Tribunal Red Wine 2011

The Tribunal Red Wine, $9.99, is now on the shelves at Northern California Trader Joe’s stores. This is our third vintage review of this wine, the so-called “clone” of Orin Swift’s popular Prisoner wine ($38). We loved the 2009 but thought the 2010 was just okay. How will the Tribunal 2011 taste and how will it stack up to the past two vintages?

image of Tribunal Red

Tribunal Red Wine 2011 North Coast

There is something different that caught my eye on the label of the Tribunal 2011. The 2009 and 2010 wines were labeled Red Wine Sonoma County. The 2011 Tribunal is labeled Red Wine North Coast. That means that 85% of the grapes in the wine must come from the North Coast Appellation. Where specifically? As you can well imagine, this a huge wine region compared to the Sonoma County AVA of previous vintages. The North Coast AVA includes Lake County, Marin, Mendocino, Napa, Solano and Sonoma Counties.

I asked one of the TJ staff members at my local store for the exact blend and he politely obliged: 25% Syrah, 24% Zinfandel, 22% Merlot, 17% Petite Sirah, 8% Dolcetto, and the final 4% made up of unknown grapes. The alcohol on this vintage comes in at 15.1%. I would love to know how the winemaker came to choosing this particular blend. Is the winemaker truly trying to make a copycat of the popular Prisoner Wine?

The back label tells us that the wine is produced and bottled by Tribunal Cellars of Kenwood, California. Do a Google Search for this winery and you will absolutely not find it. Does it exist only on paper? It seems likely this is a Trader Joe’s exclusive and that Trader Joe’s probably arranged for its production under this label.

Review of the Tribunal Red Wine 2011

Right off the top, the wine has spice aromas along with fresh fruit flavors. In the mouth the wine is rather mellow and very pleasant. You need to taste and savor a few sips to get a feel for the flavors in this wine. Janelle and I found red and dark fruit, a bit of vanilla, maybe cedar, and pepper spice. The finish is medium and smooth. The wine is balanced, with no significant flaws. The Tribunal will match well with chicken dishes, pasta and pizzas.

I think this wine is a much better effort than the 2010 but short of the 2009. At this price of $9.99, I do believe the wine is a good value. If you are in a TJ’s, try one bottle for yourself. If you like the style, buy more, because chances are the wine will not last too long on the shelves. It is made to satisfy many palates. I’m giving the Tribunal 88 Points.

Let us know what you think of this wine. Please add your thoughts in the comment section.


  1. mike wong says:

    agree 100% with assessment of Tribunal 09 vs 10.
    not in any rush to drink up remaining bottles of 10 …..

    thanks for background info !!!!

    • Give the Tribunal 2011 a try. I think TJ’s got a lot of negative feedback with the 2010 and perhaps that is why the wine has a broader AVA range. Perhaps a chance to find a better source of grapes.

  2. I have just reviewed this wine as well. Wish I had found your review regarding the blend and had referenced t. I really liked thge 2011 – to the point I went back and bought a case. Like you, I am sure it won’t be around long!

    • I read your review and was surprised to find out that the wine is made by Kunde. They do a good job on their wines. Good reporting!

  3. Shari A. Mann says:

    Tried it. Liked it. Trying to find out more about it. The 2011 is a first for me, so can’t compare. Excellent color, smooth but not boring, good body considering the price, good mouth feel. Heading out tomorrow to pick up some more, while it is still there. Have a feeling it’ll age well enough if I can hold it for a year or two.

  4. ’11 Tribunal Red really got my attention. Gift from my ex so was suspicious…..
    Kunde makes some Costco wines and a visit toKunde also was worth it. The wine is well balanced, strong finish, blackberry flavor, and spicy too. If you like zins and syrahs, you will like this one. Suisun appellation in Solano is older than Napa…..just sayin’. Going to get more of this one.

  5. I love this wine!! I actually think it’s better than The Prisoner. Seriously. The price is way better also

    • Great that you like this wine because the price is very nice. I have not tried the Prisoner in recent years so I cannot compare. I would like to hear from others what they think of the Tribunal. My TJ’s still has some.
      Cheers, Joe

      • I really like this wine and so does my better half. However, a few of my coworkers that drink wine do not agree with me on the taste of this wine. I think that this wine does a nice job of comparing with the prisoner.

  6. I just had a Tribunal ’11 which was NOT from Trader Joe’s. It was EXCELLENT.

  7. Love The Tribunal Wine. Also love the Prisoner. And I have them both. My question to you is, how long can both wines be stored??

    • My guess on the Prisoner is 5 to 8 years if cellared properly. On the Tribunal my experience tells me 2 years. After that it probably will not improve. This a judgement call. Thanks Joe for the comments.

  8. Loved this lovely wine! Was also delighted by their charming label…superb!

  9. Is Trader Joe’s the only place I can purchase this wine?

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