The Trader Joe’s Petit Reserve Monterey County Pinot Noir 2014 is a $5.99 Trader Joe’s exclusive produced for them by ASV Wines sourced from a single vineyard (according to TJ’s Fearless Flyer) in the Monterey County AVA inside of California’s Central Coast AVA. Normally, who made these Trader Joe’s exclusive wines are a well-kept secret, but here, ASV Wines is a custom wine producer with their own vineyard holdings and 2 bottling facilities. They are a large operation, you may have had their wines before and not known it. When most people think of $5.99 bottles of wine, they conjure up visions of someone buying bulk wine sourced from where ever based solely on a low price and any oak flavoring coming from oak chips tossed into the stainless steel tanks for a short period of time. But that is not what you are getting here, this is supposed to be a single vineyard Pinot, from a solid Pinot Noir growing region (northern Monterey County is a cool growing area, well suited for Pinot) and aged in French and American oak barrels. FUN WINE FACT: The west coast of the United States is a major wine grape growing and production region because the coastal Pacific Ocean waters come from the north (Arctic Canadian) and flow down the coast, cooling the coastal growing areas of Oregon, Washington and California. The coastal waters of the Atlantic Ocean come from the equator and flow up. The warm waters help moderate the east coast climate but don’t allow most of the east coast to be an ideal place for vineyards. So, this is an unlikely $5.99 Pinot Noir with a rather exact alcohol content of 13.85%.
The color is a dark garnet, still see-thru, but just barely. The nose is ripe fruit and herbs with a hint of smoke and the faint aroma of fudge brownies baking in the oven. This is a silky, tart, medium-bodied Pinot Noir. It tastes of sour cherry mixed with sweet black cherry, Snickers chocolate, and mild spice. The mid-palate shows soft herbs, strawberry and a tug from the tannins. The acidity is balanced, this can be a food wine. The finish starts off strong, but fades.
The Trader Joe’s Petit Reserve Monterey County Pinot Noir 2014 is fine for a 6 buck Pinot Noir. Is it a great Pinot Noir? No, but it over-delivers for $5.99. There is something a little out-of-sync about it, not any major flaw, just something that holds it back from being a major home run. Value wine has made huge strides in the last ten years, but expecting perfection from a $5.99 Pinot Noir is too much to ask. The fact that I am complaining that this Pinot was close to being the equal to wines 2 or 3 times the cost, but didn’t quite get there, is a compliment.