Under $10

Review: 2014 Trader Joe’s Coastal Sauvignon Blanc

I find myself saying this more often than not to my friends who buy two-buck chuck, which is actually three-buck chuck, spend the extra $1.49 and just get a Trader Joe’s Coastal wine instead.

The Coastal brand never seems to disappoint for $4.49. The Sauvignon Blanc smells and tastes like a traditional Sauvignon Blanc: You’ve got your grassy, tropical fruit scent and your crisp, citrus taste. This wine will leave a bubbly feeling on your tongue as you taste the subtle lime and pear and green apples. It’s just a fresh wine, perfect for a lazy summer night.

Looking for a cheap find? TJ's Coastal brand is always solid

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Trader Joe’s doesn’t have a winery, really. The Coastal brand is bottled and vinted by Castoro Cellars, a well-liked winery in Paso Robles (I say that based on their Yelp review; I haven’t visited myself). Trader Joe’s puts its name on the bottle, but Castoro does the work, getting the grapes from throughout the Central Coast.

Nuts & Bolts:

Winery: Trader Joe’s Coastal
Type: Sauvignon Blanc
Origin: Central Coast
Vintage: 2014
Price: $4.49
Alcohol content: 13%
When to drink: No need to drink this with dinner! Pop open a bottle on a hot, summer night (but then keep it in a cooler to stay chilled!) and enjoy a moment on the porch, or in your yard, or wherever you can see some nature. Alternatively, pop this baby open while watching the latest Bridget Jones movie or whatever so-bad-it’s-good movie you are craving.

Review: 2014 Lenz Moser Gruner Vetliner

Light, fresh, limes, easy drinking: Those are the notes I jotted down on my phone before I saw my friends try to cheers and then drop a glass of beer at a bar. It was a birthday after all. Mazel Tov!

Lenz Moser is an Austrian winery and I hadn’t heard of it before. But it was a hot summer day, I was out for a friend’s birthday and I wanted something fresh and crisp. I got what I ordered. This spritzy wine has a bit of creaminess in there, too. Truly was a pleasure to drink.

Hot summer night, cool Lenz Moser Gruner Vetliner

A photo posted by Wine For The Win (@wineforthewin) on

If you want to order it with a fried chicken sandwich, head on over to Hermosillo in the Highland Park neighborhood of LA.

Nuts & Bolts:

Winery: Lenz Moser
Type: Gruner Vetliner
Origin: Austria
Vintage: 2014
Price: It was $8 for the glass. A bottle is about that much too, according to wine-searcher.com
Alcohol content: 12%
When to drink: When it’s hot outside and you need something to cool ya down.

Review: 2012 Presswork Cabernet Sauvignon

A very talented friend of mine invited me to read his latest slasher screenplay. Slasher and good time aren’t what I’d usually pair together in a sentence, but I knew this would be fun because wine would be involved and I can handle gore on the page, even if I can’t on the screen.

Before we cracked open the script on our tablets and phones, looking like a horde of millennials with glowing faces, we popped open some wine, one of which was the 2012 Presswork Cabernet Sauvignon.

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This medium-bodied cab seemed appropriate on its face: The label has a typewriter, which may have been why it was purchased by a clever reader, but I never found out who brought the bottle to do some questioning.

The Australian wine is warm, but that warm transitions from pleasant to an alcoholic burn. Points off for that, but that dissipates the more you sip and it’s drinkable, with a pinch of violet. It has pucker, for sure, even though the bottle describes it as having soft tannins. It’s berrylicious and fruit forward. Despite that, however, it felt watered down.

Nuts & Bolts:

  • Winery: Presswork
  • Type: Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Origin: Australia
  • Vintage: 2012
  • Price: $10 (at Trader Joe’s)
  • Alcohol content: 14.3%
  • When to drink: I probably wouldn’t buy this Cab again, but the wine had enough redeeming qualities that I’d try other varietals from Presswork. Maybe the Shiraz? Review inspiration…

Review: 2013 Terrenal Chardonnay

My dad loves when he finds kosher wines, even though he doesn’t keep kosher. He brought this kosher Chardonnay to meet my other half’s parents for a brunch we hosted at our apartment–like three years after we’ve been dating. I know, I know, weprocrastinated. We ended up sticking to mimosas, so this bottle was left over.

We cracked it open this week when we finished another bottle of white, but wanted one more glass. We needed a bottle we could sacrifice, one that it would be OK if we didn’t finish and we could toss later.

I pulled the 2013 Terrenal Chardonnay out of the fridge. Now, don’t call me mean. 1) I don’t like chardonnays much. It has to be a special chardonnay for me to enjoy it (And I actually do have a good one chilling right now) and 2) I’ve had meh luck with Terrenals in the past. Although the 2010 Terrenal Cabernet Sauvignon was good enough to bring to a Passover Seder.

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All I can really say is that the wine tasted watery. It’s made from grapes harvested at the foothills of the Andes mountains, according to the bottle. I already had low expectations, but I thought there would be some traditional tenets of chardonnays. But where was my malolactic buttery taste? Where was my full body? Where was the apple flavor?

So what zinger did my other half give when I asked if he liked it after I turned up my nose? “It reminds me of sticking my tongue on a Duracell battery. The aftertaste is just not good.”

He was referring to the wine’s acidity.

So thanks for the sacrifice, but we’re saying sayonara to the 2013 Terrenal Chardonnay.

Nuts & Bolts:

Winery: Terrenal
Type: Chardonnay
Origin: Chile
Vintage: 2013
Price: $4.99 at Trader Joe’s
Alcohol content: 12.5%
When to drink: I’d highly recommend you don’t drink this wine, even if it is kosher and that’s an important factor.

 

Review: 2012 Gaetano d’Aquino Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie

This Italian Pinot Grigio is dry with a tangy aftertaste. An apple flavor dominates here. Did I like it? Well, better said perhaps that I didn’t hate it. It was OK.

The 2012 Gaetano D’Aquino Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie is a very cheap Pinot Grigio from Trader Joe’s, so that’s a plus. It’s a fruity, non-demanding easy drinker.

 

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Nuts & Bolts:

  • Winery: Gaetano D’Aquino 
  • Type: Pinot Grigio
  • Origin: Italy
  • Vintage: 2012
  • Price: $3.99
  • Alcohol content: 12%
  • When to drink: Don’t think I’d buy this again, so I can’t recommend a situation when to drink it.

Review: 2013 Douglas Green Cabernet Sauvignon

It’s warm, it’s fruity, it’s spicy–everything you want in a cheap cab.

The 2013 Douglas Green Cabernet Sauvignon has lingering flavors of what is that, raisin? I was pleased with the smoothness of the wine, which I sipped at a pre-concert picnic with some friends.

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For the price, I’d buy it again.

Nuts & Bolts:

  • Winery: Douglas Green
  • Type: Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Origin: South Africa
  • Vintage: 2013
  • Price: $10
  • Alcohol content: 14%
  • When to drink: Make some peppercorn steak, invite a few friends over, play some Bananagrams and drink a bottle of this smooth baby.

Review: 2012 Pacific Redwood Organic Cabernet Sauvignon

When I left my old job recently to start a new adventure, a wine-loving friend gave me a bottle of the 2012 Pacific Redwood Organic Cabernet Sauvignon with this premise: It was the best organic wine that he’s ever had.

I was a little skeptical of organic wine, admittedly, and was also skeptical of wine from Redwood Valley with a bunch of trees on the label–all very superficial concerns, I know.

The wine was tart on the intake–perhaps my fault for not letting breathe, I can be a bit impatient–but then the Cab sweetened up a bit, leaving me thinking, eh. By the finish, I experienced a little kick of spice.

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This is definitely some fruit-forward business that was kind of vanilla-y all wrapped up in some round tannins.

The bottle explains that this wine “contains only naturally occurring sulfates.” Sulates are preservatives, so important to keep wine fresh, especially whites. However, I am technically allergic to sulfates. But I love wine. I know, it’s a conundrum. Basically I get a very flush face and neck when I drink wine. I don’t notice it as much as my drinking partner, so that’s a plus. I did notice that I didn’t get as flush from drinking this wine, real effects or placebo, perhaps?

The label also notes that the wine is vegan. That got me thinking, which wine isn’t?! That subject to be tackled in a future blog post. Have some guidance for me? Tell me in the comments?

Nuts & Bolts:

  • Winery: Pacific Redwood
  • Type: Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Origin: Redwood Valley
  • Vintage: 2012
  • Price: gifted; $10 on wine-searcher.com
  • Alcohol content: 12.8%
  • When to drink: With all your hippie vegan friends while camping

Review: 2013 Les Portes de Bordeaux Savignon Blanc

I was tired of not having white wine in the fridge when I was hankering for a refreshing sip on a hot summer night, so I went to Trader Joe’s and stacked up on whites.

I picked up this Les Portes de Bordeaux Savignon Blanc that I hadn’t tried before. Savignon Blanc, in my mind, evokes memories of a wine that is usually crisp, citrusy, melony, sometimes grassy, and dry. This one was citrusy, but more in the grapefruit-camp, kind of like a Viognier. It was really tangy, like in your face tangy, and that caught me off guard.

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To me it smelled like Pine Sol and to my drinking partner it smelled like white grape juice, so there wasn’t a lot of depth here. It did have some acidity, which gave it a redeeming bubbliness, but I wouldn’t buy it again.

Nuts & Bolts:

  • Winery: Les Portes de Bordeaux
  • Type: Savignon Blanc
  • Origin: Bordeaux, France
  • Vintage: 2013
  • Price: $4.99
  • Alcohol content: 12%
  • When to drink: I’d skip this bottle if you’re wandering through Trader Joe’s.

Review: 2013 J.L. Quinson Cotes de Provence Rose

I experimented a bit with this wine. I had brought a pretty good roe from Trader Joe’s, 2013 La Ferme Julien Rose, to a picnic–mostly because it was hot and I thought a rose would be refreshing and because it has a screwtop, which is perfect for al fresco drinking. My friend brought the 2013 J.L. Quinson Cotes de Provence Rose and mentioned that while browsing the wine aisles at Trader Joe’s, she came across both wines, but landed on the latter.

In light of this lovely coincidence, we sipped from both bottles, comparing the two.

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The Cotes de Provence, with its salmon color in the glass, smells like strawberry and is much drier than the La Ferme Julien Rose. To me, it tasted like light grape skins–it’s not too fruity– but it had a nice pep to it due to the acidity. It also wasn’t too flabby, a refreshing characteristic for a cheap rose.

Overall, I prefer the La Ferme Julien, but you can’t go wrong with either one on a hot summer day (they are both the same price).You can see my review for that wine in a previous post.

Nuts & Bolts:

  • Winery: J.L. Quinson
  • Type: Rose
  • Origin: France
  • Vintage: 2013
  • Price: $5.99
  • Alcohol content: 12.5%
  • When to drink: On a hot summer day, al fresco, while discussing vacations abroad or daydreaming about crystal clear waters off the coast of Croatia.

Review: 2012 Benefactor Cellars Shiraz

Summer in LA is my favorite time of the year. Not only for the weather, but also because of the bounty of events going on. You can see free concerts on the pier, take free dance lessons in downtown and even watch a movie in a cemetery.

The Hollywood Forever Cemetery–where Dee Dee Ramone, you know of that band, the Ramones, and Cecil B. DeMille, the famed Hollywood producer, are buried–plays classic movies hosted by Cinespia throughout the summer. A few nights ago, I saw Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window” and drank lots of wine, including 2012 Benefactor Cellars Shiraz.

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At first sniff, this dark red wine smells like cloves and currant. It’s pungent and warm and has a tobacco-y/cigarette-y after taste. here’s black cherry peeking through in there as well.

My friend bought it from Trader Joe’s because it was cheap ($5), but the ghoulish label went with the cemetery theme quite nicely, even if it was not on purpose.

Overall, I recommend the wine if you don’t have high expectations and are looking to please a crowd on the cheap.

Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: Benefactor Cellars
  • Type: Shiraz
  • Origin: Southeastern Australia
  • Vintage: 2012
  • Price: $5
  • Alcohol content: Unknown (It was too dark in the cemetery to find it on the label)
  • When to drink: Eat this with chocolate! It tasted great alongside the Toblerone I brought. Or I could even see this warm vino pair well with ribs. Don’t forget the Salt Lick…and the wet wipes.