Discovering More Than Two Buck Chuck

I’ve come to realize that Trader Joe’s is surprisingly polarizing. You’re either a Trader Joe’s fan, or you’re not. Those of you that fall into the latter category may already be rolling your eyes, desperately clicking off this page out of disinterest, or maybe even annoyance. No problem, it’s not for everyone. For all others, I wanted to share my latest TJ’s wine experience, which has turned up a fantastic white, a surprising Brunello, and a couple bargain-priced Amarones that I would buy again.

While I do fall into the loyal Trader Joe’s shopper camp and even follow the @TraderJoesRants&Rave Twitter feed, I admit that wine did not used to be one of the products on my shopping list. I don’t place myself into the wine snob or judgy category, but I guess the Two Buck Chuck frenzy kinda turned me off. Sure, I’ve heard anecdotal instances of a good bottle here and there, but it hasn’t been compelling enough to turn my cart down the wine aisle. Fast forward many years later and I’m following a guy on Twitter who’s always posting pictures and reviews about TJ’s wines. I actually find myself looking forward to what bottle he’s going to Tweet about next.

20160822_084202So we finally do it. Todd and I roll our cart down the wine aisle of Trader Joe’s and pick up a 2015 Sauvignon de Seguin for $6.99. It’s 100% Sauvignon Blanc and we love it. Our friends love it. I Tweet about it. And I realize I need to get more of it. It’s light and crisp. It’s a bit zippy, but not quite as much as the New Zealand style that makes you pucker as though you just popped a green apple Jolly Rancher in your mouth.

A TJ’s Italian Night

During that same shopping excursion, we also bought a 2010 Sommavite Brunello because everyone in the wine world is gushing about the 2010 vintage, saying to snap up bottles when you can. At about $20, we were sold. But before we decided to open it, we remembered that we saw several other Italian wines of interest and thought it would be fun to do a tasting with a few bottles. So Todd and I go back to Trader Joe’s and we bring along our friend, Rick.

We browsed the Italian section and picked out a 2012 Rosa Dell’Olmo Barolo (~$15), the 2013 Pasqua Amarone della Valpolicella (~$20), and the 2011 Duca di Castelmonte Sicilia
Tripudium
(~$12). As we continued down the aisle, we encountered the 2013 Conte di Bregonzo Amarone della collage.jpgValpolicella (~$20) that looked like the same exact one we got at a local market when we lived in California. The market had it on close out and Rick, who happened to be visiting us at the time, bought it, tried it, and liked it so much for the price that he actually threw a couple bottles in his suitcase to take home.

Intrigued, I checked my CellarTracker account and sure enough, it’s the same label. I asked the TJ’s wine guy about it and he said it is now a Trader Joe’s exclusive. Of course, we grabbed one of those to round out the tasting.

The Verdict

What We’d Buy Again

  • The Sommavite is a solid Brunello for the price. Although it is a bit on the lighter side for a Brunello (heck, it’s still a youngin’ and could use some time), it still has dark berry and licorice notes that I would expect.
  • Both of the Amarones are also great values for the price. We all agreed you have to go into it knowing they are not like your typical Amarone, which also has a much higher sticker price. These are both lighter bodied and don’t have the raisiny characteristic of a heavier Amarone. However, for about $20, these are great weeknight wines. I thought it was a very close race and, if I had to choose, I would say my favorite of the two was the Conte di Bregonzo.

What We’ll Pass on Next Time

  • The Barolo is simply too thin and lacks character. Although it is drinkable overall, it is just plain boring. I admit it drank better with food, but for a few dollars more, I’d prefer the Brunello.
  • Sadly, the Duca di Castelmonte, a Nero d’Avola, was a complete disappointment. We were all anxious to try this one, thinking (or maybe hoping) it would be a sleeper. Nero d’Avolo is the most important red wine grape of Sicily and is often compared to Syrah because of its fruity, full-bodied structure. However, this particular one had a bitterness that masked the fruit and struggled to show any balanced flavors.

After this tasting, I look forward to trying more Trader Joe’s wines. Granted, not all of them are winners, but discovering a collection of weeknight wines is refreshing. I welcome any comments on what you’ve tried, liked, or disliked, from Trader Joe’s wine selection!

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