Kunde Family Estate 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma Valley

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The Wine:

Kunde Family Estate 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma Valley

Not all grapes and subsequent wines they produce are equal. Typically wineries have 2-3 tiers of wine varying in qualities and prices. Barrels which don’t make the ‘reserve’ or ‘select’ wines are usually bottled in a more mass produced offering – these are very often the price point wines which make it to grocery store shelves. Without a doubt the Kunde Family Sonoma Valley Cab is their lower end, more mass produced tier. I’ve had several of their ‘premium’ offerings ($25-$35) from  Kunde and enjoyed them, so I was looking forward to trying their more widely available, $13 price point wine.

The Experience: 

Color: Very deep purple – looks very young still.

Nose: Jammy dark plum, earth, some ‘dustiness’, olives, and a little vanilla.

Palate: The same as the nose but really not that enjoyable due to a disjointing harshness between the elements. On the second day, the finish of the wine really took on a bitter quality. Over extracted seed tannin?

Bottom Line:  Next-Wine-Please

At the $13 price point, I think I would consider trying another vintage of this wine or look elsewhere on the shelf. I’m pretty sure this is or close to, ‘last run-juice’. (The last juice from the grape press which is typically less fruity, more tannic) I think you could find more value at the $7-$10 price point or a significantly better wine for $20-25. But I would encourage you to try other Kunde Family Estate wines.


Lance and Windmill 2006 Petite Syrah – Stag’s Leap


The Wine:

Lance and Windmill 2006 Petite Syrah

Stop what you’re doing. Go to Trader Joe’s and get this wine. A legit $60 dollar wine for $15. (ok, they relabeled it, but the crew cap is the same and the cellar name is “Q Cellars”) This a diamond in the rough. From what I’m reading over at fellow wine blogger Jason’s Wine Blog, and my Dad who looked for this wine at his local TJs, this wine is already out of supply, so get moving!

Ignore the screw cap. This is top quality Petite Sirah. (Oddly, they spell it Petite Syrah, could there be some Syrah in this wine?!) Having worked at a winery which produces amazing Petite Sirah (and Syrah!), I’ve come to love this tannic monster – especially with some years of bottle age to mellow out but pack a punch.

The Experience:

Color: Very inky – deep garnet, plum.

Nose: Dark blueberries, mushrooms, earth, oak – power

Palate: This is what makes great wine great, you experience so many different components – blueberries, boysenberries, earth, mushrooms, oak/vanilla. You can’t quite put your finger on what you’re experiencing, so you sip more. And more… This wine packs extremely fine tannins which coat your mouth and beg for this food to be paired with some big foods or will live for quite a while in a cellar. Simply awesome.

Bottom Line: Buy-A-Case (before I do!)

It might be a long while before Trader Joe’s gets another deal like this in. If you like big, bold wines – this is it! If you have friend or family member who buy expensive wines they will be shocked to learn what you paid for this, $15! It’s a bummer to see a quality producer having to move some inventory like this, but it’s hard to complain about reaping the benefits! What did you think of this wine?

Buena Vista 2008 Pinot Noir Carneros


Buena Vista 2008 Pinot Noir Carneros

The Wine:
What do you get when you combine Napa and Sonoma counties? Los Carneros AVA, nestled at the base of the two world famous wine regions. Carneros is the first AVA to be defined by its [cool] climate rather than geography. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay thrive in cool climate, foggy environments, generally resulting in wines with bright acidity. It’s no wonder why so many sparking wine producers have set up shop in this AVA. With so much wine on the market, sometimes a $24 bottle of wine finds itself at $10 on the shelves of Trader Joe’s. Awesome, just the kind of wine I want to try!

The Experience: 

Color: A lighter, translucent garnet, ruby red.

Nose: Earthy, earthy, earthy! Mushrooms, minerals, slightly vegetal, some dark berries and as the wine is exposed to air, the oak barreling becomes more pronounced, but in balance.

Palate: Layers of earthiness, some dark fruit, toasted oak, with very bright minerality and acidity. Balanced and NICE!

Bottom Line: Buy-A-Case

Here’s a wine which will introduce new Pinot drinkers to the flavors, lightness yet presence good Pinot can and should have. I’ve tasted Pinots 3x’s the price which don’t show the balance and layers this wine does. If you’re a Pinotphile, you’ll wow your friends with this wine (for $10!!!) and it will make a comendable ‘second bottle’ or wet your whistle for a good Pinot on a Tuesday night. What did you think of this wine?

The Cult of Cocobon


It’s time to call on the TJs Wine Notes faithful followers.

Does anyone still have a bottle of Cocobon 2009?

It’d be awesome if you opened and tasted that wine next to the 2010 vintage. I’d really like to read your notes and observations. The Cult of Cocobon has brought more than a handful of the 65,000+  visitors to my site. Clearly, people are curious about this wine and drinking it (a lot). Hopefully reading this blog has made you feel more comfortable about talking about wine, so here’s your opportunity, post your tasting notes below. The Cult of Cocobon wants to hear from you!

Be sure to also ‘Like’ and follow the dialouge on the TJsWineNotes Facebook Page.


Trader Joe’s Grand Reserve 2009 Meritage Napa Valley


Trader Joe's Grand Reserve Meritage 2009 Napa Valley

The Wine: One of my first wine reviews was of the 2008 Grand Reserve Meritage. And to be honest, it was the wine which got me to cross the Rubicon and start this blog. Trader Joe’s has some wines worth talking about. I was excited to see Trader Joe’s kept its relationship with it’s ‘super’ source in Napa Valley for a sequel vintage of Meritage. This wine must have been a success and there is now a choice between a 750ml bottle and 1.5 litre (two bottle) Magnum for the 2009 vintage. But 2009 presented some challenges to Napa Cab growers. Two storms in October presented a fork in the road and wineries/vineyards had only two choices: Let the fruit hang and risk rot/mold or harvest not fully ripened Cabernet Sauvignon. Will this wine live up to the great 2008?

(A quick refresher, a Meritage is a proprietary blend of Bordeaux grapes – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, etc… Click here for more info.)

The Experience: *Wine was decanted by Menu aerator – it wasn’t a sample.

Color: Fairly deep purple/garnet – young.

Nose: Kinda wound up and not offering up too much. Some dusty notes, dark fruit – but oddly, no real noticeable barrel tones. (Vanilla, espresso, wood, etc…) The austerity and non-‘green’ or ‘black olive’ components to this wine are leading me to believe this is not a Cabernet Sauvignon dominant blend, Merlot or Malbec dominant perhaps? Is this wine from grapes which were harvested too early?

Palate: Like the nose, austere. Some young and grippier tannins, and not really fruit driven. Typical dark berries, but toned way down. It’s clearly a younger wine. There was even a very noticeable lack of barrel tones to this Napa Valley wine, which was a nice treat. The alcohol heat was also rather in check at 14.30%. Balanced for the most part, but lacking distinguishing features.

Bottom Line: Buy-Half-A-Case

I like’d the 2008 more. BUT! This wine has ‘super’ origins from Napa Valley, literally. I’m giving this recommendation to someone who likes pricer wines ($20+) and is searching for a suitable Tuesday night wine or a’second’ or ‘bottle that isn’t going to break the bank at $13. I had this wine along side some $45+, 93-94 Robert Parker point wines and its lack of ‘great’ concentration showed, but it wasn’t a total wash out by any means. The 2010 Cocobon however… no one revisited it. It’s holiday time, people are opening nicer and additional bottles of wine, this should seriously be a wine to consider.

Wine Tech Stuff: 43% Merlot, 39% Cabernet Saugvignon, 6% Cabernet Franc, 6% Petit Verdot and 5% Malbec.

**Note: I revisited the 2008 Meritage over the holidays; it’s drinking quite nicely but starting to lose structure. It should be drank in the next 12-18 months.

2010 Cocobon California Red Wine


NOTE FROM AUTHOR: Wow, time to get back in the saddle. I’ve been on hiatus for all but the very best of reasons – wine. It’s nice approaching my TJs Wine Blog with the new ocean of information, perspective, wine production and palate experience. My site will still strive to locate diamonds in the rough and troughs to avoid. All posts are my opinion, but as always, your participation in the comments is what makes this site more interesting for all. -Matt

 The Wine: The one wine which has generated the most visits to my site has been my review of the 2009 Cocobon. People love this wine. I’m excited for my return post to be about this wine, the 2010 vintage.

2010 Cocobon California Red Wine

Red Wine blends are awesome. Perfect outlet for bulk table wine and rich wine crafting palate for talented wine makers to create immensely complex interesting boutique wines. Occupying the $8 price point and California appellation, this is bulk red wine production. The 2009 was mainly Zinfandel with some Cab Franc, Merlot, Petite Sirah, etc. I imagine this is almost no different. So how is it?

The Experience:

Color: Garnet violet center, rhubarb edges, fairly deep yet translucent.

Nose: Lots and lots of dark berries, vanilla, woody – still very young.

Palate: Mega fruit forward all the way through from start to finish. Lightly tannic/woody mid-palate. Has a noticeable slate/stony character. But the finish is very similar to that of cherry cola – sweet.

Bottom Line: Next-Wine-Please/Worth-A-Buy
This wine is not my style – sweet, when I prefer dry and more structure in red wine. If you are looking for a Tuesday night dinner wine? Here ya go. It would go well with any spicy food or something from the grill. If you are looking for a wine to serve at a holiday party, here’s a perfect crowd pleaser for a general wine drinking audience or would make some awesome Glühwein – German mulled wine (A personal favorite of mine after living in Germany for sevearl years.)

Looking forward to your thoughts on this best selling wine!


VINTJS 2010 Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley


VINTJS 2010 Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley

The Wine: Finally (in Northern California), summer has arrived. Summer time means cold, refreshing white wine is bound to be on the table and new releases from last year’s vintage are making their way to market. Sauvignon Blanc is a wine best consumed sooner rather than later . I was particularly happy to seethe VINTJS stemming from Napa Valley, which I liked so much last year. However, I noticed a change in the name of cellar origin. Last year’s offering came from Maxwell Creek Cellars and this year’s is from JBA Cellars – however a visit to Tax and Trade Bureau confirms both wines are from the same ‘super’ origin. Thank you Internet! So how is this wine?

The Experience:

Color: Nice light hay/straw yellow.

Nose: (Directly from the fridge) Very bright and crisp pear, pineapple and little beer hoppyness; nice.

Palate: (Directly from the fridge) Pear, little grassyness, pineapple, flabby and a bit too ‘heavy’. Lime lingers on the finish. Lacks crisp acidity.

Bottom Line: Next-Wine-Please!/Give-A-Try

Fresh out of the fridge, the nose on this wine was so attractive.  But as the wine warmed up, the nose lost some the bright pear and citrus notes and the palate just became flabby. I wish this wine had more acidity and crispness.  I know last year was a cold growing season, then a massive heat spike a few weeks before harvest, I wonder how that affected this wine? At $7, I’d be more willing to try something else before I’d revisit this wine. But if you kept this wine ice cold, I think you’d enjoy this wine more. What did you think of this wine?

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