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.