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.

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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!

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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. 

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Tasting Notes: Ramey Chardonnay

Kevin bought this bottle one day after we had one of our favorite Chardonnays from a pricier winery. We love a good, crisp Chardonnay, but don't always want to spend top dollar. Now the Ramey isn't "every day" either, but it's at least significantly less and can be found easily! We had also tried out some other Ramey wines and enjoyed them, so choosing this label wasn't a total gamble.

The Facts

  • Producer: Ramey Wine Cellars
  • Region: Russian River Valley, CA
  • Vintage: 2012
  • Variety: Chardonnay
  • Where I purchased: Unknown, but it is sold at Total Wine.
  • Price: $33.99
Ramey Chardonnay 2
  • Eyes: The wine is a light, yellow-golden color. The picture above actually does a good job of accurately showing the color we saw in person. It was very pretty, and it definitely made me think it'd have a little more body than some of the other whites we've been having recently. It wasn't as dark as I expected it to be which made me hope it wouldn't be overly oaked.
     
  • Nose: This wine smells lovely! The main aroma that I caught was apple, which I love in wines, but there was also some other stone fruit -- pear, specifically. 
     
  • Mouth: The wine tasted of apple, but I actually got some tropical fruit in there like pineapple. I also found this wine to be tart, acidic, and have some mineral notes to it. I was a little surprised given this wine is oak aged and has gone through malolactic fermentation ("MLF"), but it was a good surprise since I tend to shy away from buttery and creamy Chardonnay. I suppose I shouldn't have been that thrown off given the fruit flavors present... green apples are tart and pineapple is acidic! 
     
  • Thoughts: I was actually really pleased with this Chardonnay! I was a little worried given the MLF, but I really didn't pick up on much vanilla/oak characteristics as I would have expected. I don't know if that was a vintage thing or if it that will hold true if we give other years a try. The flavors and acidity were overall very pleasant to drink, especially on a warmer evening. It also paired very well with our dinner, which was a recipe called Halibut Olympia. You can find variations of that recipe online, but here's the one we make from my dad. Since it's so easy and it paired wonderfully with this Chardonnay, I thought I'd go ahead and share with you all!

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Tasting Notes: Höpler Riesling

Kevin has declared that he loves Riesling. I think we had it at a tasting once and he was surprised by the dry Riesling, so ever since then he has tried to find good Rieslings by the glass when we go to restaurants with respectable wine lists. When we were in Highlands about a month ago, the wine shop had an Austrian Riesling on their machines. I tasted it, liked it, and bought a bottle to do a more official tasting at home. 

The Facts

  • Producer: Höpler
  • Region: Burgenland, Austria
  • Vintage: 2013
  • Variety: Riesling
  • Where I purchased: Mountaintop Wine Shoppe*, Highlands, NC
  • Price: $19.99

*Mountaintop Wine Shoppe in Highlands, North Carolina. If you're ever vacationing there, check it out! They are the nicest people with a GREAT selection and great prices. Bobby, the owner, is super knowledgeable and friendly. It's difficult for us to leave without a case to take home.

  • Eyes: This wine was a clear, pale yellow color and almost had a greenish tint to it. It was not very viscous which implies lower alcohol. This is normal for Riesling since they tend to have more sugar content. Most people associate Riesling with sweet wines, but in fact, there can be (and this particular one is) a dry Riesling. This wine had about 11% alcohol, so the viscosity did not lie!
     
  • Nose: This white smelled very good. There were notes of lemon citrus, green apple, and peach. Doesn't all of those flavors sounds awesome? It was like spring or summer in a glass.
     
  • Mouth: This wine is super refreshing! I served it "refrigerator" cold and it was perfect for the warm evening we were having. The fruitiness that was on the nose definitely came through when I actually tried it, and I could especially taste the apple. It was tangy and acidic and everything I like in a white wine.
     
  • Thoughts: This is a great choice! As I mentioned above, it's everything I want in a white wine... fruity, acidic, and refreshing. I liked the apple notes a lot and the smell was delicious. I know Riesling gets a bad rap in the United States for being a super sweet wine, but that doesn't have to be the case. I am going to have to agree with my husband on this one and say that dry Rieslings are definitely a wine I will have to start drinking more of! 

As a random side note, I came across this post about the winemaker of Höpler (a Höpler himself) on Wine for Normal People. Check it out if you'd like to read more about the winery!

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Tasting Notes: Winzer Krems Grüner Veltliner

I recently read this article on the wine of spring, Grüner Veltliner, and it sparked me to stop by Total Wine and pick up a bottle. I came across this wine by Winzer Krems that was recommended by a Total Wine employee, and I actually visited this winery when I was in Austria over Christmas so win-win! 

The Facts

  • Producer: Winzer Krems 
  • Region: Kremstal, Austria
  • Vintage: 2014
  • Variety: Grüner Veltliner - A white grape primarily grown in Austria, Slovakia, and Czech Republic. Click here to read more about this grape varietal at a favorite source of mine, Wine Folly.
  • Where I purchased: Total Wine
  • Price: $13.99
  • Eyes: This wine was an extremely pale straw color. I daresay it was almost clear. It was definitely a change from the reds we typically drink! Based on the color, I would guess that this wine is a light bodied wine.
     
  • Nose: This wine had a strong citrus aroma. The citrus was more lemon than other types, which is very appealing to me since lemon is one of my favorite flavors in cooking and otherwise. Besides the citrus, the only thing I could really pick up on in the nose was acid. I know that seems bizarre since you usually taste acid, but there was a certain tang or tinge to the nose when I smelled it.
     
  • Mouth: The citrus and acid that came through on the nose definitely showed up when I tasted the wine. The wine was very light and crisp, but I would actually consider it a more medium body (think 2% milk vs skim or whole). Other flavors that came through were lime and maybe a hint of green apple with some minerality. 
     
  • Thoughts: I think this wine is a great choice, especially as we head into spring and summer! It's so crisp and has a good acidity to it which makes it easy to drink in warmer weather. The acidity also lends itself to pairing well with a lot of lighter foods like fish, chicken, and even veggies. As mentioned in the article, Grüner Veltliner is actually a good pairing with asparagus which is notoriously difficult to pair with. I will definitely pick up another bottle the next time we have asparagus as our side! If you like a lighter Pinot Grigio or the citrus flavors of Sauvignon Blanc, I think this would be a great choice to expand your horizons!

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