Trader Joe’s Grand Reserve Russian River Pinot Noir 2020 is an exclusive wine of $12.99 Trader Joe’s. This Pinot was produced for Trader Joe’s by MWK Wine Consulting, a private label winemaker. This wine is 100% Pinot Noir, which is nice to see when Petite Sirah and Syrah are added to give Pinot Noir some muscle.
Trader Joe’s used to specify what Grand Reserve, Platinum Reserve, Petit Reserve, and so on represented. Is it a Reserve wine because of the quality of the wine or because of the limited number of bottles available? Why was their Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Platinum Reserve and the Russian River Pinot Noir only a Grand Reserve? Is it simply marketing, or is there a hierarchy?
I am confused since Trader Joe’s often offers Russian River AVA Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines for under ten dollars. Yes, $12.99 is still an excellent price for a Russian River Pinot Noir, but what makes the Trader Joe’s Grand Reserve Russian River Pinot Noir 2020 different?
I seem to be asking plenty of questions since Trader Joe’s does not give us many answers. TJ’s said a recent Platinum Napa Cabernet was sourced directly from a prominent Napa Valley winery. The Trader Joe’s Grand Reserve Russian River Pinot Noir 2020 is made by a private brand producer who is not directly related to a winery.
Actually, MWK Wine Consulting technically only cellared and bottled the wine, meaning they bottled it and kept it stored for a short time. They could have obtained the finished Pinot Noir from a local winery. Using a middle man to produce your wines makes it difficult to keep track of who did what.
The 2020 vintage is a little young for a Russian River Pinot; most of the 2020 Pinot Noir available is Rosé of Pinot Noir. At the same time, the most recent vintage for Russian River Pinot will be 2019, a handful of 2020 available and wines in the $35 to $65 range. The grape harvest for 2020 was in the middle of August.
The Trader Joe’s Grand Reserve Russian River Pinot Noir 2020 is all Pinot Noir and from The Russian River AVA, and that is all that we know for certain. The Russian River AVA runs north and south, not far from the California Pacific Coast. It is well known for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines, but it is a lengthy growing region, and not all of it has the same climate and soil conditions.
The southern section is a cooler growing region than the north, and there are smaller regional areas that are prime Pinot Noir spots. With vineyards location, location, location is critical. WIneries and most wine brands (for the more expensive wines) offer the exact location of their vineyards. With Trader Joe’s, we have to trust that they sourced the Pinot Noir grapes properly.
I have found that Trader Joe’s has been honest when describing their wines, and a large percentage of their wines are bargains. For $12.99, I expect the Trader Joe’s Grand Reserve Russian River Pinot Noir 2020 to be comparable to a Pinot in the $20 to $25 range. When it comes to Pinot Noir wines, I prefer to know what I am getting, but a bargain is a bargain, so I put my money down and take a chance. The alcohol content is 14.3%, which is a little stiff for Pinot Noir.
Trader Joe’s Grand Reserve Russian River Pinot Noir 2020 Tasting Notes
The color is a see-thru garnet red. The nose is herbs, spice, cherries, and smoke, with a hint of vanilla. The Trader Joe’s Grand Reserve Russian River Pinot Noir 2020 is smooth and sleek on the palate, while the flavors are a mix of soft and rough.
This Pinot tastes like black cherry, a slap of exotic spice, French vanilla, black pepper, intense black licorice, and plum. The mid-palate adds a splash of Dr. Pepper (not sweet), slightly tough-edged herbs, and tart cranberry.
The Trader Joe’s Grand Reserve Russian River Pinot Noir 2020 is a bit young; it could stand a little time to soften the edges. But that complaint is intended if it were a $30 wine; it drinks well for a $12.99 Pinot Noir. The edges I was referring to are not off-putting; this is a tasty Pinot Noir. With an extra year of age, this would be a much more expensive Pinot.
- The Trader Joe’s Grand Reserve Russian River Pinot Noir 2020 is well worth trying. It is a unique wine. How often do you get to sample a $25 to $40 Russian River Pinot Noir 6 or 7 months before it is ready for release. This is like getting a barrel tasting at a winery.
- Just because it will be better later does not mean it is not very drinkable now.