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The Upper Eden Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir 2019 is a $12.99 Trader Joe’s exclusive wine made for them by an independent specialty wine brand producer located in the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA of Monterey County in California’s Central Coast.
The vineyards sit in the highlands or benchlands of the Santa Lucia Mountains with elevations up to 1,200 feet. Some of the finest names in the California wine industry have vineyards in this AVA. It is an exceptional place for growing Pinot Noir grapes.
Trader Joe’s offered two Santa Lucia Highlands Pinots for this holiday season, the Upper Eden Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir 2019 and a Trader Joe’s Platinum Reserve Pinot. I choose the Upper Eden over the Platinum Reserve ($3.00 more expensive) based on packaging.
The Upper Eden has a heavy bottle and an attractive embossed label that are the equal of a retail shop Pinot Noir in this price range and above. It also sports an actual cork that feature the logo, real corks are rare in the under $20 category. There is nothing wrong with the Trader Joe’s Platinum label, but sometimes when you are going upscale the TJ’s label may be a bit anticlimactic.
There is not much information available on the production of the Upper Eden Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir 2019, but we can guess a few things. First this is a 2019 vintage, this may foretell more complex winemaking production techniques.
To put it simply and 2020 vintage Red wine released in 2021 had a less intense production and an oak program to allow the wine to be ready and released for sale. A 2019 vintage Red wine needed another year to achieve its balance and that typically indicates more grape extraction and a longer oak barrel program.
Then again, the wine could have been ready last year and was sitting around waiting for a buyer. Unless the winery or Trader Joe’s tells the wine’s story, we are left to guess. But at $12.99 the Upper Eden Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir 2019 is under-priced for a Santa Lucia Highland Pinot Noir.
We recently found Trader Joe’s exclusive wines selling in New York retail wine shops (Grocery store can only sell beer in NY). The prices at the retail shops were 40% to 50% higher retail than at TJ’s. Every Trader Joe’s wine probably does not have the same markup, but it does show that Trader Joe’s wine can be real bargains.
If were to guess, I would think the Upper Eden Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir 2019 is about equal in value to an $18 to $20 wine. You never know until you taste the wine and taking a chance to find good wine at a great price is part of the fun of trader Joe’s wine. The alcohol content is 14.2%, which is a little high for traditional California Pinots.
The Upper Eden Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir 2019 Tasting Notes
The color is a very clear garnet red with a few black highlights. The nose is subtle, but rich, there are scents of ripe cherry, herbs, cigar tobacco leaf, licorice, faint exotic spice, and plum. This Pinot Noir is silky and smooth up front with subdued rougher textures on the mid-palate.
This wine tastes like ripe black cherry, black pepper, spice, herbs, and sweet raspberry. The mid-palate brings orange zest, cola (not sweet), tart cranberry, and rich spice. The tannins are soft and the acidity does a good job of letting the flavors unfold.
- The Upper Eden Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir 2019 is tasty, well-made Pinot Noir. It does an excellent job of balancing ripe fruit flavors and those unique, funky Pinot Noir flavors that I have grown to love.
- This is a solid choice for a Pinot Noir, especially at this price point. When you go above $20 there are wines that may drink better, but the Upper Eden Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir 2019 rocks at thirteen bucks.