Wedding Wine and Trader Joe’s?

Party Wine and Trader Joe's
Usually it is a wedding but whether it be a holiday party or summer barbecue I am often asked for recommendations on wines that will please a broad range of palates, some more discerning than others, without breaking the bank. As someone who served a Trader Joe’s wine at their own wedding (the 1999 Trinchero Cabernet Sauvignon Family Selection) I’ve always felt comfortable offering my thoughts. In many cases these thoughts are shared but the loop is never closed as to how the wines ended up fairing. Did they please? Disappoint? Go unnoticed? So when my sister-in-law recently turned 50 and I was appointed sommelier I had a chance to observe for myself.

My approach? Get 24-30 bottles for approximately $200. I wanted at least two reds and two whites. So what did I end up with?


    • 6 Zonin Processco at $5.99 – Bubbly always pleases so make sure you grab some!

    • 6 Overlake Sauvignon Blanc at $4.99 – This was meant to be my all around palate pleaser and was well received
    • 3 Overlake Chardonnay at $5.99 – As much as I want to bag on Chardonnay this was the first wine that was finished
    • 3 Honeymoon Viognier at $4.99 – Grabbed this one as I thought it would deliver for those that preferred something sweeter. Remembered this as slightly syrupy but it was all floral this night. Should have grabbed the Dr. Beckermann Riesling instead…

    2009 Overlake Sauvignon Blanc2009 Overlake Chardonnay2008 Honey Moon Viognier


    • 6 Novella Synergy at $6.99 – This Zinfandel driven blend was meant to be the simple all around palate pleaser on the red side. It was a bit hot and reds were less popular than whites but my perception was people gravitated towards the…
    • 3 Spiral Wines Cabernet Sauvignon at $4.99 – People latch on to California Cabernet like babies do a milk in a bottle. And when you have one that delivers above its price point like this it disappears in a hurry. A must have!
    • 3 Cline Zinfandel at $7.99 – I should have grabbed a Pinot Noir here but couldn’t find anything I liked within my price range and opted for this security blanket (one of my very first favorites) instead. While reds weren’t all that popular given the heat this one was more shunned than poured…

    2008 Novella Synergy2008 Spiral Wines Cabernet SauvignonCline Zinfandel

What did I learn? I reconfirmed my belief that in these scenarios wine is just an innocent bystander. Most won’t notice it at all and even fewer will stop to truly appreciate it so don’t break the bank. In this case I had a few too many options and some were a little off the beaten path for your average wine drinker (Honeymoon Viognier) and others were too similar (Novella Synergy vs. Cline Zinfandel). If I had a chance to do it over again I would whittle the list. As you can see I think people really hone on the varietal. Having a blend on offer seems to just introduce uncertainty so stick to those they know. Given that I would go with the following in equal proportions:

  • Bubbly
  • Chardonnay
  • Riesling
  • Pinot Noir
  • Cabernet Sauvignon

There you have it! Did I miss any of your favorites? Need help planning an upcoming event? Whether it be Thanksgiving, a holiday gathering or something else altogether feel free to reach out. I am always happy to assist.

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4 thoughts on “Wedding Wine and Trader Joe’s?

  1. This is an awesome topic. I’ve found myself in a similar position several times lately so I appreciate the humility with which shared your thoughts here. It’s not easy to please everyone let alone impress them with your value-minded savvy – especially when the price point is tight!

    Season, weather, time of day, venue, and region play a lot into whether I’d lean more towards reds or whites (I’d probably forgo the bubbly but perhaps that’s a mistake?) and I agree narrowing the options is a good idea.

    I was helping select wines for my father-in-law’s retirement party late this summer at an evening event in New England. It was held at an indoor trucking museum which further confused things – is this more of a beer or wine I thought? I ended up going with 1 red and 1 white: Columbia Crest Cab and Dashwood Sauvignon Blanc. I was able to find both for around $7.99 a bottle. In hindsight I think I should have gone even more basic than the Sauv Blanc – some people really wanted a Chardonnay.

    Perhaps the lesson is that at events like these it’s best to have the wine play a quiet supporting role so people can focus on the event at hand.

  2. Amazing the Chardonnay factor got you as well. If you are only going to get two it should be Chard and Cab. I certainly imposed too much of my own palate in this situation. That said I’m a big fan of both you chose; did you feel two was enough? As for the bubbly it certainly introduces a “celebratory” factor to the equation. I’d recommend including it next time!

    You hit the nail on the head (and I updated the post based on your comment) that wine in this situation is mostly unnoticeable unless it is undrinkable. Those that drop $20, $30, $40+ a bottle are spending dollars on many folks (perhaps trying to impress) that are barely paying attention to what they are drinking. Given that in my viewpoint there is no need to break the bank here which is why I focused on finding enjoyable, easy drinking and affordable wines…

  3. Agree that wine at these types of events plays a background role. Save the good stuff for intimate dinners. Although not a big Chard drinker, I’d also give it preference over Sauv Blanc in these circumstances. Haven’t had it in a while but Meridian at around $6 used to be a good bet. There are some good inexpensive chards from South America that would keep guests nicely lubricated. Alternately, for those who like to go out on a limb, a decent soave, like the one from Folonari in jug format, could keep things festive.

    Reds are trickier. For one, women tend to prefer the whites; for another, Cabs, as one descends the price ladder, tend to get murky. The Columbia Crest Two Vines, however, may be an exception. I seldom drink it but I’m surprised you haven’t considered a merlot. It may be the ideal wedding red. I can’t recommend one offhand, but maybe something from Chile would work well. Interestingly, one red I’ve always gotten good feedback on (“What is this? It’s really good!”) at receptions and such is Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. It’s light, fruity, good with food and cheap. It is, nonetheless, a little exotic and might make the bride nervous.

  4. Yeah, I’ve helped quite a few people choose wines for their events and the K.I.S.S. rule usually applies. Depending on what’s being served, Chard & Cab are going to be the
    “go-to” choices, with Pinot & Sav Blanc close behind. Besides Bubbly, 2 whites & 2 reds MAX for most situations and don’t spend more than $10 a bottle.

    Price/availability updates:
    Zonin: $6.99
    Sprial Cab: All gone

    A DELICIOUS Sancerre has just become available for $9.99. Probably one ot the best-tasting whites we’ve had in a while. Expressive, minerally, yummy goodness. Definitely going in my rack and a few gift baskets for the Holidays.

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