The Tempest Bay Carneros Chardonnay 2018 is a $7.99 Trader Joe’s wine sourced from grapes grown on the Napa side of Carneros, the Carneros AVA is half in Sonoma and half in Napa. The Carneros AVA is located a good distance from the Pacific Ocean, but its southern border is the San Pablo Bay (the bay just north of the San Fransico Bay) which brings cool Ocean breezes and morning fog. Carneros is one of the premier Chardonnay regions in the US (they are known for Pinot Noir, too) and many of the wineries located here are the Who’s Who of California wine. So, a $7.99 Carneros Chardonnay is a welcome find.
Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer states that “you normally wouldn’t find a Carneros Chardonnay of this quality for under $20” and that is not an exaggeration. You may find a brand (a wine not tied to a specific Winery) Chardonnay for around $20, but Carneros Chardonnay gets expensive in a hurry. I checked the COLA website (the government website that keeps alcohol records) and found that the Tempest Bay label name is owned by a very highly respected Sonoma winery. I won’t name them since how they fit into this can vary. Since this seems to be a wine that Trader Joe’s contracted with them to produce and this isn’t one of their own wines, you can’t infer too much other than they do know how to make high-quality wine.
The Tempest Bay Chardonnay does have a write-up in Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer, which gives a few clues on how this Chardonnay is produced. They mention vanilla, baking spices, and toasted oak which would indicate a fairly serious oak seasoning program. There is no mention of oak barrels, so how those flavors were imparted into the wine isn’t specified, but you wouldn’t figure that new French oak barrels are used on a $7.99 wine. Then again, it does not make much sense to be too critical or demanding of an 8 buck Carneros Chardonnay. The alcohol content is 13.4%.
The Tasting Notes
The color is a wheat beer yellow with a touch of gold. The nose is full of ripe fruit and citrus, there is an apple, lime, orange blossom honey, lemon, vanilla, candy spice, pear, peach, and melon. This is a Chardonnay with balanced acidity and subtle flavors. It tastes of lemon curd, tart green apple, melon, vanilla, ripe peach, and Anjou pear. The mid-palate is slightly spicey, with that nutty, salty sensation from “on lees”, and banana cream (faint). The acidity is very well balanced, the flavors have plenty of time to unfold. The finish starts strong and slowly, very slowly fades away.
- With writing for Cheapwinefinder.com, I do not have a great deal of experience with Carneros Chardonnay. Its almost always out of the price range for the website and while I do get to sample it now and again at tastings, I really didn’t have a good fix on what to expect with the Tempest Bay.
- The Tempest Bay is not as fruit-forward as the typical $10 California Chardonnay, there is a subtlety there, it builds slowly in flavor.
- I actually really enjoy several Chardonnay wines in the ten buck price range, they are bright and fruit-forward and often delicious.
- But this Carneros Chardonnay is not exactly the same, it hits your palate in a slightly different way, the acidity seems more integrated.
- My favorite value-priced Chardonnay are still my favorites, but I am glad I bought this wine. It brings elegance to $7.99 California Chardonnay.
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