The Tribunal North Coast Red 2018 is a $9.99 Trader Joe’s exclusive. A blend of Zinfandel, Syrah, Merlot, Petite Sirah, Barbera, and Grenache. The North Coast AVA includes Napa, Sonoma, Lake County, Mendocino, and Marin Counties, and Solano County.
The Tribunal North Coast Red 2018 has been a Trader Joe’s wine for at least a decade; CWF wrote a review of the 2008 vintage, and here is a link to the 2010 vintage.
Unlike many Trader Joe’s exclusive wines, we know who made this Red blend. Vintage Wine Estates has an excellent portfolio with other wines also seen at Trader Joe’s and retail wine shops and grocery stores.
The Tribunal is a “kitchen sink” blend, but there is a bit of history to give this wine some context. In the late 2000s, The Prisoner Red Blend was the hottest selling wine around.
It was not inexpensive, it sold for around $35, and it still sold out each vintage. They would hold release parties when the new vintage became available. The winemaker became rich and famous; he sold his brand off for hundreds of million dollars. The Prisoner spawned knock-offs and competitors.
That Red blend was a trendsetter; it did not follow the old rules or conform to the Red blends of Bordeaux or the Rhone Valley in France. It did not conform to the rules of anywhere, except maybe the Shiraz wines coming out of Australia at the time.
South Australia is a hot growing region that produces ripe, rich grapes. The winemakers seemed to delight in pushing the boundaries to what a balanced wine was. Less is more did not work over there.
These Australian wines set the edges of what modern, new school wine should be. The Australian wine boom fell apart during the economic collapse of 2008, and that is where the Prisoner wine comes in.
The Prisoner was California cool rather than Aussie bombastic. It was still big, ripe, rich, spicy, and bold, but more reserved than Australian Shiraz. The Tribunal North Coast Red 2018 was one of those wines that were following the example set by the Prisoner.
After all, a tribunal is the setting where you would judge a prisoner. Finding grapes in California that can produce a wine that can be cellared for twenty years is not easy and expensive. Finding rich, ripe Red grapes in California is easy.
Making a ten-dollar copy/tribute wine/competitor to the Prisoner was not impossible. The grapes were available, and winemakers had the skill, and if the result was not exactly the Prisoner, at least it was in that popular style.
It has been a decade but as I recall the Tribunal North Coast Red 2018 did a solid job of getting the Prisoner vibe. There were years where the Tribunal sold out.
The ensuing years have not slowed the Tribunal North Coast Red 2018 down. It is still 15.1% alcohol, it is still rich, ripe, and bold, and it is still $9.99.
So, let’s head to the tasting portion. I have not tried it since the 2010 vintage and see how things go.
Tribunal North Coast Red 2018 Tasting Notes
The color is a see-thru cherry red with black highlights. The nose is dark berries, a whiff of smoke, dark chocolate, pepper, faint herbs, and spice.
This is a medium to full-bodied, rich, slightly complex Red blend. It tastes of extracted blackberry, licorice, black pepper, and 80% cocoa chocolate. The mid-palate brings softer cherry, a slap of spice, jammy raspberry, orange zest, and blueberry.
The combination of the spice and the tannins give the Tribunal North Coast Red 2018 a nice, chewy texture. The acidity is well-balanced; it does its job and stays away from the flavor profile.
- The Tribunal North Coast Red 2018 is an excellent California-style Red Blend.
- It drinks better than its ten dollar price tag (actually $9.99).
- Good wine is a good wine; the price tag is secondary. The Tribunal North Coast Red 2018 is a good wine.