The Trader Joe’s Petit Reserve Paso Robles Meritage 2014 is a $7.99 Trader Joe’s exclusive and is a blend of Merlot, Malbec, and Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from vineyards in Paso Robles (about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco) inside the Central Coast AVA. The back label says this blend was “vinted and bottled by Familia Nueva Vineyards” which is the name a large and well-respected winery uses when it produces wine for Trader Joe’s. A Meritage Red blend uses the grapes that are approved for the wines of Bordeaux, France. Those grapes are Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot, Malbec and Carmenere. Neither Carmemere or Malbec are used much in todays Red blends from Bordeaux, Malbec especially has so many growing problems with disease, mold and fungus devastating entire crops that the vineyards have backed away from planting these vines for the last 5 or 6 decades (actually even longer, they had major problems in the 1800s with Malbec and other grapes). So, since Malbec seems to be the 2nd most used grape in the Petit Reserve this is not a typical Bordeaux-style blend. Which is fitting since Paso Robles has a reputation where the winemakers make wine how they see fit and not how tradition dictates. This is a 2014 vintage and that shows the wine has been aged for a couple of years, probably in oak barrel or some other sort of oak conditioning. The alcohol content is a rather exact 13.75%.
The color is a dark, barely see-thru black cherry red. The nose is dark berries, toasty vanilla, ripe blueberries, brown sugar, and a savory meat cooking on the grill aroma. This is a dry wine, medium bodied with smooth flavor. It starts with blackberry, licorice, dark plum, and pepper. The mid-palate brings some raspberry, soft spice, and tart cranberry. There is a soft element to the body of the wine and a nice sharp, tart focus to the mid-palate. The tannins are there but do not bite and the acidity is balanced. The finish is soft, but sticks around for a while.
I am amazed on how well $7.99 Red blends with a little bit of age taste. When I first got into wine, maybe 15 years ago or so, a ten-dollar wine was a crap shoot. You would put-up with one or two flaws as long as the wine was drinkable, but it was never as good as more expensive wine. The Trader Joe’s Petit Reserve Paso Robles Meritage 2014 is a very good, everyday Red wine, it does not have the depth and the complexity of the best Bordeaux Red blends, but it drinks as well as many blends that sell for a good bit more.If you are looking to learn about French Bordeaux wines, this ain’t it, the Petit Reserve tastes very California, well, because it is. If you want to know about Bordeaux, buy a French wine. If you want a solid Red blend and you got $7.99 in your pocket, head to Trader Joe’s.