The Trader Joe’s Grand Reserve Carneros Pinot Noir 2018 Lot #23 is a $12.99 Trader Joe’s exclusive sourced from vineyards in the Carneros AVA which is half inside the Sonoma AVA and half inside the Napa AVA. This is the 10th vintage of TJ’s Grand Reserve Carneros Pinot Noir, we last reviewed the 2017 version. Carneros is an interesting Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grape growing region.
The Carneros AVA is farther inland than most Pinot growing regions and is able to have the proper climate because its southern border is the San Pablo Bay (that is the bay just north of the San Fransico Bay). This brings cool breezes in from the Pacific Ocean which along with the poor soil (remember, quality wine grapes need to struggle to produce good wine, happy grapes make bad wine) create proper Pinot Noir conditions.
Carneros Pinot Noir tends to start in the $20 range and go up from there. So, $12.99 is a very good price if the Pinot Noir if this Pinot Noir is even close to those more high-end Pinots. There are not any “budget” wineries in Carneros, the grapes had to come from quality vineyards. Plus the 12.99 TJ’s price seems to indicate a quality source for this wine. Trader Joe’s does not give any information on the maker of this Pinot Noir or the source of the grapes, but this being the 10th vintage indicates a stable source.
At first, I thought a 2018 vintage may be a little young for a Carneros Pinot Noir, but I checked and there are plenty of 2018 Pinots on the market from big-name producers. The Grand Reserve Pinot Noir was aged in French oak barrels for 10 months, which is right on par with Carneros Pinot Noir selling in the $40 range. So, even though we do not know the who, what, and where of this wine this Trader Joe’s Pinot Noir does have a track record and what little we do know about it matches up to some top-notch Pinots. The alcohol content is 13.9%.
The Tasting Notes
The color is a see-thru garnet red, with a clear halo. The nose is very promising, there is the aroma of herbs, mushroom, dried autumn leaves, spice, cherries, black pepper, all very delicate and enticing. This is a smooth fruit-driven Pinot with an exotic edge. It tastes of black cherry, licorice, sharp spice, and ripe plum. The mid-palate brings in black pepper, raspberry, a salty sensation, herbs, and bitter dark chocolate. The tannins do not bite and the acidity lets the flavors unfold but does not interfere with the flavor profile. The finish is persistent and while subtle does last.
- The Trader Joe’s Grand Reserve Carneros Pinot Noir 2018 Lot #23 does a very solid impression of a more expensive Pinot Noir.
- So you know where I am coming from, I prefer the more classic Russian River, Sonoma Coast-style Pinot Noir to the modern Meiomi-style big and fruity Pinot Noir.
- The Grand Reserve Carneros Pinot tastes like old-school California Pinot Noir. It has the tasty ripe cherry that you would expect along with the crazy, funky flavors that only California Pinot seem to have (well, have in abundance, anyway)
- There was a time, not long ago, when value-priced Pinot Noir was simple, inoffensive cherry-flavored wine. Not exactly terrible, but nothing worth remembering.
- Today, there are many cheap Pinots that are extremely enjoyable, solid and worthy wines in their own right. Winemakers have adopted new (new to California Pinot Noir, not Beaujolais, France) that has brought improvements to the point that cheap Pinot Noir is my favorite cheap red wine. And the TJ’s reserve is a great example of cheap Pinot Noir’s elevation.