The Trader Joe’s Reserve Meritage Napa Valley Lot #176 2015 is a $9.99 Trader Joe’s exclusive, it’s a Red blend with Merlot as the main grape, followed by Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Verdot, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec sourced from vineyards in the Napa Valley of Northern California. The word Meritage is a combination of merit and heritage and it refers to Bordeaux-style wines without actually mentioning the French, the 5 grapes in this blend are 5 of the 6 grapes approved for Bordeaux Red wine. The Trader Joe’s Reserve is produced by the Appellation Trading Company of Napa and they are a custom wine producer who specialize in recreating specific wines for their customers. If you have an example of a particular Northern California wine you want produced they can reverse engineer it, find similar vineyards and winemakers to reproduce the production techniques. Which brings us to the Trader Joe’s Reserve Meritage Napa Valley Lot #176 2015, nobody intentionally produces a Bordeaux blend from Napa grapes and ages the wine in French oak barrels for 22 months, just to sell it for less than ten bucks. This sort of wine can sell for 3 or 4 times the price. Now, I have zero inside information, but if I were to guess and one of the fun things about these Trader Joe’s Reserve, Grand Reserve, and Platinum Reserve wines is trying to figure out where they came from. So, I figure this Meritage is from barrels that didn’t make the cut from a different, more expensive Appellation Trading Company project. Not making the cut for another bottling is not necessarily a bad thing, it could be that they already had wine with the same characteristics blended in and didn’t need more. And then, juice that doesn’t make the cut for a $30 wine maybe terrific for a $9.99 bottle. Or I could be completely wrong and they somehow managed to create a Napa Bordeaux-style Red blend that they aged in French oak barrels for 22 months and sells for $9.99, but that sounds like a wine fairy tale. The alcohol content is 14.5%.
The color is a vibrant black cherry red. The nose is complicated, those 22 months in oak definitely show up here, black berry, spice, toasty vanilla, black pepper, raspberry, blueberry, and dark chocolate. This is a medium-bodied wine, with plenty of structure, the tannins are right in the mix. It tastes of a stew of blackberry, licorice, black pepper, milk chocolate and plum. The mid-palate shows a solid slap of spice, butterscotch, French vanilla, orange zest, and blueberry. The tannins calm down by the 2nd or 3rd sip and the acidity allows this to be a proper food fine. The finish is full and long.
The Trader Joe’s Reserve Meritage Napa Valley Lot #176 2015 is one of the few $9.99 wines that I can recommend giving another year of bottle age before drinking. You can drink it now, it’s a rough and tumble, but tasty Bordeaux blend, but give a year or maybe 2 and you will have yourself a legit Napa Red at a rock bottom price. As a 2015 vintage it already has 3 years of age and another year would help the flavors and the tannins to integrate. At ten bucks this Meritage rocks, but if you have the facilities to lay this bottle down for a while, I think it will only get better.