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WTN: Benched

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WTN: Benched

by Jenise » Sun Aug 12, 2018 3:16 pm

Invited to a friend's home last night for some grilled salmon. For parlor-game style entertainment, I took five bottles of cheap chardonnay, all purchased at Trader Joe's, hoping one of them would nail a 'Best Buy' kind of plug at next Friday's Killer White tasting (the neighborhood group, 85 people signed up).

Six of us evaluated:

2016 Caretaker Wines Chardonnay Santa Maria Valley
Central Coast, French oak and 13.5% alcohol bring together a very pleasant wine for nine dollars (Trader Joe's). All the usual suspects plus a bit of vanilla custard. $9

2016 Big Churn Chardonnay Napa Valley
The label's a total turn off to a real wine afficianado but it's meant to attract neophytes and housewives. And it will: nose of yellow cake mix. On the palate big malo presence, sweet vanilla oak and taffy, decent acidity, RS on the finish. Didn't like it but since I thought I'd HATE it, that's a compliment. Interestingly, most of the reviews on CT speak to the same upside surprise. We're all so jaded. $7

2016 Trader Joe's Chardonnay Grand Réserve Lot 28 Chalk Hill
Tasted in tandem with the '16 Sonoma Coast Grand Reserve. This had a sweet top note on entry and more toast on the oak, where the Sonoma was drier with that coastal sea spray, more midpalate body and some white grapefruit on the finish.

2016 Trader Joe's Chardonnay Grand Reserve Lot #87 Sonoma Coast
Tasted in tandem with the '16 Chalk Hill Grand Reserve. This Sonoma was drier with that coastal sea spray, more midpalate body and minerality, plus white grapefruit on the finish. I like! $13

Up until this point, it was kind of a three way horse race between the Caretaker and two TJ Reserves. But then we tasted:

2015 Cambria Chardonnay 'Bench Break' Santa Maria Valley
Apparently a winery cast-off. $7 at Trader Joe's but around $20 at the winery. Pretty lemon curd fruit and white flowers with racy acidity. Best wine of the group at any price, and what an amazing deal. Three first place votes, and 2nd with everybody else. We have a winner!


Then our host opened this:

2016 Savage Grace Wines Grüner Veltliner Underwood Mountain Vineyard Columbia Gorge
Savage Grace makes new world wine for minimalist European palates. A year of cellaring has brought everything together in this wine and it shows actual gruner green-pea typicity of the Austrian kind--a rare thing in American versions. Bravo!


And now the main course wines:

2014 Northstar Merlot Columbia Valley
This followed two good pinot noirs and the huge oak/blueberry pie components absolutely murdered the salmon main course. Unappealing wine and poor pairing.

2014 Liquidity Pinot Noir Estate, Okanagan Valley BC
A refreshing lighter style. Medium clear warm red maturing color with aromatic warm cherry compote on the nose and long finish. Delish, but it's on a short arc, drink soon.

2013 Lange Pinot Noir North Block Dundee Hills
I brought this one. Classic Willamette--violets on the nose, dark plums and cassis on the palate. A bit of star anise sneaks in on the finish. Great balance for current drinking but I'll wait remaining bottles for more secondary development.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: WTN: Benched

by Mark S » Sun Aug 12, 2018 5:12 pm

What, exactly, is a "big churn"?

I think of: ice cream, money laundering, the mixing of warm & cold ocean waters....but, what the hell are they thinking exactly?
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Re: WTN: Benched

by David M. Bueker » Sun Aug 12, 2018 5:15 pm

Mark, think butter.
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Re: WTN: Benched

by Mark S » Sun Aug 12, 2018 10:45 pm

David M. Bueker wrote:Mark, think butter.


Oh. That's much more mundane. :(
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Re: WTN: Benched

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Mon Aug 13, 2018 1:07 am

Tom H will like your GV note!
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Re: WTN: Benched

by David M. Bueker » Mon Aug 13, 2018 10:57 am

Thinking about your note on this Gruner, as well as your comments on the Austrian Smaragd in Bill’s post, I am reminded that the pea shoot character that is considered a hallmark of Grüner Veltliner is not standard equipment. At higher ripeness it often disappears, so Smaragd wines generally show less of that character.
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Re: WTN: Benched

by Rahsaan » Mon Aug 13, 2018 12:33 pm

David M. Bueker wrote:Thinking about your note on this Gruner, as well as your comments on the Austrian Smaragd in Bill’s post, I am reminded that the pea shoot character that is considered a hallmark of Grüner Veltliner is not standard equipment. At higher ripeness it often disappears, so Smaragd wines generally show less of that character.


Yes, that makes perfect sense.

Although there is a certain GV pungent note (which I associate with vegetal/green/potentially-pea shoot elements) that still comes through in the higher ripeness wines, and which is distinct from the vegetal notes of riesling. Not sure I could nail all this down with specific descriptors/vegetables, but I'm pretty sure I could pick them out blind. (Although maybe I need to test myself on that)
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Re: WTN: Benched

by wnissen » Tue Aug 14, 2018 12:56 pm

Thanks for taking one for the team, Jenise! Unfortunately, I couldn't find any Santa Maria chardonnays at all in my local TJs. For once you have better access up in Washington. The closest was a Santa Barbara County wine. I think when they buy closeouts, they tend to distribute them outside the normal realm, so as not to damage the brand's price point. Naturally, I did see the Churn, as well as one just called "Butter". Sigh.
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Re: WTN: Benched

by Jenise » Tue Aug 14, 2018 5:01 pm

wnissen wrote:Thanks for taking one for the team, Jenise! Unfortunately, I couldn't find any Santa Maria chardonnays at all in my local TJs. For once you have better access up in Washington. The closest was a Santa Barbara County wine. I think when they buy closeouts, they tend to distribute them outside the normal realm, so as not to damage the brand's price point. Naturally, I did see the Churn, as well as one just called "Butter". Sigh.


Walt, when I went back to buy the Cambria, I too got aced. Asked the wine guy about it and he said, "We got a very small parcel and it blew out of here in three days. Great, wasn't it?" SIGH. Good point about distribution, had not noticed it but that in fact makes a lot of sense from the winery point of view.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: WTN: Benched

by Jenise » Wed Aug 15, 2018 8:02 pm

Btw, Walt, if you're still listening: this TJ hunt was for an inexpensive chardonnay for a 'Best Buy' feature at a local wine tasting. But good as that was, best TJ discovery right now? Chastelle, I think it is, Tavel. $9 and has all the regional typicity--I was shocked.
Drinks like what you normally have to pay $20 and up for. I bought a case today.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: WTN: Benched

by Brian K Miller » Thu Aug 16, 2018 9:43 pm

hey Jenise-off topic, but my sister (who lives in Anacortes) has sent some horrible photographs...it looks like your smoke up there may be beating our bad air from last week! She had one photo from a trip to Eastern BC that is just epic in its horrible smokiness.

So sad...that is really pretty country from the photographs she has sent from road trips across the border.
...(Humans) are unique in our capacity to construct realities at utter odds with reality. Dogs dream and dolphins imagine, but only humans are deluded. –Jacob Bacharach
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Re: WTN: Benched

by Jenise » Thu Aug 23, 2018 11:52 am

Brian K Miller wrote:hey Jenise-off topic, but my sister (who lives in Anacortes) has sent some horrible photographs...it looks like your smoke up there may be beating our bad air from last week! She had one photo from a trip to Eastern BC that is just epic in its horrible smokiness.

So sad...that is really pretty country from the photographs she has sent from road trips across the border.


Air quality wise, it is every bit as bad at my house right now as it has been in Eastern BC--too bad to be outside at all. The only thing that could be worse is having the actual fire here. We're choking on it.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: WTN: Benched

by wnissen » Thu Aug 23, 2018 1:10 pm

Jenise, sorry you're dealing with that, I hear the same thing from my friends all the way down in Seattle, and of course nobody has air conditioning so it's very uncomfortable to say the least. I am surprised even where I am, which is only about 40 miles inland and a solid hundred miles from a major fire, how bad the air quality has continued to be. The PM 2.5 has stayed at 75 or higher for a couple weeks now, which isn't actively hazardous but still adds up to an extra cigarette if you're active outside.

I will look for that Tavel, I have been buying M by Minuty, which is a Cotes de Provence, for about $15 lately but would happily enjoy another style.
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Re: WTN: Benched

by wnissen » Tue Sep 04, 2018 11:01 pm

Jenise wrote:Btw, Walt, if you're still listening: this TJ hunt was for an inexpensive chardonnay for a 'Best Buy' feature at a local wine tasting. But good as that was, best TJ discovery right now? Chastelle, I think it is, Tavel. $9 and has all the regional typicity--I was shocked.
Drinks like what you normally have to pay $20 and up for. I bought a case today.

Bottle acquired today, along with a Vieille Ferme for reference. Will report back!

Walt
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Re: WTN: Benched

by Jenise » Wed Sep 05, 2018 11:29 am

Co-inky-dink: I opened a bottle last night, too, to pair with a Dungeness pho. Bob went nuts over his first sip and only then did I remind him that we only paid $9 for that wine. Hope you like it as much as we do!
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: WTN: Benched

by Jon Leifer » Wed Sep 05, 2018 2:39 pm

Walt: We discovered the Minuty Rose last year and drank through a 6 pack pretty quickly
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Re: WTN: Benched

by wnissen » Thu Sep 06, 2018 8:26 pm

Jon Leifer wrote:Walt: We discovered the Minuty Rose last year and drank through a 6 pack pretty quickly


For some reason their distribution has been worlds better in the U.S. the last couple years. My wife and I fell in love with it on our honeymoon but never saw it for sale outside France. It's a good sized producer, fancier bottles than we usually go for, but still the pale, vivacious rose that I remember.

I tried the Estelles, very nice for the price. Will get a few more if they have them.

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Re: WTN: Benched

by Jenise » Fri Sep 07, 2018 1:47 am

:)
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Re: WTN: Benched

by wnissen » Tue Sep 11, 2018 7:43 pm

As a followup, I wanted to note a comparison with the perennial Vieille Ferme rose, which is $6. It's one of those wines that is made to be almost an afterthought, allowing the food to take center stage. There's not much aroma, a bit of fruit, but it's a lovely, bright structure and so food-friendly. Quite different from the Tavel, which had tannin and much more body.
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Re: WTN: Benched

by Jenise » Tue Sep 11, 2018 7:56 pm

That tannin and body is signature Tavel. They drink like light red wines, and I love the herbaceous quality. Didn't used to like them because the first one or two I had weren't as dry as I'd prefer, then I had a Mordoree (and possibly a more open mind) and loved it. This one compares well with Tavels that usually cost $20 and up.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov

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