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Trader Joe’s Merlot Run

October 31, 2016 13 comments

As some of you might know, I can never pass on visiting the local Trader Joe’s when traveling – as long as it offers wine (which seems to be the case so far in the most places I visit). Last week I was in Santa Clara in California, so the trip to the nearby Trader Joe’s was unavoidable.

trader joe wines californiaDeciding on what wine to buy at Trader Joe’s is difficult. I always take price into account, but then there are lots of wines in the same, super-reasonable prices range of $5 -$8. The next option is the label – yes, I’m a sucker for creative labels, and then, of course, the region comes to play.

As I slowly walked along the wine shelves, the label of Jebediah Drinkwell’s caught my eye – it was strangely attractive – plus I like Meritage wines, so it was an easy decision.  I picked up Trellis Merlot because it was a Merlot (and October is a Merlot month) – and I was really curious to see what $4.99 can buy you from Sonoma. Cecilia Beretta was the third bottle I got – wanted to go outside of California, and “Partially dried grapes” always sounds like a music to me.

Looking at the wines later on, the idea  of #MerlotMe dedication came along – would all these wines be Merlot based? To my delight, in addition to the 100% Merlot from Sonoma, two other wines also had substantial Merlot content, so here you go my friends, a Merlot run at Trader Joe’s.

Here are my notes:

NV Jebediah Drinkwell’s Meritage Red Wine Paso Robles ($5.99, 37% Petite Verdot, 31% Merlot, 27% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Cabernet Franc, 1% Malbec)
C: dark Ruby
N: touch of smoke, roasted meat,
P: soft fruit, blackberries, tobacco, good acidity, medium-long finish
V: 7+/8-, quite enjoyable

2014 Trellis Merlot Sonoma County (14.5% ABV, $4.99)
C: garnet
N: restrained, distant hint of cassis, herbs
P: soft, round, cassis, good acidity
V: 7+, excellent QPR

2014 Cecilia Beretta Soraie Veneto IGT (14% ABV, $7.99, 40% Merlot, 30% Corvina, 20% Cabernet, 10% Croatina, grapes dried for a few weeks before pressing)
C: dark garnet
N: touch of blueberry pie, quite restrained
P: touch of blueberries, tobacco, hint of dried fruit, good power but round, soft tannins, medium finish
V: 7+, will work well with food – pasta with some hearty tomato sauce would be perfect

As you can tell, it is pretty amazing what $18 can buy you at Trader Joe’s. Also, it is my second experience with non-vintage wine at Trader Joe’s, and I’m definitely impressed with the quality of that wine.

Do you buy wines at Trader Joe’s? Any interesting finds you care to share? Cheers!

Trader Joe’s Wine Finds – December 2015

January 9, 2016 6 comments

Trader Joe’s wines are not a new subject in this blog – you can read some of the earlier posts here. Every time I’m in a close proximity to a Trader Joe’s store which sells wine (not all of them do – I know, you would’ve never thought that it can be the case, especially if you live in California), I always make an effort to buy a few wines, usually trying to spend as little as possible, but to try as many wines as possible. Here is the report on the last visit to the Trader Joe’s store in Brookline, Massachusetts.

2014 Lazy Bones Cabernet Franc Paso Robles (13.9% ABV, $6.99)
C: Ruby
N: touch of the cotton candy, mint, hint of black currant
P: light to medium body, fresh blackberries, good acidity, easy to drink
V: 7, it is drinkable, but bigger body and some structure is desired.

NV ONX MOON Red Wine California (13.5% ABV, $8.99)
C: dark garnet
N: dark fruit, dark chocolate, very inviting
P: good power, round, more dark chocolate, good structure
V: 7+, very good wine

2014 Laurent Dublanc Tradition et Terroir Côtes-du-Rhône AOP (13% ABV, $6.99)
C: Garnet
N: plums, sweet chocolate, touch of eucalyptus
P: open, clean, fresh cherries, medium body, round, touch of herbal notes.
V: 7+, nice, soft and simple, very round.

2014 Sauvignon de Seguin Vin de Bordeaux AOC (12% ABV), $6.99)
C: straw pale
N: intense, inviting, candied lemon, fresh citrus, very promising
P: perfect. Fresh, grassy, crisp, laid back, touch of fresh lemon, just excellent.
V: 7+/8-. Very impressive for the money, but even ignoring the cost – this is simply delicious, well drinkable wine.

2013 Purple Moon Shiraz California (12% ABV or less, $3.99)
C: dark ruby
N: fresh crushed berries, intense fruity
P: ripe blackberries, tobacco, touch of pepper, good acidity
V: 7-/7, simple, easy to drink, a simple BBQ wine, will go great with ribs. Excellent QPR at this price

2013 Archeo Nero d’Avola Terre Siciliane IGP (13% ABV, $4.99)
C: garnet
N: vegetative, restrained, hint of blackberries, distant touch of gunflint
P: presence of volcanic soil, good acidity, leather, nice astringency, good overall balance
V: 7+, pleasant with an excellent QPR

2013 Columbia River Landing Riesling Columbia Valley Washington (10.5% ABV, $4.99)
C: light golden
N: inviting, hint of honey, candied fruit
P: round, ripe apples, candied lemon, good acidity, perflctly smooth balance
V: 8-, may be best of tasting. Great classic Riesling expression with all the taste components being in perfect balance – not an easy fit for white wines in general, and Riesling particularly. I guess I have to call QPR on this wine “phenomenal”.

There you have it, my friends. What were your latest value wine discoveries? Cheers!

Another “How Do They Do It?” Set of Trader Joe’s Wines

May 23, 2014 21 comments

Trader Joe wines San DiegoOn the multiple occasions, I wrote about Trader Joe’s wines in this blog. I generally only can taste them when I travel, as Trader Joe’s stores in Connecticut can’t sell wine. Thus if I’m in the close proximity of the Trader Joe’s store, and schedule allows, I always make an effort to taste something new.

While Trader Joe’s wine selection generally includes wines at the different price levels, my focus is always on the most inexpensive wines. The rationale is simple – at $9.99 and above, there is a great selection of wines in my neighborhood wine store. At the same time, there is practically nothing in the $4.99  – $6.99 price range, thus it is very interesting how good (or how bad) such wines can be.

In general, I can’t complain about Trader Joe’s wines. My typical “success rate” is somewhat of the 3 out of 4 ratio – if I would taste 4 wines, at least 3 of them would be at “I want to drink it again” level. But this time, while in San Diego, California, I was simply blown away – 6 out of 6, 3 wines at $4.99 and 3 at $5.99, where perfectly drinkable wines which I would gladly drink again on any day! This was definitely a “how do they do it???” moment, as I would never expect, for instance, Rosé or Zinfandel from California to have such a QPR, to taste as good as they did considering the amount of money I had to pay for them.

Without further ado, let me present to you my 6 out of 6 set of “how do they do it?” wines from Trader Joe’s.

2012 Pancake Cellars Big Day White Paso Robles, California (13.5% ABV, $4.99, 37% Chardonnay, 23% Sauvignon Blanc, 15% Viognier, 15% Pinot Blanc, 10% Muscat Canelli) – I can only guess this is modeled after the Conundrum, only this wine I actually enjoyed (and it costs 1/4 of the Conundrum)! Very nice and refreshing nose of white fruit with herbal undertones. On the palate, nice, round, good acidity, white fruit, white apples, very good balance. While not the most complex, definitely very enjoyable! Drinkability: 7+/8-

2013 Rabbit Ridge Allure de Robles Rosé Paso Robles, California (13.5% ABV, $4.99, Mourvedre 49%, Grenache 26%, Syrah 25%) – you can safely assume that I had zero expectations opening a bottle of Rhone-style Rosé from California which cost $4.99. Boy, was I wrong. The wine was simply outstanding – bright, cheerful, full of strawberries and cranberries, perfect acidity – get it by the case to make your summer days super enjoyable. Drinkability: 8-

2013 J.L. Quinson Cotes de Provence AOP (12.5% ABV, $5.99) – same as the one above, zero expectations for Provence Rosé for $5.99 – sorry, the internal snob is speaking. First sniff and sip – wow, I’m convinced. Perfectly restrained, mineral, light, refreshing acidity – as classic as Provençal Rosé gets, only at half price or even less, depending on the bottle. Another case buy for the summer, in case you need my recommendation. Drinkability: 7+

2012 Oreana Wines Project Happiness Syrah California (13.5% ABV, $5.99) – see the happy face on the label? This is what this wine is – happy. No, this is not the most thought provoking Syrah you can drink, but it is simple, easy to drink, round and balanced, good fruit on the palate, a tiny bit of pepper. Throw in a little barbequed meat – and your face might look exactly as the one on the label. Drinkability: 7

2011 Symington Family Estate Tuella Douro DOC, Portugal (13.5% ABV, $5.99) – Douro wines are slowly but surely gaining their international reputation, so this is definitely a good deal of a very solid wine which you can also age. It was showing a little tight, with reserved fruit expression, but good overall balance and acidity. At this price, if you got some space in the cellar, forget a few bottles there – you might thank me in a 3-4 years. Drinkability: 7

2012 Trader Joe’s Grower’s Reserve Zinfandel Paso Robles (13.5% ABV, %4.99) – the first smell exhorts the “wow”. Good Zinfandel at $4.99 didn’t sound to me even as a remote possibility. And then this Grower’s reserve comes in – perfectly open, with clean smokey raspberries and blackberries, very round fruit expression on the palate, with the same smokey berries being very present and well matching the nose – the QPR on this wine simply goes through the roof. No, this wine doesn’t have the richness of Turley or Carlisle, but then you don’t need to cellar it for 10 years before you can really enjoy it. If you like Zinfandel – this is definitely the wine you have to experience. Drinkability: 7+/8-

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I tip my hat to whomever is responsible for sourcing the wines for Trader Joe’s stores – to say “well done” is almost to say nothing – great job, and please keep doing it over and over again, to the delight of all the wine lovers out there. Cheers!

Trader Joe’s Wines Update

December 10, 2013 11 comments

Trader Joe's winesFew weeks ago, I wrote a post about noteworthy wine discoveries I made at Trader Joe’s store in California. As we visited our close friends in Boston for the Thanksgiving, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to explore the wine shelves at the nearby Trader Joe’s store, looking for great values. Once again, the mission was very successful – I can definitely recommend 3 wines out of 4 that I tried, which is an excellent outcome.

As we are now in the “holiday mood”, I’m trying to focus a bit more on the Sparkling wines of all sorts, so two out of four wines I want to present to you today are sparkling wines.

2012 Cecilia Beretta Brut Millesimato Prosecco Superiore Coneglian Valdobbiadene DOCG, Italy (11% ABV, $9.99) – I mentioned this wine already in my November “Month in Wines” update, so here are the same notes again – tiny refreshing bubbles, notes of fresh apple on the nose, round and roll-of-your-tongue on the palate with more of the fresh apple and yeast notes. Excelllent sparkling wine, and probably one of my very best in that price range. Drinkability: 8-

NV Trader Joe’s Reserve Brut Sparkling Wine, North Coast, California (12.5% ABV, $9.99, 62% Chardonnay, 26% Pinot Noir, 12% Semillon) – hint of fresh apples on the nose. Simple and clean on the palate, notes of white apples, good acidity. I would prefer a bit more substance in my glass (a bit heavier in the body and higher intensity of the bubbles), but this is definitely a very good wine for the money. Drinkability: 7+

2010 VINTJS Cabernet Sauvignon North Coast, California (13.5% ABV, $7.99) – I bought this wine based pretty much on the label alone – it looks very grand. Well, the content behind the label was not as grand as I would want it to be. Dark garnet color in the glass, dark fruit notes on the nose, hint of raspberries on the palate, medium to full body, good acidity – but no harmony, all the components where on their own. There are better choices at TJ’s at the same or lesser amount of money. Drinkability: 7-

2012 Marchigüe Carménère Reserva D.O. Colchagua Valley, Chile (13.5% ABV, $8.99) – quite honestly, I was craving Carménère for a past few month (I have none in my fridge), so when I saw this wine at the Trader Joe’s, it was an instant “yesss” decision. This is a very young wine for what it is, so if you want to enjoy it right away, I recommend decanting it – it needs to open up for at least 30 minutes to an hour. Dark ruby color in the glass. Perfect herbaceous hue on the nose – a hint of mint, so characteristic for the good Carménère. Sweet mint on the palate, cassis, a touch a eucalyptus, ripe raspberries, silky smooth texture, full body, excellent acidity and overall very balanced. This wine is definitely highly recommended. Drinkability: 8-

Here are all the wines I presented to you, now in pictures:

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Note: the same wines might have different prices in the different states. The prices mentioned above are all from the Trader Joe’s store in Massachusetts.

If you tasted or will taste any of these wines, let me know if you like them! Cheers!

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