The Classics – Trader Joe’s Top 10 Wine List

Trader Joe's Wine ShoppingOne of the regular comments I get from readers is “my local Trader Joe’s doesn’t carry that”. After thinking long and hard about how to best overcome this I decided that a list of Trader Joe’s “Classic” wines was in order. A list that contained wines that anyone could go over to their local store and pickup. So here you have it. 4+ years of Trader Joe’s wine tasting culminated into a single list of classics that produce quality wines at fantastic prices vintage after vintage. Without further adieu…

1. King Shag Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc ($7) – If it is summer you will find this wine on my patio. A nose that starts with grapefruit and grassy aromas. On the palate you are greeted with a crisp floral and mineral notes followed by a tangy and very refreshing lemon finish. A perfect choice to pair with salmon if you choose not to drink this one on its own.

2. Perrin Cotes du Rhone Reserve ($7) – The Rhone is known for their blends of Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah and this is a perfect example. The nose is laden with aromas of ripe blackberries still on their vine. This one delivers black cherry and pepper flavors with a nice, smooth texture in the mouth. Spice take over on the mid-palate before leading to an earthy and tannic finish. A good balance of fruit and spice this one goes down easy. A versatile wine that can go with pizza or something heartier.

3. Now & Zen Alsace White ($5) – Citrus and floral on the nose. The palate shows a bit of mango which adds a pleasant sweetness to the texture. A tart, crisp finish delivers lemon and mineral flavors that leave you refreshed and ready for your next sip. The perfect pairing for spicy Asian cuisine. Grab this one the next time you get Thai or Indian takeout.

4. Honey Moon Viognier ($5) – A great nose here loaded with floral notes, peaches and apricots. On the palate peach and honey are prevalent on a full bodied frame of white stony, fruits. The finish is rich and plush with ripe peaches and just a hint of sweetness. Drink this one on its own or with anything, literally.

5. Geyser Peak Sauvignon Blanc ($8) – Another summer classic. This one delivers as expected. Pale, straw in color and full of citrus aromas. The palate dances with lemon and lime flavors with some mild floral overtones all interlaced on a crisp, acidic backbone. This one is tart, refreshing and a perfect match for a grilled chicken salad.

6. Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo Carmenere ($8) – A wine I’ve often called “old dependable” as I have been enjoying this for more vintages than I can remember. This one shows smoky meat and herbal notes that merge with cherry flavors on a dry, leathery finish. A perfect initiation to Carmenere (pronounced Car-men-YAIR). Give it a try next time fajitas are on the table.

7. Trentatre Rosso ($6) – We are now on to the ’08 vintage (just the 2nd for this one) and early indications are that we have another crowd pleaser on our hands. Warm on the palate with nice, juicy cherry flavors on a balanced frame. The finish is slightly dry with lasting, dusty chocolate notes. Pair it with a savory dish.

8. Epicuro Aglianico ($5) – One of my original Trader Joe’s finds this is a wine I still enjoy. Tart cherries with a bit of herbal spice on the nose. On the palate this is very full bodied with blackberry notes and a velvety mouthfeel. The acidity and fruit driven tannins on the finish make this one a well suited for a dinner of spaghetti and meatballs as they will stand up to the tomato sauce nicely.

9. Dr. Beckermann Piesporter Michelsberg Riesling Spatlese ($5) – Yet another long time fave, I’ve been enjoying this one for years. The nose delivers a floral bouquet with light fruits lingering in the background. The palate starts crisp but quickly turns sweet before being saved by a nice crisp, acidic backbone which leads to a pleasant, lingering finish. For those that prefer something sweeter this is another alternate for pairing with spicy Asian cuisine.

10. Archero Nero d’ Avola Ruggero di Tasso ($4) – This one is very light and juicy in body while packing a heavy fruit punch showing jammy, chewy berry notes. A fruit forward offering this shows little acidity and no tannins making it easy to drink on its own. Not a complex wine but simple and enjoyable. A perfect “guilt-free” wine for any occasion.

So there’s 10. Before I go I always like share a few more as there are so many wines out there worth exploring…

Classics that disappear fast– these appear annually, albeit briefly. Buy on sight and enjoy while they last… Rabbit Ridge Allure de Robles ($5), Chariot Gypsy ($5)

Perfect for cooking– these won’t disappoint when you decide to sneak a sip as you prepare dinner… Il Valore Sangiovese ($3), La Granja Tempranillo ($4)

Special selections–And last but not least some special selections for those looking for bubbly or dessert…
Bubbly: NV Zonin Prosecco Brut ($6)
Dessert: NV Porto Morgado Ruby Port ($7)
Rose: La Ferme Julien Rose ($5)

And there you have it! Let me know your thoughts. Are any of these missing in your local market? Did I mis any of your favorites? If so let me know in the comments below…

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9 thoughts on “The Classics – Trader Joe’s Top 10 Wine List

  1. Nice list – has many of the “old standby’s” that I pick up when I can’t find the wines you currently recommend. Still, I have never seen the Now & Zen or the Rabbit Ridge at the local (University Place, WA) TJ’s.

  2. Nice list indeed! Couldn’t agree more about Shag, Honey Moon, and Beckermann, and several others are definitely reliable values.

    Trentatre is a little out of place among wines with longer track records. I can’t say I found much redeeming about Casillero, Julien, or Morgado, though I only had each once. In addition to the 2 Gerry mentioned, Perrin and Zonin are not carried in Westfield, NJ.

  3. @Gerry Hmm. Thought the Now & Zen was more widely available but perhaps not. If I hear that from a few more folks I’ll remove it from the list. As for the Rabbit Ridge if I recall directly it did make it to WA last year but this wine doesn’t stay around for more than a few days when it does hit the stores…

    @Don Thanks for the comments. Yeah, I’m thinking the Trentatre is likely to come out in the next update. I’m a fan of the Carmenere but as for the La Ferme Julien there are many other non TJ’s roses I prefer but they do run about 2x the cost. As for the Porto Morgado this isn’t one to focus on but plenty good enough for a dinner party where people just want a little something to drink along with dessert. That said my latest flyer has the Quarles Harris for $9. Perhaps I’ll check that one out. Thanks for the note on the Perrin (not in SF right now either) and Zonin as well.

  4. Have you tried the 2009 Perrin Cotes du Rhone Reserve? I tried 2007 based on your review and really liked it. Kind of odd, I saw the 2007 Cotes at a local grocery store. I was surprised to see something sold at TJs sold elsewhere.

  5. @Nirmala: Not everything Trader Joe’s carrys is an “exclusive”. We have access to a limited number of “brand names” that we usually have a better “everyday” price on than the other retail grocery stores.
    However, where we save the customer the most money is our Private Label lines and I’ve found our TJ’s Reserve ($9.99) to the most consistant in terms of quality & value.

    BTW, I still have an ’07 left and haven’t gotten to the ’09 yet, but Perrin makes a good product. As far as I can tell they didn’t even bother to release a 2008, possibly because of it not being a good year in their region.

  6. Pretty good list…I think I would add a couple though….IMHO, you cannot go wrong with the 2007 Robert Stemmler Pinot Noir, priced at 19.99, it’s a bit spendy for average TJ wines, but I think it’s worth it.

    But the ONE wine you need to have, and one I happen to think is a GREAT wine, is the 2005 Château Roudier Montagne-Saint-Émilion….for 12.99, it’s truly a GREAT value. FWIW, 2005 was a VERY good year for Bordeaux wines.

    Nice blog, BTW!

  7. @Nirmala I’ve yet to try the ’09 but also recently picked up a bottle of the ’07 which I really enjoyed! As Angela mentioned some of TJ’s wines are more broadly available. This, Geyser Peak and Casillero del Diablo offerings jump immediately to mind and it is always hard to find a better price…

    @NuckandCup I’ve yet to try the Stemmler. Actually intended to grab it but have yet to do so. Either way, as you mentioned, a bit to spendy for this list. Likewise for the Chateau Roudier Montage as I try to keep it under $10 but I did add that one to the shopping list for myself. Thanks for the tip!

  8. I noticed the Geyser Peak savignon blanc made your list. How does it compare to their Pinot grigio? I just had it and was pleased.

  9. I know I am going above the $10 mark, but at $13, the G Chevalier Sauternes (350 ml) that had showed up a few months ago really got me paying very close attention to the wine racks at my local TJs. It came and was gone so fast. I hope that it is going to be a regular yearly visitor to our store, like Rabbit Ridge.

    Did anyone else try it? Impressions?

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