More Great Values from Trader Joe’s
Again this is one of those posts which was supposed to be quick, short and easy, a sequel to the first post about great value wines which can be found at Trader Joe’s stores. This post was started on April 30th! And it was hanging in the drafts section until now. Why? Beats me…
Last week, while visiting state of Washington, it was an “aha” moment – why not explore the local Trader Joe’s with the two-prong goal – fine some local Washington wines and spend not more than $20.
I was able to accomplish both – spent $19.97 (okay, before taxes) on three bottles, and two of them were from Washington! Here are the notes:
Barnard Griffin Cabernet Merlot Columbia Valley (13.3% ABV, $8.99) – blend of 65% cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc. Only after I took the first sip and got over the initial “hmmm, this is nice!” I realized that this is a non-vintage wine. In general, I have a tendency to avoid non-vintage wines outside of sparkling category, which might be a mistake – I had a great experience with Mitch Cosentino’s Ol’ Red, which was also a non-vintage wine. The Barnard Griffin Cab Merlot had dark garnet, very inviting color. It needed about 15-20 minutes of breathing time to open up. It had a nose of dark fruit with the hint of cocoa. On the palate, it had supple blackberries, dark chocolate, tobacco and may be touch of cinnamon (just a nice touch) – soft, balanced, easy to drink. This was definitely the wine to drink again. I don’t know if you can find it outside of Washington state, but I would suggest you will look for it – worth a try. Drinkability: 8-
2008 Snoqualmie Syrah Columbia Valley (13.5% ABV, $6.99) – took me a little while to realize, why the name Snoqualmie sounds so familiar – I used to drink Snoqualmie Naked Riesling before, and I remember liking it quite a bit. So instead of giving you a description of this wine, how about I will just tell you – go get it by the case – is that a sufficient description for you? Dark, dense, a bit chewy, ripe plums and blueberries on the palate, good tannins, touch of pepper, good balance. The wine only started to open up on the second day, actually showing some mouth-coating tannins, so I’m sure it got at least 5-7 years of life on it (or more). Definitely the wine I would be happy to drink every day – yeah, only Trader Joe’s in Connecticut don’t sell wine… Again, this wine is worth seeking. Drinkability: 7+
2009 Santa Barbara Landing Chardonnay, Santa Barbara County (13% ABV, $3.99) – this wine was a pure experiment – how can $3.99 California Chardonnay taste. Admittedly, I was not blown away at all (was that really expected at that price level?). This was the wine without sense of place. In a blind tasting, it would puzzle many, I think, as it lacks any of the characteristic traits – butter, vanilla, toasted oak. It has some overall sweet notes, may be somewhat of a white peach pedigree, but that is about the only characteristic I would give. Lacks acidity and balance. Was it terrible? No. Would I drink it again – no. At that price range (little as it is), Vinho Verde from Portugal would give you a lot more pleasure. Drinkability: 6-
2010 La Ferme Julien Luberon AOC Rhone Valley Vineyards (13% ABV, $4.99) – blend of Bourboulenc, Grenache Blanc, Ugni Blanc and Rousanne (aspiring Wine Century Club enrollees, take notice – 4 good varieties). Green pear and lemon zest on the nose, grapefruit with some gooseberries on the palate, very nice acidity, overall very good balance. Drinkability: 8-
2008 Babble Mendocino County Red Wine (13.7% ABV, $6.99) – blend of 36% Petite Syrah, 26% Syrah, 17% Merlot, 10% Carignane, 10% Grenache and 1% Malbec. Deep purple color, hint of blackberries on the nose, touch of oak, some cherries and a bit of spice box on the palate, very gentle tannins, good acidity. Paired very well with TJ’s Pulled Beef Brisket in smoky BBQ sauce. The text on the label is priceless and somewhat nicely mocking all the “over-sophisticated” wine reviews. Drinkability: 7+.
I need to mention one more great value discovery from Trader Joe’s stores – Poggio Basso Grappa.
Just curious, how many of you, my readers out there, just had shivers after reading that word “Grappa”? If you did, it is okay, because you simply were deprived of great grappas. Grappa is distilled spirit, made out of grapes, also known for high alcohol content (around 55% is typical). Even 10 years ago, a lot of grappas reaching the US were made out of grape leftovers (skins, seeds, etc.) after the wine production, and was showing in the sharp, attacking taste (not really drinkable, if you ask me). Now situation is different, with a lot of grappas made out of single grape (which is usually listed on the label in such a case), and not leftovers, but actual grapes. These grappas are delicate, flavorful and effervescent, and really give you a lot of pleasure – but you have to pay for it, as most of those excellent grappas will be priced north of $50.
Here comes Trader Joe’s with its Poggio Basso Grappa del Piemonte (40% ABV, 500 ml) – while this is not a single-grape grappa, it is perfectly balanced, with nice fruit profile, very delicate – it is a powerful spirit, but perfectly drinkable and enjoyable all for (you knew that the puncheons was coming) $9.99. No matter what you think of grappas, if you have an access to the Trader Joe’s which carries it, you owe it to yourself to try it – you might discover your new favorite drink.
That’s all for today, folks. Cheers!