Monthly Archives: June 2013

Winetasting Report

3 Trader Joe’s wines during my Sunday shopping trip.  Filled up a case that I’ll be reporting on in the next 2 weeks – look for some Chilean and Spanish tonight, plus a bunch of Italians. This tasting report is a mixed bag.

Hans Wilhelm Sparkling (NV) Germany, $6.99

Not labelled as a Sekt, but that’s basically what this is – lightly sparkling, just very lightly sweet white wine from Germany. Pretty decent stuff, actually. A good choice for Mimosas or Bellinis (see my eBook on the subject).

Vintage Press Chardonnay (2011) Napa Valley, California, $11.99

Nice – not overoaked, with a good balance of tropical and citrus fruit, pear, and some toastiness. Quite well made, and a good alternative to Pouilly Fuisse.

Vintage Press Cabernet Sauvignon (2010) Napa Valley, California, $11.49

I’m not as impressed by the red; it has some good taste notes, but overall it’s too thin. It doesn’t have the cedar and spice you’d expect from a Bordeaux, but it’s also missing the in-your-face fruit of a more typical Napa Cabernet. Not recommended.


Drinking Tonight: Panilonco Chardonnay-Viognier, La Granja Tempanillo, La Granja Grenache-Syrah

Two-course dinner this evening – starting with a Grilled Caesar Salad, then having herb-rubbed grilled pork chops and potato salad.  I’m having the 80% Chardonnay – 20% Viognier blend from Chile with the salad, and comparing the two Spanish reds with the pork. The wines are all Trader Joe’s exclusives.

Photo0153Panilonco Chardonnay-Viognier (2012) Colchagua Valley, Chile

Color: medium yellow, straw verging on gold.

Aroma: tropical and apple/pear fruit, plus floral/honeysuckle together; you can tell from the nose that this is a blend.

Taste: almost no oak – the astringency comes from the tropical and citrus notes. A big full body without being heavy or numbing on the tongue. The richness of the Viognier really shines through – nice job on the blending proportions.

This is a great wine for $6.  Recommended.

La Granja Tempranillo (2012) Cariñena, Spain

Color: vibrant purple-red.

Aroma: fresh and dried cherries, rose petal, a hint of spice. Classic Tempranillo.

Taste: Mmm, this is why I love a good Spanish red. A nice complex of berry fruit, pepper, and cherry, with a little hint of old leather and some tannin on the finish. Silky. Not especially long, but what do you expect for $5?

I can’t believe this is only $5.  Recommended – I’m ordering a case.  I wouldn’t put much age on this, but this will keep me and my pork chops, my stuffed pork loins, my pork medallions, and my pork sausages happy for the next year or so.  It’s got a pig on the label, in case you need the hint!

La Granja Grenache-Syrah (2012) Cariñena, Spain.

Color: dark garnet red

Aroma: plum and pepper

Taste: fuller, more like a Rhone red. This is definitely an international style. The tannins are much fuller on the back of the tongue, with a dollop of vanilla (American oak, I’m guessing) as well.

A 50-50 blend for $7. Not my favorite of the night, but it had stiff competition.  I think this would do better with a spicy pizza, chili, or a big, messy cheeseburger.

Drinking Tonight: Panilonco Carmenere (2012)

A follow-up to a few days ago, where I tasted the 2011 vintage.  Let’s see how this one fares.

Color: if anything, even more purple and dark. This is verging on Petite Sirah levels of opacity.

Aroma: big jammy fruit again, but with more cocoa and spice underneath. A more complex aroma than the 2011.

Taste: yes, this is more like it. A bigger mouthful of fruit up front, with nice layers of cocoa, toast, and brambly spice. The cocoa and toast are noticeably long on the finish.

This vintage is definitely better than the 2011. A good bottle to have on hand for $6 to serve with a pizza, cheeseburgers, or spice-rubbed steak. I’d even serve this with a summer berry dessert like trifle.


Drinking Tonight: Panilonco Carmenere

This is the 2011 – I’ll report on the 2012 shortly. A basic $6 Carmenere from Trader Joe’s, from the Colchagua Valley region in Chile.  I’m having this with pizza tonight.

Photo0150Color: purple.

Aroma: wow, very dense and heady – grape jelly, lots of cassis and other dark fruit.  Reminds me of working in the pressroom at my parents’ vineyard when I was a kid.

Taste: well, a little underwhelming. The nose promises a lot but the palate doesn’t quite deliver.  It’s not bad, mind you, just not what I was getting psyched up for. Fruit, decent spice, not a lot of tannin until the very finish. Maybe the 2012 will be better.

Not a winner, but I wouldn’t turn it down.  The price is right for entertaining large groups.

Drinking Tonight: Reserve des Cleons Muscadet

One of my favorite styles of white wine from the Loire Valley in France.  This is the 2012 from the Muscadet Sevre et Maine appellation, and it’s sur lies.  That means that the dead yeast cells were kept in the bottom of the barrels for some time – as the yeast breaks down, it lends some wonderful bready, toasty notes to the wine.  I’m having this with one of my Grilled Caesar Salads that I blogged about last week.


Color: a very pale gold color.

Aroma: a classic nose – melons and a touch of grilled bread.

Taste: right up front it has a nice acidic start, followed immediately by some mineral notes and a lemony taste in the mid-palate. The sur lies character isn’t as noticeable on the palate until the very finish.

$9 from Trader Joe’s – serviceable enough, but I generally like my Muscadets a little thicker and heavier in the mouth.


Drinking Tonight: Epicuro Primitivo

This is a 2012 from Puglia, in southeastern Italy.  DNA tests show that Primitivo is identical to Zinfandel, but some growers – notably Tony Coturri – maintain that they have different phenotypic expression. We’re still trying to piece out the story of how this grape got to Italy; the best we can tell right now is that it was brought from Croatia to California sometime in the mid-1800s, and then was brought back to the Old World by Italian immigrants to the US who decided to pack it in and head back home.

This is the stablemate of the Salice Salentino and Aglianico that I’ve tasted from Epicuro in the last few weeks.  I’m drinking this with pan-seared steak and mushrooms.

Color: a nice purple-red; a little lighter in color than typical for a California Zin.

Aroma: berry fruit, with some licorice and black pepper. Nice.

Taste: jammy, but not too heavy – blackberry, raspberry, and cherry fruit, with some dusty pepper notes toward the finish. Good balance, well-suited for food. A little hint of cocoa on the finish as well, with sufficient acidity throughout to stand up to tomato sauce.

A nice choice for Italian or hearty American cuisine.  Winner!