The Trader Joe’s Reserve Sonoma Valley Merlot 2020 is a $9.99 Trader Joe’s exclusive sourced from grapes farmed in the Sonoma Valley AVA and produced for TJ’s by William Knuttel Winery. They make their own high-end wine along with custom wine for folks like Trader Joe’s.
Tj’s Fearless Flyer mentions William Knittel Winery as one of their long-time partners. I do not recall seeing that name on the back of a Trader Joe’s wine before, so maybe they were behind some of the faux winery names TJ’s used on the exclusive wine.
Sonoma Valley AVA is where the California wine industry starts in the 1850s, it is east of the Russian River AVA and north of the Sonoma side of the Carneros AVA. I am so used to seeing Sonoma County on the labels of value wine that it did not register right away that this is a wine from a Sonoma sub-AVA.
The Merlot grape is one of the elite grapes of the Bordeaux region in France. In Bordeaux, it is used as a grape to blend with Cabernet Sauvignon )along with three other grapes) and the interplay between the Cab Sauv and Merlot produces some of the finest wines in the world.
California does produce Bordeaux-style blends, but Merlot is more likely to be made as a single varietal wine. The Trader Joe’s Reserve Sonoma Valley Merlot 2020 comes from a part of Sonoma with a long history of producing Merlot wine.
Merlot has taken a hit in popularity ever since the movie Sideways in 2004. One of the lead characters loved Pinot Noir and hated Merlot. For some reason, wine drinkers started drinking more Pinot Noir and less Merlot.
The Trader Joe’s Reserve Sonoma Valley Merlot 2020 as an exclusive Trader Joe’s wine does not have much production information other than a couple of paragraphs in the Fearless Flyer. The tasting notes suggest some oak influence and mention it is a complex wine which is good to see in a ten buck Red wine.
With all the havoc Covid has caused in the restaurant industry I always suspect that these inexpensive TJ’s wines may have at one time been intended to be sold at restaurants. There is no way to tell if that is true unless the principals let us know. But when a sub-AVA wine falls into Trader Joe’s hands for a cheap price there is typically a story to tell. The alcohol content is 14.4%.
The Trader Joe’s Reserve Sonoma Valley Merlot 2020 Tasting Notes
The color is a raspberry jam red with black highlights. The nose is ripe blackberry, licorice, baking spice, toasty vanilla, light herbs, and plum. The Trader Joe’s Reserve Sonoma Valley Merlot 2020 has firm tannins and rich fruit flavors and does taste more expensive than its $9.99 price tag.
This Merlot tastes like extracted blackberry, sweeter raspberry, exotic spice, black pepper, and softly rounded plum. The mid-palate brings orange zest, blueberry, a hint of vanilla cream, a salty sensation, and tart cranberry. The tannins give this Merlot structure and the acidity allows the flavors to do their thing.
- The Trader Joe’s Reserve Sonoma Valley Merlot 2020 tastes like a Merlot selling for twice as much.
- This is a rich, detailed, flavorful wine with very good structure.
- If a movie from 17 years ago put you off of Merlot wines, maybe it is time to give them a try again.