Four Luscious Red Wines to Buy Now at Trader Joe's

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

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It's happened to me twice in the past couple months. I open a $20-$30 bottle of wine and it's either flawed -or- just not to my liking for one reason or another. After the first glass I set the bottle aside and crack open a $5-$10 bottle of wine from Trader Joe's and I enjoy it so much more than the original bottle. Good, clean and delicious. Luscious. Affordable. Sometimes they absolutely hit the spot and I wonder why I waste energy tracking down highly rated and almost always more expensive wines.

Slideshow: The Best (and worst) wines at Trader Joe's

Don't get me wrong -  I do find wines worth the effort. The 2008 Paul Hobbs Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, the 2008 Rhys Alesia Pinot Noir, and the 2007 Felsina Fontalloro are a few recent examples.

But we all need affordable daily drinkers in the rotation, right? And Trader Joe's can step in brilliantly in this department - especially at the ultra-challenging sub-$10 price point.

Still, you have to be careful at Trader Joe's. Sure, the bad wines won't cost you much - but who wants to buy really bad wine and toss it out? Even if it's only $3.99? Recent dumper-outers include the L'Authentique (l'awful!) and Blue Fin Petite Sirah (a sobering offering).

There are indeed gems to be found, but it always helps to have a sherpa guiding the way. I enjoy comparing notes with Jason over at Jason's Wine Blog and tracking down buzzworthy wines he's discovered. Many of these were tips I received from his blog.

All of these were purchased at the Trader Joe's in Framingham, MA in the last few months.

2009 Sebastopol Hills Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

My bottle lists the ABV at 13.8%.

It's only 20-30% opaque which bodes well for it behaving like a Pinot Noir. On the nose I get ample fruit, herbal tea, and a tangy (signature?) California Pinot Noir note.

On the palate it's classic domestic Pinot Noir with strawberry flavors, silky smooth texture, and hardly any tannic bite. Doesn't get overly fruity but it's satisfyingly flavorful.

Bottom line: This is legit Pinot Noir for $9.99. The only thing lacking is acidity and perhaps some minerality. But it scores points for what it *doesn't* have: I didn't detect any off-putting aromas or flavors.

Well done and a value at $9.99.  

87/100 WWP: Very Good

2009 Chariot Gypsy

First Bottle:
My first taste of the Gypsy and I can see what the buzz is about.

Light-medium bodied with a fruity nose immediately upon opening. Fresh and lively. While it's certainly slighty sweet on the palate I think the baked cranberry notes reign it in nicely. A little spice. No finish really but as a $5 party wine I think it plays well.

Pretty darn good wine for $4.99.

Second Bottle:
Satisfying once again. Notes consistent with prior bottle.

Especially after opening a corked bottle and seeking a clean, tasty bottle of wine - this one hit the spot. 

85-86/100 WWP: Very Good

2009 Cocobon

Light and juicy, with slightly sweet streaks of mocha. Very approachable and friendly. Probably works better as a cocktail or right after dinner than paired with food. Nice value.  

85/100 WWP: Very Good

2007 Lost Sonnet Meritage

This one caught me a little off guard because it's unlike the Chariot Gypsy and unlike the Cocobon. It's a far more serious wine and needs time to open up. I don't think I've ever seen a Vinturi make such a noticeable difference in a wine and it's better the second day than the first.

That said, I can't enthusiastically get behind it 100% due to some quirky off aromas that were present both upon opening and after some time. Give it a try but don't back up the truck. 

85/100 WWP: Very Good

Further Reading:
Question of the Day: What bargains have you found at your local Trader Joe's lately?


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