Tasting Notes: Trader Joe's Reserve Brut Sparkling

I'm back, everyone! It was nice to take a break, especially since it was my first "busy season" at my new job. There were some long nights in there, but I pulled through! To celebrate the return, I thought what better than to have a sparkling wine. Plus, in case you haven't noticed, they're my favorite.

While we were on the Whole30 (which if I'm being honest, I didn't finish), we did a bit of shopping at Trader Joe's. I've always been a little intimidated by their wine section because I just don't know where to start. I know there are some gems in there, but I'm more worried about the bad apples I may have to try (ex: their canned wine) to get to the gems. Anyway, the last time I was there, I decided to risk it and put this inexpensive bubbly into my basket.

Trader Joes Reserve Brut.jpg

The Facts

  • Producer: Trader Joe's (I guess?)
  • Region: California's North Coast
  • Vintage: NV
  • Variety: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir
  • Where I purchased: Trader Joe's
  • Price: $9.99

After looking at the bottle more, I had high hopes for this wine. It said "Methode Champenoise" on the label which means the wine goes through secondary fermentation in the bottle... same as Champagne. Plus, it is the same grapes as Champagne, so that combined with the "methode champenoise", I was hoping for that hidden gem I mentioned earlier! When I opened the bottle, I did not get any hint of breadiness (often described as yeasty, brioche, toast, etc.). This comes from the wine being on the lees, or dead yeast cells. It's my new favorite flavor and aroma in a sparkling wine, so I was a little disappointed. But for $9.99, my expectations were way too high, and I could move past it. The wine was definitely fresh and zingy. Lots of citrus and tart apple notes. It was almost a little too zingy... definitely no shortage of acid in there. I'd say at first, it made my eyes go wide, but then I got used to it and found it to be refreshing. I think it'd be great for mimosas or with fried foods because that acidity would be perfect to cleanse the palate. I think I'll try their rosé next time! 

Do you have any favorites at Trader Joes? Leave a comment, if so. I'd love to try them!

Rating:

3 bunches.png
 

Tasting Notes: Rondel Platinum Cava

Sparkling wine has far and above become my favorite wine to drink, and while I wish I could afford delicious Champagne on a regular basis, it is always important to scope out value options. This is where Cava comes in! It is made in the same manner as Champagne, is still delicious in its own right, and comes with a lower price tag. Rondel may sounds familiar to you since I have used Rondel Brut in its identifiable blue bottle many times in the past, mainly for sparkling cocktails. It is inexpensive, flavorful, and comes in the handy split bottles. However, when I came across the Rondel Platinum, their elevated version, I thought I'd give a whirl to see if it could make the cut for New Year's Eve!

Rondel Platinum Cava

The Facts

  • Producer: Rondel
  • Region: Pendes, Spain
  • Vintage: NV
  • Variety: 40% Macabeu, 40% Xarello, 20% Parellada
  • Where I purchased: Total Wine
  • Price: $12.99

This Cava is a deeper straw yellow color and has finer bubbles. While the bottle's description boasts citrus and tropical fruits, I definitely picked up on more of a tart apple aroma. There was also some toast or bready smell, which comes from the yeast that is used to ferment in bottle. The same flavors come across on the palate, with an addition of a zing of lemon. While this Cava is definitely acidic, it is more well-balanced than the Rondel Brut and is extremely easy to drink. As my mother stated, "It is very smooth!" There is nothing complex about this Cava and don't expect it to hold up against Champagne, but at the price point, it is a good choice for an everyday or even a NYE sipper. 

Rating:

3 bunches.png
 

Tasting Notes: Underwood "The Bubbles"

Canned wine was very trendy last summer, and it certainly hasn't died down yet. In fact, Underwood has released even more options this year! Their rosé and Pinot Noir have been around for a while, but I came across "The Bubbles" at Whole Foods the other week and obviously could not resist. I'm a sucker for anything bubbly!  If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen that I gave Trader Joe's canned Simpler Wines a try a few weeks back, and let's just say it was $4 down the drain. Then again, four cans for $4... did I really expect it to be good? After that debacle, I was curious to see how Underwood's would turn out.

The Facts

  • Producer: Union Wine Co.
  • Region: Oregon
  • Vintage: Non-vintage
  • Variety: Doesn't say on the can or website, but I saw Chardonnay when I scoured the internet.
  • Where I purchased: Whole Foods
  • Price: $6.99/can

Eyes: Well, it's hard to tell because it's in a can, but the can looks nice and classy! Just kidding... I mean not about the can looking nice, but I did end up pouring some into a glass just out of curiosity. It's a very pale color and the bubbles are very fine. 

Nose: Silly me forgot to smell the wine when I poured that small bit into the glass. I think that brings about a good point, though, that the biggest downfall to wine in a can is you lose the aromas which play such a large part in how a wine tastes. Convenience is great, and I like what Union Wine Co is trying to accomplish with their #pinkiesdown motto, but you can't argue that smell and aromas don't matter with wine.

Mouth: I was a little apprehensive, but I have to say that it exceeded my expectations. It has a slight sweetness to it, which is not surprising given it's only 11% ABV (lower alcohol percentages means more residual sugar in the wine, average is probably 12.5-13.5%), but it was definitely not overwhelming in sweetness. Perhaps the residual sugar was a way to combat the lack of aromas from the can? Anyway, there was a good acidity to it which helped counteract the sweetness, and the apple and citrus flavors were front and center. The bubbles are very subtle, not like normal sparkling wine. It's almost like mineral water. When cold, it's very refreshing.

Thoughts: Is this the best wine I've ever had before? No, but I didn't (and you shouldn't) expect it to be. Is it the best wine I've ever had in a convenient container and affordable price? Yes, hands down. This stuff can be dangerous... wine in a can seems to go down much faster than in a glass! And be careful because a single can is half a bottle of wine! If you think about it that way, this would equate to a $14 bottle of wine which is a pretty great price point. Plus, with the added convenience of being in a can, that can be priceless. Are you going to a BBQ and don't want beer? Will you be heading out to the beach or on a boat or to a picnic and don't want to carry a bottle, corkscrew, and glasses? Definitely pick yourself up a can and be sure to keep it cold. I'm looking forward to trying their rosé that's in my fridge, and I'm keeping my eyes peeled for the sparkling rosé. If you've seen it in Charlotte, let me know where!

Rating:

 

Tasting Notes: Starborough Sauvignon Blanc

Guys, it's almost JUNE. Where did the year go?! How is it already (almost) summer time? Some of you may be excited for the new season and others are likely in mild shock like I am. While I can't believe it, the weather outside is forcing me to come to terms. We've been lucky enough to get some beautiful days recently, but I've already felt the heat and the summer storms have been around all week. What's a plus side to the warmer days? Getting to enjoy some chilled white wines! 

The Facts

  • Producer: Starborough
  • Region: Marlborough, New Zealand
  • Vintage: 2016
  • Variety: Sauvignon Blanc
  • Where I purchased: Grocery Store -  Harris Teeter. You can also find it at Total Wine. 
  • Price: $10.99
Starborough Sauv Blanc
  • Eyes: First off, I thought the label was pretty cool. I try not to choose a wine based on the label because I think they can be very deceptive, but I do like this one. Sauvignon Blancs have some of the best labels in my opinion because they're usually bright and fun. Anyway, I digress. You can kind of tell from the picture above, but once I poured a glass, this wine is so pale that it's almost white or clear. 
     
  • Nose: Smells just like what you would expect from a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc! It smells citrusy, and I specifically think it smells like grapefruit. There's a hint of that herbal, grassy smell that often accompany wines from this area. I also got a slight whiff of peach, but citrus was front and center. Bottom line is it smelled good! 
     
  • Mouth: Crisp, light, refreshing. Exactly what we were looking for! The citrus notes came through, but wasn't overpoweringly acidic. It was super easy to drink and perfect for those who want that zing of an acidic white. I desperately want to say "gooseberry" because everyone always uses that descriptor for Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, but I have no idea what that tastes like. I might as well be this guy. Gooseberries, you elude me for now, but I'll find you some day.
     
  • Thoughts: If you like Sauvignon Blancs, this one is a great choice because it is a classic example of the wine from Marlborough. It's affordable, tasty, and would be perfect for a drink on the patio during a warm summer's evening or paired with a light afternoon picnic (hello, screwtop!). Kevin and I actually bought it to make this chicken piccata recipe, and it paired very well with the lemon and parsley in the dish (don't judge my amount of pasta). This type of Sauvignon Blanc would go well with any poultry (avoid the cream sauce, though) and would go especially well with veggies. Also, just a random thing to note, 2016 was apparently a very good vintage for New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, so keep that in mind while shopping!

Rating:

 

Tasting Notes: Hugues Beauvignac Picpoul de Pinet

Kevin and I were lucky enough to receive a couple of giftcards to Total Wine for our wedding, and we just so happened to come across one a few weeks back. I thought it would be a great opportunity to stock up on some inexpensive, every day wines since our stash of mid-priced wines seemed to be growing due to all the tastings we've done recently. I also wanted to pick up some new whites because we've both been trying to expand our palate. I had heard of Picpoul as being a great summer wine and I came across this bottle in the France section of the store. Since French wines have been my favorite recently, I thought why not?!

The Facts

  • Producer: Hugues de Beauvignac
  • Region: Languedoc-Roussillon region of France
  • Vintage: 2014
  • Variety: Picpoul de Pinet
  • Where I purchased: Total Wine
  • Price: $11.99
  • Eyes: This wine was a pale yellow color with maybe a hint of green. Not sure if my eyes were playing a trick on me based on the bottle color, but it was pretty typical of what I would expect of a light-bodied white that would be refreshing in the summer.
     
  • Nose: This wine smelled great and like summer. Citrus, specifically lime and maybe some grapefruit, and minerals. Picpoul is often compared to Sauvignon Blanc, and while this one had citrus aromas, it was not as potent as a Sauvignon Blanc.
     
  • Mouth: We chilled this wine pretty well, and my first thought was "refreshing". That seems to be the buzzword of the summer, but I'm okay with it! It was light-bodied and the citrus flavors came through as well. Good acidity... not too acidic where it stung or too flabby either.
     
  • Thoughts: We both really enjoyed this wine and thought it paired especially well with our dinner, which was spicy shrimp with sauteed kale and parmesan quinoa. The recipe was easy and DELICIOUS, and you can find it here. I wanted a white to pair with the shrimp, and with spicy foods, you want a low alcohol wine since alcohol heightens the spicy sensation. I looked at my whites on stash, and this one came in the lowest at 12.5% ABV. The milder citrus flavor (when compared to Sauvignon Blanc) and the hint of minerals made this a great pairing with various aspects of dinner. This wine also has a screw cap which makes it perfect for taking to a BBQ or picnic!

Rating: