The Trader Joe's Reserve Carneros Chardonnay 2019 is actually Carneros Napa Valley Lot #204. There is a Lot #205 which I imagine is from a different producer. Some Trader Joe's get the 204 and others get the 205, both are $9.99.Carneros is an interesting AVA, it is located half in Sonoma and half in Napa. If the vineyards are on the Napa side you almost always see Napa shown on the label. Sonoma side vineyards just say Carneros, which shows you the name recognition for Napa,The San Pablo Bay, which is the northern part of the San Fransico Bay defines the southern border of Carneros. Without the Bay, Carneros would be too far inland and too warm to be a premier Pinot Noir and Chardonnay growing region. But with the Bay providing cold Pacific winds Carneros is home to many high-end wineries and vineyards.The Trader Joe's Reserve Carneros Chardonnay 2019 is a young, drink-it-now wine. As a 2019 vintage, the grapes were picked about a year ago, which does not leave much time for fermentation and aging. Young wines are not common in Carneros, as a premier wine location they prefer to offer higher-end wines.This is a $9.99 2019 vintage wine, but if a Carneros winery produced a Chardonnay to ready a year later, the 2018 vintage, they can easily charge twice the price. There is not much incentive to offer a ten buck young Carneros Chardonnay.That is where a store like Trader Joe's comes in handy. TJ's is good at finding grapes from some of the best growing areas but turned into wine with value-priced wine production methods. Young wines do not experience complicated production techniques, they let the qualities of the grapes shine through.When you have grapes from an expensive growing region, such as Carneros, letting the qualities of the grapes shine is a good thing. It is not common to find Carneros Chardonnay at a bargain price.The back of the bottle says this wine was vinted and bottled by Avid Winery, which may be related to Avid Vineyards in the Sonoma Coast AVA, they are both headquartered in the same town. Avid is a producer of expensive, boutique Pinot Noir.There are clues that whoever made this wine for trader Joe's is a high-end producer. The bottle is heavy this is no inexpensive eco-bottle and the cork is an actual cork. I save my corks, for some reason, so I can verify that under twenty dollar wines almost never use real cork, it is always a composite or some plastic thing.Wineries that are used to producing value-priced wines have cheaper bottles and corks in stock. The boutique wineries use what they have on hand.The only tasting notes available for the Trader Joe's Reserve Carneros Chardonnay 2019 is a sentence on the front label. It gives very little detail but does mention oak as a flavoring. That usually means a little spice and some vanilla. The alcohol content is a ripe 14.6%.The Trader Joe's Reserve Carneros Chardonnay 2019 Tasting NotesThe color is pale golden yellow. The Chardonnay you can often tell how much oak aging the wine had by how deep the color is. This is a moderate yellow. The nose is a mix of lemon, melon, apple, and spice, along with unsweetened pineapple, a whiff of butter, and a little tropical fruit.This is smooth well-balanced Chardonnay with a nice mix of fruit-forward and tart flavors. It starts with peach, pear, and Golden Delicious apple, a touch of spice, and a little grapefruit. The mid-palate shows a salty, nutty “on lees” thing and nectarine. The acidity is well-balanced it allows the flavors to unfold but otherwise stays out of the way.The SummaryIf you are looking to explore California Chardonnay the Trader Joe's Reserve Carneros Chardonnay 2019 is a must-try.It is a rare opportunity to find a well-made Carneros Chardonnay at a value price.
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