The 10 Best Fall Wines from Trader Joe’s, According to a TikTok Sommelier

published Oct 22, 2021
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silhouette of a wine bottle with trader joe's written on it
Credit: The Kitchn

Since we last caught up with Nick Walters over the summer, he’s been busy not posting wine reviews on his TikTok. He moved across the country to start his job as a server at Eleven Madison Park in NYC; he passed his certification exam and is now a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers; and, with that, he’s gotten a taste (okay, several) of what he calls “the upper echelon” of wines.

“I can totally appreciate all these fine and rare bottles that I’m fortunate enough to get to try, and I do enjoy them a lot. But I still have a need for that $10 or $15 bottle of Pinot noir,” says Walters. He’s definitely not alone. “My friends are still shopping for their wines at the grocery store or at Trader Joe’s. As much as you might like wine, it’s hard to spend over $30 for a bottle.”

Fall — Walters’ personal favorite season — is a time when he transitions away from the light, crisp, refreshing summer whites for “fuller-bodied, rich, textural white wines” (Chardonnay, Viognier, Marsanne, and Roussanne blends) and “heavy, high-octane high-alcohol, red wines” (Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, even Grenache), which he prefers as the cool weather reaches cozy-blanket-level temperatures.

We caught up with him to get his list of the top 10 wines to buy at Trader Joe’s this fall. As for those TikTok reviews, he says we can expect the season premiere in the coming weeks. 

1. Tenuta Rapitala Nero d’Avola (Italy), $8.99

“This wine is rustic and powerful — perfect for a weeknight fall dinner or a late-night slice of pizza, or both,” says Walters. His ‘za recommendation: sausage.

2. Barossa Valley Shiraz (Australia), $9.99

“When it starts to get cooler in the fall, I break out the big reds with a bit more alcohol, and Shiraz fits the bill,” says Walters. “The grape is Syrah (the Australians call it Shiraz) and this one screams ripe red fruit with big baking spices.” 

3. Barda Pinot Noir (Argentina), $19.99

According to Walters, this might be the best wine available at TJ’s right now — it’s certainly the one he’s drinking the most. “Bodega Chacra is one of the hottest producers of natural wine in the world, making [ridiculously] good Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in the dramatic climate of Patagonia,” Walters says. It’s pricier than what you’d typically expect to spend at the grocer, but he adds, “to be able to drink Chacra wines at this price is an absolute steal.”

4. Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc + Viognier (California), $10.99

“In the fall, I tend to drink more reds than whites, but if I’m going for white wine, it’s a bottle like this one,” says Walters. He describes it as a rich and textural blend that drinks super easy and suggests pouring a glass for your significant other’s mom and sharing a beet salad. “I bet she’ll be into it.”

5. Kung Fu Girl Riesling (Washington), $9.99

If your FYP (For You Page) is anything like Walters’, it’s been absolutely dominated by Emily Mariko and her spicy salmon bowls. “If you decide to actually make it yourself, this wine is a perfect pairing,” says Walters. “Riesling and sushi are a classic combo, and the slight sweetness offsets the spice nicely.” 

6. Trader Joe’s Platinum Reserve Petit Verdot (California), $14.99

Fun fact: Petit Verdot is one of the five blending grapes of Bordeaux along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, and Cabernet Franc. “You rarely see it bottled on its own,” he says. “I’m not exactly sure what qualifies this wine as platinum, but I do know that this is a great way to try a grape you might not be familiar with.”

7. Burgans Albariño (Spain), $10.99

Admittedly, Walters calls this “kind of a summer wine.” It’s not surprising then that he “loves to drink Albariño on those warmer fall days,” likely with some shrimp tacos in hand.

8. Trader Joe’s Reserve Zinfandel (California), $9.99

Are you seeing a theme here? Ripe fruits and higher alcohol — that’s what Walters looks for in a fall wine. “I’m sometimes cautious with TJ’s private-label wines, but this Zin is super solid,” says Walters. He suggests pairing it with pasta with peas and pancetta.

9. La Sonriente Garnacha (Spain), $6.99

Walters calls this wine, “a TJ’s classic.” He adds, “This is probably my favorite sub-$10 wine available, and I think the flavors work great for fall.” He recommends you grab a couple of bottles — and a spread of meats and cheeses — if you’re entertaining a group of friends.

10. Pasqua Passimento Rosso (Italy), $10.99

Break out your favorite ravioli and red sauce: Walters is rounding out his picks with another rustic Italian red to keep you warm and cozy this fall. “This wine is made in a similar style to Amarone, so if you love ripe, almost raisin-like red fruit, this will be your jam,” says Walters.

Do you have a favorite fall wine from Trader Joe’s? Tell us about it in the comments below!