Trader Joe’s Coastal Fume Blanc 2006

Price: $4
Maker: Trader Joe’s
Varietal: Fume Blanc
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, natural cork
Alcohol: 13.5%
Our Rating: 8 out of 10

Trader Joe’s Coastal Fume Blanc 2006 is one of the last of the bargains from my last Trader Joe’s expedition. It has a mild tropical fruit nose. On the palate, it has a smooth and creamy texture, flavor notesof pineapple and melon fruit. The finish is crisp but not too dry. Overall, it is generally inoffensive – pleasant and easy to drink.

Trader Joe’s seems to do a great job with cheap wines that go down easy. We’re partial to their inexpensive reds, but this Fume Blanc is a pleasant alternative for those occasions where a white is called for and one doesn’t have much to spend.

Wine Tasting Evening

Just had a chance to taste some interesting wines at a local tasting, and I thought I’d share some fragmentary notes:

Kunde Sauvignon Blanc 2005. Melon and peach notes, slightly acidic finish.
Frei Brothers Chardonnay 2005. Not your usual Chardonnay. Strong vanilla flavors, with a moderately astringent finish. Definitely not an over-oaked chard.
Bridlewood Viognier 2005. Another quite different selection. Tropical notes, not too dry, and clean on the palate.
MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noir 2005 (Sonoma Coast). I found this to be an unusually pleasant Pinot Noir – it offered big, bold plum, berry, and cherry notes, and a smooth finish. I tend to complain that some Pinot Noirs are a bit thin (or subtle, if you prefer), but this one is neither thin nor subtle. Recommended.
Gloria Ferrer Carneros Merlot 2002. Strong berry nose with some woody/leather notes, big rounded flavor featuring a great balance of blackberry and cherry, oak, and spice leading into a long finish. This was a big, well balanced Merlot, and my favorite of the evening.
Bridlewood Syrah 2004 (Central Coast). A nice, well-balanced Syrah with blackberry, oak, and black pepper flavors.
Frei Brothers Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. We finished with this rich cab. Lots of dark berry and oak complexity, with a long finish. Highly drinkable.

The big winner for me was the Gloria Ferrer Carneros Merlot; I liked the Frei Brothers Cabernet Sauvignon and the MacMurray Ranch Merlot quite a bit, too. This was quite an unusual tasting – I liked all of the wines, and every red (including Red Rock Merlot, not described above) were wines that I’d buy.

Free Range Sauvignon Blanc 2005

FreeRange White BordeauxPrice: $29
Maker: JuiceBox Wine Company, Manchester, MA
Varietal: Sauvignon Blanc
Packaging: 3-liter box
Alcohol: 13.5%
Our Rating: 8 out of 10

Free Range Sauvignon Blanc 2005, a box wine from Free Range Wines, is a varietal one doesn’t often see in that kind of packaging. That’s a shame… this Sauvingnon Blanc offers a sweet red apple nose with a hint of vanilla. The flavor offers mild apple, pear, citrus, and oak notes. The finish is slightly peppery. Free Range describes the wine as “light and lively”, which isn’t too far off.

The grapes used for Free Range Sauvignon Blanc 2005 come in equal parts from Béziers and Carcassonne, in the scenic Languedoc-Roussilion region in south France. This wine is a cut above most boxed whites, though we found it a bit more forgettable than its siblings, Free Range White Bordeaux 2005 and Free Range Muscadet 2005. Free Range having such a strong selection of boxed wines (three reds and four whites) is truly an embarrassment of riches – “glass a day” drinkers are likely to be pleased with how long each box lasts, but disappointed that they can’t move on to the next Free Range box wine sooner!

Free Range White Bordeaux 2005

FreeRange White BordeauxPrice: $29
Maker: JuiceBox Wine Company, Manchester, MA
Varietal: Sauvignon Blanc 50%, Semillon 50%
Packaging: 3-liter box
Alcohol: 12.5%
Our Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Free Range White Bordeaux 2005 is the flagship white wine from Free Range Wines – their other offerings, all boxed wines, include Free Range Red Bordeaux. This wine is a 50/50 blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. It has a powerful aroma that leaps from the glass – we found apple, pear, and citrus notes. Apple notes dominate the flavor, with hints of citrus and melon. There is a crisp and refreshing acidity in the finish.

Semillon is often associated with sweet dessert wines, but don’t be misled – Free Range White Bordeaux 2005 isn’t a sweet wine. Despite the 50/50 split between the varietals, it seems that the Sauvignon Blanc plays a stronger role in both the nose and the flavor. This wine was one of the hits of our party wine bar – it was one of the first to be finished.

Golden Princess Wine Tasting 1

A recent trip aboard the Golden Princess featured two separate wine tasting events hosted by the ship’s sommelier staff. The first was less elaborate, and we’ll post on that one here:

Errazuriz Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc. This Chilean wine was light in color with excellent clarity and a melon nose. The flavor was a suprisingly sweet mix of pear, melon, and apple.

Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay 2005 (Lake County). Color was straw/light yellow, with brilliant clarity. The aroma had apple, melon, and pineapple notes. Flavor was rich, creamy, and crisp, with apple, melon, oak, and spice.

Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc 2005. From Marlborough, New Zealand, this wine had gooseberry in the nose. Its flavor notes were citrus and peach. It was lightly syrupy in texture, and some residual acidity created a pleasant finish.

Chianti Classico, Riserva (Tuscany). This Chianti had a ruby red color in the glass and a mild berry nose. Its flavor was dry and acidic.

La Crema Pinot Noir. This deep red wine featured an interesting toasted marshmallow nose, with cherry and plum notes leading into an oak finish.

As a group, this wasn’t the most stunning batch of wines, though they were all reasonably drinkable. The second tasting which I’ll report on later was more elaborate and featured somewhat more interesting wines.