Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer

Over the weekend I received the latest Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer (October 2009) and noticed that there were a fair share of wines covered.  For something new, I decided to share them here.  Keep in mind these are from the Northern California version of the flyer, check what is in your local version here.

As for wines in my flyer I’ve previously reviewed the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Blue Fin. I tried the Petite Sirah recently as well and you get what you expect. Pleasant and drinkable but nothing more. Rather quaint for this varietal as well. Angela shares some thoughts on the Blue Fin as well as the VINTJS Chardonnay and Syrah here. I have to say these weren’t high on my radar until I saw the mention in the flyer that Bob Lindquist of Au Bon Climat and Qupe was involved, perhaps I’ll reconsider. I am going to pass on the Contadino Pinot Grigio Vivace so prime material for someone to provide a guest post review, let me know if you are interested. The Elyse Couzins Red is no longer available on the winery site but seems to be about a $25 wine, might wait for someone else to say something nice about this one before I grab it for myself. As for the La Finca offerings, I’d steer clear of all them. Here’s my review of the Malbec. Not much good has been said of any of these. I would love to hear which wines are in your local flyer that aren’t mentioned here. Let me know in the comments. Now let’s get to what Trader Joe’s had to say about these wines…

Blue Fin California Petite Sirah • Just $3.99 a Bottle!
Considering its longevity and historical significance, we think Petite Sirah is a wine that hasn’t gotten too much respect. It has often been accused of being too strong, too forceful, and too red (as if that makes sense) for the fancy folks in the wine world. But we’ve recently found a number of Petite Sirahs that break this stereotype – they’re bold and fruity, to be sure, but they also feature softer tannins, making them much more easy-drinking and accessible.

If a wine tastes good but is too heavy for your wallet, though, we’re back in “no respect” territory. And that’s really what makes Blue Fin Petite Sirah such a find. This is an “only at Trader Joe’s” California red that was 40% aged in American oak barrels to soften the tannins. The result is a full-bodied yet mellow-drinking wine, with cherry and black plum aromas and a hint of chocolate raspberry on the palate.  Appropriate with pizza and red sauced pastas as well as with grilled meats, at only $3.99 a bottle, Blue Fin Petite Sirah is always appropriate for your pocketbook. Quality + price = value. A simple equation. Only at Trader Joe’s.

VINTJS Syrah or Chardonnay • Only at Trader Joe’s • $6.99
For our new VINTJS Wines (that’s Vintages in license plate-ese), we’ve partnered with some terrific winemakers to bring you super-quality wines at super-value prices.  Seriously. In the case of VINTJS Central Coast Syrah and Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay, that winemaker is Bob Lindquist, renowned in California wine circles for his dedication to the art and science of viticulture.

Before we get into specifics about each of these wines, you should know that while we can tell you each wine’s appellation, we cannot tell you the vineyards on which the grapes are grown. We’ll be honest; we’d love to tell you which vineyards produced these grapes. But if a condition of getting such excellent wine at this kind of price is that we stay mum about the vineyard, so be it.

VINTJS Central Coast Syrah is a blend of Paso Robles (warm climate) and Santa Barbara (cool climate) grapes, aged for nine months in neutral French barrels. From the cool climate we get spice, acidity and balance, while the warm climate contributes soft, round, lush fruit. Together, they create a stellar Syrah in the classic Rhône style, redolent of black cherry and pepper. Each 750 ml bottle is $6.99.

VINTJS Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay is a bright, crisp Chardonnay fermented in French oak casks. A touch of rich, vivid tropical fruit makes this wine a good partner to pasta with cream sauce or young cheeses like our Baby Swiss (p. 19). We’re selling each 750 ml bottle of VINTJS Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay for $6.99.

Contadino Pinot Grigio Vivace • A Trader Joe’s Exclusive!
In 2005, our wine buyer brought a revolutionary new wine to our wine tasting panel. It was an Italian Pinot Grigio.  Nothing revolutionary there, we know. This Italian Pinot Grigio, though, had bubbles! That’s right, a sparkling Pinot Grigio. More specifically, Contadino Pinot Grigio Vivace.  We’ll be honest; many on our tasting panel weren’t initially convinced there was a market for a sparkling Pinot Grigio.  Luckily, the “yeas’ eventually won out over the “nays,” and as far as we can tell, in September of 2005 we became the first retailer in America to sell a sparkling Pinot Grigio.

Contadino Pinot Grigio Vivace is the sparkling sibling of our best-selling Pinot Grigio, Contadino. It’s made using the Charmat process – also known as Metodo Italiano, in this process the wine goes through a secondary fermentation in tanks, and is then bottled under pressure. This produces a crisp, light and refreshingly fizzy wine with small, longlasting bubbles. Whether you have a festive occasion to celebrate or you’re just looking for a new wine to enjoy with light pasta dishes – or even potato chips! – Contadino Pinot Grigio Vivace makes an excellent choice. You’ll find it only at your neighborhood Trader Joe’s for the excellent price of $4.99 for a 750 ml bottle.

Elyse Couzins Red • $14.99 = BIG Value!
Sometimes we uncover wine values that even we have a hard time believing. The deal we’re offering on Elyse Couzins Red is just such a value. Elyse is a small, family owned vineyard tucked away off of Highway 29 in the Napa Valley.  They produce mostly reds, and sell many of their best wines exclusively through their wine club. We were able to secure a small number of cases of their Couzins Red – a play on words relating to the familial relationship between Zinfandel and Primitivo, the two dominant grapes in the blend – for an outstanding price, allowing us to offer it to you for the fantastic price of $14.99 a bottle.

Elyse Couzins is a big, rich, powerful red wine, with flavors of Bing cherries, allspice, smoke and orange peel, with a little raspberry and gingerbread as well. Great with an hors d’oeuvre platter of olives and feta cheese, or even a turkey burger with a slice of fresh tomato, we don’t think our 1,000 or so cases will last long – and when they’re gone, they’re really gone.

La Finca Wines from Argentina • $3.99 a Bottle!
A recent conversation with a longtime South American wine maker led to discussions of Argentine wines. When the supplier mentioned a series of excellent new wines coming out of Argentina, our wine buyer replied with, “I’m flying down on Friday.” Full disclosure: his trip was already planned. But talk about synchronicity! Our good fortune was confirmed when our buyer tasted La Finca Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Malbec.  La Finca Wines begin their journey as grapes from San Carlos, in the Uco Valley in Mendoza. The high elevation (2,700 – 3,600 feet above sea level), relatively cool climate, long growing season and rich, clay soils make this one of the most revered wine regions in Argentina.

La Finca Cabernet Sauvignon is a deep, dark red with jam and sweet pepper aromas that give way to luscious berry flavors on the palate and a soft, smooth finish. Try it with beef stroganoff or Old Amsterdam Gouda. (p. 7).  La Finca Chardonnay is a lightly oaked white whose lemon yellow color invites you in with the aroma of tropical fruits.  These exotic fruits continue through the palate, combining with hazelnut overtones, and finishing with just a touch of vanilla. This one is a natural with our Saucy Scallops with Mushrooms (p. 5).

Finally, just as Malbec is to Argentine wine, so it is to La Finca. La Finca Malbec is a shining example of why Malbec is often referred to as the national wine of Argentina. A stunning purple hue, with an intense bouquet of blackcurrant, vanilla and spices, you’ll be immensely pleased by surprisingly delicate, ripe fruit flavors that follow.  Try La Finca Malbec with your favorite cut of pasta topped with Trader Joe’s Puttanesca Sauce (p.3).

Whichever varietal of La Finca you choose, you’ll be as pleased by its price as you are by its flavors. We’re selling all three varietals for the terrific price of $3.99 a bottle. You’ll be surprised by the quality of these wines for the price. So surprised that we won’t be surprised if you come back for more.

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10 thoughts on “Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer

  1. Ok, so the Crew tried the Eylse “Couzins” wine last night ($15). A nice amount of friuty, with good tannins and all.
    However, the Greg Norman Cabernet (90%) Merlot (10%) Limestone Coast ($12) was much more interesting. Smooth, with bright friut opening up on the mid-palate, easy drinking but with decent structure and a nice finish. Definitely a good gift or take along to a party wine.
    (Sorry about not remembering the vintage)

  2. Nice blog! I’ve been to it before, but this is my first time to comment. I blog about Trader Joe’s and love getting their wine. Since moving to NJ and getting a TJ’s here, we don’t get wine at our store though. I’ll have to direct people over to you for ratings on their wine!

  3. I’ve been trying the La Finca wines. First I had the Malbec which surprised me with its quality for the price. Then I tried the Chardonnay which blew me away with its quality for the price. I blind-tested it on my co-blogger and she thought it might be a $20 Rhone-varietal and couldn’t stop talking about how there was no alcohol on the nose or in the mouth. For more great wines under $20 and 90+ Wines under $25, check out GrapeSmart, too.

  4. I am just trying out the Contadino Pinot Grigio Vivace. It’s great if you want a light-weight white with bubbles. I’m eating a spicy dish, and so I appreciate how clean it leaves things – granted I’ve had a couple glasses, but it reminds me of a wine-flavored breath mint. Definitely plan to pick up a few more bottles, especially with the weather turning hot and humid. Very refreshing.

  5. I love the Contadino Pinot Grigio Vivace! My local Trader Joe’s, in Raleigh, NC has stopped carrying it. Does anyone know if they will start carrying it again, or where else I can find it here?

  6. Vivace just turned up again in NJ. Don’t know about other places. It tends to come and go, probably more so now with higher summer demand.

  7. @Michelle: The Vivace was just out of stock for a little bit. Just let your local store know that you are a devoted fan and please keep it on the shelf if at all possible. Also, if you’d like, check to see if they do special orders, buy youreslf a case and then you’ll be set for a while.

  8. Thanks for your advice, Angela.

    When we were at our TJ this past weekend, it was out of stock again, but we were told it’s on order, but hasn’t arrived. Our Raleigh TJ has great customer service, and has a telephone list service where they’ll let me know when it’s back in stock.

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