25 More Inexpensive Wines From Trader Joe’s

Some time ago I posted my first list of inexpensive wines that I’d tried which are sold at Trader Joe’s.  Now, over a year later, I have managed to taste another twenty-five budget-friendly offerings from the TJ shelves.  As in that first post, I am going to briefly reflect back over the wines by choosing my top five.  My personal “ratings” aside, there are plenty of enjoyable selections among the other 20 – also listed below. Among the top five I’ve chosen in this group are three TJ labeled wines, three reds, one rosé, and one white.  The three TJ wines are from California, one red is an Italian import and the white is from Portugal.  Here they are along with short tasting notes.

1.  Trader Joe’s Reserve Syrah 2012 — What put this at the top for me was it’s interesting, even challenging, flavor profile.  I tasted a lot of seedy/brambly woodiness, leather, some spice, an underlying foundation of dark fruits (blackberry and black currant), and a bitter note on the finish.  There was something fun around every corner.

2.  Trader Joe’s Petit Reserve Mourvèdre 2011 — The body of this red from Paso Robles was quite light.  Acidity was nice and brisk, and the tannins were light on the palate.  I caught flavors of young blueberries, cherry, plenty of pepper and oak.  It was it’s bouquet, however, that brought this selection to number two for me.  It had a big, ebullient bouquet of barnyard, plum, young blueberries and violets.

3.  Trader Joe’s Petit Reserve Rosé 2013 — At 13.7% alcohol, I’d call this a dry rosé.  Tannins were gently present.  On the palate I tasted a core of red berries (primarily strawberry) with tea leaf, a dash of pepper, some bitter herbs, and a zingy medicinal note on the finish.

4.  Espiral Vinho Verde  — As is the norm for these wines, it was frothy on the pour.  The wine was light-bodied, and the bubbles had surprising staying power.  This light Portuguese white had a pleasant flavor profile with a core of peach, citrus and grass accented by almond and floral notes.  I think it would make a nice aperitif for a summer dinner party or maybe an inexpensive celebratory toast.

5.  Epicuro Vendemmia Salice Salentino 2011 — Get past the rather unexpected bouquet and you have a satisfyingly interesting glass of wine.  Flavors were primarily sweet dark cherry drops, dried green herbs, and pinches of salt. The tannins brought a bitter woody flavor after which the long finish echoed cherry drops and saline notes.

The other wines from this group of TJ tastings are listed below – in no particular order.  Feel free to click on the links to read my full tasting notes on any of the selections.  Please remember, I’m a wine enthusiast, and these notes represent my own experiences and opinions.

Sara Bee Moscato
La Caumette L’Authentique Red
Sainte-Croix La Bergerie Syrah-Merlot 2011
Charles Shaw Pinot Grigio 2012
Villa Alena Moscato d’Asti 2012
Révélation Cabernet-Merlot 2011
Penfolds Shiraz-Cabernet 2011
Vola Sangiovese 2012
Martellozzo Prosecco
Tuella Douro Vinho Tinto 2011
Coppola Rosso 2012
Raymond Hill Chardonnay
Rex-Goliath Pinot Noir NV
Grifone Sangiovese 2012
Sphere Zinfandel 2012
Smoking Loon Pinot Noir 2012
Marqués de Cáceres Verdejo Rueda
Williamsburg Two Shilling Red 2013
Picton Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2013
Pontificis Pays d’Oc Red Blend 2012

Happy Holidays!  And Happy Sipping!

Cocobon Red Blend 2012

Here’s a question for you: What does Cocobon mean?  Is it an invented name or does it pertain to something in the real world … someone’s family name, a town, a geographical feature, perhaps a cultural allusion of some sort?  I will say that the graphics on the wine’s label reminded me a bit of the leaves and fruit on a cocoa plant.  Is that where the name stems from –  good cocoa?  Well, I suppose knowing what inspired the name isn’t exactly critical.  Is it enjoyable to drink?  That’s the important question.  But if you do know the origin of this label’s name, please drop a comment and enlighten me.

Winemaker:  Cocobon Vineyards
Varietal: Red Blend
Vintage: 2012
Appellation:  California
Price:  $9.99

Notes:  The color of this Cocobon Red Blend, another of The Wine Group’s many labels, was a dark cherry red.  On the nose I caught whiffs of barnyard and berries.  The acidity was good and tannins were modest on this light-bodied blend.  Alcohol was at 13.5%.  Flavors I detected included cherry, lots of cedar, cola syrup, and a touch of spice.  Once it breathed, the cedar subsided somewhat and made way for the addition of what I thought was a plummy flavor.  It finished on a green herbal note.  I liked this inexpensive blend just fine.

Vintjs Old Vine Zinfandel 2012

Years ago, when I was in the very early stages of my wine journey, Zinfandel was the first varietal that truly caught my interest.  Ever since, it has remained a wine that I enjoy exploring.  Back in those early days I liked Chardonnay, found Pinot Noir to be very nice, and considered Cabernet Sauvignon an interesting wine.  Yet it was my early experiences with California Zinfandel that really tickled my taste buds.  Can’t remember now what those first few Zins were, their vintner’s, etc.  I will say that their mix of fruit and (for me as a novice) unexpected non-fruit flavors proved a tremendous playground for my developing palate.  My palate is, of course, still developing as I continue to learn more about wine and it’s many splendors.

Vineyard: Vintjs
Wine:  Old Vine Zinfandel
Varietal: Zinfandel
Vintage: 2012
Appellation: Lodi, California
Price: $7.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  It’s color was a dark ruby.  The bouquet was very floral with menthol, pine sap, forest berries, and damp forest floor (sous bois).  On the tongue it’s heft was light-to-medium with high acidity.  Alcohol was at 14.5%.  As for the flavors I found, I thought this a rather “round” flavor profile with distinct zingy notes.  To me it had a core of black raspberry fruit and a mid-palate bready/muffiny taste.  There was also plenty of menthol, pepper, and some pine along with a lengthy finish of dried cranberry.  I enjoyed this budget Zin quite a bit for it’s surprising complexity and lengthy finish.  I think this would be another potential to accompany a holiday meal, especially if you find yourself a little short on cash after purchasing your holiday gifts.  [Many of us do!]  Give it a try, and see what you think.

Bogle Pinot Noir 2012

Because Pinot Noir is known to generally be a good accompaniment for a holiday turkey, I did a little advance tasting several weeks ago.  This Pinot was on sale at my local grocery store, so I decided to see about it.

Vineyard: Bogle
Wine:  Pinot Noir
Vintage:  2012
Appellation:  California
Price: $9.99

Notes:  The color was a medium ruby.  On the nose I caught scents of berries, rubber, pine, and … a touch of wet dog.  I’m not kidding.  Anyway, It was light-bodied with high acidity and moderate tannins.  Alcohol was at 13.5%.  On the palate I tasted rubber, pepper, red berries and a hint of pine.  I’m not sure I’d pair this with your typical holiday turkey, but I think it would be a good match for a gamey fowl — duck or maybe goose.  

Casal Garcia Vinho Verde

Have I got some catching up to do!  Although the weather here in my area is turning frosty and gray, I drank this light white blend while it was still fairly warm.  Better late than never, I suppose.

Winemaker:  Aveleda Vinhos S.A.
Wine:  Casa Garcia Vinho Verde
Varietal:  White Blend
Vintage:  NV
Appellation:  Vinho Verde DOC, Portugal
Price:  $6.49 at Total Wine

Notes:  The color of this wine was a pale citron.  In the bouquet I detected gentle scents of tart peach.  It was light-bodied with the expected fizz (which settles quickly).  Alcohol was at 10%, and acidity was good.  On the tongue I caught flavors of peach, citrus and a light floral note.  Remembering the experience as I type this post makes me imagine myself sipping it once more … on a sweltering tropical beach.  Not to worry, though, it will be sweltering here again soon enough.

Ménage à Trois White 2013

As no doubt you are aware, a Ménage à Trois is basically a love triangle.  Folie à Deux, on the other hand, is a delusion or madness shared by two persons who are closely associated.  So, are the folks at Folie à Deux winery suggesting that their involvement in winemaking is a shared delusion and that their relationship with their wines is, in fact, a love triangle?  If so, I love it!  And the fact that this white blend is composed of 3 grape varietals – Chardonnay, Muscat, and Chenin Blanc – carries the metaphor one step further.  Even better!

Vineyard: Ménage à Trois by Folie à Deux
Varietal: White Blend
Vintage: 2013
Appellation: California
Price: $17.49

Notes:   The color of this California blend was a pale straw hue.  The bouquet held scents of peach and grass.  Acidity seemed good, and I thought heft on the palate was on the cusp of medium and light.  Alcohol was 13.5%.  As far as taste was concerned, I found flavors of peach, bitter orange and grass with warm spice notes.  It was a decent, fairly uncomplicated blend and surprisingly dry for a wine containing both Muscat and Chenin Blanc as well as Chardonnay.  Have you had this wine before?  If so, I’d like to know what your thoughts are on food pairings.  I just opened the bottle and sipped it as my little reward for a long day at work.

Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay 2012

I love the name of this wine … Morning Fog.  It’s what I experience every day.  Not because of the atmospheric conditions but because of what’s going on inside my own head – plenty of morning fog.  Those who know me well are aware that I am not available to answer any questions or make any real decisions until that fog has lifted.  I realize that is not what the folks at Wente are trying to conjure in naming their wine.  No doubt they are aiming for an association with the pleasant cool dampness of a morning fog on one’s face or the haunting beauty it can bring as it creates both a blanket and kind of an optical filter over the landscape.  And given that these grapes were grown in the San Francisco Bay area, I’m sure they saw plenty of fog.

Winemaker:  Wente
Wine:  Morning Fog
Varietal:  Chardonnay
Vintage:  2012
Appellation:  Livermore Valley – San Francisco Bay, CA
Price:  $16.49

Notes:  This California Chardonnay was a light yellow in the glass.  On the nose I got citrus, peach and grass.  It was light-bodied with high acidity.  It had that “prick the tongue” feeling.  Alcohol was at 13.5%.  On the palate I found citrus, peach, warm toasty oak, grass and a repeat of the citrus on the finish.  It was a pleasant glass of Chardonnay.  It think it would pair nicely with a light chicken and most fish dishes.

X Big Gun Red 2012

Not long ago, I walked into a local wine shop during their Saturday afternoon tasting hours.  I know I’ve mentioned this store before – The Grateful Red – because I’ve purchased a number of my selections there in recent months.  It’s a small but very friendly store, and they’re frequently doing wine and/or beer tastings.  This time they had 4 wines out to be tasted.  After a quick swig or two, I felt this one might prove the most interesting of the four.  Although I’m not usually a sucker for a label, I did appreciate their somewhat unconventional approach and the implied pun.

Winemaker:  X Winery
Wine:  Big Gun
Varietal: Red Blend
Vintage: 2012
Appellation:  California
Price:  $15.99 at The Grateful Red

Notes:  The color of this California blend made from 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Syrah, 27% Merlot and 6% Grenache grapes was a dark purple/red.  On the nose I smelled dark fruit and what I would describe as compost.  Acidity was all right, and the weight on the tongue was on the lighter side of medium.  Tannins were also in the medium range, I thought.  Flavors I tasted included cherry, red currant, clove, and pepper.  Alcohol was at 14.5%.  While I wasn’t bowled over by it, it might fit nicely into the holiday spirit(s) given it’s flavor profile.

Chateau St. Jean Pinot Noir 2012

In my last post, I mentioned that I’d flipped a coin to determine which of two wines to drink with my Thanksgiving dinner.  Well, if the toss had come up tails instead of heads, this California Pinot Noir would have been the winner.

Vineyard: Chateau St. Jean
Wine:  Pinot Noir
Vintage:  2012
Appellation:  California
Price: $15.99

Notes:  The color of this CSJ was a pretty ruby.  On the nose I caught whiffs of strawberry and pepper.  It was light-bodied with good acidity and light tannins.  Alcohol was at 13.8%.  On the palate I tasted strawberry, some spice, oak, chlorophyll, a smokey note and a hint of mushroom.  It was a great one for the turkey leftovers and enjoyable to sip on it’s own.  Yes, you could say I liked it.  I was able to find it on sale for $9.99, and I think that’s a definite value buy.

Clos du Bois Shiraz 2012

Thanksgiving was an all day affair in my house this year.  That was basically because work was so hectic – they kept me working until late the night before – that we did pretty much all the cooking on Thanksgiving Day.  The only dish done prior was our homemade cranberry sauce!

All tolled, the dinner was a big success.  Being in an adventurous frame of mind this year, we decided to try out several new recipes.  Every single one of those extremely tasty, successful recipes took longer than the instructions said they would!  Luckily it was just our family, so we didn’t have to worry about hungry guests waiting for the slow cooks to get their act together.  We at late, but we ate well.  Keeping the adventure going, we decided to throw our wine choice to the fates.  We had two red wines in the rack, so we tossed a coin.  It was heads!  And that’s how I ended up having a Clos du Bois Shiraz with my Thanksgiving meal.

Winemaker:  Clos du Bois
Varietal:  Shiraz
Vintage:  2012
Appellation:   North Coast, CA
Price:  $16.49

Notes:  The color of this Clos du Bois was a dark purple.  The bouquet held scents of berries and menthol.  It was a medium-bodied wine with good acidity and medium tannins.  Alcohol was at 13.5%.  Flavors I found were dark berries, plum, a distinctive leather note throughout, and menthol on the finish.  It was what I’d call a friendly and approachable wine with some fun complexity to boot.  I wouldn’t normally have paired a Shiraz with my turkey, but we were being a little daring.  This time, at least, it worked out just fine.

The other wine was a more traditional choice – a Pinot Noir.  Guess I can have that with the leftovers!