Tribunal 2010 on the shelves at Trader Joe’s

Click to read our April 24, 2013 review of the Tribunal 2011 currently at TJ’s

The 2009 Tribunal Red Blend wine was one of my favorite bargain wines of the year for 2011. It sold at Trader Joe’s for $9.99 around this same time of year. The wine was a big hit and sold out quickly at the S.F. Bay Area stores. Around Thanksgiving the wine resurfaced in a magnum bottle ($16.99), just perfect for holiday gatherings. The 2010 Tribunal Red blend just hit the TJ shelves this past weekend and I purchased a bottle to sample hoping that it would as good as the 2009 Tribunal.

Mystery Wine
The Tribunal is a mystery wine with rumors swirling around about the blend and the winemaker. Adding to the mystery is that the wine is Produced and Bottled by Tribunal Cellars of Kenwood. Do a Google search for this wine company and you won’t find anything other than reviews of the past Tribunal wines. Where in the world is the Tribunal Cellars? I asked my friend in the wine business to check her sources and she says there is no such winery, and she has no idea who there are. The two rumors circulating about this wine are: the blend is identical to Orin Swift’s madly popular wine called the Prisoner that sells for $38. The second rumor has it that David Phinney, the winemaker at Orin Swift, also makes the Tribunal.

I checked with the marketing manager at Orin Swift and she told me that David Phinney has nothing to do with the Tribunal. She also pointed out that all the grapes for the Prisoner come from the Napa Valley, while the Tribunal has Sonoma County on the label.

The Blend
I called a TJ store that has a great wine manager and she looked up the blend for me. I hope she was not pulling my leg. The 2010 Tribunal blend: 23% Petite Sirah, 22% Merlot, 21% Syrah, 17% Dolcetto, 10 % Sangiovese, and final 7% is a proprietary grape that for now remains a mystery. Here is the blend for the 2010 Prisoner: 44% Zinfandel, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Syrah, 9% Petite Sirah, 2% Charbono, 1% Grenache with all grapes coming from the Napa Valley.

Tribunal 2010 at Trader Joe's

The 2010 Tribunal

So, how does the 2010 taste and compare to the 2009?
This wine is not nearly as robust and complex as the 2009 Tribunal. I thought it was “hot” upon swallowing which means the alcohol has not been tamed. On the nose, I get white pepper and some red fruit. The wine tastes very young with light red fruit flavors and absolutely no tannins that I can detect. The wine is definitely more acidic than the 2009. I am anxious to hear what my follow Vintage Tasters think of this wine. I am going to give it 86 points. I gave the 2009 Tribunal a final rating of 89 points. Give the 2010 a try if you have a chance and let our readers know what you think.

If you have not done so, please subscribe to our feed of articles we post on This way you will receive each article in an email. Simply place your email address in the Subscribe box in the upper right column.


  1. Opened one last night. I totally agree with your assessment. In fact, after the first taste, I opened a Pedroncelli Merlot just to calm my palate down.

  2. Had a taste of the new vintage of Tribunal last night. While it is a decent wine it does not compare to the 2009. It comes across as lighter in body and much less fruit forward. I would rate it in the mid 80’s. It serves you well with lighter roasted foods and cheese. Also had a suprise bottle of 1973 Mayacamas Zinfandel. The fruit for this dramatic wine was sourced from Amador County. This was made during the rush to find old vine Zin with Sutter Home leading the pack with their Deaver Vineyard bottling. The Mayacamas was still very vibrant with rich fruit aromas and taste. I remember buying this wine and being told to use it as an after dinner wine. At 15% alcohol which is the norm today it has lasted almost 40 years and still has time left in the bottle. Very impressive wine which I will take to the Wine Bloggers Convention in August.

Speak Your Mind