!  Maybe together we could pass them off…”

But now I am finding these are legitimate creations and actually some of my favorite wines.  The Mutts and Mongrels of the wine world.  No pedigree, but all heart.  This particular pooch is 50% Shiraz, 42% Cab, and 8% merlot.

First a sniff… and not much there.  Pleasant, but faint.  Could be because my nose is slightly stuffy, but Dawn says she can’t smell much either.  Vaguely berry-ish.  Go figure.

Now the taste.  Much bolder than the smell.  Sour cherries and pepper.  Perhaps a bit of blackberry or something sweet as well.  Very striking flavor and a moderate finish.  It doesn’t leave you right away.  It has a little bit of sour/tart more so than big bright berries.  Maybe more than most would prefer.  I like it… but it needs to be drunk (drank? drinked?) with some food.  I’m scarfing down some brie… but A nice pork chop with a sweet sauce would be awesome.

**** (4 stars)  Definitely a good buy, but maybe not an every day wine.