Sunday, August 16, 2009

TN: Trader Joe's Closeouts

I've come across two seriously discounted closeouts at Trader Joe's recently, the Domaine Alfred 2006 Chamisal Vineyard Pinot Noir and Howell Mountain Vineyards 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon. The Pinot was priced at $23, marked down significantly from its suggested price of $38, while the Cabernet was even more jaw dropping at $15 with a typical price point of $60.

According to what I've read, the Domain Alfred Pinot Noir as well as the other Domain Alfred wines are a casualty of the winery being purchased. The new owners changed the brand to Chamisal Vineyards and had to ditch anything with the Domaine Alfred label. Trader Joe's was happy to oblige them. As for the wine, it's not one I'd pay close to $40 for, so it may have ended up priced under $30 regardless. Although the forest floor aroma of the bouquet is definitely that of a Pinot Noir, it drinks more like a Grenache. There's a lot of ripe cherry juice, and a little caramel and oak flavor as well. It's slightly flabby, hot and disjointed. Very California, though I should give more credit for the likability factor. Wines with this level of ripeness at least are fairly approachable even when they lack the elegance Pinot Noir should should possess.

The Howell Mountain Vineyards Cab is supposedly the byproduct of a distributor getting rid of stock that wasn't moving in the slow economy. Again, I think this is a wine that doesn't justify the full retail price, but is a nice value at the Trader Joe's price. Blackberry, dust, leather and only the slightest hint of herbs show on the nose. There is also a bit of heat, though this isn't too distracting. The attack is a thing of beauty, all concentrated cassis and well-balanced acidity. This carries through to the mid-palate where creamy oak and dark chocolate take hold. However, the finish does not sustain what preceded it, showing some heat and an odd medicinal flavor. The tannins were also strangely lacking, which is not what I'd expect from a mountain wine. I'm left wondering if the wine was manipulated by micro-oxygenation, which would soften the tannins, eliminate herbaceous qualities, and round out the texture. Indeed, this wine is all about upfront characteristics and texture without the intoxicating bell pepper notes or big tannins I love in Cabernet. The initial salvo of flavors is worthy of the suggested price, but the finish has a cheapness to it that compromises the wine as a whole. Despite this objection, this is a great value at $15 for what you do get.

Domaine Alfred 2006 Chamisal Vineyard Pinot Noir
Score: 82-86
Price: $23 at Trader Joe's

Howell Mountain Vineyards 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon
Score: 85-88
Price: $15 at Trader Joe's


Jeff said...

I was wondering when someone was going to taste these and counter-act the "breathless" flyer that they passed out...I kind of figured that most of the wines wouldn't be that good. If you think about it, there's so much demand for stuff like California Cab that just by virtue of the fact that this is available to Trader Joe's means that someone else decided to wipe their hands of it. Thanks for being the proverbial guinea pig.

CabFrancoPhile said...

I always have trouble resisting the "deals." And to be fair, my girlfriend really liked the Domaine Alfred Pinot Noir. I may still try the DA Syrah since dumping inventory due to new owners is much less suspicious than plain old dumping. I think the Cab is a nice value, especially for the average person who doesn't care about the finish, doesn't want to wait on tannin resolution, and hates any bell pepper.

Incidentally, from e-sleuthing both these wines supposedly were from the 1st vintage of a new winemaker at their respective producers. Probably not a coincidence.

Jeff said...

I have a hard time resisting the deals too, but I don't have as hard a time at TJ's with anything above 10$ because I've so consistently been underwhelmed me at anything more than that.

CabFrancoPhile said...

I laid off the TJ's for a while, but just when I thought I was out, they pulled me back in. There are some fair values at times, at least in terms of wines being priced close to what they deliver. Now Cost Plus World Market, that's my real enemy. Their buying strategy seems to have little basis in providing quality. They're even more consistent in mediocrity than TJs.

Jeff said...

Haha...well Cost Plus is good for beer. Not for wine though. Generally seems to have a lot of stuff you can pick up other places for cheaper.