Your Wine New Years Resolution

Trader Joes Wine

Happy New Year, wine lovers. Celebrating over the holidays often takes a toll on the budget and our tolerance for rich and plentiful food, drinks and fine wine. I like to take January to re-assess my wine values and needs. I also have the great fortune of having Trader Joe’s land here in Evanston (1211 Chicago Avenue, Evanston) so it is admittedly influencing my wine choices. I generally move into the new year looking to find great values for everyday drinking wine. I still enjoy a glass each day, even in the chill of January. I typically veer away from higher end wines which I over indulged in over the holiday season.

What I’ve loved about TJ’s for years is their ability to create astounding quality private labeled items, from Thai yellow curries to quinoa- black bean chips. This season, I began exploring their private labeled wines and was quite pleasantly surprised at the quality for the price. You can see below the explanation of the theory behind these wines. They are getting some top-notch juice from mysterious yet serious sources.

Quotes from the Trader Joe’s website

Trader Joe’s Reserve: Trader Joe’s Reserve label is ‘reserved’ for small lot, mostly Estate, opportunities from specific growing regions. While the high quality sources and producers may be really well known, by maintaining the privacy of their profiles, we are able to procure preposterous prices for you. Some might find this perplexing, others enticing, but any which way you look at it, these bottles are BIG values. And they’re always embossed with the signature lighthouse spiral staircase cross section (yep, that’s what that sunburst really is!).

Trader Joe’s Grand Reserve: Grand says it all. These are prime ‘grower’s lots’ of wine from highly sought after AVAs (American Viticultural Areas). Occasionally, a grower has wine in reserve for a contract buyer who, for whatever reason (economy?), can’t honor the contract. Or some other striking change takes place, like the sudden sale of a vineyard, and premium juice is left in limbo. Well, we can’t abide by that. And we don’t. Since our buyers have built solid relationships and business reputations in the wine world, we are often well positioned to purchase these first-rate finds for phenomenally GRAND prices, which, naturally, we pass on to you in these black-labeled beauties.”

I can’t guarantee which of these wines are available at the various TJ’s stores this moment. Our Evanston store features a 2012 Reserve Chardonnay Lot #82 from Yountville and a 2010 Grand Reserve Meritage Blend Lot #24 from Rutherford. The Chardonnay is rich with a broad palate of crisp apples and pineapple toned down by a finish of restrained vanilla and nutmeg. It has a nice substantial body and a long finish, true signs of fine wine. At $9.99, it’s a super value. The other remarkable value at $12.99 is the Meritage Red Blend (which is the American term for a  classic Bordeaux-style blend of  Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and perhaps a bit of Petit Verdot and Malbec). This deep rich red bursts with flavors of dark cherries, has a satiny texture and finishes with extremely pleasing flavors of dark plum, cassis and rich vanilla.

While I certainly support the smaller independent wine shops in Evanston, and in the city, I have to give kudos to TJ’s for giving this private label method a try. Make your wine new year’s resolutions; find wines of great value that may not show on the label. They do exist!


About Laura Levy Shatkin

Laura Levy Shatkin served for 10 years as food and wine critic for the Chicago Reader. Later, she became an Emmy-nominated executive producer for Taste, a 30-minute food and wine show on NBC-5 Chicago, which later merged into, where Ms. Levy is a partner/owner. Today, she teaches private wine classes and hosts wine parties for consumers and firms, and continues to tell the video stories of wine, girlfriends and wine travel on her TCW blog, Wine…ing Women.