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Trader Joe wine bargains

Other than 2-buck Chuck (or 3-buck here in NJ), what good wine bargains do they sell? I am limited to the Westfield, NJ location as it is the only one which carries wine near enough to travel to.
Who has snagged some really delicious bargains? Reds, whites...preferably dry. Chianti or Bordeaux?
Do tell!

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  1. My go-to white for the past couple months has been a zingy aromatic Hungarian called "Woodman's White" from Hilltop Neszmely winery. Floral & zesty, but not cloying. Great buy for $3.99!

    1. Today I got a couple of bottles of Wente Crane Ridge Reserve Merlot 2003 for 14.99. That wine is local to the Bay Area (Livermore Valley) so I am not sure if you will find it on the east coast. If you do, try a bottle. It's quite good and 14.99 is an excellent price.

      1. This is one to avoid- the Argenta Malbec for $4.99 is awful. Don't buy it!

        1. Look for their Portugese Vinho Verde. It's $3.99 (at least where I live) and it's very light, crisp, a little fizzy. Perfect spring quaff!

          3 Replies
              1. re: andytee

                Vino Verde is perfect for the summer. Usually only 10% alcohol as well

          1. I'm a big fan of Robert Hall Cabernet for $11.99 (in Southern California). It's always sold out at my TJ's.

            1 Reply
            1. re: L.A.Hound

              I second that recommendation. Had the '04 last night and was very, very pleased.

            2. I'm a huge fan of Napa River cabernet (4.99), Black Mountain (by Fat Cat) cabernet (4.99), Blackstone cabernet (4.99), and Meridian Pinot Noir (~10.99).

              1. After reading the replies, I think it would have been helpful to be more specific about the price range you're asking about. Are you looking for $6 and under (close to "Chuck" price)? Are you looking for any good bargain under $15?

                Anyhoo, I think Columbia Crest (WA) Two Vines Shiraz is a nice dry red for its price range ($5.50 a few months ago in CA). The red Rosemount (Australia) blends (Shiraz-Cabernet, Grenache-Shiraz) have also been good for $5 ($4 for several months last year).

                2 Replies
                1. re: HungryMojo

                  I'm sorry! I really didn't have a price in mind, but under $10 sounds good. I was really looking to see if anyone got any bargains (i.e....cheaper than in your own neighborhood wine store). But reading all these posts makes me want to try them all!
                  Thanks everyone! Keep 'em coming!

                  1. re: shopgirl

                    Voila -

                    http://www.vinquire.com/wines/search/...

                    If it has a yellow star next to the name, it means "recommended". I'm not sure how they got these but u can read the reviews also to see what ppl said.

                2. also, to try, i think it's the tres pinos (or something like that, anyway) malbec?

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: food.fiend

                    Just because a wine is cheap doesn't make it a bargain. Since I live n a county that doesn't allow grocery stores to sell wine, my Trader Joe's doesn't sell wine, but in the ones that I've been in that do (in other states) I've never seen much that I was interested in drinking, regardless of the price.

                    1. re: dinwiddie

                      The Smoking Loon viognier is a nice crisp white (about $9) and IL Valore Primitivo (same grape as zinfandel), about $5, are very good light dinner/pizza wines, respectively. I could go either way on the vinho verde noted above.

                      1. re: growler1

                        If you like Smoking Loon, you should try Trader's Honeymoon Viognier. It's only $5-6 and we like it a lot more than the Loon.

                        1. re: mojoeater

                          way way better than either (for $8.99) is the Clay Station Viognier. Try it!

                      2. re: dinwiddie

                        I live in a state (California) where TJ's *can* sell wine, and I can count on one hard the number of bottles I've bought there in the last three years. I agree: "I've never seen much that I was interested in drinking, regardless of the price."

                        1. re: dinwiddie

                          If you never drink it, how do you know you don't like it?

                          1. re: carolinadawg

                            I'm not dinwiddie, but off the top of my head, I'd say there are a few different ways . . . .

                            One is that after tasting umpteen examples of ______________ (insert wine type here), and not really liking any, one doesn't need to taste the "umpteen-and-first" of that wine type to say, "I don't like __________."

                            Similarly, if one tastes umpteen examples of wines made by ______________ (insert winery here), and not really enjoying any, one doesn't need to taste the "umpteen-and-first" example from that winery to say, "I don't enjoy their wines."

                            And if one tastes umpteen examples of wine purchased at ______________ (insert wine store here -- it doesn't have to be TJ's), and not really being "wowed" by any, one doesn't need to taste the "umpteen-and-first" before saying, "I really don't like what that store offers."

                            Dinwiddie has said the TJ's where he lives cannot sell wine, but the TJ's in my area can. And after more than 20 years of trying wines offerred by Trader Joe's, I can say with some degree of confidence that I perfer to purchase my wines elsewhere -- I have a MUCH higher rate of "success" in finding wines I enjoy elsewhere than I do at TJ's.

                            This does NOT mean that TJ's sells bad wine, and that everyone should hate it, too. Quite the contrary! The point is we all have our own individual tastes, and for many people, Trader Joe's offers some great values in their wine dept., just as they do in the food dept. But for me -- and the majority of people I know -- we go elsewhere . . .

                      3. mezza corona pinot grigio is a great find, and a bargain.

                        they also usually have pretty good prices on coppola wines...all the varietals are yummy, but my favorite is the claret.

                        1. I'd take major exception to the guy who said there is nothing good at TJ's.

                          There is both good and bad wine there at all price ranges.

                          Some real winners -

                          Peachy Canyon's "Incredible Red" Zinfandel, around $10. A rich spicy Zin, lots of depth.

                          Darien Rioja - $8 or so, a great all Temperanillo Red.

                          Il Valore Chianti Riserva - $7, "just" a Chianti, but very mellow and drinkable and pairs great with pizza, pasta, and chicken.

                          Jaboulet's "Parallelle 45" Cotes de Rhone - a great french wine for $10

                          Rex Hill Pinot Noir - not a discount wine, but a good price $19.99 for a great Oregon Pinot.

                          and some whites -

                          The Clay Station Viognier (which I already mentioned elsewhere) is my go-to dinner party white.

                          The Amaicha Torrontes ($3-5) is suprisingly great for the price. Sure a more expensive Torrontes might be a bit more subtle, but don't tell people what it costs and no one will ever suspect it is so cheap.

                          They have a great Gruner-Vetliner from Sepp at $8.

                          The Vinho Verde is good.

                          Montecillo's Rioja Blanca is around $5-6 and very versatile.

                          All in all, I have good luck there. With so many wines between $4-10, I think it is important to have a good attitude and figure if you don't like it you can use it as a marinade. Ask questions, at least at my local store if you ask for "someone who can answer questions about the wine" they will find you someone good who can point you to the good stuff. Ask other customers who are buyling interesting wines what they are like. And don't be afraid to experiment.

                          8 Replies
                          1. re: andytee

                            andytee,

                            I don't know if you are referring to me, or to dinwiddie, but it's *not* about the wine, it's about the palate.

                            There are plenty of people -- thousands! -- who *love* the offerrings at TJ's. And I think they are absolutely right. OTOH, I find little to love there. Does this mean I'm right and everyone else is wrong? NO, of course not. What it means is that my palate is not pleased by what I find there, or rather -- that I find better wines elsewhere. But that's MY palate. Not the palate of the thousands who love TJ's. And everyone's is different.

                            FWIW, for years I have recommended to people in my wine classes that shop at TJ's -- but do so with the very idea of experimenting! Whenever the Fearless Flyer comes out, you buy a case of 12 different wines -- try 'em -- and go back to buy a case or two of the few that you actually liked.

                            1. re: zin1953

                              Zin - Thank you for being a connoisseur who does not judge those of us with less trained palates. I really appreciate your posts.

                              1. re: zin1953

                                I was referring to Dinwiddie's post. Didn't sound like he had actually tried any wines from TJ's, and I hate to see anything condemned without trial.

                                I am a big proponent of the idea that wine cost has little to do with enjoyment, and also of the idea that budget need not be an impediment to enjoying wine.

                                And yes, palate is everything here. I guess all taste is subjective, but that doesn't mean we don't post about what we like and look for common threads. Thats what CH is all about.

                                I can understand not wanting to do most/much of your wine shopping at TJ's. Their selection includes a lot of losers and a lot of wines that are designed to be sold on the basis of a cute label and a low price point, not on the quality of the contents. And I would agree that a focus on "bargains" rather than tasty wines (that are also affordable) kinda misses the point. However, I would be surprised to hear of anyone who couldn't find a bottle or two that they liked out of the selection most larger TJ"s offer, and I know that what they sell is often sold at a fair discount over many other retailers.

                                Personally, I buy wine there when I am already there for groceries, and, as you mentioned, find that it is a great way to expand my knowledge of wine and to try different varietals with low risk due to the low price points. It's also a great resource for simple, decent bottles of wine for parties, host gifts, etc. It's not the be-all and and-all of wine, and I love shopping at more specialized stores as well, but I do think that most people can find some bottles there that offer a lot of enjoyment for a very fair price.

                                It's definitely a great place to explore and experiment. I would agree that a mixed case of under $10 wines chosen at random would yeild more bad than good, and could see how one might use that to condemn TJ's. However, with a little education on what to look for and a few pointers from store staff and friendly fellow shoppers, I think it is possible to walk out with a mixed case that has 8 or 9 bottles that most folks will enjoy in it. For a $100 investment, this is a great success, and like you said, you then repeat the standouts while continuing to experiment.

                                OP's specs were "under $10" which I think is a very reasonable price point for most people on modest budgets looking for daily drinkers, regardless of their palate. Where would you send her? What wines would you suggest? TJ's is not a good place to "reach for the stars", they almost never soar, but IMO they do offer a good range of solid daily drinkers at fair prices, and in greater variety than most retailers.

                                1. re: andytee

                                  Actually, I when I was younger and had not been drinking wine as long (and before my doctor made me stop opening a bottle with dinner every night) I did occasionally buy wine at TJs (I didn't always live in Maryland) However, my palate has matured and my wallet no longer makes me limit myself to wines that are under $8. I don't have any problem with folks who buy "daily drinkers" at under $10, but I do have problems with the kind of wine drinker who thinks that Two Buck Chuck is wonderful because it cost less than $4.99, not because of how it tastes (and personally I have never liked it and yes I have tasted it more than once.) I admit be being something of a wine snob, but then again, I look for value in what I do buy within the parameters that I set for myself. I don't go out and buy first growth Bordeaux or even the higher end single vineyard CA Cabs. On the same token, I don't buy the inexpensive, mass produced, and insipid wines that are what most of the market is either. Since I drink at most two bottles a week these days (that pesky doctor again) I tend to drink wines that I really like. That usually means wines that are out of my cellar that I probably paid between $25 and $50 a bottle for and which have been able to properly age. There are also plenty of wines that I drink that cost less than that, but I tend to find my idea of values in the wines that are in the $20 range, usually in the area of Rhones, South American, and Spanish wines. It is there that I find wines that have lots of character and finese while still being a "good value." I did not mean to denegrate those who like the wines at TJ, I just meant that I did not equate "value" with "inexpensive" but rather with quality for a reasonable price. And for the most part, I have not seen anything at TJ that I personally want drink with the limits on how much I can drink. As my father said, life is too short to drink even mediocre wine.

                                  I will also note that the OP thought that Two Buck Chuck was a good value, and it was that mentality that I took issue with.

                                  1. re: andytee

                                    andytee,

                                    There is the "10-80-10" rule, which is applicable to a great many things in life. Briefly, the "10-80-10" rule states that 10% of _____ is outstanding, 10% of ______ sucks, and the remaining 80% is in the middle. This can be applied to everything from the quality of employees in a large company, the quality of the music on the radio, and (IMHO) the wine selection at TJ's (where I have been a customer since the late 1960s).

                                    ***WHICH*** wines fall into which category depends upon you own personal tastes and preferences. (Just like, "Which is better, Chez Panisse or Lalime's? McDonald's or Jack-in-the-Box? Republicans or Democrats?" Intelligent, well-meaning people may differ.)

                                    >>>>> OP's specs were "under $10" which I think is a very reasonable price point for most people on modest budgets looking for daily drinkers, regardless of their palate. Where would you send her? What wines would you suggest? TJ's is not a good place to "reach for the stars", they almost never soar, but IMO they do offer a good range of solid daily drinkers at fair prices, and in greater variety than most retailers. <<<<<

                                    Before I can answer that, I would -- as I do on other wine boards online, as I do with the students I teach, as I did with the customers I helped over 35+ years ITB -- have to ask questions of the consumer. What kind of wines do you like? What wines have you had in the past that you have enjoyed . . . that you didn't like . . . and why? Once I have an idea of the individual preferences of the individual, then I can make recommendations. (And when "chatting" online, I would have to add one more question: "where do you live?" Clearly some wines are available *here* that may not be available *there*.

                                    It is, in my opinion, the job of a retailer to ask just these questions, to get to know their customers preferences. Retailers do not want to sell you a bottle of wine. They want to sell you bottles of wine over time. They want you to come back, to become a regular customer. It's just good business sense: do they want to make the profit off of one bottle one time only, or do they want the profits off a bottle or two many times, over and over again? And to ensure you become a regular customer, they have two avenues to take: offer rock-bottom prices (generally with little or no customer assistance, letting the prices themselves do the selling), or they have knowledgable staff who knw their product, who can answer questions, who can assist you (if it's desired) select that perfect wine for that perfect meal. This latter avenue need not automatically mean high prices, but clearly we aren't talking Costco -- or even TJ's -- here.

                                    Cheers,
                                    Jason

                                    1. re: andytee

                                      andytee, conversations online grow and develop. You will notice that my prior posts in this thread are clearly direct replies to you and to dinwiddie, and *not* to the OP.

                                      It is precisely because I find better values elsewhere that I did NOT reply directly to the OP. I had no wine to specifically mention to her as being available in a Trader Joe's in New Jersey. Indeed, even if I knew of some bargains at a Trader Joe's here in Northern California, that wine MAY NOT BE AVAILABLE in New Jersey . . . .

                                      1. re: zin1953

                                        After a year in wine retail the one thing I know for sure is that there is nothing universally consistent about what people will like. I've tasted 98% of the 350 or so wines have in stock so that I can be relatively certain that each one is technically OK, and to allow us to give people a sense of what the wine tastes like and how it will compare to others we have or to another wine they love.

                                        It is, however, quite clear that palates and tastes vary widely among people. Person A may love a wine while person B doesn't. It happens every day at our tastings, regardlessof price or ratings. Our greatest asset is being able to guide people to wines they will like, but we often have to be rather creative to draw out enought wine descriptors to be able to help. It's cricitical that we not be in any way judgmental as to a person's level of experience, knowledge or ability to put their preferences into words.

                                        We are price competitive with other smaller independents and even with some of the big guys on 'marquee' wines, but service and information are what we really have to offer most customers. That and as many great small-production, good value bottlings as we can provide. You are 150% right about why most of our customers shop with us. Consistently good recommendations are our best selling tool.

                                        1. re: Midlife

                                          Until someone becomes very familiar with wines and what they like, a good, independent wine shop is the very best place to go. So what if you might spend a dollar or two more for the wine, you will enjoy the personal service and be much more likely to find a wine that you really enjoy that you would not have tried otherwise. While I seldom walk into wine shops anymore (just to dangerous) and buy most of my wines from allocation lists, I have very fond memories of some very good wine shops that I used to patronize all the time just becaus eof the care and caring that was evident in the staff and owner. It doesn't necessarily have to be a small operation either. Some of the best service and advice I ever got early on was during visits to K&L in San Francisco when I was there on business a couple of times a year. (It was the folks at K&L that introduced me to Karl Lawrence Cabs)

                                2. There's always a few, but they change, and some may not be great wines but are still good values. A few I've enjoyed recently ... Marques de Riscal rueda, Casillero del Diablo sauvignon blanc, both less than $6 ... St. Croix vins de pays doc syrah-merlot, five bucks ... a Cote du Rhone Caves du Pape in a jug-type bottle for five bucks; a few nice NZ sauvignon blancs for around $10 ... all are very drinkable daily table wines that happen to be excellent values ... there are others, too, like a [what's the name? Half Moon? Full Moon?] California Sangiovese for six bucks ... not to mention, one will occasionallly see good vintages of well-known and admired California varietals in the $25-$40 range that are superb values, IF they have been handled properly.

                                  1. My Wife and I really like Nerella del Bastardo for $10. Nice juicy red that can stand up to food or be sipped.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: Daly

                                      Thanks for the recco, just picked up a bottle today for $6.99, haven't tried it yet. Bottle describes it as a "Super Piedmontese", (vintage 2002 ) which is a illegimate child of Barolo and Barbaresco.

                                      1. re: Daly

                                        Yep, this is our "daily drinker."

                                        1. re: Daly

                                          Yup, I like this Bastardo too.

                                        2. Does anyone know if the selection varies much by store within CA? I tried in LA today for the Vinho Verde, didn't see it or a couple others mentioned here. I assumed it was a white, am I right?

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: coconutz

                                            Selection does vary a lot from store to store. I was watching very intently the other week when a sales manager and a district wine buyer were walking the liquor aisle, trying to decide what bottles they would stock at this particular locale.

                                            and yes, Vinho Verde is typically a lighter Portugese white wine, similar to Spanish Albarino. I've read that there are rustic reds made in the Vinho Verde district, but I've never had one.

                                            1. re: zinFAN

                                              Keep in mind there are TWO types of Vinho Verde made in Portugal -- well, three if you can actually call a red wine green (and yes, they do).

                                              Most Vinho Verde is produced from a blend of Loureiro, Trajadura and Pederña (aka Arinto) grapes. However, the best Vinho Verde can be truly exceptional wines, and come solely from the sub-district of Monção and are produced solely from the Alvarinho. This is the same variety as the Albariño, which grows right across the Minho River (that forms the Portuguese-Spanish border), in the Spanish region of Galicia and, specifically, the sub-region of Rías Baixas.

                                              Most Vinho Verde have, IMHO, no similarity to Spanish Albariño at all. But the Vinho Verde from Monção -- those which all produced from the same Alvarinho/Albariño grape variety -- can be truly stunning!

                                          2. I personally believe two things about finding these less than $10 winner bottles.

                                            1) You need to find somebody at a local store who can help guide you. Usually IMHO trader joes does NOT have that person. However, you can (and I have) gotten lucky and still found a knowledgeable "wine guy" at traders who actually does know something about wine. But good luck w/ that. In general, you're *much* more likely to find that person at a local wine retailer than TJs.

                                            2) Stick to South America/South Africa/Spain. It's damn difficult to find solid CA bottles in that range.

                                            r

                                            PS. Point (3) would be to check out this guy http://quaffability.com/ if you are headed to a TJ's

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: rafloh

                                              I will second all of that.

                                              Ask if there is someone on staff who can answer questions about wine. At my local TJ's (Cambridge, MA) there are several such people, and they will usually fetch one for me. Some are better than others, but all know their stuff and have tried most of the wines. I am sure this is not the case at every store, but ask for someone and see what you get.

                                              I almost never buy US wines at TJ's for under $10, but they do offer good prices on some higher end bottles. They are currently stocking Rex Hill's Oregon Pinot Noir for $19, less than I have seen it anywhere else.

                                              The cheap stuff, the under $10 bottles, tends to be best from Spain, Italy, etc. Occasionally a bottle of French wine at TJ's will be under $10 and good (Like the Jaboulet Cotes De Rhone, which was I think $9.99) but I haven't found much. Stick to less common grape varieties and less typical countries and you will get more bang for buck, and will learn some interesting wines in the process. My current fave under $10 at TJ's is an Austrian Gruner-Vetliner from Sepp, perfect for warm evenings.

                                              And yeah, check out Quaffability.

                                              1. re: rafloh

                                                I will give credit to TJs for carrying McManis Cab Sauv for $8.99. A good deal on a great Cali red.

                                              2. I have been enjoying Geyser Peak Sauvingon Blanc at $6.99. It's decent and refreshing, and TJ's price is about half that of the supermarket chains.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Tony Miller

                                                  There is suppose to be a close out sale of Chricton Hall Merlot ($9.95) going on now (winery apparently went out of business where it was $20-30). Folks on another blog say it is good stuff (for a merlot), and I have no first hand knowledge but will be looking for it tomorrow.

                                                2. I can't pump this enough ... buy a bottle of "Stonehedge Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve Stagecoach" at Traders. It was 12.99 last time I was there...... and it easily tastes like $30.

                                                  Don't play games people -- just go there, buy it, DECANT IT FOR 45-90 MINUTES, and it will rock your world.

                                                  As someone else was mentioning, the stock def varies location to location -- I've found these in SF at both locations. Here's the label: http://www.stonehedgewinery.com/sigvi...

                                                  Here's some reviews: http://www.vinquire.com/wines/185459/...

                                                  It's the best deal I have ever found at TJ's. BUT .... decant for at least 45 minutes. Otherwise ... it's just too tight.