I shop quite often at Trader Joe’s and I always seem to pick up a few bottles of wine. Oh who am I kidding? I’m usually walking out with a box worth. On my last trip I saw a bottle of Fife Max Cuvee California 2006, which ordinarily wouldn’t really be something that would jump out at me. However, the TJ’s people, on one of their smart little shelf cards, had labeled it petite sirah. I looked at the label again and didn’t see a particular varietal mentioned. So, I looked at the back label and discovered the Max Cuvee is a blend of zinfandel, petite sirah, syrah, grenache, and carignane. It was selling for under $10 (I think I paid $7.99), so I decided to give it a whirl.
Leather dominates this wine. It was the first and strongest aroma I detected, quickly followed by black raspberry and fig. In the mouth, the leather overpowered the fruit flavors, which had no lasting qualities and imparted no complexity. The tannins were too strong for the flavors and resulted in an unappealing imbalance. (Supposedly the suggested retail is $22.99, which is just crazy.)
Jason over at Jason’s Wine Blog recently reviewed the Fife Zinfandel and found that offering to be similarly lacking in complexity, though it appears more balanced and enjoyable than the Max Cuvee.
In the end, the Fife Max Cuvee is certainly not the wine to go to if you’re looking for something smooth and balanced. But, I think it would be a decent choice for someone really, really smitten with leather and tannins who is looking for an everyday wine, or something to go with BBQ in the summer.