Bottle and glass of Trader Joe's Reserve 2020 Chalone Pinot Noir

Is this the Best $10 Pinot Noir in America?

Fast facts:

  • 2020 Trader Joe’s Reserve Chalone Pinot Noir, California ($9.99 @ Trader Joe’s, California)


Astute readers may recall that once before (July of 2021 to be precise) we annointed a different wine as the best $10 Pinot Noir in America. But you may recall that one was from Costco.  Nonetheless, this one may actually  be a scootch (yeah, that’s a technical term) better.

The Chalone (pronounced shuh-loan, with the accent on the second syllable) wine region is situated at 1,800 feet in elevation in the central part of the Gavilan Mountain Range – set against the dramatic backdrop of Pinnacles National Monument. This region has a long history of grape growing, dating back to 1919. That would pre-date Prohibition for those keeping score at home.  Here are found the oldest producing vines in Monterey County. Chalone was awarded its own AVA designation in 1982. Because of its elevation in the mountain range, Chalone is truly unique among Monterey County’s appellations.

Because of this elevation, vineyards are out of reach of the Salinas Valley fog and thus frequently experience a more dramatic shift from high daytime temperatures to the cold nighttime air that allow the grapes to achieve full varietal character. The heart of Chalone remains in the unique limestone and granite soils found only in this AVA. They naturally limit the grape yields, and the limited rainfall that concentrate the fruit and contribute to the rich full bouquet found in the wines of the district. The unique, local soil composition also has an influence on the grapes. Decomposed granite and limestone soil are found only in this AVA and provide the root system with adequate drainage. This maintains healthy vines and contributes to the rich full bouquet found in the wines of the district.

This extreme climate and unique soil composition has been home to almost 300 cultivated acres of vines since being awarded its AVA designation. These vineyards produce a variety of quality grapes including: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Chenin Blanc, and Syrah.


Front label of Trader Joe's Reserve 2020 Chalone Pinot Noir
Muh, muh, muh my Chalone!


Tasting Notes:

Pours a light maroon color, typical for Pinots from this region.  Lovely nose of red berries followed by notes of rhubarb, hooded berries, baking spices and vanilla. Nice balance, nice finish.  Pair well with food, especially roasted chicken, grilled salmon and vegetarian fare without too much spice.  No evidence of the “quick and dirty” oak treatments that tend to plague Pinot Noir at this price point. A winner! 


Bottle and glass of Trader Joe's Reserve 2020 Chalone Pinot Noir
Perfect red wine for a spring-teasing 75 degree day in Southern California.


This may be one of those wines that if not for a global pandemic, would never have landed on Trader Joe’s store shelves.  All those wines that would otherwise have been sold in restaurants or winery tasting rooms had to go somewhere.  So there is a least ONE good thing about Covid.


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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