The Wine Idiot Reviews: Trader Joe's Reserve Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel Lot #71, 2014 ($9.99)
I had a really busy night of "Antiques Roadshow" reruns planned, and I needed some wine to go with my cheese. Bearing in mind this idea that the best wine deals at TJ's are the incognito wines that advertise themselves with Trader Joe's labels and coyly admit to being "vinted and bottled" by some secretive wine entity in the fine print on the back, I grabbed this bottle. Zinfandel is not my first-choice red, but as I sipped this one, I wondered why not. I think I do prefer zinfandel to bordeaux, on the whole, but I'm not sure I could have differentiated between this bottle and that Pontificis I so thoroughly enjoyed (which was a grenache-syrah-mourvèdre blend).
Shrug. A wine savant, I am not.
I really enjoyed this wine. It smelled super-jammy when I opened it, but that's not the flavor that dominated. In fact, I experienced this wine in three distinct phases: fruity, then spicy, then earthy/dirty. All kinds of berries danced across the tip of my tongue (lingonberry and cranberry for sure), then as I swallowed, spices washed over the roof of my mouth. Cinnamon, maybe? Perhaps also pepper? Or maybe alternatively pepper? Who knows. But the "juice" flavor goes out of it. Then the lingering finish is--organic. Not minerally, I don't think. Honestly, it tastes like how I would expect an old, brittle, gnarled, woody wine vine to taste, like if you got drunk enough to chew on one. Is this because I associate "zinfandel" with "old vine zinfandel," and I have no idea what that really means but I immediately get an image of gnarled old vines in my head? Totally possible. I'm not here to psychoanalyze myself, however. I'm just here to tell you what I taste. Branches on the finish, my friends--I taste branches on the finish.
I paired this with two fabulous Trader Joe's cheeses--the mushroom brie and the Syrah Toscano. The mushroom brie is what you would expect--creamy, rich brie deepened with the woody flavor of mushrooms. This was excellent with this wine. The Toscano is also a delicious cheese in its own right; it tastes like a cross between parmesan and a white cheddar, I think. I did not love this one with the zinfandel--they clashed a little? Like the flavors were battling it out for supremacy in my mouth. But the brie and zinfandel were singing in sweet woodsy harmony. Joy to the world.
What the bottle says: "Aromas and flavors of luscious blackberry, cherry, and plum. Baking spice and pepper notes lead to a long, balanced finish."
What the Wine Idiot says: ARE YOU SURE, BOTTLE?? ARE YOU SURE THAT'S NOT LINGONBERRY AND CRANBERRY YOU TASTE LIKE?? Harrumph. Otherwise, I would say I nailed this one.
ABV: 14.8%, and yeah this got me quite tipsy two nights in a row. Seriously, don't judge tipsy "Antiques Roadshow"-watching until you've tried it.
Who's responsible for this? "Vinted and Bottled by Owl Ridge Wine Services, Sebastopol, CA"
Do I need a corkscrew? Yes.
What do smarter people say about it? Till at Write on Wines apparently tasted a bunch of TJ's wines and found this one passed muster! "The second red for the main course was just as popular as the Château Roudier, if not more – Trader Joe’s Reserve 2013 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel, Lot #71, one of TJ’s new tiers of wine. Medium in body, this Zin had plenty of Zinny character without the harshness and raisiny overripe fruit often found in low-priced bottlings."
Interestingly, Till ALSO tasted that Château Roudier Bordeaux and raved about it: "Whoa, you might wonder at first, good 2010 Right Bank Bordeaux at TJ’s? And what, for $13? Yup. Though lacking the conversation-stopping complexity of pricier Bordeaux, the Château Roudier allows you to experience one of the best Bordeaux vintages in the past 20 years at an everyday price. The wine shows characteristic Saint-Emilion dark, plummy fruit with cassis flavors and a velvety texture. Drink this one now and over the next 1–5 years with a grilled steak or, at this price, your favorite hamburger, pizza or steak sandwich."
AND, in the SAME BLOG POST, had some really great things to say about that Freixenet Cordon Negro Cava I tried last year around this time. Till seems like a really awesome person and I'm gonna try her port suggestion over the holidays...
Should I bring it to a friend's house? Yeah, absolutely. This is a winner--if you don't mind bringing a TJ's-labeled wine.