Trolling the wine section at my local Trader Joe’s has become more challenging of late. You see, they have been getting such large crowds that the lines are two deep at the front of the store and then turn up the wine aisle. These lines often go all the way to the end of the wines and turn the corner! I have to admit, the TJ staff do an amazing job keeping the line moving. But … when I visit now during high traffic times, I can no longer linger among the wines pondering my choices. That would make me an impediment to checkout. Believe me, I am not going to get between those TJ shoppers and their checkout!
So when I see that crazy long line, I simply go to the end (somewhere in the back of the store) and pick up wines as I pass through the wine section. Oh! Did you catch that little pun I just made? Didn’t plan it, but there it is. And here is one of the selections I recently grabbed from my place in line.
Winemaker: The Pass
Varietal: Sauvignon Blanc
Appellation: Marlborough, New Zealand
Price: $8.99 at Trader Joes
Notes: This SB was extremely pale. It had a very “stinky” bouquet of ripe grapefruit. Acidity was effervescent and brisk. It was light-bodied, and alcohol was at 13%. Flavors I detected were grapefruit and oak. I thought it was quite enjoyable – nice and tangy. It left a pleasant fuzzy tongue feeling from the high acidity. No finesse to speak of, but fun to drink nonetheless.
As I’ve mentioned before, it was California Zinfandel that really got me started on wines and wine exploration. Thus, I have a soft spot in my heart for the varietal. Of course, not all Zins are created equal.
Winemaker: Trader Joe’s
Wine: T.J. Coastal Zinfandel
Appellation: Central Coast, CA
Price: $4.99 at Trader Joe’s
Notes: The color of this Zin from the Central Coast was a medium garnet with definite brownish tinges. On the nose I caught scents of berries, earth and pine resin. It was uncharacteristically (and for me unsatisfyingly) light-bodied with decent acidity. Alcohol was at 13.9%. On the palate, I tasted red fruit toward the front end followed by pepper and copious woodiness. The finish was mostly bitter but also held echoes of cherry drops. No doubt it would do fine with a plate of pasta or another casual meal. I personally prefer more body and structure in a Zin, but you can’t beat the price.
I try not to consult the winemaker’s or wineseller’s notes on a particular wine when I’m looking for a new wine experience. Yes, I know they can prove helpful in finding things we think we’ll like based on the flavors we prefer and the wine experiences we’ve enjoyed in the past. I definitely find them useful when searching for a wine to accompany a particular meal or for an occasion. And I can’t completely ignore them if – as in some retailers – descriptors are posted with every selection. But since I don’t want all my wines to taste the same, I don’t pay close attention to them when I’m browsing.
I also try not to read the back label before drinking a wine on the chance that it’ll contain tasting notes. I don’t want my own experience to be affected by the suggestions of certain flavors and aromas being present. I don’t think I’m all that easily beguiled, but I like the idea of starting with a blank slate when experiencing a wine for the first time. And my experience has proved that, although often similar to what I taste, I don’t always agree with winemaker notes. In some cases their notes and mine are quite different. This wine is a case in point. You can read the importer’s/winemaker’s description by clicking on the picture. My notes are below. Like night and day almost. If you have tried this selection, I’d be interested in hearing what you found.
Appellation: Colchagua Valley, Chile
Price: $14.99 at Whole Foods
Notes: This Chilean Chardonnay was pale yellow in the glass with a faint bouquet of lanolin, citrus and spice. Acidity seemed good, and alcohol was at 13.5%. Flavors I found consisted primarily of clementine and grass with fleeting whispers of spice. I found it to be a somewhat restrained selection. Not the average New World Chardonnay. I liked it!