New Wine Buy At Trader Joe's
I just returned from my local Trader Joe's (on Masonic in San Francisco). For the first time I have seen there, they are selling a 2003 Foppiano Estate Bottled Merlot (Russian River Valley) for $5.99. This is wine made from grapes grown by Foppiano in their vineyards.
This wine usually sells for a minimum of $12-$14 a bottle. Foppiano has been making wine for over 100 years and usually does a very nice job with their red wines. I have not tried it yet, but I am confident the wine is worth at least $7 a bottle!
I have not. My feeling (which is totally subjective) is the TJ's house brands can really vary from grape to grape and batch to batch, as (I believe) they are buying different wines from different vintners at different times. The TJ's cabernet they are selling this year may come from a different source than the cabernet they sold last year or will be selling next year. The cabernet they are selling this year may come from a different source than the chardonnay they are selling this year. (I could very well be wrong in this assumption!)
I imagine the TJ's $3.99 wines are decent tasting and offer decent value. The only way to find out if you like them is to try them.
I have nothing against house brands or generic labels, I just get a little more excited when I see a wine from a known producer, such as Foppiano, at a deeply discounted price.
Nobody's reading this discussion anymore, but I feel the need to submit my novice tasting notes after drinking this very interesting wine (2003 Foppiano Merlot, Estate Bottled, Russian River Valley) with my Christmas dinner. In summary, it was very different from other California merlots I've had (especially in this price range). These differences might not be appreciated by all merlot drinkers, but I definitely recommend it for open-minded wine drinkers at this "try me" price ($6), which I'm sure is a short-term deal since this wine retails for $15 (2002 vintage).
Bought the 2003 Foppiano Merlot at Trader Joe's in San Rafael for $6. I remember the bottle saying it contained 14.5% alcohol and 10-15% cabernet franc. Bright medium-red color and very fruity, almost Pinot Noir-like fragrance (the bottle notes say the cabernet franc contributes to the smell). The taste was very fruity (rasberry? tart cherry?) and my mother (who never drinks wine) perceived this fruitiness as "sweet," even though I'm sure this wine has almost no residual sugar. The other very noticable taste I got from this wine was a slight tartness, which I wasn't expecting. The tartness wasn't unpleasant and the overall taste was "clean" and "smooth." The high alcohol level was not noticable to me.
Again, this merlot is not for everyone, but I definitely recommend trying it for just $6. It intrigued me enough to add Foppiano to my "wineries to visit" list. Thanks, DavidT, for the heads-up. I wouldn't have looked at this wine if I hadn't read your post.
I'm not sure, but I suspect the unusual taste of this merlot is partly due to having higher acidity than most California reds. I can't find acidity stats for the 2003 vintage, but Foppiano's web page for their 2002 merlot shows a total acidity of 0.72 grams/100ml and a pH of 3.32.
BTW, this store also had shelf space labeled for Foppiano Cabernet Sauvignon for $6, but they apparently did not have it in stock (the space was completely filled with the two adjacent wines). And no, I did not see any bottles or shelf space for their famous petite sirah.