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The Trader Joe’s Reserve Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay 2020 is a $9.99 Trader Joe’s exclusive. The Santa Lucia Highlands is situated in the foothills of the Santa Lucia Mountains, a coastal range located near Big Sur and the Monterey Bay inside the Monterey AVA of California’s Central Coast AVA.
The Santa Lucia Highlands is a premier location for Chardonnay grapes and Pinot Noir. The vineyards see a significant temperature differential between the afternoon and the evening. Morning fog keeps the California heat away from the vines until late morning, allowing the vines to ripen and mature fully.
A typical Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay sells in the $15 to $65 range. A Trader Joe’s standard Reserve wine should be comparable to a wine selling at twice the price.
We do not have a great deal of information concerning the making of the Trader Joe’s Reserve Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay 2020, but we are given one important detail, this Chardonnay was 100% fermented in oak barrels.
It is not uncommon for Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay to be barrel fermented the grapes must do well with this technique. The more expensive Chardonnay seems to use this production method. It does not figure to be how a custom wine producer would make a $9.99 wine. Most wines in the value-price category are fermented in stainless steel tanks.
Stainless steel tanks are reusable, easier to clean and sanitize, and can make excellent wine. Curiously, the Trader Joe’s Reserve Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay 2020 uses the more expensive fermentation method. Before stainless steel tanks were invented all wine was barrel fermented.
When using oak barrels for the fermentation process they typically used neutral barrels, so this method is not about adding oak flavor. There is no air transfer with the wine in a stainless steel tank, but oak barrels while watertight are not completely airtight so some oxygen gets to the wine. Too much oxygen getting to the wine is bad, a little oxygen means something interesting happens. The alcohol content is a stout 14.8%
The Trader Joe’s Reserve Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay 2020 Tasting Notes
The color is pale gold. The nose is melon, lemon, apple, pear, a little honey, vanilla, a hint of soft spice, and tropical fruit. The Trader Joe’s Reserve Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay 2020 has oak flavors. more vanilla cream than butter, along with ripe fruit and citrus.
This Chardonnay tastes like a stew of ripe peach, grapefruit, French vanilla, lemon, and apple. The mid-palate adds that nutty/salty on-lees effect, dried pineapple, pear, a slap of slightly rough spice, and melon. The acidity allows the flavors plenty of space to unfold.
- The Trader Joe’s Reserve Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay 2020 is an interesting wine that you do not see very often in this price range.
- Oak barrel fermentation causes the Chardonnay to taste different from the stainless steel tank Chardonnay, but this wine and you will figure out the difference right away.