Friday, January 8, 2010

TN: Holiday Red Recap

Here are some red wines from the holidays. Since throughput is higher with guests in town, I've consolidated several wines into a single post.

Red Wines

Lane Tanner 2008 Block 4 Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir - This is a Trader Joe's only offering, produced by Lane Tanner for TJ's from fruit that was supposedly left un-purchased last year. Based on the appellation and block designation, I'd be willing to bet this is Bien Nacido wine that TJ's and Lane Tanner agreed to de-classify in return for a great price on the fruit. Trader Joe's also has Block 2 and Block 7 Pinot Noir from Lane Tanner, and if you check out a map of Bien Nacido you'll see blocks 2, 4 and 7 that seem plausibly small enough to support one-off cuvées.

I will say this is no uncertain terms: this is the best wine I have ever purchased from TJ's. The nose is pure, classic, young Santa Maria Pinot Noir. There are spice, floral, mushroom, earth and red stone fruit aromas all readily accessible. The flavors are ultra-fresh, buoyed by high acidity and low alcohol (for the Central Coast, at least, at 13.2%). It is a lighter bodied wine, and is pure and honest. Good finish, too. Those who prefer Power Pinot from Santa Rita Hills replete with coastal sage aromas, the viscosity of high alcohol and oak aging may not like this. But I'm on this like butter on toast as a Pinot to drink young for its varietal expression. Not cheap at $20, but boy does it deliver! I'd consider it a good QPR simply because it is very well made and varietally correct as a Pinot, which is extremely rare at this price point.

Pros: Fresh, Varietal Typicity, Complex Nose, Fruit-Forward Flavors, Good Finish
Cons: None
Decant: Maybe, I did, but it didn't develop
Price: $20 from Trader Joe's
QPR: Good (out of Poor, Mediocre, Fair, Good or Excellent with Fair denoting expectations were met for the price point)

Irpine 2006 Giubilo Aglianico - This is an Aglianico, a hearty, structured grape variety, from Campania, Italy. The wine is pretty straight forward on the nose with aromas of currants and leather. On the palate it's all about balance. There's plenty of fruit, sufficient acid, and moderately drying tannins on the finish. I'm especially impressed by the finish. There is no alcohol bite, medicinal flavor or bitterness; it's clean and cleanses the palate. While it's not especially structured, it's not overly oaky or spoofy and has just enough body. Basically an excellent table wine for what I paid.

Pros: Balanced, Fruit Forward, Food Friendly, Clean Finish
Cons: Not Complex
Decant: Not necessary, this one is good from first pour
Price: $10 from Wine Library
QPR: Good (out of Poor, Mediocre, Fair, Good or Excellent with Fair denoting expectations were met for the price point)

Vinos Sin-Ley 2007 Gra2 Rioja Graciano - Graciano is a grape variety typically blended in small quantities with Tempranillo in Rioja. I'd imagined it's a bit like Petit Verdot: a structural grape that adds tannin, acid, aroma and color to a finished wine. An inexpensive varietal Graciano thus was hard to pass up. Unfortunately, this was disappointing. The bouquet consisted of cherry and a little barnyard. The flavors were more along the lines of cherry cough syrup, though there was a bit of tannin and acid to keep it in balance. This was perfectly drinkable on virtue of its balance, but just not interesting. It tasted exactly like some anonymous inexpensive wine, thus I doubt this really showed what makes Graciano unique. Yet critic Jay Miller curiously rated this a 91. A head scratcher to say the least. There should at least be some clean, simple fruit or attractive rusticity at this price point. The back of the bottle does offer up quite a bit of info on the region, varietal and terroir.

Pros: Not Flawed, Drinkable
Cons: Medicinal, Dull
Decant: No, didn't develop with air
Price: $11 from Wine Library
QPR: Mediocre (out of Poor, Mediocre, Fair, Good or Excellent with Fair denoting expectations were met for the price point)

Mosaic 2005 Alexander Valley Malbec - This is a typical New World Malbec along the lines of a mid-priced Argentinian version. Blackberry fruit, spicy oak, coffee and a little bacon all factor into the flavor profile. Fruit-forward with some complexity, but not especially structured. It's a pleasant wine to drink now, though at full price doesn't present a good QPR. At half price, it is worth it.

Pros: Fruit-forward, Spicy Oak
Cons: Not Much Structure
Decant: Maybe, but good upon opening
Price: $12 from Wines & Makers
QPR: Fair/Good (out of Poor, Mediocre, Fair, Good or Excellent with Fair denoting expectations were met for the price point)


Jeff said...

I'VE been tempted to try those Lane Tanners, but wasn't sure what I would be getting would be good. Call it the expensive TJ wine curse...Good to hear that they're a good deal at 20$. I'll have to check one out.

CabFrancoPhile said...

Yeah, I was debating YEA or NAY, but the low alcohol and the fact the producer put her name on the label sold me on it. Usually TJ's gets the de-classified wine no one wants to take responsibility for. She's known for harvesting earlier and producing elegant, fresh Pinot. Glad I went in for one, and may try another just for kicks.

Jeff said...

Tried that Lane Tanner last night. Pretty tasty. I'm not as enthusiastic as you though. Always good to know where to get a decent Pinot that doesn't break the bank! Just curious...have you tried the Cambria Julia's Vineyard? I know it's all over the mainstream press or whatever, but I actually liked it more. It was a riper style, but not over the top, and it was also a little cheaper.

CabFrancoPhile said...

I've had the Julia' Vineyard 2006. It's definitely a bit softer with a bit more oak. Six of one, half dozen of the other for me, I guess. Tanner if I want acid-driven wine, leaning towards a rosé. Cambria if I want something more in the middle ground, very well made.

That reminds me I should get some of the '07 Cambria next time I see it at Costco. It's been there for a while. Should be $16 or $17.

Jeff said...

Good point about leaning towards rose. I didn't even really think about it, but I think the comparison is apt. Lane Tanner seems like a very interesting lady. Now that I think about it, there's some stuff about her in "A Hedonist in the Cellar," and it's funny, because Cambria is in the same anecdote, as well as some of the people that she apparently dated at one point or another.