Two bottles of wine and each in a wine glass.

Trader Joe’s has two great wines for your next BBQ – just $9.99 each!

Fast facts:

  • 2016 Trader Joe’s Reserve Zinfandel Lot #185, Amador County, California ($9.99 @Trader Joe’s,  California)
  • 2017 Trader Joe’s Reserve GSM Lot #187, Central Coast, California ($9.99 @Trader Joe’s, California)
Two bottles of wine and each in a wine glass.
Two Trader Joe’s wines perfect for your late summer BBQs

It’s hard to believe, but Labor Day is right around the corner.  So if your plans, like ours, include firing up the grill and using it to cook your main and sides, we have two nice wine pairings for you.  Both are at my local Trader Joe’s. Both are under $9.99. And both would pair spectacularly with nearly everything grilled.

Chicken barbecuing on a gas grill.
Keep an eye on the flame, and pass the GSM, Zin, or both!

About The Zinfandel:

Wine drinkers tend to think of Sonoma, Napa, Lodi and Paso Robles as California “Zinfandel Country.” But Amador County, which  is in the Sierra Foothills wine region (some 100 miles inland from Napa, and east of Sacramento) deserves to be included in this fraternity. After all, this is California Gold Rush country and “there’s gold in them there hills!”

Amador County Zinfandels are distinctive. Its higher altitude (the vineyards are between 1,000-2,000 feet high) and the cool mountain air at night allow grapes to develop flavors that are uniquely different than the fruit grown in the regions to the west, and closer to the coast.  This mountain fruit tends to yield wines that are softer, richer and more “jammy” than, say, a Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel from Sonoma.

In the glass this Amador County Zin shows zesty aromas including black cherries and plums. The color is an opaque inky red. With pronounced cherry & plum flavors and just a hint of toasty vanilla oak, this TJ’s Reserve delivers the classic Zinfandel profile and then some. Its palate is complex & jammy with plenty of earthy spice, bolstered by firm tannins and a long, flavorful finish.

Long time readers may recall that this is not the first time we have waxed poetic about how well Zinfandel pairs with all things BBQ.  See this post from June of 2018.

We have been slaving over this blog for over a year now, and I was surprised to discover that this is the first GSM we have reviewed.  First GSM?  WTF?  It is one of my favorite red blends!

Perhaps we should start with a little background. On a wine label, GSM is shorthand for a red blend of the three popular southern Rhone varietals of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre. Beyond the Rhone region of France, these GSM blends are especially common in California, Washington and Australia.  In the latter, it would be more accurate to describe the wines as blends of Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvèdre.  (Note, Shiraz is the same grape as Syrah.)

We Americans tend to favor varietal wines.  When we refer to “varietal wines” that just means that a wine is made up of at least 85% of a single grape variety.  For example, Chardonnay, Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon can be labeled as such so long as 85% of the wine is from said variety.  But it’s a shame that American wine drinkers tend to be biased towards varietal wines since some of the best wines in the world (the wines of Bordeaux are excellent examples) are, in fact, blends.

This particular GSM blend for Trader Joe’s is 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 10% Mourvèdre.  This is a good example of a wine that, through blending, becomes greater than the sum of its parts.  Let’s break it down by variety:

  • Grenache on its own tends to yield wines that are fruity and rich, but with weak color and lacking structure. 
  • Syrah is a “Goldilocks” grape that requires heat to ripen well, but is sensitive to too much heat. But when the ripening conditions are “just right” (this and other Rhone grapes do especially well on the Central Coast region of California) the grape proves to be the most well-rounded varietal, contributing color as well as a perfume and flavors of blue and black berries.
  • Mourvèdre produces wines with ample structure, intense fruit and a nose full of blackberry fragrance

This wine shows you how good a wine can be when you put them all together in the right proportions.  Here you get flavors of black cherry compote, milk chocolate covered blueberries, baking spices and grilled herbs with a juicy, mineral finish.  It’s a mouth full of bold fruit flavors, well-balanced with polished tannins.

While this may be the first time we have reviewed a GSM, it is not the first time we have reviewed a Syrah.  You can find past reviews of our favorites from Trader Joe’s and Costco here:

Bottle of Trader Joe's GSM (L) and Zinfandel (R)
Tighter shot of the labels…you’re welcome.


Even if you’re not going to be roasting meat on the grill anytime soon, these two wines would also pair with a wide variety of foods including pasta, cheeses, pizza and burgers. Give them both a try, and let us know in the comments section what you think.


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