A case of the reviews…from Trader Joe’s

I’ve been pondering updating the top 10 list but have realized there are few compelling options to highlight which hasn’t been exactly motivating me to tackle the task at hand. So here I am with empties stacking up around me and feeling the need to cover a month’s plus worth of sampling Trader Joe’s wine. Given that let me tell you a little tale about three reds, three whites, three Italians and three Spaniards. Are you up for a story? Where should I begin? Let’s start with the three reds…

Three Reds...from Trader Joe'sThree Reds…
The first up is the 2007 Perrin Cotes du Rhone ($6.99). This is one that I am a long time fan of, currently ranked #6 on the Trader Joe’s Top 10 Wine List and met with almost universal accolades. Even those of K&L Wines which rarely has an inventory that overlaps with Trader Joe’s. Here’s my latest review; the ’05. I’ll rectify that situation soon…

The second was the 2008 Caretaker Pinot Noir ($9.99) which I opened just tonight and was certainly a different wine than I experienced almost six months ago when my original review was posted. This wine now shows very nicely on the nose and starts with orange rind on the palate leading to cherries and spice culminating in a nice long finish. This one is worth a buy now if you can still get it.

The last of the reds is the 2008 Zarafa Pinotage ($3.99) which I reviewed almost a year ago. Don’t know what changed between now and then but I could hardly drink it this time around. This one has long been met with mixed reviews but it leaves me running for another Pinotage before my image of the varietal is permanently scared. Luckily I have one here from Obscurity Cellars made in the Sierra Foothills. Anyone have thoughts on what I should pair it with?

Three Whites...from Trader Joe'sThree Whites…
First on this track is another long time favorite the 2007 Dr. Beckermann Piesporter Michelsberg Riesling Spatlese ($5.99). I just noticed they sneaked a $1 price increase in on the latest vintage but there is still no wine, at this price point, that I would rather be pairing with my Indian and Thai fare. Again here, my latest review is the ’05 but feel free to buy this one today as it has delivered vintage after vintage.

Next on the list is a new favorite. The 2007 Now & Zen Wasabi White ($4.99). Yes I am a sucker for the Alsace but this wine delivers. A nice lemony, mineral structure makes this a nice balanced effort throughout turning pleasantly tart and crisp on the finish. Not sure if this one is still available but if it is I am stocking up…

And the last of the whites is the 2007 Gaetano D’Aquino Orvieto Classico ($4.99). One of a triumvirate of new Italian white varietals, along with the Vermentino and a Trebbiano which I’ve yet to review, that have found there way to Trader Joe’s in recent months. Joe Sears covered this one recently in a guest post and I echo his sentiments. This wine is light and fresh; perhaps best described as innocuous.

Three Italians...from Trader Joe'sThree Italians…
First up in this category is the 2006 Chiusa Grande Tommolo Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo ($4.99). This one is another long time favorite; ranked #8 on the latest Trader Joe’s Top 10 Wine List. This is a wine that has disappointed few and delivers vintage after vintage. I’ll be grabbing a few more bottles on my next visit.

Next up is the 2007 Epicuro Aglianico ($4.99). I recently finished my last bottle of the 2005 version of this bottling. I’ll remember it fondly as one of my first “finds” at Trader Joe’s. That said, it has become less memorable with every vintage and it’s current rating as #4 in the aforementioned Top 10 list is likely lofty given its current credentials.

Last on this list is the 2008 Il Valore Sangiovese ($2.99). This is a label I have long remembered based on a distant memory of their Primitivo. I believe this Primitivio is still available in many places around the country but haven’t seen it here in California for 5+ years. I wonder if that one is drinking well. That may lead you to ask, how is this one drinking? Pretty nicely for three bones. Dried cherry and herb notes. I’ll buy another bottle to confirm my initial thoughts.

Three Spaniards...from Trader Joe'sThree Spaniards…
First up here is the 2008 Abrazo Del Toro Carinena Tinto ($4.99). This is a wine I’ve tried over the vintages with mixed thoughts. I was a fan of the ’06 and found the ’07 (not reviewed) thin and a bit watery. This one likely lands in between. An easy drinker but nothing special.

On second base we have the 2008 Albero Monastrell ($5.99) which says “buy me” every time I peruse the Spanish wines at Trader Joe’s. I’m a big fan of the grape and this one isn’t too far off. That said it doesn’t deliver either and with others, like the Bodegas Luzon Jumilla, lurking at nearby price points you are better off looking elsewhere.

And for the finale we have the 2007 Condesa de Sarabella Garnacha ($4.99). This marks my third bottle without a review. I think this is indicative of two things. The first being this wine isn’t good. The second being that it isn’t bad. Either way it isn’t memorable…

And a finale…
Did anyone make it this far? For bonus points did you notice there were not three but four Spaniards? The fourth being the 2008 La Granja Tempranillo which is a recent favorite. As a full disclaimer it was also consumed while writing this post.

Now to wrap up that story I was telling. What did I learn? Not only did I cover off that on all those empties I also realized I covered four wines that I have enjoyed year after year. In the process I have decided to tap these wines as the subject of my next Top 10 list. The focus: “The Classics”. The wines that I’ve enjoyed vintage over vintage that are more likely to be readily available across the country. Stay tuned! And in the mean time let me know if you have any thoughts on these wines…

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11 thoughts on “A case of the reviews…from Trader Joe’s

  1. I couldnt agree more on the Zarafa and Blue Fin reviews. In particular, the Zarafa just had a really funky “off” note that I could never adjust to. By comparison the Blue Fin seemed like a home run. In reality both offerings were unexciting. Certainly, need to try the 2008 Il Valore Sangiovese. And while I didnt post a formal review-the Mt Linden Merlot was passable-especially compared to the two aforementioned wines. As always Jason….enjoy your work.

  2. Liking the 2007 Trentare Rosso from Trader’s – currently the weekday house red! Have not seen you review so far – worth a try.

  3. I pretty much agree with most of your remarks regarding the list of wines above (too many to comment on individually).

    As for Côtes du Rhônes at TJ’s, about 2 weeks ago an Eric Solomon selection appeared on the shelves of our local store (MA), the 2007 Andezon Côtes du Rhône and man is it good. Unfiltered, nice floral nose, loads of blackberry and licorice with a balanced acidity throughout. Nice long finish and only $8.99.

    Parker gave it an 89 and I have to agree. This one’s going to Thanksgiving dinner with me (along with an ’07 Rendition Zin and a Hogue Riesling).

    What are you guys having for turkey day?

  4. Anyone try the tj’s rendez-vous beaujolais nouveau 2009 ? Basically sold out but I enjoyed it much more than any recent BN in memory.

  5. @Allan: We just got it in last night along with the Jadot Cru Beaujolais. I’ll try to add it to the tasting next week and let y’all know. (One of the Crew Members in our store tried it and she thought it to be a little flat)
    BTW, I’ve heard really good buzz about the Sauvignon Republic wines ($7). South Africa, New Zealand and Russian River Valley. I’ll update everyone as soon as I taste them.

  6. I tried the Rendezvous BN and thought it was flat and watery. Rather dreadful, to be exact.

    The latest wine to arrive here in MA is the ’08 Rendition Zin and on initial tasting I thought it was quite good (although I should let it settle down a bit before giving it a big thumbs up). I loved the ’07 and only have a couple left (2 were consumed over turkey).

  7. I just opened and tried the Rendez-Vous Beaujolais Nouveau (6.99) from Trader Joe’s in Cambridge (the one that sells wine!) I found it quite good for the price, but not as good as the DuBoeuf. It tastes more like a Beaujolais Villages than a Nouveau, but it’s definitely a bright and light-drinking gamay graper which is kind on the wallet. I will buy it again!

  8. @hipcheck Thanks for the kind words!

    @Danny Great pairing recommendation! I’ve enjoyed many Pinotage but the Zarafa was not among them

    @Paddy I am a big fan of the Trentatre as well

    @Andy Glad to hear we could help, any faves from Costco to share?

    @Winoclast No Eric Solomon selections at TJ’s on the west coast. That’s awesome he is one of the best. Post on my TDay wines coming soon…

    @Beth Thanks for the nomination!

    @Allan Just realized that Rendez-Vous was different from the Rendition. I didn’t get to sample it, glad you enjoyed!

    @Angela The good buzz on the Sauvignon Republic is justified, really enjoyed the Stellenbosch.

    @Winoclast I grabbed an ’08 Rendition Zin on my last visit. Stay tuned for thoughts…

    Thanks @David! I’ve been wondering what @Winoclast meant with the BN and know I know. Haven’t seen that offering on the west coast. @Angela have you?

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