Store display of 2021 Merlot, Trader Joe's Grand Reserve Lot #123

Our WoW! A Trader Joe’s Triple Threat Delivers the Goods

Fast Facts:

  • 2021 Merlot, Trader Joe’s Grand Reserve Lot #123, Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Barbara County, California  ($12.99 @Trader Joe’s in California)


I was really excited to get this wine home and try it. The reason was it had three things going against it. Conversely, this meant this was a wine that had promise to over deliver on the Quality to Price Ratio, aka our beloved Q.P.R.  Let me explain the three things that comprised what I viewed as the “triple witching hour” since this is Halloween week after all.

Strike one: it’s Merlot, and for some strange reason, the market is still cool to bottlings of pure Merlot. People, it is one of the two main grapes of Bordeaux. Can you say Saint Emilion Grand Cru?

Strike two: it’s from Santa Barbara County.  Even if most American wine drinkers are remotely familiar with da SBC, they probably associate it with fine renditions of Burgundian varietals, namely Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and MAYBE some Rhone varieties like Syrah.  Now this is true west of the line of demarcation known as the 101 Freeway.  Which leads to…

Strike three: the Santa Ynez Valley.  Perhaps the most beautiful area in all of Santa Barbara wine country, it does not compute for many wine enthusiasts. But it lies east of Highway 101 and away from the ocean influences of places like the Santa Rita Hills appellation. In contrast, it is warm and known for producing really good Sauvignon Blanc, and Merlot.  I know, I managed a winery in Santa Ynez that grew both and both were really good, as were renditions from neighbors like Gainey and Brander. Heck, this juice could be from either one, but that’s just a rumor in my head.

So, did the wine live up to my own expectations? Well, let me just share my reaction to the first swirl, sniff and sip of this wine.  Two words: “oh, my.”

Yeah, this Wine of the Week (WoW!) is an exceptional wine for $12.99.  It could easily fetch at least twice that much, that is, if it didn’t have three things working against it. Four if you hold prejudice against wines bearing the Trader Joe’s label. To which we say, this would be a good time to get over that.


Glass and bottle of 2021 Merlot, Trader Joe's Grand Reserve Lot #123
Glass and bottle of 2021 Merlot, Trader Joe’s Grand Reserve Lot #123 – oh, my!

Tasting Notes:

Come hither nose with beguiling aromas of mocha, vanilla, toasty oak over ripe dark plums and black cherry. Fruit forward but still dry, with notes of rasberry, cocoa and baking spices.  Full bodied with medium tannins, very smooth, long finish. Elegant representation of this grape, which can be just as bold and full bodied as a cab. Would pair well with roasted red meats, burgers and – believe it or not – grilled salmon.  ABV: 14.5%



Front label of 2021 Merlot, Trader Joe's Grand Reserve Lot #123
Front label of 2021 Merlot, Trader Joe’s Grand Reserve Lot #123


Stop back next Thursday (or make it easy and give us a follow) to discover yet another Wine of the Week.  We live to Wow! you.


Need More Wine Picks from Trader Joe’s – or Costco?

If your search for this wine lands you in Trader Joe’s, take along our handy Lucky 13 list of TJ’s wine here.

And if your wine shopping excursions land you in Costco, prepare by grazing our most recent reviews of Costco wines here in our Lucky 13 list.

Happy hunting.




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