Janelle hosted her Mills Book Club meeting this past Friday. The book club is mostly women, but there are also a few men in the group. The ladies usually like white wine with their book discussion, and the men like reds. I was assigned to purchase three wines at Trader Joe’s for the event. I had strict orders not to spend over $30 on the wine. I purchased a Fetzer Sundial Chardonnay 2013 for $5.99, a Columbia Crest Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 for $6.99, and a Trader Joe’s Grand Reserve 2013 Merlot from Stags Leap AVA for $12.99. I asked the book club to tell me how they liked the wines. I also sampled the wines.
Fetzer Sundial Chardonnay 2013 – $5.99 Trader Joe’s
The Fetzer Sundial Chardonnay label has been produced since the early 1980’s. The Fetzer Family of Mendocino, who pioneered sustainable and organic farming, sold the winery to Brown-Forman in 1992. Two years ago Brown-Forman sold the winery and vineyards to the Chilean winery, Concha y Toro. That company still produces this Chardonnay from Jim Fetzer’s prized Sundial Vineyard near Hopland, CA. The vineyard is organically farmed. The Sundial Chardonnay is pleasantly refreshing, not terribly complex, but satisfying to drink as an aperitif. There is some decent oak to the wine. The ladies in the book club very much liked the wine. The Trader Joe’s price of $5.99 is the lowest price I found. BevMo has it for $7.99 and Wine-Searcher.com gives the price an average of $9.99. The Wine Enthusiast recently gave the wine it’s “Best Buy” category and an 87-Point Rating. The Mills Book Club says 87 Points as well.
Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 – $6.99 Trader Joe’s
When I pulled this off the shelf at TJ’s, I noticed the talking point on the shelf stating that it is the top-selling wine at the Millbrae store. Columbia Crest is a huge winery in Washington, obtaining most of their grapes from the Columbia Valley. Columbia Crest Cabernet wine was not as well received as the Sundial. It is a juicy, fruit-structured wine with little sweetness to it. I found the taste to be adequate, but it certainly did not have anything that smacks of Cabernet. It was interesting to note that, although no one raved about the wine, it was finished before the other two. I rate this wine at 83 points and say skip it.
Trader Joe’s Grand Reserve Merlot Stags Leap 2013 – $12.99
The red wine drinkers in the book club loved this wine. It is big and robust, with full dense flavors that linger. If you are not familiar with the Stags Leap AVA, it just about put the Napa Valley on the map when the Stags Leap Cellars 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon won the Judgement at Paris over Grand Cru Bordeaux wines. Driving along the Silverado Trail, Stags Leap is on the left as you drive north. The rugged and craggy mountains make for lovely views. Wines from the Stags Leap AVA command high prices. One of the wineries there must have had some leftover Merlot juice from the abundant 2013 harvest, and Trader Joe’s reaped the benefits. It tastes like a $30 Merlot, and it is definitely worth a try. 90 Points.