The 2009 Trader Joe’s Grand Reserve Napa Valley Meritage is a $12.99 Trader Joe’s exclusive. The term “Meritage” (pronounced like heritage) indicates this a Red blend using the grapes approved in Bordeaux wines. Either Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot as the lead grape with Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot used as blending grapes (Malbec and Carmenere are also approved Bordeaux grapes, but are rarely used). This wine seems to be produced by a well respected family owned Estate winery located in Rutherford inside Napa Valley, California. They are using the name JBA Cellars and they have produced other Napa Valley wines for TJ’s under that name. Trader Joe’s website says that the Grand Reserve label indicates that they were able to purchase top notch wine from a winery due to a distress sale or another purchaser backing out of a contract. Since there was also a 2008 vintage of this wine from the same winery and they make other Trader Joe’s wines, this bottle was probably made expressly for Trader Joe’s. One reason why Trader Joe’s is able to sell wines from some of the more expensive AVA’s, such as Napa Valley for prices much lower than in the traditional wine shops, is that Trader Joe’s wines have virtually no Marketing or Distribution costs. When is the last time you saw a Trader Joe’s wine advertisement on TV or in the Wine Magazines? The wine gets shipped along with the rest of the food products from the store and since they don’t use a Distributor in the traditional way, they are a private label. Trader Joe’s does not use the wine department to pay the electric bill for its stores, it uses wine to bring in customers who then buy several store items. When was the last time you saw somebody in Trader Joe’s check-out with only a bottle or two of wine and no food products? Trader Joe’s can afford to have a lower markup on its wine, because it more than recovers the difference on increased sales thru out the store. Traditional wine shops cannot compete with Trader Joe’s business model. Trader Joe’s prices are lower, not because the wine is inferior (in fact most of the TJ’s exclusive brands are made by the same people who sell more or less the same wines to traditional wine shops), but because their costs are much lower. The alcohol content is 14.3%.
The color is a red that is so dark it is almost black. The nose is blueberry, brewing coffee, sweet vanilla, the faint scent of burning leaves in autumn and Sambuca. Ahhh, this Meritage feels like velvet on your palate. It tastes of rich, juicy blackberries, Snickers bar chocolate, blueberries in cream and POM Wonderful. The mid palate adds some tart cranberry, orange zest and ripe black cherry. The tannins are soft and are dominated by the lush fruit flavors. The acidity is well balanced, it adds a slight tingling sensation on your tongue during the finish and it helps the finish to motor along for quite some time.
Its funny, I am so used to the under $10 Trader Joe’s wine prices, that when I saw the $12.99 price tag I was taken aback. Once I thought if thru, it was,ok it’s from Napa Valley, those wines cost a bit more. The 2009 Trader Joe’s Grand Reserve Napa Valley Meritage is well worth the price tag. It’s a big, juicy, fruit forward Red blend, very tasty, with a bit of depth and structure.