Our first month of Monday night wine tastings is over and Apt. 205 is ready to share our findings*. If you didn’t read our first wine post, the tl;dr of it is that we are bright-eyed, bushy-tailed wine novices who are determined to learn as much as we can about wines on a modest student budget.
Students that we are, we developed a rating system based on an A through F scale; any grade of D or F (not passing) means that we would not purchase the bottle again.
The runaway winner this month was a 2008 Riesling by Dr. Loosen (Germany) that retails for $10.99. Trader Joe’s describes it as “low in alcohol content. Fruity and crisp. Pair with spicy foods.” We paired it with lime and chile mixed nuts and Bleu d’Auvergne cheese. The bleu d’Auvergne was a HUGE winner — creamy and bold with the slightest spicy aftertaste that complimented the Riesling perfectly. Rooting around in our pantries, we found that the cheese paired best with a wheaty vegetable cracker, but the it was so good that from water crackers to Ok-Mok Ak-Mak, we couldn’t go wrong. The Riesling itself was light, not too dry, and the perfect price-quality ratio to bring to a dinner party with college friends. Amy and I bought 3 more bottles between us to keep on hand for company. We rate Dr. L’s Riesling a B+/A-.
205 also enjoyed this 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon from Alexander & Fitch (Sonoma), which retails for something like $6.99. I was shocked to discover while writing this post that Alexander & Fitch is a label owned by the same man behind the Charles Shaw label (better known as 2-buck chuck) and, I am a little ashamed to say, Franzia boxed wines. In our defense, let me say that (1) we are as yet far from being experts, (2) the Alexander & Fitch label is intended to be a a step up from its brothers, and (3) even you have to admit that 2-buck chuck is pretty good for the price. Trader Joe’s called our bottle “a big red with full, round aromas of coffee, black plum, and leather, followed by good tannins and hints of chocolate.” We paired it with dark chocolate covered ginger and dark chocolate covered pomegranate seeds (which it appears Deanne enjoyed greatly this week in our absence). It is worth noting that Amy thinks this bottle was too mellow, and prefers her reds bolder and warmer. We rate it a B-/B.
Close behind was a 2009 Sauvignon blanc from Trader Joe’s Grower’s Reserve, grown from organic grapes, which retails for $4.99. I had my doubts after hearing that organic wines are generally considered not as good as their counterparts, but will have to withhold judgement until we gain more experience. Trader Joe’s described the bottle as “deliciously complex [with] ripe melon [and] lemon zest flavors.” This was my weakest pairing of the month — double cream brie, which was tasty but did not particularly add anything to the wine, and chile spiced pineapple, which Amy compared unfavorably to the salted plums of her Asian upbringing. Nonetheless, the general consensus was that the Sauvignon blanc was reasonably enjoyable — though I thought it merely inoffensive — and it garnered an overall C+/B- score.
Our least favorite wine of the month was this 2008 Syrah Rose from Josefina, which retails for $4.99. Trader Joe’s called it “a great wine for BBQs, grilled veggies, and salads!” but we found it astonishingly dry, a little bitter, and with an aftertaste reminiscent of rubbing alcohol, which I presume is the mark of a not-very-good wine. The Trader Joe’s French-style flatbread with mushrooms, Emmental, and Parmesan cheese, however, was delicious, even with the rose, which to me indicates that it would really shine next to a proper dry wine. We rated the Josefina a D/D+, meaning we would not buy it again.
*I guess we got a little carried away, because we didn’t take any photos and skipped straight to the toasting each week! We will try to be more conscientious in the future. In the meantime, enjoy these photos from the Internet and ignore the vintages on the labels.
We’re looking forward to trying the next round of wines for October; in the meantime, if you have experience with wine, we would welcome any suggestions for budget-friendly (under $20) bottles to try in the comments. We are humbly building our experience and palates, one Monday at a time!