Posted by: Dallas Lawrence | March 9, 2010

Three Up & Three Down: Two Close Calls and One Clear Strike Out

This weekend we hosted a few friends for a birthday dinner and had the opportunity to try a number of value red wines. Unfortunately for everyone, each failed in their own way to impress. And rather than offer a Texas style death row march of reviews of how each wine stumbled in the lime light over the next few days, I thought I’d take the drive by approach and fire a few quick shots at each bottle as none of the three really deserve too much of your time.

Kenwood’s Russian River Valley 2007 Pinot Noir immediately offended the senses with an overpowering display of vanilla and cherry flavors. My immediate reaction to this wine was to be convinced that someone had dumped a bottle of vanilla extract and maraschino cherries into a blender and secretly replaced the contents of my wine glass when I wasn’t looking. For between $12 and $15 a bottle, this wine was far too fruity and failed to deliver on even the most basic principles of a Pinot. If you’re looking for a booze infused Shirley Temple, this may be your kind of wine. If you’re in the market for something passably drinkable, spend your money elsewhere.

Trader Joe’s 2008 Growers Reserve Petite Syrah was a bit of a disappointment following the superb initial outing of the Trader Joe’s Reserve Cabernet I reviewed last month. The 2008 started off dry and sweet, with both mellowing a bit as the wine sat for a few minutes. The 88% Petite Syrah and 12% Zinfandel blend was entirely drinkable and went just fine with our Italian dessert of mascarpone. Of the three, this wine was the closest call. At $5.50 a bottle one could say “what do you expect?” and you may very well want to give it a try yourself. However, even at this bargain price, there are better bottles on the market today that succeed where this offering fell short (and even for $5, who wants a mediocre wine?).

Lastly, and honestly an equally tough call, was the 2009 Phebus Malbec I picked up during a recent visit to Total Wine. Phebus is one of the wine retailer’s best selling labels as it combines a sure fire mix of incredible value ($6.99) and a non offensive taste. Unfortunately, and perhaps I was just a bit too much of a cork scrooge on this bottle, the Mendoza region Malbec just falls a tad short. Right out of the bottle the immense alcohol flavor nearly swabs your taste-buds clean. Once allowed to breathe for a few moments the Argentinean red softens a bit and transforms into what one could be forgiven for confusing for a budget Merlot (a bit too sweet and not enough spice). Ultimately, this wine was just too boring and too bland for the palate. With so many other good value Malbecs hitting the market these days, the 2009 Phebus just doesn’t make the cut.



  1. I nearly agree with you on the Trader Joe’s Reserve Petite Sirah, except I think it’s right about worth its price. I think I found a little more in it to entertain me. I’ve quoted you over on my own review of it.

    • Lover your blog, and thanks for the shout out!

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