Archived Q&A and Reviews

Reasonable Wine from Trader Joe's?

Feb 2004

I would like to provide reasonable wine for my guests when we have dinner party . Since I don't know much about wine, I would appreciate if you shared some info on good wines from Trader Joe's. I need the exact labels on the wine. Thank you so much. party host

I say forget Trader Joes for good wine-go straight to Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant on San Pablo Ave in Berkeley. Their friendly, helpful staff can help you make selections in the $10- $15 range that are delicious!! You will not be able to buy anything as delicious for the money anywhere else.

This may be heretical, but I would stay away from the extremely popular Two Buck Chuck, which I've been served at a lot of dinner parties and have found insipid and generally dreadful in both red and white varieties. Yes it's cheap, but you get what you pay for. I've found the Italian and French wines to be better for the price than the Californians -- in particular they have had a delicious Amarone at about $9/bottle, and some good Chateauneuf-du-papes in the $12/range. There's also a bunch of decent wines between the $2 stuff and this

I bought wine for a school auction last Fall and asked an oenophile friend for some recs for drinkable wines in the 7-10 range. Here it is: Reds:
Laurel Glen Reds California 2000 fusie Syrah California 2000 Delicato Merlot California 2001 Shale Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon Monterey 2001 Shale Ridge Merlot Monterey 2001 Camelot Zinfandel California 2000 Camelot Pinot Noir California 2001 Rabbit Ridge Syrah California Barrel Cuvee 1999 Carmenet Cabernet Sauvignon California Cellar Selection 2000 I can particularly recommend the Delicato, which was running at ~5.99 a bottle at Bev & Mo recently Whites: Bogle Chardonnay California 2001 Smoking Loon Viognier California 2001 Montevina Sauvignon Blanc California 2001 Stone Cellars Chardonnay California 2001 Pepperwood Grove Chardonnay California 2001 Parducci Sauvignon Blanc Lake County Vintner Select 2002 Fetzer Sauvignon Blanc California Echo Ridge 2002 R.H. Phillips Sauvignon Blanc Dunnigan Hills 2002 Cline Oakley Vin Blanc California 2002
Good Luck! Myriam

If you like chardonnay, try Benziger chardonnay (not to be confused with Beringer, which is lousy) - it's in the $10-12 range, which I think is pretty reasonable, and it can hold it's own with much pricier wines. It's our ''house white'' now. Star

It really depends on your taste. But here are a few suggestions for different tastes.

Drinking Wines - Medium body (how it fills your mouth) & Fruity

Zinfandel (Red) - I am partial to Dry Creek Valley and Segehesio (old vine). Ravenswood is famous for their Zin but they usually make them bigger (more slam. You also have to be careful about what vineyards the Ravemswood wine is made from since they use grapes from all over, and have a number of different Zinfandel bottles.

Syrah or Syraz (excellent for drinking) - usually smooth, with very fruity smell, and kick to boot. Almost all of them are good. Australian wines (Penfold, Opal Creek) are famous for it and quite a good deal for the $.

A lot of people like Merlot but they vary widely in quality and depend heavily on the weather faced that year. So unless you explore the years Merlot grape crops were good, I would shy away from them.

REd wines for Food

As for bigger (meal) wines, I am partial to Italian Barolos. TJ's usually has a few good ones for a decent price.

As for Cabs - well, I've been exploring other stuff - but at TJ's range, J-Lohr usually puts out consistent wines. I prefer the Meritage, a blend of mostly CAbernet, Some Merlot, and usually some other wine grapes. If you have the money, Camus Cabernets are a unique experience - a beauty.

Let me know if you have any more questions.

Wine Info for Husband's Xmas Gift?

Nov 2003

My husband is interested in learning about wine. With three small children it's unlikely we'll be going wine tasting anytime soon, and I can't see him doing anything too organized (like an ongoing class). I'm wondering what's available locally and how I can turn this interest into a good Christmas gift. I've heard of wine stores in other cities that put together monthly cases with newsletters discussing the featured bottles. Is there anything like that in the Berkeley area? Do people have favorite wine stores? Thanks for any ideas! Gayle

I especially like North Berkeley Wines (now on MLK in Berkeley near Cedar) and Odd Lots (San Pablo Avenue, south of Marin in Albany). Odd Lots has a great informative newsletter and features a monthly 6-pack sampler of wine. Odd Lots specializes in unusual, generally moderate priced European wines and are very friendly (as is North Berkeley Wines).

Getting a subscription to Wine Spectator is a good idea and there are alot of wine books out there. For a beginner, I'd select one that focuses on the various wine regions around the world, describes the various wine grapes in each region and gives some basic tips on the types of flavors you may expect to find in each grape type. Karen H.

Gayle, I don't know if this is what you're looking for, but Beverages and More offers wine tasting events periodically (in addition to their regular wine tasting every Friday and Saturday). Well... I know this is true for the Orinda and Walnut Creek locations.