The Trader Joe’s Reserve Oak Knoll Napa Merlot 2020 is a $9.99 Trader Joe’s exclusive. The Oak Knoll AVA in Napa is located at the southern end of Napa on the Valley floor. It is just above the Napa side of the Carneros AVA which borders to the south on the San Pablo Bay.
Most of the AVAs inside Napa are on hillsides or sides of valleys so Oak Knoll’s orientation is unique. Its proximity to San Pablo Bay causes Oak Knoll to be an average of 10 degrees cooler than the rest of Napa. The cool temps allow the grapes grown to have lengthy, full growing seasons. Oak Knoll is also cool enough to grow Pinot Noir and Chardonnay as well as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
The Trader Joe’s Reserve Oak Knoll Napa Merlot 2020 is TJ’s version of a negociant wine and as such, there is no information available about which vineyard of vineyards were used and who exactly produced the wine. The back label says ABJ Wines vinted and bottled the wine and they may be a private wine brand producer or simply a shell company intended to hide the real winery.
There is a 2014 TJ’s Reserve Oak Knoll Merlot which was a Grand Reserve wine, this time around it is just a Trader Joe’s Reserve wine. This suggests the sourcing for the Trader Joe’s Reserve Oak Knoll Napa Merlot 2020 may be different this time around. Or maybe the quality of the TJ’s Reserve wine has gone up and it is harder to get the higher designation.
One possible clue to the origin of this Merlot is the bottle had a real cork, ten buck store label wines rarely have real corks. In the course of a year, a find less than five real corks for the value-price wines that are featured on the website. Real corks are routinely used in Napa wines.
The Trader Joe’s Reserve Oak Knoll Napa Merlot 2020 has “hints of cocoa and toasty vanilla” which are flavors derived from oak aging. I would suspect oak barrels were used, but with $9.99 Red wine, other methods such as oak staves or oak chips may be used. The alcohol content is mild for Napa Valley, 13.8%.
The Trader Joe’s Reserve Oak Knoll Napa Merlot 2020 Tasting Notes
The color is dark, but still slightly see-thru garnet red with black highlights. The nose is ripe with dark berries, toasty vanilla, plum, soft spice, light herbs, and bitter dark chocolate. The Trader Joe’s Reserve Oak Knoll Napa Merlot 2020 is medium to full-bodied, smooth on the palate with rich flavors.
This Merlot tastes like ripe blackberry, black pepper, licorice, a hit of mild spice, and ripe plum. The mid-palate adds faint bitter chocolate, vanilla, and raspberry, with a touch of salt on the finish.
- The Trader Joe’s Reserve Oak Knoll Napa Merlot 2020 is a tasty wine, I usually think Merlot is a blending grape, but here it is a fine sipping wine.
- I cannot decide if this is an expensive Napa Merlot masquerading as a Trader Joe’s Reserve wine or a good $14 to $15 Merlot at a solid discount.
- Either way is fine with me because this is a very drinkable wine.