Trader Joe’s and Chateauneuf-du-Pape

Trader Joe's and Chateauneuf-du-PapeEvery time I go to Trader Joe’s I see this, that or the other new mostly generic looking label staring back at me from the shelves promising to deliver expensive wines (e.g. Barolo, Amarone, …) at a fraction of the cost. My initial inclination is always to give it a try and hope for the best but I have been disappointed too may times to succumb to that reaction. As my parents always told me if it sounds too good to be true chances are it is. Nonetheless each time I head down the wine aisle that temptation once again strikes and I have to remind myself to be strong. Such is the case with this Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

Now it turns out this is not a generic label. The 2008 is available for $20. I can find mentions of the 2005, 2006 and even a mention of the 1999 vintage. Here’s what Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer had to say about the 2009:

    Châteauneuf-du-Pape – Val De La Pierre:This red Rhône blend holds your palate rapt. What do you expect from a bottle that bears the emblem of the Holy See? Named for “the Pope’s new castle,” Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a landmark wine region in the southern Rhône that burgeoned under the cultivation of the 14th Century Avignon Popes. It produces legendary wines. Present vintage included. A perfect storm of climactic conditions and opportune veraison (onset of ripening) yielded grapes with concentrated acidity and balanced structure. This blend of 60% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 7.5% Mourvèdre and 7.5% Cinsault presents sweet plum with notes of white pepper and black tea. It’s roll-your-tongue-over-your-teeth juicy. Ready to drink now, it also will age well; so, pour it with your turkey, present it to your friends or cellar it—at our price of $9.99, you can do it all for less than you might find a bottle elsewhere.

Perhaps a telling tale that they lead with the Châteauneuf-du-Pape designation before mentioning the producer, no? So what did others have to say? Jeff over at Viva la Wino faintly praised (vs. the ’08) but mostly panned it. joshiemac mentioned it wasn’t half bad once spun through the Vinturi. But based on what I have heard to date my perspective remains unchanged. These wines are expensive for a reason and while you don’t have to pay top dollar you are going to have to open your wallet a bit further than normal to acquire a quality product. If I can’t do that I’d rather spend my $10, $15 or $20 on a known commodity that I am sure I will enjoy. How about you? Have you bought it? If so what did you think? Care to try and change my mind?

* photo courtesy of Viva la Wino!

Another Trader Joe’s Wine Shopping Run

As some of you may have guessed based on recent reviews I squeezed in a recent Trader Joe’s shopping trip. What did I see? A whole new end cap of the 2009 Sebastopol Hills Pinot Noir (my review on the ’08), a handful of new offerings from Poet’s Row (which appears to be a Kunde Estate’s offering) and an interesting placement of a Bridgeway Cellars Merlot. For one reason or another I passed on all of these. Say what? So what exactly did I pick up you ask? Let’s see…

Another Trader Joe's Wine Shopping Run...

  • 2007 Picket Fence Pinot Noir (3 @ $8.99) – Just following my own advice to “Buy It” here. I cleaned the shelves off at my local Trader Joe’s and would still grab another half case or so should I come across it. A worthy wine selection for those looking for something to pair with Thanksgiving turkey…
  • 2008 Trader Joe’s Reserve Carneros Pinot Noir (1 @ $9.99) – This one came recommended from Angela as a worthy competitor to the above mentioned Picket Fence. Andy and Matt agreed. Carneros Pinot is very unique in style to me so looking forward to giving this one a try…
  • 2009 Trader Joe’s Petit Reserve Cabernet Franc (3 @ $5.99) – Still trying to figure out why I grabbed three of these. As per my review I was not a fan. Worried that I was overly harsh on the wine based on my personal shopping decision I tried this one again last night. It didn’t do anything to change my initial opinion…
  • 2007 Roustabout Meritage (2 @ $5.99) – Another one from the folks over at the Central Coast Wine Warehouse. Looking at the blend percentage I once again started dreaming of this one as a follow-up to the Franc Merlot. My initial taste last night was very promising. Looking forward to spending some more time with this one tonight.
  • 2008 Steelhead Sauvignon Blanc (3 @ $5.99) – I never got to try the Zinfandel of this offering (which is a Quivira Vineyards label) and I wasn’t going to let the same happen with the Sauvignon Blanc. And I am glad I jumped on it as this turned out to be a really nice wine! As mentioned in my review this is another one worth considering for the Thanksgiving table. If that is already full don’t worry as this one is well suited for everyday sipping as well…

How about you all? Have you had anything of interest at Trader Joe’s lately that I am missing? Let me know in the comments below…

Value hunting at Trader Joe’s

I’d been meaning to get over and do some wine shopping at Trader Joe’s for quite some time. Yesterday on the way home from work I finally made it. There were two wines in particular I was looking to grab; the Picket Fence Pinot and Steelhead Zin. Let’s see what else jumped into my cart along the way…

a few new reds...

  • 2007 Picket Fence Pinot Noir ($8.99) – I’m way late to the party on this one. It’s praise has been sung in the comments, my friend Bob Dwyer chronicled this as a winner over on the Wellesley Wine Press and in pulling this post together I noticed that joshiemac gave it a thumbs up over on Grape Stories/Cellar Tracker. With that many positive accolades it seems I was lucky to still find this at all. Glad I grabbed two bottles but wondering if perhaps I shouldn’t have grabbed a few more. This one will make its way to the dinner table very soon but don’t wait for me to post a review because it will likely already be too late. Get it while you can.. By the way kind of crazy they only made 500 cases of this (per the bottle) but Trader Joe’s managed to make this one available on this east coast, good for them!
  • 2008 Dos Brotos Ranch Red ($6.99) – I’ll admit it, the classic label got me here. First I saw the Chardonnay and you see my wedding anniversary is just around the corner and my wife happens to be a Chard lover. I passed knowing her undying love for La Crema then came across the red. I’ve had a lot of luck with wines from Lake County and have mentioned a few times I think it is a tremendous place to look for value. Based on that I decided to give this a shot. This one is a kitchen sink blend of Zinfandel, Syrah, Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mourvedre, and Tempranillo which I learned courtesy of my friends at the TTB is made by the folks over at Coppola. Hopefully it delivers! Stay tuned…

From there my decision making got a bit iffy and the wheels started to fall off…

a few value hopefuls...

  • 2009 Marqués de Montañana Garnacha ($4.99) – I had read the latest Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer (pdf) and really wanted to get the Steelhead Dry Creek Zinfandel that was on offer but alas it was out. This one was in the flyer too so I decided to give it a shot. That said expectations are low so hopefully that will result in me being pleasantly surprised! In the mean time I am still hoping to track down that Steelhead Zin.
  • 2009 Chariot Gypsy White ($4.99) – Comments began appearing a while back that a Chariot Gypsy white would be on the shelves. I had a Sauvignon Blanc from them a few years back and didn’t love it so I wasn’t running to the store. That said, once at Trader Joe’s I had to give it a try. The white Gypsy is a blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Muscat Canelli and Marsanne. Angela has already done us the favor of reviewing this one and gave it a 12th bottle rating. Can’t imagine my opinion will be much different so I’ll just consider this a $5 deposit for my ’09 Gypsy red allocation.
  • 2009 The White Ribbon Sémillon ($5.99) – Hmm… I grabbed this because I mistook if for the Sancerre Angela had mentioned. On coming home I see this one was actually in the latest Fearless Flyer (link above) as well. I like Australia and I like Semillon so perhaps I will luck into something here.

So that’s what I got. Now the more important question. What did I miss? Have you found any new favorites of late? If so please let me know if the comments below.

Getting ready for summer at Trader Joe’s

Getting ready for summer at Trader Joe's

Last Sunday was gorgeous, 75 degrees at 5pm. Given the weather I was ready for a wine that reminded me of summer. Fortunately I had a rose chilled but quickly realized the cupboards were otherwise rather barren. Now I know summer is still a bit premature but, as you can likely guess, I don’t need much of an excuse to stock up. So that is what I did when I hit my local Trader Joe’s today. Here is what I grabbed…

    2009 Trader Joe’s Albariño Petit Reserve (3) – $5.99 – I remember hearing tales of the ’08 so when Angela let me know the ’09 was on the way I was sure to grab a bottle. When @joewinetraveler gave it the thumbs up I decided to grab a few extras straight away.
    2009 Trader Joe’s Viognier Petit Reserve – $5.99 – Another case where I missed out last year and Angela let me know it was on the way. It’ll be interesting to compare this with the wine below.
    2008 Honey Moon Viognier – $4.99 – A reload on a long time fave this one also recently received some love from wineaccguy who, like me, finds this one to be quite a deal.
    2009 Trader Joe’s Vinas Chilenas Reserva Sauvignon Blanc – $2.99 – When the above mentioned wineaccguy mentioned the Honey Moon I was well in the loop, when he mentioned this one it was news to me. I think I had a bad experience with one of these reds early on and wrote off the lot. That is until now, hoping this is a nice value play!
    2009 VINTJS Sauvignon Blanc – $5.99 – I enjoyed the 2008 version of this one which I noticed as made by Maxwell Creek. Given that I was already inclined to buy the next vintage so when JB told me the ’09 was made by St Supery it became a no-brainer. And because curious wines want to know I checked TTB and was able to verify that this wine as least has some relationship with St. Supery where it goes for $23 direct from the winery. I’m looking forward to giving it a try.
    2009 Spiral Wines Sauvignon Blanc – $4.99 – I’ve had a few offerings from this winery and have been pleased so when the winery stopped by to let us know a 2009 Sauvignon Blanc would soon be available I was immediately on the lookout.
    2008 Spiral Wines Cabernet Sauvignon – $4.99 – When I initially had this one I was intrigued but had yet to grab more. Well I remedied that tonight.
    2005 Monte Ducay Cariñena Reserva – $5.99 – This one has some interesting packaging as it comes wrapped in brown paper. From a marketing perspective I’m not sure how that would have effected me but we will never know as buying this one was a foregone conclusion based on Viva la Wino! positive review.

So there we have it 10 bottles with the associated logic that got them in the cart. Now I needed to fill out the case. Here were the last two bottles I randomly grabbed:

    2009 12 Apostles Shiraz – $3.99 – This one gave me flashbacks to the Chasing Clouds Shiraz offerings which went for $3 and I enjoyed for quite some time. Fingers crossed I have another flashback when the wine is in the glass.
    2006 Hope Wine Merlot – $3.99 – 50% of profits for this one go to fighting aids which is nice, hopefully the wine is too!

So there you have it. A case of wine for $62 + tax. Have you had any of these? If so I would love to hear your thoughts! Much more to come on these so stay tuned. If you want to dig in further now check out Cellar Tracker for more details.

Preparing for Wine Armageddon?

2003 Red Flyer California RedOops! That is what I told my wife. I ran down to Trader Joe’s to grab my latest haul of the Gypsy and meant to stock up on some white. Turns out I accidentally came home with 5 cases. Thought I would take the time to share with you what was in my haul and take the chance to remind you all that I am backing up my ratings with my very own wallet. 6 of the Top 10 and five from the “others of interest” list were amongst them. Here’s the gory details:

The Gypsy:

    2008 Chariot Gypsy (30) – $4.99 – See my initial thoughts here. For less than 2 weeks in the bottle it is very drinkable right now! Look forward to how it comes together over the next couple months and beyond…

A handful of new ones…

    2007 Vinum Cellars Chenin Blanc (3) – $4.99 – Was excited and surprised to see this one. I love Chenin Blanc so I grabbed a handful of this one. First glass says it was a good decision. I’ll use my next one to determine if I need to go back and buy more, don’t tell the wife!
    2007 Trinchero Family Riesling (3) – $4.99 – The ’99 Trinchero Cabernet was my wedding wine, given that I had to give this one ago (though perhaps one would have done the trick). Given it was Valentine’s Day and I am the romantic I chilled it down to serve with the roasted chicken I had brined overnight. On the first sip I knew that wasn’t a pairing meant for success, too sweet. The other two bottles will be paired with spicy Asian foods. That is my only play for this one…
    2007 Trader Joe’s Petit Reserve Pinot Noir (1) – $6.99 – This one is made by Hahn family (the Red Flyer was their previous TJ’s effort!) and from Monterey. Couple those with a $6.99 price tag and I thought maybe this one could defy logic. Stay tuned to see if that is the case.
    2008 Trader Joe’s Growers Reserve Petite Sirah (1) – $4.99 – Grabbed this one as I had heard some positive rumblings about it. 76% organic seems random. This one is made by ASV Wines who I believe makes the entire “Growers Reserve” line. Not expecting much but hoping to be pleasantly surprised.

A load of whites…

    2007 Dr. Beckermann Piesporter Michelsberg Riesling Spatlese (1) – $4.99 – My go to Riesling (#10 in the Top 10) for spicy Asian food, much prefer this to the Trinchero mentioned above. Here is a review of the 2005
    2008 Down Under Chardonnay (1) – $2.99 – Figured I would give this one another try as I enjoyed it, relatively speaking, the first time around.
    2009 Zarafa Sauvignon Blanc (1) – $3.99 – Definitely wanted to get some more of this new bargain find. Not sure if I should be concerned but this one is now called Zafrika now and comes complete with a new zebra striped label. Same importer and pretty certain it is the same juice but only bought one bottle until I confirmed.
    2008 King Shag Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (1) – $6.99 – Long time fan of this one and happy to have it back in the house. Here is a review of the 2007.
    2008 Honey Moon Viognier (1) – $4.99 – A very distinctive wine, almost slightly syrupy at times, that goes perfect with salmon.

A ½ case of Italian…

    2008 Il Valore Sangiovese (1) – $2.99 – A perfect cooking (and sipping) wine, this is a bottle I always want to have at my disposal.
    2007 Epicuro Aglianico (1) – $4.99 – Another long time fave, I fear this one is falling off. Hopefully this bottle proves otherwise. Here is a link to the 2005.
    2008 Chiusa Grande Tommolo Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo (1) – $4.99 – Haven’t had this one (#8 in Top 10) in a while as I’ve been enjoying the Trentatre, wanted to get it back in the mix. Here is a review of the 2006.

And a few others…

    2007 Perrin Cotes du Rhone Reserve (1) – $6.99 – Not sure how I managed to run out of this one, it is too good to be without. I ranked it #6 in my latest Top 10. Here’s a post on the 2005.
    2008 La Granja Tempranillo (1) – $3.99 – Another recent fave (#9 in latest Top 10), wanted to add another bottle to my stash.
    NV Porto Morgado Tawny Port (1) – $5.99 – We have lots of dinner parties and more often than not the port if fueling conversation as sipped and not often tasted, that’s when I am happy I have this one around.

That’s it! Any of your faves I missed?

Trader Joe’s Holdiay Guide 2009

I recently grabbed the Trader Joe’s Holiday Guide and took a peek to see what wines were covered inside. What did I find? The latest version of the Rabbit Ridge Allures de Robles ($4.99) was first. I grabbed a half case on sight and intend to publish my review shortly, feel free to grab some for yourself in the mean time. A sparkler, the R.S.V.P. Brut ($5.99) was next. Yet to grab this one that is made in the Methode Champenoise, perhaps I’ll grab it next time to see if I like it better than the Prosecco. Last up was a TJ’s Grand Reserve Petite Verdot ($12.99). Though I am tempted to give this one a try it is a bit more than I am willing to pay for a bottle sporting the Trader Joe’s name on its label. How about any of you? Going to give this one a try? Have you tried any of the others? If so, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Editor’s Note (07-Dec-2009): For those that are looking for even more Trader Joe’s wine recommendations I received their Holiday Wines email today.

Keep in mind these are from the Northern California version of the flyer, check what is in your local version here. Find what Trader Joe’s had to say on each of these below…

Rabbit Ridge Allure de Robles
This is a Rhône style red wine that could only come from Paso Robles. Why? The nutrient-dense, limestone-rich soils produce grapes of great character. And the variety of climate conditions within the region create distinctive flavor profiles that are unquestionably Rhône-esque, but with a definitively Central Coast vibe.

Rabbit Ridge Allure de Robles is a blend of Petite Sirah, Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre. Medium-bodied with strawberry and cherry overtones from the Grenache, the wine inherits an earthiness from the Mourvedre and supple body from the Syrah. Rabbit Ridge Allure de Robles is an excellent sipping wine, wonderful with strong cheeses and a natural with roasted meats like our Prime Rib Roast or Frenched Pork Chops. It’s a great value at only $4.99 – only at your neighborhood Trader Joe’s.

R.S.V.P. Brut Sparkling Wine • Only $5.99 a Bottle!
There’s nothing like sparkling wine for celebrations. And if that sparkling wine represents a terrific value, all the more reason to celebrate. R.S.V.P Brut Sparkling Wine from California is made in the Methode Champenoise, the way sparkling wine is made in Champagne, France. We think this technique produces stellar results – in this case, a crisp, dry wine with fine bubbles and subtle flavors of apples, toast and citrus.

The price of $5.99 for a 750 ml bottle makes it even more stellar. We think this wine would be a value at twice that price. We have limited quantities, and when it’s gone, we can’t get any more until we R.S.V.P for next year.

Trader Joe’s Grand Reserve Petit Verdot from Napa
We discovered Trader Joe’s Grand Reserve Napa Valley Petit Verdot while it was still in barrels. The vintner had intended to blend the wine into a very high profile Cabernet, but decided the wine was worthy of its own bottling. We enthusiastically agreed! In its native Bordeaux, Petit Verdot seldom reaches full maturity due to the relatively short growing season – subsequently, it’s used primarily as a blending grape. In warmer Napa, though,this late-maturing grape thrives, and at the hands of masterful winemakers, becomes a deep, rich, powerful wine. One that you’ll be proud to serve – or to present as a gift.

We have 600 cases of this impressive wine, at the impressive price of $12.99 a bottle. Get it soon, lest your holidays be filled with Petit Verdot longing.

Trader Joe’s Thanksgiving Vine Report

Trader Joe's Thanksgiving Vine ReportI got home today and low and behold who wanted to recommend my Thanksgiving Wines (and my meal too!) but Trader Joe’s. Their Food Pilgrimager was loaded with everything you needed to make a feast and the wines to go along with it. So what did they have in mind?

A series of reds from Fife Vineyards to start. Information on these seems sparse, unless the vintage on these is ’05 or ’06, which I am guessing it is not, it looks as if this winery has been laying low for a few years. The latest vintage shown on their trade site is 2005. Perhaps they are once again emerging. These are followed by two offerings from the Novella Synergy label which is made by Eos Estates. I’ve previously enjoyed the white but been a bit indifferent to the red. I do have a few friends that dig it though so perhaps I’ll give it another try. And last up, one more blend from Robert Hall, this one is the ’06 Rhone de Robles which retails on the winery site for $12. Early comments here on the site are positive. For 33% percent I’ll give this one a shot.

Have any of you had these wines? Let me know your thoughts in the comments. Now let’s get to what Trader Joe’s had to say about these wines…

Fife Wines

Let liquid inventory leftover from a winery sale linger? We think not. Tap those barrels and tanks! And that’s what we did when we collaborated with the Fife team, including consulting winemaker Alison Crowe, to create bottles of unique Fife Wine blends. Leveraging the wealth of pedigree varietals and the skill of blending visionaries, we developed a line of reds, each with a distinct character and layers of subtle complexities. They are all exceptional and the essence of great value – $6.99 for each 750 ml bottle.

Fife Cabernet: Alluring and rich. Ripe blackberry flavors with hints of cassis and subtle rose petal aromas. Classically big with well-integrated tannins. Ovation worthy (standing) finish.

Fife Petite Sirah: Petite? Only in name. This PS boasts generous fruit – cherry, plum & dark berries burst in the mouth. Smooth and sprightly – a well-structured blend with medium tannins and a long, balanced finish.

Fife Zinfandel: Inviting – like a warm hug with the right amount of squeeze. Juicy cherries and warm, sweet cloves harmonize with soft French oak. The finish holds on just long enough.

Fife Max Cuvée: Layered. Lovely. Dynamic. This quintessential cuvée fills the mouth with jammy red raspberry and blackberry fruit flavors that unveil splendid earthly accents – chocolate, pepper, tea…? What do you taste? Pure poetry.

Cuvée Classics

The winemaker’s chef-d’oeuvre, cuvées combine the flavor and structural properties of various varietals to create a deliberate profile that supercedes the sum of its parts. That’s why we think a great cuvée captures (in a glass) the spirit of this American holiday. Crafted from fruit grown in the distinguished Paso Robles region, these wine blends reverberate with energy.

Novella Synergy Red 2007: Jazz in a bottle ala Armstrong, “play the good kind.” Oak-aged 37% Petite Sirah, 25% Zinfandel, 20% Merlot, 18% Sangiovese harmonize into a smooth, juicy voice. Spicy blackberry aromas lead to cherry & raspberry flavors with subtle earthy hints (chocolate?). Finishes long, leaving notes of berry and spice lingering. Playful, complementary, razzmatazz-lu-lu-bazz in a $6.99 bottle.

Novella Synergy Blanc 2008: 70% Sauvignon Blanc, 15% Pinot Grigio, 8% Muscat Canelli &7% Chardonnay, it exudes “excited conversation” character. Aromas of fresh grass and flavors of green apple lead to a light sweetness and a clean, citrus-y finish. Pleasantly persistent effervescence permeates, perpetuating the charisma. As does the price of $4.99 for a bottle.

Robert Hall 2006 Rhone de Robles: Pours from the bottle or the decanter gracefully; plays well with eclectic palates; wears a big bow beautifully – a sociable red. Hand-harvested, oak aged grapes – 46% Grenache, 45% Syrah, 6% Cinsaut and 3% Counoise – fragrant with fresh berries & clove, it fills the mouth with cherry and cranberry flavors, delicately offset by silky tannins and hints of black pepper and spice. A bottle is $11.99 begging for a party.

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.

Trader Joe’s Wine: Ten For Tasting

Trader Joe’s Wine: Ten For The Tasting
On Monday I received an email from Trader Joe’s promoting their Trader Joe’s Ten For The Tasting (pdf). When it first arrived I was worried that they had finally decided to produce a Trader Joe’s Top 10 Wine List of their own. Lucky me, looks like they are just trying to move some product. Here are the ten wines on their list:

I had actually been tipped off to some of these offerings a bit earlier via the insider scope from DP here. In the spirit of ten, I decided to make a list of my own. Some of their choices, some I’ve had before and others that I bought on association. My total bill? $76.40 which, for me honestly, is on the expensive side at $7.60 per bottle for Trader Joe’s. Hoping I got some good stuff so stay tuned for reviews. Now let’s get to the details:

The first 3 are from the above mentioned Trader Joe’s Ten for Tasting List:

  • 2005 Howell Mountain Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon ($15) – You could easily pay $60+ for this one. Needless to say I am looking forward to trying it tomorrow (suppose to be tonight but crab cakes replaced steak…) at a quarter of the cost!
  • 2008 VINTJS Sauvignon Blanc ($6) – After watching many of my fellow bloggers enjoy the St. Supery as part of Twitter Taste Live Sauvignon Blanc from Napa Valley was top of mind. Couple that with this one being a blend of Sauvignon Blanc (78%) and Semillion (22%), a combination I feel in love with years back in New Zealand on my honeymoon, and this one was an easy choice.
  • 2008 Flore de Moscato ($5) – I was thinking I needed a white dessert wine in the fridge and then this, more or less, appeared in my inbox. This one is a blend of Orange Muscat & Muscat Canelli. Vinography’s vote for orange wine didn’t hurt the cause either…

The next 3 were wines I had previously tried that I wanted to revisit:

  • NV Porto Morgado Ruby Port ($7) – A nice companion for the white dessert wine this port is, as I previously said, “a perfect low cost option for dessert wine when you have friends over. Taste good and lets the conversation flow.”
  • 2008 Caretaker Pinot Noir ($10) – I tried this one fresh into the bottle and felt the potential and wanted to revisit once it had a chance to settle. Thinking it now has and the recent comments are raising my expectations.
  • 2008 Honey Moon Viognier ($5) – A wine I’ve long enjoyed but somehow never reviewed (until yesterday). Some may call it too sweet or syrupy. I call it the perfect alternative for red wine, given its full body, on a hot summer night.

The last 4 were bought on positive associations:

  • 2007 Dr. Jebediah Drinkwell’s Meritage ($9) – Another product of the Central Coast Wine Warehouse which has produced some gems. A bit pricey but given my experiences with the Franc Merlot, Pancake Cellars and the above mentioned Caretaker Pinot I wanted to give this one a try.
  • 2008 Picton Bay Pinot Noir ($8) – I have an affinity for New Zealand. I have an infinity for Pinot Noir. Even more so for finding nice ones for <$10. Given my experience with the Picton Bay Sauvignon Blanc (which I thought was $6 and now appears to be $8) this one was a no brainer.
  • 2007 Shannon Ridge Zinfandel ($6) – I’m always on the lookout for an easy drinking affordable Zinfandel and have been a fan of those I’ve experienced from Lake County especially the Beringer Clear Lake Zinfandel. Suggested retail price on this one per the winery website is $19, promising at a third of the cost.
  • 2008 Shannon Ridge Wrangler Rose ($6) – My pursuit for a summer rose goes on. Given the Zin was the same price this seemed a bit pricey. Still, recommended retail is $16 per the site and it is a screwcap so what the heck…

Let me know if you decide to taste any of those I passed on or if I might be missing some of your other summer favorites. Cheers!

Trader Joe’s Wine Shopping

Trader Joe's Wine ShoppingAs mentioned, in my twitter feed I pulled in a nice 26 bottle haul, the details are below. Just another example of me backing up my talk with my wallet. The two I noticed as missing were the Chariot Gypsy and the Gravity Hills Syrah. Hoping the Chariot at least offers me one more buying opportunity but looks like I am out of luck. That is why I wanted to make sure I don’t get caught short of the Franc Merlot.

The haul:

12 – 2006 The California Wine Party Franc Merlot ($5, Bulk Buy)
2 – 2007 Chateau des Cleons Muscadet Sevre et Maine “Sur Lie” ($6, Buy It)
1 – 2007 Handley Vineyard Dry Creek Sauvignon Blanc ($6, Buy It)
1 – 2007 Novella Synergy Blanc ($5, Buy It)
1 – 2005 Epicuro Aglianico ($5, Bulk Buy) – review for the ’05
1 – 2003 Epicuro Salice Salentino Riserva ($5, Buy It) – review for the ’03
1 – 2006 Chiusa Grande Tommolo Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo ($5, Buy It)
1 – 2006 Rabbit Ridge Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon ($6, 12th bottle) review for the previous version of the NV (I call this the ’07)
2 – 2003 Raimat Tempranillo ($6, TBD)
1 – 2007 Condesa de Sarabella Viura ($5, TBD)
1 – 2005 Capolan Sonoma Merlot ($4, TBD)
1 – 2005 Trellis Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon ($4, TBD)
1 – 2005 Trellis Sonoma Chardonnay ($4, TBD)

Stay tuned for details on these soon!

*photo by Matthew Oliphant