The Trader Joe’s Grand Reserve Chalk Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, actually the complete name includes Lot 96 and it is a Trader Joe’s $12.99 exclusive wine. This wine is featured in Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer, but there is no mention of any technical details, is it 100% Cabernet Sauvignon? What are the rough details of the oak program? Nothing, but they do tell us it is from the Chalk Hill AVA.
Chalk Hill is a relatively small sub-AVA located in the northeast corner of the Russian River AVA inside the Sonoma County AVA. While the Russian River AVA is a cool climate region well suited for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay the Chalk Hill AVA is warmer, harvest can occur several weeks earlier than the surrounding AVAs. This is a very hilly location and the soil is also unique, it is ancient volcanic ash, making this an attractive location for Cabernet Sauvignon.
Typical Chalk Hill Cabernet Sauvignon start at around $20 and can go up to two or three times that price. You do not normally see Chalk Hill AVA on the label of discounted contracted store brands. There are only 5 wineries setting up shop in Chalk Hill and the vineyards under cultivation is a fraction of the greater Russian River AVA.
A couple of details of note concerning the Trader Joe’s Grand Reserve Chalk Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 is that the bottle is a full size and weight Napa/Sonoma big boy Cabernet bottle and a real cork are used. I always keep my pulled corks for some unknown reason, I guess I will recycle them, but most are made of corks version of particle board or are some sort of synthetic. Real corks are rare in wine in the CheapWineFinder.com price range.
Since $12.99 is a bump up from the usual $9.99 price of Trader Joe’s Reserve wines. The cork and the bottle are typical of wine in the twenty dollars plus range, this may be a clue that the Chalk Hill Lot 96 may have been intended to sell for higher than its current price tag. I wouldn’t think that Trader Joe’s would mandate a real (and more expensive) cork or a heavy glass bottle that also adds to the price tag as an incentive to buy a $12.99 bottle of wine. You expect those details in a twenty-five dollar of wine.
So, this is a Cabernet Sauvignon from a region that does not seem to sell off their excess grapes of finished wine to store brands with basic packaging that is above its price point. I am only playing detective here, I have no actual insight into the history of this Cab. But since store brands such as Trader Joe’s have price advantages over retail wines, lower distribution costs and paying upfront for the bottles all add up to considerable cost savings. So, maybe this time this is an actual twenty buck wine selling for $12.99.
I could easily be wrong and this is a $13 Cabernet Sauvignon selling for $12.99, but the clues left behind do say otherwise. The alcohol content is a ripe 14.5%.
Trader Joe’s Grand Reserve Chalk Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 Tasting Notes
The color is a jammy, opaque black cherry red. The nose is a combination of ripe blackberries and raspberries, herbs and menthol, followed by chocolate powder and soft vanilla. This is a wine that may be a little bit young, not that it does not have good flavor it just seems a little “tight”. This Cabernet starts with smooth, ripe blackberry, black pepper, juicy raspberry, and slightly rough herbs.
The mid-palate add tart cherry, orange zest, a lightly rugged edge to the tannins (something welcome in a full-bodied cabernet Sauvignon) and a late hit of cool blueberry. The acidity is nicely balanced and the finish mirrors the body of the wine and sticks around for a while.
- The Trader Joe’s Grand Reserve Chalk Hills Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 is a tasty classic Califonia Cabernet Sauvignon.
- My advice is to buy a couple of bottles now (it will sell out and when it is gone it is gone for good) and stick them in a cool, quiet spot at home. Wait until after the 4th of July to pop the top and this Cabernet will really deliver.
- It drinks fine now, I enjoyed tasting this wine, but a couple of more months of age will do an even better job of balancing all the flavor elements.
- Or drink it now, the more I sip it the better I like it.