TJ's Wine Insider is your go-to guide for Trader Joe's wines...
What makes a wine “worthy”? Some would say that worthiness (the quality of being deserving of attention or respect) in wines has solely to do with a particular wine’s attributes. Are the flavors and structure balanced? Is the taste true to the varietal and style of wine represented? Have the “experts” given it a 95 or above?
That’s one way to look at it. But, there’s another approach.
What if a wine is worthy based on the occasion on which you’re drinking it? With this philosophy, there’s not only a place (and time) for higher-end Bordeaux and super-appellated Napa wines, but also for table wines and “Two Buck Chucks.”
A wine’s worthiness really depends on when and where (and with whom) you’re going to drink it.
Enter December. This is a month loaded with special occasions. There will certainly be moments for a $4.99 Green Fin Merlot. However, perhaps more than any other month of the year, December holds opportunities for celebration. Which wines are party-worthy? Here are five we’ve chosen (there are many more on our shelves). We think each one of these wines is worthy to share—whether entertaining in your home among family and friends, or presenting with a bow at your neighbor’s doorstep.
We’ve also paired these wines with five diverse cheeses (presented together, they make a wonderful cheese-board) in hopes that as this year comes to a close, Trader Joe’s can help you create a few more occasions worthy of remembrance…
Question: What is big and blue, looks like a rowboat oar, and makes an enchanting gift? Answer: A bottle of Incanto Chardonnay-Pinot Grigio—that spectacle of a wine that shows up in our stores every December. Visually, there’s nothing quite like it. The bottle, with its ethereal blue hue, is very tall, equal in volume to two standard-size wine bottles. What’s inside is equally charming—a brilliant blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio, sourced from the delle Venezie region of Italy, known especially for the latter varietal. Pouring this wine (once you figure out exactly how to tip the ginormous bottle), you’ll notice its straw-yellow color and fresh, elegantly fruity aroma. Sipping the wine (tipping your glass should be significantly easier) you’ll quickly succumb to this wine’s crisp and refreshing spell.
As Italy's neighbors to the west would suggest, an unoaked Chardonnay (with similar, crisp, citrusy attributes) pairs fantastically with Crottin de Chavignol, a goat cheese from the Loire Valley in Central France. Trader Joe’s sell a package of three Goat Crottin Cheeses (10.5 ounces for $4.99) that pay homage to Chavignol; Cheeses that will, likewise, show respect to your glass of Incanto. These mild and creamy, squatty cylinders of spreadable chèvre (original, garlic & herb, and four pepper) easily top bread or crackers, while they help put your total experience of this wine over the top. No doubt, it’ll have your guests chanting, “More, more, more!”
Incanto delle Venezie Chardonnay-Pinot Grigio is currently available in Trader Joe’s stores where wine is sold. The 1.5 liter bottle is $12.99 plus tax unless otherwise noted here: CA: $10.99. Alcohol availability & price may vary due to state laws, taxes, shipment fees & other such stuff.
Sparkling wine is made for celebration, and December is a month rife with festive potential. Whether you’re celebrating the Winter Solstice (December 21), National Fruitcake Day (December 27), or that lesser known holiday, New Year’s Eve (December 31), Charles de Marques Brut Champagne brings the bubbly to your commemorative bash. This is “real” Champagne, meaning it’s sparkling wine from that historic province in northeastern France from whence its name comes. Composed of a classic blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes, Charles de Marques is also bubblified by a classic method (literally, the méthode classique), in which a second fermentation takes place inside the bottle to yield those fizzy delights. This Champagne is pale yellow in your glass, emitting aromas of ripe, red apples, and toasted brioche bread.
The soft and supple mouthful is quite dry (i.e. not very sweet), an ideal match for the luxurious Le Délice de Bourgogne ($12.29 per pound). This is a triple-cream, Brie-style cheese that is beautifully packaged with elegant script on its clear wrapper. Opening it up, one can see the rich paste on the face of the exceptionally tall, wheel-slice. It resembles a sumptuous slice of cake—another reason this cheese makes a perfect party partner for Brut Champagne. This pair can help you celebrate just about any December holiday… except maybe National Regifting Day (December 22). We just can’t imagine anyone giving either of these items away once in their possession!
Charles de Marques Brut Champagne France is currently available in Trader Joe’s stores where wine is sold. The 750mL bottle is $19.99 plus tax unless otherwise noted here: AL: $20.99; NH: $21.99; OH: $29.99. Alcohol availability & price may vary due to state laws, taxes, shipment fees & other such stuff.
The best kinds of gifts are the gifts that keep on giving. Handing your party host a bottle of Trader Joe’s Grand Reserve 2015 Pinot Noir Carneros Lot 23 is that kind of gift. No, it’s not a bottomless bottle that mysteriously fills your glass indefinitely. What we mean is, by giving the gift of any Trader Joe’s Grand Reserve wine, you communicate the fact that our shelves support a regular selection of high-quality wines from reputable appellations, sold at incredible values. That’s the real gift—to know that one doesn’t ever need to overpay for a really good, credible wine… one exactly like this 2015 Pinot Noir. Made with estate-grown grapes from Carneros—the American Viticultural Area (AVA) that encompasses parts of both Napa and Sonoma counties—this is a California Pinot Noir, through and through. It’s more full-bodied than most Old World Pinots, with a complex presentation of plum and blackberry fruit flavors, accented by notes of baking spices, and dried herbs.
Good acidity and moderate tannins are superbly countered by the creamy mouthfeel of Collier’s Welsh Cheddar ($7.99 per pound). This equally complex, savory and sweet Cheddar, crafted for us in Wales, has the cheesy capacity to elevate your enjoyment of our Grand Reserve Carneros Pinot Noir—but enjoy this pairing while you can. Like all our Grand Reserves, our limited quantity of this wine won't last forever. Once it’s gone, you’ll just have to try the next one we’re offering… it's the gift that keeps on giving!
Trader Joe's Grand Reserve 2015 Pinot Noir Carneros California Lot 23 is currently available in Trader Joe’s stores where wine is sold. It is $12.99 plus tax everywhere we sell it. Alcohol availability & price may vary due to state laws, taxes, shipment fees & other such stuff.
Red blends are all the rage these days. This may seem like a modern pursuit—especially to those who favor California Meritage, or some of the countless, creatively named, domestic Red Blends available on the market—but the truth is, wine-makers in Bordeaux have been blending red varietals for ages. For those who feel trepidation about crossing the Atlantic for wines with foreign names and elusive varietals, Trader Joe’s can help. We have a broad selection of wines from around the world, including Bordeaux reds, such as Tertre du Moulin Saint-Émilion Grand Cru. Some translation may be required: Tertre du Moulin (the wine name), literally means “Mound of the Windmill.” Saint-Émilion refers to the region in Bordeaux where the grapes are grown and the wine is made. (In fact, Saint-Émilion is the origin of some of the world’s most distinguished wines.) Grand Cru indicates a Saint-Émilion wine that’s a cut above the common table wine. Made mostly of Merlot, with Cabernet Sauvignon and just a little Cab Franc, it tastes like a superb red blend… what did you expect? It’s deep red-purple in your glass, with an intricate nose, weaving together fruity and spicy aromas. The round mouthfeel combines the taste of dark currants and cherry jam flavors with subtle hints of spice.
We pair this distinctive wine with a cheese of similar distinction: Trader Joe’s Cave Aged Le Gruyere ($14.99 per pound). Skillfully crafted about eight hours to the east of Bordeaux (as the car drives)—and also produced under strict regulations—this Swiss creation is as fine as it gets. Its firm texture and assertive flavor would complement many-a Saint-Émilion Bordeaux. So compatible are these, they even cost the same; and it's a relatively small price to pay for a world class wine and its co-cheese.
Tertre du Moulin Saint-Émilion 2013 Grand Cru Bordeaux France is currently available in Trader Joe’s stores where wine is sold. It is $14.99 plus tax unless otherwise noted here: AZ, OR, WA, NM: $15.99; NH: $16.99; OH: $20.49. Alcohol availability & price may vary due to state laws, taxes, shipment fees & other such stuff.
A short list of worthy wines-to-share wouldn’t be complete without something from Italy. We’ve got just the thing: Rosa dell ‘Olmo 2012 Barolo. In contrast to a Bordeaux blend, Barolos are always made from a single grape varietal: Nebbiolo. Most of the world’s Nebbiolo is grown in the Piedmont region of Italy, in the extreme northwest portion of the country. More precisely, to be labeled “Barolo,” a wine must be certified to have come from the hillsides in the Langhe area of Piedmont. You see this indicated by the Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (D.O.C.G.) on the bottle at hand. Now that we know it’s authentic… how does it taste? In a word: Intense. Rosa dell ‘Olmo Barolo is deep ruby red with an impeccably graceful balance of ripe red fruit, spices and vanilla—a balance achieved by the wine-maker’s skillful blending of Nebbiolo from two distinct lots within the growing area.
Aged for 24 months in Slavonian oak (from Croatia), the finished juice is dry with well-integrated tannins and a lingering finish. This bold character makes it match-worthy for Manchego Anejo ($11.99 per pound), exclusively from the La Mancha region of Central Spain. Made from sheep’s milk and aged for one year, this Manchego’s pale ivory paste has developed an intense, nutty flavor, delivered in an ever-so-slightly crumbly texture. Serve this pairing as a bold appetizer, or after the completion of a meal. Rosa dell ‘Olmo 2012 Barolo also makes an interesting gift for the wine collector you know. It’ll age well for a decade or so.
Rosa dell 'Olmo 2012 Barolo DOCG Italy is currently available in Trader Joe’s stores where wine is sold. It is $14.99 plus tax unless otherwise noted here: AZ, WA: $13.99; AL, NH: $15.99; OH: $18.99. Alcohol availability & price may vary due to state laws, taxes, shipment fees & other such stuff.