Trader Joe's - the name synonymous with 'Two Buck Chuck', the $1.99 wine from the Charles Shaw Winery in California - also carries a broad array of wines priced anywhere from $2.99 to $60, and wines from respected regions in California, France and Italy.
Having had several conversations with non-wine-geek friends about the virtues of the wine selection at TJ's, I decided to pay the store a visit and check out the wines.
It was a Sunday afternoon. I strolled leisurely from Union Square along 14th Street until I arrived at the store, near 3rd Avenue. The first thing I noticed was how crowded the store was (a good sign), and also, that almost every shopper was filling up a shopping basket or cart. Stocking up for the week I imagined or maybe an impromptu Sunday night dinner with friends. Sales assistants are called crew members. They seemed plentiful, and were cheerfully on-hand to help out.
Perusing the stacked shelves I made my way through the aisles. The first thing I noticed was the area dedicated to the store's eponymous wine selection, all priced at $2.99. These wines did not get any shelf space, but rather were stacked in boxes along one wall. For this post I deliberately bypassed these wines in order to investigate the value elsewhere in the store. There is a huge selection of wines from all over the globe priced at below $10. And this was my budget per bottle.
So, I roamed the globe, being drawn in by certain names I recognized, those I did not, and by the array of attractive labels on display. Forty minutes later, after lots of deliberation, I too had a full basket of 12 wines, none of which would cost me more than $10. Then, I joined the 'long' line to pay at the well-staffed check-outs.
Trader Joe's in Manhattan offers delivery, from $10 to $$20, depending on your location, which I quickly calculated to be fair, and cheaper than personally getting a taxi, to haul home the huge weight that I had just purchased. While paying, the sales assistant was very upbeat and attentive (an attribute not often found at supermarket check-outs).
The wines arrived promptly the next day, as promised. That evening we blinded the wines and tasted through, making detailed notes. Below you will find our findings. Overall, Trader Joe's offers some great value wines at very affordable prices, although we found a few to be disappointing. At under $10 you are not going to find a wine of great complexity or ageability. What you should get, is a balanced wine, with clean, ripe primary fruit aromas and flavors.
- 2007 Loosen Bros. ‘Dr. L’ Riesling, QbA Mosel, Germany - $8.99: Pretty floral nose. Off-dry, Clean with lots lemony flavors. Light, and eminently quaffable. Perfect for lunch or as an aperitif. 15.5/20
- Pacific Rim Dry Riesling, Bonny Doon Vineyard - $6.99: Strong fusel notes on the nose, opening up to stone fruit. On the palate, crisp with peachy, apricot flavors. Well made, easy drinking and refreshing. 16/20
- 2005 Amaicha Torrontes, Mendoza, Argentina - $4.99: Disappointing. Lacked the signature aromas and flavors of Torrentes. Perhaps a more recent vintage would have been better. 11/20
- 2006 Jean-Luc Colombo, Les Abeilles, Côtes du Rhône Blanc, France - $8.49: More of a food wine. Subtle aromas of orange blossom and dried herbs. Nice flavors of stone fruit with earthy overtones. Would like to have tried the 2007. 15/20
- 2006 La Loggia Barbera d'Alba, Italy - $6.99: Subtle nose of smokey red cherry. Soft tannins. Quite charred and spicy on palate. A little disappointing. 14/20
- 2007 Ruffino Chianti, Italy - $7.99: Always a good bet. Packed with youthful cherry-berry aromas and flavors. Some pretty floral notes on the nose and some spicy hints on the finish. 16/20
- 2003 Finca Solono Organic Tempranillo, Crianza, DO Utiel Requena, Spain - $5.99: Intense bramble and blackberry aromas. Lots of vibrant juicy fruit, with an overlay of smokey notes. Great value. 17.5/20
- 2006 Goats do Roam Red, Wine of Coastal Region, South Africa - $6.00: Youthful mix of red fruits – wild strawberry, boysenberry and maraschino cherry. Smokey cherries on the palate, with hints of black pepper. 17/20
- 2006 Ravenswood Vintners Blend Zinfandel, California - $8.99: Intense black berry and cherry with caramel and toasty vanilla notes. Clean, youthful and juicy fruit on the palate with soft tannins and some herbal notes. 16.5/20
- 2006 D'Arenberg ‘The Stump Jump’ Red, McLaren Vale $9.49: Blend of Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvèdre. Toasty nose, with notes of anise, cranberry and ripe black cherry. Lively on the palate, packed with vibrant red fruit and spicy notes. Juicy and not overpowering. 17.5/20
- 2006 Epicuro Aglianico, IGT Beneventano, Italy - $5.99: pronounced nose of jammy red fruit – bubble gum. Ripe with baked red and black fruit on the palate. A little confected. 14/20
- 2006 Bodega Septima, Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina - $8.99: Ripe brambly aromas, with earthy, underbrush notes. A little rustic, but attractive. Ripe wild red fruit flavors, with hints of roasting meat, and spice. 16.5/20
This tasting demonstrates that good value and very drinkable wines can certainly be had for under $10 at Trader Joe's. The wines may not rock your world, but certainly for weekday drinking or for large gatherings these wines meet most consumers' budgets.
So trot along to your local Trader Joe's and see what bargains you can pick up. Selections vary by state.
Until next week have a good one and enjoy some value wines from Trader Joe's!
(Images: Flickr member Guanatos Gwyn licensed for use under Creative Commons; Flickr member woolennium licensed for use under Creative Commons)