Front label of Riddle 2018 Edna Valley Pinot Noir from Trader Joe's

Riddle me this: how does Trader Joe’s sell a Pinot Noir this good for $6.99?

Fast facts:

  • 2018 Riddle Pinot Noir, Edna Valley, California ($6.99 @Trader Joe’s,  California)
Bottle of $6.99 Riddle 2018 Pinot Noir and a sleeve of TJ's Pringles knock off - both delicious
Two great finds from my most recent visit to our local Trader Joe’s.


Tasting Notes:

Nose of red raspberries and strawberries.  Has flavors of sasparilla, cola, black plum, vanilla and a pleasant earthiness.  Really well balanced with a some nice lingering tartness on the finish.  Would pair really well with mushroom dishes and grilled salmon with a chipotle rub.

I often mention how one can improve their odds of finding great wine values by scouring the front and back labels for cues.  In this case, it was the right grape from the right place (Edna Valley is a great place for Pinot Noir vineyards); the right vintage (in this case, not too old, not too young) and…estate bottled!  Ding, ding, ding!

If you’re not familiar with the term “estate bottled”, it’s a real and important designation, unlike say, the term” “reserve” which is meaningless.   That’s because an estate bottled wine must come from a winery’s own vineyards or those on which the winery has a long term lease and controls the growing practices.  And it must be bottled at the winery.  Both vineyards and the winery must be in the geographical are specified on the label.

Why is this important? Mainly because it assures you that the wine is an relatively small production endeavor as opposed to an industrial grade wine made in tanks the size of a small European country. Or a large one for that matter!

As immortalized in the movie Sideways, Pinot Noir is a remarkably fickle grape to grow and vinify. A recent article in The Guardian had this to say about making Pinot Noir:

“Pinot noir is the world’s most dangerously seductive grape variety. Fussy to the point of absurdity about the climatic and geological conditions in which it will deign to perform, and easily spoiled in the winery, it has been known to break hearts and careers, making despairing Jean de Florettes of even the most seasoned winemakers…Pinot noir gets away with its bad behavior because, if the lows are lower than other grapes, the highs are so much higher. In Burgundy, pinot noir’s ancestral home, it is responsible for reds of life-changing beauty.”

Is this the best Pinot Noir I’ve ever had? No. But it is quite possibly the best $6.99 Pinot Noir I’ve ever had.  With any luck, they’ll be stocking it at your local Trader Joe’s, provided your local TJs sells wine.

And if your  shopping finds you at Trader Joe’s, you can find our Lucky 13 list of TJ’s wine here.

If you’re headed to Costco soon yourself, you can find our most recent reviews of Costco wines here in our Lucky 13 list.

Happy hunting!


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