The 2012 Trader Joe’s Coastal Zinfandel is a $4.99 TJ’s exclusive, sourced from grapes grown in California’s Central Coast AVA and produced by Castoro Cellars. Castoro Cellars is a family owned winery located in the Paso Robles AVA, they have been in business since 1983 and produce their own line of Estate grown wines. The Central Coast AVA stretches from just north of Los Angeles to the San Francisco Bay and there are 27 sub AVA’s located inside the Central Coast. The 2012 vintage in California was one of the best in years, the 2010 and 2011 vintages were problematic and while the grape quality was pretty good the yields were way down. There were enough grapes to go around for the various wineries regular bottlings, but the excess grapes market dried up. But the 2012 vintage changes all that, with so many outstanding quality grapes available, there is a trickle down effect. The top end wines cannot use all the premium grapes, so those grapes find their way into medium priced wines and the grapes that usually go into medium priced wines end up in value priced wines and with the regular grapes also growing under ideal conditions, wines that in the past were so/so efforts, can be as good as they are going to get. An outstanding vintage means that there will be very good wines in places that you least expect it. The alcohol content for the Coastal Zinfandel is 13.9%.
The color is a see-thru ruby red that becomes almost clear as it reaches the edge of the glass. The nose is dark berries, black pepper, plums and a slight hint of smoke. The watery color of the wine had me thinking this might be a light bodied Zinfandel, but nope, this one hits like a Zinfandel should. It starts with ripe raspberry, a little sweet blueberry, a dash of cola,(not sweet) and some pepper spice. The tannins show up on the mid palate and give a little rough edge to this Zin, I like my Zinfandel to be a little rough and ready, and there is a late tart splash of cranberry. The finish is full and fairly long.
This is a $5 Zinfandel that does not have super ripe, jammy flavors, those jammy Zins are great for BBQ, but the Coastal Zinfandel is balanced and reasonably restrained. It isn’t perfect, there is a hole on the palate after the initial burst of flavors and the mid palate, but the flavors that are there are pretty tasty. The quality of value wine is so good nowadays, that it amuses me that I am complaining that a $4.99 wine is not perfect. Well, perfect or not, grill up some cheeseburgers and pop the top on this pretty good cheap Zinfandel and have a wonderful time on a tuesday night.