For some reason this weekend I ended up drinking wines recommended by other people. This particular wine was recommended by the Cab Franco Files. It's always nice to have a guinea pig for the 20$ Trader Joe's wines, which are normally not that great. I still have a bad taste over the 2007 Cellier du Rhone Chateauneuf du Pape--probably in the running for worst wine that I have had in a long while. Anyways, decided to check this one out because the Cab Franco File said this was the best wine he'd ever gotten from Trader Joes--period--and I wouldn't really put him in the "gushing praise" camp about most wines. He seems to take a very moderate, reasoned approach about wine in general, and rarely seems to be so enthusiastic. Anyways, it seemed like something worth a try.
Under 20$ Pinot seems like a dicey proposistion to me, just in general. However, I was certainly pleased with the Cambria "Julia's Vienyard" Pinot that I had about a year ago. It was from Santa Maria County, just like this wine. Lane Tanner doesn't own any vineyards, and makes her wine in a wine co-op, although she has been affiliated with Ken Brown and Hitching Post. She seems like a character. You don't see many 40ish year old women sticking pictures of themselves naked in a bathtub front and center on their websites. I seem to recall Jay McInerney talking about Lane Tanners' nudity in a Hedonist in the Cellar...but my memory is foggy of it. (Just as an aside, this wine has to be going more after women than men from a marketing perspective because pretty much all that is on the back is the statement "This is a wine to cuddle with," which elicted an "Oh, cute!" from Sarah.) 13.2 ABV, so definitely on the more reserved side of that spectrum--a good thing. Sarah says this smells like pomegranates and flowers, which I think is pretty accurate. I get a lot of cherries and earthy "pinot-funk." Really, we're smelling the same thing, just describing it differently. Good amount of acidity on this wine, and a lot of sour cherry character going on in the mouth. Sarah thinks that the finish is a little short, and I concur. It's just not that persistent. When I think of wines that ring my bell, I think of them as having a beginning, a middle, and an end, all seamless and flowing in a logical progression. A good wine is the same as a good piece of music or literature, at least conceptually. It takes you on a journey. This wine doens't have that. Tasty wine, but I'm not as enthusiastic about it as the Cab Franco File. For the same price I could have had another bottle of the Baudry "Les Grezeuax," which honestly, smokes the shit out of this wine (at least to me). But that isn't a fair comparison, becuase this is under 20$ Pinot, which is a landmine wine category if there ever was one. If you had no budget, you could drink great Pinot every day. DRC (well, I'm assuming since I've never had it) or Dehlinger (yes, it's pretty fucking good--had it twice now), hell, the sky is the limit, right? But under 20$? I'm thinking that you don't find a whole heck of a lot. From what I can recall, I liked the Cambria "Julia's Vineyard" more and geographically, it's in the same neighborhood, but this is a solid effort, especially if you like lower alcohol wines and cheap(er) Pinot. B+/A-