It doesn't take a sweeping investigation to find people who are fans of Trader Joe's. For some time now, this laid-back grocery store chain has grown a loyal following of customers who routinely sing its praises regarding everything from its best-frozen foods to its hidden recipe section. Funny enough, the same can be said about wine—it isn't tough to find someone who opens a bottle on a regular basis. And that's why we're particularly excited to talk about how these two popular subjects intertwine by setting out to find the best cheap wines at Trader Joe's.
"I'm a big fan of Trader Joe's wine and beer," Tony Gonzales, head bartender at District in Downtown L.A. says. "The quality can't be matched for the price, and that cost-effectiveness makes it a great option for parties and get-togethers." He also says that it's common for people to equate a budget-friendly bottle with a low-quality taste, but that isn't always true. "While there is a lot that goes into the pricing of wine, I would say 'new' wine—as in wine that goes straight into a bottle with little to no aging—tends to be the cheapest," he notes. "Making wine this way also means you don't have to store barrels, which is real estate."
We asked Gonzalez and Jamie Clark, lead bartender at Pikoh in L.A., to give their seven recommendations for the best Trader Joe's wines to try when you're looking to spend a small amount of cash. Their picks, which are broken down between those under $25 and others under $15, should provide yet another reason for loving this grocery chain and a tasty glass of wine.
Exitus Bourbon Barrel Red Blend: "This Red Blend is amazingly bold," Gonzalez says. "With grapes from Cabernet, Syrah, and Zinfandel, it goes beautifully with a nice ribeye."
Erath Oregon Pinot Noir: "Erath Winery was a pioneer in Oregon's Willamette Valley wine region and is the leading producer of pinot noir," Clark adds. "This one is abundantly fruit-forward and aromatic."
Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc-Viognier: "The composition of this wine is 80% Chenin Blanc and 20 percent Viognier," Clark continues. "The result is a versatile, crisp wine that goes perfectly with seafood."
Reserve des Chastelles Tavel Rosé: "With hints of strawberry, watermelon, and flowers, this wine is a refreshing complement on a warm spring day," Gonzalez says.
Espiral Vinho Verde: "This slightly effervescent white wine from Portugal is crisp, refreshing, and perfect for summer picnics," Clark notes. "Not to mention, it's a steal at $5 per bottle."
Chateau Ste Michelle Riesling: "Rieslings, especially inexpensive ones, can be overly sweet and hit or miss, but Chateau Ste Michelle Riesling is an exception," Clark says. "Don't get me wrong, this wine is on the sweet side but it isn't cloying. The honeyed fruit notes are balanced by a good amount of acidity and floral notes."
Ravenswood Vintners Zinfandel: "This wine boasts a nice balance of fruit and herbs, with blackberry notes and hints of chocolate and olives," Clark continues. "Bring this bottle to your next backyard BBQ with friends."