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The Trader Joe’s Grand Reserve Napa Chardonnay 2018 Lot 85 is a $12.99 Trader Joe’s exclusive. Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer says “expect to pay twice as much elsewhere for a similarly pedigreed Napa Chardonnay.” And they called this wine producer their winery partner.
That sounds about right, if a winery from Napa releases a Chardonnay under its own label it is going to sell for a minimum of $25. You can find an occasional brand of wine from Napa for less, but winery wines sell for a premium.
The back label shows the Behind the Scenes Wine Company cellared and bottled this Chardonnay. Cellared and bottled by does not mean much in terms of who farmed the grapes or fermented the wine. It only means they might have aged the wine a little and they poured it into bottles.
The Grand Reserve label from Trader Joe’s means that this is a limited-availability wine, it is only here for a short time and when it is gone it is gone for good. It also indicates the source of the wine is a cut above the usual TJ’s Reserve wines. They usually make more of an effort to conceal the origin of the wine.
There are many scenarios as to how TJ’s, Aldi, Costco, etc get their own labeled wine. There are companies that will make any wine, at whatever price you choose, there are wineries that sell off leftover grapes, juice, or finished wine. The Grand Reserve Lot 85 origin story can be just about anything, there are tons of options.
But that is no fun, Trader Joe’s says this $12.88 is comparable to a $26 bottle, so what are the clues we have to go on? Well, for one thing, there is a real cork in the bottle, not some composite stopper that is the norm for under twenty-dollar wine. That may not seem like much, but real corks are rare in value wine.
So why is that a clue? Actual Napa Valley wineries do not use composite or plastic corks, they use the real deal. And since Trader Joe’s Grand Reserve Napa Chardonnay is a limited supply of wine it probably was not worth the effort to get cheaper corks.
This is just a guess, I have no first-hand insight, but I would think that somewhere along the supply chain this Trader Joe’s Chardonnay was produced by a legit Napa winery. Are these leftovers from a Chardonnay sold under their own label or is this a second line wine? I do not know, but I suspect this is a wine made by a well known Napa winery.
Since this is a Napa Chardonnay expect some oak barrel influence and malolactic fermentation. It would not Napa Chardonnay otherwise. The alcohol content is a ripe 14.2%.
Trader Joe’s Grand Reserve Napa Chardonnay Tasting Notes
The color is a clean, clear, but deep lemon yellow. The nose is honey, apple, peach, pear, lemon chiffon, rich vanilla, candy spice, and melon. This is a rich, ripe, flavorful Chardonnay.
It starts with rounded peach, tart lemon, apricot, spice, and vanilla. I really tasty mix of sweet, tart, and sharp flavors and textures. The mid-palate tosses in some creme brûlée, melon, lime, pear, and a late dash of pineapple. The acidity is very well-balanced, this is a well-made wine.
- This is a no-brainer…but the Trader Joe’s Grand Reserve Napa Chardonnay 2018 Lot 85
- These Trader Joe’s Reserve wines are almost always worth buying. They usually come for a high-end growing region and are priced low enough that there is not much downside to taking a chance.
- If you like Chardonnay, especially Napa Chardonnay buy two, the price is right.