TJ's Wine Insider is your go-to guide for Trader Joe's wines...
How does that saying go? You can pick your wine, and you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your friends’ wine…? Something like that.
As your friend (we're friends, right?) we have a hard time abiding by that old wine-friend-picking adage. Clearly, we already pick the wines we carry in our stores; and that picking is tantamount to us saying, “Here, friend… these are some wines we’ve chosen for you.”
Still, we’re well aware that staring at the rows of bottles in any of our stores might arouse some anxiety, culminating in the moment you grasp the fact that you still have plenty more picking to do!
Grape farmers can relate; September is picking season. In celebration of the harvest, let’s make a deal: We (You and Trader Joe’s) will leave the grape picking to the farmers. Meanwhile, we (Trader Joe’s) will pick a bunch of good wines—the best values we can find—and tell their stories.
Then, when it comes to the pull-it-off-the-shelf kind of picking, we’ll leave that part entirely up to you (as in, YOU).*
Of course, being the kind of friend who likes to pick wines, we're happy to help you kick off your picking with five wines we’ve picked—wines you can pick up next time you’re in our store…
Region: California, U.S.A.
September is “California Wine Month,” when wine lovers make pilgrimage to Wine Country to experience the buzz surrounding (and resulting from) the grape harvest. Pacific Grove Barrel Fermented Chardonnay is one of three Golden State wines we’re featuring this month. This ‘old-school’ California Chardonnay has ripe, full-bodied flavor and a buttery finish, owed to barrel fermentation. Unlike wine that’s aged in oak, this white spends time in oak barrels earlier, at which time a secondary fermentation takes place. This transformation in barrels balances the grapes’ natural acidity, creating a rounder mouthfeel—in contrast to wines fermented in stainless steel tanks that often display crisper acidity. Think about it: Would you rather spend time bathing in a stainless steel tub, or soaking in one made from majestic oak? We can’t answer that for you. You have to choose.
Pairings: Sip with slightly richer flavors: Cheddar with Caramelized Onions; Butternut Squash Soup topped with crumbled Cheese Sticks; Lobster Ravioli sprinkled with Shaved Grana Padana...
Pacific Grove Barrel Fermented Chardonnay is currently available in Trader Joe’s stores where wine is sold. It is $5.99 plus tax unless otherwise noted here: AL: $6.99; CT: unavailable. Alcohol availability & price may vary due to state laws, taxes, shipment fees & other such stuff.
Region: Conegliano-Valdobbiadene D.O.C.G., Treviso, Veneto, Italy
That name… it’s a mouthful. Let’s parse it out to see why you’ll want a mouthful. Prosecco is Italian dry white sparkling wine, made from Glera grapes. This one’s lively and dry with fruity-flowery notes, and a crisp, bright finish. Superiore indicates the highest classification for an Italian wine, namely: Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (D.O.C.G.). This designation guarantees the origin from a specific place—in our case, a section of steep hills covered by dense vineyards, situated between the towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene in the Veneto region. So, what does an opera singer have to do with it? Cecelia Beretta is not a soprano, but an agricultural estate, founded in the 1980s by the respected Pasqua wine family with whom we’ve agreed to be the exclusive presenters of this exquisite bubbly.
Pairings: Match with festive foods: Black & White Diamond Cocktail Cookies; Tarte d'Alsace Flatbread with Ham & Gruyere; Portobello Mushroom Fries...
Cecelia Beretta Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore is currently available in Trader Joe’s stores where wine is sold. It is $9.99 plus tax unless otherwise noted here: KY, GA, FL, AL: $10.99; NH: $11.99; OH: $13.49; CT: unavailable. Alcohol availability & price may vary due to state laws, taxes, shipment fees & other such stuff.
Region: Paso Robles, California, U.S.A.
The fact that White Zin outsells its darker cousin several times over in the United States feels like a sin… or at least a misdemeanor. That’s because Zinfandel (the robust, red kind) is soooo good. And, when it’s made from organically grown grapes, it’d be a sin not to have some. The grapes in our Grower’s Reserve Zinfandel are cultivated by California Certified Organic Farmers (C.C.O.F.) who work the soil in Paso Robles—one of the most celebrated Zinfandel-growing regions in the U.S. Bolder and more complex than its blushing cousin, this wine is smooth and balanced with rich fruit flavors that hint at blueberry and blackberry. You’re going to pay for this Zin… but it’ll be worth it! Especially once you see how little it costs, and how great it tastes.
Pairings: Enjoy with sweet-savory flavors, and foods with spices (not necessarily 'spicy’): Channa Masala with Tandoori Naan Bread; Wild Blueberry and Vanilla Chevre on Reduced Guilt Wheat Crisps; Pork Rib Bites...
Trader Joe’s Grower’s Reserve Zinfandel is currently available in Trader Joe’s stores where wine is sold. It is $5.49 plus tax unless otherwise noted here: OR, WA, CA, AZ, NM, CO, LA: $4.99; TX, IL, KY, GA, FL, AL: $5.99; OH: $6.49; ID, ME, CT: unavailable. Alcohol availability & price may vary due to state laws, taxes, shipment fees & other such stuff.
Region: Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina
The thing about picking wine is, once you’ve found something you like, it’s hard to branch out. And why branch out? There’s not much incentive to try unfamiliar grapes from far-flung places. Here’s some incentive called La Finca Malbec. Of the ten or so Argentine Malbecs we carry in our stores, La Finca is the most popular, and that’s for two reasons: It’s good and it’s inexpensive. In fact, it’s one of our best-sellers, period. Having been aged in oak barrels for three months, this wine has picked up the aromas of vanilla and spices. Very soft on the tongue, luscious berries gracefully appear and make a smooth exit. Extremely drinkable. For those ready to explore south-of-the-equator wines, or for those just looking for a killer value, La Finca Malbec is your entry point, on both counts.
Pairings: Drink with meat dishes and earthy flavors: Uncooked Ground Buffalo Burgers (but cook them, of course!) topped with Crumbled Blue Cheese; Marinated Rack of Lamb with Herbs; Beet Hummus with Pita Bread for dipping...
La Finca Oak Aged Malbec is currently available in Trader Joe’s stores where wine is sold. It is $4.49 plus tax unless otherwise noted here: CA: $3.99; OH, NH, GA, FL, AL: $4.99; CT: unavailable. Alcohol availability & price may vary due to state laws, taxes, shipment fees & other such stuff.
Region: California, U.S.A.
The existence of table wine suggests there may also be “couch,” or “bed” wine. Technically, these do not exist (though, neither is a bad idea). The table-label has less to do with place, and more to do with timing. Table wine is not special-occasion wine. (Don’t uncork it on your 25th wedding anniversary.) The best time to drink table wine is on a regular day… when nothing special is happening. Ironically, a glass of good table wine can turn a regular day into an exceptional day. This is what Green Fin Red Table Wine does. Made with organically grown grapes from California, this ruby-purple colored wine with cherry and berry aromas is full-bodied with flavors of ripe fruit, vanilla, and hints of mocha that go down with a smooth finish. Drink it at the table (or wherever you like). Drink it every day.
Pairings: Goes with just about anything, though tomato-based pasta sauces and pizza are classic: Organic Brown Rice & Quinoa Spaghetti Pasta with Arrabiata Sauce; Wood Fired Naples Style Uncured Pepperoni Pizza; Organic Milk Chocolate Truffle Bar...
Green Fin Red Table Wine is currently available in Trader Joe’s stores where wine is sold. It is $4.49 plus tax unless otherwise noted here: WA, CA, AZ, ID, TN: $3.99; OH, NH: $4.99; CT: unavailable. Alcohol availability & price may vary due to state laws, taxes, shipment fees & other such stuff.