Trader Joe's Chardonnay Tasting with Justin
Trader Joe's Chardonnay Tasting with Justin

It began as a simple request for a wine tasting.  I wanted another Trader Joe’s tasting, and this time, it would be a simple competition. My first Trader Joe’s tasting had also been a simple one, but it was a blind tasting in which I bombed out completely even without competition. Many years and many wines later, I was ready for a friendly Trader Joe’s vs. Us competition. However, it quickly devolved into a throwdown. (Actually, in the Hood it’s “tho’down”). And we lost. Yuge.

After a bumpy scheduling start, we were finally able to have Tony from Trader Joe’s (Washington Ave. at Buffalo, in the K-Mart shopping center, NW Las Vegas) to bring some of the Trader Joe’s wines, and we’d have a blind taste-off with wines that we brought from our own cellars (wine coolers, actually. This is Vegas. There are no cellars.)

The lineup was pretty straightforward: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot.

We met for our somm tasting at Dick and Jarlene’s, where we have our usual Monday night blind tastings. We were ready. And, I hate to admit, were in full wine-snob mode.

The first match wasn’t quite the slam-dunk we had figured. Both Chardonnays were good; they had excellent mouthfeel, not too oaky, and had green apple and citrus notes. In a word, delicious. We correctly assessed the Justin Chardonnay as being the non-Trader Joe’s wine. That said, the Trader Joe’s Chardonnay was from Santa Lucia Highlands and the decision was not a foregone conclusion. Oops.

Maybe this wouldn’t be quite as easy as we thought. But we were stoked and full of confidence.

We met for our somm tasting at Dick and Jarlene’s, where we have our usual Monday night blind tastings. We were ready. And, I hate to admit, were in full wine-snob mode.

The next wine was the Pinot Noir. Once again, there were two good Pinots, and the assessment was a little more difficult. I had brought a Hug Cellars 2010 Rancho Ontiveros Pinot Noir which I pitted against the 2016 TJ Willamette Pinot. Unfair? Who cares! We patted ourselves on the back as we gave our final conclusion and chose the Hug wine.

Good. Two for two.

Trader Joe's Wine
Trader Joe’s Wine

Happily, Hug won. What can I say? It was gorgeous, well aged, and primed for battle. By this time we were ready (almost) to tell Tony that he was going to lose every other tasting.

The next was the Cabernet, but the Trader Joe’s competed against two “other” Cabernets. By this time, we were more than stoked and we powered on. It was a split decision. Split? But we have great palates and we know Cabernet. WTF.

No Bueno for our intrepid somm group.

The last wine was a Petit Verdot. Historically a Bordeaux blending wine, the varietal has come into its own in the last few years as New World winemakers have experimented with it as a single varietal. Those of us who are not winemakers are still trying to get a bead on what its varietal character is supposed to be, primarily because each winemaker seems to have his or her own style. Nevertheless, we carried on.

The combatants were a 2015 Domingo Molina Petit Verdot (Argentina), a $25.00 wine, or a 2014 Trader Joe’s Paso Robles Petit Verdot, Lot #150, for about $14.00 (a little less in California).

The combatants were a 2015 Domingo Molina Petit Verdot (Argentina), a $25.00 wine, or a 2014 Trader Joe’s Paso Robles Petit Verdot, Lot #150, for about $14.00.

There was never any contest. We tasted, swirled, spat, considered, discussed, and assessed. Even with all of that, we came up short. It was unanimous. The wine that we chose (with great snobby confidence, I might add) was the Trader Joe’s, not the Argentinian. Not only did the Trader Joe’s PV kick some serious Domingo Molina butt, but it turned out to be our wine of the night. It was nuanced, textured, fruity, and earthy with a great creamy mouthfeel and a delight on the palate. The finish was long, the tannins structured but firm and, most importantly, it was delicious.

WOTN, Trader Joe's Petit Verdot
WOTN, Trader Joe’s Petit Verdot

Trader Joe’s Petit Verdot. Who’d a thunk. We needed a steak. And a big slice of humble pie. Or crow. Pick one.

Tony. We love him anyway.
Tony. We love him anyway.

We licked our wounds while discussing the improbable results (remember these were all tasted blind). We were humbled that our much more expensive and vaunted wines should fall so ignominiously to the TJ wines. Budget-friendly, value, inexpensive (read: cheap) wines are supposed to taste like dreck, right?

And, yes, I immediately went to Trader Joe’s to buy several bottles of the 2014 Petit Verdot.  And now I’m telling you about it. More for me.

Enjoy the pics!

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