Monday, July 13, 2009

TN: Trader Joe's Petit Reserve 2007 Cabernet Franc

In general, I have mixed feeling on Trader Joe's wine. There's a lot of outright plonk, especially when it comes to their imports, and there's also a lot of generic mass-produced domestic wine. Occasionally, though, a high quality wine with a nice discount or a negociant wine bottled especially for TJ's will show up. For example, a $9 Trader Joe's Reserve Petite Verdot turned out to be declassified wine from Ancient Peaks Winery, whose Petite Verdot retails for over $30.

The latest find is a $6 Paso Robles Cabernet Franc labeled as "Trader Joe's Petit Reserve." My expectations weren't especially high, but this is killer stuff considering the price. The only objection is one of balance since the oak use is very heavy-handed. I suspect this should integrate with some time in bottle, though it's not going to disappear. The effect is a very creamy, rich mid-palate, which while rather generic, makes this an easy wine to sip. The tight nose does show hints of tobacco and black currant, while there is genuine concentrated fruit and acidic structure evident on the palate. I left this bottle open overnight and it actually improved; usually cheap wine falls apart after as little as an hour open. There's no jammy or fakey fruit in this, nor are there strange chemical odors. In other words, while this is very New World in style, this juice definitely was not originally fermented with the intention of selling for $6.

I picked up a few more bottles and am curious to see if they will express more varietal characteristics with some bottle age. Incidentally, the label indicates this wine was produced by Familia Nueva in Creston, CA. Creston is in southern Paso Robles where Ancient Peaks winery is based. Could this be another TJ's Ancient Peaks special under an assumed name? The balanced acidity, alcohol (14.1%) and fresh fruit flavors point towards a cooler part of Paso Robles like Santa Margarita. Given that 2007 was an especially good vintage, this may turn out to be a mega-QPR for me.

Price: $6 at Trader Joe's
Score: 82-87

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