Trader Joe’s Reserve 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Dry Creek Valley and 2010 Merlot Paso Robles

The duo

We spent last night over at friends, making burritos and catching up. After we were done with our by now obligatory Vinho Verde Espiral, we moved on to two other Trader Joe’s wines that I had not yet tasted. I was quite excited because I hear/read that the Trader Joe’s Reserves are pretty good (I am sure you have heard that before as well: “Giving you a $20 wine for $10”, and stuff like that – btw who comes up with that stuff? It totally sounds like a marketing gimmick by TJ’s itself!!). Well, here is what I thought:

First up was the 2010 Trader Joe’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Dry Creek Valley. Now, I am usually not an overly big fan of cab savs. On paper, they have everything that gets me going in a red wine: red berries and red fruit, healthy tannins. Yet, they seldom impress me. I find a lot of them unbalanced and somehow unappealing. In my experience, the grape is much better in blended wines than as a single varietal wine. I have had some great ones thanks to an American friend of ours who went on a mission to make me try good cab savs while we were still in Germany. She succeeded in that I do not shy away completely when they are offered to me. This one had the typical dark red color, and the cork was nicely reddened (I have not had a red wine in a bit, as I noticed when I smiled looking at the cork…just something about those stains). In the nose, I got a lot of vanilla notes. On the palate, not so much: more cherries and dark berries. I was greeted by strong, unwelcome oaky flavors, with some strawberries thrown in. This was soon followed by what I can only describe as “greenness”, tasting like the grapes were not ripe or the grape skins and stems standing way too long in the juice after pressing. It is a bit like biting into a fresh branch. It was surprisingly sweet, and had a short finish. I did not care for it very much. I cross checked with Nina, who loves cab sav, and her facial reaction confirmed my impression. This is not for me.

Second up was the 2010 Trader Joe’s Reserve Merlot Paso Robles. A lot of people shun merlot (namely those that watched the movie Sideways…), but I have not been turned off by the grape. Again, I think it is often better when blended, but the single varietal wines usually are not letting me down. I am not having many bottles of it in my cellar, though. It poured well and looked dark red, yet a bit lighter than the cab sav. The nose was subtle, almost subdued. It tasted of strawberry and some vanilla, with later apple notes coming in (weird, but not unpleasant!). Slightly green tasting, with a mild smokiness. The finish was medium long. I thought this was much better than the cab sav, a good pour at the end of the evening. Not wild crazy about it, but a decent wine.

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11 thoughts on “Trader Joe’s Reserve 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Dry Creek Valley and 2010 Merlot Paso Robles

  1. Hmmmm…….just ran across your blog and I have to say I adore it. I would never consider myself anything near an expert in wines, though I’ve certainly put in the work haha!

    As for TJ’s….I agree that their bargain wines are usually not the most amazing thing you’ve ever poured in your glass, but for the lower price ranges are the best I’ve tasted.

    I’m excited to keep reading!!


  2. Donna says:

    The entire Trader Joe’s concept is the marketing gimmick moron! The chain is owned by a the heirs of a dead German billionaire. Everything from the concept to the ingredients are designed to fool you.

    • But isn’t that what a lot of chain stores are about? I knew they are owned by one of the Aldi brothers (I assume now his heirs).

      I think, as with any other store, it all boils down to finding out what is truly a good value there and what is not. I have found some things there that I like (which is why I go back), and I have found others I don’t.

  3. Thanks for warning me clear of that Cabernet! I love Cabs but I’ve had some clunkers of late, and they’re all just like you describe here — little structure, odd vegetal notes, and way too much vanilla and oak.

  4. coastalcrone says:

    Thanks for the review on these wines. I may have to check them out the next time I am in Houston. I like Trader Joe’s – wish we had one here.

  5. thefoodandwinehedonist says:

    I really don’t like trader joes and one of these days Ill get around to posting why. I was intrigued when u said Dry Creek because that’s a good area. But sounds every bit like a 10 buck wine. Good post!!

    • Thanks! I have had some good experiences with the cheaper wines, if you take them for what they are. However, with my limited exposure to their more expensive wines, I am not convinced of these. Looking forward to your reasons!!

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